Bike review: Co-Motion Pangea touring bike

Tester: Karl Rosengarth
Age: 53
Height: 5’10"
Weight: 150lbs.
Inseam: 32"

Co-Motion Pangea
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Price: $3631
Weight: 27.8lbs. (with F/R racks, without pedals)
Sizes Available: 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 55, 56, 57 (tested), 58, 59, 60cm
www.co-motion.com

Roads? Where we’re touring we don’t need roads

By Karl Rosengarth

Co-Motion Cycles of Eugene, Oregon has been hand-crafting bikes since 1988. The company is probably best known for their wide range of tandem offerings. However, they also make a number of "single" bikes, including a rugged 26"-wheeled touring bike called the Pangea, designed for touring in challenging environments. This is this sort of bike that one might choose for an around-the-world tour via a route that includes unimproved roads, or for an adventurous trip over back roads closer to home.

Co-Motion builds the Pangea from extra-large diameter Reynolds 725 chromoly steel tubes that are custom fabricated using Co-Motion’s own tooling. The tandem-sized chainstays are the burliest-looking stays that I’ve ever seen on a single-person bike. The handmade fork on the Pangea has the same oversized diameter as their tandem fork, but uses thinner-gauge tubing, which is designed for the lighter loads that a single bike places on a fork.

How does the Pangea ride? In a nutshell, it felt very stiff when unburdened, but the bike really came into its own when fully loaded. That’s appropriate, considering that this rig is designed for loaded touring over rough roads. Even with my front/rear panniers loaded with three days’ worth of camping gear, the Pangea felt solid and handled precisely when I bombed over washed-out snowmobile trails, not to mention occasional singletrack. I rode confidently over rough terrain that would have produced much sketchier results on a normal-duty touring bike.

Why 26" wheels on a touring bike? The Pangea was Co-Motion’s response to customers who wanted to tour on rough roads and needed a bike that accepted fat tires. The fact that 26" tires and wheels are commonly used on practical bicycles worldwide means that replacement parts are readily available in a pinch. The 26" wheel size opens up a wide spectrum of tire choices—everything from fast-rolling pavement tires, to fatter street rubber, to knobby mountain bike tires.

The Pangea may look like a mountain bike with drop bars, but it’s more appropriate to think of it as a touring bike on steroids. The 17.7" long chainstays were designed for carrying loaded panniers without heel-strike, and they did just that. The bottom bracket is slung low, 10.5" above the ground, for added stability. The low BB did not cause any problems during my limited off-road sessions; however, please remember that the Pangea is not a mountain bike, nor is it designed with a singletrack-specific geometry.

The combination of the 71.5˚ head angle and rigid chromoly fork produced a shimmy-free front end that handled intuitively and felt rock solid. I performed my obligatory "look mom, no hands" test ride, fully loaded at 30+ mph, with positive results. Closer to home, the Pangea felt predictable and stable during the countless shopping runs in which I loaded my front and rear panniers full of groceries.

The complete Pangea (sans pedals) that I tested came with V-brakes and retails for $3631 (a disc brake version is available for $3711). I found the V-brakes sufficient, but if this were my personal bike, I’d have ordered it with disc brakes for the ultimate in stopping power. Co-Motion outfitted my bike with the optional $100 Tubus Tara front rack and $110 Tubus Cargo rear rack.

The Pangea is also available as a frame/fork for $1850 (disc or V-brake) or $1995 for a Rohloff-hub-compatible frame with fork. Included with the purchase price is Co-Motion’s fitting guide service that helps customers determine proper frame size. If a stock bike size just doesn’t cut it, then full-custom geometry can be had for an additional $300 charge. With its stunning "dark metallic orange" paint job and speckless TIG welds, my test frame was a sight to behold. Co-Motion offers 30 stock colors, plus a mind-boggling array of paint upgrade options.

Co-Motion hand-builds all of their wheels. My 36-spoke set included the same DT-Swiss 540 hubs and Velocity Aeroheat rims that Co-Motion uses to build their tandem wheels. Despite some pretty harsh abuse, the wheels have stayed true. A RaceFace Deus XC 46/34/24-tooth triple crank mated to a Shimano XT 11-34-tooth 9-speed cassette provided a sufficiently wide gear range for loaded touring. Climbing steep terrain while fully loaded was never a problem.

Gear changes were flawless, thanks to the Shimano Dura Ace 9-speed bar-end shifters and XT front and XTR rear derailleurs. One complaint is that there was minimal clearance between Tubus lowrider front rack and the front wheel skewer. That made it rather difficult to grasp the nut on the skewer and twist it the few turns required to get the front wheel loose enough to come out of the dropouts.

The stock Continental Town & Country 26"x2.1" tires worked well on pavement, dirt roads and crushed limestone bike paths. My only beef was that under hard braking on wet roads, they seemed to skid out relatively easily, which I attributed to the lack of a tread or siping on the slick center. For my back-road/off-road tour, I switched to a pair of Bontrager XDX 26”x2.1" knobbies and was pleased to see that there was enough chainstay clearance (though I did have to partially deflate them to get them to clear the V-brakes). There was also plenty of room for my Planet Bike fenders. Yes!

There’s no doubt that $1850 for a frame and fork is a fat chunk of change. Frankly, the Pangea is a boutique bike, targeted for the discerning tourer with a bent for less-traveled routes. If you are an everyday commuter who hauls groceries, and might occasionally load the panniers for an overnighter, then there are less expensive bikes that would work well for you. I envision the Pangea customer as a person with an adventure-touring lifestyle who’s willing to pay for the best possible tool for their chosen pursuit. If you’re shopping for the best, then the Pangea deserves a spot on your short list.

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