Review: Tout Terrain Tenami Xplore

The Tout Terrain brand is really built around the open road. The bikes and their designs have evolved from first-hand experience on long distance tours and expeditions. A big brother to the classic Silk Road model with 26-inch wheels, the Tanami has 29-inch mountain bike wheels and can fit up to a 2.0 tire for flotation and comfort on bad roads and gravel. Because of the taller wheels it’s only available in sizes large and extra large. Most Tout Terrain bikes are built to order to a customer’s specifications, but you occasionally see models like our test bike pre-configured in local bike shops.

The Tanami Xplore frame is built from good ol’ steel, like a touring bike should be, in this case Dedacciai chromoly. The rear rack is welded right into the frame and rated to 88 pounds. Since it’s likely to be subjected to heavy wear, the rack is made from stainless steel, as are the dropouts and all the braze-ons. The frameset also has standard dropouts, three bottle cage mounts and mid-fork eyelets.

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As Americans we’re used to seeing drop bars on touring bikes, but in Europe it’s much more common to equip them with flat bars, a setup I prefer myself when running panniers. With the right grips and some bar end handles it’s easy to have a couple hand positions and control all that weight. Plus at touring speed it’s not like I’m in a big hurry anyway. I much prefer the upright comfort.

At the heart of the Tanami Xplore is of course the Pinion P.18 gearbox. Similar to a car or motorcycle gearbox, it houses most of the whizzy, toothy, spinning bits inside where they are protected from the elements. Tout Terrain has been building bikes around the internally geared Rohloff Speedhub for years, and the 18-speed Pinion is a natural extension of that indestructible ethos. It offers nearly all the benefits of a Rohloff hub, but with better weight distribution thanks to having the mass right at the bottom bracket. Tout Terrain also offers the standard Tanami model with the Speedhub.

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Similar to a Rohloff, the Pinion is shifted with a dual cable system, so your shifting options are limited to the factory twist shifter. The twist shift design is perfect for a transmission like this, since it can shift to any gear at any time without stopping at the gears in-between. It can also shift while stopped, which is a feature I didn’t realize how much I loved until I used it. Each shift indexes with a nice thunk, and you can upshift to a harder gear even while pedaling hard. Downshifting, on the other hand, can sometimes get hung up. I found it a bit temperamental about having to lift off the pedal pressure just right to let it shift. It often occurred when transitioning from a flat or downhill up to a steep hill, which is exactly the worst time to get stuck in gear.

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Once you get your pedal-pushing power transferred through the gearbox it’s delivered to the special rear cog via a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. The belt is a perfect companion to the gearbox, since it needs virtually zero maintenance and is built to last a long, long time. It runs smoothly and quietly, and I appreciated not having worry about getting my pants leg stained from grease too. One downside to the belt drive: If you are on tour in the middle of nowhere and have a problem with it, you’re likely going to be stuck there for a few days until the UPS carrier arrives with a replacement. A traditional bike chain can be found at any bike shop and even some big-box stores.

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At first I wasn’t sure how the proper tension was achieved on the belt, but then I realized that the entire Pinion gearbox itself pivots slightly to take up the slack. Removing the rear wheel from the vertical dropouts is simple, and you’re guaranteed the same belt tension when you reinstall it. Both front and rear wheels use traditional quick release skewers.

At this price you better expect to get some bells and whistles on the Tanami, and it includes the dynamo hub that powers an included headlight. In fact, the dynamo cable routes right through the fork leg for a clean look. Tout Terrain offers a handful of other dynamo options to suit your needs too, including integrated USB charging.

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What I’d really love to see is a center stand. The U.S. distributor of Tout Terrain, Cycle Monkey, included a carbon fiber UpStand, which attaches to a small tab at your rear hub and detaches to store on the seat tube. While it worked great when the bike was empty, a pair of full panniers were too much for its 25 gram tube. A few cool features are found hidden near the headset: a pair of bumper tabs welded into the head tube prevent the handlebars from rotating more than 90 degrees in either direction, and a small steering lock holds them in place while you’re loading and unloading the bike.

On the road the Tanami feels much like, well, a hybrid. Like many stout steel bikes, it has a smooth and planted feeling on the road. Even loaded down for a 100 mile mini-tour it never felt wobbly or uneasy. The integrated steel rack plays a big part in that.

Quirks aside the Pinion is a great system that I have no doubt would stand up to some serious abuse. Tout Terrain markets itself as a “buy it once, buy it for life” kind of brand, and with an eye-bulging price tag it’s not likely you’d be buying anything else quickly after. While the Tanami has more than enough pedigree to tackle an around-the-world expedition, I have to wonder how its lack of sex appeal will draw in American audiences. After all, our country has never been quick to embrace practicality. It’s a flawless execution of a vision, but like everything in life, you have to pay for what you get.

Price: $7,000
Sizes: L, XL (tested)
Weight: 36.5 lbs with pedals

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This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times #44. Read more reviews here and subscribe to our email newsletter to get content like this delivered weekly to directly to your inbox.

 

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Coastline Cycle Co. launches with do-it-all bike: The One

In today’s world of hyper-specialized product niches, not everything needs to be so nuanced, says Coastline Cycle Co.‘s co-founder, Chad Battistone. That’s why the new brand is launching with a single model, The One, a bike that is meant to have broad crossover appeal across multiple categories. Ride it to work, through the woods and on adventures big and small—that’s the concept.

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The purpose-built aluminum frame designed for the Gates Carbon belt drive and propulsion runs through a singlespeed or internally-geared drivetrain. The One can be spec’d with either a carbon MRP rigid fork or an MRP suspension fork, and wrapped around the 27.5 mountain bike wheels are fat, slick tires. It even has a dropper post for taking shortcuts down staircases or chilling at stop lights.

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Battistone said a lot of new cyclists are turned off by the concept of having special bikes for special needs, when all they want to do is get around. On the other hand, he hopes experienced cyclists can appreciate the value and performance of the available build kits when choosing a bike for daily transportation. There are no model years so you’ll never feel like your bike is obsolete.

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Prices for the five model variations range from $950 to $2,350. The brand has launched with a crowdfunding program with special offers too.

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First Impressions: Faraday Porteur

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The Faraday is a sophisticated city bike with the classic posture of an English 3-speed blended with the modernist design of the Dutch Vanmoof. With its Gates Carbon Belt Drive and Shimano Alfine 8 internally geared hub, it is a super low maintenance machine designed to get you from A to B in style.

Oh, and it has a motor.

Yes, the Faraday is an e-bike, though you might not notice at first glance. Born here in Portland from a team of industrial designers who wanted to make the ultimate city bike, Faraday first enlisted the help of master framebuilder Paul Sadoff, better known as the guy behind Rock Lobster Cycles. The prototype was entered in the 2011 edition of the Oregon Manifest challenge where it collected the People’s Choice award. The team wanted to give the people what they wanted, so they launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2012 that was fully funded within a week and went on to nearly double its initial target.

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That capital led to the bike you see here. Available in three sizes, it sells for $3,499 as pictured, with accessories like a frame-mounted basket, a rear rack, secure axle nuts and more extras (each sold separately). You can custom spec a Faraday just as you’d like it on the Faraday website, then have it delivered ready-to-ride to your nearest dealer.

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The steel frame houses a 250Wh lithium-ion battery inside the downtube, though it was originally designed to fit inside the second top tube. The motor is a 250 watt unit at the front hub, which allows the rest of the bike to use conventional, off-the-shelf parts.

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The battery is not designed to be removed, though it can be if it needs servicing. This means you don’t have the ability to take the battery with you to charge it while the bike is parked somewhere else. A full charge takes approximately three hours. The charger attaches to the gray box at the rear of the bike, which houses the “brain” of the system. Holding down the button turns the bike on, and powers the full-time LED headlight and taillight.

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The thumb switch controls the power boost, with three settings: off / low / high. Next to the thumb switch is the LED battery indicator light, which is fairly difficult to see (and photograph) during the day and impossible to see at night.

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At 42 pounds, the Faraday isn’t the massive tank that many other e-bikes can be. In fact, I’ve been riding it quite a bit with everything turned off and it gets along just fine. On terrain that is flat or even remotely downhill, I switch off the motor to conserve the battery.

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This is my first time commuting on an e-bike and I am completely smitten by the Faraday’s ability to get me where I want to go with minimal fuss. I think I’m going to have a hard time returning it when I must.

Keep an eye out for the full, long-term review in a future issue of Bicycle Times. If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, order a subscription today.

 

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Shop Window: German Tout Terrain bikes coming to the U.S.

Richmond, CA Cycle Monkey has announced U.S. distribution of Tout Terrain, a German maker of high-end city and expedition touring bikes, suspended trailers for children and cargo, and Cinq5 components line.

The Silkroad model is a rugged touring bike forming the flagship of the Expedition line for round-the-world touring. It features Dedacciai tubing, 26” wheels, an integrated stainless steel rack, steering stop, Rohloff and Gates Carbon Drive compatibility, and dynamo light wire routing. It is available with a flat bar (standard) or drop bar (GT version).

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The 5th Avenue model is the 700c-wheeled version of the Silkroad that caters to the interests of many North American tourists. The fully kitted Silkroad and 5th Avenue models with Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 hub and Gates Carbon Drive belt retails for $5,715 with Gold-level build kit or $4,999 for the Silver-level option. Options are available with Rohloff hubs and chain drive, derailleurs, and Pinion gear boxes with belt or chain.

In addition to the flagship loaded touring models, Tout Terrain also offers a Trekking line geared toward commuting and shorter bike trips with many of the same features as the Expedition series at a lower price point. This line offers design features focused on the daily commuter, with racking accessories. The Metropolitan and Via Veneto are the 26”/700c trekking models, respectively, with step-through frames available in most sizes, as well as the same drivetrain options plus the Shimano Alfine hubs with belts or chains.

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The Tout Terrain Urban line includes the Chiyoda and The City II 26”/700c models, which represent a line of sleek, stripped down bikes for around town or fitness riding, and their X.Over line is intended for bike packing, with the same drivetrain options available here as with the Trekking models.

“Bringing the full Tout Terrain line to the US will make it easier for cyclists to get a hold of these class-leading bikes” said Jim Glose, Sales Director for Cycle Monkey. “Bikepacking, touring, and expedition cycling are a fast growing segment of the cycling industry right now. Offering the quality and experience of Tout Terrain, coupled with Cycle Monkey’s expertise with Rohloff and belt drive, will enable dealers to answer this demand with solid technical support from the start.”

 

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Ask Beardo: Belt Drives

Dear Beardo,

I’ll cut to right to the chase; you seem like a busy man. Should I buy a belt drive bike?

Peace out,
Gerard Neyhantor
Janesville, Wisconsin

Gerard,

A belt versus a chain. Good question. At least I assume belt versus chain. Maybe you could be looking at a shaft drive? I don’t know. Maybe I should stop looking at Honda CX500s on Craigslist.

Beardo Belt DrivesMy friend, the humble chain is an amazing device. It’s lightweight. It’s field repairable. It’s hugely efficient. It can be lengthened or shortened to different gearing combos. It’s surprisingly happy getting pushed around from gear to gear with the arcane derailleur mechanisms. And for something with so many moving parts, and so many fasteners, a chain is super cheap.

Those are some of the many reason the chain is still the dominant system to transfer the power of our legs to the contact patch of our rear tires. But they are not without fault. They wear out in a few thousand miles. They break. They need regular cleaning and lubrication. They get dirty and nasty and stain your favorite chinos.

But belts. Belts have a long history of transferring power as well. Pop open the hood of your car. Look around inside. Depending on the age of your automobile, you might have a buncha belts to run lots of things like your AC, and the thing that makes enough power to keep your portable Internet device charged up. Or you might have a single serpentine belt that runs around a buncha different pulleys to run the whole mess of stuff, including the gadget that allows you to steer your car without the forearms of Popeye.

But better yet, go to a “Bike Nite” at your local watering hole, and wander around the parked motorcycles. You won’t look sketchy at all, and no one will accost you for eyeballing their precious iron horse (is that a term anyone uses any more? I just remember seeing that magazine at the newsstand as a kid and being both attracted and repulsed at the same time).

If your local bikers are not a buncha lame-os on metric cruisers, you’re bound to see some belts there, as both primary and secondary drives. Rarely both though. Why? I don’t know. I want a CX500, remember? The shaft-driven choice of the London motorcycle courier.

What does all this have to do with your choice of a belt on a bicycle? Maybe I’m saying a belt is also a proven way to transfer power. And the belt has advantages as well. It’s clean. Quiet. Needs no lubrication. Lasts a damn long time.

Drawbacks? Expensive. Limited cog sizes. Gotta run a single speed or an internally geared hub. Needs a way to separate the rear triangle to install. Can be mishandled and weakened. No way to repair, in the field or at home. Different belts needed for different gear combos. Requires high tension to prevent slipping. Can get noisy when dry and dusty, although can be cured with a quick water bottle rinse. Everything is about compromise, my man. Everything.

It is up to you to decide what is most important about your cycling experience. Maybe you’d never fix your own chain and want to keep your Brooks Brothers slacks looking good. That belt drive is looking pretty darn good for you. Maybe you only wear dark blue Dickies and have managed to fix a broken chain with two rocks and a bad attitude. Why mess with success? Keep that chain drive!

All I know for sure is you shouldn’t spend a lot of time obsessing over it. The worst thing you can do is compromise time you could have spent riding obsessing over drivetrain choices or ’80s shaft drive motorcycles on the Internet.

Beardo’s no Luddite; in fact, he just got dial-up and has his own email address: askbeardo@bicycletimesmag.com. He loves bikes and movie references. Ask him anything, ANYTHING, and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.


This Q&A originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #36. Support your favorite independent cycling magazine and order a subscription today. Beardo is counting on you.

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Gates introduces ‘Carbon Drive Red’ belt

Painted chains have been part of urban bike style for many years, but the color quickly wears off and disappears under road grime. The new limited-edition Gates Carbon Drive Red, by contrast, will always pop with color. If it gets dirty, just hose it off.

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According to the company, customers have asked for colored bike belts since the launch of the Gates Carbon Drive system in 2007, but the company instead focused on perfecting the technology, durability and performance of its black belts before expanding into colors. “As an engineering company, our first focus was on the meat and potatoes business of ensuring that our belts and sprockets meet the highest levels of performance and durability,” said Todd Sellden, director of Gates Carbon Drive. “Now it is time to bring the sizzle.”

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Carbon Drive Red is available immediately in the United States for purchase as a belt only or on a complete bike. The first production bikes to feature the new red belts are the Acme and Acme Open models from Spot Brand (above). Carbon Drive Red launches in Europe on March 1 with the release of the Red Race singlespeed from Berlin’s Schindelhauer Bikes. Individual red belts will be available for purchase in Europe after April 1.

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Gates also partnered with Flying Machine Bikes in Australia (check out its custom titanium F-One 11-speed with 3D printed titanium lugs and red accents, above). Budnitz Bicycles built a Gates X No. 1 city cruiser inspired by the Porsche 918 Spyder (below).

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“Carbon Drive Red is an opportunity to grow interest in Gates belts as a simple alternative to chains, and also to attract more people to bicycling,” Sellden said. “Carbon Drive Red is the epitome of bike style and a bold alternative to greasy chains.”

 

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