It’s a warm morning. The sun’s out and spring has sprung. I’m stepping out of my back door with Cannondale’s Quick CX 3 ready to start the 11-mile commute to the office. My neighbor waves “good morning,” and it promises to be a great day for a ride.
My commute isn’t difficult. There aren’t many hills, or even traffic, but it traverses a variety of riding surfaces. It can make finding an appropriate bike challenging.Tweet
We’ve already covered a lot about proper cold weather riding gear (like jackets and footwear) for the high latitude areas where the dropping mercury effects our kit choices. But what about when your face starts leaking on those frigid morning commutes?
No worries friends, I got your back. What I’ve begun to understand is that there is a constant battle to arrive at your destination without strange excrement frozen to your face.Tweet
By Matt Kasprzyk
I’ve been a Soma Fabrications owner for a few years—I have a Double Cross DC that has thousands of commuting miles on it—so I was eager to ride something new from a company that specializes in versatile, tough, and long-lasting frames and accessories.
This bike is Soma’s love child with Rivendell, meaning it was designed for Soma as a “sport touring bike” by Rivendell’s Grant Petersen, using Rivendell lugs, geometry, and design details. The San Marcos is “the bike any road rider who doesn’t race but rides mainly on the road ought to be riding,” according to Petersen.
So what are these design details? Well, it’s mainly about handlebar height and retro geometry to increase comfort. The concept is simple and time-tested: raise the handlebars to get weight off your hands, crane your neck less, and relieve stress on your lower back. The San Marcos’ top tube slopes up about 6o, raising the stem’s exit point from the head tube. The bike’s 1-inch threaded fork uses a quill stem that you can easily raise or lower to get the perfect height.
In addition to this main point of Rivendell geometry, you also get some bonuses to versatility that are on par with other Soma models. On the functional side, the bike will accommodate up to a 37mm-wide tire, or 32mm with fenders. The frame sports a pump peg on the head tube and two sets of water-bottle bosses. There are two sets of eyelets in the back for a rack and fenders, but only one set on the fork, meaning no front rack. Soma says light loads are fine, but this isn’t meant as a heavy touring bike.
The San Marcos uses the same steel lugs, bottom bracket shell, and fork crown that other Rivendell bikes do. The frame is made of high-quality Tange Prestige heat-treated, chromoly steel tubes, same as other Soma bikes. What you don’t get are the even higher-end steel and the fancier two-tone paint job of more expensive Rivendell bikes.
The two largest sizes have a double top tube. Since Petersen prefers the classic look of small-diameter tubes and lugs, an extra top tube was added on the 59cm and 63cm frames to maintain the same level of triangulation and stiffness as the smaller sizes, especially in the front end. This design has become one of his trademarks.
I believe bikes have personalities and those personalities are part of the buying decision. Jim Porter of Merry Sales (Soma’s distributor) says their relationship with Rivendell is like the relationship of Elvis to blues or gospel music. Taking his analogy further: if Rivendell is gospel, then Soma is Elvis being played in an old Cadillac.
The San Marcos gets you where you want to go in comfort and style, but it’s not going to be the most racy thing to ride. My test bike was built with 32mm-wide tires and had an incredibly smooth ride, but no tail fins (they aren’t very functional). Rough roads and smooth gravel were less of an issue for sure, as long as you’re not in a hurry.
Riding tall with those high handlebars meant the compact drops are probably at the height of most riders’ brake hoods. This provided several comfortable hand positions. The frame is both tall (in the top tube) and low (in the bottom bracket), which helped make for a very stable ride that carved turns gracefully.
The extra tube certainly seemed to help with front-end stiffness, as intended. I’m not that light, or that slow, but I never detected any lateral flex standing on steep climbs, or front shimmying on fast descents. For those of us used to more modern geometry, the extra top tube looks like overkill. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a bike intended for heavy touring. But it’s actually a retro solution to preserve frame integrity.
The San Marcos is definitely a comfort road bike that many people could get into as a versatile commuter, or a bike able to cart a light load, or just for getting out on long rides. In terms of goals and execution, I think Soma Fabrications has a winner. The San Marcos looks good and does everything it was meant to. It’s comfortable and versatile, but an inexpensive Rivendell is an expensive Soma. If you’re down with the retro styling and geometry, I’m certain this would provide years of comfortable service and enjoyment.
Price: $900 (frame)
Weight: 25lbs. as built
Sizes available: 47, 51, 54, 59, 63cm (tested)Tweet
By Matt Kasprzyk
My commute by bike isn’t too difficult. There aren’t many hills (unless I want there to be), but the route takes me over several surfaces–asphalt, cement, crushed limestone, and a gravel access road. The different surfaces makes finding an appropriate bike challenging. Half of the route is on the road. The rest of my commute is on varying types of rougher surfaces, so I need something that’s as effective on the road as it is on the trail.
Bikes like this Quick CX line from Cannondale might be the right tool for the job. “On-road efficiency meets off-road ruggedness,” says Cannondale. Well it certainly has a suspension fork, disc brakes, and knobbier tires.
I guess that means it’s more rugged than your average commuter.
Efficient, though? The fork has a useful lock out, but the stock tires don’t feel very efficient on the street. It has a tall and short geometry. The toptube is relatively short with a fairly high standover. There is a more upright riding position because of the short toptube, but after adjusting the height of the stem and bars I’ve found a very comfortable riding position.
The frame has all the mounts and eyelets that you’d find useful if you’re considering the Quick CX as your all-season commuter. I’m going to eventually replace Kenda Happy Medium tires with a puncture resistant touring tire. I hope that might quicken the ride on pavement. Aside from that, I don’t see much to change about the bike and plan to put several miles of rough commuting on it before my final judgement.
Keep an eye out in a future issue of Bicycle Times for the complete review, and order a subscription today to make sure you don’t miss it.
By Matt Kasprzyk
Singular claims that the classically inspired Peregrine is its most versatile frame. The bike can be your adventure tourer, your commuter, or even your fat-tire monster ‘cross. It’s built from Reynolds and proprietary butted 4130 chromoly lugged steel. Although the paint and construction may take you back a few decades, Singular makes use of some relatively modern amenities like 29-inch wheels and disc brakes.
My ride to work can cross multiple surfaces, which has made the hunt for a perfect commuting bike difficult. I’ve been after a bike that can handle miles of road and urban streets, as well as dirt—a bike that can weather the abuse of rough gravel and provide some comfort.
Enter Marty of The Prairie Peddler, the only North American distributor of U.K.- made Singular bikes. He built his own Peregrine to tackle miles of unmaintained gravel roads in the Midwest. So, imagine how happy I was when he offered to loan me his personal bike for review.
The frame’s hub spacing is 135mm in the rear, 100mm in the front, same most mountain bikes. Tire clearance is similarly burly—the stays and fork will take a 29×2.0 tire. My loaner had Kenda Karma 29×2.0 tires installed. The frame didn’t leave much clearance for any- thing more aggressive, but Marty says you can get up to 700x45s with fenders if you wanted to go smaller.
The larger diameter tires made a huge difference on the rough when com- pared to the 37mm ones I have been using; I went from trying to pick smooth lines through rough gravel to not needing to pick lines at all. Using mountain bike tires with lower rolling resistance, riding on pavement was still bearable, albeit a little slow.
Obviously, disc brakes are pretty rad, but what I really appreciate is the fact that the Peregrine doesn’t have any canti brake bosses ruining its clean lines. To complete the frame, the braze-ons for racks and fenders don’t interfere with the disc caliper mounts, and there are three water bottle mounts and open-style guides for full-length cable housing.
The 59cm frame is the largest offered and has a 590mm top tube, which I thought was going to be a little short for my height. But with wider flared off-road drop bars, it made riding in those drops a comfortable reach. The 70mm of bottom bracket drop might sound like a bit on the low side until you factor in the taller knobby tires, which raise the bottom bracket height.
Same with the chainstays: 445mm may sound fairly long for a road bike, but that’s pretty average for a 29” mountain bike in order to fit decently aggressive tires. However, when compared to a 29er mountain bike, the wheelbase is short, so expect a nimble ride off-road.
Given the frame’s geometry, the handling offered no surprises. Unloaded, the front end will feel predictably light on pavement and wandered slightly because of the rake of the fork. It took about a half a ride off-road to get used to. The issue for me was getting comfortable in the drop bars on dirt rather than any nuances with handling. All things considered, the geometry is pretty standard—if you can call mountain bike wheels with drop bars standard.
The only drawback for me was toe overlap. Buyers with bigger feet will have to deal with it. I never noticed it on pavement, but I had to be conscious of it when turning sharply off-road. Given the larger tires, my feet, and the frame’s geometry, there isn’t really a way around it. Shorter cranks and smaller tires might have solved it, but that also diminishes the bike’s versatility.
There are no color changes planned for 2012, and that’s fine by me. The classic paint and lugs are a nice compliment to some of the varied builds the Peregrine can take. The second- generation frames will have hourglass-shaped chainstays to allow clearance for road cranks with a narrower Q-factor and bigger chainrings. The eccentric bottom bracket allows for a singlespeed set-up, plus there is a derailleur hanger for geared options.
For $725, North American customers will get a frame with a sterling silver headbadge, matching fork, and Singular licensed Phil Wood EBB. Singular has a much broader presence in Europe with several retailers offering complete builds.
If you’re into the retro steel aesthetic and need something more comfortable to crush miles of gravel, or just want a burly commuter that can handle some singletrack, this could be a wise choice. Singular offers a five-year warranty.
- Age: 32
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 185lbs.
- Inseam: 34 inches
- Country of origin: Taiwan
- Price: $725 (frame and fork)
- Weight: 25.4lbs.
- Sizes: 50, 53, 56, 59cm (tested)
By Matt Kasprzyk,
My commute to work, should I choose, takes me over a variety of surfaces. Because of that, I’ve had a monster ‘cross-style bike on my mind for about year now. A road bike with disc brakes that could fit 29 x 2.0 tires seemed ideal to tackle the few miles of road, cinder, and rough gravel.
Apparently I’m not the only person to think so. Adventure touring bikes are coming on and the UK’s Singular was able to send a uniquely specced Peregrine allowing me to experience what I’ve been dreaming of.
The Peregrine is billed as Singular’s most versatile frameset. It’s designed for drop bars, can fit up to 29 x 2.0 tires without fenders, has classic lugged construction, an eccentric bottom bracket insert for gears or singlespeed, brake and gear cable guides with rack and mudguard mounts and a matching lugged fork.
“Sturdy enough to hit the dirt, nimble enough for some singletrack, stable enough for touring – the Peregrine will do what you want to do, take you where you want to go," says the Singular website, and from the several weeks I’ve been on the Peregrine, I have no reason to doubt it.
Check out the full review in Bicycle Times issue #15, on sale January 31.
By Matt Kasprzyk
For 2011, Felt is offering six distinct urban models in its Fixie line, the Gridlock being one of the most versatile, and expensive. It will immediately appeal to some people, as the design is clean and classic, drawing inspiration from urban cycling subculture. The paint and build kit accentuate the niche appeal Felt has gained with the recent commercial success of their track frames.
At first glance, the bike may look understated and simple, but there are some serious features often seen on more performance-oriented bikes. Under that matte copper paint is a carbon-bladed fork with aluminum steerer tube and dropouts. The frame is butted and hydroformed aluminum with steel track dropouts in the rear and mounts for a rear rack. The cable routing is internal, helping to maintain a clean look if you want to remove the brakes. One of the most eye-catching items is Felt’s integrated aluminum handlebar and stem, called Mr. Tea. It’s hard not to think of some ex-girlfriend jeans when you see it. As the bar’s name suggests, it’s one piece, only 20” wide, and has a fat 35mm grip diameter (not compatible with standard grips). If you have larger hands, the thicker grip might suit you well.
The Gridlock’s geometry has similar head and seat tube angles as Felt’s road frames. However, the Gridlock’s wheelbase is in between that of their road and track frames. The narrow bars add to the quicker handling and more nimble ride when compared to a typical road bike—fun in the turns, but not as stable bombing hills. The 65mm bottom bracket drop is not quite road bike low, but far lower than a typical track bike, something to be aware of if riding fixed on one of the larger sizes. The reach is also shorter than both road or track geometry, giving a slightly more upright riding position.
The drivetrain isn’t as simple as it looks. It’s a 3-speed fixed-gear Sturmey- Archer S3X internal hub with thumb shifter. It comes as a 46×13- tooth fixed-gear set-up with a 16-tooth freewheel adapter if you’d rather not ride fixed. The third gear is direct drive (1:1 ratio), which is what I spent most of my time in. I only used the other two, lower gears if I needed a bailout on climbs. Anyone used to singlespeed riding will have no trouble with the gear range, but there certainly isn’t anything near the highs of a road bike or lows of a mountain bike.
The thumb shifter is indexed. Even so, I found a bit of delay between switching gears. Sturmey Archer says that a delay in shifting, similar to that of a typical front derailleur, can be expected with internal hubs. The hub is moving more cable than a road or mountain rear derailleur, so it will naturally take a little longer to engage. Although you won’t get the precise shifting characteristic of performance drivetrains, there is quite a bit of practicality and ease with an internal hub.
Tektro brakes do the stopping (if you choose to use them) with enough clearance for fenders. The wheelset is a Felt Urban pair with a CNC-machined braking surface and 24 stainless steel spokes both front and rear, shod with 23mm tires. Another notable accessory is the Felt BeerNuts axle nut and bottle opener tool, but be careful with that—not everyone washes their hands.
The only real pill that’s tough to swallow is the Gridloc’s handlebars. I found that the thicker diameter grip was rather comfortable. However, the width of the bar doesn’t suit every application. Short distances it’s nothing to worry about, but on a long commute, the completely straight and narrow bars tended to hyper-extend the outside of my wrists. And as you can imagine with bars that narrow, the steering is quick.
I can’t help admiring how the Gridlock fuses tech and style. The price tag might eliminate some riders to whom the style appeals. However, if you’re on the fence, there might be enough bells and whistles to convince you this is worth the money. It’s not the simplistic back-to-basics, Jamaican-messenger austerity, but it could help you begin to appreciate that. Unwilling to commit to a singlespeed fixed geared bike and want something that looks great outside your frequent stops? Or have a short city commute and want a more practical urban machine? Check out the Gridlock.
- Age: 31
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 190lbs.
- Inseam: 33.5”
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $1,000
- Weight: 22lbs.
- Sizes Available: 51, 54, 56, 58, 61 (tested)
- Online: www.feltbicycles.com
In an effort to consolidate their line of fixed gears and singlespeeds, Felt has discontinued the Gridlock for model-year 2012. -ed.
By Matt Kasprzyk
So why is All-City’s new cyclocross bike getting some play in Bicycle Times? Well, it’s because most bicycle commuters will tell you that there’s some serious functional benefits to riding a CX bike as a commuting rig. All-City knows this, and I’m about to tell you why.
Cyclocross bikes are generally burly road bikes. There’s the benefit of multiple hand positions, wider tires, often fender mounts and sometimes rack mounts. However, they usually don’t have the relatively sluggish handling and ride characteristics of a touring bike. All-City has a history of making track bikes and the Nature Boy shares some of that geometry philosophy. It’s meant primarily as a race bike, but has some utility as a commuting bike.
The Nature Boy is a single speed 42x16t CX bike named after Minnesota professional wrestling legend Ric Flair. It has a 4130 ChroMoly steel frame and straight blade fork. The dropouts are custom and it sports a signature headbadge. There are hidden fender mounts on the inside of the seat stays and removable canti studs if you want to run it fixed without brakes. The frame and fork have room for 38c tires, and up to 35c with fenders. Racers and commuters can appreciate the internal cable routing too.
The numbers on paper seem a little steep for traditional ‘cross geometry and the bottom bracket may appear a little low if you’re used to cyclocross numbers. All-City says you’re never really riding over barriers in a race, so why not have a bike that corners better?
The Nature Boy looks pretty versatile, so I’ll take All-City’s advise: “race the crap out of it, ride singletrack, gravel, or commute until your heart’s content. “
By Matt Kasprzyk
Don’t let the classic-looking Oxford laces and shiitake mushroom-colored leather fool you. Contrary to the casual off-bike demeanor, this shoe has some on-bike performance. There’s a 3/4-length plastic shank in the sole for stiffness while pedaling, and a mounting plate underfoot for optional SPD use. With cleats installed, they are recessed enough so I’m not clicking down the street or around the office. The outer sole wraps partially around the toe for protection, and the footbed is designed to give good arch support while conforming to the contours of my feet.
The liner is moisture-wicking, and the outer is waterproof leather. My feet stayed dry in light rain, but don’t expect much breathability. These are comfortable in cool weather and long commutes with enough stiffness for efficient pedaling. When off the bike, there is some give for fairly comfortable walking and office wear. If your bike takes you to the pub and market as often as the office, these are worth looking into. They fit true to size. Keen suggests using leather conditioner to add to the longevity. One-year warranty. Made in Asia.
As some of you may know, my latest Bicycle Times test ride is the Norco Vesta. So far this steel steed has been pretty good to me. However, I write this blog with some words of caution.
If you’re in the market for a new commuting or cruising bike I’m sure you’ve heard of the Gates Carbon Drive. Although relatively new to bikes, popularity of the system is growing. Carbon drives aren’t anything new to Gates. The company has quite a history with automotive and motorcycle belt systems, and has recently been applying the proven technology to the bike world.
The belts themselves are extremely strong. I could talk about tensile strength, or you could just watch this video. The Gates website has links to plenty of informative videos about the drive system that are mildly entertaining. The site also does a great job of answering questions about the belts.
Yes, they are low-maintenance, and yes, they are ninja-quiet, and yes, they have a longer life than traditional chains. BUT…there are inherent concerns you need to be aware of. It’s true there’s a lot of good things going for the carbon drives. What you need to be aware of as a consumer and maybe weekend wrencher is that set-up is key to a properly functioning system.
There are correct and incorrect ways to handle the belts and two very important points to a properly installed belt drive: Tension and Alignment. When handling the belts, never crimp, fold or twist the belt. This will damage the carbon fiber cords in the center of the belt. Gently pull the belt apart from the outside when unpacking. Chainline has always been important to cyclist, but with the belt drive systems it’s paramount. YouTube how-to install.
It’s good to make sure you know these few points if you’re riding a belt drive, and it’s certainly something to be aware of if shopping for one. Make sure your favorite shop also knows the finer points of the system since they will likely be assembling it. When the necessary care is taken, the system is quiet and worry free. If done improperly, you could end up looking like a fool in the middle of a busy intersection with a snapped carbon belt and bruised ego.Tweet
I came to the Globe 2011 product launch in San Francisco imagining Steve McQueen launching Mustangs through intersections. What I got was underground bike tours, organic artisan foods and a glimpse of a passionate cycling community supported by an emerging brand that is becoming completely immersed in urban cycling.
Globe is a stand alone brand created by Specialized that is focused on urban cycling, culture and advocacy. This small group of specialists are equally immersed in their respective fields and commonly united to create bikes that enable a cycling lifestyle. From our base of operations in the hip Soma neighborhood, the Good Hotel provided the perfect setting to reiterate the appeal of a cycling lifestyle. "Globe Moves People," and by creating products that remove barriers and enhance the biking experience, Globe hopes to move more people on two wheels.
What’s new for 2011 is Globe’s strengthened partnerships with local and national cycling coalitions. Globe is riding the ride.
When I got the invite to head out to the left coast and ride around San Francisco for a couple days there certainly wasn’t much arm twisting needed. Early Tuesday morning I was awaiting my flight anticipating Kimmy Gibbler and her puffy sleeves. Several urban cycling events, partnerships and the utilization of the viral connectivity that is social media helped to promote the May 12th launch. Globe’s attitude of conservation and social responsibility are echoed by several other S.F. area organizations, like the San Francisco Bike Coalition, Good Hotel, Bicycling Coffee and The Disposable Film Festival, which were all part of our experience while in town.
After several long hours on planes and in airports I finally arrived in S.F.O. and was greeted by non-other than Globe’s lead engineer, Amber. We boarded the BART and headed downtown. A couple blocks off of Market St., on the corner of Mission and 7th, is Good Hotel. This self-dubbed humorous and eco-friendly hotel was to be the Globe team’s and their quests’ home for the following couple days. Some well-received Thai food and good conversation with a small representative of Globe didn’t end my long day – I was still working on East Coast time.
Most of the crew headed back to their rooms while Jessica from Globe and I headed to Dr. Sketchy’s SF. Dr. Sketchy’s was founded in 2005 by Molly Crabapple in Brooklyn, and became somewhat of a movement. They ask a simple question: Why can’t drawing naked people be sexy? "In San Francisco, Dr. Sketchy’s gives you a monthly opportunity to draw rhinestone encrusted burlesque performers, bearded ladies, cute girls on bicycles and anything else we can conjure up to tantalize your pencils." I’m not sure they mean the graphite kind.
Yep. Those are girls on a bike.
The next morning was the official 2011 Globe presentation. Each of the 4 Globe models for 2011 were discussed. Careful thought about the aesthetics, taking inspiration from our visual environment, helped influence the finished products.
- Lowest price point.
- Well built full Cr-Mo frame with Reynolds 520 / 725 main tubes is simple, yet durable
- Extremely durable Cr-Mo fork, with clean profile and built to withstand daily urban use
- Alloy 42-tooth track-style singlespeed crankset
- Super high-profile deep V 700c rims compliment the Roll’s distinctly urban design
- Bolt-on front and rear hubs provide excellent ride security and curb thieves looking for "free" wheels
- Roll 2’s keyed front wheel retentions system finishes off the fork profile and makes the design lines disappear
- Fixed gear or freewheel rear hub, you decide
My whip for the couple days in S.F. All new for 2011
- Step-through frame or more traditional horizontal top tube
- Traditionally inspired Globe A1 frame in standard and step-thru versions
- Classic uni-crown, curved blade fork in steel and alloy
- Custom, durable steel ‘zeppelin’ fenders
- Custom, bolt-on ‘phone-dial’ hubs
- Bolt-on front and rear hubs provide excellent ride security and curb thieves looking for "free" wheels
- Custom, Globe basket with integrated U-lock holder (5 KG), or rear rack (10 KG)
LIVE (under review by Justin Steiner)
- Designed around the front rack. Specially engineered front fork to accommodate the front rack. "Classic style, unlimited utility. Grab some groceries, carry a laptop, bonfire at the beach, BYOB. Life/Live is what you make it."
- Globe A1 Premium frame with smooth welded main tubes for one strong and lightweight package
- Integrated front porteur basket system with aluminum bottom lets you carry all your goods comfortably (capacity = 50lbs)
- Step through frame available with the classic double top tube “mixte” design for easy on and off access and/or riding with skirts
- Internally routed cables to clean up the design lines
- All alloy pedals that evoke Italian styling
- Color matched Globe steel fenders fit right in and have are a more durable alternative to the omnipresent plastic variety
- Slim, yet effective, the color matched alloy chainguard keeps your duds clean
- Proven Body Geometry Fitness saddle with front and rear bumbers for long-haul durability
- Big rear rack is part of the frame. "Pack, move, tow, recycle. The bigger the load, the better the Haul. A true cargo bike with urban style. When you can get the job done on two wheels, who needs a trunk?"
- A1 Premium Aluminum frame with integrated rack & aluminum deck makes loaded transportation simple and easy (capacity = 100lbs)
- Step through frame designs are offered in addition to the standard geometry for easy on and off access and/or riding with skirts
- Internally routed cables to clean up the design lines
- Globe City grips delivers form and function in one considered design
- Globe City pedals features a Varus wedge that slightly angles the foot for a more natural and comfortable position
- Wheels feature double-walled 700c rims with 36 spokes for maximum durability
- Body Geometry saddle uses a V-groove design and vibration dampers for comfort and support, even on dodgy roads
- Globe steel fenders are a more durable alternative to the plastic variety
- Slim, yet effective, the color matched alloy chainguard equipped on the internally geared model keeps your duds clean
After the presentation we were asked to choose our bike for our underground bike tour of San Francisco by SOSF. The tour ibegan along the S.F. waterfront, AT&T Park (home of the Giants) and Mission Bay. Joseph Baerman Strauss’ lesser-known 91-year-old 4th St. bridge and it’s $400k fake counter weight along with Shit Creek was next up.
4th St. Bridge and Shit Creek.
From there we headed to Mission. We rode to Balmy Alley and listened to our guides explain some of the fantastic murals and history of the neighborhood. Each mural was inspired by Diego Rivera and WPA murals. Balmy Alley has become a canvas for local activist artist to examine US foreeign policy in Central America and the issues pertinent to community.
Balmy Alley Murals.
A picnic lunch was set up for us in Mission Dolores Park with a picturesque view of the city. The park is a center for cultural, political and sport activities since the 1960s. No surprise that hipsters love it on the weekends.
Mission Dolores Park. Eat and Park. Wait, no. Park and eat.
Following lunch we headed down "The Wiggle" – a local bike route that minimizes the hills for which San Francisco is famous. The Wiggle lead us to the Duboce Bikeway Bike Mural by Mona Caron that depicts the broad spectrum of cycling from the bay to the coast.
Duboce Bikeway Bike Mural.
The official tour ended back at the hotel. However, I was on a bike perfect for some city riding and my legs still felt great. I was able to talk Jessica from Globe into taking me to see the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never been to San Francisco and by bike was a perfect way for me to get a vibe for the city. What better way to see one of this countries greatest landmarks! So we started our trek into blustery Pacific headwinds towards Strauss’ better known bridge seeing some sights along the way.
Alcatraz. (I’m not sure Magneto could have done it – the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t look like it could reach that far…)
The Brooklyn Bridge… Nah, I’m just kidding.
That turned out to be a long day in the saddle and well worth it. After the ride it was time to settle in for some amateur and locally-made artisan foods. Across the street from the Good Hotel was a parking lot that played host to The Disposable Film Festival honoring S.F. Bike week and also the finish-line for the evening’s Alley Cat race. Before the sun went down and the films began, local culinary artists were invited to peddle their creations to hungry cyclists. Following the shorts, a couple drinks with my Globe and Specialized hosts was a great way to end a fantastic day.
The next day was the 16th Annual Bike to Work Day for San Francisco that celebrated some of the city’s newest innovations that are helping to make cyclists safer. Specifically, the segregated bike lanes on Market Street. I was able to prolong my stay to partake in some of the festivities. Energizing stations were set up around town to keep riders upright and help with basic mechanicals. Although one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, the Bay City has been facing a severe deterrent to implementing recent cycling legislation. A legal injunction a few years ago has left an impass to cycling related projects that could benifit the urban bike community. Despite this, San Francisco remains one of the best cities to ride in. The San Francisco Bike Coalition along with Mayor Newsom are hopeful that when the injunction runs out, a city-wide bike network will be in the near future along with several other projects. The Mayor’s hope is that S.F. will rival cycling capitals like Portland and Amsterdam.
Bike to Work Day press conference.
I came back from the left coast impressed. Not only was I impressed with the local support, on several different levels, for a cycling lifestyle – I was impressed with Globe’s apparent commitment to help sustain that lifestyle with purposeful products.Tweet
The Norco Vesta is my latest whip. Made of a crowd pleasing 525 Reynolds Chromoly frame with custom belt compatible drop-outs and tensioning system. Yep, that’s right, belt drive. The Vesta converts even the most square pedaling to quiet motion using the Gates Carbon Drive. It’s lighter, quieter, cleaner and longer lasting than a conventional chain. It’s silky smooth and becoming more and more common on several different types of bikes.
The Vesta will set you back $950, but with a Gates belt, disc brakes, drop bars, rack and fender mounts – the only thing this city crushing machine is missing is gears. So far the bike has been a lot of fun to ride and with the equivalent of a 42t x 17t gear ratio – there’s not much you can’t tackle. Full review coming soon in Bicycle Times. www.norco.com
Usually, this time of the year has me thinking about the summer event schedule for cycling. Each year I like to get together with some far-off friends and ride bikes in the spirit of camaraderie and group suffering.This year however is a bit different. I’m not really thinking about cycling events. I’m not looking at event schedules wondering what endurance races will make me question why the hell I want to ride a bike at 3am, in the rain. I’m not even worrying about training plans for the local race series (not that I have before).
All I’m excited for is some local singletrack and rail-trails. You see, I just got a new puppy. I’ve grown up with dogs, and since living on my own, I’ve always wanted another. My girlfriend and I just bought a house this fall and a puppy wasn’t far behind. Originally I was interested in a couple different large breeds. Leonburgers and Akitas were on my short list. I have strong animosity for most small breeds. I’ve always thought it wasn’t a dog unless it was up to your knee.
But the more I read about the breeds I was originally interested in, I began to realize they weren’t going to be great trail dogs. Hip problems had me worried. On top of that I couldn’t see my hundred-and-nothing pound girlfriend leash training a hundred-and-fifty pound dog. And she wasn’t too keen on the idea of cleaning up hand sized pieces of dog crap. Since the Akita was on the short list she suggested a Shiba Inu. It’s basically a scaled down version of an Akita and one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world.
This spring I have begun hiking with our new buddy, Royal Zero the Zombie Killer (Zero, for short), on the trails behind our Bicycle Times / Dirt Rag office. So far I’ve been really impressed. I’m no expert on dog training, so I’ve been doing some on-line research for training tips.
Mountain Biking with your dog links:
- The toilet might flush in the wrong direction but here’s some solid down-under advise about training your dog for the trails. It originally appeared in Australian Mountain Bike magazine.
- Should you Mountain Bike With Your Dog?
- Training a Trail Dog by Bruce Argyle
I can see using something like the Springer for riding rail-trails or bike paths, but think that it would be unsafe for dog and rider on mountain bike trails. At least the tight and technical singletrack that I like.
I suppose it comes down to how well your dog is trained. Like any obidience training, it comes down to time and patience. Also, the law. Most places that are great for riding bikes might not be too happy to see your dog off-leash. Check your local parks. Having your dog off its leash might be fun for riding, but you are risking injury to your friend, yourself and possibly a ticket.Tweet
While most bike companies are fighting over a small segment of the race-driven cycling market, Soma Fabrications has used the inspiration of everyday cyclists to create practical and simple products. The Soma Way is of individuality, simplicity and durability. And since Brave New World was a good read, I think it’s a little about pleasure as well. Soma sees their steel frames as a platform for cyclists to create bikes that fit their specific needs.
My Soma Double Cross DC frame was chosen after careful consideration and a long debate with a panel of Bicycle Times experts. It started with a goal of building a new commuting bike that was better-fitting compared to what I had been riding. I had a few criteria: disc brakes, gears, fenders, and drop bars. With those criteria I could have gone in two directions—touring or cyclocross. I chose cyclocross because of the slightly more performance-oriented geometry. Both of Soma’s cyclocross frames (the $400 traditional Double Cross, and the disc brake-ready Double Cross DC) have mounts for racks and fenders. The Double Cross DC frame offers all the features I was looking for.
My 60cm DC frame has all the eyelets and braze-ons of the regular Double Cross, and its cantilever brake bosses are removable. Tange Prestige heat-treated butted steel is used for the front triangle with a 72° headtube angle and 23.7" effective top tube length, while butted steel makes up the rear, creating a frame with 33.4" of standover clearance, all tipping the scales at 4.91lbs.
The rear hub spacing is 132.5mm, giving you the option of fitting wheels with either road- or mountain-spaced hubs by squeezing or spreading the rear dropouts. There is enough clearance for 700x38mm tires with fenders. My 135mm rear wheel with 140mm disc brake rotor fit without any problems. Just make sure you have enough foresight to use disc brake-compatible fenders, or be prepared with some spacers.
After a lengthy build process I couldn’t wait to ride the finished bike. Coming off of a stiff aluminum bike, the Tange steel felt great. The ride quality of the steel was quickly apparent as it dampened just enough of the road chatter to smooth out my commute. Although the steel dampens vibrations the frame is responsive and quick, transferring my energy to the wheels and not side-to-side.
I would have preferred full-length cable housing on this frame. For a ‘cross and commuting bike I thought it would be a nice feature, although hard to come by. The only problem building up the bike was with the seatpost clamp. Instead of the gap in the frame closing evenly, the edges curled inward. The seal wasn’t strong enough on the post and resulted in a slipping and gouged seatpost. I wrote off the problem as either a post on the narrow-tolerance side, or a seat tube on the wide-tolerance side. I used a different post and have had no problems since.
The Midnight Silver powdercoat has stood up well to the elements so far, and the purply-silver has gotten a few compliments on the street.
So far the Soma Double Cross DC has been terrific as a commuting bike and plenty capable on a cyclocross course. From my time on the DC it seems that Soma has rightly kept a finger on the pulse of cyclists and is offering durable, versatile and smooth-riding frames ready for wherever their riders take them. Company website: www.somafab.com
[Ed notes: This bike review by Matt Kasprzyk originally appeared in print in Bicycle Times issue #4. Photos by Justin Steiner. Subscriptions make these web reprints possible. Please consider clicking here and subscribing to Bicycle Times.]Tweet
I’ve recently renewed my membership to our local bike advocacy group. I hope most communities have an active organization who is a proponent of cyclists’ rights. They offer a great service to the cycling community by creating a voice loud enough for local governments to hear. Our bike advocacy group spends a lot of time campaigning for safer bike routes and bike parking ordinance. Of course they provide information for current bike commuters and utilitarian cyclists, but they also provide inspiration and resources for would be members of a cycling lifestyle.
Upon renewing my membership I received a handy little card in the mail along with some stickers, pamphlets and reflective discs, which I’m sure are meant for my bar plugs. As exciting as reflective discs are, the most informative bit of info included in the packet was the handy little card. On this card are recommended steps for what to do if you’re in a crash. Especially one with a motor vehicle. Although cycling accidents are statistically uncommon, it’s reported as the single largest impediment to getting more people on bikes, according to bicyclelaw.com. Here’s a list of what to do.
1. If you are in pain, stay put. Don’t try to move. You could end up injuring yourself even more
2. Call 9-1-1 or tell someone else to do it for you.
3. Make sure to get the driver’s a) Name b) License Plate c) Insurance Info d) Contact Info. If there are any witnesses, get their name and contact info as well. Although you may be injured and incapacitated at the accident scene, that is your only chance to identify the motorist who hit you and the witness(s). After the ambulance takes you away, you will never get another chance to obtain this. It is not uncommon for the police officers to fail to get this information after the victim has left the scene. Ask someone to write down the tag number and their own information and give it to you, or put it in you pocket.
4. Get a police report to officially document the crash. Police are REQUIRED to create a report if a participant in the incident is injured. An injury, no matter how small, may be the only way to guarantee a police report. You will need one if you seek legal compensation for medical bills, etc. Do not take minor injuries lightly. It is recommended that you either go to the hospital immediately or visit a doctor soon after the incident. They can check for a concussion and other less obvious, but serious injuries.
5. Contact a lawyer.
6. Contact your city councilperson and tell them your story and that you want safer cycling conditions in the city.
More info can be found here: bike-pgh.org.
It’s regional but provides great links and common information.
Here are a few other resources from a quick search on the web:
I like design. And last week the crew here at Bicycle Times spent a few days talking about the future of our mag while planning how to get there. This past year our junk has tested the water and it’s time to drop into the proverbial hot tub of our identity. As I type this I can’t help but be fascinated with the characters the tapping of my fingers are creating. I realize I’m likely among the vast minority who will read this blog and share the interest, but I think there are some strong parallels with typography and bike design. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have witnessed type being created. But most of you have seen a bike geometry chart.
Although it’s often subjective, good design is apparent as soon as you see it. “The genius of seeing that which is so evident as to be unseeable.” That elusive aesthetic that seems so natural once we see it is often a timeless quality. Like a Schwinn Phantom or Helvetica or Garamond. Although functional they have become a model of design. Each created for a purpose, but have been developed into timeless standards.
I’m excited for the coming year and all we have challenged ourselves with. Hope you are too.Tweet
Raleigh’s pale green Alley Way turned a lot of heads in Las Vegas this year. More companies seem to be throwing a leg over the idea of practical commuting or town bikes. The Alley Way is a new addition to Raleigh’s lineup for 2010 that makes few compromises between form and function.
The frame comes in Small, Medium and Large. It’s made of Reynolds 520 butted steel. The Large I was riding had an effective top tube of 620mm, a head tube angle of 71 degrees and seat tube angle of 73 degrees. The seat tube was 495mm long with a generous standover clearance of 826mm, which made mounting and dismounting easier. Nothing surprising with the geometry, and with the swept 700mm handlebars, it created a comfortable, more upright riding position that was perfect for cruising around town.
Raleigh added some great features to the Alley Way. Some of the most notable are the matching pale green fenders and custom handlebar/stem combo. The stem and handlebar is a one-piece integrated chromoly design. The bike’s fork has both rack and disc brake mounts, and attached to those disc brake mounts are Shimano BR-M416 disc brakes with Tektro levers
Aside from the near timeless design of the frame there is more to pique your interest. The Alley Way features a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal hub powered by a Gates Belt Drive. The drivetrain system claims to be maintenance free and perfect for the grab and go bike. A Brooks B-17 saddle along with leather grips certainly add to this bike’s aesthetic appeal while Vittoria Randenour Cross tires with reflective sides add to your safety. And probably the most underrated feature has to be the integrated bell on the left brake lever.
The Alley Way is a smooth and quiet ride. The 8-speed internal hub was plenty capable and very convenient. Being able to change gears without pedaling at traffic lights was a welcomed feature. Disc brakes will of course give you fewer excuses to drive your car when the weather isn’t ideal. The Brooks B-17 saddle and leather grips exude style and class. Raleigh’s pale green integrated stem and handlebars along with the coordinating fenders exemplify a subtle elegance that is undoubtedly European inspired. The bike was even featured in this year’s Urban Legends Fashion Show.
The Alley Way is a beautiful example of a bike that melds old world style with modern technology. It rode as smooth as it looks. The internal 8sp hub shifted clean and quietly with a wide enough range of gears that made starts easy and cruising quick. Tectro levers and Shimano mechanical discs worked flawlessly during the short test period.
The Gates Belt Drive was of course quiet. Working with the Alfine hub, the drivetrain was noticeably smooth and seemed efficient enough. I can’t remember any squeaks during the couple days of riding and tension never slackened.
My only qualm about the Alley Way is that it looks too good. If that was my bike I would be nervous everywhere I parked it. At the Mandalay Bay crits the bike was scratched a little when it was grouped to lock. If Raleigh sold matching replacement fenders and the handlebar-stem combos I’d feel a whole lot better about parking it around other bikes. Although I’m not sure I would use this for my commute, I sure wouldn’t mind having this in the stable for rides around town for a morning scone and coffee, or to a farmer’s market with some nice tweed panniers.
More information at www.raleighusa.com.Tweet
I admit, this might be considered more of a Dirt Rag topic, but after spending some time searching for opinions on my new bike’s trail issue, I found that much of the geometry concerns apply to other forms of cycling as well. Recently I sold a frame and kept the suspension fork that was designed for the frame. (I tried to get rid of the fork too, but it kept coming back to me.) So I did some service to the fork and figured I’d try it out with the new frame.
As many of you probably know, a lot of thinking goes into designing a bike. All those angles and geometries and ratios are designed for specific results. This means that certain measurements and angles will have an affect on the handling and ride characteristics of a bike. This is one of the main reasons to buy a bike suited to your needs. Touring bikes really aren’t great race bikes. Largely because of math.
Here’s my situation and inspiration for this great experiment. As I mentioned, I have a new frame. The suspension fork I’m using with this new frame was designed for a different bike, with different geometry. There are a lot of variables and numbers here. The fork is 100mm of travel with 51mm of offset. "Fork offset influences geometric trail,which affects a bicycle’s handling characteristics. Increasing offset results in decreased trail, while decreasing offset results in increased trail."
Kogswell has a nice front end geometry calculator to help illustrate these principles.
The new frame I’m riding is designed for a suspension fork with 80mm of travel and 44mm of offset. Using the above measurements of my fork it’s easy to see that I’m increasing the travel and the offset. So what is this going to do to the ride? Well, using the handy trail calculator linked above we can plug in the numbers. It’s easy to find the headtube angle of most bikes. I hope that all bike companies have websites by now, and most will have geometry charts for their bikes. My frame has a 72 degree headtube when used with an 80mm suspension fork with 44mm of offset. BUT, my fork is 100mm of travel and 51mm of offset. The front end will be raised 20mm, which will reduce the headtube angle.
That’s the first concern. How does the reduced headtube angle affect the handling of the bike. Generally speaking, a steeper angle (higher number) gives quicker handling, especially at lower speeds. A slacker angle (lower number) is more stable at higher speeds and less “twitchy.” So in my case, the added travel reduced the angle by 2 degrees, slowing down the steering. I also have the increased offset, and this is what I hoped would be my saving grace.
According to Dave Moulton’s Bike Blog, trail assists steering. I hoped that even though I have decreased the headtube angle of my bike by raising the front end 20mm the increased offset would give me a similar trial number. So the million dollar question: Does it matter how you arrive at less trail? Offset vs headtube angle.
This isn’t merely an off-road concern. These are geometric principles which have been concerns of frame builders for over a century, and not just self-propelled frame builders. Motorcycles are also affected by these principles. A loaded front end when bicycling touring will also require a different geometric set up for predictable handling. Most modern forks, either suspension or rigid have offset. All those numbers mean something on any given bike’s geometry chart. When buying a bike it’s important to understand what they mean, and if that math will help give you the ride characteristics you are looking for.
You might be asking how my bike rides. A little too early to tell, but one ride on it, and I hit a tree.Tweet
So ya… I’d be way off point if I said nothing has happened with this bike build.
Since my last post I have all but wrapped the bars. In this post I’m just goin to talk about some of the problems I’ve run into during the build. I have a few new pics to share as well.
Going way back to the previous post there was a sweet shot of the bike in the work stand down in the DR/BT basement. In that shot, my DC is sporting some RaceFace Cadence bars. Those have been since swapped out. Nothing wrong with the bars. I actually think their compact reach would have been rather nice. They were switched because they just weren’t wide enough. The bench-mark measurement for road bar width is the width of your shoulders. I was seduced by the reach and thought I could get away with a narrower bar. As soon as I sat on the bike I knew I was wrong.
In place of the Cadence bars I mounted some WTB Mountain Road Drop Bars. Featured here.
These have a comfortable reach and 30 degree flair to the drops. So far they have offered a comfortable variety of hand positions and they aren’t even wrapped yet. The bars also add a unique aesthetic quality. This isn’t an off-the-rack bike and the WTB bars help add a bit of personality.
Next mistake has been the fenders. Not that fenders are a mistake, and surely not the SKS fenders I picked up. The mistake was my hasty decision that left me without disc brake mountable fender stays. A few spare parts from the dresser drawer in the shop along with a bit of elbow greese got me out of this minor set back. Buying components and speccing out a bike is pretty fun. I guess I just was too hasty in my trigger-pulling and bought the wrong fenders.
To fix the problem I used a longer mounting bolt and some spacers. The spacers were just forgotten bike parts laying around the shop. The fender stays were then given a slight ‘S’ curve bend to clear the disc brake calipers. Usually all manufactures do is throw in some spacers to solve the problem anyways if you get disc brake specific fenders, so it really wasn’t a unique fix. Luckily the SKS fenders came with long enough stays before trimming to accomodate my bends.
As mentioned with #1 and 2 of these posts was an issue of chain line. Well I kinda ignored the concern… Maybe ignore isn’t the right word. I chose not to worry about it. For up front I bought a FSA Gossamer double compact cyclocross crank set. In the back I have a 10 speed road cassette. When it’s time for some cross I’ll have to grab a lower geared cassette, but for commuting the 36×46 in front with a 11-23 in back is all the gearing I need, even in Pittsburgh. I admit, I do have some chain rub on a couple gear combos, but I’m not worried about it. They are combos that you really should be in, like small to small.
I have a lot left to cover and bunch more pics to take. On tap for next time will be an introduction to my lesser known shifters and deraileurs, how I ran full-length brake housing, seat post issues, and lots of pics of a finished bike.Tweet