Cycling in Sydney Australia
This comes to you about a 8 weeks later than I anticipated thanks to a dooring in mid-November that left with me with a broken 5th metacarpal in my left hand and sore arm. So it took a couple of months longer to reach the 20,000 milestone. I also had a broken wrist earlier in the year which put a dent in reaching the milestone sooner or making it closer to 24,000.
So its been over 3 years since I took delivery of my Kona DrFine with 8 speed Alfine rear hub and started commuting from Balgowlah to the CBD each day.
Servicing and replacement part costs now exceed purchase price at around $1800. But at an average of about $600 pa it’s still significantly cheaper than public transport ($1,500-$3,500 per year depending on what mode) or registering and maintaining motor vehicles which I still do on two cars unfortunately.
As any of you Mtn bikers will testify hydraulic disc brakes are very good in all conditions. However, when you ride 150kms plus a week (as opposed a 20-50kms every 2nd weekend Mountain Biking) you really can chew through the standard Shimano pads at $25 a set. A few wet commutes speeds up the wear dramatically. Worse still I seem to be at the pads last millimetre the same day I have to ride home in torrential rain. The solution is the generic brand pads which don’t work as well overall but don’t wear out anywhere near as quickly. Other than some minor adjustment as they wear the hydraulic disc brakes are maintenance free (ie no need to replace cables etc)
Have gone through a set of spokes (started breaking recently around the 18-19k mark) on both wheels.
No punctures. Have gone through a couple of sets of tyres (rears 3 or 4, fronts 2) . Started out on Contacts and now run Swabe Marathons which are OK.
On the Alfine 8spd internally geared hub…
I’ve had no problems with the hub. And I mean none at all. No, failures, no fine tuning, no slipping. My 14k each way commute includes plenty of hills and I do a lot of grinding up them. During all the rain we had last year I often rode the hub (and brakes) through massive puddles and flooded gutters etc. If something did go wrong now I’d be Ok with it after all this time.
I do appear to go through a lot of bottom brackets possibly due to the load caused by the IGH. Must have gone through a few now, I’ve lost count. Have also gone through two replacement drivetrains. The 2nd was recently and I took the opportunity to replace the 45t chain ring/20t cog with a 39/18 theorising that would be better on my commute (see further comment below).
I love that its maintenance free, smooth, accurate and that I can change down on the spot at lights or half way up a hill.
However, I’m still not 100% sure I’d buy another IGH bike, despite the temptation of the new 11 speed, for a couple reasons.
One is that its heavy. Not just the hub itself but the frame seems to require some heft in the rear stay triangle and drop out system (which if anything seems over engineered compared to some others I have seen).
The second is either gearing and/or the inefficiency of these hubs exacerbated by the additional weight. Despite 3 years solid riding, (41 yo with an average weight 76kg at 5’11” tall) my commute doesn’t seem to be getting considerably easier. I’m sure I am much fitter, especially the cardiovascular, but the energy levels to keep the legs pumping sometimes just aren’t there. The extra weight, the gear range, drivetrain combo and possibly any inefficiency of the IGH system make it seemingly difficult to keep the pace up hills.
It’s not too bad on typical suburban streets where I seem to keep up the pace with the majority of other riders but the minute I hit a steep hill I either have to drop right back to the granny gear and crawl up in the seat or go for 2nd and 3rd and grind all the way. I rarely keep up with anyone on a road bike up a hill and even a soft tailed fully treaded MTN bikers can out ride me spinning up the hills in their seat.
There’s only two guys on my commute with IGH that overtake me. One has a very nice custom Salsa with a Ruholf and the other on a Charge Mixer (which I considered over the Kona). The former has legs like a tree trunk, as well as the extra gearing of the Ruholf, and the latter I can sometimes keep with depending on the day. So meekly I hypothesize they are either the only ones on my commute with IGH or any others ride at a similar pace to me and so we never meet.
The swap to 39t chain ring was highly anticipated. I was expecting that I could spin more up the hills. Instead all its done is reduce my top end so I spin out earlier downhill, which is fine, but it doesn’t feel like its achieved anything at the low end when going up the bigger hills. There might be a slight benefit on the minor inclines of my commute as I seem to be using 5th 6th and 7th more than I used to but that was never an issue for me. I’ll stick with the 39 for now but may look to going back up a couple of teeth on the rear cog. I’d love to try the new 11 spd to see if give me the extra gear I am looking for.
On commuting gear
Lights. Now run Light motion Urban 550 lumen. Plenty bright, USB chargeable and the whole assembly comes off the using a stretch strap clamp arrangement so you can take it with you or swap between bikes. I use USB rechargeable bomb on the back.
I like GroundEffects gear.
Recently bought a Frosty Boy for winter and if anything it was too warm some days. FlashGordon is Ok in the wet but will still soak through the arms in 30 minutes of heavy rain.
I like Skins as they don’t pinch anywhere and my seats is that scant that I need padding.
GroundEffects HelterSkelters are perfect with Skins underneath.
Last winter, on the advice of many SC members, I got some SealSkinz socks which revolutionised my wet winter commutes. They don’t exactly keep your feet from getting wet as promised but they do keep them a lot warmer with a pair of regular socks underneath. They also dry out well and I can put them on still wet over a pair of dry regular socks.
Ronstan sailing gloves have proved to be the go with some $2 shop nylon gardening gloves underneath when it’s raining.
My knees, back and shoulders have experienced aches and pains when I started commuting. Things came to ahead when I hurt my back badly playing tennis. Started doing Yoga on the advice of my Osteo and my partner. Haven’t looked back since.
So here's to another 20,000 kms, unless of course I get an Alfine 11 speed......