As a professional racer, Rebecca Rusch gets to ride some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. Now she is iviting you to join her on the same roads she uses to train in her own chosen paradise in Sun Valley, Idaho. Rebecca’s Private Idaho is a leg-buster of a ride with both Big Potato (95-mile) and Small Fry (50-mile) options.
Naturally, bike riders are a generous bunch, so the ride will benefit three of Rusch’s favorite charities: The Wood River Bike Coalition, the local voice for trail-building and bike policy; PeopleForBikes.org, the nation’s top-shelf all-around bike advocacy group; and World Bicycle Relief, an organization bringing practical bikes to villages in Africa in order to provide independence and improve quality of life.
Earlier this month there was concern the first edition of RPI would take place at all as the Beaver Creek Fire descended on Sun Valley, but Rusch sent out a note today welcoming riders:
Our little mountainous corner of the world has been all over the media as this fire has threatened our homes and community over the last week. But, thanks to the efforts of almost 1,750 local, state, and federal firefighters, the end is in sight. Fire lines are containing the spread of the blaze and nearly all resources are now being devoted to directly attacking the fire itself. Smoke is giving way to blue skies daily and people are starting to return to their homes.
All of which means one very important thing: REBECCA’S PRIVATE IDAHO IS ON!
Yep, it was touch and go there for a minute, but the inaugural RPI is indeed taking over the gravel roads and streets of Ketchum/Sun Valley on September 1. We’re a town in need of a party and this grueling ride will signal the first return to normalcy since the fire began. You’ve not seen a jubilant, surging crowd until you’ve seen a community come back from the edge like this. It’s time to focus on the better things in life, on-bike and off, and we want you to come along with us.
Registration remains open until August 28 and, as a special nod to the firefighters who serve their communities, I’m offering a free RPI entry to any firefighter who wants to participate. I’m on the Ketchum fire department myself and have been working this fire for the last week. These are every bit as much my people as the athletes with whom I race throughout the year. If I can extend them my thanks by hosting them for a well-deserved, if challenging, day in the saddle and some beer and grub afterward, I’d be honored. Send us a note at email@example.com to get sorted.
Thanks to you all for hanging in there while we made sure there was a place left for us all to ride. We were excited about this event before. Now, it takes on a special significance as the party that reopens Ketchum and Sun Valley to the world after a seriously close call.
Feels really good to say it: see you soon,
By Adam Newman
Thanks to the searing neon paint and single-sided fork, it’s hard not to get noticed on Cannondale’s trippy urban bike. Everywhere I took it, people asked, “What is it?” or “How does it work?” They always seemed surprised when I told them it’s just a bike. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it’s something more.
It starts with 20-inch wheels, in this case laced to a Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub in the rear and a Cannondale-specific Lefty hub in the front. The single fork leg—reminiscent of Cannondale’s famous Lefty mountain bike forks—requires a special hub. And before you ask if it’s somehow less safe than a traditional fork, remember that the wheels on your car attach on only one side. This configuration has its plusses and minuses: you can change a flat without removing the wheel, but if you do want to remove the wheel, the brake caliper must be loosened and swung out of the way.
While it might seem like a novelty, the Hooligan’s frame packs some pretty advanced technology into its diminutive size. The cross- bracing design is Cannondale’s trademark Delta V shape that has been applied to its mountain bikes for years, and the tubing itself features some fairly advanced shaping. Add- ing to the versatility, the head tube badge can be removed, and in its place you can install a mounting bracket for a series of bag and basket accessories made by the brand Slide2Go. You can even install a traditional rear rack. The funky, spider-shaped pedals that are included match the dot-matrix paint job.
Perched atop what might be the longest seatpost in the business (520mm), I found myself in a sporty position, perfect for tackling jammed urban streets. Measuring in at 6-foot-2, I’m at the limit of who can reason- ably ride a Hooligan, but I also lowered the seatpost and loaned it to my special lady who is 5-foot-3, and it fit comfortably. Weighing under 25lbs., it’s light enough to carry up the stairs to an apartment and doesn’t take up a lot of space once you get it there.
The small wheels, short wheelbase, and quick steering are great for navigating sidewalks and bike paths, and squeezing between pedestrians on narrow city streets. It’s certainly not a bike I would choose for long-distance rides, but it’s great for zipping around the neighborhood. The three speeds in the internal hub seem to me to be suited for flat areas, and if I owned the bike here in Pittsburgh I would swap out the stock gearing for something lower.
I really see the Hooligan as less like a bike and more like a gadget. The person I envision riding it is less interested in the nuts and bolts of how bicycles work, but is more interested in arriving in style. And that’s something the Hooligan has in spades.Tweet
By Adam Newman
Last fall Katie Compton won the World Cup overall on a custom aluminum bike and now that prototype has spawned a new line of bikes for 2014.
The aluminum-only Crockett line is based on Compton’s input, with a lower bottom bracket, slacker head tube, steeper seat tube and the IsoSpeed fork design from the Domane road bike.
The five complete bike line has disc and cantilever options, as well as a frame-only version of each.
It seems from Trek’s 2014 catalog that the Crockett will replace the Ion line, while the Chronos CX bike remains as the only carbon fiber cyclocross bike in Trek’s line. The Crockett 9 has a Shimano Ultegra kit and only comes in rim-brake flavor. The Crockett 7 has SRAM’s new SB-700 shifters with hydraulic disc brakes or Rival shifters on the cantilever model. The Crockett 5 has a Shimano 105 kit on both the disc and cantilever model.
Also expanding this year is the disc-brake CrossRip line. We reviewed the CrossRip Elite back in Issue #22 and now it is joined by standard, Comp and LTD models. The LTD, pictured, has Shimano 105 shifters and Tektro’s HYRD cable/hydraulic hybrid brakes. (We have a pair of those we’re testing now, so watch the mag for a long-term review). The Elite model has a 9-speed Shimano Sora group; the Comp has an 8-speed Shimano Claris group; and the standard Crossrip model has the Claris group, but cantilevers instead of discs.
QBP surprised us over the weekend without the announcement of a new brand aimed at sportsmen. Cogburn Outdoors is the latest brand from the parent company of Surly, Salsa, Foundry and more.
The first product, a fat bike known as the CB4, is an alloy model that shows its family heritage if you look closely, appearing very similar to previous Salsa Mukluk models but with a new top tube. We don’t have all the details of the parts spec yet, but it is shown built with Surly Nate tires, a SRAM 2x drivetrain and Surly’s non-drilled rims.
But what really sets it apart is the RealTree camouflage finish applied by Dynamic Finishes in Kansas City. The non-camo parts are all flat black to avoid glare.
Since it’s designed for hunters and fisherman, they’re going to need a way to haul their gear, and the Scabbard is an aluminum attachment that goes on a rear rack to safely carry a rifle, bow or rod.
No word on pricing or availability yet, but look for more in September.
Unlike ATVs or snow machines, fat bikes allow access to the backcountry without any impact on the habitat.
What do you think? Will sportsmen take to fat bikes?Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Gazelle is pretty succinct in describing this bike, touting it as the “ultimate family bicycle.” The $2,800 Cabby is a modern take on the wooden box bikes common in the streets of Amsterdam or Copenhagen. My hometown is far different—let’s see how it fared on the hilly and narrow streets I deal with.
First off, this is not a small bike. The wheelbase is huge, and the front wheel, steered with a linkage rod from handlebar to fork, seems very far away at first. Rather than the more common wooden box and steel frame, the Cabby uses aluminum for the frame and heavy-duty vinyl for the cargo box. The aluminum frame saves weight and resists corrosion, and the metal-framed cloth box folds up to fit through doorways. The box is also easily removable for storage.
Every component is selected for practicality: maintenance-free drum brakes, dynamo front light, and an internal 7-speed hub for gearing. A full chain case and skirt guard keep your clothes clean, and the step-through frame makes it easy to dismount or steady the bike when you push it off the center stand. The simple rear wheel lock is perfect for those quick stops when you don’t want to find a suitable object for locking up.
The linkage steering and long wheelbase take some getting used to at first. Low-speed handling can be tricky for the first few rides; I’d recommend some non-kid cargo and an empty parking for a first attempt. Once above walking speed, the Cabby actually feels sporty, at least until the first serious climb. That long wheelbase pays dividends in stability, and swoopy turns, even with two kids onboard, are instinctive and enjoyable.
Once I got the hang of low-speed steering and remembering that the front wheel wasn’t directly below the handlebars, I was very happy with how the bike handled almost every situation, be it low-speed U-turns, dodging potholes, or taking my place in traffic.
The reason I stuck “almost” in that last sentence? Hills. I was strong enough to muscle up just about every hill in town, but the gearing was too steep for my baby mamma. Standing up to climb helped things, but installing a smaller chainring would be the way to go for me. Unfortunately the stock chainring is permanently affixed to the crank. Nothing a trip to your friendly neighborhood bike shop (and some money)can’t fix, but that’s a bummer for a bike at this price.
That was a very minor “almost”—there is also a major one, the brakes. On short trips in my flat neighborhood, the brakes were acceptable, wet or dry. But my first trip down a steep hill had me almost pulling a Fred Flintstone, with levers pulled to the bar and the bike barely slowing. These Shimano roller brakes are not known for their stopping power, and the huge run of cable to the front wheel creates a lot of flex, further weakening them. Swap- ping to compressionless housing would help, but not enough to really make a difference for me. It is unfortunate the fork doesn’t have mounts for a disc brake (or better yet, a disc brake stock). I’ve noticed a lot of Dutch bikes are not equipped with powerful brakes, which is O.K. for flatter areas. I was fine on most of my rides, but if I wanted to get out of my neighborhood, steep hills are a fact of life.
The little bench has three shoulder harnesses; the middle one is used when carrying a single kid to keep the load balanced. The seat is barely padded, so I needed to add some cushions on longer rides—my kids inherited my bony behind. There was plenty of additional room in the box for book bags, groceries, or a big picnic, and the bench comes out for extra cargo space.
The folding box came in handy when running multiple errands. I could pull out the kids, pull the bench, and fold up the box with whatever cargo was inside. A U-lock through the exposed frame corners secured the goods from prying eyes and fingers. The box’s 165lb. capacity was more than adequate for whatever I managed to shove in there.
There are some very practical accessories available for the Cabby, including a rain canopy for the kids, a cover for cargo use, and mounts for an infant seat.
This is a very well-thought-out bike, and one of the few (if not the only) box-style cargo bike that will fit through a 28-inch door. My kids loved it, and my wife and I like riding it. The gearing issue was a minor one, but the brakes are a deal-breaker for me. If your town looks more like a pancake than an EKG read-out, this would be a great family bike.Tweet
By Stephen Haynes
In my first month or so on the Swobo Otis, I’ve come to enjoy this bike’s understated aesthetics and ride. This aluminum bike has a lot of functionality and a compliment of modern conveniences at a price ($800) that makes it easy to love.
Smaller, 26-inch wheels make for quick acceleration and nimble handling in traffic or on crowded mix-use trails. A Shimano Nexus 3-Speed hub provides enough range to get up and go from a standstill and stay at a respectable cadence before spinning out.
Rear rack mounts have come in handy and have made the Otis an easy choice for mid-week grocery getting. While I haven’t yet had two fully loaded panniers on the back, the bike hasn’t lost any zeal or handling ability with small loads.
The Otis gets up and over most hills in my neighborhood really easily. I could say something about wider bars, or more gears, but I think that would be silly. This bike provides enough of a low gear to be more than capable in most uphill situations, even with a case of beer tied to the back.
A simple, silver paint job and lack of flashy graphics will appeal to those who wish to remain incognito while out and about, yet will inspire the sticker whores of the world to go berserk. Look closely at the Otis though, and the Swobo branded items become clear, tastefully gracing a few select parts.
I’m enjoying my time on the Swobo Otis and I look forward to the rest of my review period. Check out the full review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times.
By Karen Brooks
One of the cooler things I’ve seen at DealerCamp is a new bike from Raleigh, the Tamland, designed for gravel racing (or just riding) and as a “killer commuter.”
Its frame is Reynolds 631 steel, recommended for its toughness by Reynolds and custom-butted to be lighter than the standard tubeset. The chainstays are svelte and the fork has a nice rake to it for added compliance.
The geometry was developed specifically for rough roads, with a lower bottom bracket, longer wheelbase, slacker seat tube angle and slightly taller head tube as compared to their road or cyclocross models. Sounds like they got it right.
The Tamland will come stock with TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes and Clement Xplor MSO 40mm tires, with plenty of room for even bigger ones. The rims are 24mm wide give those tires a maximum footprint. The brakes felt great just squeezing them on the stationary bike—I’ll be eager to try some in motion.
There are two models to start with, the 1 and the 2. Pictured here is the 2, with a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain; it will go for $2,400. The Tamland 1 will be $1,600.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to ride this bike, as the Raleigh crew just barely got this one sample in time to bring to the show. But apparently one of their lucky employees raced it in Raleigh’s Midsummer Nights Cross race on Thursday.
If you’re wondering about the name, Raleigh has been naming its commuter bikes after characters from TV shows and movies. Do you recognize this one?Tweet
By Adam Newman
Titanium occupies a rarified field in the world of cycling: it’s at once both old-fashioned and high-tech. Bikes built from the lightweight metal strike a classic silhouette and earn allocates for their unique ride quality. But it’s cutting edge as well, with modern methods of forming bringing about ever lighter and stiffer frames.
Lynskey has been on the forefront of titanium for more than three decades. The family-run contract business didn’t even make bicycles until one was built as a side project. Fast-forward a few decades and Lynskey‘s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory is the largest builder of titanium bicycle frames in the US, both under their own label and for several other brands.
Titanium is, of course, an expensive material to work with, not only for the cost of raw tubing but for the additional time and tooling it takes to turn those tubes into bicycles. Bending, butting and shaping the tubing is all exponentially more difficult with titanium than steel, thus adding to the cost. (See how advanced it can get in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag.)
Lynskey’s latest bikes attempt to level that playing field. The Silver Series uses straight-gauge tubing, without any fancy bends or shaping, to keep costs down, but they are still "Made in Tennessee, Built To Go Fast.". The three road and two mountain bike models are just $1,299 for a frame. That’s less than many American-made steel frames.
The Viale is the commuter or light tour model that can handle a little of everything. The frame is built with a little extra room for larger tires (700x30c) and fenders, and even has rack mounts. The brakes are mid-reach calipers, and mount to a Bontrager Switchblade carbon fork out front. For $2,600 you get a Shimano 105 build kit with Shimano wheels, a compact crankset and an FSA cockpit.
Pictured here are a set of one-off, prototype titanium fenders and a rack that are not included, but Lynskey wanted us to give them a good thrashing to see if they work in the real world (so far so good). Want a set? Sorry, no word yet on if they’ll make it to production.
Anyway, the Viale has all the attributes I look for in a good workhorse bike. The geometry is relaxed enough for all-day rides or randonneuring and the larger tires and geometry make it far more versatile. If you want to jump into your weekly paceline ride, ditch the rack and don your lycra, it’s ready to go.
The ride quality reminds me of classic steel: not too stiff, not too soft. The frame feels a bit more lively than I expected as well—none of the muted vibe you get from chromoly but instead with a zing more like an aluminum frame.
Look for my long-term review after some long-range rides in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now if you want to read it.
By Karen Brooks
Between their excursions to “adventure by bike,” the folks at Salsa have been busy making improvements to their stable. We recently covered the 2014 Horsethief and Spearfish, which both got the Split Pivot treatment. At SaddleDrive in Snowbasin, Utah, they also unveiled a host of other changes to the 2014 model lineup.
First up is a bike that is truly fat, yet weighs less than its brethren: the Beargrease Carbon.
The geometry has been tweaked to essentially “feel more like a mountain bike” and also shift the rider’s weight rearward, via shorter chainstays and a new Whiteout carbon fat fork with 51mm offset. Salsa says this also serves to get a better steering response in snow, keeping the front wheel from pushing sideways and allowing it to be guided around a turn.
It will come in an XX1 or X9 versions. The XX1 is pictured here, with sweet graphics in bright green on matte black. It will also sport the Alternator dropouts (pictured below with the Fargo). The Beargrease’s path is diverging further from that of the Mukluk — becoming even more of a dedicated snow racer, while the Mukluk is for exploring at your own pace.
Mike Riemer, Salsa’s marketing manager, let it be known that the bike is suspension-corrected for a 100mm travel, 51mm offset suspension fork for fat wheels, something that doesn’t exist — yet. A full-suspension version could also possibly appear someday…
The complete bike weighs around 26lbs., pretty darn light for something that looks so… substantial. I got a chance to ride it a bit on singletrack, and really appreciated its weight savings over other fat bikes — between that and its improved handling, it felt kind of like it was filled with helium. If I had one, I’d love to set it up tubeless for ultimate float.
Next is a bike that started with a cool concept and just keeps getting better: the Fargo. The new version looks and feels like a cohesive package.
The Alternator dropouts are a rocking type that give 17mm fore-aft adjustment. Different plates will be available to accept a standard quick-release, 142x12mm thru-axles, or Rohloff hubs, and also for dedicated singlespeeding. Note that the non-drive side has just two bolts—the top one is also one of the brake caliper bolts.
The fork is a new carbon one, called the Firestarter, and the frame is corrected for a 100mm suspension fork.
The Woodchipper handlebars felt natural and right on this bike, as did the Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost. I didn’t get to ride it nearly as much as I wanted to (right on across the state and beyond), but the little bit of dirt and gravel I did experience left me impressed.
By Eric McKeegan
Kona is well known for burly mountain bikes, but it would not be wise to pigeonhole them as just an off road bike company. With the recent release of Kona’s 2014 bikes, the pavement side of the line-up deserves as much attention as the dirt bikes.
Kona’s endurance road bikes, Zone, need to be inspected closely to understand what makes them standout in the crowd. All three models feature fender mounts, long reach brakes for tires up to 32mm(!) and carbon forks
The basic Zone model has an aluminum frame; the Zone One and Two have a carbon fiber frame. Geometry is relaxed without being anything like casual. These look like fast, comfortable bikes capable of long days on bad roads. Prices are $1,500 for the mostly Shimano 105 Zone, $2,900 for the also 105 equipped Zone One, and $3,900 for the Ultegra-level Zone One.
Steel is still a popular frame material at Kona, and the as evidenced by the Honky Tonk and Paddy Wagon. The Honky Tonk is a semi compact, but still traditional Reynolds 520 butted steel road bike, with similar tire clearance as the Zone models. A blend of Sora and Tiagra drivetrain parts and Conti Ultra Sport Tires round out the $1,100 package .
Those looking to keep it simple can have their wish on the $750 Paddy Wagon. Similar frame and clearances as the Honky Tonk, but with track ends and one gear. The Paddy Wagon comes stock with a flip-flop hub with fixed and freewheel options in a 42-16 ratio.
Cyclocross is nothing new for Kona. Entering the wee little cyclocross market in 1997, Kona now makes four models, all with disc brakes for 2014. The Jake model is probably most interesting to our readers, with its fender and rack mounts and wide range compact double gearing. While it may be able to play the part of a practical mount, it has a racing pedigree at heart. A Tiagra drivetrain, Tektro mechanical discs and a host of sturdy parts are reasonably priced at $1,200.
On the touring end of the spectrum, the Rove adventure bike returns mostly unchanged for 2014, and the fully outfitted Sutra touring bike now uses the same frame as the Rove.
Those looking for something lighter than the sturdy and hefty Rove frame can throw down for a Rove in titanium flavor. It’s a roll-your-own model, however, since it’s only available as a frame. Built in the U.S.A. by Lynskey, pricing isn’t set yet, but somewhere around $2,000 isn’t going to be far off.
The Ute cargo longtail is still going strong, but the little brother MinUte seems to be gone for 2014. The Ute is still sturdy and practical, and well appointed at $1,300. That buys you two big bags, a center stand and steering stabilizer.
There is a host of 700c commuter bikes from $500 to $1,000, and even a kids’ cyclocross bike, the $850 Jake 24. All in all, it seems Kona is offering a simplified road line up that deserves a solid look from fans of practical and fun bikes.
By Adam Newman
Make no mistake about it, I’ve logged more miles and more hours on this bike in my review period than any other bike I’ve ridden for this magazine—maybe more than any bike I’ve ever ridden in the same amount of time. I’ve ridden it to work, ridden it on back roads both paved and unpaved, ridden it from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. in three days, ridden it from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in two days (ouch) and over hill and dale—and it has never batted an eye.
If that’s not praise, I don’t know what is.
Titanium bikes have had a hard time keeping up with the whiz-bang market share of carbon fiber and the swoopy tube shapes that dominate the modern bike scene. Once saddled with the dreaded “dentist’s bike” reputation, the material is making a comeback of sorts, with major brands once again offering high-performance titanium frames.
Lynskey, on the other hand, has never built anything but Ti bikes since the Lynskey family—founders and former owners of Litespeed— founded its eponymous brand in 2006. Though the Tennessee-based company can produce a wide range of styles, from conservative to custom, the Cooper line features stock geometry with more traditional tube shapes—all round in the case of the Cooper CX. The frame is designed around disc brakes with a 135mm rear spacing, so a set of quick-release mountain bike hubs will slide right in.
The frame I rode was finished in a standard brushed titanium look, and different brushed, blasted, polished, and painted versions are available for an extra charge, as are S&S couplers for traveling or custom braze-ons.
Though the bike shipped with 32mm-wide cyclocross tires, my initial use was as a winter road bike with slick road tires. The Ti frame meant I never had to worry about rusting, and the finish just shrugged off road grime and winter nastiness. You certainly wouldn’t confuse it with a full-blown road race bike, but it is more than stiff and responsive enough to serve as a regular road bike in the cyclocross off-season. A full set of rack and fender eyelets make it year-round versatile.
Being my first extended time on a titanium frame, I was surprised by the balance of the frame’s stiffness—comparable to aluminum— with the smoothness of a high-end steel frame. Out-of-the-saddle climbing was solid and stable, and even with the slightly higher bottom bracket, the bike never felt too tall or tippy. It may sound like hyperbole, but I’m really impressed with the ride. I knew it would hold up to the worst of my (ab)use. I loaded it up with 10-20lbs. of bikepacking gear and didn’t feel any extra frame flex like I have with loaded steel bikes.
Disc brakes are finally hitting the mainstream for road and city bikes, and I’ve been converted 100 percent. Having used the Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes with SRAM, Campagnolo, and Shimano levers in the past year, I think the first two give a superior lever feel than the latter, but they are all light years ahead of even the nicest rim brakes.
In all, the Cooper comes very, very close to checking all the boxes on my One-Bike-To-Rule-Them-All dream bike list. The only thing I would need to add is a 44mm head tube to run tapered steerer forks, as I predict high-quality, carbon forks for disc brakes with straight steerer tubes probably won’t be around for long. Then again, Lynskey’s more expensive model, the ProCross, includes this feature. If the knobby tires on the Cooper CX aren’t your style, the same frame is available with as the Cooper CMT with a more road and commuter oriented build kit with a rack and fenders.
If you’re looking for a solid bike that’s going to give you years—maybe decades—of reliable use, the Cooper CX is a bargain.
- Country of origin: U.S.A.
- Price: $1,895 frame, $5,139 as built
- Weight: 20.75lbs.
- Sizes available: XS, S, M, L (TESTED), XL
One of the biggest hurdles to getting more butts on bikes is well… the butts, mainly that the bikes’ seats are just too uncomfortable for most people. BananaHama hopes to change that with this wild cruiser.
We don’t cover a lot of cruiser bikes here at Bicycle Times, but this one struck me as being creative enough to make the cut. The “hama” seat uses front and rear sliders to adjust the height and tension and it provides a natural amount of shock absorption. The recumbent-style position means you can put both feet down easily as well.
The start-up company is launching three models: a beach cruiser, an urban model, and a mini stroller/trike for kids. A fourth, the three-wheeled adult trike is on its way as well. The 2-wheeled versions should start at about $750.
What do you think? Is a hammock bike in your future?
By Trina Haynes
Balance bikes are a great way to introduce your toddler to two wheels. Basically, your child can throw a leg over the frame and start walking/gliding along, taking “baby steps” on learning how to ride a bike, eventually going straight to pedals. I will be finding out very soon if this method was effective with my four-year-old, Odin, when he upgrades to his “big boy” pedal bike.
Odin has had experience on balance bikes and quickly took to the First Bike Big Apple, calling it his “race bike.” With reflective stickers and an ego boosting #1 sticker on the front, I could see why. This is his first experience on pneumatic tires—the smooth-rolling Schwalbe Big Apple tires gave him the confidence to push the limits of speed and terrain with great success.
The 8lb. Big Apple includes a steering inhibitor, which stops the handlebars from being turned too far inward. The saddle is ergonomic rubber and the bike includes front and rear mini-fenders, which deterred a bit of backsplash when he decided mud puddles were worth going through. A rear drum brake with a hand lever came in handy a few times when too much speed resulted in Dukes of Hazard-like skids.
At $205, the Big Apple is a bit pricier than other balance bikes on the market, but it’s the only one to have the combination of a hand brake, pneumatic tires, fenders, a lifetime warranty, and a cool-looking truss style frame made from unbreakable nylon composite. FirstBike offers no-brake models for a lower price, as well as several wheel and tire options to hone in on what type of cycling you hope your little one favors. All models accommodate riders from two to five years of age; the seat can be adjusted from 13.8–17.8 inches and the bike supports up to 50lbs. Made in Taiwan.
More balance bikesTweet
The latest round of Blue (bikes) vs. (seeing) Red came last week when Wall Street Journal editoral board member Dorothy Rabinowitz cited the "all-powerful bike lobby" and a government "before which you are helpless" as simply the worst thing that has ever happened ever.
Naturally the video went viral. Jon Steward picked it up on the Daily Show with a segment "Full Pedal Racket."
And Rabinowitz responded to the "hysteria" with a second video, claiming that the city’s police are unable to respond to the “torrent of complains and helpless screams,” and that city leaders are “terrorized by this thing that really exists, the bike lobby.”
Are you a member of the Bike Lobby? Where do I sign up?
Looks like Politico has taken a crack at investigating this so-called bike lobby. "All-powerful the bike lobby is not. Cars — and the infrastructure needed to accommodate them — still receive the overwhelming percentage of federal, state and local transportation dollars. But a scrappy band of bicycle manufacturers, smart-growth advocates and cycling nonprofits is increasingly fighting — and winning — battles at all levels of government."Tweet
Editor’s note: This story is a cross-post from our sister magazine, Dirt Rag. This weekend riders from across the country will converge on the Flint Hills of Kansas to tackle the Dirty Kanza 200, one of the premiere events in the burgeoning gravel racing scene.
By Mike Cushionbury
Gravel road racing is filled with innovations and inventions. Bikes range from road to cyclocross to full-on Frankenbikes cobbled together from a mix of road, cross, touring and mountain bike parts. As a mountain bike racer and first-time DK200 competitor I momentarily considered setting up my 29er cross-country race bike for the task late last year but further consideration led me towards my cyclocross bike—namely a 2013 Cannondale SuperX Disc—with the goal of keeping it as simple and familiar as possible.
I knew for sure a Frankenbike was not the answer. I didn’t want to gamble with a cumbersome bike I wasn’t used to. I also wanted something I could consistently train on, making sure my position was completely dialed. In February, after ‘cross season, I set up my SuperX with the exact same measurements as my road bike, a professionally fitted position I’ve had for as long as I can remember. My saddle height, reach and stem length are all exactly the same on both bikes.
I also chose the same model Fizik Areone saddle (that’s well broken in by now) and same crank arm lengths (being a mountain biker I use long-ish 175mm on the road for consistency.) Once everything was set I put road tires on and used this rig as my road bike, compiling as many miles as I could to make sure the bike and my position was deeply burned into my muscle memory and as comfortable as possible.
The SuperX’s carbon frame is lighter than many road bike frames and with SAVE seat and chain stays it’s compliant and forgiving over rough terrain. It is truly an elite level ‘cross bike that performs like a refined road bike with snappy acceleration and geometry suited to longer road races opposed to crit-style racing—just the ticket for DK. Front and rear disc brakes insure precise stopping will never be an issue.
Nothing too radical for parts save for some drivetrain adjustments. I choose a short reach Ritchey WCS Curve carbon fiber handlebar and WCS 4-Axis stem for ultra lightweight and reliability. I also went with a bump absorbing Ritchey WCS Carbon Flexlogic Link seatpost. The post’s carbon layup provides a claimed 15-percent increase in vertical compliancy compared to standard posts without giving up any lateral or torsional stiffness. For a little extra comfort I double wrapped the top of the bars since this is where I will mostly be, not down in the drops.
Shifters and front derailleur are standard SRAM Force. For the road I used a Force rear derailleur, SRAM Red 11/26 cassette and Cannondale Si 53/39 crankset. Because 200 miles is, well, 200 miles, I wanted extra low gearing for the later hours of the race. I switched out the rear derailleur for a SRAM XX mountain unit and matched that to an XX 11/32 cassette. I also geared down the front with an FSA K-Force compact crank and 50/34-chainring combo.
This is a set-up I successfully used at last year’s Iron Cross race so I’m already comfortable with it. I’ll be using Shimano XTR Race pedals and mountain bike shoes because I believe top-level mountain bike shoes, though they do have very stiff carbon soles, vibrate less over such harsh roads. Super stiff road shoes could lead to early foot numbness and fatigue.
Wheels and tires
Wheel selection was simple; I’m using the same NoTubes Alpha 340 Team road wheelset I’ve been on all winter—simple, light and ultra reliable. Initially I was going to use a NoTubes ZTR Crest mountain bike wheelset to widen the tire’s contact patch but tire installation proved difficult due to the increased rim width (something I didn’t want to deal with in Kansas.)
My tire choice was simple as well: Challenge Almanzo’s. These super-durable, 360-gram, 700x30mm tires are specifically designed for gravel road racing. They roll very fast and utilize a special Puncture Protection System belt between the casing and belt—perfect for the spiky rocks on the roads around the Flint Hills.
Since I’m not much of a water pack wearer, I plan on going with two bottles on the bike and one in my pocket—three bottles per 50 miles to each checkpoint where I’ll have a drop bag loaded with supplies including real food like sardines, pepperoni sandwiches, black licorice and of course drink mix and bottles. If I stay on point of not using a water pack I’ll add a large seat bag with three tubes, a multi tool with a chain breaker, two quick links, a few links of chain, electrical tape and a tire boot. I also have a Lezyne mini-pump secured to the bike. As a precaution, I’ll have a full water pack in my drop bag at the midpoint checkpoint.
Veterans of the race may think I’m gambling by going minimalist but when I built up my bike for this mammoth event I went with what I know and am comfortable with. It’s a roll of the dice I’m willing to take.
Dirty Kanza is Saturday, June 1 in the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas. Go to dirtykanza200.com for more info.
New York City’s long-awaited bike share program, CitiBike, took to the streets over the weekend and is now officially up and running. The largest bike share system in the U.S., CitiBike says riders clocked more than 13,000 miles in the first day.
The most popular starting stations were:
- E 17 St & Broadway: 113
- Broadway & W 57: 109
- Broadway & E 14 St: 98
And the most popular ending stations were:
- E 17 St & Broadway: 108
- Broadway & W 57: 103
- University Pl & E 14 St: 78
Also on Monday, 772 riders signed up for annual memberships, bringing the total to more than 16,000.
The launch has generated a TON of press, and as you can imagine, there were some hiccups. The New York Post reported that one of the bikes was stolen just as it was being unloaded and installed. Some members had trouble picking up their keys and countless people have made their displeasure heard about the locations of the bike racks.
The Village Voice took a sunnier outlook with a headline “CitiBike Happened Yesterday—and the World Did Not End.” Also worth noting, Gothamist has a roundup of some ways to fight germs from the bikes, since who knows what the person using it before you was doing.
Finally, the CitiBike program graced the cover of the June 3, issue of the New Yorker. “I’ve only been doored twice,” artist Marcellus Hall told the New Yorker. “I’m not one of those hard-core bike freaks; it’s just a good way for me to get around in the city.”
Are you in New York? Have you used the new CitiBike program? What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.
By Adam Newman
Jeff Jones isn’t afraid to think outside the box. In fact, it’s safe to say he probably isn’t concerned about the box at all. He has been designing and building his own unique brand of non-suspended mountain bikes that have made the pages (and pixels) of our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, for years.
In recent years, Jones has brought a production version of his bike to market and after we reviewed it as a mountain bike, he pointed out that it is just as versatile on the road as on the trail. Since a couple of the staff use 29er mountain bikes with slick tires as all-purpose commuters and touring bikes, the idea struck a chord.
The $850 Jones diamond frame and fork feature everything a touring cyclist could need: rack and fender mounts; room for fat, comfy tires; three water bottle cage mounts; a shorter effective top tube and high, comfortable handlebars. Those handlebars are another of Jones’ original creations, a loop shape that puts your hands at a relaxed 45 degrees and creates a platform for carrying gear.
One of the key elements of what makes the bike unique in mountain bike mode is the ability to use a 29er front wheel or a 26×4.8 fat bike front wheel. As such, the fork is a specially designed unit that uses a 135mm fat bike front hub. When laced to a 29er/700c rim, it creates an especially strong front wheel that tracks straight, even when loaded. The rims are Velocity’s Blunt 35 that measure a huge 35mm wide and give the 29×2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple balloon tires even more cushion. Propulsion is provided by a Shimano 2×10 XT group that is geared low enough for even the steepest hills.
I packed up the panniers and the specially-designed frame bag that Jones sent us to try and had a great weekend riding and camping along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. While I wasn’t setting any speed records, the big tires and relaxed fit kept me cruising in comfort.
We’ll be putting the Jones through its paces all summer as we explore the countryside. One thing we’ll be paying close attention to is how the Jones fits a variety of riders, as it is only available in one size. The setup you see here is for my 6-foot-2 self.
Watch for it to make more appearances on bicycletimesmag.com and for a long-term review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now and you’ll never miss an issue!Tweet
By Karen Brooks
Quite a long name, eh? But it tells you what you’re getting, pretty much.
This was to be the bike for my second annual trip to and/or from the National Bike Summit, along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal trails, back in March. Alas, it was not to be. We got extremely lucky with the weather last year, but this year we got cold temps and snow before the Bike Summit, and yet more snow—heavy, wet snow, and lots of it—afterward. Bummer. Still, I’ve been having a good time on this bike just doing my normal commute plus some extra-curricular riding around.
It’s nice to see that a big company like Specialized has not totally abandoned steel as a frame material, especially for an all-rounder bike like this. Some of the other current TriCross models, as well as past versions, rely on Zertz vibration-damping inserts at key points to soften the ride of their aluminum frames. But to me, and a lot of other classic aficionados (or retro-grouches, if you prefer), steel makes sense for smoothing out the ride, in a refined and comprehensive way.
Indeed, this bike is smooth and unflappable. As you can tell from the dust and splashes in the photos, I’ve been riding it in some dirt and gravel. The Body Geometry bar tape with gel padding helps keep that smooth feeling without being too fat. I dig the integrated bell on the top brake lever. I also dig the no-nonsense graphics — the bike looks sleek and serious.
It’s been a while since I rode a bike with a triple crank, mountain or road. I had to really concentrate not to end up in the big/big gear combo. Funny how quickly we forget… But the granny ring has come in handy for traversing my local park via singletrack trails as well as the wider gravel paths.
The bike’s Avid BB5 brakes were doing a weird pulsing thing for a while. It almost felt as though the rotors were of uneven thickness, or as though I’d gotten a wad of gum stuck to one. But the pads looked fine, and so did the rotors — I went so far as to measure them with calipers. (Any excuse to get out the more esoteric tools!) After consulting with Specialized and with Avid, I’m gonna chalk it up to contamination of some sort. I swapped pads and rotors and have had no trouble since.
It looks like I’m going to go on a long ride with this bike after all, at least for a day—from our HQ in Pittsburgh to Raystown Lake for the Dirt Rag Dirt Fest, 130 miles. This is the kind of bike that encourages such impromptu adventures.
Check out the full review coming up in issue #23.Tweet
By Adam Newman
Trek’s pedigree of high quality road bikes was firmly established years ago under the effort of a certain now-disgraced cyclist with the Madone platform. But as with most of aspects of cycling technology, the one-road-bike-to-suit-all model has been tossed aside in favor of machines that specialize in their respective disciplines. Some bikes put a priority on feathery weight, or all-out stiffness. Others borrow designs from time trial bikes to cheat the wind. Some, like the Domane, put rider comfort out front. After all, a comfortable rider is a fast rider.
When creating the Domane, Trek sought out the expertise of one of the most powerful riders of this generation, Fabian Cancellara. The winner of Tour de France stages, World Time Trial Championships, and handfuls of single-day Classics races. Cancellara is something of a freight train in the pro peloton—a big rider with an even bigger motor—and he excels when the conditions are difficult. The Domane is designed to give the rider a distinct advantage under those difficult conditions.
The most crucial piece of this carbon-fiber puzzle is the IsoSpeed “de-coupler” between the top tube and the seat tube. The two tubes are joined by a small bearing that allows the seat post to flex fore and aft to smooth out the ride. Make no mistake—this is no suspension system but it does do a marvelous job of isolating large hits and high-frequency vibrations. This video demonstrates how it works:
The rest of the carbon fiber frame abounds with high-tech features like the integrated DuoTrap computer sensor attachment point, the integrated chain keeper, a massive BB90 bottom bracket shell, and a tapered head and steerer tube that is wider than it is deep, front to back, for a more compliant ride. My favorite feature though is the amount of tire clearance and the hidden, removable fender mounts. Three cheers for a dry behind.
The $2,730 Domane 4.5 model I’m riding differs from the more expensive models with a standard, round, 27.2mm seatpost rather than Trek’s integrated seatmast, external cable routing rather than internal. I actually prefer both these features as they keep things simple and don’t seem to hinder performance very little.
So how does the IsoSpeed system work? In my first few rides I’d say seamlessly and flawlessly. I can’t feel it actively working, but when I hit a pothole or railroad crossing my behind stays planted in the saddle rather than being bounced off. That contact is what allows the rider to stay on the gas over irregularities, and I can say this comfortable rider certainly feels faster.
Want to read the full review? You’ll have to watch for it in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and never miss an issue.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