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Author Archive: Matt

Product Review: WTB Freedom Cruz 29er tires

So as I previously mentioned, I’ve been riding the WTB Freedom Cruz 29er tires on my Redline Monocog 29er – and I’ve now got enough time logged on them for a review!

The basics: at a 29 x 2.0″ size (they come in 26″ as well), these are not for your typical city bike or hybrid! Per product description, they’re meant to “turn your 29″ dirt-crusted steed into a quick and nimble commuter workhorse.” While in general I prefer to keep my mountain bikes on mostly dirt, I had the bike available and a new bike I was riding more, so on the tires went!

A (rather technical) caveat up front: these tires are mounted to Mavic A317 rims, which only have a rim width of 17mm. WTB recommends (per the tire sidewall) rim widths of 25mm+ (which is somewhat standard – but not universal – for mountain bike rims). So right off the bat, my experience with handling may be different than someone else’s, as a wider tire on a narrower rim doesn’t hold its shape quite as well as a wider tire on a wider rim or a narrower tire on a narrower rim. I never felt super comfortable on these on sharp turns – but that might change quite a bit if they were used with the recommended rim size.

Now back to riding impressions!

After a couple months of solid riding, I can definitely say the Freedom Cruz fits the bill for commuting! Very smooth-rolling for sure. They also seem to track well on surfaces ranging from pavement to hardpack dirt – I wouldn’t want to try them out in a lot of mud or loose dirt, but on smooth surfaces they work well (wet or dry). The suggested tire pressure is 35-65psi – after some testing, I ended up running the rear at 40psi and the front at 35psi (this for an average guy+gear load of around 160-165lbs). I also found that the tires held air pressure pretty well – I only had to add a small amount of air every couple weeks. My typical experience is that I need to add a more significant amount of air once a week, so this was a pleasant surprise. It may simply be due to the lower pressure – tire pressure on my other commuter bikes ranges from 55psi to 100psi – but it was nice nonetheless.

The hard rubber compound and sidewall on the Cruz did seem to lessen the bump-absorption properties normally associated with wide tires to some degree – I think most of my mountain tires provide a bit more cushion than these do. However, they do seem durable – after about 350 miles of riding I can’t really see any signs of wear.

For the price (MSRP is $33.99 per tire and they can be found for $6-10 less), the Freedom Cruz 29 tires are a very reasonable way to convert a mountain bike into a smooth-riding city bike. They aren’t overly beefy, and once I had my bike up to speed I felt like it took very little effort to keep it at speed. If you’ve got an extra MTB sitting around and want to give it some new life, $50-60 can get you a tire that will give you a smooth ride for a long time… and the all-black styling means your “mountain” bike won’t be hurting too bad for street cred even without the knobbies!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

New Commute, New Style

A month ago, my commute changed from a 6-mile commute one-way to a three-mile commute one-way. It also changed from an office with a shower to an office without a shower… so my approach to my commute definitely had to change!

Previously, I’d taken the approach of riding as hard as I wanted in more bike-y clothes, then showering and changing. With no shower available – but a much shorter commute – I decided to take advantage of our lowering morning temperatures (mostly below 70 now) to try riding to work in my work clothes and going slower. This also gave me the ability to put three products we’ve received to a better test.

My “new” commuting rig is my Redline Monocog 29’er single speed mountain bike… with a couple modifications. I’ve kept the gear ratio the same (33×16) – it’s low, but it means I can’t ride too fast and therefore can’t get too sweaty!

The Monocog in commuter guise

The three products I’m reviewing are:
WTB’s Freedom Cruz 29 tires
WTB’s Freedom Cruz Grips
Cycle Cuffs
Look for reviews of all three of these shortly!

Freedom Cruz 29

Freedom Cruz grips

Cycle Cuffs

Friday Fun: Crazy Commuting Accessories!

We’ve all seen them: bike accessories that make you go hmm… whoa!… huh??!…weird…I wonder who came up with that??

Granted, quite a few of these show up on our friend Matt C.‘s blog Bikehacks… but some of them actually make it out into the world as retail options!

Some of these things aren’t necessarily bad – many fulfill their intended function, at least to some extent – but they either look silly, make you feel ridiculous, or just plain ARE ridiculous simply by existing! With that, here are a few of our picks…

1. Bike Umbrellas.

Drybike!

Yes, this technically might work (especially if you’re riding a Dutch bike in the Netherlands, though even then I’m skeptical). However, it looks kind of ridiculous… and I know on my commutes rain often is not falling straight down!
You could also, of course, just protect your head:

The Nubrella

2. Leather handles to carry your bike. Some may call it brilliant… we call it kinda silly!

Walnut Studiolo's bike carry handle

3. If handles to carry your bike are silly, then we don’t even have words for this (image courtesy Gizmodo):
All I can say is that the makers of this have clearly never had the bottom of a six pack fall out… and also need reminders about things like “panniers” and “backpacks.”

4. Sideways safety flags. Granted, these appear to work at keeping cars a little further away from you… so if that’s a problem, you just may be a candidate for one of these (though the one we reviewed apparently is no longer available). But… they look just a little bit too much like you forgot to remove something after a parade.

Flagging

5. Huge pants-cuff-savers. Do they work? For the most part, yes. Do they make you look like you’re riding against doctor’s orders? Also yes.

But I have a note!



6. Skinny jeans for cyclists. Umm, yeah. Maybe people who only walk next to their bikes can fit into these, but for the most part the guys and gals here can’t… and it’s not because of our rear ends! We have calves and quads, people!

7. This next one’s not technically an accessory… but it deserves inclusion. It is… the Fliz. All the disadvantages of biking combined with all the disadvantages of walking… plus you get to stick your head in the middle of the frame! What could POSSIBLY go wrong??

We’re sure there are other crazy commuting accessories out there – what gems do you have to share??

Product Review: Electra Townie 7D

As I mentioned in a post a few months back, my wife Adrienne and I have been looking for a bike that would match up a little better with her around-town needs and with our Yepp mini kid-carrying seat.

Well, I think we’ve found it… and it looks like the Electra Townie 7D.

Two words come to mind with the Electra Townie: fun and relaxing! The laid-back position immediately makes everything seem less urgent, and it’s just a comfortable bike to sit on. That feel is a result of what’s called the “pedal forward” position – instead of being located at the junction of the downtube and seat tube, the bottom bracket (the thing your pedals and crankset attaches to) is located a few inches forward of that position. This relaxed position means a rider can put both feet down on the ground while still sitting on the seat – making it very stable at stops (and easy to stop suddenly). It also means that with the Yepp seat mounted, there’s very little issue with knee clearance on the seat (a big issue we had with the Trek hybrid Adrienne had before).

Both feet on the ground!

Electra makes a whole series of pedal forward bikes, from single-speed cruisers to multi-speed “Townie” bikes that can come with internal hub shifting or derailleur shifting. While the idea of an internally geared hub was attractive, the derailleur 7-speed version fit our budget better.

The Townie series of bikes comes in two versions: “men’s” and “women’s.” Really, there are only two differences between these: the overall size (men’s is a little bigger) and the shape of the frame: on the women’s bike the frame has very easy stepover, while the men’s has a more classic design. I actually like the women’s version just fine – size-wise I think you have to be pretty tall before it feels too small, as the angle of the seat tube means that as the seat goes up, your position on the bike goes back, so it adjusts to fit pretty nicely. I also like the step-through frame for riding with the Yepp on the bike – it’s a lot easier to get on and off. Without the front-mounted seat it probably wouldn’t matter – but with it, it’s an attractive feature.

Disadvantages? Well, we’ve only found a couple so far. One is that it’s hard to make this bike move quickly – the pedaling position really doesn’t lend itself to cranking hard, and standing up to pedal is a little more awkward than on most bikes. This also means that when towing a bike trailer (which we’ll do on occasion with this bike), the overall pace is slower and the trailer feels heavier. The other big disadvantage is that it won’t fit on a regular bike rack without some sort of adapter (which we haven’t yet tried) – to get it home we had to put it on our bike rack upside down and at a pretty ridiculous angle! For what we need to do these are livable negatives, but I wouldn’t get this bike with the intention of riding long distances at all quickly or if we weren’t riding directly it from our home.

Other advantages? The balloon-style 26″ tires absorb bumps pretty well, and the seat – although it looks huge for a normal bike – fits this style of bike and is comfortable. The only thing we’ve swapped out from the original configuration is a set of ergonomic grips, which made a big difference (the original grips had fancy stitching on them which was uncomfortable). And again – the bike is just plain fun!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Velo Transit Metro 20 Pannier

For the past six weeks, I’ve been testing the Velo Transit (VT) Edge 40 backpack, as well as the Metro 20 Pannier. My review of the Edge 40 can be found here.

The Metro Transit is one of VT’s more basic panniers, and retails for $119. However, that doesn’t mean VT didn’t put a lot of thought into this pannier. The mounting hardware – what VT calls “KlickFix” – works extremely well – I tried it on 2 very different racks and didn’t have a problem mounting it to either. Adjustment and attachment are both reliable and intuitive.

Inside, there is one unzippered and one zippered pocket – both mounted to the hard plastic shell that gives the Metro 20 its structure. The rest is all open storage. On the outside, there is one large zip pocket with a vertical zip – however, this is not waterproof, so don’t stick your laptop there on a rainy day!

Like the Edge 40, the waterproof claim is one of the high points of this pannier. Also like the Edge 40, I never got to check it out on my commute during our test period. I did subject the pannier to the same sprinkler test (about half an hour), and it passed with flying colors – no water made it in! I wasn’t surprised though – the top of the Metro 20 is designed very similarly to waterproof bags I’ve used while kayaking and hiking, although it has an extra strap to pull the top back into a nicer shape.

The Metro 20 proved to be a great regular commuting pannier. Although simple, I was able to get everything I normally carry into it – in an organized fashion – without any trouble. The one caveat I’d mention is that it might be on the small side for commuting during colder weather, when I might want to carry bulkier clothing at some point. However, you can always buy 2 (or the smaller Metro 15) if you need extra capacity!