Tag Archives: shimano

Bianchi Valle Review for 2009

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I was searching around for some new touring bike models, looking for upgraded 2009 bicycles, and generally anything else I could get my hands on, and I stumbled across the Bianchi Valle.  Bianchi also offers their ‘specialized’ touring bike the Volpe, a pretty nice touring bike with good features and a mid-range price tag.  But when I looked through the specs for the two bikes, I found the Valle to be a decent option for shorter-range tours.  It offers the same frame as the Volpe, CroMo steel frame and fork, and also has braze-ons to mount fenders and racks.  Actually, the Valle comes with front and rear fenders.  Another interesting difference between the two bikes is the Valle’s power-generating front dynamo hub.  Both bikes have 32 spoke rims which aren’t going to be too reliable with extremely heavy loads, which is why this bike is a decent possibility for shorter tours or commuters.

Bianchi Valle

I don’t like the flat handlebars on the Valle, the drop bars on the Volpe are much more my style.  I prefer the drop bars with the bar-end shifters.  The short chainstay length of 425mm might cause a bit of a problem when loading racks and panniers on the rear of the bike, if you’ve had any experience with doing that on this bike let us know.  I know the Surly Nice Rack offers enough clearance for this frame size with a properly adjusted rear Ortlieb pannier, I checked the pannier/rack combo on a lot of different bikes before I bought my racks.

I think this bike is worth checking out if you are in the market for a commuter or a short haul bike.  It’s another bike to add to your comparison list before making the big purchase.

Don’t forget to visit http://www.theultimatetrek.com to learn more about the upcoming Long Haul for Hunger Bicycling Trek.  Over 8,500 miles across 2 continents.  We’re recruiting riders and would love to have you join for all or part of the ride.

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Choosing the right cycling shoes

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To clip, or not to clip?  Clip.  We’ve already written a post about cycling pedals, but I decided to go ahead and put up a post about shoes for the new year.  We’re going to look at the benefits of the different types of shoes you can buy for your ride and hopefully help you choose the correct cycling shoe for your ride.

Remember these things when choosing the right cycling shoes:

  • The stronger the sole, the more power is transferred to the pedal.
  • If you have wide feet, be careful choosing road style shoes, they often come narrowly designed.
  • Ensure a snug fit with a little room in the toes to move around in cold weather.
  • Ensure the fit at the ball of your foot, where you connect to the pedal, isn’t too tight or you will suffer from numbness in your toes.  You need a little up and down space to keep blood moving.
  • Ensure there is no slipping in the heel.  You need a nice heel cup and not a flat sole.

Cycling Gear is on Sale

Cycling Gear is on Sale

In general, there are three types of cycling shoes on the market.  There are a number of special variations, but we’ll focus on the main three.

  • BMX
  • Mountain
  • Road

Road shoes are what most people conjure up when thinking about the Tour de France and cycling.  These shoes are designed for riding and are often difficult to walk in.  Since they are specifically designed for cycling, they often have exposed cleats to ensure the sole is made of one strong piece of material.  As you’ll learn later, mountain shoes often have recessed cleats that cut into the sole and lessen it’s strength.  Road shoes are often of a much narrower design, more lightweight, and stronger than other shoes.  Have a look at the exposed cleats on this model and imagine walking around in them:

shoe

Road Cycling Shoes

Mountain cycling shoes are a little different than road shoes in that they usually have recessed cleats.  This makes the shoe much more comforable to walk in when not clipped into the bike.  Typically these shoes will have rubber/nylon soles on the outer rim of the sole to shed mud and pad your footsteps.  Because of this added sole, the weight of these shoes is generally higher than a road shoe, but not a ton.  You can check to see how good the shoes are at shedding mud and water by checking the gaps between the sole pieces.  It’s hard to explain further, but you’ll understand if you flip the shoe over and check the spacing.  Bigger spaces lead to better clearning ability.    I briefly mentioned earlier that having a recessed cleat can weaken the sole of a cycling shoe.  Basically there is a 2x3cm piece taken out of the sole to fit in the cleat.  Remember this is you are going for speed, it might make a difference for you and make it worthwhile to pick up road shoes and carry another pair of shoes for walking around.  For us bicycle tourers, a softer sole is worth saving on bringing an entire extra pair of shoes to walk around in.  Having two shoes in one is priceless on a long bike tour.  Looking at the picture below, you can see the recessed cleat, the extra rubber sole and mud-clearning gaps, and the heel cup.

Sidi Mountain shoes

Mountain Cycling Shoes

BMX shoes come in models with or without clips because BMX riders use platform pedals and don’t require clipping in at all times because it can become dangerous.  Imagine doing a nice backflip and having your foot stuck in the pedal.  That would suck.  Some riders do prefer the feeling of clipping in and so there are models of BMX shoes available with slips.  BMX shoes typically look like skate shoes because of their wide, flat soles .  Have a look at a typical BMX shoe below:

bmx

BMX Clipless Shoes

Once you’ve chosen the style of your cycling shoe, you’ve got to choose the quality.  Generally, there are three levels of quality when it comes to buying bike shoes.

  • Beginner
  • Economic
  • Performance

Beginner

Obviously, these shoes are of the lowest quality and lowest price of our three choices of cycling shoes.  The soles of these shoes are the flimsiest of the bunch, often made of rubber (heavy) or nylon (cheap).  The upper part of the shoe is made of nylon,synthetic  leather, suede, or mesh.

Economic

These are your mid-range cycling shoes, usually these can be bought for anywhere between 80-120 dollars.  A lot of Shimano, Forte, and Pearl Izumi models fit into this category.  These bike shoes typically come with some sort of composite sole made up of nylon or some carbon fiber.  The upper part of the shoe is made of leather, nylon, mesh, or other materials.  Most of these models will also come with a molded heal cup to position you for max power.

Performance

These are your expensive cycling shoes, usually ranging from 150-250 and higher.  If you are a serious road racer or cyclist, this is your target range.  These bike shoes come with carbon-fiber soles and high quality upper materials made of pure leather or microfibers for maximum breathability.  Some popular performance models include Sidi, Cannondale, Lake, Vittoria, and Adidas.

I hope this helps you choose the right cycling shoes.  Remember, if you’re on a tour and need extra space, get a multi-purpose biking shoe with a recessed cleat so you don’t have to carry an extra pair of shoes.

Don’t forget that one of the most important aspects of power transfer are the soles of your shoe.  A weak and flimsy sole isn’t going to transfer as much power at a solid piece of sole.  Because of this, cheaper shoes are going to be much flimsier than the more expensive models, mostly because of build materials.

REI January Super Clearance! Jan 9-19

Learn more about my upcoming 8,500mile bicycle trek from South Korea to Portugal at my new website.  Click on the logo.

the Long Haul for Hunger

My Surly long haul trucker, post 2.

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Day Two:  10KM.  I got my Surly equipped with some clipless Shimano pedals today and picked up my shoes.  I got cleats put in them and also had my shop put an odometer (speed computer).  Had a bit of rain yesterday to put the fenders to test, but other than that I got about 10km in.  Had a ride down the cheongyecheon and was averaging about 35km/h with a head wind.  Not too bad, but I had nothing loading on my racks.  I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at the clipless pedals, this is my first time riding on something other than platforms, and my pedal power has increased immensely.  Pedaling un-attached I averaged about 28km/h, clipped in I was at 35.

Have a look at the Surly Long Haul Trucker’s numerous brazeons for connecting my racks and fenders.  Four used and 2 more leftover!

The front fork of my LHT

The front fork of my LHT

My Surly Long Haul Trucker

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I’m happy to announce that my Surly Long Haul Trucker has finally arrived from home.  If you don’t know already, I have been living in Seoul, South Korea for the last three years.  It is quite difficult to get touring bikes here as the population is generally obsessed with mountain biking.   Nonetheless, I got my Surly LHT here and am going to put up some posts here to keep you all up to date.

My model is a 58cm olive frame.  I got the bike completely packaged by Surly with a couple of upgrades (the crankset) and some accessories.  If you don’t yet know about Surly, click here to head over to their website, and then go check out the review here on this blog.  Here is a look at the stock bike…

Blue Surly long haul trucker

Blue Surly long haul trucker

And now here’s the first look at my 58cm olive Surly Long Haul Trucker…not gonna see the whole bike until I cover all the parts first.

My Surly Long Haul Trucker

My Surly Long Haul Trucker

Day One:  5KM.  Used the Surly today to/from work to get a feel for it.  Though I don’t have clipless shoes yet, I had to get a ride in.  First impressions are great.  Super smooth ride, took bumps and holes with ease.  Saddle is comfortable thus far and the 58cm seems to fit me perfectly.  I am almost 6 feet tall and am happy with the adjustable seat post.  Also was surprised by the weight of the bike.  I was under the impression that this was gonna be a load of a bike, but it is actually lighter than my last mountain bike I had.  No problem carrying it up 5 flights of stairs.  More to come tomorrow…

Choosing a touring bicycle; Kona Sutra

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REI.com for Cycling

Choosing a touring bicycle; Kona Sutra 2009.

Now that I’m back from Hong Kong, even though I didn’t actually get to go, I’ve got another touring bike for you all.

Next up is the Sutra from Kona.  Please comment if you have ever ridden, owned, or know anyone who owns this bike.  Email photos of your setup to me at recklesscognition @ gmail.com and have them posted on this site.

2009 Kona Sutra

2009 Kona Sutra

Before we begin….Check out the links on the left side of the page.  Go to the “About Me” page to the left and read about what this journey is all about.  If you are into it, support my journey by helping others and adding to the donations I will deliver to the Mercy Corps organization. Donate, Sponsor, or Pledge on a per-km/mile basis, anything will help.  Learn more by here…Bike Journey

Let’s have a look at the Long Haul Trucker’s spec sheet.

Frame- CroMoly steel.

Chainstay Length- 440mm or 17.3 inches

Brakes- Avid BB7 Road Disc

Tires- Continental Contact 700x32C

Hubs- Shimano Disc 36 spokes

Components-Mostly entry-level Shimano Deore components with an XT rear derailleur.

Price- $1200

First off, the 2009 paint job is much improved over the drag colors on previous model years.  I love colorful frames. The Kona sutra is a dedicated touring bike and comes with front and rear racks for your heavy loads.  Although our initial review stated the bike only had 32 spoke wheels, further review and helpful comments from our visitors have led us to the conclusion that there are actually 36 spokes. Thanks for the input! Expect this bike to be heavy, disc brakes, racks, fenders, etc are really gonna load this bike down.  Even though it is heavy, from what I’ve heard, the frame is super rigid and actually handles the weight well. There has been a set of complaints about rear-wheel spoke breaking being quite frequent.

There are also disc brakes on the bike, which are good for poor weather, but not necessarily good for bike tours.  Looking past the brakes and spokes, there is a bit of an issue here with foot clearance.  Just looking at the photo of this bike with racks hints at a possible problem.  They look mighty close to the pedals, especially that front rack mounted at such an angle.  There have been numerous issues with lack of foot clearance with the Sutra.  If you’ve experience otherwise, please let me know.

How are ratings calculated?

Overall Rating:

Kona Sutra:

Value:  3.6/5

Quality: 4.2/5

Compliance: 4/5

Overall: 11.8/15

Let’s look at the ratings a little more in detail.

Value:  This bike retails for about $1,200. This price is too high for the package.  You’re getting basic components, and a steel frame.  Sure, you’re getting two racks, but is that worth $300?

Quality: I don’t think there are any problems specific to this bike frame, but the wheels have caused problems to numerous customers.

Compliance: Disc brakes and a short chainstay (lack of foot clearance) are the main issues here.

I didn’t think think bike would score so low but looking at it closely I think the rating is justified.  I’d love to hear otherwise, so let me know if you’ve owned this one before.

We’ll be compiling all of the ratings on a new page, look for it to be complete shortly.  Check it out here.

Shimano Bicycle Components. Too many names! Part II

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Before we begin….Check out the “About Me” page to the left and read about what this journey is all about.  If you are into it, support my journey by helping others and adding to the donations we will deliver to the Mercy Corps organization. Donate, sponsor, or Pledge on a per-km/mile basis, anything will help.

In this post we’re going to delve into Shimano components. We’ve recently reviewed the mountain component sets, and here are the road sets.

Road- These components are designed for road use which means they are usually lighter and more durable.  They are able to take repetition and speed and continue functioning at peak performance.

Entry-level Road Component Group:

Sora. The Sora component group is comparable to the mountain bike Deore set . This group of components is considered to be low entry-level.  This package of components would be found on most of the cheaper stock bikes you see at your bike shop.  It is designed for recreational riders and should not seriously be considered as an option for your long-haul tour.  Most of the components in this package are made of aluminum and could not be expected to hold on long enough for a serious rider or tour.  Expect an unreliable crankset.  While these components may be acceptable for some riders, for a touring bicycle, they won’t do.

Shimano Sora Component Package

Shimano Sora Component Package

Shimano Tiagra- This is the next step up on the Shimano component ladder.  Comparable to the mountain version called Shimano XT, this package features hyperglide (HG) sprockets for slick usage.  It is designed for cross-country riding and trekking.  It is still consider to be an entry-level component set, but more acceptable for touring than the Sora components.  There is a slight weight improvement when upgrading from Sora to Tiagra.  Consider this as ‘decent’ or ‘somewhat acceptable’ for your long-haul tour.

Shimano Tiagra Component Package

Shimano Tiagra Component Package

Mid-level Mountain Component Group:

105–  The 105 component package is where casual riders make the jump into the realm of serious bikers.  Superior performance without serious money.  That describes the 105 line very well.  It is like getting a present without wrapping paper.  The components aren’t super light, but they are smooth and reliable.  Sounds good enough for me.  This is where you should start for a serious long-haul journey.  Anything less than this and you are risking failure.  Sure, if you are doing city commuting, the Tiagra components are fine, and if you are teaching your kids to ride a bike, the Sora will do.  But for touring, this is the starting point.

Shimano Deore XT Component Package

Shimano Deore XT Component Package

High-level Mountain Component Group:

Ultegra- This is getting to the top of the line.  Designed for hardcore professional racers, the Ultegra components are lightweight, well crafted, and designed. You’re going to get better craftmanship and a pretty much universal weight reduction on most of the components in this set. This package is something to consider if you are really looking to ensure a couple of thousand of miles on your bike with absolutely no problems.

Shimano Ultegra Component Set

Shimano Ultegra Component Package

There’s still more with Shimano….

Dura-ace- This is the serious stuff people…titanium, super light-weight, nickle-plating, etching, you name it, it’s here.  If you’ve got the money, go for it, if not, stick with the 105 or Ultegra.

Comparing the weight of the front derailleur of a 105 or a Dura-ace….232g vs. 180g…

Shimano Dura-ace Component Package

Shimano Dura-ace Component Package

Shimano Bicycle Components. Too many names!

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Before we begin….Check out the “About Me” page to the left and read about what this journey is all about.  If you are into it, support my journey by helping others and adding to the donations we will deliver to the Mercy Corps organization. Donate, sponsor, or Pledge on a per-km/mile basis, anything will help.  Thanks.

In this post we’re going to delve into Shimano components.  Why Shimano?  Well, this are probably the most popular kind of bicycle component on the market, available in just about every bike shop you can find.  High (and low) quality, well-price, and accessbile, sounds great.  BUT, knowing what kind of Shimano components to buy can be complicated.  Shimano has sets of components with names and we’re going to try and simplify it all right here and now.  We’ll divide the components into MOUNTAIN and ROAD.

Mountain- These components are designed for mountain use which means they are usually heavier and stronger.  They are able to take abuse and continue functioning at peak performance.

Entry-level Mountain Component Group:

Deore. This group of components is considered to be entry-level.  This package of components would be found on most of the cheaper stock bikes you see at your bike shop.  It is designed for recreational riders and should not seriously be considered as an option for your long-haul tour.  Most of the components in this package are made of aluminum.

Shimano Deore Component Package

Shimano Deore Component Package

Shimano Deore LX- This is the next step up on the Shimano component ladder.  This package is designed for cross-country riding and trekking.  It is still consider to be an entry-level component set.  The weight on this set is less than the regular Deore, and the crankset is improved.  Consider this as ‘decent’ or ‘somewhat acceptable’ for your long-haul tour.

Shimano Deore LX Component Package

Shimano Deore LX Component Package

Mid-level Mountain Component Group:

Deore XT–  The XT component package starts to offer some higher quality products to riders.  You get an imporved rear derailleur, better quality parts in the crankset, and more weight reduction in some of the parts.  Shimano says that this is the line to go with if you want superior performance without serious money.  This is true.

Shimano Deore XT Component Package

Shimano Deore XT Component Package

High-level Mountain Component Group:

SLX- This is the top of the line.  Designed for hardcore professional racers, the SLX components are very lightweight, extremely well crafted and designed, and expensive.  Almost not even worth considering these options unless they happen to be on sale and you just won the lottery.  We will put up some price comparisons shortly, so look for them by the end of the weekend.  I think it’d be safe to stick around the LX and XT level components for your bicycle tour, but it’s up to you.

Shimano SLX Component Package

Shimano SLX Component Package

The Shimano road component packages and price comparisons are coming up soon, stay tuned and donate or pledge towards the Set Sail the Prairie on a Surly cause.  Your dollars go to the Mercy Corps who is currently working in countries along the route.  Cheers.