Bars The VO range of bars is huge and really cool. They’ve brought back a lot of the vintage city bike bars that came on old bikes that are way more comfortable than the flat bars that come on hybrids and fat bar road bikes. VO’s city bike bars mostly sweep back towards the rider, giving a comfortable hand-hold that leaves you wrists on a neutral relaxed angle. They also almost all come in two diameters so that you can choose to use either mountainbike levers or road levers on them. A personal favourite of mine in their range is the Porteur bar – a swept-back bar that is reasonably narrow and sweeps forward before it sweeps back, meaning that you don’t need an absurdly long stem to compensate for the sweep. They can be set up in a few different ways. My favourite is the way Val has…
Huw In some ways the center of Huw’s fleet is his Pivot Mach 4. It’s a serious dual-suspension cross country bike. It was built up from scratch with a load of nice parts. When it comes to his own mountain bike Huw is a bit of a weight weenie. While he was building this one up he could have told you which parts saved weight compared to the ones on his last bike, and how much, to the gram. From another perspective though, it’s his Batavus that is the central bike in his fleet. It’s the one he rides the most since he commutes on it and it gets pressed into service for a wide range of extra-curricular activities – cyclocross, Gravel Grinders, a Woods Point ride. At the moment it’s set up single-speed with a Porteur rack. This is not so that it’s a low-maintenance commuter though, he…
The ride goes from Saturday 24th November through to Sunday 2nd December. It takes a combination of paved and dirt roads. There are mechanics on hand should your bike malfunction, but there are a few simple things you can go in advance to decrease the chances of that. Luke, one of our mechanics, worked on the ride for a couple of years and got a sense of the most common issues. He’s also the best person at Commuter to ask about the suitability of different bike setups for the ride – tyre width, gears range required and so on. Here’s a quick guide though. Mechanical Problems First off, the most common mechanical problems Luke dealt with on the ride are the most common ones we deal with in the workshop – broken spokes, worn bottom brackets and worn drivetrains. These can all be identified ahead of time and dealt with…
We recently built a pair of custom Long Haul Truckers around Rohloffs. Rolhoffs are great for touring and commuting bikes because they offer a wide range of gears in even increments, they can shift gears while the pedals are not being turned, and because all the shifting takes place in the rear hub there are no gear combinations and so no combinations to avoid. They are unbelievably robust and reliable too, needing an infrequent oil change and not much else by way of maintenance.
We’re excited to have a Tout Terrain Silk Road on the floor now which is ready to be test-ridden. It’s a tough steel touring bike with a built-in rack and a Rohloff hub. Ours is the Silver model, second to the Gold in quality and in price. It’s a very German style of touring bike with flat handlebars, internal hub gearing, large tyres and disc brakes.
We’ve been selling SKF bottom brackets for a while now and we’re increasingly of the opinion that for most people they are the best high-end square taper bottom brackets.
This is a very blinged-out Surly Steamroller we just built some new wheels for.
We’ve built quite a few White Industries hubs into wheels recently and it has us all fantasising about wheel sets for ourselves based around these hubs.
Winter is here again and with it shorter, colder, darker, wetter days. If you want to ride comfortably through the winter that will mean jackets, good lights, mud guards and warm gloves. We’re gearing up to deal with winter, and we’re taking embarrassing photos of Huw and Luke. Read on for some details, and more embarrassing photos.
We don’t do a lot of Butterfly bars, but for some people they are just what the doctor ordered. This is a Long Haul Trucker build we did using butterfly bars to shorten the cockpit to make a second-hand slightly-too-big frame work for one of customers who doesn’t like drop bars. She’s going to use it as a commuter and do some touring on it.
One of our customers just bough a nice English light touring bike.
Linus bikes are slightly retro city bikes with nice modern parts on them and a classy consistent aesthetic. They fall somewhere in between classic step-throughs and Dutch city bikes, with some of the nicely integrated parts you find on Gazelles, but with fewer accessories and a simpler look. We stock their Dutchi – a take on the Dutch city bikes exemplified by Gazelles, and their Mixte – a take on the classic French step-thorough design.
We’ve got a few of the new Archetype rims from H Plus Son. They look like they might be a new go-to rim for road and randonneur bikes.
We’re very glad to be stocking some new bar tape made in Melbourne by DiPell. DiPell have been making leathergoods for a long time, including pieces for RM Williams shoes, but have only just entered the handlebar tape market. We’re really glad they did. We love Australian made but don’t just stock something for that reason alone – it has to be as good or better than the other options in some significant respect. Fortunately when it comes to DiPell tape, not only is made locally, but it’s better in most crucial respects than the competition.
Gilles Berthoud makes some of the nicest parts and accessories for Randonneur and touring bikes. His saddles are the best-made leather saddles we’ve seen, his bags are terrific and his fenders are tough and beautiful. We’re putting in our first order directly from Berthoud and we’re looking for pre-orders.
We stock Rawland frames and we have been meaning to post about them for a while, but between all the distractions of the workshop we never quite made it. Our hand has been forced though after my Drakkar has gone viral on the internet.
Hub dynamos and LED lights are two things in the bike world which have seen the greatest technological improvement in the last few years. Recent generations of dynamo hubs are far more efficient than any previous dynamo system, and the lights that go with them are far brighter and far less power-hungry. It has reached the point where the whole system is so efficient that any bike short of a race bike could be fitted with a dynamo wheel and lights and the only real down-side would be the expense.
As part of the Sustainable Living Festival we’ll be doing a workshop on bike touring as an environmentally friendly alternative to a driving holiday. We’ll be talking about the suitability of your current bike for touring, what to look for in a touring bike if your current one isn’t going to work out, what sort of gear to bring, and I’ll be going on and on about how nice it is to bike tour in Tasmania. It’ll be very informal with lots of Q&A and show and tell.
The Melbourne Bikefest is fast approaching, and we’ll be running a couple of the events. The Bikefest is a celebration of Melbourne cycling culture in all its forms and there are a heap of great events on. It’s one of the only times of year that hipsters, vintage bike nerds, cargo bike enthusiasts and lycra-clad racers hang out together in the same building!
We’ve gotten a few Gilles Berthoud products in. Among them is a saddle that I’m very excited about. The saddle is a Gilles Berthoud. It looks at first a little like a Brooks, and it’s this similarity that excites me. The Berthoud is made from very thick high quality leather, which is screwed down to the saddle body. Where the Brooks saddle body is all metal, the Berthoud has metal rails and a plastic back (called a cantle). The plastic cantle is reputed to be amazingly strong and is designed to have a tiny bit of flex for extra comfort. The looks of the plastic might put some people off though.
Wheel building is one of our favourite jobs. As well as being rewarding work to get the wheel true and strong, it’s satisfying to figure out the best combination of parts and best set-up for a particular customer. As well as the rims and hubs, the spokes and nipples are important things to think about, and choosing the right ones will make a real difference to the reliability of the wheel and how well suited it is to its intended use. Being able to tailor all of these choices to a particular rider is what puts custom wheels ahead in the hand-built vs factory-built debate.
VO Porteur racks are back in stock. They’re a great rack for commuting bikes since they can hold a lot and can easily take additional load if you have to grab something on the way home. They’re also very beautiful.
Surly’s Long Haul Trucker (LHT) is our reference point for touring bikes and they make excellent commuters as well. As a general rule the requirements of commuters and tourists are similar – the bike should be comfortable, should be able to carry a reasonable load, should be robust and reliable, should fit moderately wide tyres and mudguards and should be fast and efficient enough to cover large distances at a decent clip. The LHT does all of these things and is versatile enough to be set up to match the needs of a lot of cyclists. We build, and sell, more of them than any other bike. We’ve mentioned them a number of times in this blog, but we thought it was time to write more comprehensively about our thoughts on them, and where they sit in our line-up.
We’ve just finished an exciting build. We used a 650B randonneur/porteur frame made by Velo Orange, called the Polyvalent. Ours might be the first in Australia. We’ve built it up as a showcase for some of the VO gear we stock (and as a great bike in its own right). It has a big VO Porteur front rack, VO cantilever brakes, headset, saddle, rims, etc. It has a dynamo hub, is shod with Grand Bois Hetres and stays upright while stationary thanks to a Pletscher bipod kickstand. It will soon have a VO chain guard. We installed a B+M Lumotec IQ Cyo just under the floor of the rack, and a B+M tail light on the rear mud guard.
We’ve been quietly stocking Bicycle Quarterly for a while. Bicycle Quarterly (BQ) is our favourite bicycle magazine. It started out life at Vintage Bicycle Quarterly and dealt mostly with old French Randonneur bikes, as well as the people who rode and still ride them.