Recent Upgrade to Nexus Redline 8-Speed Hub

By the spring of 2009 I had given up my car and believed that it was simply going to take me 2 hours, each way, to get to work and back by transit. To me, there was no other way.

When I purchased a Marin Hamilton 29er I thought I’d found a simple, sturdy bike that would take me to and from my girlfriend’s apartment on the other side of town. After spending 4 hours of my day on transit, taking another trip by subway and streetcar was of no interest to me, so why not bike I said. Turns out the answer to that question would open up a much larger world for me. I found an escape from the restricting timetable of transit and I found a new obsession.

After many thousand kilometres the easy-going singlespeed setup of my Marin took me to work and back and recently, on 100+ km rides to my hometown. Now that I work from home my commute needs have changed. My Marin is now my one and only piece of exercise equipment (but you’re more than a ThighMaster to me, bike). My commute is as long as I want it to be as I search for new mobile offices around Toronto, hopefully spending part of my day in a warm space with tasty espresso and wifi. You see, I simply couldn’t give up commuting, that’s how much I loved my morning and evening rides to and from the office.

As I started to venture further and further from the city on my weekend rides I began to feel limited by a singlespeed. Just one more gear option could come in handy on longer climbs or descents. So I began searching for options and with 70+ bicycle shops in Toronto, well the options were plenty.

I test rode touring bikes, road bikes, cyclocrossers and everything in between. I tried out every frame material I could and started to enjoy the feel of drop bars. There are hundreds of beautiful, functional and simply awesome bicycles to be found here in town. Of course, many of the bikes that offered a better frame and components than my existing bicycle cost $1,000+, which when you’re looking for quality is certainly reasonable, but when you’re working on a budget like mine, well, they quickly become out of reach.

Knowing that I really enjoy the ride and position of the Marin Hamilton 29er I started looking at conversion options. With horizontal, rear-facing dropouts the Marin frame would make adding a derailleur challenging (though not impossible) so I began reading about internally geared hubs and the leading manufacturers; Sturmey Archer, Rohloff and Shimano.

With horizontal dropouts, accommodating one of these hubs on the Marin would be relatively simple. So I decided upon the Shimano Nexus Redline 8-speed hub due to the positive reviews online and middle of the road pricing. I paired the hub with a Mavic A 319 rim and chose a Shimano twist shifter.

After one week and a couple hundred kilometres I’m really enjoying the gearing options of the 8-speed hub. Being so used to a singlespeed I find myself sticking to just a few of the gearings, often forgetting that I can switch to higher or lower gears. However, when I do remember the options make the few hills on my daily rides far more enjoyable, both riding up and down.

I took the Marin out for a 35 km rain ride recently and the hub performed flawlessly. Once dry there was no change in performance as well. The hub does add around 3 lbs of weight to the rear of the bike. It is noticeable but doesn’t affect the ride.

I offer many thanks to Martin at Hoopdriver who helped me decide on what parts I’d get and for doing a great job on the installation.

You can learn more about Shimano Nexus parts here.

Be sure to visit the Hoopdriver web site or stop by the shop on College just east of Dufferin.

In Review: Modrobes Euca Tee for Men and Women

Women's Scoop Neck Euca Tee from Modrobes.comMens Crew Neck Euca Tee from Modrobes.com

Cycling fashion designers have a knack for over-complicating seemingly simple things.

Take, for example, any clothing item created by Outlier. Each garment, while beautiful and functional, is also accompanied by a short novel, or novella, describing the epic journey each article of clothing takes from being just a spark in the brain of a designer to becoming a $144 shirt.

As someone who rides a bike, but doesn’t want to be easily identified as the guy who showed up on a bike, I prefer simple clothes that I can wear for a ride around town or to work in or to simply sit down on a patio in.

Certainly, I could just throw on any of the cotton t-shirts I’ve accumulated simply from being a guy (it’s a well-known fact that not only do guys purchase a lot of t-shirts, or get them free with beer, but we also develop strong bonds to these shirts as they fade and decay). Yet, if you’ve stepped outside recently, like I did this morning in 26 C heat with 100% humidity, then you’ve probably experienced the way cotton absorbs sweat, holds on to it for dear life and weighs you down more than a bullet-proof vest. Heck, even the hardest of hard-core rappers opt for lighter upper torso vestments in this weather.

Strangely unhappy with using natural fibres for the creation of clothing, we’ve also turned our attention to the limited resources of our planet in order to create supposedly “high-tech” fabrics that we adorn with countless pockets, zippers and reflective embellishments. In order to be certain these fabrics are suitably “high-tech” we also douse them in scary-sounding chemicals in order to repel the natural processes our bodies undertake to cool us down when Mother Nature decides to turn up the thermostat. Yet still, all of the science in the world has a hard time keeping plastic clothing from smelling worse than a TTC streetcar on the first really hot day of summer.

After systematically eliminating both cotton and polyester from my list of ideal fabrics for summer cycling and living I was left with nothing to wear except for the piece of paper I had made this short list on.

That’s when I discovered Modrobes and their recently released Euca Tee.

You see, this is no ordinary t-shirt. The Euca Tee is made from 100% eucalyptus trees, a plant indigenous to Australia and the preferred snack of cute and cuddly koala bears, an animal introduced to “the West” in Jackie Chan’s Criterion contribution First Strike.

Other clothing manufacturers, like Patagonia, have been using Tencel, a branded eucalyptus lyocell fibre in outdoor athletic gear for some time now. The claims made by the manufacturers are quite bold and should instantly perk the ears of anyone who hates wrinkly clothes, detests carrying their sweat with them and abhors bacteria responsible for the terrible stink some people associate with “avid cyclists.”

Since the above describes me almost to a “t,” I decided to purchase a Modrobes Euca Tee and put their claims to the test. In fact, let’s take a look at those claims firsthand:

“Like wool for summer weather the Euca tee is great for keeping you comfortable in hot or humid weather.”-SSD

The Euca tee does everything a performance garment should but naturally and without actually being a performance garment…it’s just better than cotton and polyester at working with your body’s natural comfort.

The Euca tee is made from 100% eucalyptus trees and is certified as an environmentally clean fabric by numerous auditors.

The fabric absorbs moisture away from the body into the fibres and releases it depending on the climate conditions which keeps your skin dry and stops bacteria from forming. Unlike all polyester technical fabric eucalyptus does this naturally and without any added chemicals.

Highlights:

*no smell
*quick dry
*wrinkle free
*super soft
*biodegradable

My girlfriend, also described to a “t” above the above, received a Euca Tee, too, because I am just that great of a boyfriend. Over the past week we put these t-shirts through the paces, with those “paces” being the wearing of a t-shirt as you would normally and doing so while occasionally on our bicycles.

Referring to the above list of claims, or “highlights,” our first impression of the t-shirts was that they were, in fact, super soft. On a softness scale I’d rank these t-shirts between a box full of kittens and an even larger box full of koosh balls. The fabric is also thinner than I’m used to. In fact, these t-shirts nearly give you the feeling of being topless yet will allow you to still order fast food indoors. Basically a win-win situation in the summer heat.

After riding our bicycles around town my girlfriend and I both managed to work up a good sweat. Living up to the next “highlight,” these t-shirts did in fact dry quickly, although they did not dry faster than we were able to create more sweat, but once off our backs, the shirts dried within minutes.

Since the preferred method of t-shirt storage in our apartment is “balled up” we were also able to test whether these shirts could be wrinkle free. Now, unballing the t-shirt did reveal wrinkles, but after doning the shirt and heating them up a little in the great outdoors we did find the wrinkles quickly released. Once again, the t-shirt lives up to the claims.

By now you must be curious about stink. Two able-bodied individuals braving the summer heat in a bi-pedal manner must be sweating and within that sweat there must be feeding bacteria whose feces contribute to what is commonly referred to as “body odour.” Yes, we did sweat. Yes, we even thoroughly drenched our t-shirts. And no, they did not stink. In fact, I remained smelling like the man your man can smell like and my girlfriend retained her gentle fragrance of lilacs and other flowers I fail to bring home and decorate our apartment with.

Understandably, I cannot test whether or not these t-shirts are actually biodegradable, however, if they do begin to biodegrade while in use, I will be sure to inform you once I find a replacement shirt because I never blog shirtless.

Ok, so the shirts live up to the claims I am capable of unprofessionally testing (no labs nor lab coats were used and therefore any and all tests completed by me are as amateur as it gets). But how do they fit?

The mens crew neck Euca Tee fits long in the body thus keeping my lower back/upper butt from exposure to the elements. The thin fabric hangs nicely and I found no strange bunching or tight spots when in “cycling position.” My girlfriend also likes the longer length and the scoop neck is comfortable and appropriate for her work.

For the more daring, there are v-neck styles for both men and women. This neck style may be great for allowing even more moisture to be released from your upper torso, although I prefer to keep my chest out of view of spectators as some parts of my body should remain in sacred seclusion.

In conclusion, the Modrobes Euca Tee is a versatile t-shirt made of a fabric that wears well and has a few added performance features that can benefit cyclists in the summer months.

The Euca Tee for men and women is available at Modrobes, 620 Queen Street West in Toronto for $35.
Photos via Modrobes.com

Commuter Bicycle Review: Marin Hamilton 29er

It’s been about a year since I purchased a Marin Hamilton 29er from The Cycle Shoppe on Queen Street West in Toronto…

Marin Hamilton 29er Commuter Bicycle

…and boy, oh boy, what a year it’s been.

I weighed about 30 lbs more back then. I wanted a bicycle to take me around town at night. I wanted a way to get around the city without relying on public transit. What I got was an entire lifestyle shift. What I got was a simple tool that has helped me change my life.

Now, can I place these miraculous events squarely on the shoulders of a bicycle? Certainly not. I say all of this just to prepare you for why I’ve grown to love this bicycle. The Marin Hamilton 29er may not have the latest in cycling technology and may not be the coolest kid on the block. But the Marin Hamilton 29er is a darn good bike and here’s why:

Simplicity.

You get big, round wheels. There’s just one speed. The simple, sturdy u-brakes and levers work well. There are braze-ons where you need them most (so you can mount racks and fenders). Everything is painted black. And the frame has a proven mountain bike geometry that is at once both aggressive and comfortable. Out of the box this bicycle will take you to work, it will take you along paths and trails and it isn’t fussy about spending a few hours locked to a post and ring.

Simplicity defines the Marin Hamilton 29er

Simple, effective, fun

As you can see above, I’ve added a few accessories to make this bicycle a commuting machine.

First, I added a pair of Planet Bike Cascadia Hybrid fenders purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op ($29 CAD). The “29er” in the bicycle’s name refers to wheel size. In simplest terms, 29ers seem to be 700c only just a little wider. Unfortunately, this made fitting the fenders a little difficult. The Planet Bike Hybrids fit up to a 28 inch wheel, so I had to do a little bending and tweaking to get them to not rub my tires. I also had to flatten a basket clamp in order to mount the front fender as seen below:

Flattened Basket Clamp to Mount Planet Bike Cascadia Hybrid Fender

In the end, the frustration was worth every second of it. The fenders are made of a resilient plastic and bend and squish when I have to lock the bike up at odd angles. I’ve ridden through intense downpours and this fenders handle the rain and dirt exceptionally well. They complement the bike in their simple design and overall effectiveness.

Second, I added a rear rack, also from MEC ($15 CAD). Again, simple, sturdy and black. MEC panniers fit on these racks very securely, and a bungee along the top is essential for small bags and other loads.

Seat mounted lock and MEC rear rack

And third, I replaced the terrible plastic pedals that all lower-end bicycles seem to come with. After getting wet once and with just a few dozen kms on them, the pedals wouldn’t spin properly and felt as though they’d been greased with sand. A quick swap, but a shame those stock pedals are such poor quality.

Last year, I wrote a post about my North Toronto commute. Since then, I’ve moved to a different part of Toronto and started working from home. I did manage to get about 4,000 kms of cycling in on my Hamilton 29er and I continue to add to that number now, although not at 50 km per day as before.

Over those 4,000 km I’ve crashed once, had 4 flats and replaced the brake pads. That’s it. 4,000 km and I’ve spend under $100 on maintenance and replacement parts. I have had sheltered, year-round bicycle parking, so your costs may be higher if you leave this bicycle out in the rain and snow. But, I’m pretty impressed. I still think of repair costs in terms of my long-gone car. A tick or growl would mean I’d be out $500 at least.

That said, it looks like I’ll be replacing the tires on my Marin soon:

Toronto Roads Wear You Down

A few months back I rotated my tires, Continental TownRide come stock. The rear tire was a little worn and has large gashes every few inches. Toronto streets are mean. I’ve ridden over glass, scrap metal, broken bricks and anything else that falls from cars and trucks. I’m impressed with the durability of these tires over 4,000 km.

One is Fun

If you’re more interested in the very specific technical details and geometry of this bicycle, you can head over to the Marin site. While I’ve been riding the 2009 Marin Hamilton 29er, the 2010 model is almost identical.

And, if you’d like to give one a try head on over to The Cycle Shoppe at 630a Queen Street West in Toronto.

UPDATE: Since writing this initial post I’ve made some changes to the Hamilton 29er including the conversion to a Nexus 8-Speed Redline Internal Hub. Read about the upgrade here: Recent Upgrade to Nexus Redline 8-Speed Hub

Globe Live 1 Review by my girlfriend!

As I have mentioned before, Globe, a new sub-brand of Specialized, has loaned a few Toronto cyclists bicycles try and blog about. Here’s my review of the Globe Haul 1 I’ve been riding around since late October (I know, that’s a strange time to start trying out a new bike in Toronto. Luckily, the weather has been great).

My girlfriend, Cat, has also been participating in the Globe Revolution. She’s riding a different model, the Live 1, and has just recently posted her review.

Photos and her review can be found on the Globe Revolution site here.

Toronto Glober – Globe Haul 1 Review

Several months back I received a Globe bicycle on loan. Cyclists around the world have been testing and blogging about these bikes. Here’s the Canadian “Globers” site: http://globerevolution.ca/theglobers/

I still have the bicycle for a few more months and plan to give it a good winter test now that we’re really experiencing frozen winds, slushy streets and salty roads.

The review below was also posted here:

Looking "SMART" in Kensington Market on my Globe Haul 1

Looking "SMART" in Kensington Market with my Globe Haul 1

I’ve been riding on the streets of Toronto on my Globe Haul 1 for several months now. I’ve gone on shopping expeditions to St. Lawrence Market and made quick trips around my neighbourhood. My Globe has delivered me safely home in the early hours of the morning and has always been ready for me when I get the need to ride late at night.

A bicycle is a bicycle. Simple, I know. Two wheels, handlebars, pedals, a frame and a seat. Of course, there’s more to a bicycle than just the sum of its parts. There’s the intent of the designers. There’s the materials used. And there’s the potential within to take you to new places.

The Globe Haul 1 aims to take you places where you’re going to want to take items home with you. It is designed to take you there when the streets are wet. It is ready to go when the sun has set. And it wants to you feel comfortable all along the way.

First, let’s look at how the Globe Haul 1 let’s you do just that; haul.

The Globe Haul 1 RackIntegrated into the frame, a large rear rack supports up to 90 lbs. In order to add a bit more functionality to the Elm wood deck, I added a fruit crate. With just a few bungee cords I’m able to carry groceries and other items easily. Adding weight to the rear of the bicycle is barely noticeable except on steeper hills. Cornering isn’t affected so long as you secure your load.

Rails are placed below the rack deck to allow for panniers. An integrated pannier hook also helps when mounting bags. Unfortunately, the rails were too wide for my Mountain Equipment Co-op panniers’ mounting clips. Replacement clips are available and other makes may have larger clips to work with these rails.

The Haul 1 comes equipped with an 8-speed Shimano rear derailleur and double front crank chainrings to give you enough gearing options for when your trips take you up hill or down.

For Toronto’s salty winters and sandy springs I’d prefer an internal hub gear setup to help against wear. The Haul 2 model does comes with this, but for those looking at the attractive price of the Haul 1, a little maintenance and elbow grease should keep you rolling year round.

The Globe Haul 1 also comes standard with full metal front and rear fenders. Installing fenders under the integrated rear rack could be a big pain if you are unexperienced and impatient. Quite frankly, I’m both, so I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about that. The metal fenders are also curved around the edges to keep even more water from spraying you. I’ve gone out after a few rainfalls and have never had to worry about the dreaded “skunk stripe” and other dirty marks from road water.

Another very appealing aspect of the Globe Haul 1 is the integrated front and rear lights:

Integrated Rear Light

Integrated Front Light

The rear light has three settings; constant, flashing and dazzling. The dazzling setting is somewhat similar to the back and forth sway of the front light on the Knight Rider KIT car. The LED lights are powered by two AAA batteries and the tucked away light should be safe from damage should the bicycle fall. The flash of the rear light is bright and is hard to miss. It is also larger than many other lights on the market, and since it’s mounted permanently to the frame there’s no need to worry about bulk. However, you may want to bring a spare red light with you if you plan on carrying a large load. My fruit crate often covers the light if I secure it further back on the rack.

The front light has two settings; constant and flashing and is a powerful white light. It too is integrated, this time into the stem and it seems as though it will stay put over time. My only issue with the light is that it points too high. I can often see my light flickering above store awnings, which means it isn’t shining on the road ahead of me. The light may not be powerful to illuminate a dark path, but it is bright enough to be noticed for safety. EDIT: Since writing this I learned that there’s a little screw hiding behind the light casing. Remove the light, loosen the screw and reposition the light, so simple, of course I missed it!

Swept Back HandlebarsComfort is a priority for many of the Globe bikes and the Haul is no exception. I find the swept-back handlebars to be easy to handle and comfortable to grip. While you’re not going to be flicking this bicycle around, I found the steering to still be quite nimble for maneuvering around the potholes on Toronto’s ever-crumbling roads.

The frame geometry provides an upright riding position. I found that keeping my head up wasn’t a problem on this bicycle and it actually allows me to take in a bit more of what is going on around me.

For day-to-day riding I find the Globe Haul to be an excellent bike. The integrated rack and lights as well as full fenders mean that this bicycle is ready to go right away with no add-ons (aside from a few bungee cords) needed.

Globe Haul 1