Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The bikes I ride

Eric asked what sort of bikes I ride, and my opinion of them, so here goes:

Giant Iguana Mountain Bike: This is my beater bike, fully fendered, with racks front and rear. I have a custom 7 speed rear cassette I've put together out of a mix of SRAM and Shimano cassettes, starting with a Megarange (34t?) sprocket and going down to, I think, an 11t sprocket. Multiple lights on it for winter use (it's known as the "Starship Enterprise" down at the bike shop). Tyres depend on the season, I currently have Schwalbe Snow Studs on there, I'll soon (hopefully) be switching over to some 1.75" (ish) cyclocross semi-slick tyres, then when the good weather hits I'll be on 1.5" slicks. It's not a particularly comfortable bike for me, but no 26" wheel based bike is - I'm a shade under 6 foot 5, so all mountain bikes need a long stem and seatpost. I found some extra wide riser bars helped, too.

Giant Cypress: 700c based hybrid bike that I use for long distance touring. It's built up with extra low gears at the front and rear, handlebars and bar-ends are double-wrapped with cork tape, fenders and racks front and rear, and a fully sprung Brooks saddle. This bike will take a massive load; I did a trip up to Truro last year where the final weight on the tyres was 375lbs. It's usually overkill for commuting as it's geared so low, but it's good for going shopping with, especially pulling all the groceries up through Fairview. It's a very comfortable bike for me to ride, and I've done some pretty long distances on it; I think the furthest was just under 200km in a day.

Nishiki Olympic: This is a sport touring style steel road bike that I rescued from the trash. It was in pretty rough shape when I got it as it had obviously been sat in a garage for several years. I managed to restore over winter, and it came out pretty well. It started off with 27" wheels that got trashed when a driver pulled out of her driveway in front of me, and now it has 700c wheels. It's got cyclocross brakes on the top of the handlebar, and a mountain cassette on the back. No fenders or racks, but it has a handlebar bag on the front to carry stuff in when I'm riding longer distances. It's a fast bike, I can pretty easily keep up with traffic at around 50km/hr going along Barrington.

My general recommendations would be, primarily, to have more than one bike. Designate one of the bikes as a beater bike that can be used in all weathers, and have another bike for nicer weather. If you're riding hills (and at 12km a day, I would guess Eric is) a geared bike is pretty much required - at least if you want to keep your knees through the next decade, or avoid walking up all the hills. I found road cassettes to be too narrow on my road bike (since it has a compact crank set and I ride a lot of hills) so a mountain bike cassette did the trick - note that a long reach derailleur is probably required, though. The age of a bike doesn't have much bearing on the quality, and (for commuting purposes, at least) I'd say the older the better; newer bikes tend to be more lightweight and, as a result, more flimsy, whereas older bikes (especially steel bikes) are a lot harder wearing. The flip side is steel is heavier and rusts more easily.

My recommendation would be to go to your local bike shop and try out a few bikes to see what feels best; I'd definitely recommend trying out different types (mountain, hybrid, road). I know IdealBikes are happy to rent out most of the bikes they have for sale, and I'm sure if you find one you like and you take it out for the day they'd be happy to take the cost of the rental off the purchase price of the bike.


Anonymous RC said...

Types of bikes to use. I differ on the geared bike comment. I think for commuting a single speed with freewheel is perfect for commuting even for long distances and up hills. I ride the hill up through fairview everyday with my single speed and do not have a problem at all. The trick, if you are just starting out or worried about your knees, is to lower the gear ratio. You can climb no problem and as long as you don't go too low you can still get good speed on flats. I have a 2:1 gear ratio on my winter single speed and I can still average 20km/h on straights with little difficulty. The pluses to single speeds are obvious, they just work. Little maintenance or repair and they tend to be lighter with less chain friction (due to lack of derailer).

Also, about the old/new bikes, there is no real reason for getting a new bike over a perfectly good used bike. The only advantage to me is that a lot of bike manufacturers have come out with nice entry level aluminum hybrid style bikes. The aluminum is nice for commuting because it doesn't rust and is light. With nice steel seat post and forks you don't even notice the increased rigidity that aluminum has over stell. If you wanted to go even further, carbon seat posts and forks are even better and do not rust, though they are too pricey if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 12:54:00 pm  
Blogger steve said...

I'm a little dubious about single speeds due to the tradeoff of hills versus flats; that said, I've been considering a single speed myself as our office is going to be moving to Dutch Village, so I could have an almost entirely downhill (coasted!) ride in with an uphill ride home. Fixed gear would definitely be a bad idea, though - I hate to think how many RPM I'd be doing downhill through Fairview on a gear ratio low enough to get me back again!

I'm also very dubious about carbon fibre, but that's because I'm over the weight limit for most parts. I've seen CF parts with a max rider weight as low as 165lbs! I tried a CF bike last year and it felt like it was about to snap underneath me, a very worrying feeling!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:16:00 pm  
Anonymous RC said...

The carbon stuff I am also a little dubious for much the same reasons.

Based on a sample size of 1, my average commute time between a single speed with 2:1 gear ratio was a little shorter than with either of my geared bikes (one mountain one hybrid with 700c tires). I think that the increase in speed is due to a greater acceleration from dead stops with the single speed.

I also would never go with a fixed gear unless I had a flat or mostly flat commute, I have visions of me forgetting to pedal and the bike flipping around me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 2:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Eric said...

Thanks for your input, Steve and RC...

Just wondering - with the pot holes that are around nowadays, is front suspension necessary? Say I get something like a Trek 7000 hybrid (no suspension) or Trek 1000 roadie would I break a wheel coming down the hill on Bayer's road at Romans Ave? There's a pretty rough patch just west of Romans on the west bound curb lane...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 2:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Eric said...

Boy do I sound like a newbie... really appreciate your time and wisdom.

What are your favourite routes into and out of the peninsula? Why do you prefer them?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 2:49:00 pm  
Blogger steve said...

I know the patch you're talking about, Eric; I usually just swing out and take the lane. If it's a big concern you can go all the way down Chisholm and up the service road by the apartment buildings and come out on Bayers just past the bad section.

I don't think front suspension is necessary for road riding; I had it on my first mountain bike and found it more of a nuisance. It won't stop you breaking a wheel, either, but it takes a lot of effort to break a wheel; I managed to severely dent one last year when I hit a 6 inch deep pothole coming off the bridge cycleway onto Barrington at around 55km/hr, the inner tube burst but I got to around Cornwallis before I noticed and had to get off. The wheel itself was still in one piece, it was just too dented to true. This was on my road bike, too, so it wasn't a particularly heavy duty wheel.

There's not many routes in and out of the peninsula. Going in I usually go down through Fairview onto Bayers, then onto Ashburn Avenue, onto Mumford Road, up through the shopping centre, back onto Bayers, around onto George Dauphinee... Quite a trek! The other option is coming up Joseph Howe Drive, but I'm not too keen on all the buses and trucks that go past spewing diesel fumes - and Quinpool tends to get pretty badly blocked up.

You can get a pretty good idea of what routes I take by looking at this aggregated map of warbiking I did - most of the routes are fairly bike friendly. There's also a bike map floating around - I think IdealBikes may have a few kicking around still.

If you want to come to Critical Mass next week I'll show you the route I take home, if you want.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 3:09:00 pm  

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