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Friday, August 7, 2009

A bike for my wife

When my wife and I moved in together, she already had a bicycle. I use the term loosely, as there are so many issues with her bike that I cannot seem to adjust or correct, and the bike is just not worth getting parts for anyway. I have done my fair share of bicycle repairs, from the mundane (like fixing flats and changing pedals) to the more exotic (like installing a suspension fork in a non-suspension bike). But that did not keep me from doing what I could to make the bike a little better.

I began by removing the rear rack, which I noticed she was never using anyway. That removed almost 0.5 kg from the rolling weight of the bike, and removed some rattles as well. I noticed that the rear wheel was a little off, and rather than correct it, I swapped out the rear wheel for an older wheel I already had, with a much better Shimano 105 hub and freewheel, a much better Ukai rim and a lighter spoke pattern overall. I made several attempts to get her Grip Shift shifters working correctly, but was never able to get it to reach the full range of gears. I know what the problem is, the cables are finished, but the bike is hardly worth the price of new shifter cables. Same thing with the brakes. After resetting the brakes and attempting to get them working correctly, they just ended up as mushy as before. I lubed up everything, wiped the bike down, pumped up the tires to an acceptable pressure and that was it.

That is pretty much the extent of what I have been able to do, and I have reached a conclusion: my wife needs a new bike. Now, what I need to do is to properly assess what she needs. It's a little more difficult than I anticipated, as her needs are very different from mine, and her tastes are also very different. When she rode my bike, her first comment was that she found it much too "nervous". I think I understand what she means, but I could be wrong.

I think she would do well with a bike that meets the following criteria:

- Light, rigid frame without suspension, either at the front or rear.

To me, this means an aluminium frame, as it provides the required rigidity, as well as the convenience of a metal unaffected by oxidization.

- Simple, direct gear change system, like Shimano Nexxus internal gear hub

An internal gear hub provides required gearing without the use of derailleurs. This provides a cleaner setup, less maintenance and improved resistance to the elements.

- Good quality brakes, with quality levers

Although disc brakes seem to be the rage, I also believe that their inherent power and modulation capabilities make them a better choice over standard rim brakes. By choosing a cable actuated model over a hydraulic system, the maintenance requirements are reduced.

- A moderate gear ratio

The Shimano Nexxus hub provides 7, 8 or 9 speeds, depending on the specific model selected. The gear ratios have been extensively studied by Shimano, so as to provide the greatest functional range for the user.

- Flatproof, leakproof tires (well, flat-resistant and leak resistant!)

Although an impossible request, the use of kevlar-belted tires has increased for urban bicycles, and have helped to reduce the number of flats. With the addition of leak-proof inner tubes, the combination is as close to flatproof as we can currently make it.

- A comfortable saddle, avoiding the racing profiles

This is a very personal choice, and I've encouraged my wife to try as many as she can. Only she can really tell me what is the most comfortable choice for her.

I've figured that with some options, like a suspension seat post, she could retain the comfort of suspension, without the hassles of maintenance, and unavoidable lack of quality of cheaper suspension forks. It all remains to be seen, but I will update here as soon as we've made more progress.

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