Saturday, 23 August 2014

About the Bike...

So it should come as no surprise that this trip is not just for me to get some fresh air, but the bike itself was also inspiration to take a long tour. (bavarian people's funny accent would also have been a reason, had I known.)
The bike has as many plant based parts as I could find, and is set up quite nicely for randonneuring (ie. multi day road riding, light touring). The frame is an Ozon Rafa (same as is made in our 3-day workshop, tiger bamboo), with CB Italia Sanremo rims (maple), Velospring Pur grips (walnut) and a Contec front fender, mounted on the back (laminated bamboo). The rest of the parts are metal (eeeeeeew!) so obviously not worthy of mention.

The RAFA has a nicely relaxed ride position, good for long distances, with adequate foot-pannier clearance due to the 420mm chainstays. The lateral stiffness is good, despite weighing only 1.7 kilos, though for more than my minimal amount of stuff a larger bamboo would be necessary. I don't need to plug our frames, everybody already knows that the're amazing, but this thing really does ride SUPER SMOOTH, which also launches us into our next topic;

I admit, until now I was a tubular tire virgin. The Sanremos from CB Italia are, and have been for almost 70 years, only available for tubular tires, so thank jebus Conti tubular Gatorskins are easy to find. I definitely don't feel like getting a flat any time soon.
Heres the thing. Sometimes technology reaches a pinnacle, which is unfortunately coupled with a significant drawback, and due to demand and marketing the product with this technological pinnacle+drawback gets left behind, forgotten in favor of a better balanced product that has neither drawback nor pinnacle. Like cashmere. Anyone who has had a cashmere cycling jersey will never be satisfeid with anything synthetic ever again. It is superlight, supercomfy, never stinky, warm when wet, and lasts for years and years and years... Until that one, sad sad day when your cashmere ends up going through the washing machine and comes out looking like it was made for a newborn baby. The owner, in his anguish, will replace his cashmere with a much more affordable synthetic, so that he must never again experience such pain nor joy.
11 bar tubulars and wooden rims: another such story. omg these ride sweet. 11 bar (actually they go to 12) means obviously, SUPER FAST, yet the sweet, suppleness of the wood rims also means SUPER SMOOTH. I have never, ever, had such amazing ride quality. I'm sure nowadays there are some metal-clincher combos that come close, but don't forget, I'm riding on technology from 1948. Can I say that again? These wheels have been the same since your great grandfather was competitive. And the ride quality exceeds most options on the market today. THAT'S AMAZING. Obviously though, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I don't get a flat.
A bit of foreshadowing, we're working together with CB Italia on a wood+composite rim that should combine the benefits of wood and eliminate the drawbacks. More on that to come...

I met the guys from Velospring at the Velo Berlin. They sent me some grips to test, and heres the deal. These things have the most beautiful and comfortable shape of any ergo grips I've tried so far. They are truly beautiful and comfortable.
Wood also has particular properties when it comes to sweat. While rubber or synthetic feels grippy at first, but gets slimy and slippery as soon as your palms sweat a bit, wood is the exact opposite. At first they feel super smooth, perhaps too smooth, but as soon as some moisture appears the pores of the wood open up, absorbing the menacing humidity and the grips become grippier. Not bad!
In my opinion the Velospring products have one downside; the mounting mechanism. They have a funky elastomer mechanism that uses friction to attach to the inside of your handlebar. This limits the available handlebar options (since the inside diameter is critical) and is kind of a pain to install. Once they're on there though, they're nice and secure and give a perfectly clean outside surface, with no clamp or rows of screws. Velospring derives its name from their sister product, the "Comfort" model, which has a torsion spring inside the handlebar allowing the grips to rotate and absorb vibration. Super comfy, but only for those who like a wide handlebar, since the spring takes so much space inside the handlebar that the smallest possible width is still darn wide.
The "Pur" model, that I used, has no torsion spring and allows for a short handlebar. They still spring a bit though due to the compressed elastomer holding them to the handlebar. So in the end: awesome product, but let an expert install them!

It hasn't rained yet, so I don't have much to say about the fender. I'll be honest too, I'd rather have a set of wooden fenders with compound curvature (bent in both directions), since they both deflect water better, and fit better inside caliper brakes. I was prevented from using the flat, wide Contec fender set correctly (had to put the front one on the back and leave the back one at home) since they didn't fit through my brakes.

So to wrap it up, this bike is awesome! I just hope my knees stand up to the hills down here. I think maybe I'm old enough now for a multispeed hub, right? Next time I'll have a granny gear.

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