Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Bike Commute of 2009

So I managed one last bike commute for 2009 using my brand new road bike this past Tuesday. This makes Bike Commute #6, cementing my one commute per month average since trying to get into a bike commute habit.

Thankfully we're on the other side of the winter solstice now, so the days are only getting longer from here out. Even though I've got head and tail lights, I wasn't too keen on riding in the dark evenings since the switch back to standard time. This last ride in the evening there was still enough lingering sunlight to see without lights, though I think still dark enough that lights were necessary to be seen.

I was quite surprised to make my ride into work at about 23 minutes flat! I think 28 minutes was my best time to date on my mountain bike. I usually was clocking in between 29 - 32 minutes, if my recollection serves me correctly. I finished the ride back in the evening at just about 25 minutes flat. This is great. If I can get into some decent riding shape, how much more time can I shave off? Dare I try to ride all the way from home again?


I'm hoping for more frequent riding in 2010, and to possibly do some longer distance riding outside my bike commute. I'll probably try to venture out for some solo rides and slowly test my boundaries for both climbing and distance. I'd like to do some formal and informal group rides, and maybe even a charity event ride. I'd like to go watch a cyclocross race, and if I'm really crazy into it, maybe get my own butt into a race. It's a little while until cyclocross season starts back up, so I have time to think about this. Feel free to try to talk me into or out of this idea.

To everyone that has read this silly little blog, even if this is the first post you've read, thanks for reading. I hope to improve not only my riding, but my writing in the year to come. To everyone who has taken the time to comment here, thanks for your kind words of advice and support. Honest thanks again to my wife for encouraging me to start bike commuting in the first place, and for letting me get a new bike in advance of my self-imposed 21 ride goal because she believed it might encourage me to ride more and really get in the habit.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Bike!

After all the deliberating, both public and private, I went out and bought a new bike. I am the proud new owner of a 2010 Masi Speciale CX. Detailed specs can be found at the Masi Bicycles web site.

I went to check out bikes at Cal Coast Bicycles on Wednesday, December 23. Thanks to Aaron, who helped me out and was extremely helpful. I didn't go in expecting to buy a bike that day, but they had the bike in my size and gave me a great deal. Due to a minor equipment glitch on the bike and the impending holiday, I didn't actually take the bike home until Saturday. That was cool, though, because that Saturday was actually my birthday, so it was quite a treat to be able to take home my new bicycle. The bike is a combined Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday/Happy New Year/Happy Bike Commuting gift from my lovely wife. Thanks, babe!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Narrowing the list

I've been thinking more about the bike I want. I think I will go steel...just because. Therefore I can immediately cross the few aluminum bikes off my list. I'll also pass on the disc brake and carbon fork bikes, which are probably overkill. I'll sneak the Handsome Devil in there, though I'd have to have that built up at a to be determined cost.

Here are the front-runners:
The Raleigh Clubman and the two Masi are all gorgeous bikes and at the top of my list right now. The Handsome is close behind. Masi is a San Diego-based company, so I like to factor that in. It is always nice to support the local guys. On the other hand, it is nice to support the little guys like Handsome (not that Masi are huge themselves). If I could do a comparable build of the Devil in that $1100 price range, it would be a tough call.
  • Bianchi Volpe - steel frame/fork, triple crank, Shimano Tiagra/Deore ($1099)
  • Surly Cross-Check - steel frame/fork, bar-end shifters, Shimano Tiagra ($1050)
  • Gary Fisher Lane - steel frame/fork, triple crank, Shimano 2300/Deore ($1099)
The Bianchi Volpe and Surly CrossCheck are both solid choices, but don't seem to have some of the flair of the previous bikes. The Fisher Lane is brand new to the market but is very much akin to the Volpe and CrossCheck. I admire Gary Fisher and how he's an ambassador for cycling of all types.
The Specialized Allez Steel could be a dark horse here. The Kona Honky Tonk appears a close cousin to the Allez. I think the geometry of these two are the sportiest of the bunch. Not that I really understand much about bicycle geometry, but they have the shortest wheelbase and chainstay length. They may not take fatter tires either. The downtube shifters of the Allez are certainly a throwback, but the price is not to be ignored, especially if it indeed has Reynolds tubing.  In 2009 the Honky Tonk also had downtube shifters, but for 2010 Kona switched to STI shifters. Whether that's an improvement depends on your perspective, I guess, but this bike also looks like a good value. I've not seen a local shop yet that carries Kona road bikes, though.

What to do, what to do?? Test rides would be an ideal start, I suppose...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Handsome Devil

No, I'm not talking about myself. I'm talking about this bike:

I remember visiting the website for Handsome Cycles some time ago, but I guess I wasn't really paying attention before. Though I would prefer to buy a complete bike, something about building a bike on this frameset is speaking to me at the moment.

I found a couple interviews with the guys from Handsome online and it seems they were inspired by the Bridgestone XO-1 when designing this frame as a versatile all-rounder. Because of that Bridgestone connection, I'm thinking this might be a poor man's Rivendell (albeit no lugs, just double-butted chromoly to keep it affordable). EcoVelo apparently has a review of the Devil forthcoming in the new year. I can't wait to read it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A New Bike...Part 3

My wife asked me tonight if I was getting a new bike for Christmas & my birthday (Dec. 26). Though I certainly want one, part of me feels that I haven't earned a new bike just yet. I am far from my initially stated goal of 21 habit-forming rides to work. My wife suggested that maybe a faster bike might make me ride more often. Maybe, but...
Hey, why am I even resisting this?? Well, partly because I am still undecided on what bike I want. Part of the problem is I fear that a lot of the bikes I'm considering might have to be special ordered without being able to ride the bike first. 

Here are the bikes by classification, with basic spec and price:

 Road Bike, rim brakes:
 Road Bike, disc brakes:
  • Kona Honky, Inc. - steel frame, carbon fork, Shimano 105, Avid BB7 discs ($1449)
  • Novara Buzz Road - aluminum frame, carbon fork, Shimano Tiagra, Avid BB7 discs ($999)
Gee, that's a lot of bikes to consider...

Friday, December 11, 2009

A New Bike for My Commute, Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about the type of bike I think I want to get for a commuter. In general I'm thinking about a drop-bar road bike. Probably a touring or cyclocross frame. Probably steel.

I have researched extensively about the Surly Cross-Check and Long Haul Trucker. I'll assume everyone knows about these bikes. There's nothing I could really add as I've never ridden one. Consensus seems to be these are great bikes for commuting and both come in around $1100 for a complete bike. I would lean toward the Cross-Check between the two; in fact, for awhile I was convinced this was the bike I wanted to get. There are some other bikes that have caught my interest more recently, though.

A funny anecdote I will share is about when I went to a San Diego-area bike shop (let's just say it's on Adams Avenue) and was talking to one of the shop guys about a getting a more road-oriented bike to supplant my mountain bike for commuting to work. I asked about the LHT, which they had on display. The guy helping me told me frankly that the LHT was "too much bike" to just use for commuting. I do understand the LHT was designed for loaded touring, so there is truth to that statement [Incidentally, over at Commute By Bike, the voting did end up with the LHT as the bike of choice for their "Perfect Commuter Bike"]. The thing was that I felt that he kept talking me off $1000 bikes (I asked about the Bianchi Valle, which they didn't have, and he also reluctantly pointed out a Raleigh Clubman, which they did have) and steered me toward a ~$600 Specialized/Globe Vienna. Maybe he felt he was doing me a favor recommending the cheaper bike based on the impression I was giving him. I took it for a test ride anyway. It was decent, a nice bike actually, but it wasn't the bike for me.

Now that I think about it, I went to the other bike shop on Adams Ave. on a different occassion (where I bought the touring tires I'm currently riding) and had a somewhat similar experience. There I actually did throw a leg over a Cross-Check (or was it an LHT?) and began probing the shop dude about his opinion on steel road bikes. He also ended up pointing me to an aluminum-framed, flat-bar hybrid. As I've stated,this is just not the type of bike I am after.

Since I'm now talking bike shops...I made a trip down to Velo Cult one time, as well. Really cool shop (not that the other two shops weren't cool). I explained what I was looking for there and was shown a couple different bikes. Guess what? This was the first shop where they didn't try to sell me on an aluminum hybrid! Well, the fact that they only sell steel bikes may have something to do with it, but, whatever. Score one for Velo Cult! I also asked about Xtracycles. They actually have an Xtracycle built up at the shop, which they'll apparently loan out for extended test riding. It's the only shop that I've ever visited where I've seen an Xtracycle. I've always been afraid to ask "regular" bike shops about Xtracycles for fear they'd have absolutely no clue what I was talking about.

Next post: less bike shop anecdotes, more bikes...