As we have noted here before, Nancy and I purchased new bikes from Bilenky Cycle Works back in December. We got titanium coupled travel bikes that break down to fit into a suitcase. These are both all-road bikes in that they are built like road bikes but they have fat tires (I have 42mm Hetres on my bike).
The Build (John’s Bike)
On my bike, I was aiming to go as much “Made in the USA” as I could in the build. Here is my list of USA-supplied parts:
– Paul Racer Brakes
– White Industries hubs
– Velocity rims
– SRAM Force drivetrain/shifters. Not really made in the US but of the three big choices the closest I could get.
– Crank Brothers Candy 3 pedals (see above)
– Compass Cycles Hetre tires. Again not made in the US but the company is based in the US.
– Porcelain Rocket rear bag (Canada – close enough)
– Oveja Negra top tub bag
– Swift Industries front rack bag
Parts not made in the US include
– Nitto stem, handlebars (randonneur type), and seat post
– Berthoud saddle
– Brooks handlebar tape
So Tell Me About the Ride
The ride is pretty close to perfect. By that I mean, it is as perfect as I have ever ridden but hey maybe just maybe there is a more perfect I am unaware of. It is possible I suppose. The Bilenky team nailed it. I am comfortable for long stretches and a bit faster. The tires just eat up rotten pavement and I have discovered rotten pavement pretty much every ride I have lately. Whether it be Mid-Maryland, Baltimore, or upstate New York.
Nancy and I have a Thule hitch rack that we have used for about three years. It is a very good 1 1/4-inch hitch rack where the bikes hang from a top cradle. This works great with a regular bike but is a complete pain-in-the-ass with Nancy’s mixte frames. You need to get a bar that attaches to the stem and the seat post to hang the bike from. It works but I was consistently underwhelmed by the solution.
Swagman Semi 2
So I began the typical search for a new rack. There was a review on RKP for the Swagman Semi 2 rack that holds two bikes from the bottom. I found said rack on eTrailer. The rack came quickly — about a week and was a snap to assemble. This rack is amazing. It is a breeze to fold up, fold down, put a bike of any type on or off the rack. This rack is a major keeper. I could not recommend this rack more. If you have different kinds of bikes, this is your rack.
There is one lever to fold the rack up close — but not too close — to the car. You can easily open my Impreza hatch with the rack folded. It takes me longer to get the bikes to the car than it does to put them on. Seriously. You can even tilt the rack with bikes further away from the car with the same lever.
Putting the bikes on the rack is a simple as putting the bike into the two well-made ‘slots’ to hold each wheel and bring down a bar that holds the front end of the bike stable. Then you strap in the rear wheel like you do on a roof rack. Viola! You are done and ready to roll to your ride.
The rack is very well made with solid welds that are nicely done. Unlike the Thule, I have not had to use a rubber mallet to get the damn rack into or out of the car hitch.
This was my first experience with eTrailer and I could not say enough positive things about them! They were great to work with. They have excellent videos on assembly and mounting. They have excellent videos showing the rack on different types of cars. They will be the place I go in the future to get another rack in a decade when I need another one. Everything about the experience including a follow-up email from a person asking how the experience was.
It is not often that I have not one but two very positive reviews in one post. However, this one breaks all the rules. eTrailer was an awesome company selling an awesome product!
On a cold and crappy — but not rainy at least — Saturday, Nancy and I went on a 18-mile ride near BWI. I was trying out my new Tailrider bag and had put my Light and Motion 180 Taillight on the bag. As noted in the heading of this post, the light leaped off the bag and out of my life.
The L&M light is a great taillight. Bright, decent battery life, made in America, and better looking than your average rear light. I got it directly from L&M after I sent back my third L&M 180 Micro when the On/Off switch broke yet again. As a set of quick side notes, L&M’s Micro has a faulty on/off switch design. If you review the reviews on Amazon, this is a pretty common complaint. I would heavily recommend taking a pass on this light. However, L&M has great customer service. Each time it broke, they sent me a new one and I shipped back the broken one. I cannot say enough positive things about their customer service. So when I contacted them about the third death, they offered me the regular 180 at a decent upgrade pricing. I pulled the trigger and lived happily ever after. Until Saturday, that is.
So I have this thing where I try to buy American if given the opportunity and the price difference is not substantial. I buy American jeans, socks, shirts, sweaters/wool, and bike parts and bags. So I fire up Amazon when I get home and look for the L&M 180 light. There it is. It is a great light as I said, but is it worth a 3x markup ($89.99)? It gave me pause. So then I go to Bike Light Database and The Sweet Home. Neither recommend the L&M 180. They like it but they note its price and that there are other lights that are just as good for a lot less. As another side note, both of these sites were extremely helpful in my search.
It saddens me that an American company cannot make a great, high quality taillight in this case that is not at least somewhat competitive in price. I am not saying lose money on the deal but I should not suffer a degree of sticker shock that I felt. I ended up picking the Cyclolite Hotshot for $28.48. This is over $60 cheaper and gets as good of reviews.
I will review more adequately once I have received it from Amazon and used it a few times.
Back in December, Nancy and I went up to Bilenky Bikes. It was a great trip and they are great guys. Since then we have exchanged a couple of emails and phone calls and we received drawings of the bikes and specs/final pricing. This part was wrapped up by mid-February. Then came the hardest part, waiting… We are in line with the rest of Bilenky’s customers waiting our turn in the line to come up. Currently, we believe we should have our bikes by 22 May at the latest. This means we are under 30 days. Torches should be getting fired up soon for our bikes. I cannot wait to see them.
On John’s recommendation I took my aching body out for a short, easy ride this afternoon. The idea being that would help work out some of the
pain discomfort induced by yesterday’s longer ride.
And a what a gorgeous spring day it was. To my surprise, I had fun. And it only hurt a little. I got to see this flourishing tree (above). And (below) one of my favorite houses.
Some intrepid bicyclists continue riding through the entire winter no matter what the weather brings. Me? Some years yes, but not this year. Being self-employed and working at home most days now, biking is a thing I do purely for fun, renewal of the spirit and fitness. It was a long and brutal winter and getting on my bike didn’t strike me as fun, spiritually renewing or a great way to exercise. That’s over for now – finally – and we’ve had some terrific spring weather.
Providing further motivation, we’re signed up for the Tour de Cure on May 2, starting from Cookesville MD. (donate here to support my ride in this fundraiser for diabetes research). The terrain for that ride is very hilly so it’s time to get serious about getting in shape. We’ve been out there and enjoying the spring that’s finally here. Today was a little tough, we took a great leap forward and did our longest ride so far of 2015. Yes, I’m a little sore. Well, maybe a lot sore. But that’s biking. Sometimes it’s fun and carefree, sometimes it’s a struggle that leaves you stronger once you recover. Today’s ride was both.
So it’s spring and it’s beautiful. I’ll stop complaining about achey legs. Or maybe I’ll complain some, but keep it in perspective. Yesterday as we neared home we met a guy who had been a cyclist for 50 years, and had to quit due to vertigo that has never gone away. He’s got it tough. I’m so very lucky to be healthy and strong enough to keep doing what I love so much.
Daffodils are about exuberance and on a good day that’s what biking is about too. My Brompton after exuberantly taking the longer way home after a quick errand, agrees.