Category: Components

We’ve had the Jamis Hudson with Slidepad on test for a few months now, and despite a lot of frigid days, and days that look like this (or snowier), I’ve managed to get enough rides in to get a good impression.

 

Average reviewing conditions. March 17th snow in Virginia!

 

 

You’ll remember (or not) that I did an initial review here. Overall, I can’t say that my impressions have changed very much – I still think the general setup is pretty good for the intended audience, and after a decent number of hours/miles (many at slow speed with a 5-year old out in front) I didn’t have any issues crop up. The bike is overall comfortable (though after one 2-hour ride I was getting not-so-happy with the super-cushy saddle!).

There is one significant difference between that initial review and now, concerning the brake setup. After reading my initial impressions, Ian at Slidepad was concerned there might be something wrong with my brake setup. He gave me a call, and we determined that the sliding-pad bit of the brake system had gotten (to use a technical phrase) hung up on something internally – so it wasn’t kicking in full-force. After wrestling with it a bit, I managed to pop it back into place without damaging anything, and voila! I had improved braking performance.

So – that bit of my initial review can be revised. Braking works pretty effectively,the rear wheel does not lock up as much as it was before, and the front-wheel braking kicks in reasonably quickly.

While I was talking with him, Ian also explained that their “improved braking efficiency” claim was made against a bike with rear-brake only (like a lot of the coaster-brake cruisers out there). I’d agree that this definitely beats that setup. However, I think a fairer comparison is against something like the Electra Townie 7D, which is extremely comparable in price (within $20), as well as components (with the exception of the brakes) and general intent. In that case, I don’t think that there’s going to be a big difference unless the rider of the Electra isn’t using their front brake well/at all.

The Hudson in drier (and warmer) times

This brings me to the whole “one brake lever is easier” thing. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s a valid option and frankly I can see it working out for some people (and hey, you have your left arm free to signal turns!). But in general – I still don’t quite buy it. When using Slidepad, it does take a bit of trial and error to adjust to the point where the front brakes kick in, as you go from a light “back only” to a significantly stronger “back and front combined.” When riding at speed, I did sometimes find myself unintentionally slowing much more than I meant to when that front brake kicked in. So in my mind, learning to deal with this isn’t really much less difficult than learning to deal with two brakes. Finally, I really think the whole risk of doing an endo/losing control by means of front brake, on a bike like this, is pretty minimal – the weight balance is so far back that it really takes a lot of effort to get the back wheel to pick up much at all.

In terms of the “simpler” idea on the brakes: my experience with the whole setup having a malfunction didn’t leave me more confident. I was happy it was fixable, but it definitely took more effort than getting a regular set of V brakes set up. Additionally, it’s a lot more obvious what’s wrong with a set of V brakes. I’m sure Jamis dealers will get their mechanics all set up on how this system works – but if an owner of this type of brake system walks into a shop that hasn’t seen it before, I have no idea what their results would be. If all is working fine, it’s not going to be an issue, but I can’t say how often issues might come up.

In the end, this really all comes down to personal preferences (as it so often does!). In this case, I’d prefer independent brake levers for the greater degree of control. However, if a prospective buyer is purchasing from a Jamis dealer, intends to continue to use that shop for service, and likes the whole “one hand two brakes” concept, I’d say go for it.

My fellow contributors were more than happy to let me take a crack at the funky Dual Action Seat #400 as my first equipment review.  When I pulled the funny looking Dual Action Seat out of its box, I thought, “this is definitely newbie hazing.” The aptly named seat has two independently moving butt flaps that rotate up and down as you pedal, and the whole thing swivels right to left with the movement of your hips. This is definitely unlike any bike seat I’ve encountered.

Dual Action Bike Seat

The Dual Action Seat is designed as an alternative for riders looking to relieve issues associated with the traditional horn-shape bike saddle. The roomy five-inch-wide seat pads are separated by a two-inch gap intended to reduce pressure on the tailbone and groin area, and the rotating action to limit hip pain. I read up on Dual Action’s website about perineal pressure, and dudes, penile paralysis associated with a traditional saddle is scary stuff!  If this seat helps minimize or eliminate damage to fella bike riders’ delicates, I don’t care how funny looking it is.

Dual Action Bike Seat 2

Dual Action Bike Seat 1

I may not be the target user, but I do love a wide, cushy seat, so I was stoked to give the Dual Action a little, uh, action. Though the seat is geared toward touring or stationary bikes, with a few minor tweaks of an Allen wrench, it can be swapped in for any bike with a straight stem 7/8″ diameter seat post. Including my trusty steed, Roy the Roady.

Emily allen wrenching DAS

It was relatively easy to install. And by easy, I mean it is literally just adjusting two Allen bolts. A little too easy. I didn’t trust the simple directions included with the seat, so I managed to put it on backwards my first go.

DABS Instructions

The movement of the butt flappers seat pads is a bit strange at first and I spent a while finessing the proper installation angle.

Dual Action Bike Seat 3

Roy with DABS

Roy with DABS 2

Once I had Roy all geared up, I took him for a spin. The seat felt more precarious than I had anticipated. While the up-and-down movement of the pads felt natural with my pedal movements, the swivel action along the vertical axis was disconcerting. I felt like I was constantly falling off the seat. It didn’t help that I was slipping from the slick fabric of the seat itself—fyi, yoga pants and gel seat coverings don’t work well together (and I imagine a snazzy pair of spandex bike shorts might have the same issue).

Emily on DABS

The more I rode, the more comfortable I became with the seat’s movement; however, I just couldn’t shake the precarious feeling of the swivel motion. I felt like I was fighting the side-to-side motion, having to bring my hips back in line after each pedal rotation. Rather than enhancing my natural movements, I was having to work to stay on my seat. As for comfort, I wish the pads had been more naturally contoured—rounded or tapered toward the front. The squared edges tended to poke and rub uncomfortably for me. Also, the seat itself is heavy, adding weight to my fairly light road bike and making it more difficult to haul up and down stairs (which I have to do to board the train on my commute).

After putting in quality time with the Dual Action Seat on Roy, I realized it wouldn’t be a permanent seat swap for me, but I wanted to get a second opinion. So I mounted the seat on our office spin bike and persuaded my boss (yep, my boss), Jim to give it a try and let me know what he thought.

Jim Dual Action Bike Seat 2

Jim Dual Action Bike Seat 3

An avid road cyclist and fellow bike commuter, Jim gave the Dual Action Seat a trial run. After getting accustomed to the seat’s movement, Jim had a similar discomfort with the swivel motion of the seat. He suggested that if the seat resisted or sprang back to neutral after each pedal stroke, the rider’s hips would still have the benefit of natural motion without strain of realigning the seat back to a centered position. Sounds clever to me. Overall, I think he’ll stick with his current saddle too.

I have no doubt that the Dual Action Seat design will continue to improve and serve as an alternative to the traditional bike saddle. While this inventive seat might not be right for me, if it can help riders keep riding without pain or medical complications, I am all for this wonky seat. And if you happen to be looking for a bike saddle to reduce pain while riding or said medical complications, you can purchase the D.A.S. Model #400 for $239.00 with free shipping. A bit pricey, but it does come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

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

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

Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB for short) is a respected brand among mountain bikers – particularly in the realm of tires and saddles (aka seats). They’re now bringing that experience to bear on commuter-oriented products: WTB’s Freedom line of products is geared at bikes commuters are more likely to ride and aims to provide comfortable, functional gear at a reasonable price point. I’ve been testing their Aon saddle on my (newly resurrected!) road singlespeed, and it’s time to share some impressions.


As mentioned, one of the key components is value. At $39.99, the Aon (which is available in both men’s and women’s versions) certainly does that – it’s more comfortable than many more expensive saddles I’ve tested out. It is labeled as being for road bikes, and that’s precisely how it should be used – it is more comfortable when leaning forward than it is when sitting up straighter. I don’t have to be in the drops for it to be comfortable, but I wouldn’t want it on a cruiser! For bikes with a more upright position, Freedom offers several other saddles – if they’re as comfortable as the Aon, they may be worth checking out as well. Although we don’t have any more saddles on test, WTB provided us several products in this lineup for review, so look for more commentary on some Freedom grips and tires in the future!

A few months ago, the classic bike enthusiasts at Velo Orange sent us a sample of their new Polyvalent crankset to test out. As I had just moved from the flatlands of Florida to the rolling hills and valleys of the midwest, I was “voluntold” to be the reviewer.

DSC05727

First, a little about the cranks themselves, straight from VO’s description:

The wide range Polyvalent crank has 46/30 rings and comes with a high polish alloy chain ring guard. The 46/30 rings give almost the range of a triple when used with a wide cassette, while the chain ring guard helps keep your pants clean. This is a great crank for city bikes and utility bikes.

The crankset is a standard JIS square taper interface and takes a 118mm bottom bracket spindle. I wound up using a 122mm spindle on my test platform, a salvaged Puch road bike-turned-dedicated-commuter. That extra spindle length helped clear the splayed chainstays of the Puch. The crankset is finished in VO’s signature “high polish”, which I always refer to as “high satin” when I try to describe the finish to someone who has never seen it. The cranks/chainrings have small and tasteful laser logos etched onto them. This crankset comes with nicely-made domed dustcovers and the spindle fixing bolts. The chainrings are lightly ramped and pinned for smooth shifting, and the included chainguard should keep many commuters happy as it negates having to roll up a pant leg to stay grease-free.

DSC06037

For those of you familiar with compact cranks on traditional road bikes, this crankset operates in much the same way. With a 16-tooth jump between large and small chainrings, this provides most of the range of a triple crankset without the extra complexity and fussiness of shifting that come with three rings. My test platform was set up as a 1×7 prior to installing the Polyvalent crank (44T chainring, 13-26 7-speed freewheel). That gearing setup was ok for Florida, even with a largish load in my panniers. Once I got to Ohio, though, I was simply outgunned…while the hills aren’t high here, there are a lot of them and many of them are quite steep. The Polyvalent crank solved my hill problem quite satisfactorily…cruising around the flats on the 46T ring and dumping the chain to the 30T when the road tilts upward. In fact, I enjoy this range so much that the Polyvalent crankset is in the process of migrating to a touring bike that I am building…one with a true “wide range” cassette (11-34 9-speed). I should be able to conquer mountains with that gearing range, even with a full camping/grocery load.

There have been a number of reports of compact cranksets having problems with overshifting inward past the inner ring — after all, a 16-tooth jump is a bit extreme. The Polyvalent has the same 16-tooth jump between outer and inner rings, and things are further complicated by the need to place the front derailleur above the chainguard to avoid interference. Nevertheless, I experienced no overshifting with this crankset. Careful setup of the limit screws on one’s front derailleur helps, and those users still concerned with overshifting can install a simple chainwatcher inboard of the inner ring. Avoiding abrupt “panic shifting” from outer to inner probably helps, too.

Although VO doesn’t mention it anywhere in their description of the Polyvalent cranks, one of the tabs on the chainguard makes a handy bottle opener. Take a look at the 12 o’clock position in the photo below, and rest assured this crankset has you covered if you’re itching for a post-ride beverage.

DSC06033

Velo Orange makes a lot of really nice, reasonably priced components…all with classic lines and great finishes. The Polyvalent cranks are no exception, and they are well worth the retail price of $105.00. And, if you’re not in the market for a crankset but really like the idea of a chainguard, VO sells a similar chainguard separately.

Visit the Velo Orange online store page for other components and accessories, and take a look at their blog for some interesting reading about product development and classic bike design.

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