Category Archives: Dining Room Bike Shop

Velo Orange Mixte Commutes & the Search for the Ideal Bags

Lately I’ve been on a mission to ride all of my bikes more often. This is partially due to needing to clean the Surly LHT as well as change out a tube, but also because if I’m going to own multiple bikes I feel should make the effort to ride them all.

Velo Orange Mixte and Berthoud

The past couple weeks, I’ve commuted almost exclusively on my Velo Orange Mixte, built up from a frame set I purchased over two years ago.

The Velo Orange is a great town bike. Reasonably priced and built up primarily with existing parts in the Dining Room Bike Shop (most of them coming off of my old commuter, a Novara Randonnee), I’m happy to be riding it again.

Me on the Velo Orange Mixte

I do not have the Velo Orange set up with a rear rack at all so I have been messing around with my bag system in order to have enough carrying capacity to haul my stuff to and from the office and give me a little extra room in case I stop for something on the way home.

Initially, I had the bike set up with a front Berthoud bag (a lovely gift from Felkerino) and a rear Acorn saddle bag that I purchased several years ago. Acorn has recently brought these saddle bags back and I think they are beautiful.

When I rode the mixte like this I was in bag heaven, as these are the two most aesthetically pleasing bags that I own. However, I found the carrying capacity to be insufficient. While the Berthoud bag fit my purse perfectly, the Acorn saddle bag did not provide enough space for the other things I wanted to carry.

Velo Orange Mixte and Acorn

The Acorn is designed to accommodate 5.5 liters or so.Even though I keep my work clothes and shoes at the office, I carry gym clothes and a U-lock every day as well as other essentials, and frequently stop at the grocery store on the way home. So as much as I loved the Acorn bag it became a situation analogous to wearing shoes that hurt my feet, but that I still kept wearing because they looked so awesome.

Last week I removed the Acorn and installed a more industrial black Carradice Nelson longflap we had in stock in the Dining Room Bike Shop bag department. According to the Carradice site, the Nelson can carry 18 liters.

Velo Orange Mixte and Carradice

The Nelson’s size was much better for commuting. I strapped the bag on to my bike using the tabs on my Brooks saddle and affixing another strap to my seatpost. I did not use a Bagman because I don’t like them.

Initially I worried that the Carradice Nelson would be too large for the bike and that it would rub on the fender, making the fender in turn rub my tire, but that has not happened so far. The bag nestles cozily in between the fender and my saddle and has been working out great. As I said, it’s not as stylish as the Acorn, but functionality wins the day on my commute.

Velo Orange Mixte

I love the Berthoud front bag, but I have also been thinking about switching it out because I would be so upset if it was stolen. It is secured tightly to the bike, but given that it is on a bike I use to run errands and sometimes sits outside locked to a rack (poor bike), it might make more sense to move it onto another bike. Any thoughts? Am I overthinking its value? Use what you already own and all that?

I have other plans for the Acorn so it will not linger long in the Dining Room Bike Shop bag department. In the meantime, the Berthoud and Carradice Nelson make for a good urban commute setup on the Velo Orange Mixte.

Rediscovering My Bike Friday Pocket Rocket: a Packable Performance Folder

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket

For those unfamiliar with Bike Friday and their bikes, the Pocket Rocket is a high performance folding bike. It is not a fast folder, like a Brompton or a Bike Friday Tikit, but rather a packable folder. Ours are built with 20-inch wheels and they are designed to break down easily into a standard-size suitcase.

I purchased my pre-owned Pocket Rocket directly from Bike Friday in 2005. It was a year or two old when I became its owner.

I had just gotten into cycling, including riding RAGBRAI the summer before I bought it, and was enamored by the idea of a packable road bike that I could use on supported tours or when I went on travel for work.

The Bike Friday was my first tricked-out bicycle purchase and I saved and saved for it. Among other shiny bits, it came with the following:

  • Dura Ace crank;
  • Ultegra front derailleur;
  • Ultegra STI shifters;
  • XTR rear derailleur;
  • Ultegra caliper brakes;
  • Ultegra rear hub;
  • American Classic front hub;
  • Thomson seat post; and
  • Chris King head set.

Over time, I made various tweaks to my setup. I switched out the Dura Ace crank for an Ultegra triple with larger rings. I ditched the STI for bar end shifters because the STI shifters took a beating from the airlines.

The Dining Room Bike Shop had an extra Carradice Nelson long flap saddle bag that I hooked onto my Brooks Flyer so that I would have enough carrying capacity for a winter brevet. Ideally, I would like to put a Carradice Pendle on it instead, as Felkerino has done. The Nelson is too much bag for this bike.

I have added an unfashionable but functional small Novara handlebar bag on the front so I could easily carry and access my camera and other small items. I switch that out from time to time with a Rickshaw Pipsqueak.

The Bike Friday’s ride is sturdy, but not abrasive. The narrow tires as well as the smaller wheel size contribute to the bike’s stiffer ride. I like the ride, though, and have tempered its rigid feel with a sprung saddle.

The Friday is also zippy. My perception of this might be biased because, with the exception of my Romulus, I never ride 28s and my other bikes are heavier than this one. The small wheels also make the bike super responsive.

The bike has been good to me. I rode it on RAGBRAI in 2006 with no issues or discomfort. In 2009, I completed a 234-mile Fleche ride with my trusty Pocket Rocket, and since then I’ve ridden it on several rides of at least a century.

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket and me

In the hours between the departure and arrival of 400K riders, Felkerino and I took our Bike Fridays on a 59-mile meander through the countryside outside of Warrenton, Virginia. Our ride was not particularly long, but it was a solid leg-stretcher and the terrain was rolling and offered a good challenge.

After returning from that ride, I made a mental note to ride my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket more often and used it Monday for commuting. It was a fun change from the Surly Long Haul Trucker, a much heavier touring bike, and I felt like I was flying around town.

The Bike Friday Pocket Rocket is curious in appearance compared to many other bikes on the road, and makes for an excellent stoplight conversation starter with other commuters. People want to know what type of bike it is, what it’s designed to do, and what it’s like to ride.

The Bike Friday Pocket Rocket reflects how my style of riding has changed over time. When I first began riding, I was more interested in solo century rides, participating in supported tours, and having an easily packable sporty travel bike.

Nowadays, I travel much less, ride tandem more, and do light self-supported touring. I rarely ride 28s- the widest tire the Friday can accomodate- preferring a slightly wider tire for more varied road surfaces.

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket

Nevertheless, my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket holds a unique place in my stable. It was the first bike I really researched before purchasing. It’s the first bike I owned that was made by a small U.S. company and built up with what I considered fancy parts. I bought it used, but Friday made me a stem to customize the bike’s fit to my measurements.

The Friday is also the only bike I own that packs up quickly into a suitcase. Until I find another bike that travels as easily as the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket and has a comparable parts spec, I will hang on to it. It fits well, the ride is fun, and it’s a great conversation starter. And, most dear to me, this bike is full of good memories.

New Bike Day! Rawland Nordavinden

Felkerino and I celebrated New Bike Day at the Dining Room Bike Shop this past weekend. New Bike Day New Bike Day!

This edition was particularly exciting, as 1. the bike was for me; and 2. I purchased the frame and fork in June of last year, but took another ten months to get the parts for the bike in order.

The bike I purchased is a Rawland Nordavinden, designed by Rawland Cycles out of Danvile, California. Unlike the Rawland dSogns that Felkerino and I own which are a mix between a mountain and cross bike, the Nordavinden is meant to be a fast-ish touring “all road” bicycle.

Rawland Nordavinden

Photo by Felkerino

While I think it could be a little duplicative of my Rivendell Romulus in some ways, the Nordavinden appealed to me for several reasons.

I wanted an attractive steel bike with a responsive feel that I could use for commuting, century bike rides, and the occasional 200K brevet. The Nordavinden is an icy blue-gray color with attractive decals and a little lug work on the fork and rear dropouts. I’m not a huge fan of lugs, but I find the lugs on this nice looking. As for the bike’s feel, I have only ridden it a total of four miles so I will get back to you on that.

Unlike my Rivendells, the Nordavinden is designed to eliminate toe overlap. That has not been a big deal on my Rivendells, but it can be annoying, particularly when riding in the city where there is a lot of inevitable stopping and starting.

Rawland Nordavinden

There is versatility in the tire widths I can use on this bike, with the maximum tire width being 35s. I could take this bike on dirt if I wanted, or keep it on the road. It’s nice to have choices. I am still deciding on what tires (both type and width) I will use. I don’t like spending a lot of money on tires, but I also want the ride to have a good feel. Suggestions?

The Nordavinden is also made to take fenders. Yippee! Even though I sometimes dream of riding a fenderless road bike without a care in the world about a little rain, I know how I am. If I can avoid a rooster tail by applying full fenders, I will do it.

The bike’s price point suited my budget, with the frame and fork retailing for $725. Felkerino and I used as many parts as we could from the Dining Room Bike Shop to help with the overall cost of building up the bike.

Another preliminary shot of the Nordavinden

Another preliminary shot of the Nordavinden

The Nordavinden will take a light load. It’s not a touring bike, though. In fact, it’s designed to take a front load. I’ve never been a huge fan of the big porteur bag, but I will likely use one on the Nordavinden. I’m still working through my front bag options. Do you have any ideas? For the moment, the bike has a small Carradice seatpack on the rear.

College Park Bicycles did a great job taking all of the parts and getting the bike to where it is now. I will go into the parts spec some other time; I don’t have the bike finalized yet so explaining it would be premature. Also, I’m not a huge gear head so keep your expectations in check. It was a fun group project to put this bike together, though, so I will do a build post at some point.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be dialing in the fit of the Nordavinden and getting a feel for how it rides. I’ll keep you posted.

Bikes to Like: Felkerino’s Cannondale T700 Tourer

Some people have inquired about the various steeds that call the Dining Room Bike Shop home. You can check out most of mine on the “My Bikes” page. Over the next few weeks (or however long that actually translates in terms of time I have to blog) I’ll be featuring the bikes Felkerino rides.

These reviews will not be uber technical so if spec description overload is what you seek, best go check out some other blog. Rather, they will be descriptions through my eyes, my eyes being those focused on the practical and other aspects that catch my attention.

First up is Felkerino’s aluminum, made in the USA, Cannondale T700 tourer. This bike, of 1992 vintage, is one of the first road bikes Felkerino ever owned as a grownup, and serves as his primary commuter.

Felkerino and the Cannondale T700

Shimano A530 pedals allow Felkerino to ride in his business shoes to any meeting.

A sturdy Tubus Cargo rear rack easily accepts the load of commute necessities contained in his Ortlieb Downtown Pannier, and his extra-long Kryptonite U-lock rests tightly on top of the rack, thanks to a strategically placed bungee cord.

A front Wald wire basket provides the perfect space for him to stash his suit jacket so he does not sweat up riding around town on warm days. Felkerino’s not worried about the anything popping out of the basket at the first pothole he encounters. He bought some netting from BicycleSPACE to prevent any untimely suit jacket escapes.

A good look at the T700. Flat pedals, Ortlieb rear pannier, front Wald basket (with suit jacket inside!)

The ever-important bike tools are stashed snugly in a Velo Orange Croissant bag, which fits just under the saddle.

Felkerino doesn’t ride this bike around much in the dark, but just in case, he’s set the bike up with a rear Spanninga taillight (oo la la, I love those lights) and an easy-on easy-off battery-operated LED front light from CatEye. That light doesn’t cast a big bright throw, but it does just fine in the street-lit city. He is able to see the road immediately in front of him, and his front light makes him visible to others.

SKS fenders protect him from the puddles. Yeah, they don’t match (one is black, one is chrome), but they both work equally well at keeping him dry.

The bike is currently set up with drop bars, but there’s been discussion among the Dining Room Bike Shop staff about switching those out for bars that sweep back to allow a more upright ride. That might do a better job of keeping the shirt from wrinkling and reducing any pull on shirts’ shoulder seams.

The Cannondale’s rear Tubus rack, Spanninga light (oo la la), and Velo Orange Croissant saddle bag, Kryptonite U-lock

This is a perfect commuter bike. Not too priceless or dear to be ripped off, dinged up, or locked to a post, but carefully set up to comfortably manage the daily commute.

Hope you enjoyed this summary about Felkerino’s Cannondale T700 Tourer and the introduction to the first of a few of the bikes I’ll feature from the other half of the Dining Room Bike Shop.

Summer Commutes on the Velo Orange Mixte

I tend to have an overall preference for diamond frames, and never considered myself a mixte sort of person. However, a couple of years ago Velo Orange was selling off a batch of their mixte frames at the attractive price of $300 so I mixed up the bike stable by adding a mixte to it.

Velo Orange Mixte, acquitting herself well after climbing a steep hill

Over the next year Felkerino and I (okay, mostly Felkerino) built it up with a variety of parts from the Dining Room Bike Shop, including the front Rivendell Mark’s rack by Nitto, Nitto S83 seatpost, gearing, pedals, Tektro brakes, handlebars, and the bags.

I also purchased a couple of things especially for the mixte, including matte Velo Orange fenders, VO saddle, and a Pletscher kickstand.

I love that we were able to build up the Velo Orange mostly with things we already own. One of my favorite parts on the bike are these double-sided Shimano A530 pedals. Good for wearing with street shoes or SPDs.

Shimano Double-Sided Pedals

Also, it may go without saying, but I am especially proud of the bags on this bike. They’re just delicious. The front Berthoud bag was a gift from Felkerino. It’s big enough to carry my lunch and a few personal items, but not so large that it feels bulky or weighs the bike down in front.

Front Small Berthoud Bag

Nitto Front Rack for the Bertoud. Securely affixed.

The tan Acorn bag, which I purchased on a whim, is made by a couple out of California. Sadly, they no longer make this rear saddlebag, which I find to be the perfect size for a bike like the Velo Orange. Not too big, not too small… just right.

Rear Acorn Saddlebag

After the build was complete, the mixte spent a lot of time languishing in the Dining Room Bike Shop. For some reason, I convinced myself that I wasn’t stylish enough to ride it. I also wasn’t sure about its carrying capacity.

I needn’t have worried on either front. First, I may not be stylish enough for it, but I don’t care. There’s no requirement that a person has to be stylish for a commute around town. A regular shirt and shorts work just fine.

No fashion police arrests. A shirt and shorts work just fine for commuting on the mixte.

The Velo Orange mixte is a great getting-around town bike. It’s carrying capacity is somewhat reduced compared to my Surly LHT (which is set up for panniers in addition to a Carradice bag). I can pick up a little something at the store after work if I need to, but the Velo Orange is definitely not well-suited to a big post-work grocery run.

Nevertheless, there’s still ample storage in the Acorn saddlebag and the Berthoud. The bags easily stow my workout clothes, lunch, U-lock and tools, as well as any other daily essentials.

The upright position and handling make it lots of fun to ride. The bike is quick to respond to any turn I make, and the wider hand positioning compared to drop bars is a refreshing change.

With the exception of the more upright handling, the Velo Orange does not feel much different than my other bikes. For some reason, I thought sloping top tube would make it feel stodgy or noodly or something, but I have not found that.

The bike accepts a small front load easily, and it still handles well. It even passes the no-handed test. See?

No hands? No problem. Going no-handed on the VO mixte.

As I mentioned, I do sit more vertically on this bike than others in my stable, and it makes me feel like I’m just tooling around, seeing the sites, taking in the tourists. There’s no pressure AT ALL to ride fast. Just ride my pace and get there when I get there.

Even so, the bike feels responsive and zippy. I push the pedals and they go. I turn the bars and we’re off and running. I don’t know if that’s because I am forced to not haul a bunch of stuff around or if that’s the natural feel of the bike. I tend to think it’s a little of both.

With the Pletscher kickstand, I can park the bike anywhere. No leaning! That’s a great convenience, especially when I’m overcome by the need to take a bike glamour shot.

VO Mixte glamour shot in front of the World War II Memorial

Last week, I finally put the Surly LHT back into service after a full month of nonstop mixte commutes. I needed to haul more than the mixte was able to carry. It was nice to be back on the Surly and to have its extra carrying capacity, but this past month has been great for solidifying my appreciation of the Velo Orange mixte.

The mixte is a perfect bike for days when I don’t plan to do any post-work grocery shopping or general hauling of stuff. On a day-to-day basis, I require less storage space than I’ve grown to think I need.

The Velo Orange also reminded me of the “just ride” principle. Just get on your bike. Wear whatever clothes you want. Ride your bike. Commuting is not a fashion show (though I do like to get a little bike love now and then). It’s about getting around town on whatever you choose to ride and meeting your transportation needs under the power of your own two feet.

Reviving the Lead Sled: our Cannondale Tandem

Due to unforeseen circumstances (to be discussed in another post), our Co-Motion tandem will not be around for a while. In the meantime, Felkerino and I still want to tandem together so we decided to put our original brevet tandem, a Cannondale mountain frame, back into service for some summer rides and any upcoming fall brevets we do. Because of its industrial dark gray hue and bulky aluminum tubing, Felkerino nicknamed it the “lead sled.”

Cannondale tandem, back in service

Felkerino invested some serious time this past week to make the Cannondale rando ready. He put on new tires, transitioned our saddles and handlebars over from the Co-Motion, and measured and remeasured to mimic our Co-Motion measurements as much as possible.

This weekend we took the lead sled out for a 73-mile shakedown ride to see how it- and we- would fare. While it’s quite a switch to go from riding a steel tandem that’s been made especially for you to a stock Large-in-front, Medium-in-back aluminum-frame tandem with 26-inch wheels, our ride went better than I expected.

There is no doubt that the Cannondale has served us well. We rode it through our first two seasons of randonneuring together, and we put it through its paces on the Cascade 1200K in 2006. Since Co-Motion built our tandem, though, the Cannondale has not seen much use.

Having grown so accustomed to the fit and feel of the Co-Motion, I was apprehensive about reviving the Cannondale. I was also bummed that riding the Co-Motion was not an option.

I love tandeming with Felkerino so I had to get over being bummed out and get my bum in the stoker zone. Once we dialed in each of our fits as best we could and made it out on the open road, I have to say I enjoyed riding the bike again. It was like rekindling a relationship with an old frenemy. I mean, an old friend. We’ll have to see how we all get along on longer rides, but for 73 miles the Cannondale felt good, albeit distinct from the Co-Motion.

Cannondale tandem, i.e., the lead sled

  • Stiffness. The Cannondale is a much stiffer ride than the Co-Motion. It’s hard to explain, but when we stood up on the pedals for some standing climbing I felt the stiffness of the Cannondale radiate from the balls of my feet. The Co-Motion, in comparison, has a little more give to it and does not feel so rigid when we climb.
  • Tire Size. Being a mountain tandem, the Cannondale is ideally suited for 26-inch wheels (unlike our Co-Motion which takes 700Cs). For this go-round with the lead sled, we decided to use wider tires than we did in the past, as we found the ride rather unforgiving. This time, we’re riding 26 x 1.5-inch tires and it has made the ride smoother. Bumps don’t cause as much of a jolt as they did with 32s. The slightly smaller and wider tires add some rolling resistance, which is noticeable on the downhills as we give up one or two miles an hour, but the added comfort is worth it.
  • Handlebar Reach. The Cannondale is over two inches shorter in the stoker zone, making the fit somewhat of a compromise. The space in the stoker zone of the Co-Motion is ideal; it’s like having my own studio apartment. I can ride easily on the top of the bars as well as the hoods. When riding the Cannondale, I much prefer to spend my time on the hoods so that I can get a little more stretch. The handlebar reach will never be perfect on this bike, but it works alright for now.
  • Setback. I found the setback on both bikes to be comparable thus far, thanks to the Velo Orange Grand Cru seatpost I’m using on the Cannondale. I did not find myself pushing back on the saddle this weekend, as I had during previous rides on this bike. We’ll see how it goes on longer rides. Knowing that the overall stoker zone is a couple inches shorter than the Co-Motion, I’m a little apprehensive about how the reach and setback will be on rides of 100 miles or longer.
  • General Size. As I mentioned, the Co-Motion is one large bike, with a much higher top tube than the Cannondale. Felkerino said that the Co-Motion practically requires him to be a Rockette to step over it. I actually do not recall the standover height of the Co-Motion and since it is in the bike hospital, I cannot take any measurements. In contrast, the Cannondale top tube is much lower. That also means that the fistful (in this case, four inches) of seatpost that is visible on the Co-Motion is 7 inches of visible seatpost on the Cannondale. When on the Cannondale, I’m looking way down at the top tube on that bike. It will take time to readjust to the feeling of a slightly smaller and shorter frame.

Felkerino and the Cannondale tandem. See what I mean about the top tube?

Thankfully, the Cannondale felt pretty good for the duration of our ride. There are kinks to be ironed out, as to be expected with any bike that has not been ridden for a while and that you want to put back into service for more rigorous riding.

This weekend our 40-spoke rear wheel popped a spoke at the head and now needs to be rethreaded. Great. (Better now than in the middle of nowhere, right?) We need to install fenders. The 26-inch tire stash needs to be inventoried and reviewed. Felkerino and I will tinker with our positioning until it feels as optimal as we can get it.

I’m heartened. After almost a month off of the tandem, we’re back at it. We’re not on the tandem I expected, but given that the Co-Motion is unrideable I feel fortunate to have a reserve tandem that’s performed solidly for us in the past. We are determined to make the Cannondale a solid touring and randonneuring bike that will once again meet our tandeming needs.

The Perfect Commuter Bike: my Surly Long Haul Trucker

Recently, I took a break from riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker because it was just too dirty to ride. Every time I touched the bike I deposited dirt somewhere on my person. I washed it over the weekend (OK, Felkerino washed it over the weekend) and now it’s too clean to ride.

Surly Long Haul Trucker

In the interim, I dusted off my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket and have been tooling around on it instead. I really like my Bike Friday, but spending the week on the Pocket Rocket made me realize why I hop on my Surly LHT almost every day for my commute.

  • Carrying Capacity

The Surly LHT can really be loaded down. I don’t have a front rack on it, but I do use a small Rickshaw Pipsqueak front bag for my phone and camera. On the rear I affixed a Carradice Pendle for days when I don’t feel like carrying much. This bag is also a home for my lock, tools, spare tube, and patch kit.

For days when I want to carry more and use a pannier, I installed a Nitto Campee rack. That rack is awesome. First, it’s beautiful. Second, I almost always use at least one pannier for commuting and the Nitto rack is so sturdy that I don’t feel the pannier pulling the bike at all.

  • Utility

The Surly’s setup also allows me to make any post-work grocery or shopping runs. I don’t even have to plan them. I suddenly realize the cupboards are bare? No worries! I steer my Surly to the nearest grocery store knowing that it can easily tolerate the weight of groceries.

If I had to suddenly evacuate my home, I’d be hard-pressed to choose any other bike besides the Long Haul Trucker. It carries all the stuff I need without making me feel like I’m going to fall over, and the mountain gearing allows me to pedal steadily without any fear of hurting my knees.

Stocking up with the Surly at the White House Farmers’ Market

  • Tire Width

My Surly is a size 54 and all you Surly LHT owners know what that means. Twenty-six inch wheels (and no toe overlap, yay!).

Originally this bike came stock with 38 millimeter tires, but that seemed a little excessive for urban riding and after they wore out I switched to 32s.

I lapsed into not appreciating 32s until this week, when I was tooling around on 28s. I think I might need to see the dentist from all the jarring bumps I’ve thrown myself over on this week’s commutes.

Wider tires that require lower pressure like those on the Surly allow me to roll easily over almost everything. Pothole? No problem. (OK, I’m being hyperbolic here.) But you know what I mean? It’s just an easier ride in the city with those wider and slightly softer tires.

I also don’t have to worry as much about those cracks in the pavement into which a narrower tire (like the 28s on my Friday) can get stuck. Again, the Surly doesn’t even notice these. There were a couple of times this week where I forgot I was riding 28s and almost lodged my tires and myself into a dangerous spot. I didn’t go down, but I felt the bike herk and jerk out of the little crevasse the tire had fallen into.

  • Aesthetics

I like the look of my Surly. I think it’s a cool color. I like the little detailing on the fork. I like that it’s steel. The decals don’t even bother me, though I could do without the “fatties fit fine” on the chainstays.

My Surly and me

  • Price Point

Nobody wants anything to happen to their bike, especially a bike they love (as I love my Surly). However, the Surly’s price point and availability in bike shops means that I don’t feel too terrible about locking it up in a public area. I would be SUPER HOPPING mad if this bike were to go missing on me, but it is not an irreplaceable heirloom bike.

Second, given that it is not an heirloom, I don’t feel too bad about locking it to a pole or bike rack, leaving it exposed to the elements, and risking a little dinging up of the paint. That said, if the forecast predicts rain I always try to cover my saddle with a plastic bag and I did buy my bike a little sweater/top tube protector from a nice person on Etsy to help keep the dings at bay.

  • Comfort

My Surly fits me perfectly. Remarkably, the stock 54 cm build required no post-purchase alterations, not even in stem length or handlebar width.

I have ridden this ride as far as century distances and I have experienced zero pain. That kind of comfort makes me feel like the bike might actually love me back. (Is that possible? Say it might be possible!) It’s hard not to love a bike that offers this kind of comfort.

There you have it, people. The reasons I think the Surly Long Haul Trucker has treated me right and become my go-to commuter bike. Like I say, I might not be riding it for a while as I would hate for it to get dirty again, but the utility, fit, and ultimate comfort of this bike make it hard for me to not ride it.

What about you? Have a favorite commute bike with a feature I didn’t mention? Inquiring minds (i.e., me) want to know what they are.

Quickbeam Single Speeding and its Pleasures

Quickbeam visits the White House

Lately I’ve been riding my Rivendell Quickbeam around. It started because my Surly got so dirty I just couldn’t take it anymore and I set it aside for a bath. Then I cleaned the Surly and now I still can’t ride it because it’s clean, and riding it will make it dirty again. And since Felkerino and are no longer dating and he is my real life spouse, I have to clean all my own bikes. Sigh. Life is rough.

I did not always ride single speed. I used to have an aluminum Specialized Langster fixed gear.

Have you ever ridden an aluminum fixed gear? Holy cow!

Every time I rode it over the city’s bumpy streets I was sure my teeth would all fall out. Also, even though I had brakes, I could never figure out the synergy or whatever is supposed to exist between you and your fixed gear bike. I just felt like I had no business being on the road with it. Riding fixed was just NOT for me.

Because the Langster’s ride was so rough, I sold it instead of setting it up with a freewheel, and put the money towards the purchase of a Rivendell Quickbeam.

The Quickbeam is one awesome bike for getting around town.

You’re riding that now?

First, I don’t have to worry about it getting dirty because it’s already dirty, although not to the point that I need to wash my hands every time I touch it.

It’s also a fairly springy steed, especially when compared to my Surly. (However, now that the Surly is clean, it is quite possible that it weighs a few pounds less and could be slightly springier than it was.) When I push on the Quickbeam’s pedals, it jumps. I like that feeling. It’s also a great fit. The saddle height, setback, and reach all feel perfect. Rivendell did a nice job with this bike.

The Quickbeam is good for danger pandas!

The Quickbeam is a simple riding experience. The gear ratio is 40:18. Do you know what that means? It means no commute racing! The mellow gearing eliminates my ability to even compete in those kinds of antics. Yes, I’m totally out of the running, which makes my commutes that much more serene.

In addition, I never have to think about shifting (sort of like stoking the tandem). I ride with the terrain and alter my pedaling accordingly. For riding around the city and gentle rollers, that suits me just fine.

Quickbeam visits the Lincoln Memorial

I will be back on the Surly, my go-to commuter, soon enough. In the meantime, the Quickbeam is a nice change of pace. It offers some simplicity and pleasurable riding amid the heat of the summer, the mobs of tourists, and crowded D.C. streets. And I don’t have to worry one bit about riding through a puddle or in the rain because, hey, it’s already dirty.

1992 Bridgestone MB-4: Free bike = FIGHT!

Recently, I sent a bike of mine off to the hospital to be parted out. Last week after our morning ride to coffee, we ran into  saw a coffee buddy of ours who said he had an old mountain bike that he wanted to give away. Specifically, he wanted to give it to us because he said “You guys will know what to do with it.”

Who, us? How did he know? And how did he know that we had just freed up some space in the dining room bike shop so we could accomodate one more steed?

Felkerino asked him what kind of bike it was and our friend said, “Oh, it’s an old Bridgestone mountain bike.” Hmmm. That piqued our interest, but we tried not to give it too much thought.

When we picked up the bike, we discovered it was a 1992 Bridgestone MB-4 in pearl white. It was kept in a loving home and does not appear to have many miles on it. Most of the parts, which include a lovely Sugino crank and Shimano Deore gearing, are original.

Felkerino on the Bridgestone MB-4

We were so excited about my  Felkerino’s  our new bike, that we immediately pumped up the tires and took turns spinning gleefully around the parking lot. While the MB-4 is not among the most prized of the Bridgestone models, the pearl white frame is pretty and the ride feels good.

Plus, it was really cool that our coffee connection thought of giving this bike to us. Sometimes serendipitous things like that happen and those are fun moments to treasure.

Me on my, um, I mean our Bridgestone MB-4

After treasuring the serendipity, I started eyeing Felkerino suspiciously. “He doesn’t really need that bike. I need that bike.” I knew he was thinking the same thing about me. Don’t ask me how. I just knew.

During our series of parking lot test rides, I thought one of us might try to make a break for it and just ride off victoriously into the sunset. Ultimately, though, we got all the excitement out of our system and realized that:

  1. We live together and there is really nowhere to escape to;
  2. We both have enough bikes (well, that’s what I told Felkerino, anyway); and
  3. It was generosity and good luck that got us this bike in the first place.

We decided the Bridgestone is something we can share. Our measurements are fairly similar as is our enthusiasm for the bike.

Sigh. Do you know anyone who likes sharing? I might need some pointers. I’ll let you know how it goes. :)

Building up the Velo Orange Mixte

Felkerino’s been working on this winter’s project bike, my Velo Orange Mixte. It’s coming together!

We pulled the wheels, chainrings, and bottom bracket off of my Novara Randonnee touring frame. You can see the Novara lurking, sad and naked, in the background of this picture.

The saddle, for the moment, is a sprung Brooks Flyer “S” that used to be on the tandem. This saddle may not last, however, as it is well worn.

The bars, Nitto stem, brakes, and brake levers are from the Felkerino Spare Parts Shop. I love that store!

To see how the whole project is progressing, check out the flickr set. The picture on the left right will take you there.