Saturday, August 1, 2009

On The Road, Don'tchya Know

The Cycle is coming to you LIVE from the great state of Minnesota this weekend. Our road reports were almost thwarted by a dearth of wi-fi: none at the hotel, none at Caribou Coffee stop #1, and Caribou Coffee stop #2 was closed. I felt kind of like an addict frantically searching for my fix. Thankfully, Caribou Coffee stop #3 had the goods, and although it will close in a bit, the (long-ago closed) Bruegger's next door is absolutely bleeding signal. I figure they throw me out of here, I'll sit in the car and latch on to that baby like a vampire on a bottle of True Blood.

This is as close as I get to gritty battlefield reporting, sorry.

So, bikely stuff I've visited up here? This morning featured a visit to local cool co-op shop The Hub near the U. of M. I usually make it to The Hub only because it sits near a yarn shop where my lovely wife can find fibrous entertainment. My favorite sighting at The Hub today was the lineup of Civia transportation bikes created by uber-distributor Quality Bicycle Products. When these things hit the interwebs, I kind of pooh-poohed them as over-spec'ed and over-priced novelty items. Now having seen them in person, I am duly impressed. Sure, they're pricy, but they really are well set up for "real" cycling on the street -- and the matte paint jobs with long matched fenders are simultaneously modern and elegant. Will they sell worth a darn? I don't know. I don't know any commuters who put $2k into their daily beater (although that's probably a reasonable replacement cost on mine). But I applaud QBP for giving it a shot and coming up with some sweet rides.

My only other vaguely bikey stop has been REI, since I feel obligated to pop in now that I bit the bullet and became a member. That's how they get you, see? Dropped a whopping four bucks on a supposedly new-and-improved Kleen Kanteen sport cap that claims 3x more water flow. We'll see when I get back to Des Moines and pop it on one of my well-used KKs.

I also fondled the Novara Buzz Road, an interesting take on the all-rounder concept: aluminum frame/fork, lots of gears, STI on Wilderness Trail Bikes flared drops, and -- get this -- mechanical disc brakes. It's an odd duck to be sure, but for the right person (like me), it sort of makes sense. All the aluminum resists rust, while the discs keep the braking surface up out of the crud on an all-weather commuter. I was disappointed to see that the rear disc mount is positioned on the seatstay, making rear rack installation more hassle than necessary. I would have preferred more tire clearance too, and my very rudimentary "hoist it off the rack and put it back" weighing registered that it was a bit tank-ish. Like the Civias, I don't know if these oddballs will sell, but they're certainly not the cookie-cutter stuff you see at your typical TrekSpecializedCannondaleGiant store these days.

(My other favorite Novara? The Buzz V -- only because it's a set of knobby tires away from being a sweet retro-ish all-rigid mountain bike. What can I say? I have a soft spot for those... in my head.)

Inspired by these visits, I have commuting equipment on the brain, so assuming I can continue to suckle at the teat of free wireless, I'll fire off a few thoughts on a) what makes a good commuting bike, and b) how to carry your junk on said commuting bike in the next few posts. Please try to contain your excitement...

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