Monday, September 23, 2013

Handsome Devil All-Rounder

When searching for an all-rounder bike I discovered lots of options.  I wanted it to be fun to ride unloaded, come as a complete bike, fit big tires with fenders and have the potential to add racks and carry a load.   I first thought the Surly Long Haul Trucker or Novara Safari would fit the bill, but they were both more heavy duty than I needed.   The Specialized Tricross was nice and had a great price, but I found the ride and look to be meh.  I really liked the Novara Randonne but I can't get over the amount of seat post that shows on that sloping top tube.  Rivendell Bikes are nice but out of my budget.  I was looking for a bike with a different look as well.  The Handsome XOXO was on the short list but I was looking for something more on-road than off.  I read about the Handsome Devil right here on these pages and in Momentum Magazine. It seemed to check all of the boxes, but I would need to order it sight unseen.

When I saw that the Handsome Devil went on sale I pulled the trigger.   The next day I had a voicemail from Jesse asking me about my build.  We talked about how I would use the bike and picked a local bike shop to do the assembly.  A couple of weeks later I was rolling out of the bike shop with my Devil on 35c tires (Jesse thought I would like them better than the 32mm stock ones).   The shop employees were a little perplexed, "I suppose you could commute on it."   Heck yeah!

So fast forward 6 months and I've made some changes.  I ditched the bar-tape grips for shellacked cork.   All transportation bikes should have fenders, so I installed SKS Longboard fenders.   A Velo-Orange Pass Hunter Rack holds a Wald Basket.  I scored a Nitto R-14 rack on Ebay and my wife got me a Rivendell Large Saddleback for Father's Day.  I call the bike my "Riven-Devil."

The steel frame has a nice springiness about it and the powder coat looks great. The steering on the Devil is quick, but some weight in the basket quiets it down a bit.   The cyclocross geometry does not lend itself to weighting up the rear without a load up front.   You can set up a Devil for touring as long as you spread out the load.  The geometry prefers a front load; however, the frame lacks a threaded boss above the front dropout (but there's one mid-fork).  Handsome now has a version of the Devil with a Porteur Rack, but they drill out the tangs for the axle and (I presume) use a longer skewer.

The Devil is set up with 1x8 gearing with a 44T chainring.  It's perfect for my flat-to-rolling commute.  I'm not sure the drivetrain is ready for a loaded tour without replacing the double 150bcd crankset --the gearing would be too hight evening adding a second chainring.  A low-double or triple would probably be better for biking up hills with a full touring load.  With a nod to versatility, the Devil has semi-horizontal dropouts for internal hub builds.

I've enjoyed the Devil and I would recommend working with the Handsome Cycles folks on your search for your Bike For the Rest of Us.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Linus Scout

The Linus Scout. Also available in navy blue. Credit: Linus bikes
Linus offers this steel 7-speed for $545.

Linus calls this "the bike for everyone."  I prefer the phrase "bike for the rest of us," but certainly this is the bike for everyone seeking a comfortable upright ride with fenders, a chainguard, and a decent gear selection.  This looks like an update of Linus' Duchi 3-speed model, with some nice touches like double-walled rims, leather grips, and a bell.

Here are the specs:

  • Durable Hi Tensile steel frame with Chromoly down tube

  • Shimano Acera 7 speed derailleur w/ MegaRange cassette

  • Tektro dual pivot caliper brakes

  • Forged aluminum crank

  • Chainguard w/ enclosed crank

  • Double wall alloy rims with stain-less steel spokes

  • Linus Elysian tires w/ gum wall

  • Genuine leather grips

  • Mid-century alloy bell

  •  Available in 48 cm with 26" wheels or 56 cm with 700c wheels
  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Torker T-800

    Torker offers these 8-speeds with internal Shimano Nexus hubs for $650.

    Let's note everything that Torker got right here: comfortable, upright ride; fenders; chainguard; bell; and rear rack with bungee.  I'm not going to quibble.  For $650, this is an affordable, useful bike.

    Here are the specs:

    FRAMETorker 6061 Alloy Twin Top Tube Design
    FORK700c Steel Rigid
    Sizes14", 17", 19' / Step Thru 14”,17"
    HEADSETThreaded 1-1/8
    SPACERSAlloy (2-10MM, 2-5MM)
    STEMAlloy  Quill 
    HANDLEBARSteel Comfort 610mm, 26mm Rise
    GripKraton/Gel 92mm
    SADDLEComfort W Dual Density Foam
    SEAT POSTAlloy 27.2mm x 350mm
    SEAT POST ClampAlloy 31.8 
    RimsG2000, Twin Beam Construction, 36H
    Front HubAlloy 
    Rear HubShimano Nexus 8 spd Internal Geared Hub
    Spokes 14 G Stainless
    TIRESKenda 700 x 38
    CranksetAlloy 38T
    Bottom BracketSquare Taper 68mm
    Shifters/Brake LeversShimano Nexus Revo
    ExtrasAlloy Rear Rack w/Bungee, Integrated Bell, Fenders, Custom Chain Guard
    PedalsAlloy City Pedal

    Sunday, September 1, 2013

    Islabikes: Real Bikes for Kids

    There's been a veritable revolution since this blog was started. It used to be difficult to find a good "bike for the rest of us," suitably designed and equipped for everyday riding by regular folks. Not so, 2013. Walk into any reasonable independent bicycle dealer and you likely to find a decent practical bike for your purposes, whatever they happen to be... unless you're a kid, or shopping for one.

    There are good reasons why good kids bikes are hard to come by. A decent multi-speed bike, regardless of the size, is going to cost $300-$500, and not a lot of people are willing to spend this kind of bread on a kids bike. I suspect this is because kids (1) grow like weeds, (2) won't necessarily "click" with bicycling, and (3) don't always take great care of their possessions (not a judgement, just an observation).

    There are some good kids bikes available and they are getting better, but the variety is lagging the adult market by at least ten or 15 year. What does that mean? Well, you can now find good road bikes for kids, traditional and "flat-bar" style, and there are "cruiser" style bikes and decent mountain bikes for kids, but not many that meet the criteria for a "Bike For The Rest Of Us."

    For example, Fuji's Ace 24" and Absolute 24" and 20" are good for fun, fitness, or even youth competition.

    But these are not great for practical transportation, or just kicking around town--there's no room for wider tires or fenders. Also the stand-over height is a bit tall, limiting the potential audience. Kids are top-heavy--their heads are bigger in proportion to their bodies than grown-ups--so a scaled down adult bike doesn't fit properly. This is a pretty huge point that gets overlooked sometimes.

    Here are some options from widely available brands: Giant Revel Jr. 20" and Specialized Hotrock Street 24". Both come in "Boys" and "Girls" models, and in versions with 20" and 24" wheels. Lets see...  

    Lower stand-over height? Yes, good job.
    Wider tires? Yes. (But the Giant Revel Jr comes with heavy knobby tires--bad choice.)
    Can you mount a rack on the back? Yes.
    Fenders? Giant, no. Specialized, yes.
    Good upgrade on Specialized Hotrock: stainless steel spokes and quality tires.

    But wait: the water bottle mounts are awkward at best, or not available, and 21 gear combinations are unnecessary and overly complicated (most adults have trouble learning good shifting habits--starting with a single shift option--rear only--is a GOOD idea).

    Next: Trek. Here are the FX 24" Boys and Girls models.

    Good thinking, solving problems, and a nice explanatory website (Trek Kids Bikes). I particularly like the dual position crankset/pedals (though it might be a solution looking for a problem). But... the website doesn't list the parts specification, and the steel seatpost and handlebar and high-tensile (heavy and not good at absorbing vibration) fork suggest that other part selections may cut corners.

    My final complaint: what's with the differentiation between girls and boys models? It is entirely unnecessary, stigmatizing, and just a bad idea. The girls models lose water bottle mounts, the boys models lose stand-over height, and there's WAY too much focus on color (my daughter was all about pink for a while, then all of a sudden it was no pink allowed, or purple, anywhere). Besides, these are kids bikes, they're going to be outgrown in a year or two, and passed down to a sibling or neighbor--why limit the audience? I guess it's like breakfast cereal: more models = more shelf-space, boxing out competition, and giving the illusion of choice.

    Solution: ISLABIKES. Smart smart smart. I don't work for them, I gain nothing by this, and, disclaimer, I've never seen their bikes in person, but they've solved all the problems I see challenging kids bike design.
    Isla Beinn 24" (

    I'm too tired now to write down how they solve all the problems. Check out the website and read it for yourself. Maybe I'll finish this off later, but it's a nice day to go outside and ride a bike ;-)