Saturday, March 19, 2011

'Tis the Season!

Today was the first time we've ridden our roadbikes since December, and it was a wonderful 27 mile ride. The weather was not as nice as we'd hoped (very windy and the temperature 10°F lower than the forecast promised), but at least the snow was gone. I wore two layers of wool, thin gloves and a hat. Other than my nose running, all was good. Using the trainer over the winter certainly paid off, and I did not feel as out of shape as I'd anticipated. The trainer has also taught me to use lower gearing and spin faster. While it's been somewhat annoying to "reprogram" my style of cycling, I think it's ultimately better for me in the long run.

I took the Bianchi on the start-of-the-season ride, because I was excited to finally test it for real - going as fast as I wanted without worrying about ice patches. I am now more impressed than ever with its handling. It is faster than my other bikes - which may very well be from the more leaned forward position it places me in, but the difference is noticeable. It is also more comfortable than any other roadbike I've ridden with the exception of my Rivendell. The positioning feels just right, and the ride is cushy over bumps. Since the roads are completely messed up from the snow right now, I got to test this aspect of ride quality more than I would have liked, and it really was great. My problem with roadbikes that feel harsh over pot holes is twofold: First, it's painful. And second, it's difficult to control the bike if it bounces, especially with narrow tires. So when a bike is able to "swallow" pot holes and road bumps, it makes me feel a great deal safer and more confident. Not sure whether it's the tubing, the geometry, or the wheels of the Bianchi that are responsible for the great ride quality (it's not the tires, because at least 2 other bikes fitted with identical tires felt worse), but whatever it is, I'm glad.

Though my ideal standover height would be 2cm lower, I don't feel that the top tube clearance on the 54cm (center-to-center) frame is a problem. There is a gray cable that runs along the top of the toptube, and that contacts my inseam. But the toptube itself does not - there is probably 5mm of room there.

One benefit to riding this larger frame, is that there is no toe overlap. Were I to fit this bicycle with fenders, there would be - but as is, my foot clears the front wheel completely even during the most extreme turns possible (I've experimented). This is another aspect of the bike that makes me feel confident on it. I can handle toe-overlap on bikes that I know have it, but when given a choice I prefer no overlap.

The Co-Habitant was back on his Motobecane as well, and we were well matched speed-wise with me on the Bianchi. And I know what you're thinking: That poor man, riding the same beat up old roadbike while I luxuriate in choice. What can I say - I agree. Believe it or not he has been impossible to convince that he needs a new bike... until now. It is very likely indeed that he will have a new steed this summer, but I will leave the details a mystery for now. In the meanwhile, I'm just glad that both the weather and our work schedules have finally cooperated and we were able to ride together again. Hurray for spring!

38 comments:

  1. Nice! So you got to have one of your first real rides on the Bianchi. It's amazing how two bikes can feel so different even with the same tires. I find this to be true with to very similar road bikes of mine.

    I'll have to press the co-habitant for details of this mysterious new steed planned for later this year! Anything else you're willing to divulge? New? Vintage? Custom?

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  2. Yes hurray! I got a new saddle for Gale (I got a black B66) and couldn't wait to ride it - so i just jumped on and road around the Charles - it was such a comfy ride and so good to get back on that bike. Wish the day was nicer - but it didn't matter i HAD to ride and test out the saddle.

    Glad you got out for a ride yourself - I have to start riding longer myself - i plan to do a century this year.

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  3. I got the same hoodie for Christmas - love it. How are the wool pantaloons working out? I still want some of them too.

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  4. somervillain - It will actually be a present from me, new and shiny : )

    dave - the wool pantaloons are the only normal pants I am able to wear on a roadbike. After wearing them for a few months, I wish they had a provision for keeping the cuffs rolled up, but that is the only shortcoming I can think of. I am considering sewing on little tabs with buttons for that. The hoodie is the female version, so I don't know how the male compares. The wool is great quality and it has many useful features. The thumb holes in the sleeves don't work for me, but that is its only flaw.

    Mark - Was the Charles river trail crowded? We thought the Minuteman would be all right this Sat, because it's so cold, but it was very crowded.

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  5. That new roadbike better not be Crabon Fribé.

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  6. lugged Crabon Fribé
    (no, not really)

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  7. There's nothing like the feeling of that first ride in the spring. Welcome to the "new year!"

    Carbon fibber--Say it ain't so!

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  8. I was thinking about your toe overlap question. I had never even heard of this problem util recently even though I've been riding heavily for 20 years. I think the reason is usually you are not pedaling when you're going so slow to even alow a turn to the degree that would force your foot to contact the wheel. I've played my share of foot down and still I've never had that problem

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  9. I'm interested to hear how you like the relatively large frame of the Bianchi after you've had some longer rides on it. I can't exactly explain why, but I'm now finding that having frames at the very upper limit of my size range seems to keep me most comfy over longer rides.

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  10. Anon - On the way to the open roads and trails outside town, I regularly go through stretches of narrow and crowded MUPs, with weird turns. It is unwise to go above a certain speed in those areas, which is why it's nice to have a roadbike that handles well at slow speeds in addition to fast speeds, and ideally without toe overlap. The Co-Habitant used to tell me he doesn't understand why I have this problem. Then he realised that his roadbike (a larger frame than mine) does not have toe overlap, so that's why. In general, this is usually a problem limited to small bike sizes - 54cm and under. So you too may not have been aware of it because your bikes do not have it.

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  11. somervillain - I don't plan to take rides over 30 miles on the Bianchi, because my Rivendell is just much better set up for long distances. I also don't like the Bianchi's DT shifters, which makes it not ideal for hills. I may eventually test it on a longer ride just for the heck of it, but overall it is just for shorter rides.

    Though I am fine with the Bianchi's size, I don't think that I actually prefer it if given a choice. It "feels long" as I am riding it, yet handles pretty aggressively, which for me is a combination that takes a bit of getting used to. I am also way too leaned over, and on a long ride I imagine that might get to me after a while. Finally, because of the size I am unable to get the handlebars any lower than where they are or to get the saddle any higher - which means that I don't have the bike set up in the manner it was intended. Some would say that's not optimal, as far as getting the most out of its handling goes.

    With all these issues, it is still more comfortable than any roadbike I've ridden other than the Rivendell, and faster than all of them. But I think it's the bike rather than the size, and I'd feel the same on a frame that was 2cm smaller.

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  12. I noticed you don't have a Bianchi profile on your "My Bicycles" page. I wanted to compare and contrast to your other road bikes to guess as to what may have been the "faster" culprit.

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  13. Good point, I'll add it. And I need to sell the Trek, because the overall number is getting out of control : ((

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  14. Happy days are here again! Glad to see the Bianchi is out and about. It really looks suits you.

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  15. That's interesting. I noticed your husband has a classic-style seat post and clamp but he has it reversed to how I've seen it most of the time. I have an issue with setback on my micro-adjust seatpost so I could probably use a classic style clamp in reverse which should allow me to move the saddle further forward! Is there any reason why your husband has the clamp in that direction? Or have I just never noticed and that's the normal direction for the clamp?

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  16. Arron H.--You can absolutely push the saddle forward a good 2" by reversing a standard Brooks clamp with B-17-style saddles that have very short rails and are otherwise impossible to push that far with a modern/swept back seat post.

    The Pashley Roadster comes that way from the factory, so it's a common adjustment mechanism. If someone at a bike shop tells you that you have the saddle clamp backwards, or that your saddle is too far forward--you know you've just made acquaintance of someone who shouldn't touch your bike.

    Cheers. :)

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  17. Arron - We basically have the opposite preferences when it comes to saddle position, whereas I like mine pushed back and he likes his forward. The reversed clamp allows him to achieve the forward position. Crazy if you ask me, but can't argue about preferences!

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  18. MDI - Many thanks. I shall invest in a classic style seat post instead of struggling with my current micro-adjust... and as a bonus it'll probably match my vintage Dawes Galaxy and B17 a little better too. Cheers!

    Velouria - my preference is almost a necessity. Since I've started riding bicycles again, I've come to realise that my arms a little shorter than average so I struggle a little bit with reach in relation to leg length while finding that elusive perfect fit.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated.

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  19. Arron--moving the saddle forward is usually not ideal for solving reach problems. It affects a lot of things at once. I was going to ask you why you're considering moving it forward, but you just answered that.

    Of course try, since it's reasonably cheap to move the saddle, but a better solution is to shorten the stem. I keep noticing the crazy stems in bike shops and I think are too long even for people with average arm length. Depending on your bike, it may be expensive and may require the dreaded rewrapping of the bars...

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  20. Aaron - To add to MDI's comment, most people experience discomfort with the saddle in a forward position. A better way to solve reach problems is to get a shorter stem. What kind of bicycle is this?

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  21. Yeah, I've read that a lot. I'm actually in the processes of buying a shorter stem (eBay), so I think I'll wait until it arrives and see if it corrects the issue before purchasing a new seatpost. Yes I'll have to re-wrap my bars again, but I've been meaning to raise my levers slightly anyway, so I can kill the two proverbial birds while I'm at it.

    Velouria - It's an early 80s Dawes Galaxy - a road tourer, similar in geometry to your Bianchi I guess. What sort of discomfort?

    Thanks again for your help.

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  22. Looks like fun! That Bianchi is nicely delicate looking too.

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  23. V, may I ask which tires you have mounted on your Bianchi, and which on the Sam? I'm getting Nifty Swifties for the Rivendell I'm building, and I'm looking forward to trying them. I'm very encouraged to hear that your Sam is your most comfortable bike for long rides! Thanks, Steve in MD

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  24. Arron - too much pressure on the hands and wrists (feeling "thrown forward") and discomfort in the legs from the steep angle. But again, it really is a matter of personal preference.

    Steve - 700C x 28mm Panaracer Pasela Tour Guards on the Bianchi, and 650B x 42mm Grand Bois Hetres on the Rivendell (more on those here). What model and size Rivendell did you get?

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  25. V, thanks for the tire info. I got a Bleriot, 51cm. As you may know, it is the predecessor to the Sam. , except that all Bleriots are 650b. I wanted the Fasty Maxis (teflon bead), but they were out of stock so I'm getting the wire bead version instead. I guess i was reluctant to go too wide on the tires, as I'm used to narrow road tires, and will mainly be riding on roads. I may have this bike on the road by next weekend. Good riding, Steve in MD

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  26. Wow, now I really want to try a bianchi or similar bike. Could the stand over issue be solved with a 650B conversion or is that another can of worms? The only way I can really get onto bigger frames is if they are mixte or step through frames, but they are rarely built with the higher end tubing etc that a nice classic road bike would have.
    Maybe the smooth fastness is just the nature of italian bikes. My husband's bottecia just flies.

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  27. Heather: Converting a road bike like Bianchi to 650B while possible is difficult because of brakes and clearance issues.

    There is a very recent post about a Shogun (touring) bike 650B conversion, but that bike has canti brakes (and required a trip to frame makers & painters).

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  28. Heather - Aside from the issue MDI mentioned, there is also the tire width. The only reason I would get a 650B bike is for the wider tires, as that size really works best with a 40-42mm tire width IMO. There's no way the Bianchi has clearance for those.

    Steve - I ride mostly on the road, not off. The Grand Bois Hetres have a very smooth tread and they are super fast. Just saying!

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  29. Aaron - What sort of discomfort? Well, for me it's most knee pain. If I lower the stem, or move back the seat, it disappears.

    Also, have you considered getting more swept back handlebars? Like inverted North Roads instead of drop bars?

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  30. Heather: there are three main criteria that must be met for a 700C or 27" wheeled bike (with rim brakes) to be a good candidate for conversion to 650B:

    - brake reach: are the brake arms long enough to position the pads on the braking surface of 650B rims? The brakes must be able to reach an additional 23mm lower for a 650B wheel. This almost always requires long-reach brakes.

    - bottom bracket height: if the bottom bracket (which holds the crankset) is low to begin with, it will be an additional 10-20mm after conversion. This may increase the risk of pedal strike in sharp turns.

    - tire clearance: if your bike can only fit skinny 25mm tires between the fork blades and chainstays, chances are that it won't fit wider than 28mm or 30mm 650B tires... which largely defeats the purpose of conversion.

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  31. Hi Velouria!

    I'm from the Bay Area but happen to be bringing a bike to my sister in NYC via Boston. I took the bus (with boxed vintage Gitane mixte) to Harris on Saturday morning, bought a 3-speed rear wheel, tire, etc, and put it together outside the shop (good thing it was sunny!). Elton was great in helping me with small things (zip ties, and a bolt missing from the rack when I packed it).

    I half-expected to see you roll up to Harris (I also test-rode a stately Pashley). If you saw another rider in the same Chrome hoodie blasting along the Charles on a blue-green mixte with baggage strapped to the back rack, that was me!

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this part of the cycling world to the internet.

    (PS: now I'm working on the nexus 3-speed hub issue you wrote about in november. If I find an æsthetic enough solution, I'll post it)

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  32. Hi Velouria:
    I enjoy reading your blog almost as I enjoy riding my Benotto 3000, vintage steel bike all year around the Gulf of Mexico in Campeche, Mexico.
    Your comment on how nice the Bianchi rides is in line with my experience with Columbus tubing bikes. It makes a difference.

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  33. Yeah, those roads. I was just looking at a picture on the NYTimes site of a Libyan rebel pointing his AK-47 at a suspected Gaddafi loyalist on a highway and found myself admiring how nice and smooth the asphalt was. Looks pretty flat, too. Would be nice to bike there, in some ways.

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  34. I had gone out on Sunday instead of Saturday and it was the first ride that I've had on the Club Racer since the winter started (aside from the brief week where the Raleigh was getting its bottom bracket replaced) ... so it was nice to just meander around the inner 'burbs with a freewheel and no particular goal in mind. I had a wool jersey with arm warmers, as well as tights and pants, and that was a little chilly but fine for hard efforts.

    I wound up stopping in Ride Studio and intersected with a few randonneuring friends who were coming off an impromptu Japan relief fundraiser ride. It had a very 'back-to-school' kind of feel, as we were catching up on what we were up to from the winter and fall, and scheming on spring and summer plans.

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  35. Well, good thing I rode over the weekend... today it's full on snowing!

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  36. yeah, but it isn't sticking to anything, so it's just like rain with bonus snowflake on your tongue catching action.

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  37. Yay, I'm happy for you and your Bianchi! :)

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