… otherwise known as sticking a Carradice Barley saddlebag on my bike… I may as well own up to it now <oh the shame..> as sooner or later I’ll be spotted in public all lycra’d up with this thing hanging off the back of my seat :-) Same comment goes for that Giant Bowery I mentioned a few weeks ago… in terms of being a diehard bike-snob and erstwhile weight weenie I’ve either made immense progress or suffered the cycling equivalent of breakdown.. depends on your outlook :-) As for what I think… errrm, well when it’s wet and dark and windy I’m highly unlikely to be spotted anyway and it is immensely practical as a winter commuting hack…. ;-)
The bag is ace really – it’s 100% waterproof – the water just beads off the canvas, big enough to carry a change of clothes for the office and it’s nice not having to wear a backpack – especially with a rainjacket but I think the biggest benefit is judging by what I see on fleabay folk are willing to spend a wedge on battered old Caradice bags.. so I figure I can use it for a few years and then get all my money back and then some. I think it’s mainly Americans who buy ’em…can’t get enough of that olde worlde english cycling gentry look… or something. The only other thing to note about the bag is that I made up a support for it to keep it clear of the backs of my thighs when pedalling.. an old seatpost mounted like bracket and a length of alloy strip. I forgot to photograph that – will do it today and update this post.
Still not wearing tweed plus fours though, not even in the dark…
As for the bike, well I paid £380 so I can’t complain… in reality it’s pretty good for what really is minimum wedge in the world of usable bikes – the wheels in particular are worth a significant chunk of the total – stainless spokes, gold ano rims with machined side walls and decent large flange hubs with sealed bearings. The stock gearing of 48×17 is a little high for the steeper of Cornwall’s hills and the 170mm cranks aren’t the stiffest – but are stiff enough. They run on a square taper sealed BB unit – floating so you can adjust the chainline. The only bad bit about the otherwise 1/8″drivetrain is the rather weedy looking fixed sprocket – it’s a cheap pressed steel thing – I left it on figuring I’d replace it with a solid 1/8″ one when it wears out.. which will probably be sometime middle of next week :-) What else… ah, the frame.. yeah it’s fine, stiff, haven’t noticed an excessive harshness from the alloy fork but then I’m running the gatorskins at only 95psi right now – I’m only using it for my commute which is up to 50miles/day so frame comfort – or lack of has not been an issue. I know I’m committing major style failure (!) by having natural cork coloured bar tape with the stock black saddle… but it was all I had spare when I threw away the silly bars it came with and fitted an old set of Deda Newtons I had kicking around. It was all about not spending any extra money you see…. but come to think of it a brown Brooks saddle might look nice… and would add roughly 30% to the value of the bike, hehe. If I have a criticism it’s just that a little bit of extra thought in the frame that may have cost nothing would have made it so much better… the fork has mudguard eyes but no clearance under the crown – even when the stock 25C tyres are swapped out for skinnier 23C rubber… I had to take a half-round file to the underside of the very chunky crown in order to be able to squeeze the guards through. Clearance at the rear is equally tight – no chance if you wanted to run a rear brake, and no mudguard eyes… strangely at odds with the eyes on the fork. I don’t understand it, especially given that there are some nice detail touches in the frame like the rubber o-ring in the seatclamp to stop water running down inside the frame and the polished highlights in the finish… Anyway, back to the guards.. the rear is held on with a zip tie on the chainstay and brake bridges, and the stays I secured to the chaintugs as in the pic below… the advantage of doing that is that the stays release with the wheel which is useful with rearward facing track ends should you need to get the wheel out. I did consider drilling the track ends and running a tap through but got lazy and in the end, although a bit untidy, it works well… I suspect however I will feel compelled to tidy it up in future… and sort out the clashing bar tape/saddle combo ;-)
So that’s it really – I wanted something for the wet and muddy winter commute that I could hang my lights off permanently and could leave filthy in the garage with a clear conscience.. it certainly ticked that box… but looking at that bag again… oh dear, I really don’t want to grow a beard….