Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Marin Fairfax SC2 IG


There is a saying that goes like this; what goes around comes around. One of the first bike I owned was a Marin Fairfax. As it was too big for me, I had to sell it as much to my reluctance but it was no point keeping it since I was not comfortable with it. That was 2 years ago. One day, while browsing around at the LBS that I patronized regularly, there stood the reincarnation of my Marin Fairfax.


Instead of the usual derailleurs and cassette, this one came with Nexus 8-speed internal hub. With my experience using the Alfine system, I wanted to know how the lower-specced Nexus performed. Frankly, you would find it difficult to distinguish between the 2 systems. Outwardly, the Nexus does look a bit plasticky but where performance is concerned, it is hard to tell them apart.


The original brakes were replaced with Tektro Mini-V brakes simply for looks and performance. Bike manufacturers have a tendency to cut corners when it comes to certain components and I do not blame them. It is all about maximizing profits by using cheap parts that work. My preference is for better quality stuff that I know can withstand the abuse and gives me peace of mind when I ride.


The original saddle is really comfortable. This is one place Marin did not make any compromise.


The original crank has since been replaced by an Alfine 39T crank.


The Rockshox I-ride suspension fork was transferred from the Carver 96er to the Fairfax. It made alot of sense to do that. The I-ride fork was designed for 700c wheels which the Fairfax is running instead of 29er wheels. And since the Fairfax was designed as a hybrid right from the start, the I-ride fitted nicely in the steerer tube. On the Carver, I had to add a few spacers to get the correct fit and it certainly made the bike look bad. The other reason for transferring the fork over was that the I-ride uses V-brakes which is in sync with the Fairfax braking system.


Shimano brake levers replaces the unbranded original brake levers. More than looking good, the Shimano brake levers gives better feel and definitely, more comfort.


The handle bar was replaced by a On One Fleegle bar. The handle bar sits slightly lower than the stem and improves aerodynamics slightly. I think it is also more comfortable.


The shorter arms of the Tektro Mini V means braking is much more effective and powerful.


The Marin logo on a matt black frame makes the bike look rather good.


We live in a strange world. What goes around really does come around.

Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 Focus Planet 1.0 Alfine

I normally do not buy complete bikes off-the-shelf. It is probably because a complete bike never have everything I like. And if it has everything I like, it would probably be too expensive. I saw the Focus Planet at a local bike shop that I visit during my lunch hour. This is a rather unique bike shop run by a senior gentleman who can be rather cranky at times. He sells a vast range of bikes, parts and accessories that ranges from $2 lights to very expensive carbon fiber bikes. Like most bike shops, it is messy with parts strewn over the floor, bikes hung here and there and well, you get the picture. So, it was with a big surprise that I found the Focus Planet hanging on the wall. 


The first thing that I noticed was that it was belt-driven using Gates carbon belt drive and it was mated to a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub. I always believed the 2 most important components on a bike are the frame and the drive train. Closer inspection showed that the frame was German engineered. The matt black paint job with blue criss-cross lines made the bike looked subtle but modern. It was love at first sight. 


Specification

FrameTrekking 2.1 Focus Belt, alloy triple butted
ForkPlanet alloy, 9 mm QR
BrakesShimano BR-M396, 160 mm/160 mm
ShifterShimano Alfine 8-speed
CranksetTruvativ Firex, Gates Carbon Drive CDC Chainring
Gear ratioFront: 46, rear: 22
HandlebarConcept EX, 640 mm
StemConcept EX, 90 mm
SaddleConcept Cross
SeatpostConcept EX, 31,6 mm, 350 mm
HubsFront: Concept, 9mm, rear: Shimano Alfine 8-speed
RimsConcept SR 300
TiresContinental Urban Focus, 622-35


Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal hub are amazing. The gear changes are so smooth, its unbelievable. You can even change gears while stationary unlike derailleurs. Well, you can do that on a derailleur system too but the noise of gears and chain mashing against one another is not something I like. The rear drop-outs are the sliding type with double bolts to ensure nothing moves even under high load. Adjustments is also easy. Coupled to a carbon belt drive, the rear transmission is so quiet, nobody can hear you coming from behind. The only drawback of the Alfine is the weight of the hub compared to regular derailleurs. But, there is always a price to pay. The 11-speed Alfine rear hub is reported to be lighter. That might be a future upgrade.


The Gates carbon belt drive system is another amazing piece of technology. The belt is guaranteed to run thousand of kilometers without having to worry about stretching. And it is oil-free meaning no black stains on the pants. It is a bit tricky to get the correct tension but once tuned, you need not have to worry about it anymore.



The 22 'teeth' rear sprocket. I was thinking that 22T may be too many teeth but when coupled to the 46T front chainwheel, it provides effortless pedaling and when speed becomes a necessity, be assured the bike will be rather rapid (relative to the power input).


The frame is well engineered. As usual, each bike company will have their own version of frame geometry but nothing beats climbing on and riding the bike to find out whether it works for you. This frame definitely works for me.


The psychedelic graphics add some flair to the frame which would otherwise be quite boring. This is a great bike to ride when you want comfort and speed. There was nothing much I needed to do on the bike except for the change of handlebar and stem to suit my riding style. Even the pictures were taken off Focus website! How's that for continuing the 'I did not have to do much' statement.


Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 Vitus Dee Alfine


The wonderful thing about custom building your own bikes is that you get to choose what you want. It is about experimenting and experiencing the different type of technology available so that you can appreciate what it can do for you. More importantly, it gives you a chance to compare and conclude what really works for you instead of just settling for whatever the bike you bought came with. The Vitus Dee started as a single-speed 29er city bike. However, I knew it had the potential to be enhanced further.


For a start, the original cockpit was replaced by an On One Mary handlebar. With its swept back and slight riser, this handlebar proves once again that looks is not everything. The retro looking bar is really comfortable. Mechanical disc brakes were replaced by Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. The stem is a Kore 80mm fitted in a flipped-over position so that the front end is not so high.



Brand X headsets are cheap and good. The golden handlebar gives some colour to the bike which would otherwise by blackish all over.


Shimano Alfine generator front hub provides constant power to the headlamp. The lamp is made by B+M Lumotech. It is really bright and provides illumination without being glaring.


The carbon fork is light and strong. It is not anything branded but it does the job.


Shimano Alfine 39 teeth crankset is simple and elegant.


Shimano Alfine 8 speed internal hub are amazing. Changing gears is almost instant and the smoothness of the change is incredible.


Shimano disc brakes never fails to impress me no matter what grade they are.


A Fireeye seat post is mated to the original Vitus saddle. This is probably the sole item that was retained. The rest have all been replaced.


It says hand crafted on the seat tube. Whether it is or not does not really matter, the bike looks and feel handmade.

Vitus makes great bikes. The finishing is very good and no flaws or unsightly welds can be seen.


This bike rides really well. The 29er custom-made Spank wheels matched to Freedom Thickslick tyres provides plenty of go. While you need to be a strong rider to get this thing going fast, you have the option of kicking back and enjoy a leisurely ride without much effort thanks to the Alfine gear system.


This is the bike in its original configuration.

2015 Single Speed Stallion (Sold)

The following text is taken from Sheldon Brown (http://www.sheldonbrown.com/singlespeed.html):

"Modern 24-27 speed bikes are marvels of technology, and allow a cyclist to select the gear ratio that will make the most efficient use of his/her energy. If what you're after is getting the maximum possible speed/distance for the minimum effort (and there's nothing wrong with that!) you need a multi-speed bike...but, efficiency isn't everything!

If you're riding for sheer pleasure, or for exercise, you don't necessarily place that high a premium on output results, as measured in speed, distance or vertical climb. Instead, you may care more about the actual experience of riding your bike. In this case, you may be a candidate for a singlespeed bike.

Riding a single-speed can help bring back the unfettered joy you experienced riding your bike as a child. You don't realize how much mental energy you devote to shifting until you relinquish your derailleurs, and discover that a whole corner of your brain that was formerly wondering when to shift is now free to enjoy your surroundings and sensations.

Paradoxically, a single-speed is, in another sense, more efficient than a multi-speed bike! While the single gear ratio will not be the "perfect" gear ratio for all conditions, in the conditions which fit the single gear, it is considerably more efficient mechanically than the drive train of a derailleur bike.

A single-speed bike dispenses with the weight of the derailleurs, shifters, cables, extra sprockets and longer chain. In addition, a single-speed gear train runs the chain in a perfectly straight line from sprocket to chain-wheel, and avoids the serpentine wind through the pulleys of a derailleur. You can really feel the difference! A single-speed is noticeably quicker and easier to pedal than a multi-speed bike in the same gain ratio.

Single-speed bikes are also considerably more sturdy and reliable than multi-speed bikes. There's no derailleur to bash if the bike falls over, catch on the underbrush or get over-shifted into the spokes. The rear wheel itself is a lot stronger than one made with off-center (dished) spoking to make room for a whole bunch of sprockets on one side."


The initial purpose of building this bike was to use excess parts lying around built around a cheap frame and sell it as a complete bike. The frame was a refurbished Merida 29er. The wheels came off the Vitus Dee 29er and most of the other parts as well, e.g. fork, crank, chain, stem, plastic pedals, brake levers. This is a single speed bike with a 14 teeth rear freewheel and 38 teeth crank.


The handlebar is by Ragley; a swept back old-school retro looking thing that most people would associate with vintage bikes. Unknown to those who scorn about its looks, this is about one of the most comfortable handlebar. The reason is because it conforms to the angle of the wrists due to the swept back and the little rise ensures a straight-up riding position. You could never feel any stress on the hands with this handlebar.


The fork is taken from the Vitus Dee 29er. It is not suspension corrected and so the bike looks a bit hunched. Being made of steel, it is also rather heavy.


As usual, the Ferrari leather seats provides the comfort that most saddles cannot match.


The 38 teeth crank is a simple piece of machinery. It does the job without any dramas.


The chain tensioner from OnOne was necessary to maintain the chain at the correct tension since the bike had vertical drop outs. The original 16 teeth freewheel was replaced by a 14 teeth freewheel and the result was obvious. The bike moves faster and climbing slopes is not a biggie unless it is really steep.


Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes do their job well. They can be quite irritating to install and tune but once you get it right, they are wonderful.


The frame comes from Merida. The previous owner spayed it with a matt black paint scheme. To give some highlights to the blackish frame, I added a Crank Brothers sticker to make it look like it had lights in front. The plan to sell it off has somewhat been put off. This bike is a real blast to ride, no worries about shifters and derailleurs; you just put power to the pedal and off you go. Want to go faster, pedal faster or else, just enjoy the ride at your comfort level. The big 29er wheels really transmit your efforts into motion. The simplicity of this bike makes you want to ride it all day long.


Never settle. Always experiment. A Suntour M3030 fork was added to see if it made a difference to the ride. Of course, it did. I found myself jumping over kerbs and riding down short flight of steps when I would usually avoid them. I'm beginning to like this bike more and more. Noticed the height of the front end has increased significantly? While the increased height makes riding more comfortable, it actually slows down the ride. Aerodynamics play an important role in determining how fast you can go on a bike. However, speed comes with a price and that is comfort. Unlike the professional riders who are used to the crouched or hunched over position, casual riders will not appreciate it. Its best to know your preference or like me, have a few bikes for different occasions.

This bike was sold. Prior to the sale, a 3 x 9 transmission replaced the single speed configuration. The wheels were refurbished Merida 29er with Deore hub. The crank was replaced by a Truvativ 3-chainring crankset. I still get to see the bike since my friend was the one who bought it for his son.

2005 Voodoo Hoodoo Mystical Folk Magic


I found the frame of the Voodoo Hoodoo Mysrtical Folk Magic hanging on the wall of my local bike shop. According to the owner, he had it for the last 8 years. He had wanted to build it up and sell it as a complete bike but never got down to doing it. Talk about procrastination! It was all dusty and unless you had a keen eye, you would never know that such a valuable bike was hanging there. After a short round of negotiation, I took the frame home and the magic began. I knew I had to have it because Voodoo bikes are quite awesome. They are famous for their steel bikes so an aluminium Voodoo is certainly a rare find. Even Google did not turn up much information about this model. After hours of washing, compounding, waxing and polishing, the frame was reinstated to its former glory. Hard work, no doubt but well worth the effort.


Now that the magic has been restored, the dilemma began. As there were no references I could find regarding the set-up of the bike, I decided the bike should have a mix of old and new. As usual, my parts bin never failed me and I was able to dig out some 'old' stuff like the Deore 9-speed brake and shifter combo. They look old-school with the big brake levers.


Next decision; rigid or suspension fork? I decided to go with suspension as the bike seems to be built with suspension in mind. The frame also had disc brake mountings and so naturally, disc brakes were used instead of V or caliper brakes. However, mechanical disc brakes by Shimano was used instead since hydraulic brakes might not have been invented at that time when the bike was build.


A Suntour XCR fork was selected. It is not high-end stuff but it does it job. Besides, this bike is not going to see much trails or downhills!


The Voodoo logo is so enchanting and gives character to the bike.


The handlebar is from Concept and it came off the Vitus Dee 29er. The straight handlebar somehow looks right on the bike. The Cannondale C1 stem matches the handlebar nicely and again, makes the bike look right.


Voodoo has a way of naming their bikes. Mystical Folk Magic is certainly a mouthful and the wordings looks a bit evil but again, this gives character to the bike.


Voodoo is owned by Joe Murray who used to race ATB (all terrain bicycle). I actually dropped him an email to get more information regarding the frame but I did not hear from him.


Deore 3-speed cranks and Deore front derailleur takes care of the front transmission. Again, these are not high-end stuff but they do their job efficiently and effectively.


Matching the front transmission is the Deore rear derailleur coupled to a 9-speed cassette. I think an 8-speed rear cassette would be more period correct but it would mean lots of sourcing for the various parts. As you know, anything less than 10 speed nowadays are hard to find.


Deore XT hubs provide smooth running and little problems. Some people mentioned that the bearings need to be taken out after some time for maintenance.


What else but a Ferrari leather seat for the comfort zone. This has to be one of the most comfortable saddle and my only regret is that I did not buy up the whole lot of them when they were on sale.


So, there it is, the Voodoo Hoodoo Mystical Folk Magic. A very special bike with plenty of character. Its not a 'hey look at me' kind of bike but real bike folks will appreciate the heritage of the brand and the man who build and design it.


After months of sitting around looking good, the bike went for its first maiden ride. As you can see, the fork, stem and handlebar has been swopped for lighter components. Its a real joy to ride. Effortless, smooth, predictable handling, nimble and all the other nice things you can think of. This is one bike to keep for life.