Bino on the loose

Perhaps noticeable to regular readers is that I rarely write about my folding bike Bino these days. Unfortunately, as of this writing, not all is well with my little blue Dahon Vitesse.

It would be relatively easy and straightforward for me to fix things like the brakes, drivetrain, or touch points. However, when it comes to folding bikes, they all require some sort of maintenance at the frame level, unlike most non-folding bicycles. With the myriad ways of folding a bicycle into a smaller package, many of them proprietary, this isn’t always as straightforward or as easy as it looks.

As one of the larger players in the folding bicycle industry, Tern has published guidelines on what to look for regarding their bikes’ frames.

For Bino, there was a bit of guesswork needed. Dahon isn’t as strong as its sibling company Tern with making customers and owners aware of folding bike frame maintenance, and it doesn’t help that Dahon made a LOT of versions and refinements of the basic main frame joint and clamp mechanism. Fortunately, as a 2013 Vitesse, Bino was made around the time Dahon and Tern “made amends” (the particulars of which make for a very long story), with the two consolidating bike manufacture under the company Mobility Holdings Ltd. Among Tern’s lineup, Bino is closest in frame design to the entry-level Link B- and C-series bikes.

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS WRONG WITH BINO?

At best guess, roughly 80% of folding bikes are patterned against Dahon’s original design of breaking the main frame tube in half, and installing a hinge and clamping system to join the two halves together as a solid, rideable bicycle.

To provide the clamping effect, the main frame hinge and latch mechanism uses special bolts, hinge pins, and threaded rods. Quite obviously, riding around with a loose main frame joint is a recipe for potential disaster.

Adjusting the tension of the mechanism is done by turning the hexagonal rod that lives underneath the main frame lever with a 6 mm open wrench. If the lever opens or closes too easily and with no resistance, the mechanism is too loose. With correct tension, it should take at least three fingers to open the lever, and the heel of your palm to close it. Backing out the hexagonal rod by counterclockwise rotation increases the mechanism’s tension and makes the frame more solid.

The hexagonal rod in this photo serves as the tension adjustment for the main frame hinge mechanism.

By design, the hexagonal rod should have enough screw threads along its length to sufficiently tighten the entire main frame hinge without unscrewing from the joint lever completely. This is no longer the case with Bino — perhaps because of the looseness that developed at the main frame hinge pins themselves. Even with the hexagonal rod barely having any screw thread left to hold it in, Bino’s frame is no longer as solid as it used to be.

It’s not as if this cannot be fixed. One upside to Dahon and Tern’s market ubiquity is that spares are available, if you know where to find them. My plan is to replace the old main frame hinge parts and fully restore frame stiffness.

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Pearl Izumi waist shorts: US vs Japan

A good pair of cycling shorts is a road cyclist’s friend when it comes to comfort while riding on a road bike. While there are shorts for all sorts of budgets, it’s one item you can really appreciate spending a bit more on.

Among brands, one of the more popular ones is Japanese firm Pearl Izumi. Having had its start in the 1950s, the clothing brand’s US and European operations were bought out by the American subsidiary of bicycle component juggernaut Shimano in 2008. Curiously though, this doesn’t seem to have affected its Japanese and Asian operations.

Pearl Izumi’s US-market Quest shorts kept me comfortable, even on the 210 km Subic-Masinloc-Subic ride.

After having had a few pairs and generally great experiences with their cycling waist shorts, all of which are from their cheapest Quest lineup sold in the US market, I received word that Pearl Izumi was setting up local distribution within the Philippines late last year. Recruiting a number of popular local bike shops, such as Bike Town Cyclery and The Brick Multisport, they started selling shorts and jerseys.

I noticed that the shorts in particular aren’t exactly the same as the Quest ones I had in my closet. Apparently, Pearl Izumi decided to bring in its Japanese market product lineup here.

There are three tiers of 3D-E waist shorts, so named for the chamois pad they use. The more exotic models boast a Coldblack material which is UV-resistant and supposedly reduces heat. The cheapest are the “Comfort Pants” shorts, taken from the Japanese “Basic Grade” collection. These are analogous to the US-market Quest line – even down to the price. These Japan-made shorts are PhP2500 per pair. While the China-made Quest shorts are a couple hundred pesos cheaper, once you work in the shipping fees, they are priced roughly identical to each other. At least with the Comfort shorts, you won’t have to wait the minimum couple weeks for them to arrive.

Having bought both the Quest and Comfort shorts, I decided to write about their main differences.

US-market Quest shorts on the left, Japan-market Comfort shorts on the right. It’s the Comfort shorts that are locally available.

The most obvious difference between the Quest and Comfort shorts is the stitching. The Comfort shorts have a zigzag pattern, while the Quest shorts sport a more typical flatlock stitching throughout. Being the cheapest US-market model, the Quest shorts are made up of six panels. More expensive models break up the shorts into more panels to improve overall fit. The Comfort shorts are made with eight panels, the added pair going into the inner thigh.

It’s not readily apparent, but the Comfort shorts are actually slightly longer in the leg. You would think the Asian market garment would have the smaller sizing, but no – both these shorts are a size L. Apart from the leg length difference, they fit me exactly the same.

 

Increasingly sophisticated ways of securing the leg openings to the thighs have been deployed on cycling shorts over the years. These are attempts to solve the problems of shorts hiking up cyclists’ legs over time, and the general discomfort and lack of flattery among lady cyclists getting the “sausage legs” look from a too-tight grip on the thigh.

On the Quest shorts, little dots of silicone run through the leg openings and act as grippers. These are very effective, even if you order one size larger by mistake like I did. One of my Quest shorts is a size XL, and it’s only really evident in the slightly longer leg and the higher waist. The former is taken care of by the spandex material and the silicone dots, while the latter is hidden underneath my jersey most times anyway.

By contrast, the Comfort shorts use gripper bands of elastic material around the leg openings, which is about a finger’s width. It seems slightly lower tech, as the fashion has moved towards either using much wider gripper bands, or using no elastic at all. In practice however, the Comfort shorts grippers are judged perfectly. I don’t get the sausage leg look, and it’s not so tight as to constrict my thighs’ blood vessels, but not so loose as to let the spandex hike up my thighs.

Speaking of the material of the shorts, the Quest shorts are 88% nylon and 12% elastane (spandex/Lycra), and feel smoother and simpler, while the Comfort shorts feel a little plusher and more velvety, and made up of a slightly different blend of 80% nylon and 20% polyurethane, of which spandex/elastane is one type. Both claim the material offers sweat wicking properties and UV resistance equivalent to a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50.

The heart of any cycling short is the chamois or pad; indeed, some people say the whole point of the shorts is to properly locate the pad against the anatomy of your groin, perineum and buttocks. Despite the color and origin differences, the pad is roughly identical. The Quest shorts’ “Tour 3D” pad has more pronounced grooves so that, in theory, it can move better with you without bunching up. That said, the Comfort shorts’ “3D-E” pad does just as well.

Location is perfect – you want most of the pad on your sit bones, while offering just enough forward projection to serve as a modesty panel for your groin. Any more than that and it’s useless bulk. Both shorts deliver here – no chafing or hot spots to report. The litmus test of a good chamois is you shouldn’t notice it at all underneath you.

Photo shot with flash to show the reflective logos.

Finally we come to detailing. Both have reflective Pearl Izumi logos but carry them in different places. The Comfort shorts have discreet logos, one on each forward side of the leg. In contrast, the logos on the Quest shorts are twice as large. They’re situated on the forward side of the left leg and on the left waist at the rear. In practice, I would rather have had this logo around the leg area instead – it’s often covered up by the bottom hem of my jersey.

Photo shot with flash to show the reflective logos.

Paying the price for well-made cycling shorts may not sit well with some readers. Personally it means I can keep pedaling without thinking about my comfort, or worse, wincing in pain from chafing or saddle sores. My oldest pair of Quest shorts is two years old, and it’s still going strong after many kilometers. I’m glad to see that Pearl Izumi’s products are much more easily accessible while eliminating the wait of freight and retaining the same price – it could have easily become more expensive with local distribution.

Whether Quest or Comfort, Pearl Izumi’s basic waist shorts are excellent and highly recommended.

Pie-in-the-sky: Dream bike components

In the three years since I’ve taken up cycling, I’ve modified my bikes to better fit my demands as a cyclist and bike commuter. While they are great bikes now, there’s always scope for things to get better. Below is my list of dream bike components.

TUBELESS WHEELSET FOR DISC BRAKES + TUBELESS ROAD BIKE TIRES

On paper, Hyro’s stock Giant S-X2 wheelset is tubeless-ready, but in practice it needs tubeless rim tape and valves – not to mention the sealant and the tires themselves. As it’s essentially made for cross-country mountain bikes, it’s also rather heavy, despite having only 28 spokes. Since disc brakes have gotten a larger presence in road and cyclocross bikes, wheelset options have also increased – many of them lighter than the S-X2 yet just as strong.

The Aero Light Disc wheelset by Hunt Bike Wheels of the UK: strong, light, tubeless-ready, and built to accept CenterLock brake rotors.

Schwalbe’s Pro One tubeless slick clincher tire is state-of-the-art as of 2016.

As for road tubeless – I’m all for any tech that improves ride quality. Tubeless tires promise the same performance as clinchers, but at a lower air pressure. Couple that with the puncture protection of the liquid sealant inside the tire, and you have a compelling combination – one that’s worth the replacement of sealant every few months. Even that task has innovations coming its way too.

The only real downside is the availability of tires. Any 700C-sized tubeless rubber available in the Philippines tends to be made for cyclocross, with tread knobs or file tread and at least a 32 mm width. If there were slick or lightly treaded options in similar widths that would be great.

FRONT DYNAMO HUB AND LIGHTING SYSTEM

I’ve waxed poetic about the sheer endurance of my Cat Eye Volt 1200’s battery. However, it’s still running off a battery – it always stands the chance of running out of juice and failing mid-ride. Early on, I had dreams of a bike lighting setup that could be left permanently on. The best way to make that possible is to build a front wheel around a dynamo hub.

A PD-8 dynamo front hub, made by Taiwanese firm Shutter Precision (SP). It accepts six-bolt disc brake rotors. The two plastic pieces on the right sandwich into each other as wire connectors.

Dynamo hubs nowadays are incredibly efficient, generating electricity from the rotational energy of the front wheel that would otherwise be wasted. They are very hard to find locally though, as are lights that are built to run off them. A Taiwanese firm called Shutter Precision makes some of the best dynamo hubs out there, supposedly even better than German stalwards Schmidt and their famous SON (Schmidt Original Nabendynamo) units.

Heck, if you had Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting, you could recharge its battery off the electricity from your dynamo hub, and never worry about losing the ability to shift gears. That’s exactly what Mark Beaumont did when he rode a Koga Solacio so equipped from Cairo to Cape Town in April 2015.

An Exposure Lights Revo Dynamo. One of the few dynamo-powered front lights advertising its output in lumens – in this case, 800 of them. (Photo credit: jamiecjordan.)

The only real question mark I have is the power output of a dynamo-powered front light. Unlike their battery brethren, dynamo-powered lights tend to have their brightness measured in lux instead of lumens. This makes meaningful comparisons of illumination difficult. Even then, I have yet to see a dynamo front light that pumps out the 1200 lumens my Volt 1200 does.

HYDRAULIC DISC BRAKES

I’m very happy with my TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes. Any upgrade to braking capability is always welcome, however. For all the Spyres’ reliability, simplicity and decelerative ability, they will never offer single-finger braking from the hoods.

Shimano BR-RS505 hydraulic road disc brake caliper and SM-RT99 “Freeza” brake rotor.

Shimano now has hydraulic disc brakes for road bikes, incorporating spiffy technology such as Ice Tech from its mountain bikes. A few things hold me back from upgrading Hyro with them, though.

  • Caliper options for road and cross bike frames with Post Mount hardpoints are artificially limited. Fortunately, it looks like any of Shimano’s mountain bike brake calipers will work – no more mismatch issues between caliper and lever!
  • Shimano’s road hydraulic disc brakes are available in 10-speed (Tiagra) and 11-speed (105, Ultegra, Dura-Ace) flavors. Hyro runs the older 105 5700-series 10-speed groupset. Even then, I would still have to replace my derailleurs with new units, as Shimano’s Tiagra 4700-series 10-speed groupset uses different cable pull for shifting.
  • Finally there’s the price. Despite the tech trickling down to lower tiers, none of these parts is what I’d call cheap. Most expense goes into the STI levers, which are traditionally the priciest items on a groupset, but that cost jumps even more with hydraulic braking.

A CUSTOM TITANIUM FRAME

In terms of geometry, Hyro is spot-on for my physique. However, there’s no denying that he is still an aluminum bike, and deserved or not, the material still has a stigma for a stiff, crashy ride.

What about other materials, then? I have almost zero interest in carbon fiber as a bike frame material; unless it’s for a fork, it just isn’t the right material for the riding I like to do. Chromoly steel is currently the darling of custom frame builders, and is fabled for its legendarily springy, lively ride quality, but its susceptibility to rust puts holes in its reputation for longevity.

A custom titanium cyclocross bike frame from Russian builder Triton Bikes, kitted out with most of the things I’ve already mentioned in this post.

That leaves titanium. With the ride of steel and the corrosion resistance of aluminum, on paper it seems the perfect material to build a bicycle frame out of – one that could outlive you. Combined with a carbon fork, a titanium bike feels like a winner. The main concern is price. Tooling and methods for working titanium are expensive, the cost passing on to the end customer. I’m also not a fan of the bare titanium finish, as it attracts more attention than I would like; unfortunately paint isn’t known to adhere well to titanium tubing.

If there was some way to translate the TCX’s geometry and tire clearances into titanium form, then add all my desired rack and fender hardpoints…that might well be the last bike I buy.

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What’s your dream bike made out of? Tell me about it in the comments below.