Soaking in the sunshine…

5 03 2011

Countryside ramble...

Given the nice weather today I wasn’t going to miss my chance to pedal. Heading out of Victoria is easy from my house. Within a few minutes I’m on rural bike paths or quiet country roads. Spinning along on wide tires I don’t really care if the surface is paved, gravel or dirt. My bike just wants to roll. Passing fields, farms and houses as I ride through the trees and then along the ocean it’s not hard to figure out why so many cyclists call Victoria home…=-)

Why a 650B Boulder Bicycle All Road?

5 03 2011

Semi-Custom Boulder Bicycle Allroad...

If all goes well I’ll be riding my Boulder Bicycle All Road in the SIR 100K today.

All my previous brevets have been on recumbents so I had to think long and hard about what bike to use for brevets this year.

I knew I wanted a bike that:

  • was a fast climber
  • was comfortable for all day riding
  • was reliable
  • could carry a loaded handle bar bag
  • easy to ride when tired
  • had dynohub lighting
  • full fenders for rain riding
  • didn’t suck to look at!

Having a stack of Bicycle Quarterly Magazines at my disposal I was interested in trying out a number of things I had read positive comments about:

  • low trail front end geometry since it seem optimized for use with a loaded bar bag
  • wide supple 650B tires ~40mm for efficient comfortable moderate speed riding
  • ultralight standard diameter steel frame tubes to aid in uphill climbing speed through their flexiness
  • full coverage metal fenders on a performance bike
  • SON Deluxe dynohub because of its lightweight and low drag
  • Edelux dyno light for its powerful beam with a smart vertical cutoff to avid blinding oncoming traffic

There aren’t many sources for a bike like this and I knew I didn’t want to go the fully custom route for the reasons I posted recently not to mention it would be the 2012 brevet season before a custom bike showed up. So the positive review of the Boulder Cycles Randonneur 700c frame in BQ caught my attention. Browsing the Boulder Cycles [aka Rene Herse] website they seemed to have everything I wanted in a readily accessible package that other folks have been riding and giving positive reviews on. I dithered between the 650B version and the 700c version for a bit, but realized that all my riding has been heading in the direction of wider supple tires so it made no sense to stop now. Jan Heine from BQ was kind enough to answer a few 700c vs 650B questions which was very helpful given the fact he had ridden quite a few of each type of bike.

All Road parts unpacked...

So I went ahead and ordered a 650B All Road frame/fork. Mike Kone [owner of Rene Herse] chatted with me about my sizing and we settled on a slightly tweaked version of their size E [57.5cm TT] stock frame. Since I was tweaking things I ordered a non-stock pearl white paint job and silver decals. I wanted Shimano bar end sifters and derailleurs so I ordered the All Road without them and used my own parts. The result was close to a Boulder Bicycle All Road production frame, but met my needs better.

If you read BQ you are familiar with the term constructeur bicycle.  It’s a hybridization of French & English that really means fully integrated bicycle.  Such a bike has been designed for a specific purpose and equipped with everything needed for success.  Lights, racks, fenders, luggage and tires have all been selected and considered as the bike is designed and built. The result is a harmonious optimized bicycle that works well, looks attractive and is easy to maintain.

The Boulder Bicycle All Road is what I would call a semi-constructeur bicycle. It has been designed for a specific purpose – fast comfortable travel over any type of road surface with a modest amount of luggage.  All the components that are required for this to happen have been considered in the design.  However, the level of integration has stopped short of perfection at a level that is functional.  This has been done to keep costs down and to allow the purchaser to equip the bike with a variety of components.

Rene Herse constructeur 650B all road bicycle...

Rene Herse will make you a fully custom integrated constructeur 650B all road style bike if you wish. The cost will be approximately double that of a production Boulder Bicycle All Road. Looking at these photos you can see some hints of what makes the fully integrated bike so special, but it takes a much closer look and keen eye for detail to really understand the effort and thought that goes into making such a bike.

To my mind the semi-custom Boulder Bicycle All Road, which is not an inexpensive bike, provides the best blend of performance and cost.  Although I will admit she is not nearly as stunning a ride as the chromed Rene Herse.

Dealing with Mike Kone at Rene Herse was a pleasant experience. He is friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about the bikes he sells. He accommodated all my requests without hesitation including building my bike from ultralight standard diameter tubing vs. the oversized tubing normally used for a production All Road and getting me the custom paint colour of my choice.  Given that these frames are built off site at Waterford the level of organization and management involved in getting an unusual frame through with fast turn around to meet my schedule was impressive.  He assembled my parts list and installed a few items I wanted taken care of in advance of shipping [install fenders/then pack, install headset] since he was at it he installed the BB and cranks.  That wasn’t necessary, but it speeded up my build which was nice.  The frame and parts were packed professionally and shipped to a US address so I could grab them on my way home from Baja.

Parts detail...

The only criticism of my Boulder Bicycle/Rene Herse customer experience was that Mike is super busy and the amazing amount of details that need to be communicated back and forth for a semi-custom bike presented some communications challenges. In the end everything I asked for arrived and the bike looks fantastic. I publish this comment not to identify a problem that Mike should feel bad about, but rather a note to any potential customers that you may need to send an extra email or make an extra call to confirm some detail.  If you are not sure Mike has some bit of info you sent him or if he doesn’t reply to an email don’t assume it’s been read and actioned. Take the time to confirm.  The result is worth it and I would happily buy another frame from Mike.

Photo: Chris Richards - click on image for a lot more lovely bike porn...

The obvious question you might raise is – could I not have ridden a bike I owned on brevets this year? Yes – of course I could.  My Surly LHT touring bike and Bow Cycle 24 cyclocross bike both would have worked.  However, both have a high trail front end geometry which results in compromised handling with a handle bar bag.  Two of my main complaints with my rando recumbents were excessive effort for climbing and difficulty accessing my gear while riding.  I was not prepared to ride brevets without my gear/supplies in easy reach while pedaling.  Had money been tight I would have made one or the other work as best I could.  Since I could afford a rando specific rig I decided to build up a bike that is optimized for my long distance riding needs.

You don’t agree with me? WTF!

5 03 2011


I call it like I see it. I’m not silly enough to think I always get it right nor does everything that works for me work equally well for everyone else out there. My goal isn’t to get you to do what I do or to agree with me 100%. My goal is to put some attention on stuff I feel is worth thinking about. If you come to a different conclusion than I do no worries that’s cool.

Feel free to leave me a comment either way. I like reading what you have to say and I read every single comment and think about. Sometimes I change my mind. Sometimes I don’t. No matter what I feel that exchanging ideas and perspectives is a good thing.

I won’t edit or delete any comments made on this blog unless you are attacking someone personally or being a jerk. Just because you don’t agree with me isn’t cause for moderation. So no matter what’s on your mind let me know.

There are no advertisers on this blog, I don’t sell anything. My reviews aren’t all positive and I’m not afraid to say something is poorly made. I’m not afraid you are going to make some company mad and they won’t give me $$$. So you can express your opinion and so can I.