Friday, January 29, 2010

Electra Ticino

These have been mentioned here before, but I saw them in person for the first time last week, and I can't not mention them again...

Every bike in the Ticino series, by Electra Bicycle Company, is lovely and practical and elegant. I really can't say anything about them without sounding like a 13-year-old girl at the opening night of Twilight, but Edward Cullen's got nuthin' on this.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rivendell Atlantis

Rivendell makes high-end lugged steel bikes designed for the rest of us. The Atlantis, for example, has a wide tire clearance (35mm or wider) and can be used for loaded touring, trail riding, and commuting. Rivendell claims “you can do anything on an Atlantis.” The Atlantis frame, fork, and headset go for about $2,000, but the total cost depends on how you get it set up.

Rivendell is the brainchild of Grant Petersen, who previously was with Bridgestone Bicycles until its demise in the mid-90s. The Atlantis is the lineal descendent of the much-acclaimed Bridgestone XO-1.

You can get an Atlantis set up with mustache bars, the way the XO-1 was, or with drop bars. Basically, Rivendell will work with you to build the bike you want.

Check out Kevin's Atlantis at Chasing Mailboxes.

If you own an Atlantis or other Rivendell product, leave a comment and let us know what your experience has been like.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sheldon Brown and Grant Petersen

Long before there was a blog called "Bikes For The Rest Of Us," there were advocates for the types of bicycles that we promote here. I think the two most prominent were the late, great Sheldon Brown and the iconoclast Grant Petersen.

You want to hear an informative discussion about bikes for the rest of us? Listen to this conversation between Sheldon and Grant at the 2005 Interbike show.

Here's a brief excerpt:

Grant: "I think the worst thing that's happening in bicycles these days and it's been happening for years is using racing and competition bicycles to sell bicycles to people who are not going to do that.

I mean, it wouldn't happen in cars. You don't see people driving around in cars that people race on the dragstrip or in NASCAR cars but that's the kind of bike that people get on and ride. It's not a practical bike for everyday living...."

Monday, January 25, 2010

What is an Upright Ride and Where Can I Get One?

Finding a riding position that works for you is mostly an exercise of trial and error. It's mainly a matter of preference and there are no hard and fast rules; however, there are riding positions that work better for particular situations. 

Road bikes typically have their handlebars below the level of the seat; this hunched-over position is better for maximum power off the line and provides lower drag at high speeds. 

Mountain bikes with their short flat bars slip through tight places and keep your weight forward allowing the wheels to steer over rough terrain. 

Touring and trekking bikes need to have handlebars that allow for multiple positions for climbing, descending and spending long hours in a headwind

And what about those impossibly short fixie straight bars, you ask? They're good for "smashin' through traffic", apparently.

City bikes typically have a more upright ride with more weight on the saddle and less on the handlebars. This combination makes your back straight and more upright giving you a good view of the road ahead. Because you're often riding more slowly you're less concerned about aerodynamics than you are about seeing over cars or being seen. Bikes with this type of geometry are more forgiving for beginners or those carrying varying loads. For most commuters who are dragging along laptop cases, groceries, and maybe some morning coffee an upright ride makes sense. Call it the Riding Position for the Rest of Us, if you like.

Where can I get an upright ride?
If you're buying a new bike, make sure it fits. Yes, it seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people settle with a bike that doesn't quite fit because what the LBS had in stock or on sale. Many bike manufacturers only offer one or two sizes, so keep that in mind if you're not perfectly average in height. A properly fit bike, regardless of the type of handlebars, angle of the seat tube, etc, will feel better. Most of the bikes that we feature in Bikes for the Rest of Us have a fairly upright riding position (some more than others). Go the manufacturer sites, look up the dealers and go find a bike to test ride.

A common scenario is retrofitting a bike that you already have (or got from your Uncle, local garage sale, etc). There are some techniques that can help you make the bike more upright and appropriate for city use. Most of these solutions are fairly inexpensive and are in order of effort (but if you're going to replace your handlebars anyhow start there). Keep in mind you may have to extend your cables, particularly your front brake, if you raise your stem by more than an inch. Note: My stem examples below are for quill stems.

Raise the Handlbars
If you like your handlebars, but feel you need to get them a little higher, try raising your stem. Sheldon Brown tells you all about how to do it here.

Replacing the Stem
When you raise your stem (quill stem) you may see a line that says "minimum insertion depth" or something similar. If you see this mark the stem can't be extended any more and you may have to get a new stem. Prices and quality vary, but a good bet would be something like the Nitto Tall Stem or a Wald 511.

Get an Extender
If you need to raise your bars more than a couple of inches then consider a stem extender or stem riser. This device allows you to keep both your existing stem and handlebars, but the catch is that it's going to raise everything at least two inches. The appearance may also be a concern, but the price is right.

Replace the Handlebars
If you're not happy with your current handlebars you can get new bars that have some rise to them. Most North Roads or All-Rounder type bars have a 1-2" rise. You can find handlebars with a similar shape that have up to an 8+ inch rise. Wider bars give greater control to laden front baskets. Narrower bars like the VO/Nitto Montmarte allow you to squeeze in between tighter spots. The trick with handlebars is trying out a few, which takes time and, of course, several handlebars. Be sure to do your homework if you plan on reusing your grips, shifter or brake levers as there are different diameters of handlebars (see section on compatibility issues here).

Most of the links that I showed you are for online retailers. You may want to start with your local LBS, Bicycle Club or garage sale to see what you can find.

Photo Credit: Sketch above by Linn

Monday, January 18, 2010

Long Haul Trucker, by Surly

This post is long overdue. The Long Haul Trucker, by Surly/QBP, is a terrific bike, and a terrific value, even though the suggested retail price is $1,100. 

Officially, it's a "touring" bike, meaning it's good at carrying you and all your belongings on a Lewis-and-Clark-style expedition. Unofficially, it's a good jack-of-all-trades bike: reliable transportation, fitness machine, social lubricant, and access to power.

If I didn't know a lot about bikes, I would think, "$1,100? I could get a used car for that." However, if you bought a car for $1,100, you'd probably have to spend another $500 every year to keep it going. At least.

What makes the Long Haul Trucker (LHT) worth $1,100? It's pretty simple: the parts. A bike is worth the sum of its parts, and the parts package on the LHT is about as good as it gets in the off-the-shelf bike world. Here are some highlights:
  • Bar end shifters - these things will save you $300 and several headaches. The popular alternatives are integrated shifter/brake levers. They work fine, but are somewhat fragile (considering they are often the first point of impact in a crash), expensive to replace, and require precise adjustment. Bar-end shifters are extremely durable, are located out of harm's way, aren't nearly as expensive to replace (you won't ever need to replace them anyway), and have a back-up operating mode that can be used if they come out of adjustment. Simply put, this bike would cost $200 more if it had integrated shifter/brake levers, and you'd likely pay even more in the long run.
  • Cantilever brakes - as opposed to linear-pull ("v") brakes. Cantilever brakes are compatible with a wide variety of brake levers, and allow for a wider variety of handlebar options.
  • Lots of practical, quality parts that most people don't think about: one-piece forged seatpost, wide-range cassette (11-34), UN-53 square-taper bottom-bracket, crankset compatible with good quality inexpensive replacement chainrings available pretty much anywhere in the world, Tektro brakes and brake levers, high grade hubs, name-brand stainless spokes, decent tires, etc. Many of these things used to standard on all bikes, but that isn't the case anymore, you have to look close.
  • Stout chrome-moly steel frame, with lots of well-conceived details, in colors like "Truckaccino Tan" and "Hill Street Blue."
  • Finally, a whole bunch of sizes: 42, 46, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, and 62 cm, with two wheel sizes available for the larger sizes (a first, as far as I know, for production bikes).
So that's the deal, and it's a good one, if you can get over buying a bike from a company named after the "surly bike-shop employees" at your local independent bicycle dealer.


For the nerdy kids...

FrameSurly Long Haul Trucker, 100% Surly 4130 CroMoly steel. Main triangle double butted. TIG-welded
ForkSurly Long Haul Trucker, 100% CroMoly, lugged and brazed. 1-1/8" threadless steer tube uncut
Seatpost ClampSurly Stainless, Natural Silver
Shift LeversShimano Bar-end, SL-BS77 9-speed
Front DerailleurShimano Tiagra, FD-4403 triple
Rear DerailleurShimano XT, RD-M761 SGS long cage
CranksetAndel, Forged arms, Silver. Aluminum rings, 110mm BCD, 48-36-26t
Bottom BracketShimano, UN53. 68x110mm
CassetteShimano Deore, CS-HG53. 9-speed. 11-13-15-17-20-23-26-30-34t
ChainSRAM, PC971 9-speed
HeadsetRitchey Logic Comp, 1-1/8" threadless, w/ 40mm spacers. Black
StemKalloy, 1-1/8" threadless. Forged. 26.0mm clamp. Silver
HandlebarsPMT, Aluminum. Silver
Handlebar wrapCo-Union Cork Mix, Black
Brake LeversTektro, R200A standard levers on 52-62cm sizes. R100A Small Hand levers on 42-50cm sizes
BrakesTektro Oryx cantilever, #992. Silver
Cable Hanger, frontTektro, #1271A with noodle. Silver
Cable Hanger, rearN/A,
SeatpostKalloy SP-342, 27.2 x 300mm. Silver
SaddleWTB SST, Steel rails. Black
ExtrasClear chainstay protector. Die extruded cables with anti-rattle donuts. Full CPSC reflector kit. Generic owner's manual,
HubsShimano XT, HU-M770. 36h. Silver
SpokesDT Swiss, 14g stainless. Silver
RimsAlex Adventurer, 36h. Black w/ eyelets
TiresWTB Slickasaurus, 26 x 1.5", Black wall. 42-62cm frames
TiresContinental Travel Contact, 700c x 37mm, Black wall. 56-62cm frame

Civia Cycles

Civia Cycles, based in Minnesota, makes high-end transportation bikes, such as the Hyland and Loring pictured above. I previously thought they were too high end to qualify as "bikes for the rest of us," which isn't really fair, given that we've featured A.N.T. bikes on here.

The Hyland (top-most picture), has a frame made from lightweight aluminum, and it comes with a carbon fork. As pictured, it also comes with fenders, a chainguard, and wide tire clearance (it will accommodate 700 x 35 tires).

The Loring, pictured 2nd from top, is designed to carry cargo in the front, which makes it a pretty good grocery-getter. It's offered as a 9-speed, but you can get a 3-speed version for $875.

Perhaps in light of current economic conditions, Civia is offering some new, lower-priced models in 2010.

The Midtown, pictured above, will be available in April. It is intended as the "value" version of the Loring. It's made of steel and apparently does not come with fenders or a chainguard.

The Linden, also new, is touted as an affordable Hyland.

Finally, Civia has come out with the Bryant, the steel commuter with drop bars.

You can find details about all these models at Civia's website. Just follow the links. Should you happen to already own a Civia product, please leave us a comment and let us know how you like your bike.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are Bike Shops Failing First-Time Buyers?

I found this wonderful post thanks to Twitter and @Letsgorideabike (check out their excellent blog). There are a ton of great comments (from men and women alike) describing their experience at bike shops while searching for the right bike.

With any major purchase I encourage you to do your research. Seek out opinions from a diverse group of people and don't be talked out of something by a single voice. Finding the right bike is a personal journey. Don't think that you don't have choices, because you do.

So take a minute to read this post on Grit and Glimmer and especially read through the comments.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Commute-Ready from Raleigh: 2010 One Way

So you're probably not surprised to be reading about a bike on Bikes For The Rest Of Us that has the following features:
  • Chain guard
  • Bell
  • Fenders
  • Brooks Saddle
  • Vittoria Rondenour 700cx35 tires with reflective stripe
  • CrMo frame
  • Included frame-mounted pump
What will surprise you about the One Way is that these features come in a road bike package with drop bars and a nifty SRAM Torpedo flip-flop hub. The Torpedo hub allows you choose between single-speed and fixed-gear settings with the turn of a screwdriver. The One Way has toe clips with straps to help keep your feet planted in fixed mode and canti brakes to slow you down when you're riding it as a single speed.

So who will be riding the One Way? Add a rack and it's an all-weather commuter ready to tackle snow with studded tires and fixie ninja moves. There are less expensive choices out there for similarly-equipped city bikes; however, you could always lose the drop bars for city bars like @americancyclery did here:
Clearly the feature-laden One Way is not for purists. If you're looking for an ultra-light road bike or a dead simple fixie the One Way is likely not for you. So you won't find this bike on Bikes for the Purists blog. I think it will work for the rest of us, though.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick Roundup

Here's a roundup of some items that might be of interest to the BFROU crowd:

An Xtracycle does winter delivery duty in the snow (Old Spokes Home)

An overview of 12 bikes to replace your car found on Lighter Footstep

Something I wish I would have done on New Years Day, a cargo bike meet-up (via Kent's Bike Blog)

An installment of Bike mechanic Q and A in NYC (NY Times, tweeted by @BoweryLaneBikes)

Bike Geek has some thoughts about elevation profiles on his second ever bike tour

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

KHS Green and Cidi for 2010

KHS is showing off their 2010 bikes on their website. I was a big fan of the KHS Green model last year because it didn't try to be anything but a simple 3-speed city bike. 

This year the Green comes in silver as well as black. It has a steel frame built with traditional (small diameter) tubing and 700c wheels. With its curved lines the black step-through could be mistaken for a real Dutch Bike from afar. You won't find an Oma or Old Dutch for $329, though.

There's a new series of KHS Urban bikes this year, the Cidi 3 and 8. These city bikes have a more aggressive stance with flat bars a la Swobo or Biria. Despite the aluminum frame and matching fenders, chain guard and rack, the price points are competitive. The Cidi 8 (shown below) is $659 with the Shimano Nexus inter-8 and the Cidi 3 (sporting Shimano 3-speed hub gears) is just $439.

If anyone reading has ridden the Green or Cidi please drop us a comment.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Craigslist Bike of the Week - 1971 Hercules

Craigslist can be a great place to browse for used bikes. You'll soon find that there are plenty of ill-priced bikes and potential scams out there. When it comes to older bikes (you'll also notice the plentiful use of the word "Vintage") you can find some great deals.

Here's a great example. I can't speak to the authenticity of this bike nor the quality of the seller, but this post seems like a great Bike For The Rest Of Us. Try searching for the term "lugged steel" in your city's Craigslist today!

1971 Hercules "Gentlemens" 52cm Black and White English 3 speed -$175

1971 made in Nottingham England Hercules Three Speed
- 52cm lugged steel frame, 31 inch standover
- full fenders, chainguard, spring saddle, cargo rack
- Oakley grips,
- Sturmey Archer 3 speed, front and rear hand brakes
- bolt on 26" wheels, good tires, ready to ride

Friday, January 1, 2010

Torker Graduate

The Graduate is low-key commuting bike that comes fully dressed with internal hub gears, drum brakes and fenders. The frame is steel and the ride is fairly upright as it should be on a commuting bike.

The internal hub gears (SA 5-speed) with drum brakes really stand out because they work well in wet weather and require almost no maintenance. You just don't see that combination with typical mass-market commuter bike. Drums require even less maintenance than disk brakes and don't call attention to themselves when the bike is locked up and lonely.

The best part about the Graduate is that it retails for less than $500 and can be ordered from almost any LBS via Seattle Bike Supply. You can read more about the Graduate here and here.


FrameTorker Tri Moly 130mm Rear Spacing
ForkHi-Ten 28.6mm
HeadsetSteel 28.6mm Threadless
Frt DerN/A
Rear DerN/A
ShifterSturmey Archer 5sp Twist Grip
CrankAlloy 42T W Guard
BB SetSealed Cartridge Square Taper
PedalNylon W Alloy Cage
RimAlex X 2100 Double Wall 36H
HubsSturmey Archer Alloy 5sp Internal
Spoke14 Gauge Stainless
TireTioga Gritty Slicker 700 x 32
BarAlloy All Rounder
StemForged Alloy
Seat PostSteel 27.2mm x 250mm
BrakeAlloy 70mm Internal Drum F & R
Brake LeverAvid Speed Dial
FendersPlastic Full Coverage