Urban Adventures…

5 03 2013
The Selkirk Trestle...

The Selkirk Trestle…

Being banged up means I have to give the dirt a miss for a while, but it’s not so bad when you have a road bike you like to ride.

Ducks were MIA from the pond...

Ducks were MIA from the pond…

Luckily Victoria in winter offers some great urban riding options. Not only is the scenery nice, but there is excellent coffee along most routes… ūüôā

Urban art...

Urban art…

We got caffeinated, did our errands and got some riding done. Another good day in the books.

Sharon looking Surly...

Sharon looking Surly…

Feeling Surly…

19 11 2012

High five!

I got out for two rides on my Surly LHT this weekend. Sharon came with me for a ride into town on Sunday. She injured her knee playing squash and has been laying low while the inflammation subsided. She needs to see a doctor next week and will need 1 or 2 operations to repair the damage. Happily her physio said biking was okay as long as her knee wasn’t in pain. Sharon did great so she’ll resume her daily bike commutes.

I’m leaving town Wednesday so these were probably my last Trucker rides of 2012. I miss my LHT already! ūüėČ

Sharon’s first 2012 Commuter Flat…

22 10 2012

Sharon taking off her front wheel to fix a flat…

Sharon got her first flat of 2012 and first flat in well over 12 months. Not bad at all. She’s running Grand Bois Cypres 700 x 30mm tires. These are fast, supple and comfortable tires with no flat protection. The benefit is she gets the maximum benefit from her pedaling effort and a comfortable ride. So far the Grand Bois are getting less flats than her previous tires that had some designed in puncture protection.

Trouble with getting so few flats is Sharon doesn’t get much practice fixing them. So she tackled the repair in my office so I could provide some advice. She only used tools she carries with her on her bike to ensure field repairs would be possible.

Sharon fixing her own bike…

Sharon located the hole in her tube and used that information to narrow down the search for the culprit in her tire. We found some glass that had cut her tire. It didn’t quite go through the casing. We discussed the pros and cons of using this tire vs. replacing it. She had a spare Grand Bois sitting around just for such a circumstance. She decided that since it was a front tire she wouldn’t take any chances and she’d replace it. She kept the old tire and will use it as a rear tire if needed at some point with a patch on the inside. Likely this tire won’t ever see action again as we’ll buy a spare from the Fairfield Bicycle Shop.

Small cut across tread…

It sucks to lose an expensive tire that’s nearly new, but given how little maintenance Sharon’s Surly Cross Check takes to keep working well as her commuter rig this is no big deal.

Sharon Battles the Elements…

18 10 2012

Sharon in the Bike Cave…

When Sharon started commuting to work on a bicycle rainy weather meant she would drive and take a day off the bike. It rarely pours rain here in Victoria, but the winter months do feature some precipitation. A typical rainy day here can best be described as “moist”. It’s definitely wet, but not outrageously so.

When I built up Sharon’s bike I installed full fenders and long mudflaps. I just can’t imagine a utility bike without ’em. That meant she wasn’t getting wet and dirty from road spray. Sharon has slowly built up a set of clothes to ride to work in. Featuring either synthetic materials or wool they deal with the dampness from a light drizzle and from sweat without issue.

Her latest bikey investment is a blue Gore Bike Wear jacket that’s waterproof & breathable. It has allowed her to comfortably ride in light rain and to survive the occasional heavier deluge she faces on her bike. The practical upshot of this evolution is that Sharon is riding to work in almost any weather now. If we get a few days of snow she’ll skip the bike and if the weather looks ridiculously rainy she’ll skip it, but that still leaves 95% of the days in a year that look bikey to her.

It’s been fun to watch her evolve from a non-rider to a casual social rider to a occasional commuter to a regular commuter and now to Uber Commuter status. ūüôā

Sharon’s Cross Check in action…

11 10 2012

Dual B&M lights for maximum foggy firepower…

This is a shot of Sharon leaving for work on a foggy island morning. She’s got a B&M Ixon IQ on the bars powered by 4 AA rechargeable batteries and a IQ Cyo Plus R on the right fork leg powered by a Shimano dynohub. Both lights share the same bulb technology and have a vertical cut off so light is focused where she needs it down on the road; not into the eye’s of oncoming riders and drivers.

Dual rear blinkies…

On the rear she has dual PDW Radbot 1000 1W LEDs set to slow blink. This mode is easily visible, gentle on the batteries and considerate for any riders or drivers that follow her bike. Fast strobe style rear lights are very hard on the eyes of anyone forced to look at them.

With dual lights front and rear she doesn’t have to worry much about charging batteries or a failure of one light.

Our motto for bike lighting – Effective and considerate!

Asking Sharon how she liked the new dual light setup her reply was – “…awesome!…” I guess we have another satisfied customer at the Lazy Rando Bike Shop… ūüėČ

Surly Cross Check Dynohub Light…

9 10 2012

B&M IQ Cyo Plus & Shimano dynohub…

Sharon has developed into a kick ass bike commuter riding most days of the week year round here on Vancouver Island. She’s been frustrated with charging batteries non-stop for her winter commutes so I promised to install a dynobhub and headlight on her Surly Cross Check commuter rig as part of her birthday present.

Looks like a serious commuter machine now… ūüėČ

This is the wheel and light from my 700c LHT that I recently sold. They didn’t see a ton of use so they’ll give Sharon many years of faithful service I am sure. She’s going to keep using her battery powered light to double her lumens for really dark rides, but at least now she doesn’t have to stress too much about the battery levels. If they run out she’ll have more than enough light to ride by just from the dynohub light.

IQ Cyo Plus mounted to right fork leg…

We are trying the IQ Cyo Plus R on the right fork leg for now. If Sharon doesn’t love that position we may try mounting it on top of the front wheel at the fork crown. The right fork leg provides and easy path for the wiring which is nice as well as the low angle of light illuminates debris on the road well. The “R” version of this light puts extra light close to the bike idea for slower speed urban commuting where avoiding potholes or broken glass is more important than shooting light as far from the bike as possible.

Shimano dynohub DH-3N80…

Kurt helped me tidy up the wiring at the connect end of the light which was appreciated. The Shimano dynohub is a good deal and the drag isn’t terrible so I assume Sharon will simply use this wheel and light 24/7/365. We’ll keep the old front wheel just in case though.

Nice clean compact lighting setup…

Since we are into October Sharon will be using this light everyday until April so it will get a good test. I know she’s excited to be freed from tyranny of the battery ūüėČ

Buddy Flaps – Sharon’s Cross Check…

28 08 2012

Front Buddy Flap…

I bought Sharon a set of Buddy Flap mud flaps for her Surly Cross Check more than a year ago and just managed to get my lazy butt in gear to install them.

The complete set…

They are long thick vinyl flaps with reflective stickers applied. I’ve used them on both my LHT’s and been happy with them. I like the fact they come down nearly to the ground at the front for complete splash protection. I also like the custom graphics. The flaps themselves are quite durable, but the reflective sticker can be damaged. I suspect the nice folks at Buddy Flaps would send you a new sticker set to fix any damaged ones, but I haven’t asked them yet.

Rear Buddy Flap…

You can get all sorts of graphic options on your Buddy Flaps including custom images/text. The package comes complete with all the hardware you need to mount them. You just drill some holes in your fenders and bolt them on.

The old mudflaps…

Her old mud flaps worked fine, which, is part of the reason it took me so long to get the new flaps installed. However, the new flaps do look a lot nicer.

A happy bike commuter…

I’m still of the opinion that given the reasonable cost a set of Buddy Flaps is a great upgrade for any fendered bike. This customized touch makes us smile every time we climb aboard.

Sharon’s Bike Commuter Update

25 04 2012

Sharon and her Surly Cross Check commuter bicycle...

Sharon’s bike commuting skills have been steadily improving since we moved to Victoria. At first she rode a few days a week. Then she rode every warm dry day. Then she started riding when it was dry and cold. Finally she’s now riding even with some rain in the forecast – which means far more days on the bike.

I’ve been careful not to push her or to say much about her bike commuting other than to give her a high five after she comes home on a¬†particularly¬†gnarly day and help with some bike maintenance.

Ortlieb Downtown - click for info...

Part of the process of riding in more demanding weather conditions and more often in general has been the addition of some new biking gear to Sharon’s quiver. Although I have helped narrow down the options and discussed the pros/cons of each choice she’s been the one to pick what she wants. She’s made some very smart choices such as:

I took the photo at the top of this post yesterday. As you can see Sharon is still rocking her Shower Pass Portland jacket. It’s ideal for days when there is some chance of rain, but it’s not likely to pour. She likes it because it fits well, is comfortable for a wide range of weather conditions at a moderate exertion level. She appreciates that it doesn’t make her look like a traffic cone when she’s riding or has to walk to her office. If the forecast is more on the rainy side she just bought a Gore Bike Wear shell which she uses instead as it’s more appropriate for those conditions.

The Ortlieb¬†Downtown¬†Bag attaches to her bike like a normal pannier, but when you pull it off the pannier frame stays on the bike and you just have a reasonably stylish bag to take with you to your meeting. It’s waterproof which is essential around here and holds enough to be useful for a bike commuter without looking like you are going on an expedition.

Thumbs up for Donkey Boxx...

We are coming up on a year with Sharon using a Donkey Boxx on her bike. It stays on there 24/7 and is her main pannier. She then adds a second soft pannier on the left side of the bike for additional capacity. The Donkey Boxx has survived a serious bike wrecking crash with minimal abrasion marks as well as being generally banged around and bumped over our rough roads. Not only is the Donkey Boxx trucking along just fine, but Sharon really digs it. I took it off her bike after the crash to get repairs done and as soon as it was ready to ride again she wanted the Donkey Boxx reinstalled immediately.

Overall the Surly Cross Check itself has been working great since we repaired it from Sharon’s crash last summer. It’s comfortable, speedy and with fenders and bags can carry Sharon to work with her stuff in most weather conditions. The Nexus 8 IGH means that the only maintenance has been adding some air to the tires and lubing the chain. I think it’s about time that I put the CC in my workstand and give it a once over just to make sure the fenders are tight and nothing needs fixing before the summer. I know she wants new bar tape as she is over the pink and it’s getting pretty grubby looking.

One hassle with this bike is playing the battery game with Sharon’s headlight. For her birthday this year I’ll install a dynohub and B&M light. If I am feeling very motivated I may wire in a tail light as well. That way she should have lights 24/7 without thinking about it which will be nice.

One pedal stroke at a time!

Commuter Style

24 01 2012

Leaving for work on a dark chilly winter morning...

Sharon tries hard not to look like a traffic cone when riding her bike while still being visible to other cyclists and drivers. She’s found a bunch of clothing that’s practical for cycling without being¬†garish. That’s important because if you want more people to ride bikes you need to make them excited about the idea and for a lot of people the traffic cone chic is not an acceptable way to look when arriving at work or a social event. Luckily there are lots of cycling specific clothing and cycling¬†adaptable¬†clothing options these days that you can find to match your personal tastes while staying comfortable.

For visibility Sharon has two powerful rear lights, a powerful [considerately focused] headlight and some reflective trim on her clothing and bike bags.

Not only is it cool that Sharon has found a bike and gear that she is into and reflects her own tastes I think there are a bunch of other potential commuter cyclists who need to see someone dressed stylishly yet sensibly so they can get motivated to start riding to work themselves. Hopefully Sharon is setting a positive example for them as she rolls to work on her Cross Check.

Aaron taking a break after tagging a fence...=-)

Just so the guys don’t feel left out Aaron and I took some male cycling style photos. Aaron always turns up for our rides dressed super nice so I figured I should tap into his fashion¬†wisdom. I’ll be putting up a whole post with his bike clothing tips shortly, but the image above is a taste of what’s to come.

Here I am all coned up!

To avoid a bunch of comments telling me there is nothing wrong with the traffic cone look let me say I agree there is nothing wrong with it. There is also nothing wrong with the bike commuter who dresses up in a Tour de France replica kit and rockets to work on a carbon fibre race bike. However, those two schools of cycling fashion are well represented on the streets around here and are what the general public think about when it comes to riding a bike around town. Since a lot of potential commuter cyclists wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a traffic cone or skin tight spandex I think it’s important to show them there are other clothing options that are comfortable on the bike, will keep you warm and dry in inclement weather and would be acceptable to a wide range of fashion palates.

Seeing more people on bikes makes me happy and to make that happen we have to give people options they are stoked about.

Sharon’s a Commutinator!

30 12 2011

Nearly home...

2011 was Sharon’s first full year as a bike commuter. She started cycling in the rain and dealt with a¬†fairly¬†serious accident caused by another cyclist. ¬† Through all the challenges she kept smiling [mostly] and has remained a dedicated transportation cyclist. Awesome work! Keep the blue Surly a rocking in 2012…=-)

Fork me!

6 10 2011

Old left - new right...

I finally got Sharon’s Surly Cross Check commuter rig rolling again. As I installed the new fork I realized the Syncros headset’s lower bearing race was cracked from the collision. I was bummed as the headset cost $90 and was barely worn. I didn’t want to chuck it out. I tried finding a replacement, but no bike shop in town had anything useful. Talking it over with a mechanic I decided to throw everything back together and see what happened. The lower bearing is a sealed cartridge unit so it may work just fine for a long time. When if does fail the steering will get tight and I’ll swap in a new headset. I just told Sharon to let me know if anything changes with how easy it was to turn the bars.

Fork it!

29 07 2011

Sharon wants to get rolling again...

So Sharon needs a new fork for her Surly Cross Check. That’s no problem Surly sells replacement forks, but they only come in black. Rather than trying to get a paint match that might or might not work out we were thinking of getting the new fork chromed for a little front end bling. I’ve never gone down that road so if anyone knows a thing or two about the process and any likely problems we should look out for let me know. The other option is to strip her frame down and get the new fork as well as the frame powder coated together.


27 07 2011

One Grand Bois 700 x 32mm tire + tube toast...

Sharon called me yesterday AM after leaving for work on her bike. I knew that wasn’t good because she never calls me while riding and rarely even when at work [we email and text during the day]. I could tell she’d had an accident by her voice and after making sure she wasn’t badly hurt figured out a spot to meet that I could drive over and collect her broken bike.

That's not the usual bar setup...

We loaded her bike in the back of my truck and I quickly checked that she didn’t need to go to the hospital for treatment. She was banged up and had some road rash, but nothing we couldn’t address at home.

A bit of grindage...

I got the full story on the drive home. Sharon was cruising on the bike path to work. Her speed was likely 14-18kph. When another cyclist T-boned her as he entered the bike path at 90 degrees to traffic flow without slowing down to check for traffic. She barely saw him before she was down on the ground. Our local bike paths see very high traffic at commuting hours and I often have to stop and wait for 10-20 bikes to go by before I can turn onto the path myself. It was a bonehead move that could have seriously hurt someone. As it was Sharon’s bike was unrideable and she spent the day in bed icing her knees and wrists.

More grindage...

Luckily she didn’t sustain any serious injuries. The most painful bits were the areas of road rash that she received through her clothing as she was wearing pants, a jacket and gloves.

The Donkey Boxx got scuffed and saved the bike frame from damage - thanks Donkey!

The bike landed on it’s right side and slide for a bit. Luckily that’s the side with the Donkey Boxx mounted. It wasn’t damaged and it saved Sharon’s Surly Cross Check frame from any paint removal.

Gear Damage:

  • Grand Bois tire $65+ $10 shipping
  • Tube $4
  • Pedal and brake lever scrapped, but¬†serviceable
  • Bar tape scrapped $14
  • Donkey Boxx scuffed, but¬†serviceable
  • Front fender tweaked, but not¬†permanently¬†damaged
  • Shower Pass jacket scuffed and torn in a couple places $40 to repair
  • Pants damaged $75 to replace
  • Gloves damaged $40 to replace
  • Total = ~$250

Beaten up, but not broken!

Of course you can always buy more gear so the main thing is Sharon is doing okay. She stayed home from work yesterday and is going in today, but she’s shuffling around the house gingerly with a variety of spots on her body that are in pain. I was concerned this might put her off bike commuting, but she’s ordered up some new Grand Bois tires and I found something in the garage I can throw on the front of her bike to get her rolling while we wait for the nicer rubber to arrive. I imagine she’ll be off her bike until next Tuesday so she has time to heal a bit.

The sad part about all this is that the guy that hit her didn’t damage his bike and after making sure he didn’t kill her he rode off and got on with his day!…=-(

Surly Cross Check Nexus 8 Shifter Update

29 06 2011

Sharon checking out the new control setup...

Sharon has really been enjoying the Titec H-bars on her Surly Cross Check daily commuter. The only point of dissatisfaction was the Nexus 8 twist-shifter took up too much room on the bar necessitating a hacked Ergon Grip that was too short to be comfortable. The solution was either a Jeff Jones Loop H-bar [with a longer grip area] for $120+ shipping or a Alfine 8 speed trigger shifter for ~$50. In the interests of cost we went with the later.

The problem is that hacked right Ergon Grip...

The comfort issue is pretty obvious looking at the photo above.

The new setup with Alfine 8 trigger shifter and a decent sized Ergon Grip...

Swapping out the Nexus 8 twist shifter was a breeze. I love how easy the Shimano IGHs are to work on…=-) I still had to hack a small bit off a stock Ergon Grip to make it fit, but this time that left a reasonable amount of¬†hand space¬†on the grip and a smooth transition to the controls.

Sharon tries the new grip/control setup...

Sharon’s initial reaction was positive to the new configuration. I’ll let her commute on it a few days and then we’ll tweak the position of the components as needed.

The blue beast ready for more commuter action...

Since I had the bike in my work stand I took the opportunity to check the brakes, chain tension and fenders. I lubed the chain and added some air to the rear tire.¬†Because¬†of the IGH and quality parts this bike sees daily use and doesn’t need much maintenance.

Sharon is really enjoying the Donkey Boxx and it’s performed solidly for her. She gets lots of positive comments on it and questions about how she built it…lol…she has to let people know it’s a¬†manufactured¬†product not a DIY project.

Sharon hearts her Bike Wrappers...

We have so much daylight at the moment in Canada that Sharon hasn’t had a chance to use the reflective side of her Bike Wrappers yet. However, she’s digging the heart print on the “fashion” side and would be happy with them even if they didn’t have a reflective option¬†underneath.

Bike Wrapper Pre-view

9 06 2011

Sharon Surly Cross Check Bike Wrapped!

Bike Wrappers are a set of 3 velcro attached cloth sleeves for your bike’s frame. They have two sides: fashion [shown above] and reflective silver. The fashion side dresses up your bike and also protects the frame from leaning up against poles, bike racks or walls. The reflective side offers some extra visibility when you are out at night.


Switching between the fashion and the reflective sides takes a few seconds. You can also swap a set of Bike Wrappers between two different bikes very quickly.

Naked Cross Check at night...

Bike Wrappers are well made and pretty snazzy in fashion mode, but do they add a lot of visibility to your bike at night?

Bike Wrappers fashion mode at night...

I’ll be away a fair bit for the next couple weeks so I didn’t have time for any elaborate testing. I just setup the bike in my yard and shoot some flash photos from various angles to get an idea of what the bike would look like at night.

Reflective side of Bike Wrappers on frame...

So far the results are promising. You definitely get some addition pop from the Bike Wrappers when the reflective side is installed and you hit it with some light.

Fashion side installed from rear at an angle...

In general I don’t think having reflectors on the side of your bike is that useful because by the time they are in a car’s headlights you are either about to be hit or you are fine.

Reflective side out from an angle to the rear...

So I tried some shots from the rear at an angle and then from almost directly behind the bike.

Fashion side out from almost directly to the rear...

I didn’t bother from to shoot any photos from directly behind the bike as the Bike Wrappers wouldn’t be visible and the bike’s rear reflectors would cover that angle of approach well.

Almost directly from the rear with reflective side out...

In all these test the Bike Wrappers add significantly to your night time visibility when installed with the reflective side out, but of course there was no rider on the bike to obscure the Bike Wrappers. I suspect the rider’s body/legs will generate a strobe effect as the bike moves through a driver’s line of sight.

When I get back from my travels I’ll setup a more realistic experiment with my F150 and a video camera where I ride past the F150 and we’ll see how effective the Bike Wrappers are in that test.

Looking good...=-)

For now Sharon is pretty stoked about her jazzed up Cross Check and she’ll be using her Bike Wrappers on her daily commute to test how they stand up to regular use. I’ve got a set of more manly black/white/silver Bike Wrappers I’ll install on my 26″ Surly LHT build. We’ll provide some additional review comments later in the summer.

Sharon – Bike Commuting…

30 05 2011

Sharon and Donkey off in the morning!

Sharon has become a hardcore bike commuter. I’m impressed at her determination and zeal for the pedal to work. She’s progressed from a non-cyclist to riding her bike 4-7 times a week while her car collects dust in the driveway. She’s not just a fairweather cyclist either. Freezing temperatures and light rain don’t deter her. About the only thing that will keep her off the bike is heavy persistant rain or snowy/icy roads which is pretty lousy for biking to work. Happily that’s not very common here in Victoria – only a handful of winter days are¬†truly¬†horrible!

I will give myself a bit of credit for Sharon’s biking enthusiasm in that I helped make sure she always had a comfortable, reliable bike to ride that was setup for carrying gear and all weather day/night riding. When your gear is dialed it makes everything easier and more fun.

I will also give the City of Victoria some credit for the excellent bicycle infrastructure that makes Sharon’s commute safer and more¬†pleasant. For about half the year we’ve been here she had to ride across town to the Royal Jubilee Hospital using various surface roads – many with bike lanes. Now that she works at the Victoria General Hospital she rides the Galloping Goose Trail [a paved MUP] almost all the way to work which is about as¬†pleasant¬†as it gets living in a city.

Finally I’ll give the Vancouver Island Health Authority [VIHA] for providing lots of secure covered bike storage for the hospital staff.

You know someone is riding a lot when you buy tires for their bike 4 at a time! Go Sharon…=-)

Sharon’s Cross Check Redux…

3 05 2011

Sharon's Cross Check with Titec H-bars...

Update: Sharon really likes¬†the¬†Titec H-bars – especially the forward aero position. Although she found out the hard way that unlike drop bars the H-bars don’t have brakes close at hand when you are all stretched out and hammering. After nearly blasting through an intended stop she’ll get out of the aero tuck next time and be ready to squeeze some brake.

On a funny note she was stopped by a fellow cycle commuter at the hospital she works at and asked if she was a randonneur. When she said no and asked why they thought she was the other cyclist responded that her bike looks like something a randonneur would ride. We had a laugh about that!…=-)

I posted a bunch of photos on my Bow Cycle Blog about upgrades to Sharon’s Surly Cross Check commuter rig. The biggest issue she was having was some discomfort in her hands. We tweaked the drop bar position and double wrapped it for extra padding, but she wasn’t happy with the result so I swapped in a Titec H-bar for a more upright MTB position that she is used to while still providing some lower/more forward hand positions to battle a head wind.

Sharon heading out on her first commute with the new bars...

Fenders for love…

28 02 2011

These were my LHT's fenders....*sigh*...

I got Sharon’s belated Christmas Surly Cross Check commuter bike built up finally. ¬†The only thing missing was fenders. ¬†She had decided on hammered metal fenders from Velo Orange, but they would take a few weeks to come in at our LBS. ¬†Since she is a daily commuter she needs fenders. ¬†I realized the VO fenders I had bought for my Long Haul Trucker were the same size we needed for her CC [700c x 45mm] since she has 32mm Grand Bois Cypres tires on her rims. ¬†My LHT has SKS fenders that work fine on it I gave up my VO fenders for the cause and will just wait until the ones we ordered come in.

The¬†sacrifices¬†I make for love…*sigh*…=-)~

When do IGHs make sense?

8 12 2010

The Gold Standard for IGHs...

I’m a fan of IGHs.¬† I’ve got 2 Rohloffs, 2 Nexus 8s and an Alfine 8 in service in addition to a number of derailleur equipped bikes.

There are a lot of things to like about IGHs:

  • low maintenance
  • hard to break in¬†accident¬†or during shipping/transport
  • clean looking drivetrain
  • easy to use sequential gearing
  • builds up into a strong dishless rear wheel
  • easy to adjust shifting when needed
  • IGH wheel can be shared easily between multiple bikes
  • can shift when stopped [say on a steep hill]
  • will work on almost any frame

There are also some things not to like about IGHs:

  • internals are not field serviceable
  • cost is higher than comparable quality derailleur setup
  • greater power loss than derailleurs
  • greater weight than derailleurs
  • gear range usually lower than a 3 x 9 setup
  • can’t tell what conditions internal mechanism is in without a tear down
  • limited selection of stock bikes sold with IGHs so you have to replace a stock derailleur setup or build custom from frame in most cases
  • drivetrain is in hub so if you have two wheel sets for a frame each needs its own IGH
  • limited shifter options for drop bars

When you consider these points it becomes clear that there is no slam dunk in favour of derailleurs or IGHs.¬† The optimal choice depends on what’s important to you.

Here are some things to consider:

  • a quality derailleur drivetrain that has been setup properly shouldn’t need a lot of attention if used on paved roads – especially if it doesn’t see much rain.¬† As you start to ride more in the rain and move onto mud, snow & sand derailleurs get messed up and need lots of love. This is where the IGH’s low maintenance can be a considerable benefit.¬† However, for a lot of people who ride for pleasure or are fair weather commuters they won’t see a lot of benefit, in terms of maintenance, between a derailleur and an IGH, but they will have to deal with the extra weight, extra cost and power loss of the IGH.
  • if you are having problems with your derailleurs and they are low end units replacing them with some middle of the road will probably solve your problems with less cost than an IGH and with less weight and power loss.
  • derailleur setup are more efficient in the larger cogs of the cassette which correspond to low gears.¬† A Rohloff is less efficient in the lower gears than the upper gears due to the way its planetary gears are setup. This means you’ll experience the most inefficiency with a Rohloff vs. a derailleur on a steep climb where a weaker rider can afford least to give up power.
  • An IGH can be shifted at a stop. For a cargo bike or some recumbents this can be a real benefit since unweighting the back wheel to shift to a lower gear isn’t easy.
  • An IGH rear wheel is very strong since there is little or no dish to the spokes and the resulting equal tension and wide base makes the wheel very robust.¬† Having said that a well tensioned cassette wheel is strong enough for adult men to use mtn biking so for many applications it’s more than adequate.¬† If you are not a clydesdale and/or you are not riding an overloaded bike, but still have wheel problems talk to an expert wheel builder – there is something wrong with your wheels.
  • I use a 3 x 9 derailleur setup in a simple way.¬† I ride in the middle ring 90% of the time and use the 9 cogs as a sequential gear box.¬† I use the bottom 3 gears and top 3 gears 10% of the time when I need them.¬† This is easy to do and doesn’t require a lot of thinking to get the right gear.
  • The only satisfactory drop bar IGH shifter I have come across is the JTek bar end shifter for the Nexus 8 /Alfine 8 hubs.¬† It’s a pleasure to use. JTek will be coming out with a bar end shifter for the Alfine 11, but it might be the end of 2011 before it hits the market. You can mount twist shifters and trigger shifters on or around drop bars and they work, but I have found them to be so poor to use that I won’t bother using such a setup.

Surly Cross Check in lovely Robin's Egg Blue...

Example #1 Sharon’s Cross Check

I’m going to build Sharon a Surly Cross Check using parts from her city bike.¬† The goal is to have a more efficient ride for her since she is not a powerful rider.¬† I considered whether or not to use the Nexus 8 IGH from her city bike or build her a custom 700c cassette wheel and use derailleurs.

I decided to use the Nexus 8:

  • the main benefits of the Nexus 8 for Sharon are 1) it’s paid for 2) it’s easy to use/maintain.
  • Sharon’s current commuter MTB has a cheap derailleur which needs monthly adjustment and she’d rather put a nail through her hand than learn how to tweak a derailleur [I don’t blame her!].¬† The Nexus 8 is dead easy to adjust since you simply align two yellow marks are you are done. Plus it doesn’t need frequent adjustment – maybe twice a year.
  • I am concerned that the extra weight and power loss are not ideal for Sharon since she isn’t a speed demon.
  • I think Sharon will like the simple aesthetic of the IGH chainline and how quiet it is.
  • for the initial build we’ll use swept back riser bars from her city bike and a twist shifter as well as the city bike’s v-brake levers – they are all paid for!

Looking forward I think when the Nexus 8 dies we’ll try a quality derailleur 1 x 9 or 2 x 9 setup:

  • I have lots of derailleur parts in my spares bin so cost will be low.
  • she can benefit from extra efficiency and lower weight.
  • a quality derailleur [LX,XT, 105 or Ultegra] won’t need lots of maintenance or adjustment given she rides only paved roads.
  • she would benefit from the aerodynamic position and multiple hand positions of a drop bar so we’ll use a bar end shifter.
  • she doesn’t need an uber strong back wheel since she is light and doesn’t carry lots of cargo.
  • with another few years of cycling under her belt she will figure out how to adjust a derailleur by ossmosis and it won’t be a big deal.
  • we’ll need drop bar v-brake levers, but by that time her current ones will be old and it makes sense to replace them.

If I was starting from scratch I’d build her bike with drop bars¬† and 1 x 9 derailleur setup mainly because as a weaker rider getting as much power to the road is a benefit she will realize every pedal stroke whereas the difference in maintenance is a smaller benefit realized only occasionally.¬† The drop bar aero position is a benefit when she wants to get more aggressive and increase her sped.

The muddy Dempster Highway...

Example #2 my Surly Big Dummy

My Surly Big Dummy was initially built up with a Rohloff hub and it’s a setup I continue to ride today.¬† If I was starting again I’d use the same hub:

  • having an uber strong rear wheel on the Dummy is critical.
  • this is a heavy bike so the incremental weight of the IGH isn’t a big penalty.
  • I use wide stiff tires [Marathon XRs] on this bike which cause a bigger performance hit than the Rohloff.
  • I generally ride this bike short distances at moderate speeds.
  • A lot of the folks I ride with regularly are weaker riders than me so the Dummy helps equalize things while being very useful if we run errands on the ride.
  • being able to shift while stopped is a big benefit when you stop in a high gear at the bottom of a hill and you have a passenger on the back.
  • I wanted to use Titec H-bars for this bike which work fine with the Rohloff twist shifter.
  • I have used this bike for dirt road/muddy road tours and the Rohloff’s imperiousness to mud was a major benefit.

Besides being a cargo bike this bike is my dirt road/expedition touring rig. The Rohloff’s strength and low maintenance are benefits in this role that out weigh the weight and power loss. I would not ride this bike across Canada on paved roads – it would be painful compared to my Surly LHT.

Trucking on the Bow Valley Parkway, Alberta...

Example #3 my Surly Long Haul Trucker

I built up this touring bike from parts using a 3 x 9 derailleur setup.¬† After several thousands of kms of touring and errand riding I’m on the same cassette/chainrings/derailleurs, but I have swapped in new chains as needed.¬† I love riding this bike.¬† If I were to start again I’d go with a similar build although I might simplify it by skipping the front derailleur and going with a 1 x 9 setup.

  • all my riding has been on paved roads [wet and dry, but mostly dry].
  • I haven’t had much maintenance hassle with this bike.
  • I really enjoy how the Shimano bar end shifters work and love using drop bars on this bike.
  • by touring standards by 32H wheels are light to medium duty yet I have had zero problems and they have not needed adjustment since built up.¬† I attribute this to sensible component selection and the skill of an expert wheel builder who tensioned the wheels.
  • this bike is fast and efficient by the standards of a touring bike and can still haul enough gear to cross the continent while camping/cooking my own meals.

I have considered using an IGH with this bike, but upon further thought it seems I have nothing to gain by that change and I would end up with a heavier less efficient bike.

Who needs gears?

Why not just fix the problem?

Many cyclists who are thinking of IGHs to get low maintenance trouble free drivetrains should take a close look at using a fixed gear bike.  By doing away with gears entirely a FG bike is lighter and more efficient than a derailleur bike while also being lower maintenance and more bombproof than an IGH.

There is this myth that FGs are slow and they are hard to climb.¬† Neither are true for even an average cyclists as long as you aren’t medically compromised and you don’t live in San Fran!¬† For a commuter, pleasure cyclist and even for light errands a FG offers a lot of benefits.

If the lack of coasting ability freaks you out a single speed setup adds a slight bit of weight and complexity, but lets you cost on the downhills.

Naturally for some applications [cargo biking, touring, recumbents, etc..] a FG or SS may not work, but that still leaves the majority of cyclists who could use one.

Sharon has checked out a FG/SS bike and expressed interest. What I may do for her CC is get her some 700c FG/SS wheels that she can swap in to see what she thinks. If she likes them we might skip gears entirely and go simple and light which would be to her advantage in many ways.