First Impression: Velo Orange Pass Hunter

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Pass Hunting is a non-competitive pursuit, consisting of riding a bicycle up and over a mountain pass and keeping track of the passes you’ve conquered. Take a picture at the top, ride down, find another pass, repeat. Of course, there is French governing body, with lots of rules.

I’m not into lots of rules, but I am into classic looking bikes with a sporty demeanor, which describes this new bike from Velo Orange pretty well. A butted steel frame is mostly TIG-welded, but with socket style drop outs, a fancy seatstay arraignment, decorative headtube reinforcing rings, and a sweet twin plate crown on the fork. The frame and fork are priced at $520, which seems very reasonable for the level of detail and decoration. The paint is pretty stellar too.

See more of the Pass Hunter here.

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First Impression: Surly ECR

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Let me answer this question first: no, this is not a Krampus with holes drilled in it. While ECR closely resembles its 29+ brethren, it is a completely different beast. The frame is different, the geometry is different, the build kit is different and the fork is different.

Built for loaded touring, exploring and “Escaping Common Reality”, Surly designed the ECR from the ground up with versatility and cargo capacity in mind. It has eyelets for pretty much anything you can imagine: Up to five bottle cages, three sets of Salsa Anything Cage mounts, mounts a cargo rack out back, fenders (if you can find some wide enough), lowrider or cargo racks on the fork, a Rohloff hub, even a Surly trailer mount. All of this is made possible with Surly’s stout 4130 steel tubing (‘natch) and unique rearward-facing dropouts shared with the Ogre and Troll models.

Read more about this monster here.

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First Impression: Fatback 190 XO1

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I have gotten fat this winter, and I couldn’t be happier.

Just before Christmas this neon dream of American-made aluminum showed up from the Khaki Santa (aka the delivery guy) and made my riding bright.

Fatback is built exclusively around fat bikes, and it has kept this decidedly American sport homegrown by partnering with Zen Fabrication in Portland to build all its aluminum frames here in the U.S. of A. It’s built from 6000-series aluminum with an oversized headtube, three sets of bottle cage mounts, an S3 direct mount front derailleur mount and a 31.6 seatpost diameter.

Click here to see more of the Fatback.

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First Impression: Salsa Warbird 2

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I’ve been riding around on Salsa‘s 2014 Warbird 2 for the past few weeks and thought it might be a good time to share some of my first impressions of the bike. First off, the Warbird is Salsa’s take on a gravel racing bike. If you’re not already familiar with gravel racing it’s what it sounds like…racing bikes over gravel roads sometimes for incredibly long distances. Think Dirty Kanza at 200 miles, or the Trans Iowa which ticks off somewhere around 340 miles. The Warbird was designed to provide comfort while maintaining a light, efficient build that can push a fast pace over some seriously rough roads. Sounds like fun, right?

Find out in our full introduction.

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First Impression: Raleigh Capri 4

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This is quite possibly the lightest bike we’ve ever tested here at Bicycle Times at just under 17lbs.—but don’t call it a race bike. We’re fond of saying that what most of the bicycle industry calls a “road bike” is, in fact, a road racing bike. Such bikes typically have skinny tires (25mm wide or less), a fairly aggressive (read: uncomfortably bent-over) position, and a ridiculously light but stiff-as-a-board frame.

Meanwhile, most roads that we get to ride on are littered with such non-racing features as potholes, gravel, traffic lights—and don’t forget the traffic. Most “road” bikes, as defined by the industry, are as unsuited to riding on actual roads as a Ferrari is to driving to the grocery store.

>But the next step over from road racing on the bike spectrum is the relatively new category of “comfort” or “endurance” road bikes. These bikes may look at first glance like typical road racing machines, but they have key differences to make them more comfortable over long rides and rougher surfaces—or to help them be simply rideable for us mere mortals. You may sometimes see the term “racing” thrown in the descriptions, but think in terms of racing on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, not the butter-smooth, fresh asphalt of the Tour de France.

Read more about how the Capri is a lot more than meets the eye…

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First Impression: Breezer Downtown 5

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The Downtown 5 from Breezer is a fun little townie bike with lots of included features for not a ton of dough.

My typical ride involves riding to the grocery store, about a mile away. This is the perfect type of trip for the $550 Downtown 5, as the upright riding position and easy turning give you good line of sight and maneuverability in places like full parking lots. With an easy twist shift and five gears to choose from on the Shimano Nexus 5 speed internal hub, there is just enough gearing to make things easy and not so many shifting options to make it confusing.

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Full front and rear fenders grace this sweet, teal blue beauty and there is even a full, retro-styled chain guard to keep you trousers clean. Touch points like grips, saddle and pedals are all of nice quality and have a refined, retro feel that’s is aesthetically pleasing to me. Even the Breezer brake levers, with rubber finger pads, feel nice when engaging the linear pull brakes. The Downtown 5 also comes with a bell, kickstand and rear rack, making this stylish and comfy bike quite utilitarian to boot!

All in all, I’m really pleased with my time aboard the Breezer Downtown 5. Look for my full review in Issue #27 of Bicycle Times.

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First Impression: Fyxation Quiver

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Fyxation is a Milwaukee based company founded in 2009. Its first product was the robust Session 700 tire, the tall, high volume rubber you see here. Fast-forward a few years and the company now has a complete line of components and frames focused on urban riding.

The Quiver is a 4130 cro-moly frame with rear facing, horizontal dropouts. The company’s proprietary derailleur hanger allows the frame to be offered as a single-speed for $800, or with 1×10 gearing for $1,200, and 2×10 gearing for $1,390. I’m testing the 1×10 equipped with Sram’s Apex drivetrain and rear shifter.

Read the full story

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First Impression: Women’s Liv/Giant Invite 2

By Emily Walley

Liv/giant is Giant’s initiative to reach out to female cyclists offering bikes and gear designed by and for women. Click here to read the Liv/giant philosophy. The Invite 2 is Giant’s women’s-specific, drop-bar bike for mixed-terrain adventure. Its aluminum frame makes it light weight, only 24lbs. with the stock pedals, so I’m able to tote the bike up and down steps without a grunt. Read the full story

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First Impression: Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc

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By Mike Cushionbury

For a great many of us, road riding isn’t a dedicated endeavor of criterium racing and hill repeats. It’s a combination of long days on the pavement, as many dirt roads as we can find, a training race here and there and maybe even a cyclocross race. This of course begs the question, is there just one do-it-all bike for all of the above?

The answer according to Specialized is, in fact, yes. Taking what it learned from the successful CruX cross line, Specialized has been dabbling in creating the ultimate gravel road bike, a concept that seems to be working as team riders Rebecca Rusch and Dan Hughes both won the Dirty Kanza 200 this year on specially outfitted editions of the “gravel” Crux. The production model, dubbed the CruX EVO, is a $3,200 road/gravel/cross machine that could be the only drop bar bike you’ll ever need. Or want.

Read the full story

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Interbike First Impression: Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

By Karen Brooks

Like moths to a flame, we bike geeks get drawn to the bright, shiny stuff at Interbike. Our definitions of “shiny” can vary from ultra-bling to practical-chic to clever and well-made. But it is nice, sometimes, to breathe the rarified air of the top-of-the-line. Shimano’s R785 brake and Di2 shifting systems are two such examples.

As disc brakes are becoming more common on everything from adventure touring to cyclocross to commuting bikes, and even creeping their way onto road-racing style bikes, the big two component brands, Shimano and SRAM, are paying attention. The natural next step in the evolution is to follow mountain bikes and go fully hydraulic. Aftermarket hydraulic brake systems for drop bars from TRP, Formula and others have been around for a few years, but until recently there haven’t been one-stop options. SRAM debuted the Hydro R system, for disc or rim brakes, earlier this year. Shimano fired back with the artfully named R785 hydraulic brake system that integrates with Di2 electronic shifting, and I got a chance to try out both here at Interbike. Read the full story

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