Bicycles

The Urban Beater rides

With a few brake cable stays and a water bottle cage, I finished my single-speed bicycle build last Friday. I was able to ride around town a bit that day, and then took a slightly longer ride out on the Minuteman Bike Trail on Sunday.

The bike is just…breezy. It’s stable at speed but easy to turn in, it rolls nicely, and is just generally fun. I do feel how skinny the tires are, but they noticeably reduce the effort from stops. And low effort from stops is important, because there are no gears. Speaking of no gears, the bike is also kind of slow. It’s not very slow, but right now with the 44/15 gearing, I’ve got almost 3:1 reduction. In comparison, the 39/13 or 39/12 gearing which I usually end up with on the Bianchi (either the highest or second highest rear gear and the middle chainring) is either exactly 3 or 3.25:1. So doing the math out the difference isn’t huge, but both the presence of lower gears and the little gearing advantage at the top makes the Bianchi feel faster.

Speaking of the Bianchi. I rode to work yesterday and today, and riding the bikes back to back was interesting. For the first time, I really felt the difference in the amount of tire I had with the Bianchi. This is notable mostly because the Bianchi wears 32c road tires, not skinny but not exactly fat either. Still, the difference between 25 and 32 was a noticeable reduction in jarring and better maintaining speed over uneven pavement. The generally higher cadence I was able to maintain on the Bianchi made it feel a lot faster, though that’s likely due to the reduction in effort rather than the actual gearing difference discussed above. The Bianchi is heavier than the Motobecane, but while riding it’s pretty hard to feel the difference. The Bianchi carries the weight of the panniers well also. The one place the Motobecane’s weight was a major advantage was in multi-modal riding; I can throw it on my shoulder and carry it up and down stairs easily, something that is painful with the Bianchi and impossible when I have panniers on it.

The Motobecane is fulfilling its role as an urban beater well, and will be even better once I figure out how to ride it with as little baggage as possible (I rode with a backpack which was OK, but riding it without a pack was much better). There is one small upgrade in the works…after feeling out how the bike rides I’m probably going to change to bar-end brake levers, just simple ones like Tektro 4.1s. It’ll clean up the front end and make me feel more comfortable in a crouch on this bike, which right now leaves me without brake coverage. Unfortunately, this change would require new cables (longer than the current ones to cover lever position), new bar tape, and the levers themselves, so I’m probably going to leave it alone until I feel like ripping into the bike again.

Overall, my first build was a successful one. A few tweaks and this bike should serve me well for some time.

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