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.
By Shannon Mominee
Motobecane is the house brand of BikesDirect.com and the Fantom Cross Uno is their cyclocross singlespeed, my current test bike. The frame and fork is straightforward, 4130 chromoly, butted and tapered. Track-style horizontal dropouts and 120mm dropout spacing make up the rear-end. Braze-ons for a bottle cage, front and rear racks and fender mounts are standard.
The Uno came with a 38-tooth front chainring and 16-tooth cog and 16-tooth freewheel attached to a no-name brand flip-flop hub. Because the crank arms are 175mm in length, I chose to ride freewheel instead fixed gear. I didn’t want to risk catching a pedal and crashing in a turn. If the cranks were 172.5mm or shorter, I’d ride it fixed.
There’s enough clearance in the frame and fork for a 1.7” tire, but 700x30c Kenda Kwicks came stock. After the tires broke traction during a turn on wet pavement and I fell in the street at a busy intersection, I swapped them for a less aggressive tire and add fenders to the bike for commuting friendliness.
The stock no-name 130mm long stem and bar combination was also replaced by pieces that I had in my basement to make the bike rideable. If I had an extra set of brake levers I would get rid of the stock no-name ones. They are by far the skinniest, most uncomfortable hoods I’ve ever used and the levers are nearly impossible to reach in the drops. To accommodate, when I rewrapped the drop bar, I doubled the tape around the hoods to gain some width.
The size 58cm tester has a 570mm top tube, aggressive 73.5-degree head and 73.0-degree seat tube, and short 405mm chainstays. Motobecane’s description calls this a “sport grade track bike, transformed and more aggressive for rougher terrain.” I think that’s a pretty accurate description and I know quit a few people that commute on cyclocross bikes or ride them fixed gear, but no one that rides a track bike off road.
I’m as comfortable as I’m going to get on the Uno, but even with the bar and stem changes, I feel like I’m putting the majority of my weight on my wrists and am holding myself up instead of riding naturally. I need a few more rides to judge the handling fairly.
The "MSRP" on the Cross Uno is $900, which seemed highly overpriced to me, but BikesDirect’s website sells it for the deeply discounted price of $400. That price seems more reasonable, if you can get comfortable on it. The Uno is available in black or white in size 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (testing), 61, and 64mm. Made in China.
By Shannon Mominee
The Dromarti “Black” Sportivo is a super-classy, leather cycling shoe accented with red stitching that matches the inside. Seven lace holes wrap the leather around my foot and applied the perfect amount of tension. The thin, round laces are free to flop in the breeze, but haven’t yet gotten caught in the chain. The molded outer sole is SPD compatible. Semi-hard lugs provide a decent amount of traction outdoors, but are slippery on smooth, indoor flooring.
I prefer stiff soled shoes such as these, and the Sportivos exhibit almost no flex when pedaling. They’re not the best for walking, but I’ll accept the trade-off. The insole doesn’t offer much arch support but is still comfortable. My size 45 shoes fit true to size. Whenever I slip my feet into the leather, I think they are too damn nice for cycling. I’d wear ’em dancing, if I danced. The leather requires saddle time to relax, but by the fourth ride and a little rain, they felt comfortable. In fact, they rank in my top two pair of favorite cycling footwear.
Dromarti’s casual appearance blends in at the market or pub, but they’re flashy. As I paused once on a city street, a woman asked, “Those shoes ‘spensive?” Well, yes they are, but they’re also cool, functional, and highly comfortable. The $225 price is steep, but justifiable by the quality, and even more so if they last for at least three years. Time will tell, but the construction looks solid and I enjoy wearing them. Made in Italy.
By Shannon Mominee
It’s silly, but whenever I think of Redline, I imagine being 12 years old and watching a neighborhood kid named Earl ride his BMX in circles around a tree, yelling “Redline! Redline!” The bike name sounded cool, and as much as I desired one, I never got it.
Redline began producing BMX frames and forks in 1974. These days, the company has extended its line to encompass nearly all forms of cycling and has sponsored many racers and Olympic riders. The Metro 9 is a far cry from neighborhood dirt jumps and Olympic glory, but what it has in common is two wheels that get people outside riding bikes.
The Metro 9 is designed as an urban- friendly bicycle with an upright stance and a riser bar that put me in a position to see the road ahead. Since I was sitting more upright, I was also more visible to drivers. The drivetrain is kept simple with a single front chainring and SRAM 9-speed rear cassette. This 1×9 drivetrain uses SRAM’s X5 rear derailleur and trigger shifter, which functioned flawlessly. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Tektro caliper brakes performed even when wet, and especially in an emergency situation when I really needed to stop. Full coverage fenders are included, making this bike road-worthy in any weather.
My size 56cm tester is the largest that Redline offers. I initially thought the frame would be too compact for me, because I’m used to riding mountain bikes that have a longer top tubes that put me in an aggressive riding position. The Metro 9, however, is not meant to be so aggressive, and according to Redline, the 56cm frame is designed to fit riders over 6’2” tall. The top tube length is suitable for achieving the upright posture, and a longer stem could be added to change the position if need be. That said, I’m 6’ tall and fit fine on this size.
On the road, the Metro 9 had a subtle ride quality typical of steel frames that did a good job of muting road vibration. The narrow handlebar added to the quick steering characteristics and the 40” wheelbase made the bike snappy and able to weave quickly through standstill traffic. It became twitchy when I topped out the gearing and leaned into wide curves. It’s not a traditional road bike, anyway, and opportunities to top out and lean are few and far between.
Slow to moderate speed is where this bike is most stable, which makes sense for life in the city. The bike shines when it’s ridden within its limits on the rail-to-trails, cruising through neighborhoods, or rolling to the store. The gearing worked adequately for the urban landscape and the rolling hills I pedaled across during my 7-mile ride to work. I never felt the need for a higher or lower gear.
Compared to other bikes in the $600-$650 price range, the Metro 9 seems like a fair value for the money. It rides nicely, the 1×9 gearing was a good range for hills and flat areas, and the included full coverage fenders are a bonus. The only problem I experienced was that the bearing seal on the no-name front hub kept rattling loose.
The Metro 9 would be good for someone who doesn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a bike, but wants to reap the benefits of commuting, getting some weekend exercise on the path, cruising the neighborhoods with the kids, and exploring the city to see what others miss traveling by car.
- Age: 38
- Height: 6”
- Weight: 183lbs.
- Inseam: 33”
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $640
- Weight: 26.2lbs.
- Sizes Available: 44, 48, 50, 52, 54,56cm (tested)
By Shannon Mominee
Now of course all bikes are fun, but there are some bikes that take fun to another level. At the Specialized product launch in Monterey, California, I saw these fun bikes sitting alone in a conference center, far away from the “normal” bikes that we have fun on. Is it because they’re too much fun for one rider to handle, too much muscle, too much western, too much mod? I’m not sure of the answer either, but I’m sure I could handle all the fun that would accompany riding any of these bikes around town, and what would be left over could be shared with others.
That could be Hemi powered if you were in the right mood, but cruising down the boulevard real smooth like is more in order.
Giddy Up! Notice the pistol bar plugs, leather stitching on the frame, horseshoe flat pedals, and bullhorn ornamenting the stem.
For the Mod in the house is a Vespa-ish looking leg-powered scooter. Roll it to the café, look real cool then wish that the seat could’ve been a little longer for giving a lady a ride.
If you have the itch to break the land speed record, you won’t even come close on the Race Boy, but it still would be awesome to tuck behind the windscreen.
Rolling this to summer time cookouts and football tailgate parties would be ridiculous and awesome. An oversight may have been a place to stick a cooler.
The carbon fiber tandem is the greeting piece that welcomes you into Specialized’s Morgan Hill office. In a word, this bike is sick. The fun that could be had on it would be boarder line terrifying if the right downhill was found, even more so if you were on the back. I wish they had allowed test rides of it. I can only imagine how it carves around a wide turn, or how it feels to pump the shaft driven front crankset with the assistance of a co-engine.
So, these are just some of the bikes that knock fun out of the park. I hope they get used and just aren’t show pieces.
By Shannon Mominee
At the 2012 Specialized product launch in Monterey, California my time was scheduled predominantly toward the mountain bike aspect of the show, but I was glad to see that time was slotted for me to see the Specialized city/commuter bikes.
New for the coming year is the Specialized Source. It’s basically a Specialized Sirrus E5 aluminum frame with internal cable routing and disc brakes, but spec’d for commuting. It will be available in an Expert build with the traditional derailleur setup, or as the Eleven with a Shimano Alfine 11-speed internally geared hub and belt drive. Both the Expert and Eleven feature a Dynamo front hub that powers the front and rear lights via the energy produced as the wheel spins. The Dynamo can also be completely turned off for dragless, zero friction riding, unlike older models.
The Source Eleven has a very cool set of color matched fenders, and looking closer the rear fender has an integrated rack with a 22lb. limit and integrated tail light. Deep-V style rims and lots of spokes create a durable wheelset able to survive the city streets and the reflective stripe on the tires helps you survive as well. The straight handlebar includes a bell and bar-ends. A kickstand is also standard issue. The belt drive model will retail for about $2,600 and both versions are claimed to weigh under 30lbs.
By Shannon Mominee
Kenda’s Kwick Roller Sport is an affordable commuting tire that could perform double-duty as a touring tire, or mount it on a hybrid bike and cycle the pathways. It’s made with Kenda‘s L3R compound for low rolling resistance and long tread life, and is available with or without the Iron Cap – a flat preventing strip that runs bead to bead under the tread.
I’ve been riding the 700x28c size with Iron Cap since early spring, mounted on my primary (only, actually) commuting, go-anywhere bike. I like how the tires feel with 70psi. They roll smoothly, provide some shock absorption, and the sidewalls are stiff enough to feel good carving country roads at speed. Despite my attempts to swerve around broken glass, I have ridden over much of it and haven’t had any flats, yet.
With the amount of time I’ve been on them, the rain grooves are still deep enough to be effective and there’s plenty of life left. the tires are still symmetrical too. I usually end up wearing tires at an angle because of road surfaces being paved at a slight slope for drainage.
For $27, you can’t go wrong with the Kwick Roller Sport. I would’ve preferred the 32mm version for added comfort, but the 28’s were a good balance between rolling resistance and shock absorbtion.
Sizes available: 700×26, 28, 32 or 26×1.25, 1.5, 2.0
Measured height x width: 30.6mm x 28mm (on 20mm rim)
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