First Impression: Cannondale Hooligan

By Adam Newman

Before joining Bicycle Times I worked for a spell in a bike shop that sold Cannondales. Among all the carbon road bikes and tricked out mountain bikes, there was always one or two of these odd little city bikes floating around the shop and the staff loved them, taking turns riding wheelies through the shop when no customers were around (don’t tell the boss). 

The Hooligan is like men’s nipples, or that extra fork they give you at fancy restaurants—I have no idea why it’s there, it just is. But regardless of the "why" is the "what", and you’ll certainly be getting that question quite a lot when riding the Hooligan. 

"What is that?"

"What’s it for?"

"Is that some sort of prototype?"

"Does it fold?"

The answer is usually: "It’s a bike," and a rather fun one at that. The 20-inch wheels and three-speed drivetrain make zipping around crowded city streets a breeze. The steering is quick and responsive, perfect for dogding potholes or puddles. Available in several versions over the years, the frame can also accomdate several other builds with its disc brakes and eccentric bottom bracket.

As you can see from the photo, the World’s Longest Seatpost does an acceptable job at accomodating my 6-foot-2 frame, but I’m really at the limit of who can ride this bike. Available in only one size, it’s flexible enough to also fit my 5-foot-3 girlfriend quite well. At $1,100 it isn’t cheap, but with quality parts and the Delta-V frame, this is no toy.

Pretty cool, huh? Keep an eye out for my full-length review in a future issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and you’ll be sure not to miss it. 

 


A (real) bike buyer’s guide

By Justin Steiner

Dreaming about a new bike now that spring is here? You aren’t alone. Buying a bicycle is extremely exciting, but can also be a little nerve-racking. With so many bicycles of varying designs and price points, how do you decide which bike best fits your needs? Bicycle Times is here to help you feel more confident about making a purchase. Think of this as a road map to the process of buying a bike.

With each issue of Bicycle Times, we review three or four interesting bikes to keep our experienced readers abreast of the performance and aptitude of the latest technology and trends. This article, however, is geared toward riders who are newer to our lovely sport, or re-entering the scene after a hiatus. If you know someone who’s hoping to buy a bike in the near future, pass this article along to help him or her make a more informed decision.

Needs

Buying a new bicycle is just like any other project—you first need to define your needs and the desired outcome. Start by realistically assessing your goals and ambitions for the next few seasons of riding, since this new bike will hopefully be with you for quite a while. Here is a list of questions to keep in mind; writing down the answers may help solidify your thoughts (again, be realistic):

  • How often, and for what duration, am I riding now, and what do I have in mind for the future?
  • What will be the main function of this bike?
  • Transportation and utility, fitness and recreation, looking good, racing?
  • What do I prioritize in this new bike?
  • Style, cargo capacity, all-weather capability, light weight, durability, or the ability to fold for storage or travel.
  • Where do I enjoy riding the most, and what do I enjoy about these locales?
  • Do I care about country of origin (where it’s made)?

Budget

With needs defined, it’s time to talk budget. In the bicycle world, as with most anything, you get what you pay for. Spending more will buy better performance—less weight, higher precision components, and increased durability—but not everyone really needs top-shelf stuff. Keep in mind that a new bike will set you back at least $300 regardless of its intended use. If you’d like to buy a bike made in the good ol’ U.S. of A., it will add to the cost as well, possibly by as much as an extra zero on the price tag.

So, what’s your budget? How much cash do you have to play with? Whatever number you come up with, subtract $200–$400 (even budget shoppers should set aside at least $150) to arrive at your target price point. Why? Because you now have a cushion to purchase clothing, comfort, and safety items that will enhance your riding experience. It can be argued that these clothing and comfort items are every bit as important as the bicycle itself. (More on this later.)

At the bike shop

OK, now you have a better idea of what your needs are, and you know how much money you’re comfortable spending. Time to start shopping. Make a list of all the bike shops in your area, and note the brands each store stocks, the store hours, and locations. Then devise a plan to visit all of them. Bonus points if you can shop on a weekday, as salespeople will likely have a great deal more time to spend with you. Sure, it’d be nice if the dealer you end up choosing is close to your home, but don’t place too much value on proximity. Finding a shop where you can form a trusting relationship, and maybe even a friendship, with the staff is far more important.

As you are shopping, pay attention to the vibe and feel of each store you visit. How do the employees treat you? Did someone offer you assistance, or did you have to seek help? When you’ve connected with a salesperson, relay your answers to the assessment questions. Armed with that information and your budget constraints, the salesperson will be able to recommend the bike, or bikes, that best fit your needs and budget. Be open-minded about the style of bike the salesperson might be suggesting—don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way of good advice. Do ask the salesperson to explain why he/she has recommended particular bikes. Be sure to take notes on manufacturer names, models, and pricing.

Take time to inquire about the fitting process at each store, as this will be a large part of the deciding factor for where you should make your purchase. First, how do they determine which size is best for you? And second, how do they fine-tune the fit of the chosen size? Hope- fully they will include the store’s policy, and rates, for swapping stems, saddles, and other parts as needed to personalize your fit. The answers to these questions will begin to shine light on the great stores—the people who truly care about your fit and comfort. I cannot emphasize enough how important fit is to cycling. Comfort on your bicycle will keep you riding, while pain and discomfort will likely stop you dead in your tracks.

As you shop down through your list of stores, the experiences you have will vary drastically. Some of the encounters will make you want to go back and others most certainly will not. Scratch the shops off the list where you had less than satisfactory experiences and make note of the shops where you felt comfortable and received sound advice. Now it’s time to go back for a test ride. These folks will set you up with a fitted bike for a spin. Be sure to take notes about your impressions of the bike(s) you are able to ride—it’s hard to keep track of all the subtleties of different bikes if you don’t.

Also inquire about the store’s service policies. All reputable dealers will include a post-break-in tune-up with the purchase of the bike. Additionally, some shops offer extended service and/or insurance plans that could save you money in the long run, but make sure you clearly understand the terms. Many stores will even offer a discount on gear purchased with the bike.

Thank the salesperson and explain that you’re doing some comparative shopping and will be making a decision soon. From here on the decision should be fairly easy. Most likely, one of the bikes you ride will feel markedly better than the others. Congratulations! You just found your new bike.

Shop where you can form a trusting relationship, and maybe even a friendship, with the staff is far more important.

Cross shopping

Why haven’t I even mentioned the importance of parts and specifications? I intentionally left out these details because, in my opinion, they are the least important aspect of buying a new bike. Since you’re looking at bikes made for a particular riding style and within a small price window, all of the models will offer similar parts packages. Sure, one bike will have widget X instead of widget Y, where the other has widget W instead of widget Y, but who cares? Of course, there are certain spec characteristics worth considering such as internal vs. external gearing, belt or chain drive, and handlebar type.

The salesperson you’re working with should be able to shed light on the advantages and disadvantages of each style of bike and why it might be well-suited or not to your specific needs. But the specifics of each component are not worth worrying about. The cycling marketplace is highly competitive and the overall package at any price point will be comparable. Staring cross-eyed at spec sheets will take your focus away from the overall fit and feel of the bicycle and which store has earned your money, both of which are far more important.

What about the extra $200–$400 you’ve stashed away? Now it’s time to invest in your comfort and safety. Pony up for a new helmet if you’ve had that old one for five years or lon- ger; helmet materials break down over time, rendering older helmets less effective. If you don’t have some form of protective eyewear, buy some stylin’ shades. Pick up some nice gloves to protect your hands for longer rides. If you will be riding in cold and/or wet weather, prepare yourself accordingly. Depending on your needs, a few nice pairs of cycling shorts may be in order, too. The guys and gals at the shop will be able to help you select clothing to fit your needs. (From my experience, you can’t go wrong with wool.)

You will also need a way to carry water, spare tubes, tire levers, a pump, multi tool, and patch kit. If you don’t know how to change a flat tire, ask a knowledgeable friend to show you how, offer to pay the shop to teach you, or find a local how-to class—community bike shops are a fabulous resource for knowledge. There are few things that kill the buzz of a nice ride quicker than having to call someone to pick you up, or worse yet, a 10-mile walk home, and a flat tire certainly won’t get you off the hook for being late to work.

So there you have it—bike buying made simple. Of course there are situations I simply can’t cover within the scope of this article. What I hope you take away is the general process and approach to purchasing a new bicycle. Trust yourself and your judgment; if things don’t make sense, ask questions—be analytical. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; this might not be the last bicycle you ever buy, but rather the first step on the never-ending ladder toward cycling enlightenment. 

Key things to remember

  • Be honest about what you intend to do with your new bike.
  • Set a budget and make sure it includes $200-$400 for accessories.
  • Visit as many bike shops as you can and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
  • Spend your money at the bike shop that you feel has earned your business.

 


Review: Singular Peregrine

By Matt Kasprzyk

Singular claims that the classically inspired Peregrine is its most versatile frame. The bike can be your adventure tourer, your commuter, or even your fat-tire monster ‘cross. It’s built from Reynolds and proprietary butted 4130 chromoly lugged steel. Although the paint and construction may take you back a few decades, Singular makes use of some relatively modern amenities like 29-inch wheels and disc brakes.

My ride to work can cross multiple surfaces, which has made the hunt for a perfect commuting bike difficult. I’ve been after a bike that can handle miles of road and urban streets, as well as dirt—a bike that can weather the abuse of rough gravel and provide some comfort.

Enter Marty of The Prairie Peddler, the only North American distributor of U.K.- made Singular bikes. He built his own Peregrine to tackle miles of unmaintained gravel roads in the Midwest. So, imagine how happy I was when he offered to loan me his personal bike for review.

The frame’s hub spacing is 135mm in the rear, 100mm in the front, same most mountain bikes. Tire clearance is similarly burly—the stays and fork will take a 29×2.0 tire. My loaner had Kenda Karma 29×2.0 tires installed. The frame didn’t leave much clearance for any- thing more aggressive, but Marty says you can get up to 700x45s with fenders if you wanted to go smaller.

The larger diameter tires made a huge difference on the rough when com- pared to the 37mm ones I have been using; I went from trying to pick smooth lines through rough gravel to not needing to pick lines at all. Using mountain bike tires with lower rolling resistance, riding on pavement was still bearable, albeit a little slow.

Obviously, disc brakes are pretty rad, but what I really appreciate is the fact that the Peregrine doesn’t have any canti brake bosses ruining its clean lines. To complete the frame, the braze-ons for racks and fenders don’t interfere with the disc caliper mounts, and there are three water bottle mounts and open-style guides for full-length cable housing.

The 59cm frame is the largest offered and has a 590mm top tube, which I thought was going to be a little short for my height. But with wider flared off-road drop bars, it made riding in those drops a comfortable reach. The 70mm of bottom bracket drop might sound like a bit on the low side until you factor in the taller knobby tires, which raise the bottom bracket height.

Same with the chainstays: 445mm may sound fairly long for a road bike, but that’s pretty average for a 29” mountain bike in order to fit decently aggressive tires. However, when compared to a 29er mountain bike, the wheelbase is short, so expect a nimble ride off-road.

Given the frame’s geometry, the handling offered no surprises. Unloaded, the front end will feel predictably light on pavement and wandered slightly because of the rake of the fork. It took about a half a ride off-road to get used to. The issue for me was getting comfortable in the drop bars on dirt rather than any nuances with handling. All things considered, the geometry is pretty standard—if you can call mountain bike wheels with drop bars standard.

The only drawback for me was toe overlap. Buyers with bigger feet will have to deal with it. I never noticed it on pavement, but I had to be conscious of it when turning sharply off-road. Given the larger tires, my feet, and the frame’s geometry, there isn’t really a way around it. Shorter cranks and smaller tires might have solved it, but that also diminishes the bike’s versatility.

There are no color changes planned for 2012, and that’s fine by me. The classic paint and lugs are a nice compliment to some of the varied builds the Peregrine can take. The second- generation frames will have hourglass-shaped chainstays to allow clearance for road cranks with a narrower Q-factor and bigger chainrings. The eccentric bottom bracket allows for a singlespeed set-up, plus there is a derailleur hanger for geared options.

For $725, North American customers will get a frame with a sterling silver headbadge, matching fork, and Singular licensed Phil Wood EBB. Singular has a much broader presence in Europe with several retailers offering complete builds.

If you’re into the retro steel aesthetic and need something more comfortable to crush miles of gravel, or just want a burly commuter that can handle some singletrack, this could be a wise choice. Singular offers a five-year warranty.

Tester stats

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 185lbs.
  • Inseam: 34 inches

Bike stats

  • Country of origin: Taiwan
  • Price: $725 (frame and fork)
  • Weight: 25.4lbs.
  • Sizes: 50, 53, 56, 59cm (tested)

Read more

Read our first impressions of the Peregrine here.

 

 

First Impression: Norco Vallence Alloy

I plan to log many more miles aboard the Valence Alloy 1 this spring. Look for a complete review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times.

By Josh Patterson

Norco’s Valence line of road bikes was designed to meet the needs of the growing number of road riders who enjoy long rides such as gran fondos and charity rides. Many of these riders are looking for a performance-oriented bicycle, but are not willing to sacrifice comfort to eek out a few more watts. If you count yourself amoung this group then keep reading. The Valence is available in carbon and more affordable aluminum models. I’m currently testing the highest-end aluminum model, the Vallence Alloy 1.

This $1,299 road bike packs a lot of bang for the buck, including a Shimano 105 drivetrain with an FSA crankset and a 105-level wheelset. I’ve logged approximately 300 miles on my test bike and have very little to complain about. The fit is good; handling is stable; and, as one would expect from a bike designed for long days in the saddle, the ride is quite comfortable.

The Valence seatstays are flattened and bow inwards to improve vertical compliance. The Tektro long reach brake calipers allow will accommodate up to 28c tires with fenders.

Tester stats

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 145lbs.
  • Inseam: 30”

Bike stats

  • Price: $1,299
  • Weight: 20.98lbs
  • Sizes Available: 48, 51 (tested), 54, 57, 60
  • Country of Origin: Taiwan
 

 

First Impression: Novara Gotham

By Justin Steiner

The Gotham sits atop Novara’s lineup of bicycles designed for utilitarian urban cycling. For those not familiar, Novara is the house bicycle brand of outdoor equipment retailer and co-op REI. I’ve been pedaling the Gotham back and forth to work and around town for a couple of months now, and thought I’d weigh in with some initial impressions.

This city bike comes equipped with all the features you’d need to get from point A to point B, including full coverage fenders, a generator powered headlight and battery powered tail light, as well as a nice burly rear rack to haul your goods. The cable-actuated disc brakes are a welcome addition, both for their wet weather performance and the minimal maintenance needed to keep them stopping smooth.

Novara has spec’d some interesting drivetrain parts on this bike. NuVinci’s N360 hub is a continuously variable planetary hub offering infinite gear ratio adjustability within its 360% ratio range. Essentially, the hub offers a wide range of gear ratios without the concrete ratio steps of a traditional drivetrain, just twist the shifter to increase resistance, twist back for an easier ratio. Though this sounds almost too good to be true, I’ve enjoyed my time aboard the N360 and have found it to work flawlessly. Perhaps one of the best attributes of the N360 is the complete lack of maintenance requird for the life of the hub.

Novara continued the Gotham’s minimal maintenance theme by outfitting a Gates Carbon Drive Belt instead of a chain. These belts require no lubrication throughout their lifespan, and are said to outlast a traditional chain by a significant margin. The only tricky aspect of the Gates system is ensuring proper belt tension. Various folks around the office have had issues with broken or slipping belts, but mostly on more aggressive singlespeed setups, both on and off road. However, I’ve ridden a couple of city/commuting bikes equipped with a Gates Carbon Drive belt with satisfactory results and zero issues. In many ways, this seems like the perfect application for a belt.

All of these design and spec decisions yield a bike that’s extremely easy to hop on and ride to work, or to simply run an errand with the addition of some sort of bag or basket system to haul your goods. The riding position is upright and comfortable with a nice supportive saddle that’s comfortable with or without cycling shorts.

Underway, the Gotham rides with a quietness and fluidity that can only be achieved on a belt drive bike with a NuVinci hub as far as I’ve experienced. Granted, a portion of this smoothness is provided by the Vittoria Randonneur 35mm-wide tires, but the refined feeling provided by the super smooth belt system and the buttery shifting of the N360 add a certain level of refinement.

Handling-wise, the Gotham is spot on for its intended use with a confident stability that’s great for a mindless ride home from work, without handling slow and dull. Speaking of slow, it’s worth mentioning this bike isn’t a rocket ship. Simply put, there’s no getting around this bike’s 38+ lbs weight. This slow and steady demeanor isn’t terribly noticeable around town, but will make itself known on longer or sportier rides.

I’ve enjoyed my time aboard the Gotham. Thus far along in the review, it strikes me as a nice bike for a decent price. The real icing on this cake is the durability and relatively maintenance-free components for those in wet and snowy climates.

Look for the full review in Issue #17 of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now to have that issue delivered to your door.

 

 

First Impression: Specialized Secteur

By Eric McKeegan

The bike industry is still looking for the correct term for bikes like the Secteur. It isn’t a race bike, nor is it a touring bike. Specialized calls it “endurance road". I’ve seen "comfort road" and "plush road" too. Whatever, all these bikes are probably better choices for the average rider than the more aggressive race models. So how about these just be road bikes, and we’ll call the race bikes what they are: race bikes.

Anyway, enough about that, what makes the Secteur not a race bike? Let’s compare it to the Allez, Specialized’s race inspired road bike at similar price points to the Secteur. I’m testing a size 56. To start, both bikes share a top tube length of 565mm and a 73.25º seat angle, so fit is going to be pretty similar. The Sectuer has a 20mm taller headtube to get the bars up higher, a slacker head angle, longer chainstays, a lower bottom bracket and a longer front center for more stability. Those long chainstays combined with elastomer inserts in the fork and chainstays should deliver on the promise of less road vibration transmitted to the rider.

It’s been a wet spring, so I mounted up a set of full coverage SKS fenders, which fit fine with the stock 25mm tires.

Look here, rack mounts! Specialized spec’d an almost complete 105 group, minus the hubs, although I won’t complain about using DT Swiss hubs instead. Glad to see the 105 compact crank, Shimano still makes the best shifting cranks in the business.

My road rides often include roads that are not pavement. They look like this:

Yes, I cleaned this climb:

I’m enjoying the light and stiff feel of this bike, and I grudgingly admit the elastomer inserts are doing something to take the edge of rough roads. This is the first bike I’ve tested that makes me want to find some fast group rides to grace with my presence rather that continue with my typical solo missions.

I’ll be riding the Secteur into the early summer, might even try my hand at some road racing, even if this isn’t a “race” bike, is sure feels fast to me.
 

 

 

First Impression: Breezer Venturi

By Shannon Mominee

Most people associate Joe Breeze with mountain biking. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the sport along with Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchey, and Charlie Cunningham, to name a few, and Breeze is credited with building the first purpose-built mountain bike in the early 80’s. He’s also a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee of 1988, and remains active in the industry today.

So what’s up with the Breezer road bike, you may be asking? Before mountain bikes, Joe raced road bikes successfully and the Venturi is a nod to his past and 35 years of inspiration. Most riders are not settled into one discipline and own more than one type of bike. Breezer continues to build mountain bikes, and also offers commuter/transportation bikes too.

The Venturi is the only Breezer road bike offering and is available as a frameset or complete build. Remaining true to innovation, the Venturi features a heat-treated chromoly steel frame built around racing geometry, integrated head tube, asymmetrical chainstays, BB86 press-fit bottom bracket, and 40mm offset Breezer carbon fiber fork.

The geometry and sizing of the frame is unique, if not a little strange. It’s built low and long. I typically ride frames with a 570-580mm long top tube, with the seat tube corresponding close to that number for a given size. The Venturi size large does have a 570mm top tube, but the seat tube is a short 540mm. The next size up has a 570mm seat tube but a top tube of 585mm, which would have been too long for me. Combined with the 74-degree head tube, 73.5-degree seat tube, and short 130mm head tube, I’m riding in an aggressive position.

Short chainstays, short wheelbase, steep angels make for a quick handling bike. The Venturi does ride nice and supple, without being twitchy or scary on the downhills. It’s stiff where it needs to be, forgiving in other areas, and feels powerful and fast on the climbs. I actually look forward to standing and going up hills on it.

The frame is outfitted with a full Ultegra 10-speed parts package and Ultegra tubeless wheels. I’ll have a blog posting soon on the tubeless wheels so be on the lookout. I’m not crazy about all the white parts, paint, and bar tape, but that’s me, it may be attractive to you.

Look for a full review soon in Bicycle Times Magazine and if you like the mag, don’t forget to subscribe. Print and multiple digital forms are available.

 

 

First Impression: Jamis Bossanova

by Karl Rosengarth, photos by Adam Newman and Karl Rosengarth

Different riders have different riding styles. Each person gravitates toward certain types of bikes that meld with their style. When it came time to outfit myself with a test bike, the Jamis Bosanova rocketed to the top of my charts. I was attracted to the Bossanova’s versatile, utilitarian nature. It’s short list of attractive features: full-coverage fenders, disc brakes, drop bars, triple crank, steel chassis, practical tires, and rack eyelets.

Steel is versatile and practical. I like steel. The Bosanova’s chasis is made from Reynolds 520 double-butted chromoly main tubes and chromoly stays. The Bosanova rolled down the road with a resilient and lively feeling. When pulling hard on the bars, or mashing the big ring, frame flex was well within acceptable limits.

The frame/fork both have eyelets for racks, a nod to the bike’s versatility. Speaking of the fork, it’s a carbon fiber unicrown affair with steel steerer and forged dropouts. The fork looks stout, but did not harsh out the ride. Actually, it seems to kill some of the buzz from rough roads.

For the geometry Jamis chose a middle-ground between quick/racy and stable/touring. The all-arounder geometry resulted in a bike with comfortable and intuitive nature. The handling felt stable and predictable, without feeling at all sluggish. Pointed downhill, the Bosanova held its line and carved high-speed sweepers without wavering. When called upon to dodge potholes or dice in traffic, the Bosanova was quick enough to comply without complaint. The term "well-behaved" comes to mind.

Sporting painted-to-match metal fenders and disc brakes, the Bosanova is wet-weather capable. On minor complaint is that there’s some rattling coming from the rear fender, which I need to see if I can isolate and fix. My first rain ride sold me on the concept of disc brakes on road bikes. Wet braking power and modulation of the Avid BB-5 cable actuated discs was confidence-inspiring. Gotta love one-finger braking in the rain.

Rolling on Vittoria Randonneur Cross 700x28c with Double Shield puncture protection, this rig has been more than up to the task of tackling the mean streets and dirt roads. The full-coverage fenders shielded the stock tires perfectly, but it appears from eyeballing the fender-to-tire clearance that you’d run out of room pretty quickly if you tried to fit much wider tires.

I like having a bike with a triple-crank in my stable, so the Tiagra triple gets my thumbs up. I should point out that Jamis speced an FSA Vero triple crankset (with FSA PowerDrive bottom bracket), so the drivetrain is not full Shimano.

Look for my full review of the Bosanova in Bicycle Times issue #17 and subscribe today to make sure you never miss an issue.

Bike stats

  • Country of Origin: China
  • Price: $1,275
  • Weight: 27.1 lbs.
  • Sizes Available: 48, 51, 54, 56 (tested), 58, 61cm.
 

 

First Impression: Marin Bridgeway

By Trina Haynes

The Marin Bridgeway falls well within the Toaster Bike classification (as coined by our fearless leader Maurice Tierney). A toaster bike is a bike that is as simple to use as a toaste: push the pedals and off you go. Mmm, I love toast. And Cylons for that matter. Mmm, Cylon toast.

My 14-mile round trip commute takes me over a few steep (and a few not-so-steep) hills. A two-foot shoulder off the tarmac with occasional stretches of gravel, dirt and glass is all that separates me from cars passing at about 45mph. The occasional live (and sometimes not-so-alive) animal keeps things interesting. My first ride on the Bridgeway was on this terrain. I was bit skeptical of the slim handlebars and whether or not I’d get enough leverage off of them to power up the two steeper hills along the ride. Overcoming the smaller handlebars was easier than I thought and beneficial when tucking in for my attempt at aerodynamic speed on the descent. I’m a racer in my head.

The Shimano EZ-Fire shifter is simple and, well, easy to use. Thumb and fore finger shifting makes getting up the two mega hills much less daunting.

The Bridgeway’s 6061 aluminum frame held up to my semi-aggressive style of riding: hopping over various objects as well as a few unexpected gravel and dirt spinouts on the night ride home.

For some reason my size 17 tester frame is a wee bit too small for me, and the 19 would likely be too big (I have the same problem with shoes when they don’t make half size. I have to have an 8.5). So, I swapped out the stem for a slightly longer one, which gave me my preferred 30 degree back angle and a less upright riding position. As a cyclist with back and hip problems, this angle for riding works best for me.

The Marin Bridgeway and I will get to know each other more over the next few months and I’m sure I’ll start to make a few more tweaks, as we all do to make our bikes more “ours”. Such as, the need for at least one bell. My Marin Bridgeway needs a voice. My bell is that voice! Fellow cyclists, pedestrians and groundhogs the world over must hear that voice! Bridgeway Coming through!!!!

 

 

First Impression: Tern Castro Duo

By Stephen Haynes

I’ve always been intrigued by folding bikes, much as I am by efficiency apartments, tiny houses, James Bond gadgets and Murphy beds. There is something appealing about a bike that is both practical and fun and can be discretely folded down and thrown in the trunk of your car. It plays to the pragmatist in me while adding a sense of whimsy to the mix.

The Tern Castro Duo does a good job of satisfying these wants and needs by offering a simple bike in a compact package.

The bike folds down small enough to be out of the way in that efficiency apartment or dorm room, but isn’t quite small enough to haul on the bus with you. If you have limited space in your dwelling or are a park-and-ride commuter, this could be your new best friend.

I’ve taken the Castro Duo on many rides both from my backdoor and from the trunk of my small car, folding and unfolding as needed with ease. The folding operation is quite easy by way of two joints: one located in the middle of the frame, the other where the stem meets the headset. The pedals fold down as well, maximizing the space savings.

Riding the Castro Duo reminds me of my first experiences on a bike—when a simple one speed with a coaster brake was all you required to get to the playground or friend’s houses. Tern has attempted to up the ante a bit by adding a SRAM two-speed automatic hub (Hence the “Duo” in the name). While this sounds great in theory, in practice I’ve found it has taken a little getting used to.

Unexpected shifts caught my knees out on more than one occaision early on, but I’ve grown more accustomed to the shifts and am getting better about predicting them, though not expertly just yet. I’ve also learned that by simply disengaging the drive train by quickly back pedaling (not enough to brake), will put you back down into the lower starting gear.

The Casto Duo rides quite nicely though and I have found benefits to having a second speed as well. Coasting down hills doesn’t necessarily mean coasting anymore and on the flats it means not having to spin out in a lower gear. Nice!

The super low step-through, upright riding position, 20” wheels and short wheelbase make it easy to get just about anywhere and be comfortable doing it. This thing is snappy and I’ve been tempted more than once to pretend it’s a BMX bike and launch it in some ill-advised manner.

The Duo’s frame has a built-in rear rack for carrying books, beer, pizza, or whatever; as well as built in front and rear lights. A chain guard means you don’t HAVE to roll up your pants and full fenders will keep those pants clean of street funk.

As if Tern couldn’t make this bike any more practical, they’ve also added a center stand that can be employed whether the frame is folded or unfolded.

The Tern Castro Duo will set you back $800 and for all the practical features that buys, sounds like a steal. Look for my full review in Bicycle Times Issue #16 coming out in April.

 

 

First Impression: Christiana Bikes Boxcycle

By Eric McKeegan

The Christiana Bikes Boxcycle has been in steady use since arriving in October, where did the time go? For those not familiar, Christiana is (or was) a odd little self-governing enclave in Copenhagen, the result of an early 70’s unauthorized take over of a former military base on the edge of the city

About a decade later Lars Engstrom wanted to build something for his wife Annie to haul their kids around Christiana, which is a car-free neighborhood. Thus, the Boxcycle. Fast forward to today and visually not much has changed. Look closer and modern upgrades abound: dual disc front brakes, a hydraulic steering stabilizer, aluminum frame, and a seven speed rear hub.

We’ve been out for many fun rides so far after the first adventure, a seven mile commute home on rural roads. I’ll go on record saying this terrain is not this bike’s forte. Between my inexperience on a Boxcycle and the crown of the road, I spend a lot of time with my jaw set and a death grip on the bars.

Once I got home and settled into a more daily routine the Boxcycle really started to come into its own, with both my wife and I adapting quickly to the handling.

We’ve had an odd winter so far this year, with lows in the teens mixed with highs in the mid 50’s. On cold mornings the kids were a bit too chilly, but the arrival of the optional canopy solved the cold issue. A warm coat and blanket keeps the kids warm enough even into the teens.

 

Now the review period is drawing to a close. Interested in reading the full review? Subscribe!
 

 

 

First Impression: Singular Peregrine

By Matt Kasprzyk,

My commute to work, should I choose, takes me over a variety of surfaces. Because of that, I’ve had a monster ‘cross-style bike on my mind for about year now. A road bike with disc brakes that could fit 29 x 2.0 tires seemed ideal to tackle the few miles of road, cinder, and rough gravel.

Apparently I’m not the only person to think so. Adventure touring bikes are coming on and the UK’s Singular was able to send a uniquely specced Peregrine allowing me to experience what I’ve been dreaming of.

The Peregrine is billed as Singular’s most versatile frameset. It’s designed for drop bars, can fit up to 29 x 2.0 tires without fenders, has classic lugged construction, an eccentric bottom bracket insert for gears or singlespeed, brake and gear cable guides with rack and mudguard mounts and a matching lugged fork.

“Sturdy enough to hit the dirt, nimble enough for some singletrack, stable enough for touring – the Peregrine will do what you want to do, take you where you want to go," says the Singular website, and from the several weeks I’ve been on the Peregrine, I have no reason to doubt it.

Check out the full review in Bicycle Times issue #15, on sale January 31.

 

 

 

 


First Impression: Electra Amsterdam Royal 8i

By Justin Steiner 

I have to admit to being a bit skeptical of Electra’s Amsterdam Royal 8i when Karen and Karl asked if I was willing to review said bike. I was more than a little uncertain about how Electra’s Flat Foot Technology (FFT) would work for an experienced rider. As is often the case with my reactionary, knee jerk assessments, I’ve found my initial worry to be unfounded.

First, a bit about FFT. Electra’s mission was to lower the rider’s saddle height enough so that you’re able to fully touch the ground with both feet while seated. I’ve pulled a couple of graphics from Electra’s website to illustrate.

Without making other fit changes, this would result in a less than optimal pedaling position with far too little leg extension. In order to achieve proper leg extension with a lower saddle height, Electra moved the bottom bracket forward to achieve what they call a forward pedaling position.

As you can see in the above diagram, FFT keeps your butt roughly in the same place, but moves your feet further forward than on a normal bike. This geometry also dictates moving the front wheel further forward to accommodate the Forward Pedaling position. To combat this, Electra slackened the headtube angle and increased fork offset to keep handling as traditional feeling as possible.

The resulting riding position felt a bit strange to me at first because it’s simply so relaxed and upright. The handlebars are high and swept back to the rider, the seat is low to the ground, with pedals well out in front of your saddle. After a few miles of acclimation, things start to come around and the riding position feels more intuitive.

As you might expect from the non-traditional geometry, the ride quality follows suit. A higher than average percentage of your body weight sits over the rear wheel, making the rear end feel very stable, while the steering geometry feels a touch flighty initially. After some saddle time, get into a groove with the Amsterdam, where it feels snappy and lively but not unstable.

According to Electra, their bikes are best suited for flat terrain, so not surprisingly that where the Electra excels. Despite the not so super efficient riding position, the Amsterdam cruises nicely once up to speed. Not surprisingly, hill climbing is not the Amsterdam’s cup of tea from my experience.

I’m curious to hear from Electra owners. What’s your take on FFT? Where do you live, and what do you feel are the bike’s strengths and weaknesses?

For those who haven’t ridden an Electra, what’s your perception of FFT? Would you consider buying?

 

 

Review: iZip Via Rapido

By Karen Brooks

Electric bikes have somewhat of a bad reputation to overcome. The first round of electric motor bikes (introduced around ten years ago) had limited range, were heavy and unwieldy, and were not easy to service. Since then, great strides have been made in all areas of electric bike construction, and they are poised to become big players in the bicycle market.

Currie Technologies, parent company of the IZip brand, has been producing electric bikes since their first emergence; they’ve made the common mistakes and learned from them admirably. IZip is their performance-oriented brand, while eZip is the moniker of their recreational-oriented offerings. IZip bikes span a range from basic budget bikes to ultra-high end, sleek, and futuristic machines. We chose to test the Via Rapido because it falls in the middle of this range, and also offers both of the main types of e-bike transmission: throttle (also called e-bike) and pedelec.

You may recall from Karl’s review of the BionX add-on electric motor system in issue #9 that throttle systems don’t require pedaling input, while pedelec systems do. IZip has models that offer both modes, in their case called TAG (Twist And Go) and PAS (Pedal Assist System). You can switch between modes with a button next to the on/ off switch. In TAG mode, the throttle ramps up to 100% power whether you’re pedaling or not. In PAS mode, 50% of available power assist kicks in when you start pedaling, and twisting the throttle adds more power, up to 100%. In either mode, sensors in the brake levers cut off the motor when the brakes are applied. There is also a sensor at the bottom bracket to detect pedaling input.

The Via Rapido’s Electro-Drive 250-watt motor is housed in the rear hub, and in fact looks like nothing more than an internally geared hub, a far cry from the bulky motors of old. The lithium-ion battery is a thin rectan- gle that fits neatly in a slot in the rear rack. It can be charged on or off the bike, and locks in place with a small key. The battery’s claimed range is 15-22 miles (given some pedaling input), and the motor’s top speed is 20mph, above which it cuts out (as mandated by law).

There’s a battery gauge at the throttle: green for full power, yellow for half, and red for low. The gauge measures the line output, not the battery’s actual life, so it tends to bounce around some as you accelerate, but it gives a fairly accurate reading when using 50% power at a steady pace. Recharging took around five hours, right in line with the claimed time. From talking to various electric bike makers at the Interbike trade show last year, it seemed as though throttle systems are offered simply to give customers what they think they want—motorcycle-style engagement. Industry wisdom suggests that as riders gain electric experience, they tend to gravitate toward pedelecs for more seamless integration of the motor’s help.

The IZip manual also says that the PAS mode saves battery life. However, my experience differed. In the highest of the external derailleur’s eight speeds, which I used frequently, I could barely feel the 50% power input from the motor. Instead, I tended to use TAG mode to give myself a boost at crucial times—starting at green lights, trying to get to a light before it turned yellow, up short but steep hills, etc.—and relied on the ol’ legs the rest of the time. This way, I got more than the claimed range out of this system. Using PAS mode only when going slow, I could get a 25-mile round trip commute and then some, and with judicious use of the TAG mode, sometimes even two trips. But I may pedal more than the average user, and a rider casually cruising in a lower gear would get more of a boost from the PAS mode.

The throttle in TAG mode engages slowly, which is good—it is possible, after all, to peel out, and tales of unintended wheelies still crop up in the electric world. At first I found having to hold down the throttle to go up extended hills kind of awkward, but I’ve gotten used to it. I did wish that the bike’s eight external gears were higher overall, but my commute involves some suburban roads and highway-ish situations that call for speed; for shorter trips around town, they’d be passable. For riders just getting into it, the gear range would be fine.

I haven’t said much about the bike’s basic platform—that’s because Currie is overhauling that aspect of the Via Rapido for 2012. Good thing, because that’s where my complaints lie. My tester was built on a hybrid, with 700c wheels and an upright position, which is good. But it’s also got an uncomfortably flat and straight handlebar, weak linear-pull brakes, and a suspension fork and seatpost that do little but add weight.

The 2012 Via Rapido will be based on a more urban style of bike, with a “retro ‘70s appearance” and a host of other improvements. Notably, the “mixte” version will be a true step-through design and not the current half-dropped top tube frame, which will make mounting this still relatively heavy bike easier. It will also sport fenders, a swept-back handlebar, disc brakes (hooray!), a lighter rigid fork, and a regular seatpost with a more comfortable seat—basically, all the changes I would have recommended. The electric drive system will be mostly the same, but will have a more intuitive toggle switch for PAS/TAG rather than the current push button version.

You can carry stuff on the Via Rapido’s rear rack, although due to the battery’s place- ment, panniers with hooks aren’t compatible. A saddlebag, however, can be strapped to it relatively easily. IZip includes Slime in- nertubes on all their bikes to prevent most routine flats—a great idea since removing that rear motorized wheel isn’t easy.
Before this test I assumed it would mostly be less-fit riders who would benefit from electric assistance—for instance, someone getting back into cycling after a long absence, or wanting to start an exercise routine. But I found that even with a good level of fitness, I had a lot to gain from riding the Via Rapido. I could arrive at work not drenched in sweat on the hottest, stickiest days. I could ride this bike on a lazy Monday instead of wimping out after a hard weekend of mountain biking. I could ride it when I was crunched for time. In short, it looks as if modern technology has made electric bikes a viable option for a wide range of cyclists.

Tester stats

Age: 38

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 120lbs.

Inseam: 33”

Bike stats

Country of Origin: China

Price: $1,300

Weight: 41.0lbs.

Sizes Available: 19”, diamond and “mixte” frames

Keep reading

Read Karen’s blog on her first impression of the iZip Via Rapido here.

 

 

First Impression: Volagi Liscio

By Adam Newman

No bike attracted quite as much attention—from our staff, anyway—at Interbike than the Volagi. Designed by two serious long-distance cyclists as the ultimate long-distance bike, the sweeping shape could only have been made from carbon fiber. Though the bike would be right at home in spirited club rides or even races, that’s not what it’s about. The disc brakes, the light weight, and the aerodynamic shape all contribute to putting away huge miles.

Volagi is a fairly new brand, founded by Robert Choi and Barley Forsman, who have a collective 35 years of bike industry experience. Forsman has completed the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris and holds a fixed-gear record in the 508-mile Furnace Creek 508, so yeah, I think they know what they’re doing.

The most obvious design feature of the Liscio is, of course, the disc brakes. Many an internet message board has filled up with the debate over their merits on the road, but I can tell you this: no one ever tries them and goes back to rim brakes. The Avid BB7s might not have an overwhelming stopping advantage over conventional brakes, but the lever feel is great, they will never fade or get soft, and there is no brake residue all over your rims—and hands.

Other key features are a taller headtube for a more “realistic” geometry for us mortals, clearance for 28c tires or 25c tires and fenders, and a unique split seatstay that wraps around the seattube, allowing it to flex and absorb road vibration. I gotta say, it really works too. It’s outstandingly comfortable to ride.

The Liscio is ffered in three trim levels: SRAM Rival, Shimano Ultegra, and Dura-Ace, as well as a frameset option. I put this Rival-equipped tester through its paces at the Dirty Dozen, a masochistic march up the 13 steepest streets in Pittsburgh. The 34×28 low gear came in handy on Canton Avenue’s 37 percent grade (ok, it actually came in handy on ALL the grades). Weighing in at 18.7 pounds (without pedals) didn’t hurt either.

I plan on putting as many miles as I can through the winter on the Liscio, and keep an eye out for the full review in Bicycle Times Issue #16, on newsstands soon.

 

 

First Impression: Raleigh Roper

By Josh Patterson

My 12-mile commute to Bicycle Times HQ covers a variety of terrain: city streets, cinder paths, and chunky railroad ballast are all in a day’s ride. When Raleigh introduced the Roper and its singlespeed sibling, the Furley (Both models are named after characters in the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company.), I thought that either of these bikes could make a good daily driver. I opted to review the geared version, as there are some big hills in my ‘hood.

My first ride on the Roper was a misty morning commute to work. The bike performed well, tacking the golf ball-sized gravel with aplomb. Tire clearance isn’t massive, but I could fit 700x38c tires in the frame for my gravel adventures. The stock 700c32c tires work fine for my daily needs.

The 4130 steel frame provided a comfortable ride on the city streets, albeit not as lively as steel frames constructed with thinner-walled tubing. The Roper’s cyclocross-inspired geometry is stable and predictable, without feeling sluggish when you need to dart in and out of traffic. The Roper comes equipped with a Shimano 105 drivetrain with FSA compact cranks. A nice touch: the driveside chainstay has braze-ons for spare spokes. Also, the Roper has a BB30 bottom bracket. The singlespeed version of this bike, the Furley, takes advantage of the large diameter bottom bracket shell to use a BB30-specific eccentric bottom bracket to tension the chain.

Note to readers: We all have our biases. One of mine is that I don’t like drinking out of plastic cups, yeah, it’s weird. Another, slightly more relevant, bias of mine is disc brakes: I feel that all bikes should have them, road, mountain, or commuter. Speaking only for myself, if I were in the market for a new commuter bike I would not consider a bike without disc brakes.

The Roper uses Shimano’s R505 cable-actuated disc brakes. They were easy to setup, don’t rub and get job done without any squealing, even in the wet. Unfortunately, the combination of top-mounted brake levers and in-line barrel adjusters results in a disappointingly mushy lever feel. I’ll be removing these auxiliary levers and barrel adjusters in the near future to remedy this.

So what are my initial impressions? The Roper checks off a lot of the boxes for what I look for in a commuter: disc-equipped, able to take fenders with the stock 700x32c tires, and neutral handling characteristics.

Could the Roper be the perfect all-weather commuter? Winter’s almost here, so we’ll find out soon.

 

 

First impression: Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno

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.

 

 

Interbike 2011: SlipNot tire traction system

Chains on car and truck tires have been widely accepted for decades in colder climates, so why not bikes? Turns out, no one has made it work – until now. SlipNot uses braided steel cables and galvanized steel chain links to keep you moving in the snow. They come in two widths and are avaialbe for 26 and 29-inch tires. Retail price is $85 a pair. After a less-than-awesome experience with studded tires last winter, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing more of these in the pages of Bicycle Times.

Keep reading

It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011, including demo rides.

 

 

First Impressions: Linus Roadster 8

Linus Bikes is on a mission to provide simple, reliable bikes that take their styling clues from classic French bikes of the 1950-60s and utilitarian Dutch city bikes. According to Linus Bikes‘ founder Adam McDermott, the Roadster 8 is "an all around city bike, intended for everyday use and utility." Sounds good to me, let’s give it a whirl.

The Roadster 8 immediately struck me as an eye-pleasing blend of retro-fashion and modern-day function. The painted-to-match metal fenders, give this steed all-weather practicality, and enhance its classical aesthetics. The high-tech bits are tucked neatly inside the Shimano 8-speed Nexus hub, where they are barely noticeable yet much appreciated.

The bike’s heads-up rider position is my preferred arrangement for pedaling in traffic. Steering response is notably quick, the way it should be on a bike built for slicing through city streets. Flat pedals make it convenient to hop on and run a quick errand. Leaning on its kickstand in my basement, the Roadster 8 is not snoozing, it’s in the "ready position," awaiting our next mission.

With a single pannier snapped onto the included alloy rack, the Roadster 8 has been just the ticket for commuting to the office and back. The eight speeds have flattened the hill-climbs on my 5-mile route to Bicycle Times HQ, and the Tektro dual pivot caliper brakes have kept things under control on the downhill side. I’ve yet to utilize the Roadster 8 for a major grocery run, but that’ll come in due time.

For the $830 asking price you get a 4130 chromoly frame/fork, outfitted the aforementioned items, plus the following noteworthy touches: Schwalbe 700 x 32C Delta Cruiser tires, real leather grips, and metal bell. The Roadster 8 is made in China.

Look for my complete review in Bicycle Times Issue #14, which is scheduled to mail to subscribers and hit newsstands in November, 2011. Order a subscription today.

 


First Impressions: Bianchi Vigorelli

By Josh Patterson

I’ve spent countless hours becoming acquainted with the rural roads outside the city of Pittsburgh this summer. While I do enjoy riding in the city, it is also nice to head out on the roads less traveled. Somewhere where I don’t have to worry about traffic lights or congestion. Bianchi’s Vigorelli has been my getaway vehicle.

It’s a simple steel road bike, constructed from Reynolds tubing which provides a lively ride without unwanted flex. Sure, it’s not as light or as stiff as carbon super bikes, but I found that it is much more forgiving and fun to ride. It’s not a race bike; it’s a road bike for road riding. The Vigorelli is the top model in Bianchi’s Gran Fondo line of classic steel bikes. The company’s goal was to create bikes that are a pleasure to ride. I have to stay I think they succeeded—I have done all-day rides aboard the Vigorelli in complete comfort.

So far the Vigorelli and I are getting along quite nicely. The bike is stable without feeling sluggish and the Shimano 105 group performs without complaint. Though I do wish the Vigorelli was more capable of handling commuter duties. The fork lacks eyelets for fenders, and while the bike can accommodate a rear rack, there is no provision for securing a rear fender between the chainstays, as the Vigorelli has no chainstay bridge. While versatility is good, I can’t complain about the ride quality of this bike.

Keep reading

Look for a full review of the Vigorelli in Issue #13, on sale September 27. Order a subscription and you’ll never miss an issue.

 


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