Review: Jeff Jones ATB

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Jeff Jones is something of a mad genius, putting his impassioned theories about the ultimate bike ride into practice with fantastically swooping custom built frames. We’ve been fans of his iconic Titanium Spaceframe mountain bike since riding one for our sister publication, Dirt Rag, six years ago. But as with most geniuses who are drawn to bicycles, Jones believes in sharing his discoveries as widely as possible, so he’s expanded his business beyond custom frames (for which there is a lengthy waiting list) and into factory-produced versions.

This “ATB” bike is so called because it’s intended for all terrain: city, path and mountain. It’s based on Jones’ steel Diamond frame, which started life as a mountain bike. However, with some parts-swapping, this “mountain” bike makes a good commuter or comfy long-distance touring bike as well, with far fewer compromises than your average knobby-tired steed trying to change its stripes. Jones is fond of saying that he only makes one bike—a “high-performance non-suspended bicycle”—that can be used for a variety of riding styles.

What’s the secret to this chameleon nature? It’s in the geometry. Jones frames have a more relaxed seat tube angle and shorter chainstays, putting the rider’s weight further back over the rear wheel. The bottom bracket is settled low between the wheels to add stability. Combined with the Jones Loop H-Bar, which places your hands at a relaxed angle, the resulting position is fairly upright, yet efficient in pedaling and confident in handling rough terrain. Add to that the frame’s huge tire clearance, and you have a bike that can attack just about any situation or riding surface.

Our model was built with the steel Jones Unicrown fork, which has a 135mm hub spacing (wider than the normal 100mm); this stiffens up the front end, particularly useful for loading front panniers. (It also means that you could fit a “fat” front rim and tire, up to 26×4.7, for off-road adventures.) The bike came with 29×2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple tires—Jones is a believer, along with Schwalbe, that bigger-volume tires are actually more efficient on the road due to less rolling resistance, as well as being safer and more comfortable. Tubus racks and Planet Bike fenders round out the build. Jones also sent a set of Ortlieb front and rear panniers and trunk bag, and a frame bag made by Revelate Designs, to provide plenty of options for bikepacking or touring.

A group of Bicycle Times staffers took turns riding the Jones in a variety of ways. (Another benefit of the geometry is that one available size easily accommodates a fairly wide range of heights.)

Read all of our thoughts about the bike here.


Review: Bike Friday Tandem Traveler XL

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Tandems have been bringing together the mighty cycling power of two since the late 1800s, and Bike Friday has been building tandems since the co-founders’ very first in 1987.

As a mom of two kids, functionality and reusability are often paramount when I look for new products. I had been on the hunt for a tandem that could accommodate my 11-year-old daughter, Darby, as a stoker over the next few years, then have the honor be passed down to her younger brother. Bike Friday’s Traveler XL seemed like a good choice, as it is designed to fit a captain’s height range of 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-5, and a stoker height range of 3 feet to 6-foot-5. Not only could my kids join forces with me on adventures, but my hubby and I could also ride together.

Read more about the versatile Traveler XL here.


Review: 616 Fabrication fat frame complete build

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In the varied and ever-changing garden of bicycles, it seems that the fat bike corner is the latest area of flourishing growth, producing new ideas and iterations at a rapid pace. Two longtime mountain bike innovators—Aaron Joppe, former owner of Slingshot, and John Muenzenmeyer, former owner of Nukeproof—have been drawn into this bloom and are making interesting contributions with their relatively new company, 616 Fabrication.

The company name comes from the area code of western Michigan where they manufacture frames, forks and hubs at their own facility. They offer frames for fat bike, cyclocross and mountain builds, all made in high-end steel. Artistic touches, such as laser-cut seatstay bridges and custom-etched ID plates, further set these creations apart from the average mass-produced models, as does a classic paint job.

The first thing I and other staffers noticed about the Fat frame is its relatively steep 72 head tube angle. It also sports short-for-a-fat-bike 17.5-inch chainstays. Hub spacing is 135mm front and 170mm rear. It’s designed to ride light and nimbly over sand, snow and rock. Custom geometry is available to suit anyone’s taste, but for our tight turns and four seasons, the stock numbers suited me just fine.

Read our full review of the 616 Fat.


Review: Specialized Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple

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It’s refreshing to see that large companies have not wholly abandoned the legacy of steel. Specialized’s Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple stands out from the Tricross line as the lone steel-framed model for the entire brand. Of course steel is a fitting material for the line’s intended purpose, “Freeroad,” A.K.A. riding all over the place for a variety of reasons, a purpose we champion. It’s not a new category for Specialized—we’ve tested two previous models, the Sport in issue #12 and the Comp in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, back in 2006.

The Tricross caters to us “freeroaders” by aiming for that sweet spot between road, cyclocross and touring. The chromoly frame has a longer top tube and a lengthened wheelbase (as compared to a standard road racing bike) for stability and comfort, though the wheelbase is not as long as a typical touring bike. The head tube is a middle-of-the-road 71.5 for predictable steering. It may be heavier than its aluminum cousins, but for rough-n-ready riding, I enjoyed the genteel comfort of steel, and didn’t feel like it held me back too much when it was time to sprint for the traffic lights. It’s a nice package that covers the bases well, weighing in at 27lbs.

Read our full review here.


Review: Cannondale Quick CX 3

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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.

Is the Quick CX 3 the solution?


Review: Trek Mountain Train 206 trailer

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Trek refers to the Mountain Train 206 as a “pedal trailer,” and that may be one of the more apt descriptions for this type of kid-hauling device I’ve heard. Whatever you call them, these attachments are great equalizers, allowing young kids to keep up with adults while still contributing to forward propulsion.

The Mountain Train 206 gets it name from the wheel size (20 inches) and the gearing (six speeds). The beefy steel frame has multiple mounting points for the handlebar stem and an extra-long seatpost, allowing a lot of adjustability. I was able to fit kids from age four to almost nine comfortably.

Read our full review.


Review: Norco Indie Drop

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Most people associate Norco with adrenaline-fueled gravity and freeride mountain bikes, for good reason. The company’s head office is located in British Columbia, Canada, the heart of those cycling disciplines. But Norco is not all dirt. The Indie models, part of the company’s Urban Performance line, are designed for pavement and come in either straight or drop bar configurations. The Indie Drop 1—obviously with a drop bar—is the middle sibling of the trio.

Read our full review here.


Review: Xtracycle EdgeRunner

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Xtracycle is largely responsible for the blossoming of the longtail cargo bike market in the United States. In the late 1990s, Xtracycle was thinking big thoughts about what widespread acceptance of the cargo bike could do for American transportation infrastructure. This led to the FreeRadical, a bolt-on rear frame extension that turned many an unused bike into an incredibly practical cargo bike. Since then, the longtail has been in continuous development, with a handful of companies using the Xtracycle LT open standard as the basis for complete cargo bikes. 


The idea of a complete bike has always been part of the plan at Xtracycle, but until the EdgeRunner, all complete Xtracycles just used the bolt-on FreeRadical extension. But a purpose-built, one-piece frame is really the best way to go for a heavy-duty cargo bike. While Xtracycle wasn’t quick to come to market with one, the EdgeRunner was worth the wait.

Read our full review here.


Review: JetBlack Z1 fluid trainer

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This is the time of the year where I fully embrace the duality of my interests. These are the months that I, somewhat less passively now, spend profuse amounts of time in sloth-like 1080p absorption. If I didn’t have a canine friend who forces me outside during the cold, dirty, wet season Pittsburgh calls a winter, my gaming would go on until I shame myself into physical activity.

But by the time you read this I will have remembered what is fun about riding a bike. Those thoughts get me off the couch and on a trainer. It’s a love hate thing. I hate every second of riding a stationary trainer. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t (or simply choose not to) ride outside all year. But I love being fit enough to enjoy every ride. Especially early season outings.

So here I am during another off-season; waking up early a couple days a week to ride a bike in-doors. Fluid stationary trainers and I have a history. JetBlack’s Z1 is the latest succubus.

Read my review.


Review: Raleigh Misceo Trail 2.0

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Misceo is a Latin verb that means “to mix or blend.” The idea behind the Raleigh Misceo Trail 2.0—a flat-bar, 700c bike decked out with disc brakes and a suspension fork—is to blend the performance and versatility of a mountain bike with the comfort and street-friendliness of a hybrid. This machine is designed to tackle a variety of terrain, including pavement, rough roads and even dirt trails.

Read our review here.


Review: Levi’s Commuter hooded trucker jacket

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We got a box of Levi’s Commuter gear in recently, and while some of the pants fit, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my 40 year old self isn’t of the generation that gets along with skinny, tapered jeans. Luckily in the same box were two Hooded Trucker jackets.

Not that I’ve spent a lot of time around truck stops, but I don’t recall a lot of truckers wearing jackets like this, but maybe the hipsters are moving from wanna-be lumberjack to wanna-be trucker. Wanna-be or not, this is a good looking jacket, cut nicely for riding and standing around, with some very discrete features that work well for riding.

See the details here.


Review: Trek Domane 4.5

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While many brands have introduced “endurance” road bikes over the last few years, few have taken the idea to quite the extreme as Trek. The Domane was developed with considerable input from Swiss pro cyclist Fabian Cancellara, who is known for his steam-engine riding style, using his massive power output to crush cobblestones in the fabled Spring Classics. He is said to enjoy the bike so much that he rides it year-round, even in the Tour de France, choosing it over Trek’s racier Madone model.

The frame features the intriguing IsoSpeed decoupler, an ingenious system that separates the seat tube from the top tube and seatstays, and allows the seat tube to flex and pivot at the mounting point. If you stand next to the bike and put your weight on the saddle, you can see the seat tube flex slightly, but while riding it is imperceptible until you hit a bump.

Read our review to see how it works.


Review: Biologic Joule Dynamo Hub and Trelock Lights

Lighting is a crucial element for bicycle safety. While there are plenty of battery-powered lights on the market, they only last for so long before the batteries need to be replaced or recharged—plus you have to remember to bring the light with you! Dynamo hubs offer endless electricity, powered by your pedals. The only trade-off is that the small amount of rolling resistance you get while generating that electricity can be, well, a drag. A new hub from Biologic has a way to get around all that.

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Read our review of the hub and lights here.


Review: Schwinn Vestige made from flax fiber

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For the eco-conscious, or those just looking for a conversation starter, Schwinn offers the Vestige, with a frame constructed of flax fiber (90 percent flax, 10 percent carbon). Derived from the same plant that gives us linen, flax fiber maintains a high tensile strength that makes it an alternative to carbon fiber, but possesses a biodegradable attribute that carbon fiber does not. Why not use 100 percent flax, then? Flax alone isn’t stiff enough to meet European standards on its own, so Schwinn adds some carbon for rigidity.

Read more about it here.


Let’s talk about shirts

It is not that often I get excited by shirts, but over the last months, I’ve been wearing three that deserve some attention.

Zoic

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First, this short-sleeved Zoic Nirvana. While it is classified as a jersey on Zoic’s website, it looks and wears like a favorite button-up. A single large zip rear pocket can carry supplies, and a mesh vent offers some ventilation.

The cut is loose without being baggy, and the poly/nylon fabric dries quickly and breaths well. The front is a basic button closure, no extra zippers or do-dads to annoy.

The zipper in the rear pocket can be uncomfortable with a heavy hydration pack, and the loose cut makes carrying anything heavier than a pair of gloves and an energy bar a floppy situation. But those small gripes aside, when it gets really hot, the loose fit and slight seer-sucker style fabric pucker makes this much, much more comfortable than a tight lycra jersey. At $75, this isn’t a cheap piece, but I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of it. Available in three plaid and three solid colors, and in a zipper front closure.

Twin Horizon

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On the other end of the spectrum is the Twin Horizon flannel. Since cyclists aren’t lumber jacks, (we just like to dress like them), Twin Horizon has this slim fit heavy cotton flannel to keep things looking classy and comfortable on the bike.

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This is a fall/spring shirt, and the heavy fabric is warm and comfortable. The 100 percent cotton material is soft and reassuring in a world full of synthetics. Sleeves are just the right length and the back is long enough to cover the crack without looking out of place. Tiny armpit vents may or may not do something for ventilation, but they aren’t noticeable anyway, so whatever. My only complaint is a tiny bit of tightness around the shoulders, which is being addressed in the newest shipment of shirts with gussets at the shoulders. Shirts are made in China, designed by an expatriate New Jerseyite.

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The standout feature is a small button flap pocket on the lower right rear of the shirt, the perfect spot to stash a phone while riding, especially if your pants are too tight to fit your iPhone. The next production run should be up online at $56 plus shipping. There you can also check out Twin Horizon’s collection of screen printed t-shirts.

AeroTech

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Last, and nowhere near the least, is this AeroTech Designs commuter shirt. Actually, as per the AeroTech website, the complete name is “Men’s Urban Pedal Pushers UPF 50+ Commuter Dress Shirt”, but let’s not be scared off by that. Aero Tech manufactures men’s and women’s (and kids) clothing just a few miles from our office, including an impressive selection of Big and Tall sizes.

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Made from a nylon and recycled polyester microfiber, the material has bit of stretch, and combined with an loose fit, makes for a very comfortable and unrestrictive shirt. Most of the features are similar to travel shirts (back vent, buttoned flap to secure rolled up sleeves, chest pockets) but adds a small, zippered back pocket. Choose from three subdued plaids, either black, grey or blue.

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If I was going to go on an extended tour, this shirt would be the first in my bag. It is light enough for hot days, and the SPF50 treatment keeps my Irish complexion in its usual state of pale. The DWR treatment keeps the shirt clean, and it dries very quickly when wet from sweat, rain, or washing. It seems impervious to wrinkles, and is nice enough looking for wear almost anywhere on or off the bike. I could do without the zippers on the chest pockets, but that is a wee little complaint in an overall super useful and flexible garment. Also available in women’s sizes.

 


Penny Candy: Ortre BI5 U-lock

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The Back In 5 U-lock from Ortre is a compact theft deterrent designed to keep your bike safe as you dash into the store or grab a coffee. It’s not the strongest lock and I wouldn’t use it as a primary lock in high theft areas, such as on campus, but as a secondary lock or use in low crime areas it functions fine.

Unlike most locks, this one has push-button locking, so the key doesn’t need to be in the core to lock it. Measuring 4 by 7 inches, the BI5 is just long enough to secure my front wheel to the down tube, or lock the top tube to a rack, and it’s small enough to fit in a jean pocket. It’s also light, 520-grams, so I left the BI5 in my pannier, which was perfect for when I forgot my other lock or made unplanned stops on the way home from work. BI5 is a good lock for $40 and better than no lock at all. Two keys are included and four colors are available.

 


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