Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Falling. Also, In Love.

Well, I've been falling over kind of too often lately. Good news is, it has been pretty fun.

The bike I've enjoyed falling over on so much is the replacement I bought with the insurance money after the theft of my beautiful fixed gear, Summer. I'll bet the visually astute among you caught a couple of cool features already.

The bike I bought is a 2014 CUBE Men's Touring City Bike. Touring City Bike? Wha? Exactly. CUBE is a German company with a pretty good rep, mostly for mountain bikes. Translation of bike model names isn't always the greatest. Germans love a good all-purpose bicycle and with this thing you can tell. After seeing the specs on it I bought it from Chain Reaction Cycles, the online monster based in Ireland.

When you see the following spec list, I'm hoping you will understand why I skipped the LBS on this purchase...

  • Frame: Aluminium Lite Trekking Comfort
  • Forks: SR Suntour NEX HLO
  • Chainset:Truvativ E400, 42T, 175mm
  • Bottom Bracket: Truvativ BB Power Spline
  • Shift Levers: Shimano Nexus Inter-8 SL-8S30, Revoshifter
  • Rims: Schürmann Yak19, V-Brake
  • Front Hub: Shimano DH-3N31, Hub Dynamo, QR
  • Rear Hub: Shimano Nexus SG-8R36
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Factory 2.0, Black
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Spicer Active 40x622
  • Front Brake: Shimano BR-M422, V-Brake
  • Rear Brake:  Shimano BR-M422, V-Brake
  • Brake Levers: RFR 520 Aluminium Black
  • Handlebars: CUBE Rise Trail Bar, 660mm
  • Grips: CUBE Ergo Grip Shift
  • Headset: FSA No. 10 Semi-Integrated
  • Stem: CUBE Performance, 31.8mm
  • Saddle: Selle Royal Freccia
  • Seatpost: CUBE Performance Post, 31.6mm
  • Seatclamp: Scape Close 34.9mm
  • Pedals: Trekking Aluminium
Weight: 16 kg
Extra Features:
  • Front Light: Busch&Müller Lumotec IQ Fly T Senso Plus
  • Backlight: Busch&Müller Toplight Flat Plus
  • Kickstand: Standwell Centre Kickstand
  • Mudguard: SKS Black Shiney Pro
  • Bell: Humpert
  • Carrier: Standwell Bag Carrier

See, unlike most North American bikes, which need accessorizing after the fact, this thing came with EVERYTHING I was after and then some. I wanted an internally geared bike and that is where I started. But when pre-installed dyno, lights, SKS fenders and a rear rack showed up along with pretty good brand-name components including good spokes and tires, I was SOLD.

Am I crazy, or is this bike spec'd out really well?

I am absolutely loving this bike, despite a few shortcomings that I will cover now.

1) Size: It is too big for me. Bike fit is great when riding, but standover height is too high. Those among you who are thinking "I told you so" about not using a local bike shop are absolutely right, so back off, you bastards! The sizing chart lied to me. My suspicion is that they didn't adjust the chart for the suspension fork. I wasn't interested in returning this awesome bike by shipping it across the ocean, whether at my expense or not. I am so pleased with everything else that I will a) get used to it and do nothing or b) try a rigid fork that will lower the crossbar height somewhat. Despite some online forum goons saying it may mess with the handling, I don't believe it would hurt anything the way I'm using it and if I'm careful to find a fork with some rake to it. My winter tires are 32c instead of the the 38c ones that are on it, and that will help a tiny bit too.

2) Suspension Fork: I am not a fan of suspension forks for road use, harsh urban or not. CUBE has more offerings in their 2015 City lineup with rigid forks, so it would seem I am not alone. That said, I found this one acceptable because it has a lockout feature which I use most of the time. When I'm out in "falling over land", I let the fork do its thing and quite enjoy the cushy ride.

3) Grip Shifters: I hate grip shifters. Just a personal preference I guess. However, grip shifters combined with the Nexus hub seem more acceptable somehow. I don't know why, but it just isn't bugging me the way a grip shifter with a derailleur does.

4) Cable Guides: The cables came attached to the guides on the frame by little metal clip things that pop off rather easily. Nothing trusty zip ties couldn't fix, but a tad annoying and surprising in a bike of good quality otherwise. CUBE has moved to internal cable routing in 2015 models.

That's it for my complaints.

This bike rides beautifully, partly of course because it has big slicks on it. It is heavy, but so am I, and the solid feel is good. When I weigh 160 lbs again, I'll gladly start caring about how much my bike weighs. The gear range seems perfect so far, because I have yet to need gear 1,2 or 8 on my in-city rides, meaning it will probably be fine if I challenge some bigger hills or hit some really fast and flat terrain.

The chainguard, not mentioned in the specs, is clear and black and cool looking. If a chainguard could be cool, that is. The ergon-like grips are really good, and unlike some other imitations they have lock down screws that keep them from twisting out of position.

The Busch & Müller lights, pre-wired to the front dyno hub, are awesome! They aren't crazy blazing bright, but the beam is super wide and useful. They have a light sensor in them so during the day I get running lights and when its dark they go full on. They also have a capacitor so that when I'm stopped they won't go out for several minutes. I know this is old news to some, but I am totally loving not thinking about lights for the first time ever; they take care of themselves. When I'm extra worried about being seen, day or night, I activate my helmet mounted superflash but otherwise I just don't worry. It's great! The points where the wires disappear into the frame seem flimsy to me. I intend to reinforce them with a dab of silicone or something.

Of course, this particular model of CUBE bike is not to be found anywhere for much longer; the model names have all changed for 2015 and I can't find an exact equivalent. In addition, they will likely never be distributed in the USA due to patent problems with the rear suspensions on their mountain bikes. Lastly, there appears to be a new Canadian distributor: http://www.cube-bikes.ca , which makes me happy .

So, if you're in the USA and wanted a CUBE bike, you should probably do what I did and order it online. I have no idea if duties or taxes are much different for my US brothers and sisters, but my bike, all-in (taxes, delivery, duty, everything) cost me $1350 CAD. When I look at the extras, that price blows my mind.

I would not recommend buying a bike online to anyone who is not comfortable doing their own assembly, repairs and adjustments; it isn't fair (in my opinion) to ask your lbs to fix the business you chose not to give them. Also note that I got semi-burned on the sizing thing. What's all that worth? I don't know. 

Yer Pal,

PS - I have not received anything from anybody for this review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Delayed Reaction

Hi all! About 3 weeks ago my favourite bike, "Summer", was stolen off my front porch. It was chained and padlocked, as pictured below. The padlock had been downgraded for some forgotten reason. Bolt cutters did the trick for whoever took it.

At the time I felt absolutely gutted. I built that bike up from the bare frame. I loved that bike about as much as one could love a material thing. The good news for me is, it would seem that isn't all that much because I'm pretty well over it now.

fixed gear goodness

I've quickly moved from feelings of rage for whoever took it to feelings of pity. I mean, if stealing bikes is where you're at, odds are your life kind of sucks. My life doesn't suck. It is filled with good things and loving people, so much so that the worst thing to happen to me in a long while was the loss of a bicycle. Bicycles are just things and things don't have feelings and are quite easily replaced.

Insurance paid out $1000, much less than the full value, but after deductible, blah blah blah, that's what I got. I have replaced Summer with a bike that is quite different from it, a real all-rounder that should serve me well in both winter and summer. I did not build this one. We are still getting acquainted, but I will probably post some sort of review in the next while. I will say that I think I got a hell of a lot of bike for the money. I'm trying to get away from the "n+1" bike mentality. Our shed and Mrs. Rantwick will be pleased.

Goodbye, Summer! You were a great bike. Thankfully, many bikes are, one way or another.

Yer Pal,

Friday, September 26, 2014

When Canadian Cyclists Clash: Extreme Pleasantness

Here we go again, just 2 Canadians living up to their reputations of courtesy, politeness and general goodwill.

Truth be told, I think the absence of cars in this situation is really what allowed it to be so civil and pleasant. Instead of being encased by my car and asking rhetorical "what are you doing" questions of the cyclist in front of me, I could just ask him directly, in a decidedly non-rhetorical way, what he was planning to do. Of course I got in his way anyway. But that's totally OK; we were two Canadians out riding bikes on a sunny morning! We couldn't piss each other off if we tried!

Yer Pal,

I'm A Twit Once Again

For any of you Twittererers out there, I'm back on it after leaving about a year ago. Stupid social media stuff makes you think you need it again sooner or later.

Although I feel a bit of a chump for going back, the only thing worse is having 2 followers, neither of whom I know, which is my current situation. If you're so inclined, please hit twitter and follow me.

My name is no longer rantwick (on twitter) it is Patrick Cormier, but my twitter handle or whatever you call it is @rantwick.

Yours in Abject Servitude to the Online Powers That Be,

Monday, September 22, 2014

100 Good Mornings

I've been kind of stuck on the topic of the individual human element of cycling as opposed to the planning or traffic or advocacy angles for some time now, as evidenced by most of my more recent posts, as sparse as they have been.

I have not become unstuck, it would seem. There are few human interactions as commonplace and universal as saying good morning. I've been collecting bicycle good mornings for a long time... I think I started a couple of years ago. For me, THIS is a big part of what is so great about riding a bike:

It took me many hours to trim and string all those clips together and do the counter and all that stuff. I suppose I could have made things much easier for myself by doing a nice bunch of the best ones instead of 100, but once that notion was in my head anything else just seemed like an unacceptable compromise. I hope you enjoyed it... I still enjoy watching it even after working with it for so long, so if you didn't, that's OK too. Birdsong and repeated pleasantness isn't for everyone. Have a great week and I'll try to write something caustic or at least snarky in the next little while.

Yer Pal,

Thursday, September 18, 2014

News Flash: Stuff Is Gonna Happen

I had an interesting morning on my way to work. A kind of "perfect storm" of road sharing (or lack thereof) in which a truck with a trailer gave me a wide berth (thank you, btw), pushing an oncoming white pickup close to a runner going the same direction as me facing traffic on the other side of the road, as runners commonly do. Thing is, it resulted in the runner and the motorist coming to blows. I have video. Here's the "perfect storm" part:

After that is when things went all sideways. The runner told me he may have made a gesture at the pickup's driver when he came so close. Just after that the driver of the white pickup did a u-turn, drove up to the runner and the driver got out. Yelling and a pretty serious scuffle ensued. I dismounted my bike and approached, but not too close. The white pickup left soon after. I spoke to the runner who gave me his version of what happened. I offered my video. He didn't want it. 30 seconds after we parted ways, the runner was yelling after me asking if I could get a plate number off my video. The truck had swung around again and the driver had thrown hot water or tea or something on him! Crazy. Just crazy.

Now for the surprising (at least to me) part: I am not going to post the video of any of that. I am making it available to the runner in case he wants to press charges, but I am not going to post it anywhere online. When I first got it, I was mentally rubbing my hands at the thought of tons of views (and maybe a little ad revenue) on youtube. Now though, I have decided that would just feel sort of wrong.

As much as they are fun to watch, nobody learns anything from videos of negativity and violence on the roads; they entertain by appealing to the worst in us and just leave the viewer more convinced than ever that everybody else out there is a dangerous idiot. Hate 'em all, whoever they are!

Here's what I wish people would learn instead: so long as there are roads and people using them, Stuff Is Gonna Happen. I sometimes make mistakes when I drive my car and when I ride my bike. So do you. Sometimes complex scenarios result in people making poor decisions. It isn't malice or carelessness; it's just a mistake. I heard somewhere that people learn from those. In addition, there are careless unsafe idiots using every possible mode of transportation. Contrary to how it feels sometimes, these are a small minority; if they weren't it would be non-stop carnage and bedlam out there. Last but not least, there are road users who want to strongly assert their rights, real or perceived, 100% of the time.

For those who assert their legal rights at all times, go for it. You (ahem) have every right. I would remind you that a little well-timed and considered courtesy that is not required by law can really help others out sometimes and make you an awesome person in the process. For those who are always asserting perceived rights, you wouldn't know they weren't real, would you? Ask yourself if you often find yourself in conflict with other road users. If so, you may want to look into what your rights and obligations really are under the law.

My point, however, is that no amount of legal correctness or common courtesy can protect any of us in all scenarios. Stuff Is Gonna Happen. My hope is that by remembering this fact I (and others) will maintain enough road zen to be peaceful and civil, even when we feel we've been wronged. Stuff Is Gonna Happen. It's OK, we're all only human. Let's be kind. Stuff Is Gonna Happen. Ohmmm.

Yer Pal,

PS - For the curious, I was unable to pull a plate number from my video. Even in HD, plates can be hard to get good video of unless they're right in front of you. The runner has my number if he wants the video anyway.