So, the older kid, who’s 10, has grown out of her Electra single speed beach cruiser with the 20” wheels. The seat doesn’t go high enough. The next step was a 24” kids bike. But I hate that size. That’s the size where they are nearly big enough for a proper bike in a 26” wheel, assuming the frame can be small enough. The 24” size, in my opinion is just a money gimmick. You get a still-crappy, heavy, hi-ten steel lunker in a marginally larger wheel. The idea that your kid will have 3-ish bikes (16”, 20”, 24”) before they get to a proper bike is pure marketing and hype.
So, I researched. And researched. It’s hard to find a good small frame bike. But I did find one. My LBS had a Linus Mixte 3 in the small size, and the 26” wheels. Real brakes. Gears. And enough range in the frame-saddle-bars that she can ride it now (admittedly at a little stretch) and can continue to ride it all the way to college (assuming it’s not stolen). Yes, that’s a lot of money for a “kid’s bike”, but in my mind, it’s a bike that grabs them when bikes are really important, and then stays with them for a long time. It’s not a phase bike. It’s a real bike.
The little one is riding a 16” now, but I’m pretty sure that she’ll be on the Electra this summer. She’ll get a few good years out of it, and then she too will be ready for a real bike.
So, I was doing a little tidying up in the garage, and going through old bike parts and gear. For some odd reason, I’ve kept worn out derailers and cassetts. I’ve kept worn out chainrings. I’ve kept worn out chains! Shift and brake cables. Pedals with frozen bearings. I think that I thought I might do some kind of cool project with them. Well, years later, I haven’t done any kind of project, and it’s time to clean house.
Most alarming, however, is the bar problem. You see, I work in IT. That means that my hands and wrists only get a work out punching keys and clicking a mouse. So, I’m forever in search of the perfect handlebar. You know – the one that doesn’t tweak the wrist, or put a weird pressure on a nerve in my palm, or make my hands tingle and go to sleep. The result is that I’ve purchased a lot of handlebars over the course of that search. As I pulled them out of bins and off of shelves, I counted them. Like sins. 9 bars. Various forms of drops, flats, risers, mustache. You name it. Those are the bars that are not on a bike, mind you. There are more than a few that are actually mounted on bikes.
So, I’m ditching most of those bars. Most have 31.8 bar clamps, but some have 22. There’s a FSA compact wing, a RaceFace Cadence, a Salsa Woodchipper, a no-name mustache bar, and a Nitto Randoneur. There’s a Marin riser that I chopped shorter.
There are some that I’m keeping. Just in case. There’s a VO rando bar, a Salsa Cowbell, and a FSA Metropolis. But that’s it. The bikes all have bars that work pretty well, and the only thing I’d really do is my somewhat-annual swap between drops and the northroads that I have on the Soma right now. The fattie is happy with a Soma Clarence. And the super-wide nearly-flat bar that came on the fattie is on the Madsen.
If anybody wants one of the bars I’m getting rid of, leave a comment and we can talk.
Ever since I got the Framed MN1, I’ve wanted to tweak a few things. The bars were really wide and too far forward, etc. Also, as I’ve been riding it, I’m starting to see the places that they saved a few bucks to bring the price down to such a low level. I’m not complaining, well except for the tires, but I’ll get to that, because it’s a low-spec bike, and you kind of know that. Well, I’ve made some changes that I thought I’d share, and have us at a bike that is quite good, regardless of price.
Tires. Let’s start with the obvious. The bike comes with Vee Missions, which are horrendous. This is the biggest corner that they cut. I think the second wheelset is genius and generous, but they should offer a deal on some real tires. First, they have no grip – ramped knobs that are maybe 1/8″ tall. They are directional for low rolling resistance, but they do NOT track a straight line at all. You have to fight to keep the bike straight. I noticed this on the test ride, but thought it was my unfamiliarity with the kind of bike. Then a buddy of mine with a Mukluk rode it and couldn’t hide his shock at how bad the steering was. I rode his Nate-shod Mukluk and saw the light. So tires out the door to be replaced with, at first a Nate in the front (so that I could steer and stop …), and then a Nate in the rear as I realized how little grip the Missions had. These are pathetic tires, and I can see why they helped keep the cost down. So, there was an extra $150 tax on the “cheap” bike to get usable tires.
29er wheelset. This is the winter bike. And winter has a number of road surfaces. Much of the winter, the roads are clear, packed, and icy. Fats don’t take studs too well (low pressure doesn’t make them bite), so I put a set of Schwalb Marathon Winters on the 29er wheelset. This is a waste of the other tires, but I don’t think they were so hot either. Now, however, the bike is really a winter bike for all conditions. Another $140 tire tax …
Bars. Too wide, too flat, and too far away. I swapped in a Soma Clarence with a nice wrist-friendly bend, some Ergon grips, and a shorter stem to bring them closer. Result is a much more comfortable cockpit. Ergonomics tax of $15 for the stem, the bars and grips were already in my generously stocked parts bin.
Brakes. Came with BB5s. Not bad, but not great. Also, thanks to the well-stocked parts bin, I swapped in BB7s for some greater leverage, bigger bite surface, and adjustability of both pads for the front. Haven’t done the back yet (need new pads for the other BB7 caliper) $free! (in this go-round …)
Added rack ($45 Planet Bike jobbie – works great) and fenders (the big SKS ones, $80 for both).
Cassette. So, they delivered the fat wheels with a 11-32 cassette, and the 29er wheels with the 11-34. Huh? Wouldn’t you want the lower gear on the fat wheels? So, I swapped the cassettes. $free (since I have tools …)
Pedals. The platforms that came with the bike were AL, and barely spun. After some cold, salty rides, they basically froze up completely. This is lame coming from Framed/The House, given that they are based here in the Twin Cities. It’s not like they didn’t know better. So, a cheap set of plastic platforms at $19 reduces the heat loss on the foot, and they spin like pedals are supposed to (for now at least).
Haven’t done anything yet, but I can tell the cables are galvanized (another cost cut), and I know will be replaced with stainless at some point …
So, after my $900 bargain bike (including the $100 wheelset), I’m now in an extra $430. $1330 is starting to be Mukluk territory, but I’d still have BB5s and the cockpit changes to make. And I wouldn’t have a spare wheelset for that either. All in, still a bargain, and now it’s dialed in for me, which is pretty kick-ass.
So I went for a ride today around the creek. Giant piles of fun, and MAN do those Nate’s grip!
Despite the chill, my youngest wanted to hit the sledding hill today. So, I obliged with a little fun of my own. I hitched her sled to the back of the fatbike and pulled her to the sledding hill. Worked shockingly well.
So, I finally bought a fat bike. I picked up a Framed MN 1.0 with the extra wheelset. So far, I’ve ridden it around the park and the yard, and had a blast! Since I’m expecting to do winter commuting on this bike, I also picked-up a Planet Bike Versa-rack It does fit, at full leg extension, but the block that holds the front stays barely clears the top of the tire – as in less than 1cm … I also have some SKS Grand DAD/MOM fenders on order. I am SURE that the rear fender will have issues. I may have to choose between fenders and rack (unless I want to do something custom for a fender, based around the rack). Given that I ride the bike so that it carries things (as opposed to me carrying them), I think the rack will stay – assuming that the close point on the tire doesn’t accummulate snow.
I got the MN1 because I actually prefer a 1x drivetrain. The only other parts spec that is under what I’d prefer are the brakes – they are BB5s. So far, I think they will be fine. But, being the parts hoarder that I am, I actually have a pair of BB7 calipers sitting in the parts drawer, so I can easily mount them up and have a cheap (for me) upgrade. I think the tires are also kind of a low-budget thing, but I think I’m going to go the winter and see how it is before I make any changes.
The road bike is back in action! Habanero did warrantee the frame and sent me a new one. Of course, my old was one slightly customized, and this one wasn’t. And, lets face it, the frame broke. Maybe Ti isn’t for me. So, onto eBay it went and I took the proceeds and bought a Soma Double Cross Disc frame. Here it is all built up with my old components.
After 2 1/2 years of grooving on the Habanero Ti ‘Cross frame, I got a crack! I don’t race ‘cross, or take it on single-track, so I don’t think it’s abuse. I know everybody says JRA (just riding along), but really, this isn’t me! Here’s the pics. You can tell me in the comments if you think this is my fault. 😉 I’ve got a note in to Habanero to see what the warrantee situation looks like.
UPDATE: Habanero is covering it under warrantee and shipping me a new frame! Woohoo! That’s customer service!