Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Confessions of a cycling shopaholic


So it’s Bike to Work Week here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’d like to say that I’m going to all the cool events, but given my commute to Oshawa and the wacky hours I keep (up at 4:00a.m. and in bed around 9:00pm) I probably won’t get to any. I should have an article in the summer edition of the BUGLE though, whenever that comes out.

A cyclist got on the Go Train yesterday, leaned his bike up against mine and we chatted for a little while. He was from Ottawa but now lives in Pickering and works in Courtice. A long time Ottawa cyclist, his plan, which he was trying for the first time yesterday, was to get off the train in Oshawa and then bike to Courtice (looking at gmaps later I figured this was about 9km).
I felt really bad for him. He was talking about how bike friendly Ottawa is – how many bike lanes there are, how you can take bike lanes from Carleton University to the University of Ottawa etc. Meanwhile I’m sitting there knowing that Whitby/Oshawa, and Durham in general, is potentially the least friendly biking place in southern/central Ontario. Actually, it’s not even that they aren’t friendly to bikes out here, they just don’t know what bikes are. If you told someone that you had ridden a toaster to work you’d get the same quizzical expression you do when you say that you rode a bike to work.

Anyway, I told him to be careful, and to swallow his pride and dive into the gravel when things got sticky. I hope he’s still alive.

Aside from doing a century on some kind of sexy Italian road machine with beautiful companions (and maybe Vinokourov and Robin Williams thrown in for fun) – I’m doing the cyclists’ favourite thing at the moment: Bike Shopping.

What I’m after is a cyclocross bike with full fender and rack capability which could sub in for a race bike if I get back into doing duathlons anytime soon. I was making my own little chart for the bikes that I’m considering, and then I found this one online. It’s pretty good, but unfortunately it doesn’t reflect Canadian prices, especially the wacky guesses that American manufacturers seem to make at what a logical Canadian price should be.

I’ve so far ridden the:


  • Specialized Tricross Sport Triple – about Can $1200.00 for a Sora, Tiagra, Deore mishmash. I didn’t like it. The front end is really beefy, especially the fork, and when you look down you feel like you’re pedaling a transport truck.

  • Bianchi Axis – nice bike, but Urbane is selling it for $1700.00 for a Tiagra and Deore mix for God’s sake. That’s silly.

  • Jamis Nova – G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. Lightweight steel frame and full Shimano 105. This is my favourite ride so far and I love the way it looks. Unfortunately it’s going for $1850 at Cycle Therapy when the U.S. price is $1300.00 and you’d figure (with the current exchange rate) that a good Canadian price would be somewhere around $1500.00 bucks.

  • I’m still hoping to ride these bikes:
  • Raleigh RX 1.0 – about U.S. $1200.00 for 105, Tiagra and an SRAM cogset. This got well reviewed in Bicycling magazine. Update: I've had an email from Raleigh Canada and it turns out that this little guy is not available in Canada. Darn.

  • Kona Jake the Snake. Oh Kona, you’re so annoying. I know that I’m going to try this bike and like it, but there are various problems associated with the Kona. A) I’ve already owned two Konas in my life and just want to try something different B) Everybody and their dog in Canada has a Kona C) the 2007 version of the bike is a neon lime green colour! Unfortunately, Kona cross bikes are by far the best bang for the buck that you can get. This bike has a lightweight aluminum frame, carbon fork, full Shimano 105, for Canadian $1500.00. Somebody make sure that I don’t cave. I really don’t want to buy a neon lime green Kona.

12 comments:

Darren J said...

It's too bad that Steelwool bicycles is only in Ottawa. I stopped in that their shop a couple weeks ago, and they have a really nice look to them. You can be a better judge of components than me. Looks mostly Campy.

Anyways, if you want me to check anything out there next time I'm there, just let me know. Unfortunately you don't get the support side of things if you buy from somewhere far away.

I talked to the guy at the shop, and he said Steelwool is their bicycle company but it's separate from their store, so maybe they need to set up a Toronto distributor. You could encourage them.

Darren J said...

Now I see they do sell in Toronto! I have to read their site better!

Smudgemo said...

How about a Gunnar Cross-Hairs or a Surly Crosscheck (at least for steel frames)? Test rides might be an issue, but they are solid choices. Surly is distrbuted through QBP and any shop in the US. I'm thinking they must distribute in Canada as well.

Timon said...

What's the scoop on the Steelwools?

I was talking to a mechanic at Urbane and he said the lugs were purely aesthetic and didn't serve as real joints at all.

I'm personally not keen on the eccentric BB, but that's probably just me.

Tuco said...

Hey Smudge, I've never seen a Gunnar in Canada, but Surly's are up here. I forgot about them actually, I'll have to call around and find someone who has their crossbike.

Tim - I don't know what Urbane told you (do they have steelwools?) but the guy at cycle solutions - cabbagetown told me they were flying out of the store. They look great, I'm just annoyed that they're campy components.

Timon said...

No Urbane does not have Steelwools. They're too similiar too their own line of bikes, which are functionally good, but look like clunkers. I still haven't been to the cycle solutions Cabbagetown. I've only seen these bikes online (actually heard about them thanks to your blog).

I was surprised that they had campy parts. Why do you think they did that?

How do you think the steelwool is priced? The price seems pretty fair to me, but I haven't bought a bike in ages.

Maybe I should buy a Kona. I've never owned one before!

Anonymous said...

Have you checked out a Redline? The Conquest, Conquest Pro, and Conquest Team are all excellent values. See them here: http://www.redlinebicycles.com/adultbikes/conquest.html Worth a look, anyway. Val

Tuco said...

Redlines are awesome, but I think only their low end cross bike has the eyelets I need, and it has Sora components and I'd rather be in the 105 range.

Yeah the Steelwools seem pretty well priced to me. I'd definitely have test-ridden one if it wasn't for the Campy components. They probably chose Campy to stand out a bit from the crowd.

Hmm. I'm just realizing that the way I'm thinking about Shimano (big comprehensive company and I might just as well stay under their umbrella) the way some people think about Microsoft - and that's not so good!

cyclingdave said...

redlines are great. and depending on what your needs are you may want to consider the 9to5. all the bombproofness and plush for the long ride that steel offers. comes with a flip flop hub [free and fixed] all the fenders you could ever need. horizontal drops. geometry that is much like the kona's you know so well. and an unbeatable price - 6oo or so. i know 3 people who ride then and love them. i would go without its mustache bars but your 'lbs'should be able to swap them for some drops or flats.

Smudgemo said...

I think LeMond has a steel cross bike as well.

bmike said...

cross check.
very versatile.
geared, fixed, single speed.
wide tires. narrow tires.
racks, fenders.
race cross, commute, tour.

Argus said...

You could just buy the frame and build it with Shimano parts.