Stealth Belt Drive: Spot Ajax Belt

This showed up when I did my monthly search for belt drive gear hub bikes.

http://www.wired.com/reviews/2011/04/spot-ajax/

A very nice looking 7005 aluminium belt drive commuter/urban bike with carbon disc-brake forks. The Spot website even claims enough bidons/mounting-points for fenders AND racks. This I have to see.

Spot Ajax Belt on Spot’s website

Unfortunately it seems to be a new release (2011) and I’ve not seen any of them guarded and racked up in slick urban bike goodness.

My only gripe is the rather Hipster-ish moustachio handle bars. The option for drop bars with Versa or Essex brifters would be very nice. It’d look quite nice with Thickslicks on those rims, too.

Hey Spot Bikes: send me one for review in Melbourne, Australia. I take my bikes on trains with hundreds of people on-board that have nothing to do but play with their phones. If it’s better than the Cannondale Bad Boy 8 I’ll upgrade!

 

imageOther reviews:

http://www.wired.com/reviews/2011/04/spot-ajax/

http://www.bikerumor.com/2011/02/10/sneak-peek-spot-brand-ajax-city-bicycle-with-belt-drive-alfine-disc-brakes/

http://beltbik.es/spot-brand/2011/ajax-belt

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Stealth Belt Drive: Spot Ajax Belt

Ultimate Bicycle Light?

After poking around Supernova’s website trying to find out about their dynamo lights and if they are adjustable in output I see a light listed as the Ultimate. Supernova’s X7 Ultimate. It costs 999 Euro and somewhat surprised I checked its specifications, which you can do with the link below.

Supernova X7 Ultimate: 2100 Lumens! Are you kidding me?

I suppose on a moonless night in the arctic wastes during deep winter one might need that much light to avoid hibernating polar bears. Other than that how is that much light necessary? I imagine the amount of throw-back, or reflection, would be close to 1000 lumens which is utterly blinding at night.

At almost one thousand Euro I can’t see many people purchasing this HID/Xenon combination darkness shattering beast of a light. Still, it might be fun as a studio light replacement that one can fit in a satchel.

Ultimate Bicycle Light?

Alfine 11-speed, disc brakes and belt drive

The article linked below mentions a bike that seems to be a limited/custom built in Portland, Oregon (USA). A place my sister-in-law just returned from with a few nice cycling related gifts.

Tour on this: Proletariat with Gates belt drive Nuvinci n360 or Alfine 11.

Essentially it is a super-commuter/tourer with belt-drive 11-speed Alfine gear hub with disc brakes. Which is what I’d like to replace the Bad Boy 8. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the Bad Boy 8. I’d prefer to not have a chain to keep lubricated and clean. Since modification of the Bad Boy aluminium frame is not a very clever option I would rather replace the bike with what I prefer.

Alfine 11-speed, disc brakes and belt drive

Merino Clothing

After reading an inspiring article on Rivendell Bikes about the greatness of merino clothing I took a chance, dropped over $50 on a base-layer and tried it out. I have not looked back. Modern merino superfine fabric is smooth, doesn’t itch, and retains little (if any) odour.

My first purchase was an Orca base-layer long sleeve.

Next was an Orca mid-layer and short-sleeve base-layer.

Last was an Icebreaker mid-layer longsleeve and a pair of trunk undies.

Every purchase was worth every cent.

Cycling was where the material really stood out. On a very cold morning I rode into work, 33kms, and had a puncture. I stopped and changed out the tube. At the time, about 70% of the distance, I was feeling slightly damp. When I took of my waterproof jacket steam was rising about my body. The cotton long-T was damp and it seemed the merino wicked all the moisture off my skin – that moisture in turn absorbed by the cotton long-T. After changing out the tube I realised that the merino against my skin was not in the slight bit damp.

image

For cycling merino is the best material I’ve found for against the skin. I’ve yet to try my merino trunks on the bike for anything more than 15 minutes so I can’t comment on its performance on long rides with those parts of your body that connect with the saddle.

Merino Clothing

Surly Big Dummy Review

What’s long, green, a little heavy, great fun and has the potential to change your life?

It’s the Surly Big Dummy. A long-bike or cargo-bike it could have many classifications. What appeals to me the most is how fun it is to ride.

Now that I’ve had it for a few months I have a much better idea of the bike’s intricacies and handling.iphone 002

In short I love it. My wife loves it. It’s starting to change our lives. Where we’d normally drive to the shops we get on our bikes and ride. When I feel like a ride and my wife’s a bit tired I take her on the back and that means we’re together and I get a decent ‘work-out’ on the bike. All this cycling is changing her, too. She’s excited to ride and has purchased a new Avanti Metro 8.

My (our?) main use for it is shopping but I also enjoy commuting to work upon the big green carrier. My work-commute is 67kms round trip and I spend about 2 hours 40 minutes in the saddle. The handling is very nice. Moderately relaxed steering geometry only becomes twitchy on tight corners. Frame geometry is configured toward upright riding: think town-bike or Amsterdam-bike. It’s no problem to get the bike through the anti-bike devices that guard bike-paths around Melbourne. I’ve never clipped anything whilst riding it. Any clipping of objects is done whilst wheeling the bike: usually coming in the back door.

The Xtracycle Freeloader Bags can fit a great deal of stuff but to truly get the most out of the bike I think a cheap motorcycle-type cargo net adds to it capability significantly. And when you have those little cargo nets you will get the most out of a set of wideloaders.iphone 004 There’s enough space to carry a brand-new, in box, 6 litre slow cooker; without the wideloaders. I’d be hesitant to do this sans-cargo net, though. My trip was successful because of the cargo net.

 iphone 001

If you have a modicum of fitness you won’t be particularly slowed by the Big Dummy rolling on Schwalbe Big Apple tyres at 60psi. I’ve found that it only slows me about 1-2kph compared to my Cannondale Bad Boy 8 on Continental Sport Contact tyres at 90psi. The weight of the Big Dummy is about the same as a low-end steel frame hybrid: one of those over sized steel-tube ones that are built to look like they’re aluminium but are just plain mild steel.

Having my wife ride on the snap-deck is really good fun and great resistance training. It lets you find out what your knees can handle. It’s also really nice to be able to have her right next to me and able to chat regardless of how hard I want to ride (but she doesn’t like it when I take the bike faster than about 30kph). It may be read as a slight against her but she’s the heaviest load, with shopping, that I’ve taken on the Big Dummy. Including the shopping I’m estimating about 85kgs. Added to my 90kgs the bike was close to its stated limit of 180kgs. I didn’t find this difficult until a hill near home that is about 5% gradient for 300metres or so. Then I felt it on my knees. If anyone thinks that’s the bike they’re wrong: it’s clearly my gear choice &/or fitness level. I wouldn’t want to carry much more than that on the Big Dummy and agree with its stated weight limits. If one was to want a bike with higher loads then consider the Yuba Mundo.

It’s in my nature to think of ways to improve things. The Big Dummy has few additions or modifications that I’d make. They are:

  1. It’s not really the bike but change the saddle (most people will do this so that they have a better fitting cushion for the pushin’, anyway). I’ll be fitting this Charge Spoon Wiggle Edition.
  2. Chain-slap will scratch up your frame after a few kilometres of bumps. Put in some protection. At the moment I’ve got some packing foam on the frame until I decide on something more aesthetically pleasing.
  3. To avoid chain-slap an idler would be a good addition. Terra Cycle make these ones.
  4. Total-dreaming: I’d love to put a modification on the Big Dummy to have a belt-drive to a Rohloff gear hub. This would require some kind of mid-mounted hub that operates as a 1:1 transmision from cranks to the Rohloff. Something like the awesome Chupacabra of a person who goes by the name Goat might be appropriate.

Overall the Big Dummy is big green fun. If you’re on the fence, get off and get riding the Big Dummy.

Surly Big Dummy Review

Continental Sport Contact: 3500kms review

The Cannondale Bad Boy 8 (Blackmere, is its name) came from the store fitted with Continetnal Sport Contact tyres of 28mm width. They are sporty fast tyres with a soft compound and decent grip. In the wet they’re what I’d call ‘acceptable’. That is, on slimy paths and over wet detritus build up on the tracks they are about what you’d exepect to look at the tread pattern.

The rear tyre has been swapped out for a Schwalbe Marathon Plus after the Sport Contact has done about 3500kms. The roundness is gone and it is flat where it has worn. The Sport Contact is now on the front of my Gemini World Randonneur. You can see in the picture below that the tread patten is completely worn of the round ‘ridge’ of the tyre. It may even convey how it’s become flat.

Conti Sport Contact after >3500kms

After >3500kms I’ve found the Sport Contact to be a good ‘performance commuter’ tyre. I wouldn’t use them again at the moment because I want to get ~5000kms out of a tyre. To be fair the Sport Contact is not worn out it is just heavily worn. When off the rim I can make the rubber buckle like old skin and wrinkle around the puncture protection belt. This doesn’t inspire me with confidence in the tyre’s soundness of structure.

The puncture protection was noticable but not great. I still had two punctures from glass shards penetrating the puncture protection belt. Those shard were rather normal looking. To my mind that is not good enough for a commuter tyre. Exceptionally dagger-like glass shards are always a possibility and I can excuse any tyre being punctured by those but standard shards: not acceptable.

Fitting the tyres was an eye-opener in  hand-strength and endurance. The bead is so tight that I’ve only ever got the tyre on the rim without tyre levers twice. Every time I’ve had to fit these tyres my brow is wet from perspiration and effort. I’ve read about people complaining about the fit of Schwalbe Marathon Plus but they are a doddle (that’s easy for those unfamiliar with the term) compared to Continental Sport Contact tyres.

Overall:

  • Purpose: for commuters who want to go fast, above average
  • Wet handling: average
  • Durability: below average
  • Puncture protection: average
  • Fit: overly tight bead makes them an effort to get on the rim, below average.
  • Total rating: average
Continental Sport Contact: 3500kms review