Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vienna Deluxe, by Specialized

Remember the S.A.T.? Trek is to Coke as Specialized is to Pepsi. Just as good. Maybe better. But not quite as popular.

The Vienna series is Specialized Bicycle Compenents' Bike For The Rest Of Us, and it's a good'er. The base model is the Vienna 1, offering:
  • A relaxed but sporty riding position,
  • More gears than you'll ever need,
  • Full fenders,
  • Rear carrier,
  • Bell (of course),
  • Kickstand, and
  • Front and rear lights, powered by a dynamo hub!
The dynamo hub is part of the front wheel, and contains a small electric generator that powers the headlight and taillight. No batteries needed, ever. No more taking-your-lights-with-you-so-they-don't-get-stolen. No more stolen lights becasue you forgot to take them with you. No more stolen lights at all! The taillight has a stand-light, which means that even when you stop, the light will stay on for several minutes. This is handy when you stop for traffic lights and stop-signs... You do stop for those, don't you?

Here is the step-through version:

I think it's got nice lines. The "diamond-frame" version too, which is distinctly not diamond-shaped, has a fine aesthetic sensibility. I'll stick with "relaxed but sporty."

If you've got the dough, the Vienna Deluxe 3 is a terrific upgrade. The biggest change is that the external drive-train of the Deluxe 1 is replaced by a Shimano 8-speed internal gear-hub. You don't have as many gears, but you DO have a virtually maintenance-free gear system with enough gears for almost any purpose, a single shifter you can use anytime (stopped, coasting, or pedalling), and a full-coverage chaingaurd. Other upgrades include:
  • Puncture resistant tires with reflective sidewalls, very cool,
  • A slightly nicer saddle, maybe some other bits here and there, and
  • Double wall rims.
Teachable moment!

Here's the difference between a single wall rim and a double wall rim:

On the left, single wall.
On the right, double wall.
On the left, weak.
On the right, strong.

A Big-Box Bike

Should this bike be listed on BFROU?
Open for comment...

I generally do not advise people to purchase bicycles from big-box or department stores. These stores generally suffer the following disadvantages, when compared to independent bicycle dealers (aka local bike shops):
  1. Poorly designed products,
  2. Poorly assembled and adjusted products,
  3. No service agreement,
  4. Poor warranty support, and
  5. No staff-people trained in bike fitting or selection,
The bike below is not poorly designed, and can be purchased at a well-known big-box store for $132. Of course, Problems (2) through (5) still apply. 

The $132 bike
If you do buy one, I strongly advise you to take it immediately to a local bike shop for a tune-up. When properly adjusted, even a bike of this quality (that is, not good quality), can get you where you need to go. The tune-up will bring the total cost to about $200, but that's still less expensive than most bikes at independent bike dealers. 

Be forewarned

90+ % of buyers will pay more in the long run. Here's why: the low quality parts are harder to adjust, come out of adjustment easily, and wear out faster than nicer ones. So...
  • If things are not adjusted correctly, it's not as fun to ride, and you won't ride, and then you will still drive and pay for gas and parking, gym membership, etc.
  • If you do ride, and get into it, you'll need to replace parts sooner than you would have on a better bike, and these costs will quickly make up the difference in price between the $132 bike and a $400 bike.

You're Reading The (2nd) Best Local Bike Blog

According to City Paper, this is D.C.'s second best bike blog. Here's the City Paper write-up, which includes some great quotes from David:



TheWashCycle scours local media for news of interest to cyclists.

Bikes for the Rest of Us tries to get you riding, and not just for fun.

“For too long, the US bicycle industry has made the tacit assumption that bicycling is a recreational or fitness activity,” David Moskovitz, 35, one of the site’s authors, writes in an e-mail. “The needs and desires of the person who uses a bike to get around town are very different.”

To that end, Bikes for the Rest of Us periodically presents a new bike model, running down its utility-cycling bona fides: racks, fenders, chainguards — basically anything that makes a bike useful instead of fast.

“Tell interested non-cyclists that they need special clothes and shoes to take a ten mile ride on a Sunday afternoon, and see how many takers you get,” says Moskovitz. “[F]irst we have to get them on the bikes. We can worry about the stuff later.”

—Andrew Beaujon

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kogswell P/R

Kogswell sells its porteur/raddoneur (P/R) frameset, which includes the frame, fork, and fenders (painted to match the frame), headset and seatpost for $600.

Here's how Kogswell decribes the P/R:

The best all-rounder ever.

This is not a racing bike. Because you don't have a support car. And it isn't a mountain bike. But it can do everything else brilliantly. You can commute on it. You can use it as a light or loaded tourist. It handles anything that even remotely looks like a road. And it does it all with comfort, safety, speed and fun.

We didn't design it. We copied it. It's based on a French newspaper delivery bike. Porteurs, the men and women who shuttled papers, flew through the streets of Paris on bikes like these.

The tubing is ECO double-butted chromoly steel, TIG-welded, with braze-ons for pump-pegs, 3 bottle-holders, rear rack, and of course fender mounts.

Kogswell has a bit of a cult following, so you'll find plenty of info and pics on the bike blogs and elsewhere. Here's a sampling:

The Daily Randonneur: My Kogswell P/R Initial Build

Cyclofiend: Elias Grey

Cyclofiend: Nate's bike

Cycling Spokane: Alex's Kogswell P/R

Phred's Blog: Alex's Kogswell

Bike 2 Work 2 Live: Reviewing the Kogswell P/R

Cycloculture: An interview with Kogswell's Matthew Grimm

How 'bout it?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trek Allant and Allant WSD

MSRP: $540.
  • It's got comfortable handlebars, swept back to provide an upright position.

  • It's got a comfy saddle, pretty wide. Wouldn't want it any wider, it would weigh a ton.

  • Fenders, elegantly painted to match, providing dignified protection from mud-splattered-on-the-back-of-your-shirt-and-in-your-crotch. No one likes that.

  • Carriers, black in back for him*, green in front for her**. Why is one in back and the other in front? I don't know.

  • A Bell! Look, no one knows what "On your left," means, and no one likes saying it at the volume required to make it heard. Also, it only works on multi-use trails, which represent 0.01% of bicycle-legal conveyances in the United States.***

  • It's got plenty of gears, as many as you'll ever need. (21 if you have to ask.)
What could be better? The little front rack really should have a basket, but that's easy to remedy. These are great bikes, and they're really cute.

In the US, Trek is the Coke of bicycles. There's a Pepsi, a Royal Crown, some generic brands, and lots of local micro-brews, but then there's Trek. It's true they had humble beginnings, but that's true for most of us. It's also true that they've accomplished a great deal, not the least of which was supporting a cyclist recovering from cancer after he'd been left for dead by his former team.

Trek makes a lot of bikes. Unfortunately, as recently as 2004 NOT even ONE Trek sold in the US was an off-the-shelf vehicle for practical transportation.

Something must have been happening below the surface, because in 2007 Trek CEO John Burke gave a fairly rousing speech, and initiated a bicycle advocacy campaign called 1 World, 2 Wheels. (When you're done here, please go to 1 World, 2 Wheels and listen to his talk, it's worth it.)

Mr. Burke clearly knows who puts the butter on his bread, but he also appears to know that unless transportation culture in the US begins to change, (a) many of his customers will be run off the road by people driving Hummer H-7s, and (b) it's going to be hard to ride bicycles in America's coastal cities when they're under water. In other words:

The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems.
That is Trek's tag line for 1 World, 2 Wheels, and for the Allant. What's the big deal about this bike? Nothing, and that's the point. Just get on and ride.
* Sometimes called a "boy's bike," the black Allant has what should really be called a diamond frame. Sometimes people try to be egalitarian and say Unisex frame. I find it hard to say Unisex without sounding like an idiot. I keep thinking, I don't know what a Unisex is, and I don't think I want to know. We could refer to diamond frames as normal, but that implies that other designs are abnormal, and ends up creating all kinds of problems. Here's the facts, Jack: both men and women can and do ride diamond frame bicycles. 

** Sometimes called a "girl's bike," the green Allant WSD has what is known as a step-through frame. Both men and women can and do ride step-through bicycles. The WSD anagram stands for "Woman-Specific Design," so it's possible/likely that men won't fit the step-through version very well. This isn't because it has a step-through frame however--it is the result of several other design features. Follow this link to find out more about WSD.

*** Multi-use trials are sometimes mistakenly called bike paths. Bike path is not correct terminology. This is important, because bicyclists must yield to pedestrians and equestrians on these trails, always.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Handsome Devil

If you were going to build your own BFROU, what would you use as your muse?

The guys at Handsome Cycles could not have made a more inspired choice when they modeled their frameset, coming out in April, after the Bridgestone XO-1.

If you’re not familiar with the Bridgestone XO-1, or the cult following that Bridgestone bikes had and still has, then you can catch up on bike history over on Sheldon Brown’s website: Bridgestone Bikes; What the hell is a BOB?

For our purposes, it’s enough to know that Bridgestone put out high quality bikes from 1984 to 1994 and that the XO-1, which came out in the early 90’s, was one of Bridgestone’s finest and most versatile bikes.

Now, back to Handsome Cycles... they are producing a steel frameset made from 4130 double-butted steel that has braze-ons for racks and fenders and can take wide tires. With the frameset, you can build the bike of your dreams... it could be a touring bike or could take advantage of the horizontal dropouts and go fixed. The projected price is $379 for the frame and fork.

Handsome Cycle’s website reads like a BFTROU rant:

Our affinity for classic lines is borne out of an appreciation for Bridgestone Bicycles, circa late 1980’s through the mid 1990’s. At the time, no other manufacturer presented such well thought out designs to the American market. For the past 15 years, while the machinations of the bicycle industry’s marketing juggernaut have largely led consumers down a wayward path of lightweight nonsense and unrealistic materials, we have remained ardent supporters of sensible design and versatility.

There’s already a lot of buzz about the Handsome Devil on bike blogs:



Urban Velo

Can the Handsome Devil live up to its hype?

Friday, March 20, 2009

U-District, from Torker

Looking again at the Torker website, I noticed another BFROU, well, some of us. Here it is:

MSRP $349!

This is Torker's bid to cash in on the too-cool-for-school fixie clique. All the social politics aside, this looks like an inexpensive bike that is probably still quite functional and fun-to-ride. 

Torker bikes are distributed by a ubiquitous national distributor, so any shop can order them for you. Most shops already have open accounts with the distributor, so it shouldn't be a huge problem. Of course, any shop would prefer to sell you something they have on hand--it's just business, and the bike biz has slender margins--but I think it's ok to press gently, especially if you are a regular customer. Let's get back on the topic at hand...

The U-District seems tailored to the DC crowd, since U Street is a once-and-again famous DC landmark, and because the Chocolate City is one of the few Districts in the country. I don't know if there are any other official Districts at all. I'm sure some kind reader will let us all know.

The U-District offers basic transportation, quickish handling, and non-descript, only-slightly-stupid, fixed-gear-track-bike-styling.
The retail price listed in Austin, TX, is $349. If you can get that price for this bike, assembled professionally by your local bike shop, that's a deal! If they tack on a build fee, since it's not a bike they typically stock, maybe you'll pay $400. It's still a deal, and it's a much better choice, in my opinion, than getting a schmancy "custom" $350 fixie from say, It's nothing personal, here's how it breaks down:

They BOTH have:
  • Dual purpose rear hub for fixed gear or freewheel use,
  • Front and rear brakes,
  • Hi-tensile steel fork, (...chromoly would be better...)
  • Generic parts in most other places, such as adjustable-bearing hubs, stem, etc.
Here are the differences (the winner in bold font):
  • Bling factor: SURPRISE! [Torker: black is always in fashion] v. [Republic: you'll think you look like one of those cool-kid couriers, but they'll all be laughing at you behind you back, seriously]
  • Company: [Torker: around since at least 1977, operates through independent bicycle dealers (IBDs)] v. [Republic: not sure, no way to trace, buyer beware, slender return policy]
  • Hidden Costs: [Torker: the bike will be assembled and adjusted by your local shop] v. [Republic: requires assembly and adjustment, so you'll end up at your local shop anyway, handing over some bread] Warranty issues are also a PINA with mail-order companies. I think they count on it being more trouble than it's worth, and it often is. Torker's warranty works through local shops, so there's a person to look you in the eye, and a reputation to keep!
  • Frame sizes: THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Game's over, I could just stop right here... [Torker: 44, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56] v. [Republic: 52, 54, 59]
The Torker has good frame sizes to fit folks who are between ~ 5'-0" and ~ 6'-0". The lowest stand-over height is 72.5 cm (28.5 inches). The distance from saddle to H-bar is determined mostly by the "length" of the frame (aka top tube length). On the U-District these vary from 518mm to 594mm, in proportion to the frame size and stand-over height. Likewise, the U-District's angles change through the size range, as is appropriate for a reasonably designed frame.
Republic theoretically has sizes to fit folks between ~ 5'-6" and ~ 6'-2", but the top tube lengths are 535mm, 540mm, and 540mm, and the angles are all the same! Tall folks are likely to feel cramped, and have significant toe-front wheel overlap. Changing to a longer stem can do only so much. A reasonable fit can probably only be found for folks shorter than 5'-10".
  • Frame: [Torker: Chromoly main frame] v. [Republic: all hi-tensile]
  • Frame attachment points for rack and fenders: [Torker: YES] v. [Republic: no]
  • Enough room for fenders and/or wider tires: [Torker: YES, comes w/700x28 tires] v. [Republic: no, comes w/700x23]
  • Crankset: [Torker: not sure] v. [Republic: Sugino]
  • Pedals: [Torker: plastic] v. [Republic: alloy]
  • Spokes: [Torker: stainless steel] v. [Republic: not sure]
  • Rims: [Torker: Alex double-wall aluminum] v. [Republic: no idea]
  • Brakes: [Torker: ok, not great] v. [Republic: dual pivot, but unknown quality] No winner
  • Seatpost: [Torker: straight post w/ separate clamp] v. [Republic: single-bolt adjustment]
  • Chain: I've seen multiple reports of chains breaking on Republic Bike bikes, but I have no experience with them myself.
The winner: the U-DISTRICT, from Torker.
You know why:
  • You get what you pay for, most of the time;
  • There's no free lunch, ever; and
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
What you might save by going online for you bike or bike bits, you will likely end up spending anyway on unexpected issues. Republic had to cut costs somewhere, and we just don't know exactly where. The sad truth is that neither riding bikes, liking bikes, nor selling bikes is enough to ensure honesty and integrity. You'll be better off giving you business to the local shop initially. They know you can get stuff online for less, so they know you're choosing them, and appreciate it, even if they seem grumpy sometimes. 

Aside #1
I'm a bit concerned that Trek will bring wrath and vengeance on Torker. Trek has been working on a fairly swanky fixed gear bike called the District (we posted about it a while back). The District arrival date seems to be getting further away rather than closer, however. A rabid District fan started an independent (really?) blog called, where you can go for unofficial (really?) info. Any-who, the U-District is a different animal, and less than half the price. 

Aside #2
A reader found a shop in Austin, TX, that has a posted a list of retail prices for the whole Torker line-up. The T-300 that I wrote about a few weeks back is listed at $379.00, which sounds like a deal.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Jamis Sputnik

The 2009 Jamis Sputnik, available at City Bikes for $900.

In looking over Urban Velo's list of 2009 single speeds, the Sputnik was left out. That's too bad, because the bike is a standout. The frame is made from Reynolds 631 tubing, and it has braze-ons for bottle-holders, fenders, and racks. Weighing in at 18.9 pounds, the Sputnik appears to be both fast and practical.

2009 Specs

Frame: Reynolds 631 seamless air-hardened chromoly main tubes featuring SST tubing diameters, double tapered heat-treated cromo stays, lost wax rear entry dropouts w/one eyelet

Fork: Full carbon composite road fork with forged alloy dropouts

Headset: Ritchey LB A headset,1 1/8”

Wheels: Alex DA22 rims, 32H, Formula alloy sealed track hubs, flip/flop rear

Tires: Vittoria Zaffiro, 700 x 23c

Chain: KMC Z510H

Cassette: Formula 16T fixed & 16T freewheel
Crankset: FSA Vero forged alloy single 46T, 170mm (50/53), 172.5mm (55/57), 175mm (59/62)

BB Set: FSA Powerdrive, 68 x 108mm

Pedals: N/A

Brakeset: Tektro R530 forged alloy dual pivot brakes with R200 aero levers

Handlebar: Ritchey Comp Road, 26.0mm x 400mm (50), 420mm (53/55), 440mm (57/59/62)

Stem: Ritchey Road Comp, 6˚ x 90mm (50/53), 100mm (55/57), 120mm (59/62)

Grips: Jamis gel tape

Seat Post: Ritchey Road Comp, 250mm x 27.2mm, with alloy clamp

Saddle: Selle San Marco Ponza Lux

Sizes: 50, 53, 55, 57, 59, 62cm

Color: Ano Black

Weight: 18.90 lbs


NAHBS 2009

Would you like to see lots of pictures of beautiful bikes? Are you nodding yes? Then check out Jim Thill's flickr set from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.