Sunday, November 20, 2016

The great beauties of Europe

It's raining today. It's raining really hard. Hard enough that I can't get out on my bike. This makes me grumpy. On days like this, one or more of a few things might occur. I might pick up a musical instrument and play a while. I might watch a movie. Or I might just let my mind wander.

Today I let my mind wander into the future (imagine that there was a dramatic sounding echo on "the future"). In the next year, I'm hoping to travel to the EU, and perhaps stop in England when I'm there. Of course, when I think of that part of the world, I think of some of the bicycles that are available there that we in the US don't see very often if at all.

The bikes I'm thinking of aren't the fancy racing bikes of Italy.  They aren't the carbon wonder bikes you might see in the Tour de France. They're not even the "bike next door": the Dutch City bike.

The bikes I'm thinking of are the sensibly specified bikes made for traveling. The down-to-earth bikes that will see you though inclement weather. The bikes that will allow you to climb serious hills no matter how slowly you do it or what age you are. The bikes, in other words, that you can stay with.




When I dream of these types of bikes, the first name that comes to mind is Koga. Koga produces my hypothetical dream bike: the Randonneur.

This photo can be found here.

There are further pictures at the Koga web site, and I encourage you to check them out. There you'll see close-ups of the beautiful touring crankset, the butterfly handlebars, the front and rear kickstands, the dual water bottle cages, the...I have to stop now. There's just so much. The bike even comes with my favorite portable pump: the Topeak Road Morph. And fenders! That's mudguards to you Europeans. I've always felt that a bicycle without fenders is not as useful as one with. Another blogger that I've read was a little more blunt (I have to paraphrase, because I can't find the quote): "[a bike without fenders is] a toy that you [bring out only] on sunny days."

Oh, I forgot to mention the front dynamo hub, which of course is connected to the front and rear lights. And the rear wheel has forty spokes, which I of course appreciate because I tend to overpack, so the more support in the rear, the better. 

The only feature of this bike that I don't appreciate is the price: around 2500 US dollars. At current exchange rates, that would be about 2350 euros. At that price and because this bike seems to be unavailable in the US,  I'm fairly sure that owning a Randonneur will remain a dream for me.

A more realistically priced trekking bike (though not with such a beautiful specification) is the Dawes Mojave. It's less feature-packed than the Koga, but it sells at a real world price (about 400 GBP). And where the Koga is steel, the Dawes is aluminum except for a steel fork (which I believe most bikes should have, even though mine doesn't.) The Mojave:

This picture came from here.

This is a bicycle I'd like to try (as opposed to the "I just want it" of the Koga). And honestly, it's a far more realistic bike for my uses: a ten mile round trip commute on weekdays, and weekend day trips of ten to thirty miles on Saturdays and Sundays. The drivetrain is a Shimano 3x7; adequate for most people. The wheels have thirty-six spokes apiece. And yes, there is a kickstand.

Side note (conversation overheard at an American bicycle manufacturer):

"Hey, Floyd, our Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong model has just the right geometry for touring. Why don't we put a triple chainring on it so it can handle a diverse range of terrain?"
"Because, Ernest, if we put a triple on it, people will think it's not a racing bike."
"But Floyd, it's not a racing bike."
"Yes, Ernest, but people have to think it could be. Otherwise we couldn't sell it."

Lastly, there is the Tout Terrain Silk Road. There are three variants of Silk Road: plain, GT, and Xplore.

Plain ol' Tout Terrain Silk Road. Picture found here.
The drivetrain of the Silk Road can be configured as a 3x10 derailleur setup, or with a Rohloff Speedhub, or with a Pinion gearbox (on the Xplore).  I encourage you to visit the Tout Terrain web site and give their configurator a spin. If you like to think about your dream bike as much as I do, you'll enjoy it.

The standard Silk Road frame comes with a chromoly frame and fork with an integrated rear rack. Beyond that, there's a lot you can do with it.

I configured a Silk Road with a Rohloff hub, Son dynamo hub with Son lights, Jones Loop handlebar with Brooks leather grips, rim brakes, Chris King headset (pricey!) and bottom bracket,  optional thumb shifter, Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires, Brooks Cambium C17 saddle, in British Racing Green (the color of the Raleigh I had in high school.) And all for the low, low price of 5400 dollars (about 5100 euros).

Guess I'll keep dreaming about this one too.

If you've gotten this far, you probably enjoy reading about bicycles as much as I do. For further reading about touring bikes check out the Cycling About web site.  It's a great resource, and where if you're interested, you can learn about touring bikes made all over the world.

And now it's stopped raining. Time to get on the bike.

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