Decision Time

After many years of learning more, hesitating, narrowing options, I have put in an order for a new bike.

It will be a Velotraum XXL Pinion C12. Phew!

Now all I can do is hope that the bike is all I dreamed off when I sit on it for the first time.

Criteria

What finally drove this decision?

  1. Large frame appropriate to my height/physiognomy
  2. Gates drive
  3. Pinion gears

In the end, there were no alternatives to the Velotraum.

Size

Duh! I’m tall, so I need a bike that works with my size. This was in fact what initially led to my searching for a new bike to replace my trusty Rocky.

But, this has been surprisingly challenging. The main problem has been that a) bike companies don’t seem to want to cater to tall riders, and b) bike stores really don’t want to cater to tall riders (by ordering large frames).

Belt

I have never liked derailleurs, etc. Chains need frequent replacement, are grimy, etc. Blech! Belt drive has been available for some years now, I don’t see any reason not to want it.

Gears

Like I said, I hate derailleurs. They never quite work right, need frequent adjustment and the range isn’t that great. Consequently I removed two front sprockets on my Rocky and switched to the largest front/smallest back sprocket/cassette possible. From the beginning, I’ve been looking at hub gears, either Shimano or Rohloff. Rohloff has the huge advantage of giant range and my sympathy for German engineering.

But then I discovered Pinion. Nice engineering, great range (after half an hour with a Pinion rep, I’ve decided for 12 gears), AND a central centre of gravity given the placement in the middle not on the hub. If you have a chance, try it out. No weight on the wheels is what it feels like.

Decision

Once I arrived at these criteria, a year-long stay in Germany was the obvious time to look for a bike as more tall options seem to be available. And so, I ended up at Velophil (partly on recommendation of the Pinion rep) and now I am eagerly awaiting delivery.

Berliner Fahrradschau

It’s been a very long time that I’ve posted on this blog.

I’m currently spending a year in Berlin, Germany and really enjoying public transit. Meaning, I don’t even own a bike. But roughly half-way through that year (if you’re curious what it’s like to return to Berlin after a long absence, see my amateur flaneur notes at sabbaticalers.wordpress.com/).

But, spring is in the air and I visited the Berliner Fahrradschau, time to put some thoughts about the new bike I’ve been seeking for years, down in pixels…

Point of Departure

My Rocky Mountain Whistler RC-30 has been a trusty bike commute companion for over a dozen years now. It’s changed massively in that time, but there’s nothing I can update about the frame which ultimately just wasn’t the right fit for me. Also, I can’t stay chains, chain stays, and all that clunky, need-to-be-replaced-and-never-quite-work-right tech.

So, I’ve been looking to replace that bike for some years.

The main obstacle has been that there are not that many options of large frames with a belt drive that I can test ride. Yes, some N American manufacturers make such beasts, but Vancouver bike shops don’t usually stock them.

So, I’ve hoped that with tall people a larger part of the market here in Berlin, perhaps I’d have some luck.

What I’m looking for:

  • gates drive
  • tall
  • full fenders, rack, possibility fo lights, perhaps ideally with a dynamo
  • visibility
  • quality (I ride approx. 4,000km a year, hope to ride this bike for 10+ years)

Things I Discovered at the Fahrradschau

Obviously, these kind of shows/expos are really cool. I didn’t have enough time to spend all day, but easily could have.

There’s the tech to drool over, the curious, the geeky, the stylish, the (too)hipster, all right there to look at. I managed to see and feel some brands that I’ve been following online (e.g. PedalEd), and discover a number of brands that I didn’t know.

 How My New Bike Thinking is Evolving

The biggest recent shift has been that I’m thinking about moving my attention from a 8 or 11-gear hub gear system (Shimano not Rohloff) to the Pinion system.

Why?

  • new German tech
  • almost-no maintenance (though similar as hub gears)
  • central centre of gravity
  • cool

This idea has been reinforced by the C-12 model that Pinion has come out with. Having downsized from an initial 24 to eight gears on my old bike, 12 seem plenty, especially given the range that the Pinion can cover and the option to adjust this with different gears at installation.

Unfortunately, however, the Pinion system is only beginning to show up in production and is still fairly pricey although the C line is less expensive than the P.

Well, the search for the perfect bike continues, and maybe Velo Berlin will bring more answers.

Going Bamboo

As I’m in my fifth year of commuting by bike every day now, I’m beginning to think about a new bike. Not that there’s anything wrong with my old bike, but I’ve been making continuous improvements for years and a new bike would be an opportunity to leap ahead across some features.

Given my size (mainly the length of my legs), one of the main areas for improvement would be the geometry of a frame, I would hope. Other areas I would want to deal with is the gearing. Even now that I’m down to an 8-speed, I would love to get rid of derailleurs entirely, so internal hub it is…

As I’m looking around for new bikes, I’m also looking for a builder whom I can meet and talk to (i.e. strong preference for a local manufacturer, if not a local builder), as well as some innovation in the bike.

So… bamboo comes up as a choice. As far as I can tell that means Grass Frames in Vancouver.

Intuitively, bamboo makes total sense to me. Flexible, but strong, light, sustainable, what’s not to like.

I went to visit the Grass Frames guys and had a great time. I had a ton of questions and got many of them answered. This is definitely an option in the running!

Some of the things I learned:

  • not that much of a weight advantage over chrome alloy
  • sustainability not only in the material, but in all steps on the production process. I was really impressed that their workspace didn’t smell chemical at all.
  • 30 of their bikes on the roads and they’ve been building for 2 1/2 years
  • background in joinery and boat-building
  • given individual variations in pieces of bamboo, the build process is fairly individualized in any case, so adjustments in the geometry are feasible at a much lower price differential
  • my hope for a fork dipped in reflective paint would be a possibility, because the fork is the part that is bought separately
  • with so many variables (gearing, size of frame, brakes, etc.) test-riding a bike just for the qualities of its frame doesn’t tell me that much

Some of the things that came to me on the bike ride home:

  • can the top tube be extended to accommodate a hood ornament?
  • any light innovations that can be built into the frame?
  • add colour pigment to the resin?
  • some other innovation? shoe holster? field hockey stick loop?
  • bamboo rack?

To be continued…