Made my second commute in on my Jamis Commuter 3 today, this time in the rain! Some lessons learned:
- Clear glasses are a must for riding in the rain.
- Changing routes spontaneously is more fun in a car.
- Hills still suck.
I picked up my shiny new Jamis Commuter 3 on Thursday. I opted for the 21" over the 19" even though it doesn't offer as much stand-over clearance as I'd like. I had to raise the seat above the height of the handlebars on the 19" which wasn't the ride I was looking for. I also found my toe would clip the front fender on tight turns which bothered me (perhaps more than it should have). All in all, the 21" just felt more comfortable. So after getting it and the various safety and security accessories home, I took a few getting-to-know-you rides around the neighborhood and today (just 30 minutes ago) made my first commute by bike into work. I picked a route that avoided the busier roads without bike lanes as well as dodging around some of the steeper inclines. It took me through our park on a path around the lake before dumping me out on Walker Rd for the last stretch. Nike threw a nice hill at me toward the end, but IBM let me coast the last quarter mile on a generous incline to the parking lot. I am very glad for the 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub, a single-speed would likely have been an excuse not to ride. 15 minutes elapsed time door to door, it might take me a little longer to work the burn out of my legs and to get rid of "that funny feeling in my tummy". All in all, I think it's a great start. Thanks to everyone that offered advice and encouraged me to start riding in!
Yesterday I left the burbs and trekked into SE to see Corey at Seven Corners Cycles about a Jamis Commuter 3. Corey listened to what I was looking to do, and what attracted me to the Jamis Commuter 3. He addressed my concerns about traditional v-brakes, pointing out how the machined aluminum rims with water channels today provide much more friction for the brake pad than the steel wheels of the last era. (So he didn't steer me to the >$1000 Jamis Commuter 4).
He setup the 21" he had on hand, warning me it might be a little tall for my 5'11" frame. The seat-to-bars length looked good, but it was a little... dangerous... to casually throw a leg over such a high bar. The bike has slightly curved bars, a slightly reclined seat and head tube, a comfortable saddle, and 32c tires. All this combined for the best ride I've had this week. It also comes stock with fenders, a rear rack, and a lighting system driven by a Shimano Dynamo front hub (cool tech if you ask me). With all these things included, the Jamis comes in well under most of the competition. After the ride, we agreed that I'd probably be better off with a 19" frame and possibly a longer stem. He said he should have one in and built around this coming Thursday. I committed to buying one of the two after a final fitting.
Seven Corners Cycles had me at the door though. With two black labs roaming the store floor, you can't go wrong. It didn't hurt that they let dvh3 drive a little red Jamis around and around (and around and around) the store, and Corey played "te pego con palo" with him while I test rode my future commuter.
Thanks to The 6-Miller for the excellent write-up on 2008 commuter bicycles which eventually led me to the Jamis Commuter series.
Today I went out in search of a Swobo dealer to test drive the Swobo Otis, Novak, and Dixon. I found one local Swobo dealer, and they only carried one of the three bikes I was hoping to test drive: the Swobo Novak. A Swobo Rep happened to be on-site today - which turned out to be rather frustrating as I was just handed over for indoctrination rather than the slightly less biased pitches of the shop sales people. But, on to the reviews. Let me preface by saying I was annoyed with the rep and was still a little saddle sore from my time on the Sohos, so my reviews are sure to be slightly less positive than yesterday's.
The Novak is a pretty basic machine: steel frame, caliper brakes, and an SRAM iMotion 3 speed internal geared hub with a grib shifter. The Novak rode much like the Trek Soho S, although it felt a little taller and maybe not quite as nimble. I really liked the grip shifter. With just a soft rubber extension of the grip to rotate, there are no thumb buttons to confuse which is higher and lower. I just gripped the shifter and rotated forward or back. With just 3 gears, you don't spend any time fussing over which granny gear to use on the hill, just drop into "lo" and go. In that sense it's a lot like the single speed Soho S where you free your mind from the mechanics of shifting and enjoy the ride. The iMotion hub was noisier than the Shimano Nexus on the Soho. As for the ride, it fel pretty stiff to me. The 700x28c tires might have something to do with that. I have to confess that, while this really should _not_ matter, it isn't much to look at, and compared to the Soho S, it's down right dull. All in all, a very practical, no-nonsense commuter.
Since I was there, I also took a ride on the Swobo Baxter, even though it wasn't previously on my list to ride. The Baxter is $400 jump over the Novak. It boasts front and rear disc brakes and an 8 speed Shimano Alfine internal geared hub. It has a nicely sculpted aluminum frame and matching carbon fiber fork. This bike looks racy, but the Hoopty handlebar has a very school-girl look to it, and I confess to being a little self-conscious holding on to it, but was amazed and what a relaxed ride the more upright position provided. Between the carbon fiber fork and the slightly wider tires, the Baxter was a smoother ride than either the Novak or the Trek Soho S. Since Swobo elected to use the Shimano Alfine internal geared hub instead of the SRAM, the shifter is two button rapidfire job like the Trek Soho - which I really don't care for. I found myself having to really focus to find the levers and to press the right one. I prefer the simplicity of the 3 speed and the grip shifters. A nice ride, but for the money I think I can find a better match.
I would still really like to ride an Otis and a Dixon... but I might be out of luck there as I have no local dealers.
So I'm in the process of becoming one of those nuts who ride their bikes to work and use their wife's car to pick up bags of concrete from the home store. I've read up a bit and have decided a "fitness-hybrid" or a "commuter-hybrid" is the best fit for me. I'll share my cycle selection experience here. I use "cycle" because "bicycle" makes me sound old, and "bike" screams junior high to me... stupid? I know.
I took a trip to see the guys at the Beaverton Bike Gallery today to test drive a Trek Soho and a Trek Soho S. They had both in my size (20" for my 5'11" frame seems about right) and they are really impressive machines. The Soho boasts roller brakes (sorta disk like), an 8 speed Shimano Nexus internal geared hub, and a carbon drive belt... and a price tag to match. The belt drive is noticeable, neither bad nor good, just different. The Soho S in turn has traditional brakes and a single speed chain drive. They both were very tight and nimble, but the Soho S's minimalism made a noticeable difference in weight (both bikes are light, but riding the S I had to look down to make sure it was still there!). It's true what they say about gears, you never realize how much your mind focuses on them until they aren't there. The S was a truly liberating ride. I am concerned that a single-speed will be a hindrance on the grade from work to home. The nearly $500 up-charge for the Soho over the S probably plants it squarely out of my range, and while the fancy brakes and belt drive are cool - I'm not ready to be an early adopter in a field I am brand new to. I preferred the 700x32c tires on the Soho over the 700x28c on the Soho S. I found the saddle on each of them to be absolutely _horrible_