Tag Archives: SPD

There is a New Bike in the Garage

After much deliberation and the uncovering of a sweet deal at a Performance Bike retail location I have a new bike in my garage:

IMG_1408

It’s a Breezer Radar Expert.  All in, I picked it up for a little over $600 which seems like a steal compared to bikes I have bought in the past.  If you are a cyclist from the 1990s, especially a mountain biker, spending just north of six hundred dollars for a bicycle that is reliable and competent seems amazing.  I remember there being component groups that were cobbled together and barely worked when new let alone a few months down the road.

Also, if you are a historian of the bicycle industry the name Breezer should be familiar.  Joe Breeze, the name behind Breezer, was one of the founding fathers of mountain biking along with other luminaries like Gary Fisher.  The company that makes Breezer bikes today is not the same bespoke operation from the 1970s through 1990s, but it retains some of the mystique.

It checks off almost every criteria I had for a new bicycle:

  1. Steel frame—This is a personal preference. I ride steel bicycles.
  2. Disc brakes—One nod to modernity. One ride on a friend’s disc equipped bike converted me in an instant.  One ride in inclement weather with finicky cantilevers made me actively seek out a replacement for the dirt wagon.
  3. External headset—Chris King had a famous online post about why integrated headsets were essentially the devil reincarnated as a bicycle design trend. The world seems to be going to integrated and zero stack systems despite the proven longevity and maintainability of good ol’ external headsets.  Plus, is there a cooler looking component than a Chris King headset?
  4. Threaded bottom bracket shell—You can take your creaky press fit bottom bracket and enjoy the disharmonious symphony on group rides. I will take my old school threaded bottom bracket shell and its quiet labor any day of the week.
  5. Non-integrated seatpost binder—This seems like a trivial bit of frame design, but dealing with problems related to integrated binder bolts will drive even the most patient person to question the very nature of their existence. If the non-integrated seatpost binder starts giving you trouble just replace the damn thing.  Five minutes of work and no frustration.

The components are nothing special—Shimano Sora all the way around with some OEM wheels, WTB tires, SRAM crank, etc.  However, for a little more than $600 I am on the road riding which is in the neighborhood of what I was looking at spending on a frame and fork combo.  Sure, the frame is not as good as the model I was considering purchasing.  How great of a difference would it have been and would I have noticed?

Now I am able to upgrade the bits on the bike on my schedule.  This equates to buying the upgrades when I find them on sale and replacing components piece meal.  Thankfully most bikes these days do not spec pedals because it is such a personal choice.  I usually go with Shimano M520s.  I think that for an average price of around $30 you cannot go wrong.  However, for Christmas I was gifted a pair of Shimano PD-M8020s which are normally outside of my price range.  I am fairly stoked about the stainless axle and bearings that can be replaced because I have chewed through bearings on the M520s.

One change that I made immediately was to swap out the stock bar for a Salsa Cowchipper 44cm from my previous gravel bike.  The stock bar was quite narrow owing to the smaller frame size and not compatible with my broad shoulders.  I am giving the drop bar a second chance since the geometry of this bike is much less aggressive and I feel that it will put less stress of my hands.  Also, I put gel vibration pads under a cushy EVA bar tape to hopefully help out with some of the hand pain issues that I was having on longer rides.

Today was the first day that I have gotten out to ride and…it hurt.  I also forgot how much work it is to dial in a new bike.  It is going to take a few rides just to feel comfortable on the new bike but it is close as is right now.  A more comprehensive report is forthcoming.

Get out there and ride!

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There’s a New Ride in the House

I came home one Friday night after my daughter’s swim lessons to discover a box waiting for me in the entryway:

Bike Box

Given how crappy the past six or so months have been—coping with my father’s suicide and the daily dealing with of estate details—my family members got together and decided to surprise with a new bicycle.

Why? Because my attachment to my long-time bicycle is legend. Anyone who has owned a bicycle and ridden it for more than a decade can attest that it becomes part of your personality. You unconsciously understand the little squeaks and creaks from the frame. You instantly slide into a comfortable position and can ride for hours without much consternation.

There comes a moment, however, when it comes time to retire the old friend and I did not have the heart to do it myself. I probably should have hung up the Bontrager a few years earlier, but I kept it moving down the trail with a lot of TLC and some new parts. At the end of last summer I could tell that it was going to need a complete rebuild of the drivetrain because some of the parts were still original. Yes, it has a pair of nearly twenty year old derailleurs.

My wife could see me toggling between screens of components and pages with complete bicycles at night after the kids were put to bed, but I would never pull the trigger on either. A complete rebuild of the drivetrain was going to be expensive and a new bike seemed like treason. I think she got sick of me spending so much time on indecision and collaborated with her mother to execute a plan.

Inside was this red beauty:

New Bike

It is a steel cyclocross bike from Nashbar.

As loyal readers will know I noticed a problem immediately after unboxing; one of the Shimano 105 STI levers was broken. For those of you familiar with STI levers will know, if something goes wrong it is usually a complete replacement. Even if it is just a nickel’s worth of plastic. Dumb. Nashbar was most excellent and sent me a replacement lever lickety split.

It’s a steel bike. I am not a retro-grouch or cro-mo curmudgeon, but I prefer to ride steel bikes. I have an aluminum Gary Fisher Big Sur set up for singletrack. It’s not a bike that I could ever really get used to riding over the long haul. I cannot speak to exotic materials like carbon fiber or titanium because my budget has never allowed me or I have never allowed myself to spend that kind of money on two wheeled transportation.

It’s also a fairly yeoman’s setup in terms of components. The critical bits are Shimano’s 105 value gruppo. Bicyclists are a bling obsessed lot and Shimano 105 is not a bling gruppo. No one gets excited about Shimano 105. You can, however, put mile after mile of trouble free cycling on these components and not be out an arm, leg, and lots of donated plasma when something finally goes tits up. Except for the god damned STI levers which retail for like $200. What a joke.

The wheelset is no-name hubs laced to Alex DC19 rims shod in Kenda Kwik 32C rubber. Having not put many miles on the bike yet I cannot speak to the durability or ride quality of the wheels. I do not have my hopes set very high as most OEM wheels are uninspiring at best. This is one of those upgrades where I wait until the end of the season to snag a nice wheelset on the cheap as stocks are cleared in anticipation of next year’s fancy gear. An upgrade is an upgrade whether it’s this year’s model or next.

It did not come with pedals. I am a mountain biker at heart, so mountain-style SPD pedals are the name of the game for me. I am also cheap. I use Shimano SPD M520 pedals exclusively. You can get a pair for anywhere between $25 and $50. It is almost impossible to beat the performance at that price. In all my years of riding I have had zero problems with these pedals.

The critical feature of this bike, for me, is that the headset and bottom bracket are the more standard type as opposed to internal headsets or BB30 like bottom bracket solutions. It might seem silly, but I agree with Chris King’s perception of the flaws with internal headsets. I plan on upgrading my headset to a Chris King NoThreadSet over the winter. There is no finer component on the market.

Before my first ride I also changed out the no-name OEM saddle for a Selle Anatomica Titanico X, of which I will write about at a later date, and re-wrapped the bars with a less corky/foamy bar tape. The bar tape that comes on bikes is absolutely awful.

Here is to a season of great rides.

Friday Linkage 7/27/2012

Some storms moved through the area on Wednesday night/Thursday morning and the temperatures went from above 100 degrees to a manageable 85 or so by Friday.  It is amazing how people’s mood changes when the temperature drops from the triple digits.  Everyone is a little less edgy right now.

On to the links…

Veganism by the Numbers—Let’s start the ball rolling with a good ol’ infographic:

Any Shoe Can be Clipless—Retrofitz has developed a system to seemingly turn any show into a clipless compatible shoe.  All right!  Maybe now I can finally fulfill my vision of SPD Chacos.

What to Buy for $5.63 in a New York Bodega—Anyone who has ever spent any time in New York City has run across the peculiar institution of the bodega.  A cross between a meeting place, restaurant, grocery store, and whatever else the owner can cram into an impossibly small place the bodega is also a place where one can indulge in junk food fantasies.

The Hidden Cost of Cheap Lobster—Looks like climate change is affecting the lobster catch in several ways.  Maybe Mitt Romney will finally get concerned when his lobster dinner is imperiled.  Probably not.

Good Eggs is the Etsy for Local Foodies—I like the concept, but I feel this is one of those ideas that will not scale beyond its hipster roots.  I do not know, I probably said the same thing about Etsy as well.

Norway Cuts Palm Oil Use 64%–Why is cutting palm oil use so important?  Because the rain forests in southeast Asia are being clear cut for palm plantations to feed to modern world’s voracious appetite for this particular fat.

Quebec City Orders Front Yard Garden Removed—Is this not one of the best looking gardens you have seen in a long time:

Why would any city official want it torn out and replaced with a monoculture of grass?

One of Denmark’s Oldest Eco Villages—Why does Treehugger taunt me with slideshows of these communities that I would so like to live in?  It’s a cruel world.

How to Rebuild the Mississippi Delta—The destruction of the Mississippi Delta is one of the late-20th Century’s environmental catastrophes that no one ever seems to talk about.  It looks like a strategic rethinking of how the entire system operates could recover some of what has been lost.

Will Falling Renewable Energy Prices do in Fracking?—This is one of those “I hope so” type of moments.  The tipping point for renewables—where the installed cost per watt is low enough to compete with cheaper forms of subsidized fossil fuels—has been rumored to be on the horizon for years.  I think we have finally seen enough installations of all types to show that the numbers now back up this belief.

Strong Storms Threaten Ozone over the U.S.—It looks like the news just keeps getting better and better with regard to climate change’s effects.  First it’s a mega drought.  Now, the ozone layer is under threat.

Fuel Economy in U.S. Hits New High in First Half of 2012—It looks like, on average, Americans are finally purchasing more fuel efficient cars and trucks.  It’s a long way from real victory when I consider how many full size trucks I see in the parking lot at work, but it’s a start.

And by the way, Herman Cain is still an ass.