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NuVinci Hub Review

We were pretty stoked to receive a NuVinci hub from our friends from Seattle Bicycle Supply to test. We met the guys from NuVinci at Sea Otter and we were very impressed with the hub.

Product Description:

The NuVinci continuously variable planetary (CVP) is the first viable CVT drivetrain for bicycles and a revolutionary, new alternative to conventional derailleur and fixed-gear internal hubs delivering a totally unique riding experience. The ride is incredibly smooth, allowing the rider to shift “gears? while pedaling, coasting, or at a standstill. Its elegant, simple design delivers all the advantages of planetary gear sets without the limitation of fixed speed ratios, without wide gaps between gears, and without jolts or jerks to the rider’s legs and lower back.

How does it work?
Check out the Video:

Installation:
We received a wheel with the hub already installed, cables, controller and other needed hardware. I decided to install the Hub on an Ibex B27-R, the Ibex B27-r is Mountain Bike frame with 135mm rear spacing and 26″ wheels with a derailleur hanger.

The instructions of the installation manual are well written and the illustrations helped a lot with the installation. Although my level of mechanical expertise is not vast, I was able to install the NuVinci Hub on my own.

Installation was basically seamless, except for the chain length, I had to use a ‘half-link’ so the chain could be properly tensioned.

Hits:The strongest point of this hub is how easy it is to use. The controller doesn’t not feature ‘number of gears’ but an intuitive display of a road incline. A flat line means you are riding a flat road and you can really ride fast, a ‘hill’ means that you are ready to climb. As you turn the controller to adjust the gear ratio, you will notice a smooth change on pedal tension, there is no clunk or that annoying sensation of a tug on your legs.

Flat line = Go Fast !

Hill = Get ready to climb!

Since my commute is mostly flat, I did experiment riding uphills with the Hub. Here’s were the hub excelled. When you climb on a geared bike, you can be stuck on a higher gear that makes it difficult to climb because you are ‘mashing’ on the pedals or a lower gear that makes you spin too fast. The NuVinci Hub allows you to find that ’sweet spot’ where you feel comfortable not mashing the pedals or spinning too fast.

Another huge plus is the reliability of the hub. Weather in So Cal is not as extreme as in other parts of the country, but the people at Fallbrook (designers of the hub) have tested it extensively at -20 C, or -4 F, with no problems. Since the hub is fully enclosed, rain nor mud are an issue.

Drawbacks:The biggest drawback of this hub is it’s weight. At a reported weight of 11 lbs for the entire system, weight weenies need not apply. The cost of the hub is also another drawback, expect to pay over $400 bucks for the hub.

Where can you buy it?

Your Local Bike Shop (LBS) should be able to order either the hub or a prebuilt wheel from Seattle Bike Supply or you can buy a bike like the Batavus Adagio-Nuvinci or the Ellsworth The Ride that have come with the NuVinci system installed.

Recommendation: The BIG question is: Does the reliability and easiness of use counter the weight and price of hub? From a Bike commuter point of view, the answer would be yes. As far as weight go, most bike commuters are not really concerned with a commuter bike’s weight (see our poll), reliability is top priority. Price? The hub is currently installed on a $99 Ibex B27-R frame, so even with a price of $400, the bike is about $550. Again, most of you would pay more than $500 bucks for a reliable commuter bike. For those ‘extreme’ commuters out there that ride snow/rain/mud or shine, the hub is worth the investment. For those of us that don’t ride extreme climates but want a wide range of gear ratios, value the reliability of a bike and have a little extra on our wallets, the NuVinci hub is worth considering.

We would like to thank Seattle Bike Suppy for giving us the chance to test the hub, and to Val Kleitz for answering questions about the hub. You can also read Val’s review of the hub by clicking here.

Seattle Sports Waterproof Pannier — Update

A few weeks ago, I posted a “first look�? at the Seattle Sports Fast Pack waterproof pannier.

I’ve had a chance to really ride with this bag — and I LOVE it!! The bag has carried some heavy loads (dress shoes, a stack of big library books, groceries) and has remained absolutely waterproof through some brutal late-summer Florida rainstorms.

In my earlier post, I talked about the great attachment system. The combination of rigid clips and a rotating toggle have made this bag impervious to shifting or “jumping�? off the rear rack of my bike, even with a 20 lb. load in it. It doesn’t rattle or sway in any way. Here’s a look at the attachment system for those who missed my earlier article:

I also really enjoy the ease with which I can open and close the bag to fill it and remove items. I was using some cheapie Nashbar-branded panniers before I got this bag to review, and with that one I have to unclip two buckles, flip open a flap and then undo a drawstring to get at my goodies. With the Seattle Sports pannier, I merely unclip the buckle and roll the top twice to open it. Reclosing it is just as simple — two quick rolls with my wrists, clip the buckle and I’m off!

The fabric, besides being completely waterproof, has also proved to be quite durable. It doesn’t show any signs of wear, even after I scraped that side of the bike against a narrow concrete passageway I sometimes pass through on my way to work. Sharp corners of books that I’ve carried haven’t damaged the bag in any way, either.

I still dislike the inky black interior of the bag — I wish the bag was lined with a lighter-colored material to help me find small items in the bottom, but in practice this really hasn’t caused me any problems.

In any case, this Seattle Sports Fast Pack bag appears to be just the ticket if you have stout commuting loads, live in wet areas and are tired of your other panniers flapping and jingling as you ride. For more information and pricing, take a look at Seattle Sports’ bike gear page.

Now, if I could only scrape together enough cash to buy one for the other side!

Nirve Ultraliner Review

I’ve had the Nirve Ultraliner for the past few months. And have used it to commute to work and around town for fun.

The Ultraliner comes in 15? for the ladies, 17? and 21? for the guys.

MSRP: $499.99

Advertised as:

NEW AUTOMATIC SHIFTING TECHNOLOGY
Shifts automatically just like your car to always keep you in the right gear
No more guessing which way to turn the shifter and ending up in the wrong gear
Climbs hills easier. Keep up with your friends with less effort
Lightweight & easy rolling alloy 700C wheels with stainless spokes
SHIMANO 3 speed automatic transmission always chooses the right gear for your riding conditions
Upright Nirve Sports Cruiser handlebars for comfortable cruising
Nirve comfort saddle with springs
Tough impact resistant Polycarbonate fenders
Alloy kick stand

Eye Candy: Whether on my commutes or just for fun, the Ultraliner was always catching some eyes. This bike definitely has more bling than most bikes. The burnished aluminum is a great touch for this bike.

The Ride: The upright position was very comfortable. Even after riding several miles, I did not experience any neck or back pain from slouching over like I would get from other bikes that I’ve had. It’s wide saddle made the ride smooth. Breaking was no problem at all. It’s V brakes worked beautifully.

The Shimano 3 Speed Automatic transmission worked flawlessly. Whether I rode up and down hills, or on rough terrain it shifted at the precise moment I needed it to. It’s shift timing could be easily adjust to shift sooner or later by a dial on the CPU located towards the rear of the bike.

Likes: The ride was smooth, thanks to the 700C wheels. It comes with a full chain guard to keep your legs from getting greasy, and fenders to keep dirt or mud off your back. Extremely low maintenance. The only thing I’ve had to do to this bike is pump the tires. Plus, I love the fact that you don’t have to worry about shifting! I have to mention that this bike totally kicks the Trek Lime’s butt by far. It’s cheaper, and its a bit faster because of the 700c wheels.

Another great thing about the Ultraliner is the Shimano Dynamo Hub not only powers up the CPU for shifting, but it also has enough juice to power up a dynamo light that we added from Planet Bike.

Dislikes: The bike is a bit on the slower side. But then again it’s called a Cruiser for a reason.

Recommendations: This is such a fun bike to commute or ride recreationally. If you like taking leisure rides without having to worry about shifting into the right gear because you’re not sure which is the right gear, then you’ll love the Nirve Ultraliner with its Autoshift technology. This is definitely one of the most pleasurable bikes I’ve had a chance to test out.

OYB Saddle Bag

Since I hate riding with a backpack, I thought of adding a saddle bag to my Swobo Sanchez. Brooks and Carradice offer a few saddle bags, but they are on the pricey side. So I found Jeff from Outyourbackdoor.com. He makes multipurpose bags out of old Military surplus canvas, best of all, this bag is made in the USA.

The saddle bag is compatible with my Brooks saddle and it is big enough to carry my shorts, a T-shirt, wallet and a tube. This saddle pack also has the ability to turn to a pannier bag, handlebar bag, a man purse and a back pack, talk about versatility!

The price? $35 bucks with S/H included, yeah, that’s it! I find it to be a good deal for an excellent USA made product. The material maybe recycled, and a little worn, but that just gives the bag a little more character.

Click here for more information and to purchase the bag.

Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack Review

Product Tested: Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack

As described on the site.

COMMUTER BACKPACK (waterproof) – Messenger bags are great, but with two straps to distribute the load, a backpack is often a more comfortable option for longer rides or heavier loads. Unfortunately your options have either been student backpacks that leak like a sieve, sit up too high, or cost a fortune. We designed our backpack with a full welded waterproof liner that is removable and replaceable if it is punctured.

* Medium – 1500 Cubic inches / 17″Tall x 12″ Wide x 8″ deep
* Waterproof 2-layer design: outer ballistic nylon layer wears like iron; replaceable waterproof liner keeps contents dry in a downpour (will not keep water out if submerged, in case underwater-riding is your hobby).
* Wide padded straps distribute load more evenly than messenger bags
* Sits lower on the back than standard backpacks to reduce blind spots while riding
* Chest strap and removable waist strap for stability
* Large reflective stripes and tab for safety light
* Quick-access side pocket fits mini-U lock
* In-Stock
* MSRP: $79.99

The Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack is a pretty strong and reliable bag. I’ve been using this baby for a many months and it hasn’t failed me yet.

The bag has a few highlights that I really like such as the side pocket in which is big enough to carry a u-lock. Though they said it was more designed for a small u-lock, my normal sized piece fit just fine. I also like the zippered storage and of course the little blinkie hanger on the lower section of the bag.

The back pack is a bit more comfy than a traditional student bag. The padded shoulders and padded back helped ease the strain of carrying a bag full clothes and gear to work.

Ok now here’s my MOST favorite part of the bag….the reflective “racing stripes? on the back. I mean talk about killing two birds with one stone! Not only did they make this back pack more safe, but its even cool looking with the reflective stripes. Don’t worry, those stripes do work at night. They’re kinda like the reflective arm/ankle bands you can get at the bike shop.

I talked about how comfy this thing is right, well when you have way too much things to bring with you, the back pack doesn’t disappoint. Just check out the things I had to carry on a recent liquor run. All that was pretty darn heavy, almost felt like I was carrying a ruck sack for an army of drinkers…Banjo says that the back has something like 1500 cubic inches of storage….1500 sounds allot! It’s actually way more than I really had to use. Even after our little trip to the liquor store, the bag still felt fine. I didn’t feel it cutting into my massive body builder like shoulders, not did it tear or rip at the seams. In fact, the bag is so well made that not even a thread came undone in the months that I’ve had this. Now that’s quality if you ask me. I’ve had other bags…one even a hand made customized hydration pack that started fraying on me after a few months of use. But the Banjo factory seems to know what they are doing.

The bag has a white water proof liner that protects all your goods from getting wet. I like how it’s white, makes it easier to find things that are in the bottom of the bag. You can actually remove the lining from the bag. But I never did, I like the fact that it was there constantly protecting my skivvies and work clothes due to wetness from my sweaty back.

One of the claims that Banjo Brothers says this bag is capable of or has the ability to be is…?WATER PROOF?. Since it hardly rains in sunny Southern California, and it is September right now, I enlisted the help of my kids to see how “WATER PROOF? this bag really is. So if you check out the video you’ll see that the bag pass our test. Now I’d imagine if you’re someplace that rains allot, this might be a significant factor in your choice of buying a bag. Now I’m not so sure if our water test will impress you folks up in Seattle or Portland, but as you will see, it did really well.

Bottom line, I really dig this bag. For the folks that don’t like to ride with a messenger bag or panniers, I’d tell them to get a Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack. It’s a great deal, waaaay cheaper than any other messenger bag out there, more comfortable…and I know what I’m about to say next will get some smack, but it LOOKS WAAAAAY COOLER THAN A PANNIER COULD BE. So if you’ve got a strong back and Ginormous shoulders like I do, and you think you can huck around your stuff in a back pack, then get this bag. Like I said, its cool, not just cool, its UBER cool!