By Shannon Mominee
At Rotating Mass Media, publishers of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times Magazines, we practice what we preach and do our best to ride our bikes to work.
Through rain, snow, wind, sunshine, and the dark of night, our staff commuted by bike to and from the office 594 days, equaling 10,762 miles, in 2012. That’s an increase of 231 days and 4,075 miles over our 2011 total. Unfortunately, that number doesn’t reflect the days spent working from home, during which rides at lunch or to end the day are encouraged.
Those 594 days and 10,762 miles in the saddle saved 538 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere and kept about $2,000 in our pockets, instead of handing it over to the oil companies.
Our estimated 720,000 calories burned riding to work is equal to 2,400 Snickers bars. Fortunately, we eat more than candy around here, so I don’t need to estimate the number of cavities kept at bay. If you can’t relate to candy bars, picture 4,800 cans of Dale’s Pale Ale or 2,667 chocolate-frosted Dunkin’ Donuts. We actually may have come close to consuming either of those….
Overall, Bicycle Times Editor Karen Brooks, right, led the charge again, commuting 128 days for 3,200 miles. This earned her a staggering $256 at the rate of two bucks per round-trip commute. Let’s hope she spent it on something nutritious or fun. (Brooks says: “I will probably spend it on chocolate donuts!”)
How many days did you commute this year?Tweet Print
By Shannon Mominee
The CrossRip Elite ($1,270) is part of Trek’s Urban Utility line. It’s made from their 100 series Alpha Aluminum and includes a paint matched Bontrager Satellite carbon fork. Frame sizing runs large or at least long. The size 56cm has a 58.4cm top tube. So, I swapped out the 100mm stem for a 80mm one to achieve my desired reach to the shift/brake hoods.
The frame and fork both have mounts for full coverage fenders. The fenders pictured are not included with the bike, but I added them for my commuting needs. With the fenders the bike accommodates a 35mm wide tire, and 29×1.8” tire without fenders.
There are also front and rear rack mounting points, internal derailleur cable routing, and mechanical disc brakes. Those small details amount to many options for all weather commuting, light-duty touring, or even a cyclocross outing if desired but the main triangle is a little tight for shouldering. Along with the Shimano 9-speed drivetrain and FSA Vero compact crankset, there’s not much paved or hard packed terrain that the CrossRip Elite can’t handle.
A nice feature I was glad to see that the CrossRip Elite is spec’d with a traditional bend drop bar, instead of an ergonomic bend that I have never found to be comfortable. Shimano’s Sora STI shifters create a nice and flat hand area and feel comfortable on my hands. They have a smooth action when shifting or pulling the brake lever. The Sora front derailleur on the other hand is finicky and rubs against the chain when I’m in the smallest or largest cog.
I like that Trek chose a 160mm rotor for the front wheel and a 140mm for the rear wheel to accommodate the Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes, which do a good job of slowing the bike down when the wheels are wet. The mechanicals are a huge improvement over the caliper brakes on my personal commuting bike.
It’s taken me a few rides to get comfortable on the CrossRip Elite, mostly due to the long stem and drop from the saddle to the bars. I like to be more upright when commuting and riding in traffic, and the stock set up just didn’t offer that to me. The Bontrager Evoke 1 saddle also seems to lose comfort and support after about seven miles and becomes a real pain in the ass. In any case, I’m set now.
Trek also offers a slightly less expensive, standard CrossRip for $1,100. It’s the same frame and fork with a different build kit. Look for a full review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times Magazine.
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By Shannon Mominee
CST’s Crucible tire is part of its city/commuter line. It has all the features I desire in a tire that will be used for thousands of miles in an urban environment. I’m talking about reflective sidewalls, Kevlar puncture protection, and a little tread because not all surfaces are paved or dry.
The Crucible rolls smoothly but felt a little sticky at first, picking up stones that rattled off the inside of my fenders. Wear has been minimal over the four months of continuous use and I’ve received only one flat from a nail. Overall I’m pleased with the Crucible.
If you’re looking for a durable, comfortable rolling tire with minimum resistance and added night visibility, try the Crucible. It comes in three 700c sizes and one 26-inch size.
- MSRP: $22
- Size tested 700x38c
- Weight: 490g
- Country of Origin: China
By Shannon Mominee. Photos by Adam Newman.
The name Joe Breeze is most often associated with mountain biking, where he’s considered one of the founding fathers of the sport. Most folks don’t realize that before pioneering mountain bikes, Breeze enjoyed success at road racing. The Venturi celebrates Joe’s 35 years of cycling inspiration.
This bike is designed for riders who want racing geometry, but prefer the supple ride quality of steel to the stiffness of aluminum or carbon fiber. The Venturi features the first hydroformed, heat-treated chromoly steel frame. (Hydroforming has previously only been used on aluminum frames.) Tubes transition from D-shaped to round in various places, and the wall thickness changes as well, to create a stiff yet supple ride.
Joe Breeze’s geometry philosophy is that weight can be shaved from the front of the frame by lowering the height of the head tube and shortening the corresponding tubes, while gaining stiffness and compliance. What’s lost in the head tube height is regained by using a 12 degree rise stem, placing the rider in the same flat position as a traditional racing frame.
My size large tester has a 570mm top tube and 540mm seat tube, so I feel like my upper body is fairly flattened out, or even in an aggressively sloping position. The head tube is also rather steep at 74 degrees, paired with a relatively normal 73.5 degree seat tube. This places the rider over the bottom bracket for stability and delivers quick handling.
Breezer’s 40mm offset carbon fiber fork adds to both of those characteristics, while saving weight over a steel fork and promoting front-end stiffness. Personally, I’d like a taller head tube. I’m comfortable on the bike for a couple of hours before the forward position tires my shoulders. Road racers and more aggressive riders would feel right at home with the positioning.
There’s also a lot going on in the rear of the frame. The arced seatstays bow upward instead of downward, as is typical of aluminum frames. The arc ads compliance, absorbs road vibration, and braces against braking force. Asymmetrical chainstays and a press-fit BB86 bottom bracket help keep the rear stiff and short to match the handling of the front.
Altogether, the short wheelbase and steep head tube make a lively feeling bike that descends with stability, tracks superbly through curves, and handles quickly. It’s just plain fun to ride. Swerving around road debris takes only a slight movement of the bar, or just a little body English. Cruising at speed, the bike feels solid and remains so when pushing through turns and curves.
I like the way the Venturi hugs the road with its low center of gravity, and the steel absorbs shock from road imperfections. The frame and carbon fork do a nice job of providing feedback and deliver a livelier feel than carbon fiber and a softer ride than aluminum. Yet, it’s stiff in the right places and efficient at transferring power.
One of my favorite times to ride this bike is when there’s climbing ahead. The Venturi accelerates smoothly, or at least maintains speed, until the hill is crested. The same is true of accelerating on flats or from a stop. No energy feels lost to material or design flexing. The Venturi is a machine that wants to move forward. I think Breezer found a near-perfect shape in hydroforming the steel tubes. The frame doesn’t feel overbuilt, heavy, or teeth- rattling, but it’s not flexy, either.
The Ultegra 10-speed group and matching tubeless road wheels are a solid parts package. I had plenty of gear options with the compact double crankset (50- and 34-tooth chainrings). I found the right-hand shifter to be a little sensitive to error; if I inadvertently pushed both shift levers a few millimeters when initiating an up or down shift, the chosen lever would move all the way in without a shift. The more I ride the bike though, the less it happens, as I’ve become careful with my fingers.
Riding road tubeless is new to me, and although the bike came stock with tubes, Hutchinson offered a pair of tubeless Fusion 3 tires to take full advantage of the Ultegra wheelset. The wheels have remained true through the test and feel light and fast in use.
I like the Venturi’s quick handling and subtle ride characteristics, and think it’s awesome that Breezer is using modern manufacturing techniques with an old ma- terial. If I could change one more thing, it would be to raise the bottle cage mount on the seat tube just a bit, so it’s not blocked by the front derailleur clamp. Other than that, the Venturi delivers an awesome ride. It’s available as a complete bike or frameset.
- Country of origin: Taiwan
- Price: $2,879
- Weight: 20.06lbs.
- Sizes available: XS-XXL, large tested.
- Online: www.breezerbikes.com
By Shannon Mominee
Some have a warm spot in their heart for Motobécane, the French manufacturer of motorcycles, mopeds, and lightweight road bikes made from 1923 to 1981. Motobecane USA, however, has no relation to the original and is owned by the Kinesis Industry Company, which fabricates a significant portion of bicycles made in China and Taiwan. It also imports bicycles into the U.S. under the Motobecane trademark and sells them through BikesDirect.com at incredibly low prices. Free shipping is included to the lower 48 states with some assembly required.
I wondered if the deal was too good to be true and looked into it with the Fantom Cross UNO. This is Motobecane’s singlespeed cyclocross offering, described on the website as a “sport grade track bike, transformed and more aggressive for rougher terrain.” The UNO is identical in geometry and material to Motobecane’s steel-frame track bike, but with the addition of ‘cross tires, cantilever brakes, and braze-ons for front and rear rack and fenders. The frame and fork are butted and tapered 4130 chromoly, with horizontal dropouts and aggressive 73.5-degree head and 73-degree seat tube angles on the size 58cm. The UNO has 120mm rear hub spacing, whereas most ‘cross bikes typically have 130mm spacing to accommodate a wider range of wheel options.
Depending on the set-up, the UNO can be used as a full-fledged commuter, ‘cross racer, or urban fixie with all the hip stuff that goes along with it. To take advantage of the bike’s commutability, I installed full-coverage fenders and 35mm tires. If you like a wider tire, there’s room for a 42mm without fenders. The 38×16-tooth gear package was a good choice for a bike that could find itself on or off pavement. It felt slightly easy to pedal on the road, but was perfect when I detoured into the parks and had to climb gravel trails or grass.
The geometry is more aggressive than a cyclocross bike’s, and much more so than a dedicated commuter, making my riding position more forward than I traditionally ride. The short 405mm chainstays and steep angles create a snappy bike with a short wheelbase that has prompt rear end tracking. This is great, if that’s what you’re looking for. On dry surfaces, handling was fun and fast, slice and dice. But, some stability is compromised with the short wheelbase and amplified with a loaded rack. On all kinds of terrain, the Avid Shorty brakes did a fine job of stopping.
The frame itself has the comfortable feel of steel, smoothing road vibration while providing good handling feedback. It’s easy to push the bike through turns, and it holds a line well and rolls smoothly. The UNO feels light and fast when standing to climb hills or taking off from a stop. I like that the frame and fork felt relatively stiff and didn’t shimmy at speed or feel flexy when track-standing at red lights. On crushed limestone trails and gravel paths, the bike felt solid and rode quietly—no chain slap. With one gear, the UNO is easy to maintain.
To offer the low price, the majority of components on the bike are nameless. However, they function fine, including the flip-flop rear hub, which allows the bike to be ridden singlespeed or fixed gear. I thought the 175mm crank arms were too long for riding fixed, so I rode it singlespeed. I swapped the bar and stem, and would have replaced the thin, uncomfortable brake levers too, if I had an extra pair.
The Fantom Cross UNO is a practical track bike outfit- ted with the necessities to make it an all-weather commuter. Its snappy handling makes it fun to ride fast on city streets. With a tire swap, it can be used as a ‘cross bike too, or add shorter crankarms and you have a track bike. Its versatility would make it a good entry-level bike for someone who is not dedicated to one style of riding, but wants to try a few disciplines before settling into a purpose-built bicycle. At $400, it’s a good deal. The stock parts might meet your comfort needs, but if they don’t, a hundred bucks should be enough to swap in ones that do.
- Age: 38
- Height: 6’
- Weight: 183lbs.
- inseam: 33”
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $400
- Weight: 23.8lbs.
- Sizes available: 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (tested), 61, 64cm
By Shannon Mominee
Most people associate Joe Breeze with mountain biking. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the sport along with Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchey, and Charlie Cunningham, to name a few, and Breeze is credited with building the first purpose-built mountain bike in the early 80’s. He’s also a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee of 1988, and remains active in the industry today.
So what’s up with the Breezer road bike, you may be asking? Before mountain bikes, Joe raced road bikes successfully and the Venturi is a nod to his past and 35 years of inspiration. Most riders are not settled into one discipline and own more than one type of bike. Breezer continues to build mountain bikes, and also offers commuter/transportation bikes too.
The Venturi is the only Breezer road bike offering and is available as a frameset or complete build. Remaining true to innovation, the Venturi features a heat-treated chromoly steel frame built around racing geometry, integrated head tube, asymmetrical chainstays, BB86 press-fit bottom bracket, and 40mm offset Breezer carbon fiber fork.
The geometry and sizing of the frame is unique, if not a little strange. It’s built low and long. I typically ride frames with a 570-580mm long top tube, with the seat tube corresponding close to that number for a given size. The Venturi size large does have a 570mm top tube, but the seat tube is a short 540mm. The next size up has a 570mm seat tube but a top tube of 585mm, which would have been too long for me. Combined with the 74-degree head tube, 73.5-degree seat tube, and short 130mm head tube, I’m riding in an aggressive position.
Short chainstays, short wheelbase, steep angels make for a quick handling bike. The Venturi does ride nice and supple, without being twitchy or scary on the downhills. It’s stiff where it needs to be, forgiving in other areas, and feels powerful and fast on the climbs. I actually look forward to standing and going up hills on it.
The frame is outfitted with a full Ultegra 10-speed parts package and Ultegra tubeless wheels. I’ll have a blog posting soon on the tubeless wheels so be on the lookout. I’m not crazy about all the white parts, paint, and bar tape, but that’s me, it may be attractive to you.
Look for a full review soon in Bicycle Times Magazine and if you like the mag, don’t forget to subscribe. Print and multiple digital forms are available.
By Shannon Mominee
Over the years I’ve been becoming more and more picky about what my stomach will tolerate during a ride, race, or 24-hour challenge. Taste is also an issue. I’m not going to down something that tastes like chalk or makes me so thirsty that I consume all my water prematurely.
Of course I’d like to eat normal, everyday food, but tacos, beef stew, and grilled fish don’t really pack to well in a jersey pocket or hydration pack. But I’ve been known to pull out a slice of pizza, peanut butter and honey sandwich, fruit, or roll up to a street vendor for a hot sausage sandwich, which by the way did agree completely with my stomach and gave me mad pedaling power. I’d recommend trying one.
My riding friends mess with me and will show up for a ride with an egg and cheese English muffin in their pocket, waiting for the proper moment of comedy to hand it over. They also know that the ride may pause at any store, at any time if I need food. I seem to never have enough.
The days of squeezing strange formulas into my mouth from foil packs are over, unless I’m in really bad shape. But options I’ve found are bars that are actually made from sizeable chunks of real food, taste awesome, usually feature chocolate, and help me maintain my energy level without upsetting my stomach or making me pay for eating it later.
One of my favorite bar-type of foods include Kate’s Real Food. She creates bars from all natural and organic ingredients. The 5 bars; Tram Bar, Grizzly Bar, Handle Bar, Stash Bar and Caz. Bar all have some type of chocolate, most have peanut butter, one has flax and hemp, and one, the Caz. Bar features coconut, which I love, but some spice that I can’t relate too while pedaling. I think it’s the cayenne pepper.
Rise Bar uses a lot of fruit and nuts in their bars. All 12 varieties are free of gluten, GMOs, preservatives, dairy, soy, and peanuts. I haven’t tried them all but the ones that I have are tasty. Not really crunchy put do taste like fruit and nuts.
Angell Bar brands their snacks as an organic candy bar and all four flavors are at least shaped like a candy bar. You’ll be hard pressed to find partially hydrogenated fats or corn syrup in them though. Instead, there’s a vegan offering, a gluten-free crispy bar, and a nut-free chocolate bar with a coconut center. Angell Bars are certified USDA organic.
ProBar original bars have been around for a while and are awesome. They are a little more expensive than most on the market but are bigger too. There are a bunch of flavors but Koka Moka stands out in my mind and despite the name, it contains no caffeine or coffee. Think chocolate. Probar’s latest line, Halo, has flavors to satisfy the sweet tooth. The flavors sound more like ice cream; Rocky Road, S’Mores, Nutty Marshmallow, but won’t melt in your pocket and are certified organic by QAI (Quality Assurance International).
If I’m going to squirt something from foil into my mouth it will only be Barney Butter. Made in an almond-only facility from almonds, evaporated cane juice, palm fruit oil, and sea salt, this is the perfect mid-ride boost or snack if you are allergic to peanuts. Barney Butter also has about half the fat of peanut butter but double the magnesium, vitamin E, and iron.
Basically, there are a bunch of packaged options out there for trail and road food, more so than I’ve listed here, that taste good, supply energy, and agree with my stomach while pedaling. Give’em a try.
By Shannon Mominee
The numbers for total mileage and days commuted by bike to the Bicycle Times office have been calculated, and per her normal dominance—or at least our ability to mark an “X” on the record board—Karen Brooks, above, takes home the prize for most days and mileage. Actually, there is no prize, but all of us receive $1 for every round trip cycled.
- Karen had 93.5 days and 2,338 miles
- Eric probably would have won, but isn’t the greatest at tracking his days, he finished with 88.5 days and 1,239 miles.
- Shannon cycled 80 days and 1,120 miles.
- Matt Kasprzyk rode 31.5 days and 693 miles.
- Justin rode 20.5 days totaling 287 miles.
- Adam finished with 17.5 days and 287 miles.
- Josh has a really ugly hill to climb to get home, but still rode 13.5 days for 432 miles.
- Trina and Stephen live far out, take it as you wish, but rode 7.5 and 7 days respectively for 105 and 98 miles.
- And the newest member to the staff, Jon, managed 4 days for 88 miles even though he only worked a few months and suffered a broken thumb.
In all, we accumulated 363.5 days and 6,687 miles. Both numbers are an improvement over 2010’s totals of 319.5 days and 5,868.5 miles. I’m confident that a lot of days were left unaccounted for, because we were so involved in producing quality magazines and drinking coffee and beer that we forgot to keep track.
What we need is a small rodent, maybe a hamster or Guinea pig, or a friendly primate able to mark an “X” on paper. Have one? If so, send video proof of penmanship to Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org. All applicants will be considered and we are willing to trade a T-shirt and subscription for use of your pet
How many miles did you commute in 2011?
By Shannon Mominee
I contemplated whether I needed another bike for about ten minutes, when a friend of mine decided to sell his 2007 Lemond Poprad Disc. He was, unfortunately, hit by a car a few years ago on his road bike and, because of an injury, hasn’t ridden since. The Poprad has been hanging in his garage waiting to play in the mud and now has found a home with me.
I think the Poprad Disc was ahead of its time and is still awesome. Most companies have recently begun putting discs on ‘cross bikes, but this one is nearly five-years-old. A Bontrager carbon fork, OX Platinum steel frame, cool color with classy bands, and a super smooth ride. Too bad it’s no longer made.
This like-new condition bike has opened another level of cycling opportunities for me. When the single track turns to three inches of deep mud or is ice covered, I’m linking crushed stone trails in the parks with city streets and rails-to-trails, and discovering odd neighborhoods and overgrown urban access roads that climb up the backside of steep hillsides. Pittsburgh is laid out like a game of Chutes and Ladders and what better way to speed through a tunnel or slide down a rainbow than on a bike.
Owning this style of bike to adventure around the city, or to follow the banks of the three rivers on any terrain is giving me a new perspective on where I live. It’s almost like a vacation. The new routes are also fun to share with my wife and putting knobby tires back on her Bianchi Volpe and having her ride with me is exciting for her as well. It’s also great for my dog Roman. He still gets to run with a bike when the single track is sloppy, but the main arteries through the park are rideable. Perhaps next season I’ll actually get to race the Poprad, but for now it’s serving me well.
Editor’s note: There are two more Poprad owners on the Bicycle Times staff too, one disc and one with cantilevers.
By Shannon Mominee
Each year when the weather begins to turn wet and cold, I briefly contemplate not riding until the warm, dry air returns. Up north that would unfortunately keep me off the bike for about five months, so I accept the season and search for a box in the basement containing my cold weather gear.
My Lake cycling boots are usually in a sad state with rusty cleats, dull leather, and diminished water protection. I use a few different products throughout the season to restore the water barrier, which also adds moisture to the leather to keep it from drying out and cracking, and helps to maintain its shape. Spending a little time and money on shoe products and care will benefit in the long run and my boots will and do last longer.
There are a ton of products on the market but I like to use a few different cleaners then follow up with wax and oil water barriers. Kiwi Saddle Soap is an inexpensive cleaner, around $5 for 3oz, that also offers the first layer of leather protection. It smells good and requires very little effort to work. Once I have a clean surface I use either Meltonian Mink Oil or Nikwax as a water barrier and to moisturize the leather. Both products are all natural, safe for the environment, and bead water on the surface of the shoe. They’re also safe for use with Gore-Tex and allow the leather to breath. Mink Oil is about $3 for a 2.5oz tin and Nikwax is $9 for a 3.5oz tube. A little spreads a long way and I rotate the one I use for no good reason.
As you can see in the photo, that waxy shine is the barrier and rejuvenation makes my boots last longer. I’ll probably reapply the concoction after Dirt Rag’s Punk Bike which is historically wet and muddy, if not snowy.
I also do a lot of hiking in the winter with my dog Roman and my hiking boots see as much, if not more, abuse than my Lake boots. I’m trying products that I recently discovered on them from Montana Pitch-Blend. For 25 years they’ve been making all natural products in small batches out of La Pine, Oregon. The Leather Oil Soap washed away the dirt and grime from the leather and feels really rich to the touch. As it cleans it restores the natural oils in the leather to keep it from cracking and aging.
I’m most impressed with the Montana Pitch-Blend Leather Dressing. This balm is made from their Leather Oil Conditioner then blended with beeswax, mink oil, and pine pitch to form a water barrier. Pine pitch is a naturally occurring antiseptic that protects pine trees from bacteria, mold, mildew, and fungus. The Leather Dressing is a solid in the container, reminiscent of bacon fat that has cooled over night. When I scooped out a fingertip full and touched it to the leather, the heat from my fingers melted the balm and turned it into oil that was absorbed by the leather. A little of this product goes a long way and there was no residue left on the leather like Nikwax tends to leave.
After I finished applying the Leather Dressing and went to wash my hands, water from the faucet beaded on my fingers and rolled off. I have high hopes for this balm and will follow up with how it performs. Montana’s products are a little more expensive than the Mink Oil and Saddle Soap but in line with Nikwax. I purchased their Autumn 2011 Complete Leather Care Mini Kit from their website for $15 and priority shipping was free. The kit includes a 4oz tub of Leather Dressing, and 1oz of Leather Oil Soap and 1oz of Leather Oil. Now that my footwear is ready for the mud, water, and (gulp) snow, my outlook on the season has brightened.
Winter is a cold, hard, fact of life around here, so we’ve put together a series of tips on how to stay warm, dry, and on the bike rear ’round.