Posts Tagged ‘bike reviews’

Surly Stories

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My friend Megan, intrepid world-traveler, recently bought a Surly Cross-Check.  She already had a Gary Fisher Simple City for in-town riding, but wanted the Surly for longer, faster rides and for a bike tour around Iceland next summer!

I ran into her by chance today on my way home from work and she had been riding around the city for hours, enjoying the swiftness of her new bike.

The Surly seems like a popular bike for people looking for the right combination of quality and (relative) affordability.  I know of many who use Surleys both for commuting and for touring.

Do you have a Surly story?  If so, share it in the comments!  I’m sure Megan and many others would be interested to hear them.

Previews!

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Here is a preview of the new Civia Twin City Step-Through from JC Lind Bikes.  I picked her up today for a weekend review.  The  last bike I reviewed was way back in October, although I posted the review in February, so I’m excited to try a new bike.

I have big weekend plans for me and the Twin City, including a trip to the farmer’s market.  Stay tuned for a full review next week.

Also, check back on Monday morning for an exciting announcement about the evolution of Let’s Go Ride a Bike!  You may have noticed our brand spanking new look (still working out the kinks!) – that’s only the beginning.  ;)

Little Miss Muddy: Coco in the Rain

Trisha showed you her Little Miss Messy coffee-stained Abici and now I’ll show you my Little Miss Muddy Velorbis. On Wednesday I rode Coco, my Velorbis, in the rain for the first time.  I discovered that the gorgeous cream-colored frame shows mud quite clearly.  I’m not good at keeping my bikes clean, but I definitely have to wipe Coco down after the rain.

Although Coco’s aesthetics suffer in the rain, her performance is top notch.  The substantial fenders, chain case, and internal brakes are perfect for keeping me clean and stopping on a dime.  The super cushy Fat Frank tires are a big bonus and make Coco the best among my bikes for riding in the rain.  Normally, I feel paranoid riding on slick roads and through puddles, but the stability and comfort of the fat tires made me feel completely secure. I love those tires.

As for myself, I dealt with the rain fine.  I wore my Patagonia trench rain coat (not pictured below), which caught most of the drizzle.  My wool tights and tweed skirt dried quickly and my helmet protected my hair.

So that’s it. I made it through a 30 minute drizzly bike commute a-okay.  By the time I got to work, I was a little bit more in love with Coco than before.

What aspects of your bike help (or not) when riding in the rain?

 

A Fresh Start with Betty Foy

Last week, Betty Foy got a major freshening up for the spring: a complete tune-up and cleaning, plus a new chain, brake pads, cables and a two-footed kickstand. She’s such a lovely bike and rides like a dream, still like new.

I documented her cleanliness, since she won’t look like this again until her next tune-up.


I guess the original chain would have lasted longer, if I had been better with preventative maintenance. I’ll try to be more conscientious from now on, but I’ve always been lazy with upkeep, whether for cars in the past or bikes now.

What is your routine for maintaining your bike(s)?

Beautiful Bicycles: Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently test rode a Yuba Mundo from J.C. Lind Bikes for 24 hours. Yuba is a utility bike company based in California and the Mundo can carry up to 450 pounds of cargo on the back while riding like a regular bike. As some of my co-workers noted today, this is the station wagon of bikes (as opposed to Oma, which they’ve called my Cadillac).

The bike is not super heavy for its size and is equipped with 21 gears on a derailleur system to help make any load do-able.

You change the gears by turning the grip shifters on the handlebars.

Fenders cover both wheels to help keep you clean and dry.  A spring above the front tire keeps the handlebars stabilized and prevents the bars and the wheel from flopping to the side.

This bike requires maintenance to keep the v-brakes, derailleur and huge exposed chain clean.  Not a big deal, but a factor that does not come into play with traditional Dutch and Danish cargo bikes. Note that the frame could be built up with disc brakes and internal gear hubs, but that would cost extra.

The frame is covered with braze-ons, like the water bottle ones below, to make attaching racks and other add-ons easy.  The top tube is unusually thick, which was annoying at first because my knees kept knocking against it as I pedaled.  But after a few minutes, I adjusted to carrying myself a bit differently and the bumping stopped.

The frame comes in only one size, but the bike is highly adjustable to allow multiple family members to ride it by changing the seat and handlebars.

The one thing that I would change is the step-over height, but maybe that’s a necessity of the design.  Mounting and dismounting in my skirt was inelegant, to say the least, and an easier step-over would be especially beneficial when hauling a load, I assume.

The riding position is pretty straight up, as you can see, although I moved the handlebars more upright to match my preference and the bars could be placed lower and further forward for a slightly more aerodynamic feel.

The main attraction, of course, is the long tail, which is rated to hold up to 450 pounds of cargo.  In addition to the rack itself, rails extend out below the rack to make hanging and strapping stuff along the side super easy.

If I owned the bike, I would permanently attach two saddlebags (those suckers are huge!), one on each side, and distribute bigger loads evenly between both sides.  I think it would be awesome to ride this bike around all the time, never having to worry about my ability to carry any load, while at the same time not feeling weighed down by a big cargo bike when not carrying anything.  This bike also has kid seats that clip onto the rear rack, so if you’re comfortable carrying kids on the back, it’s the most versatile kid/cargo carrier that I’ve test-ridden.

Since I borrowed the bike on the spur of the moment, I did not get to try it with a load.  I wanted to go grocery hauling or do something cool, but I really did not need groceries or to spend any more money.  I carried two bags and a heavy lock in the saddle bag, so there was some weight, but nothing monumental.  I know that greatly limits the helpfulness of this review – sorry about that.

I rode along the lakefront in a stiff headwind this morning, and while the bike was not speedy, it was not heavy like my Dutch bike would have been. The 21 gears are really awesome to use.  The thick 26″ wheels and long wheelbase make the bike draggy, but are essential for carrying sturdy loads.

Handling in general is superb for a cargo bike.  The Yuba rides like a regular bike – granted not like the best bike in the world, but like a smooth and sturdy hybrid.  I got used to the feel of the bike after a couple of minutes and after that could have forgotten that I was riding a strange bike, if it weren’t for all the stares I got from pedestrians.  I’m sure a heavy load would affect that to some degree, but the quality of the ride unloaded is a good sign.

The Yuba Mundo really stands out for its ability to haul massive loads, while functioning like a regular bike when all you want is a regular bike.  If you want to haul stuff on your bike but find the idea of a bakfiets-type bike cumbersome and/or too pricey, the Yuba is definitely worth checking out. Priced at $1095 for the set-up I rode, it’s a relative bargain.

My test ride review can only scratch the surface of this bike, so I encourage you to try it out in real life, if possible (available at J.C. Lind for Chicagoans) and check out Steven Can Plan to hear from an owner. In particular, check out his “Rules for Yubering” and impressive all-Yuba Flickr set.

I know there are quite a few of you out there who ride a Yuba or the similar Surly Long Haul Trucker Big Dummy, so I’d love to hear from all of you about your experiences, especially with carrying substantial loads.

Questions? Leave them in the comments. I may not be able to answer them all, but hopefully someone with more intimate Yuba experience could jump in.

{J.C. Lind Bikes is a sponsor of LGRAB. That’s not why I decided to test this bike, but I should point out that relationship.}

{Also, tying this back to yesterday’s post, I took these photos using the film SLR camera I bought for $25, I’m wearing the wool-silk skirt I bought for $2, and I’m displaying my Irish pride for St. Paddy’s day.}


Coco’s Geometry

Because of the icy weather, I have not been riding Coco, my Velorbis Studine Balloon, as much as I desperately want to, choosing instead my studded-tire bike.  I can count the substantial rides I’ve taken with her on one hand – not enough for a real review, but enough to talk a bit here and there as I get to know her better.

After my first work commute with Coco a couple of weeks ago, I talked about her ride.  In that post, I mentioned how Coco’s geometry is different from Oma’s, even though the two look like similar style bikes.  The photos below demonstrate how Coco’s distinctive geometry affects my riding position.

As you can see, my hips and legs are aligned almost straight down, while my torso is slightly leaned forward.  My posture is straight, but not totally upright.  You can compare to my positioning on Oma here.

I thought this geometry difference would cause my legs to work more, but thus far I have not noticed a difference in the amount of energy required for pedaling. If anything, Coco may be a bit swifter, although I’m still trying to determine if that’s all in my head.

The geometry does make slight differences to the details of my ride. For example, starting from a stoplight is easier. My foot on the raised pedal simply goes straight down to propel the bike forward; I don’t have to simultaneously push down and forward on the pedal while my other foot pushes off the ground. Another detail is that I can stand up on the pedals for a boost of energy, which I cannot do on Oma. Also, good posture is easy to maintain; I don’t have to keep telling myself to sit up straight and roll my shoulders back as I do when riding Oma.

These subtle differences are hard to describe, but they make riding the two bikes not as similar as some may assume.

I do realize I’m firmly in the “splitting hairs” territory that EcoVelo recently wrote about. To me, at least, Coco and Oma are like apples and oranges. :)

Coco’s Ride

I rode Coco to work Monday, before Tuesday’s snowfall sent me back to Oma and her studded tires.  I was so giddy to have a new bike, I decided to take Coco on a spin to the lakefront during lunch with my camera and a roll of film.

I haven’t ridden Coco enough yet to provide in-depth opinions on how she performs, but I’ll offer some initial thoughts.  She feels great!  The ride is similar to Oma’s and nothing like Betty Foy’s.  She weighs a bit less than Oma and is a bit more sprightly, but speed (or lack of it) and comfort are on pretty much par.

There are some notable differences.  First, Coco’s balloon tires are super cushy and help me laugh in the face of Chicago’s potholes and train tracks (one of my biggest fears).  Second, Coco has only three gears.  I ended up using all three gears during my ride, depending on incline (ramps in and out of the Lakefront Trail) and wind direction, and the range felt spot on.  Third, Coco’s geometry is almost straight up and down, but a tiny bit bent forward to reach the handlebars, whereas Oma’s geometry is a tiny bit leaned back with legs pushing a tiny bit forward.  I thought this would make riding Coco feel substantially different after a few miles, but my body felt the same while pedaling and once I arrived at work, no more or less fatigued or energized.

I probably don’t even need to mention looks.  She’s a beauty that I love to gaze at.  Beauty should not be underestimated when choosing a bike.  If you’re going to ride a bike every day, it should call out to you.  Coco certainly accomplishes that!

Beautiful Bicycles: Meet My New Bike!

Drum roll, please…

After a teaser several weeks ago, I’m happy to report that a new bike has finally joined the Dottie household:  A Velorbis Studine Balloon: designed in Denmark, made in Germany and sold in Chicago at Copenhagen Cyclery.

Rust-colored Schwalbe Fat Frank balloon tires, creamy white steel frame…

Integrated rear rack with briefcase hook…

Wheel lock, double kick stand, chain case…

Bell, comfy rubber grips…

3-speed Sturmey Archer internal hub…

Brooks saddle, rattan basket, fenders, all around super classiness…

Alas, no integrated lights, skirt guard or fancy leather grips, but that’s what keeps the price at a reasonable $1,295.

I want to be perfectly clear about my acquisition of this bike.  I did not buy the bike, but it is not a tester or a freebie.  Rather, it’s bartered using good old-fashioned economics.  Companies advertising on LGRAB usually pay a certain amount per month.  Instead of money, Copenhagen Cyclery is “paying” with a bike.  I view it as a fair exchange for something Copenhagen Cyclery wants (advertising) and something I want (a gorgeous bike).

I also want to be perfectly clear that the exchange includes nothing about my editorial content.  Copenhagen Cyclery will get an ad on the sidebar, nothing more.  There’s no agreement that I will talk up the shop or Velorbis or write about the bike.  Naturally, the bike will show up as part of my usual posting, just as my two other bikes show up, but I hope that you all will continue to trust that I have not turned into a corporate shill.

Incidentally, if other bike shops or companies are interested, Trisha is open to entertaining offers for an Abici or similar light and classy creature.  ;)

Now that all of that’s out of the way, we can focus on the real important stuff. Like, what should I name her? She reminds me of cream and sugar, a cafe au lait, but how does that translate to a name?

(p.s. Squeeee! New bike! :))

FAQ’s – Part II

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the second half.  Read the first half here.

Amsterdam is flat. Chicago is flat. Is Nashville flat? What effect does topology have on how bike-friendly a city is? I suppose Portland is not flat.

I don’t think Portland is flat, no. And Nashville definitely isn’t! IMO that is not the biggest consideration for bike-friendliness, although it may be an obstacle in developing a large bicycling culture since hills can be intimidating. You will develop the necessary muscles, and there’s always the downhill stretches! And hey, as Dottie pointed out in a recent post, there’s no shame in walking your bike up a hill if you need to.

Don’t your feet get sweaty when wearing heels? Even when I wear just flats its definitely not as comfortable as when I wear socks + some sort of sneaker

No, my feet are actually cooler when I’m not wearing socks and sneakers. Maybe you could throw a bit of talcum or baby powder into your heels before you set off and see if that makes a difference.

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FAQ’s – Part I

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the first half.  We’ll post the second half soon.

How and when did Dottie and Trisha meet?

Trisha and I met through our mutual friend, Erin, at a group happy hour. The first meeting I really remember was at a Russian dinner party I threw at my apartment. Trisha showed up with a shirt that said, in Russian, “I love Russian.” Awesomeness. Soon after, we went to a midnight showing of Gremlins and I drank too much beer and had to leave before the movie ended (beer buzz + crowded theater + gremlins driving Barbie cars = overwhelming). From then on, we were fast friends.  :)  That was, I think, about 4 years ago when I lived in Nashville for law school.

What saddles do you use on your bikes?

I (Dottie) have Brooks saddles, which I love. On Oma it’s the B67 with springs – the most comfortable saddle ever. On Betty it’s the B17S – no springs and took longer to break in, but still great. Trisha’s Batavus came with a Selle Royale and her Peug has a vintage saddle.

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