Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pashley vs. Linus - How I Made the Decision

I'm obsessive when it comes to making decisions. I always want to be absolutely sure that I'm making the right choice, and that usually entails endless research, pros/cons comparisons, and lists. I like to make lists.

So when I started my search for a city bike, it became all-consuming. Now that I've made my decision, I'm back to normal! W can breathe a sigh of relief.  Poor W - he had to endure a lot these last few weeks... looking at hubs, brakes, pictures, blogs, etc...

These were my must-haves:
  • Step-through or loop frame for ease of mounting/dismounting/skirt-wearing
  • Steel frame
  • Upright riding posture
  • Swept-back handlebars
  • Internal gear hub - at least 5 speeds
  • Some sort of chain protection - at least a partial chainguard, but preferably a full chaincase

And important, but not deal-breakers:
  • Lighting (but this is easy enough to add on)
  • Skirt/Coat guard
  • Hub brakes

I originally sought a Batavus, but apparently there are no adult Dutch cyclists who are 4'11". Like I mentioned previously, I test rode a few models before narrowing it down to the Pashley Princess Sovereign and the Linus Dutchi. The Linus link takes you to the Dutchi 3, but they are coming out with a Dutchi featuring an 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub that is not yet on the website. There were other manufacturers that I would have been interested in checking out (e.g. BiomegaAbiciPublic) but they were either out of my price range or not readily available for test riding.

First I listed out the significant pros and cons of each.  Let's start with the PS:

  • Full chaincase
  • Dynamo headlamp
  • Brooks saddle
  • Rear wheel lock
  • Rear LED light (although this could be a strike against it... dynamo would be nice)
  • Skirt guard
  • Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires
  • Powder coated
  • Enclosed hub brakes
  • "Classically" stylish
  • More expensive
  • Heavier
  • Less gears/gear range (see below for more details)
  • Rubber grips (not as aesthetically pleasing to me)

And now the Linus:

  • Lighter
  • More gears/gear range
  • Less expensive
  • Leather grips
  • "Simply" stylish
  • Partial chainguard
  • Have to add accessories (e.g. lights, basket)
  • Rim brakes
  • Not powder coated
  • No frame lock
  • Saddle (not a Brooks)
The rim brakes and lack of frame lock weren't a huge deal to me, though.

A lot of the differences between the two were based on the available accessories which, in my mind, are easy enough to deal with. So it came down to the three things that mattered the most and were not as straightforward to change: weight, gears, and quality for the price.

PS apparently weighs in at 45 lbs. The Dutchi 3 weighs 33 lbs. I didn't have any specs on the 8 speed, but Sean said the difference between the PS and the Dutchi 8 would be about 6 or 7 lbs. According to Sean, this difference would be minimal while cycling, and only really noticeable when picking up the bike (doesn't matter since I wouldn't be carrying it up and down stairs or anything). Although they are both relatively heavy, I like that quality as it translates to forward momentum and stability. As a result, the weight difference between the two was no longer an issue for me.

As for gears - the PS comes with a Sturmey-Archer X-RD5(W), which is a wider range hub than on previous PS models. The Linus would be equipped with a Shimano Nexus 8. Not having known that much about gears in the first place (other than how and when to change them), I found this website extremely informative. I had always thought that the number of gears was important; however I now understand the significance of gear range.

Here are the range and specs for the SA hub:

Overall range 256%
Gear 1 - 0.625 (-37.5%)
Gear 2 - 0.75 (-25%)
Gear 3 - 1.00 (Direct drive)
Gear 4 - 1.333 (+33.3%)
Gear 5 - 1.60 (+60%)

And the Shimano:

Overall range 307%
Gear 1 - 0.527 (-47.3%)
Gear 2 - 0.644 (-35.6%)
Gear 3 - 0.748 (-25.2%)
Gear 4 - 0.851 (-14.9%)
Gear 5 - 1.00 (Direct drive)
Gear 6 - 1.223 (+22.3%)
Gear 7 - 1.419 (+41.9%)
Gear 8 - 1.615 (+61.5%)

I found these specs online.  Sean says the SA range is 275% and the Nexus is 208%.  In any case...

Obviously the Shimano has more gears but less range between gears. The higher gears on both hubs are similar enough for my liking; my main focus is on the lower gears. I'm not too concerned with the higher gears as hill climbing is my main concern when it comes to riding. Calgary can get pretty hilly, and my house is apparently in one of the highest areas of the city. First gear is lower in the Shimano, but I figure I can always lower the gears in the SA if I find it necessary. If worse comes to worse, Sean says we can change the SA hub to an 8-speed one; however that would cost several hundred dollars as it requires rebuilding the rear wheel. So really - it's a wash, I think. The Shimano is nice, but it seems like the SA would also suit my needs and can be modified enough if things aren't quite right. The more important thing is the quality of the bike on which the hub sits.

Which brings me to my final consideration. The cost difference between the two would be about $500.  However, after adding extras to the Linus (lights, Brooks saddle, basket), the difference would be maybe around $250. Considering the environment in which I plan to eventually ride (snow, rain, salt on roads, etc.), I would prefer the more durable of the two, which to me is the PS. The quality of the Linus seems to be great, but the Pashley is better in my mind. If I got the Linus, I'm sure I would be very happy but part of me would wonder what it would be like to have the PS. For some reason, I don't think it would be the other way around. So for a few hundred dollars more, I think the PS is the better buy for me. Sean suggested I go with the PS because of its features, durability, and utility. I also came across this site that scrutinized the quality of the Linus. Don't get me wrong - I think Linus makes fantastic bikes, and their popularity is testament to that (a simple Google search reveals many, many positive reviews of their products). However, the PS just has so much going for it that I decided to take the plunge and order one up!

Keep in mind that I have never test-ridden the Linus - I was planning on doing this once BikeBike got their shipment in, but that probably won't be until March 2011. Seeing as how I have already weighed the pros and cons, I didn't feel it was necessary to wait for a test ride... Pashley it is!

I had a difficult time choosing a colour, but I finally settled on Regency Green. I do like Buckingham Black but with all the accessories on the PS, I thought the green was less "heavy" looking. Plus, I saw Lovely Bicycle's PS with cream Delta Cruisers and that was all I needed!

So now I am waiting for my bike.... I can't think of the last time I was this excited!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/10/10 Commuter Bike Clinic. Oh, and Vote Nenshi!

On Sunday, W and I attended the 10/10/10 Commuter Bike Clinic at Prince's Island Park organized by local groups promoting lessening your carbon footprint through cycle commuting (Transition CalgaryCalgary Commuter ChallengeArusha Centre, and The Good Life Community Bike Shop)! It was a great way to showcase the options available to Calgarians who are interested in cycle commuting; there was a tent set up with bus routes, bike path maps, and other tips on cycling.

I got a free bike tune-up:

People were test riding that contraption in the top right corner. W really wanted to try it out next; however, the driver returned with a bleeding nose so W decided it must not be worth it.

We learned how to use the Calgary Transit Bike Racks that are found on select bus routes. Here's the one they brought for people to try out:

First, you lower the rack:

Then you place your bike in the rack (direction will be indicated on the rack):

Finally, you pull the holder hook over the wheel as close to the frame as possible.

Calgary Transit has more details instructions here but I thought I would include W's demonstration as well.

The bike racks are easy enough to use. They can accommodate two bikes and are available on a first-come-first-served basis. They are currently available on only three routes, but Calgary Transit will be reassessing bike rack usage next year; hopefully they will be able to provide bike racks on more routes.

Afterwards we hung around Eau Claire.  Passed by the River Cafe:

It's surprising to me that we haven't eaten here before. It's a well-known and much-loved restaurant that specializes in regional cuisine. We would've liked to stop in for a bite but we weren't dressed appropriately.  So we ate fast food at Eau Claire instead! You don't need to see a photo of that.

And here are some snaps from the ride home....

Headed over the bridge back to Memorial Drive:

The controversial Peace Bridge:

Hanging out under the 14th St. bridge:

In other news, W and I took advantage of the advance polls for the municipal elections. I won't tell you who I voted for, but Yoshi judges you if you don't vote Nenshi:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Better Late Than Never... W's First Ride of the Year

W picked up his new Brodie Section.7 from BikeBike on Saturday. Here he is, riding it around the parking lot:

I was very excited to have a new cycling buddy so we decided to explore our neighbourhood a little. No city bike yet, so I rode my Trek.

This bridge connects our community to the next one over (which has a lot of amenities we need to get to - library, shopping plaza, restaurants, etc.). Beats riding on the main roads (Stoney Trail, Country Hills Blvd.), which are extremely busy and always full of impatient motorists. I've witnessed enough accidents on these roads that I'm quite happy there is an alternative!

Some of the views from the ride back - complete with my finger in the first shot.

I like cattails.

We were surprised at how easy it was to get to the shopping plaza. Normally it would take us 10-15 minutes to drive there. Cycling there would take us a little bit longer, maybe 20-25 minutes, but it's a nice ride (gradually downhill and very scenic). The ride back is obviously a little hilly but it feels good once you're done! I'll be even happier with the ride once I get my city bike. I found myself wanting a more upright position to take in the sights along the way. I already have the handlebars positioned relatively high on the Trek, but it still doesn't feel quite right. I'll get into more detail in a later post, but I'm really pining for a less rugged and more comfortable, functional bike. Speaking of which, BikeBike has apparently placed their Linus order. I'm not sure when they'll arrive, but I can't wait to try them out!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I just scored two skeins of Wollmeise Sock from my favourite online shop, The Loopy Ewe. I first heard about this yarn in 2008 when I became serious about knitting and signed up for Ravelry. I loved it for its deep, saturated, vibrant colours. I coveted it so badly but could never get a hold of it! As soon as it was posted for sale on any yarn site, it was sold out within minutes. I could never figure out how people were able to be in the right place at the right time. All I could imagine were hordes of weary-looking knitters sitting at their computers constantly refreshing until - lo and behold - the Wollmeise unicorn. One time I happened to be browsing the new items at TLE and there it was... but by the time I decided on a colour, everything was sold out. Not that I was dilly-dallying either; I probably took about 30 seconds before clicking 'Add to Cart' but it was too late. I suppose I could always purchase from ebay if I want to pay exorbitant amounts of money for yarn. There is a skein of laceweight with a current bid of $81 USD and almost two days remaining.

And then I figured it out - Twitter! TLE tweeted that they just added Wollmeise so I checked it out and there it was! My heart began to race. My palms were sweaty. Publisher's Clearing House could be at my door with 10 million dollars but they would have to wait until I got my Wollmeise. I found two shades of blue that looked pretty in the 2 seconds I allowed myself to linger so I added them to my cart and quickly checked out.  And right after that - sold out! Now I can add myself to the elite few who have fallen prey to simple supply/demand marketing. Am I a sucker? Who cares, look at this:

Wollmeise Sock in Aquarius

Wollmeise Sock in Sabrina

(Photos courtesy of

As you can probably tell, I love teal.

It seems like I'm making a big fuss over a minor purchase but this is a huge deal for me. I'm the type of person who researches the crap out of everything. Normally a yarn purchase involves extensive reading of reviews, analysis of photos (both of the yarn and of projects knitted up with the yarn), and price-comparison amongst yarn shops. I have pored over websites and blogs until cross-eyed trying to make a decision on which city bike I would get (and I still don't know but at least it's narrowed down to less than a handful). I recently had refractive eye surgery but it took me 3 years to research it and make a decision on who the surgeon would be, which formulation of natural tears I would use afterwards, etc. I will research a pack of gum before purchasing it. So for me to look at the yarn, add it to the cart, and purchase it all within 10 seconds - that's effing huge.

In other news, W is in Saskatoon. I am home in Calgary. We are both having bad food luck. He went to some bubble tea cafe and found the take-out menus. Tried to take one of said take-out menus so that he could peruse it and perhaps, crazily, take out some food later. Cafe Guy told him not to take a take-out menu. W asked how he is supposed to order without a menu. CG told him that people just phone with their order. W said he wouldn't know what to phone for without a menu. CG repeated that people just phone.  Conversation seems to have continued in this circular manner until W decided to leave - with the menu. Why have a stack of take-out menus if you don't want people to take them out?

Meanwhile, my dinner was supposed to be orecchiette with fresh tomato, basil, and bocconcini from a restaurant with multiple locations in Calgary. I had this dish a few weeks ago at the same restaurant, different location, and it was delicious. So I ordered it to go from another location today and was sorely disappointed.  About the only thing right was the orecchiette. Yes, there was fresh tomato but huge chunks of it - some pieces were almost a quarter of a tomato! And it was pretty much all parmesan cheese. I'm not even sure there was bocconcini. And instead of basil - cilantro! wtf. I love cilantro more than most people probably do, but in the appropriate cuisine. And when I'm expecting it. Cilantro is not a nice surprise when you're expecting basil. It's like drinking what you expect to be Coke but it's iced tea instead. Or steak but it's clenbuterol.  Although I'm a pescetarian so I must be clean.

I'm not a food snob but I think that was a fail on their part. I considered letting them know what I thought of the meal but I've decided to be apathetic instead. Wollmeise saved the day!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Test Rides - Electra Amsterdam & Pashley Poppy

I'm looking for a city bike. I do like my MTB (nothing fancy, a Trek 4100) but would like something more specifically for urban riding. I could equip the Trek to suit my needs, but then it wouldn't be as practical for the trails (and, frankly, I'd be too lazy to keep switching it up). What I'm looking for is something that I can ride to the grocery store but also explore the city - and eventually start commuting to work. I need to be able to wear "normal" clothes while riding, so things like fenders and chainguards are a must. It needs to be comfortable - not an overly-aggressive riding position. Speed isn't a priority but it does have to be maneuverable enough to tackle Calgary's streets and hills. And it needs to be attractive! I'm drawn to the style of European city bikes. But the main objective is comfort and practicality.

I started my search rather blindly, leaving it up to the bike shops to give me suggestions based on the above.  Bow Cycle has a good selection of Electras, and they pointed me in the direction of the Amsterdam. I test-rode the Alexander Girard 3i in "Madonna":

Forgive me for the picture quality. I took all this blog post's pics rather hastily, before I decided I would actually start blogging about the bike search.

I actually think this bike looks kinda cool but the novelty would definitely wear off quickly. I can appreciate the work of Girard but a little piece of me would die inside with every year over the age of 30 that I ride this bike. Plus, how to match your wardrobe?? If I were to get this bike, it would just be in a classic black.

In terms of the ride, it was decent - an enjoyable experience. The sales guy said that anyone who ever test rides an Electra returns with a smile on their face.... I did have fun riding this one. The upright position was certainly comfortable. The ride was smooth but not "zippy"; definitely for more casual riding.... which isn't a bad thing. It's nice to just relax and take in your surroundings! However, I found the bike quite "rattly". With every bump, there was a lot of noise. Didn't quite feel like it was falling apart, but it was a little bothersome. I don't know if it was just a matter of having to tighten things, but I'm looking for something sturdy enough that I wouldn't have to worry about that too much. I really liked that it has a rear rack, full chainguard, and skirtguard. Didn't care for the coaster brake - I like to be able to fiddle with pedal positions in order to get going again once I'm stopped. Gearing was smooth enough, but 3 speeds isn't enough for me.

This was basically the dealbreaker with the Electras. 3 speeds was not enough; the next model up is the 8i with (obviously) 8 speeds - which is great, but the price was not justifiable for me (can't remember exactly, but it was over $1200 I think). For a comparable price, I could get a Pashley, with (in my opinion) higher quality components and construction all around.

Thus took my search to BikeBike. Originally I wanted to try out a Batavus, but there was nothing that would suitably fit me (I'm 4'11")... so I tried out the Pashley Poppy instead. And I loved it. Well, mostly...

Beautifully crafted, great components, a wonderful bike. Riding it, I didn't notice its weight until I had to climb a hill. I did have to work harder to crest that hill than I normally would, but it was doable. Plus, as Sean (store owner) explained, the weight of the bike translates to forward momentum. I had no problem accelerating on this bike, and it was actually rather responsive. I had no problem lugging it up the few stairs back up to the bike shop. It had the upright seating position that I really like. And beautiful parts - Brooks saddle, chainguard, etc. However, I would have preferred the following:

  • Swept back handlebars vs. this bike's straighter handlebars
  • Full chaincase
  • Rear rack
  • More gearing options (Poppy only has 3 speeds)
And of lesser priority:
  • Skirt guard
  • Lights

Which led me to the Princess Sovereign. There were none in stock for me to try out, but apparently the ride would be very similar but with all of the above preferences (including a 5 speed hub). I love the Princess Sovereign's full chaincase, dynamo headlight, frame lock, etc. Not that those things are absolutely necessary, but how nice!!! She's an absolutely gorgeous bike. Lovely Bicycle and Girls and Bicycles both had excellent information for me to take into consideration.

Basically I'm in love with the PS. I'd be ready to throw down for her right now, but Sean is waiting for a shipment of Linus Bikes, which include Dutch and Mixte styles that have 8 speeds (new for this year). I love the romantic beauty of Pashleys, but I'm also drawn to the stylish simplicity of Linus. I'm interested to see how they ride, especially as they are lighter and have more gearing options. They apparently will also be less expensive, but this might not be significant once I add the accessories I want (e.g. Brooks saddle, basket, lights, maybe swap out the tires).

So I'm eagerly waiting to test ride the Linuses, then I'll decide. Now that I've committed to this blog, I'll take better (well, maybe not better but at least more) photos once they arrive. In the meantime, I've been drooling over the pictures in's flickr photostream.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This Weekend's Events... Ignorance. But also a New Bike for W!

Went to a barbecue yesterday hosted by W's coworker. Normally these things are fine, I guess, lots of small talk and discussing what everyone does for a living, how do you know the host, blah blah - until the booze catches up to everyone and you see their true colours and everyone plays Rock Band. But, every so often, I meet someone who reminds me why I love my cats so much - they can't talk. Their main expressions are generally of hunger or contempt. I can live with that.

Anyway, this girl at the barbecue kept going on and on about how she wished she could be a visible minority (namely black) because "they're just so much cooler and it sounds better when they say certain things". Right. I'm sure the North American minority population is so glad to have endured centuries of oppression followed by further cultural barriers to success, because it's all added up to being cool. Of course, W and I being Asian, we were irritated but I had to exercise restraint. Probably doesn't bode well for W if his wife turns into a crazy B at the company bbq. Same girl also said she thought for most of her life that Africa was a country "because, you know, Canada is, like, so big and so is Africa."

Enough of that, let's talk about bikes....

I'm waiting for BikeBike to get their shipment of Linus Bikes before I decide the bike I'm getting (more on that later). In the meantime, we figured it was time for W to also look into getting a bike  And not one from some department store - a decent bike. He isn't interested in serious commuting (Royal Oak to Canyon Meadows is a little too daunting at this stage) or riding crazy trails. What he wants is something we can hit the streets or paths with and haul some groceries around. And not too expensive.

Looked at a few options, but it came down to the Kona Dew and Brodie Section.7.

First up - the Kona:

Checked it out at Bow Cycle. FYI, Bow Cycle sells the Kona Bownesian, which is the same bike but with a custom red paint job for Bow Cycle.

I won't get into all the techie details. W said it was a nice ride, but he's also not too particular. He says "a bike is a bike" and is really only foregoing the department store bikes because I insist he'd be sorry later. Anyway, he found it easier to accelerate with, and it had more gears (although he doesn't think he really needs that much gearing). Riding position was slightly more aggressive than on the Brodie. Wasn't a fan of the derailleurs and rim brakes solely on account of the maintenance required, which really isn't that bad anyway, but maintenance is a factor for W. Also, his pants kept getting caught in the chainring. I suppose he could wear one of those pant-tie-thingies so it's not really that big of a deal.

Next was the Brodie:

This one was at BikeBike. I really like this store. They carry products for "everyday cycling" - commuting, riding the pathways, running errands, etc. You won't find mountain bikes or crazy carbon-fibre road bikes here. As far as I know, they are the only retailer in Calgary that carries Batavus and Pashley - two manufacturers I admire. They also have an impressive selection of accessories, such as those from Basil - I'm a sucker for stylish and functional accessories.

Back to the Brodie.... Riding position was more comfortable, although it took slightly longer to accelerate on this bike. It has 7 gears, which is enough for the riding that W plans on doing. We liked the internal hub gearing and the front disc/rear roller brakes - less maintenance. Plus, W thought it looked nicer - say what you will, looks are important to us.

So the main deciding factors were comfort, maintenance, and appearance. Both bikes were of similar price, with the Brodie being slightly more expensive (although less so than it normally would be, because it was also on sale). Based on the above, W decided to go with the Brodie. No modifications except for the addition of a rear rack. W's going to be away on business this week so we'll pick it up on Saturday.

Our community is a 10 minute walk to the business plaza (grocery, drug store, bank, etc.), yet everyone drives their car there. Now we have another option for going out and running errands.

This whole experience was fantastic - W started the day generally indifferent to the idea of purchasing a bike and getting into riding. Now he's talking to other bike enthusiast friends and planning the routes we're going to explore once he picks up his bike. He's been bitten by the bug....

As for me, I'm looking for something to replace my mountain bike as my day-to-day bike. Like I said above, I'm looking at Linuses but have also been seriously considering a Pashley. Next blog post will be about my own bike search.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm on teh interwebz!

Wow, I have a blog.

I guess my intention is to have a little space of my own to document my thoughts, ideas, and important things in my life - mainly my creative endeavors and efforts to get around on two wheels rather than four.

I've only recently started considering cycling as a primary mode of transportation (instead of purely recreation), so I'm shopping for a comfy city bike and working on developing legs of steel to get me up Calgary's hills. Having always been so reliant on my car - especially since I live in the 'burbs - this is going to be a long process but I'm very excited! I'm going to get fit, have fun, save $$, and do my small part for the environment. OK, maybe bike shopping doesn't translate to saving $$ right now but it will in the long run, right? I don't think I will be able to completely forego the car but I would like to integrate cycling into my life as much as possible.

I also knit, but that seems to be taking a back seat to the bike search. My Tea Leaves Cardigan is begging to be finished but I need a beautiful bike on which to wear it!

Well, that's a start. More to follow as the bike search continues...