Recently while scoping out bikes for my dreamed-of expedition, I came across one with an internal geared hub (IGH). To be honest, it was the first time I’d seen one. At first I thought it was a singlespeed. Then I wondered why a) a singlespeed would be on a commuter/touring bike and b) why the hub looked like a PowerTap power meter on steroids. A quick glance at the specs and a Google search soon enlightened me.

Why aren’t these things more popular in the States? Straight chain line, no grit and grime from bad weather, basically no maintenance besides swapping chains, no stupid front derailleur to rub. Sign me up.

Some more research revealed that, while the Rohloff speedhub is revered worldwide for touring and commuting alike, other offerings get mixed reviews (and, like most cars, are much cheaper than their German-engineered counterparts). And I found some of the downsides: they are heavy, make changing a flat a trickier proposition, and pretty much un-repairable on the road. Alas, nothing is perfect, after all.

The particular bike I was looking at, the Marin Nicasio RC, uses a Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub. In my search for bikes with a Rohloff hub, I waded into territory that was more expensive and, increasingly, in incomprehensible foreign languages. Finally I found Co-Motion, a Portland-based company that makes bikes with Rohloff hubs. But those bikes are over $5,000, which is not really my price range for my touring setup.

I’m still not sure where I stand on the IGH issue. I’d like to ride one to see how it feels. I can see why a lot of Americans just say “screw it, I’ll stick with the derailleur system because it’s what I know, and hey there might be a 1/1000 change I get stranded on a mountain pass and I’d rather not take that chance.” But then again, carriage drivers in the early 1900s were probably pointing out the unreliable nature of automobiles, and look where that got them. Out of a job and ultimately forgotten. The IGH does, on balance, seem like a better technology for the riding that most people (read: people who use bikes to get places, not to explore compensation issues on Strava) do. Color me intrigued.

My brief internet foray into the IGH world reminded me of a broader point: every time I think I know a lot about bikes, I realize there is something I was totally ignorant of. Two years ago it was gear ratios. A year ago it was headsets and thru-axles. Now it’s the IGH. What will it be next?


Bike Needed

Everything is set for my cycling adventure in Colombia. Except one tiny thing: the bike.

Originally, I was going to fly mine down there. I got a fancy bike bag and everything. Then I found out Delta charges $150 each way for bikes. Ooof. Then I found out that, even if I wanted to pay the $300, Delta doesn’t fly oversized baggage into Bogota from November to January. Double ooof.

Well, I’d just have to rent one there. Not ideal, but whatever. I found a company online that rents road bikes by the day or the week. Price was a little steep, but similar to what I’d pay anyways.

This week I went to their website. The trip is still a few months out, but I figured I’d better reserve one just in case. I filled out the online form with my dates and clicked “enter.” Hmm. Didn’t work. Tried again. Didn’t work. So I emailed the company, still unconcerned at this point, asking to reserve a bike for my dates.

Then a response that went something like this:

Unfortunately we don’t have bikes available at that time so basically your vacation, comprised of non-refundable, non-changeable flights, is ruined.

Triple ooof.

So now I’m starting to panic. I’m going to be there for a week to ride a bike, and with no bike, that plan looks pretty foolish.

Know anyone in Bogota with a spare steed?

The Problem with Bib Shorts

A central question of the cycling life, often unasked. Are bib shorts worth it?

Worth what? you might ask. The money?

Yes, they’re worth the money. They go between your crotch and the bike seat where, presumably, you spent lots of hours. Don’t be cheap with your chamois.

The more interesting question. Are they comfortable enough to justify their inconvenience?

Everyone (or at least people who consider themselves Serious Cyclists(TM) ) take it for granted that bib shorts are the way to go. Most high-end clothing brands only sell bib shorts. I don’t know of any friends who don’t wear them. The consensus about the debate seems to be that there is no debate.

Most of these people are probably wearing shorts.

But what about when nature calls? Certainly I’m not the only one completely frustrated by the process of removing a jersey (with lumpy, weighted pockets), taking off the bib straps, and putting it all back on, just for a toilet break. It’s so inconvenient that for a while I thought I must surely be missing something, an obvious trick, a simple shortcut. Turns out that I’m not. It really is that inconvenient. There’s no way around the ridiculous changing process. Try it in a port-a-potty before a race.

Honestly, I’m not convinced it’s worth it. At least not for someone like me who has the bladder of a 50-year old man and an…active…digestive tract. Yeah, shorts are kind of goofy, but I doubt your riding buddies can even tell the difference, unless your jersey rides up.

I haven’t gone full club rider dork mode yet, but I have taken to leaving my bib straps off until the very last possible moment before a ride, just in case I have to go. Now I’m thinking about winter, and what it would feel like to try to get to the straps under layers, and that seems quite literally impossible. I may be back in the shorts camp soon enough.

New Bike Day (Minus the Hashtag)

Just take it in.


I’ve only been on two rides with this beauty so far, but holy shit. It’s everything I wanted. Feels like a race car. Light, snappy, smooth. The eTap shifting is utterly silent and precise. I think the whole setup looks incredible. Seriously, I would steal this bike if I saw it on the street and had a bolt cutter handy.

As I alluded to in my previous post, things came together quicker than expected. The groupset was ordered on Monday and arrived on Tuesday. On Thursday night I found myself at The Underground Bike Shop with Ian, who I thought was only going to help with the tougher stuff like the bottom bracket. But he was keen to assemble the whole bike right there, and eagerly anticipating my first ride, I obliged.

We were in the empty shop until 1:30 a.m. Hardwood floors, electric lights buzzing overhead, a growing headache and a growing sense of exhilaration. The shop tortoise (yes, really) sleeping in the corner. Grease, vices, allen keys, a saw. Tweaks, taps, fiddles, a couple Youtube videos.

I observed, helped with what I could. Ian was patient and efficient. The entire time I congratulated myself for waiting for my local shop to come through with the order instead of jumping ship.The other places wouldn’t have worked overtime and let me be there, looking over shoulders and learning, asking stupid questions. They would have charged me at least $50 per hour in labor costs and given me the bike back a week later and I would’ve had no idea how it all came together.

In short, the experience was wonderful. I felt like it forged my relationship with my new bike: the act of seeing all the parts combined to create the whole (with the safety net of a pro to make sure they weren’t combined in ways that will kill me on a descent). It also cemented the bond with Ian, who now certainly knows me by name (after all my pestering) and knows my bike, which will be helpful for future maintenance.

Technical Specs, for the Nerds

Frame: Cannondale CAAD12 Black Inc. Sounds vaguely like a bad ’80s noir movie
Fork: Cannondale CAAD12 Obviously.
Handlebars: Whatever came on my old Felt bike They were comfy–why change?
Seatpost: Cannondale C2 Website said it was not included with frame. Reviewers said it was. They were right.
Stem: Cannondale C4 Stealth No way to tell, since there are literally no markings. Probably black market. 
Crankset: SRAM Force 22 (50/34) Same as Red, but cheaper
Shifters: SRAM Red eTap Sometimes you have to spend a lot of money on a bike. Totally worth it.
Derailleurs: SRAM Red eTap Wifli To accommodate my wimpy full compact setup.  
Brakes: SRAM Force See “Crankset.”
Cassette: SRAM PG 1170 (11-32) We’ve discussed this before. I like to enjoy climbs.
Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium Elite Best aluminum hoops out there, I dare say. Lighter than Zipp 404s.
Tires: Vittoria Corsa One word: tan sidewalls. Okay, that’s two. But still.
Pedals: Speedplay Ultralight Action Call me crazy, but I like the float.