Monday, May 31, 2010

Bike 'servations

I have two Rivendells. A "Road" and an "All Rounder". Same size & dimensions, even built by the same guy (Joe Stark) in the same year (2001). The AR has heavier gauge tubing, but not a whole lot so. It's about seven pounds heavier due to the tubing, a rear rack, triple chainrings & mech, Brooks B17, and 40mm Conti Top Touring 2K tires on Sun CR-18 rims. The Road has downtube shifters on a compact double, ti cassette, ti WTB Deva and Pasela Tourguards (30mm actual) on Open Pro rims (28 spoke front). While the bars are the same (46cm Nitto Dirt Drops), they are about 30mm higher on the AR.

So here's the much-promised 'servatin': I went on back to back rides over two days on these bikes. First on the Road, then the next day on the AR. Same route, a 33 mile out and back that has a pretty consistent grade (THIS is approximately the ride, but a different route back). Both days I was feeling good and had a nice espresso. Priorities!

I don't normally do the time keeping thing, but this was a test. For science.
Road stats: 61 minutes to turn around spot @ 16.6 miles. Return home was 80 minutes (uphill, and tired)
AR stats: 66 minutes to turn around spot. Return was the same at 80 minutes.

Two variables to throw in. I was playing leapfrog with some cyclists on the "Road Day". Finally got tired of it and dropped down and spun past them. I kept up the speed so they wouldn't catch me. Lame, but I was tired of passing/being passed by them cuz' they wouldn't say "hi". Serious.

Second thing is that I ate a snack bar thingie at the turn around today. I may have bonked a little bit on the last little bit the previous day. So possibly my time was artificially faster going down on the Road, and possibly artificially faster returning on the AR.

The conclusion: It appears that for a couple hours of riding, in a non-competitive manner, weight doesn't matter much. Again, this was only 30+ miles, by myself and no real hills. I was just as comfortable on both bikes, which is a big factor. I sure love the way the Road feels, but am having a hard time justifying keeping them both!

A kewl aside: another roadie who didn't want to say hi had to stop and dismount to lift his delicate bike over the gate getting off the trail. I simply road around the gate on the pea gravel and kept on going. Fat tires sure are nice!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Found: The Perfect Kid Bike

Unfortunately is hasn't been sold since Al Gore won the vote for President.

Buying a capable kid's bike is difficult if you're an a opinionated cyclist. You want your kids to have a bike that's similar to your tastes and what you believe is the best style. For me this is steel with no suspension (rigid) with 24" wheels and a pretty low standover. Good luck finding that on the current market. There are lots of nice bikes available at your LBS, but none with the above features that I'm aware of. Big Box Bikes aren't really apropos to this conversation.

So let me suggest you look for a Trek 220. They still make them, and they're good bikes, but they are aluminum and have suspension forks. Why a bike meant for a 60 pound kid needs suspension is beyond me. But I digress. The 220 has a "boy" and a "girl" frame, which are completely alike except the girl frame has about two inches of extra standover. That's actually a pretty cool feature as long as your male-spawn doesn't freak over riding a GIRL'S BIKE.

almost a big kid bike

What I'm recommending is finding a used one. They're steel, have tons of adjustability in fit and are well made in Taiwan. Parts are pretty low-end, but well-enough made that you can adjust them. SRAM shifters, Altus front derailer, no-name rear, seven-speed freewheel hubs, alloy rims and bars, good tires. Tektro brakes, in particular, are really good. They'll lock up the front wheel and toss your kids if they aren't used to hand brakes (ask me how I know).

at least one crash on it

So the key is to trawl Craigslist to find a good one. It's gonna' be used of course, but for the most part these sturdy bikes are hard to abuse. That, and unfortunately, most kids don't really ride their bikes a whole bunch :-(

The minimum saddle height from the ground is approximately 26 inches, so your kiddo needs to be able to straddle that. At least until they figure out they can lean the bike over in order to put a foot down. My five and seven year olds are the same height, so technically can both fit this bike. That extra two years of bike handling comes in very useful as the seven y.o is much more comfortable. The five y.o. is kinda' freaked by the extra size and mass and doesn't like riding. Luckily there is a nice 20" bike that needs to get used for a few more years!

Speaking of wheel size, the 24" wheels are amazingly better at rolling over curbs and obstacles compared to a 20" wheel. A huge jump in performance and capability. It's the 29er of the kid-bike world!

I've still got my eye out for a Kona Jake 24, which is probably the best all-around kid bike out there, but good luck with finding that! Let me know if there are other similar bikes out there, particularly a 24" cross bike!

Update: Trek has a similar model, the 200 that is currently being sold. Looks like it could be a nice bike! Also, I've been able to get a Redline Conquest 24, which is a full 10 lbs lighter (The only unmentioned downside to the 220 is that it weights in at 30lbs!). The Redline also lacks the small triple chainring, which my kids use a lot when we're out on trails. Tire availability might be a problem later on as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010