Saturday, December 31, 2011

Son Delux hub

A fair proportion of the search engine queries which land people on this blog are about lighting. A lot of people in particular are interested in dynamo setups. I use a Son hub and Edelux front light on the bike I ride about 80 per cent of the time. As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of dynamo lighting because it's always there, ready to be turned on as required and never runs flat. The only drawback is a relatively high initial expense. Cyclists have been spoiled by rapid advances in lighting technology in recent years, particularly with LED lighting which draws less current than the old halogen setups and doesn't burn out bulbs every hundred hours or so. 

Despite about four years of good service from my old model Son hub I decided to again raid my savings account for a Christmas treat to myself and splurge on one of the new smaller, lighter Son Delux hubs. These were originally designed for 20 inch folding bikes but by happy accident were discovered to be perfect to drive the new generation of LED lights.

I built the new 32-hole hub up onto a rim a couple of weeks ago and have done a few shorter rides so far and I'm very happy with the result. The resistance of the hub is not noticeable at all when it's turned on, so I've taken to leaving my front and rear lights on during the day. A few friends who has driven past me in the daytime have mentioned how effective the front light in particular is. I haven't done a night ride yet - the daylight hours in Tasmania at this time of year are very long.

I note from Jan Heine's website that Son has a newer model out to address some minor aesthetic and technical issues with this hub. He's written an explanation here. The differences are too tiny for me to be bothered with, this is a hub I'm planning to be happy with for many thousands of kilometres from now.

(If you found this post useful, you might be interested in my posts on the  Schmidt Edelux  LED front light or the Busch & Muller Seculite Plus Rear Light. I'm expecting to post a review of the Busch & Müller DToplight XS Plus in the coming weeks.

4179km so far this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The stylish randonneur

Most of the time I ride in a pair of old Shimano touring shoes which look like sneakers but have the advantage of stiff soles and standard SPD cleats. Being easy to walk in they're perfect for most purposes but the soles are a bit too soft for longer Audax rides. My faithful Shimano SPD-SL road shoes are just about worn out after years of faithful service, so I've been hunting around for a high quality replacement.

Way back when I raced bikes on the road in the mid 1980s, leather shoes were all the rage. They had both leather uppers and thick leather soles and big slotted cleats which locked in onto the back plate of a pedal. Toe clips and straps held the whole lot rock solid. They were impossible to walk in for more than a few steps because the large, often metal, cleats  protruded from the base of the sole. Despite the fact that the SPDs are a much better system, the old leather shoes were far more comfortable - particularly on long rides.

Since I've been salting away a few dollars each week into a "bike account" all year I've been able to lash out and treat myself to a few bike items in the lead-up to Christmas. When I saw a company called Dromarti offering old-style leather shoes I didn't need much prompting. (I've since noticed Vittoria offering a similar pair of leather shoes with the model name 1976.)

At $A275 shipped, they were't cheap but my first impressions based on around 100km of riding are generally favourable. The shoes are made by Italian footwear firm Marresi and come in either black or a very fetching brown. They're as stylish as all hell. Like leather walking boots, leather cycling shoes take a bit of time to wear in and we still have a little way to go but the wonderful comfort of leather I remember from way back is there in spades with the added stiffness of a plastic sole. They're ok to walk in too, though they feel a little narrow after the Shimano shoes. Something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

4011km so far this year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1000km review: Thorn Audax 3

Having done 1000km+ on the Thorn it seems an appropriate time as any for a longer-term review of the Thorn Audax 3 frame I bought earlier this year. On the whole I'm very impressed, although of course there's a few minor niggles that hold it just short of perfection. (Mind you I should be pretty happy since I built it up myself!) One of my biggest complaints is that I haven't had enough time to do as many miles as I'd like. It hasn't been my best year on the bike, I'll hold back on the excuses.

Positives first. The Thorn rides well, the steering is responsive but not overly so and it isn't greatly affected by the weight of a handlebar bag. I haven't noticed any toeclip overlap. The relatively tight rear triangle means the Thorn accelerates well enough to feel sporty and makes light work of a quick stab up short rollers, but at the same time it's comfortable for long distances and rides fine no-hands. The ample braze-ons on the Thorn meant that fitting racks and mudguards was a breeze. I'm deliriously happy with the Gilles Berthoud front rack with its intergral light mount and matching decaleur to hold my handlebar bag snugly in place and of course my Son hub and matching Edelux are a match made in heaven too. The Tubus Fly rear rack is light and handy for strapping a raincoat to or mounting a couple of light panniers for a longer jaunt.

Minor niggles then: I'd like to be able to fit wider tyres. This is one of those compromises that comes up with touring-style frames. If you want cailper brakes then there's a practical limit to how wide a tyre you can fit. On the Thorn, with mudguards, that limit is about 28mm, although it's happier with 23mm tyres so I'll stick to those for the time being despite preferring wider rubber. The integral pump peg, while handy, is designed for a pump which appears to be no longer made, the magnificent Zefal HPX. I'm still sorting out some minor wheel and tyre issues, but once those are done I reckon we'll be as close to perfection as you can get!

3,952km so far this year.