Monday, July 15, 2013

Neuvation's New Line-up

John Neugent at Neuvation Cycling puts his brand on frames made by Trigon, a top fab shop in Taiwan.  Trigon makes frames for a number of truly top brands -- including, for example, Pinarello.

I'm pretty psyched about the new Neuvation FC600.  He's finally offering this bike in the adult size of 62 cm.  Neugent is also advertising a taller head tube, a design change intended to fit the normal cyclist.  According to his daily missive:

"This is a bike that is long overdue.  It is very similar to the FC500 (our top of the line bike) but has a taller head tube.  Over 95% of the bike fits we do result in handlebar heights that are as high as we can get them.  This not only gives you higher bar height positions but also allows you to have a lower stem position on the fork.  These are all set up with the newest in 11 speed components and Neuvation 11 speed wheels (see more info below)."

In exchange for less than exciting graphics Neuvation lets you pick up a top end ride for much less than a mainstream brand.  For example, a Sram Red 11-speed build comes in at less than $4000.  Ultegra 6800 11-speed for $2600.

With a FC100 build you can get the Sram 11-speed for more like $2700.  I had one of those frames in my possession for a few weeks due to a shipping glitch on Neuvation's end.  It's a very nice looking setup -- carbon tubing with aluminum lugs.

That's not much more than a self build using components from Merlin ($1300 for 2013 Sram Red 10-speed) and a $495 closeout price on the FC100 frameset.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Culling The Herd

I picked up a new mountain bike (well used, but new to me) for a trip a couple weeks back (brief report forthcoming), but now I need to pay for it somehow. That means selling off some unused bikes. It's always sad to see nice bikes move on, but a bike unused is a bike abused, and I hate to be a bike abuser.

So this post is a bit of a memorial to some fine bikes.

Bianchi Sok Single-Speed 29er

I bought this a few years back, on a lark really. It was about half off at a local shop, and something about a single-speed 29er appeals to me. I used it for commuting up in Kirkland, but the single-speed ratio never really worked for me on trails. For climbs the gearing was way too high, and for everything else it was too low. The hydraulic brakes and front lockout, though, were both superb. If I lived on a network of dirt roads, this is the bike I'd use. But I don't, and I don't.

Kris Holm Mountain Unicycle

I really wish I were enough of a bad-ass to ride this. I mean, seriously... Just look at this:

Unfortunately I am most definitely not a bad-ass. And despite at least 10 minutes of trying, could not get the hang of the unicycle. So hopefully someone else will do a better job with it than I.

K2 Disco Monkey

This was my first real mountain bike. I don't know how many rides I've done on it, but somewhere between "quite a few" and "a lot". I bought the frame on ebay, and built it up. First with surplus parts from a crappy Ironhorse from Performance, and then another rebuild with some nice new bits, including a bash-guard.

Despite being a mutant, I think it's better looking than 95% of the bikes out there. It rides pretty well too, but the rear swing-arm has always negatively impacted the shifting. And the fork could use overhauling, but I don't want to do it and the bike shop claims they don't have the bits for it. Anyway, if this bike sells, I'll be sad to see it go. If it doesn't sell, I'll part out the good pieces on ebay.

Kestrel Talon SL

Ah, the Kestrel. I've had a lot of nice rides on this bike, and I think Max has too. The problem is simply that it is redundant. I've kept it around mostly as a spare for when Max is in town, but with the Cannondale back in service, that's no longer a legitimate reason to keep it. I enjoy riding it, but my Habanero is a perfectly fine substitute.

So I had to choose: The Kestrel, which probably has a finite lifespan, or my Habanero, which I've already got a decade or so on, and could see riding for another decade. The Habanero wins that contest easily.

Fortunately for the Cannondale it will inherit the Kestrel's Ksyrium ES and go-fast Vittoria tires.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Volagi, Disc Brakes, and Shifting

A series of interesting reads in this season's Bicycle Quarterly.

First Jan Heine absolutely pans Volagi bikes. It's not clear what he has against them; he stresses even subjective measures that he must realize are woefully imprecise.  One example:  the bikes are problematic because when not paying attention his speed dropped off.  They would not be good for long distance riding because not paying attention is par for the course.  An odd observation, to say the least.

The primary thrust is an important point:  Volagi's entire business is built on the idea that comfort in the seat is the most important part of cycling.  As Heine points out, the front end is where bikes really get uncomfortable after many hours pedaling -- and he does not like Volagi's front end one bit.

Second Jan Heine pans mechanical road disc brakes.  This short feature seems to have been driven by his disappointment with the performance of disc brakes on the Volagis -- and his decidedly non-scientific test involved taking the Volagi to a braking hill and comparing the stopping results against stopping results from an earlier test of Sram rim brakes.  A few obvious problems: the bikes weren't the same (should that matter?); the tests were done on different days with presumably different atmospheric conditions; a full stop test may not be the best demonstration of brake quality (how often is that how you use your brakes?); and by the time Heine got to testing the brakes he was already hating the Volagi.  That said, the difference -- ~2 meters, or 15% -- was substantial.  Heine gave some thoughtful intuition underlying that difference, including that rim brakes are literally disc brakes with much bigger (i.e. better) discs than the modern disc brakes.

Third is a long and fascinating discussion of bicycle shifting systems.  Sorry to say that it killed my desire to build a bike with an internally-geared hub anytime soon.