“Marianne” is a 1981 Motobecane Mirage mixte, 12 speed, with original Weinmann and Suntour components. This is a fairy lightweight and sporty bicycle, and the first road bike I have ever ridden. It is definitely a new experience for one who is accustomed to upright bikes.
I found Marianne last month and have just finished giving her a make-over. She is now a very special, personalised bicycle, and I absolutely love her.
The tires are 27 x 1 1/4″ Panaracer Pasela Tourguards. I chose these because they combine puncture resistance with the nice vintage look of amber walls. The fenders are fluted Honjos, which are extra-long and have beautiful art deco detailing. I replaced the original vinyl saddle with a Brooks Flyer Special — an excellent saddle for riding with drop bars. The rear rack is a Pletcher that came with the bicycle originally. The Carradice Barley saddlebag is secured both to the saddle loops and to the rear rack, because I like for my bags to lie horizontally. This bag is great, because I can reach into the side pockets to grab small objects (like mobile-phone and camera) while remaining on the saddle.
The front light is a very retro-looking Low Rider Bullet Headlight by SunLite. In the rear I have attached a CatEye TL-LD1100 (not pictured).
After some deliberation, I decided to keep the drop bars, if only for the novelty of the experience. I removed the original rubberised wraps and wrapped the bars with Cinelli cork tape in “celeste”, which I then treated with amber shellac to turn into an organic-looking olive green. The tape is secured with shellacked cooking twine. I installed a small Japanese brass bell with a “watch-winder” ringer. And finally, the flowers in front of the handlebars are faux cherry blossoms that I picked up at a craft store.
“Marianne” gets lots of looks and smiles when we go out; I think mostly because of the flower arrangement and the enormous headlight! Time will tell what place Marianne will ultimately occupy, but the plan is to use her for transportation around town as a sportier alternative to my Pashley Princess, as well as on trail rides where I want to experiment with speed. I will admit that riding a roadbike is challenging for me, but it’s a fun kind of challenge and having a bicycle that is truly personalised is a great motivator!
Most people don’t give much thought to tubes – I know I didn’t for many years. What I typically did was walk into a shop, ask for the cheapest tube to fit a particular tire size, and leave it at that. But then one time I accidentally ended up with a premium tube from Schwalbe and I was amazed to find there are major functional differences between generic tubes and the more expensive Schwalbe tubes. Following are a few of their advantages:
They hold air far longer (a BIG deal for daily commuters)
Their stems fit Silca pump heads nicely
They have a stepped valve stem washer that can be flipped over to fit either Presta or Schraeder rim holes
They have removable presta valves for inserting puncture sealant
They come with nifty clear valve caps (just cool looking)
And Schwalbe offers what may be the best selection of sizes on the market
I haven’t tried other premium brands, mostly because I’ve been so pleased with Schwalbe tubes, but I’m guessing other premium tubes offer some of the same advantages I’ve found with Schwalbes.
I run the Schwalbe SV17 on all of my bikes. The quality and fit of these tubes is so good, stem tears and abrasion flats have been non-existent since switching a few years ago. I used to think a tube was just a tube, but this is a nice product that’s definitely worth the extra expense.
If you dropped in at just about any time, we’d have at least one new bike in the works, a few bikes in-house for personal use and/or review, and a bike or two on-deck waiting to be shipped to a new home. This steady flow of bikes through the EcoVelo headquarters provides a source of fresh material for the blog while also broadening our perspective, which hopefully, improves our skills as hands-on bike reviewers.
Some of the bikes we review belong to us, others are on loan for that purpose or some other. We’ve been fortunate in that nearly all of the bikes we’ve ridden over the past few years (going back to and including those we reviewed on RB) have been excellent bikes for their intended purposes. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that properly matching a particular bike (with its unique set of strengths and weaknesses) to a particular rider (with his or her unique set of requirements) is more important than any technical differences between competing models. A rider who delivers lumber on a bicycle has completely different needs than a rider who commutes 30 miles on an off-street bike path, and their differing needs dictate the use of different tools.
Many of our bike purchases have been more about learning something than about finding some ideal bicycle. What’s it like to ride a long wheelbase recumbent in city traffic? How does an IGH compare to a traditional triple/derailleur drivetrain for daily commuting? Can a bike designed for long distance touring be successfully modified to be used as a utility bike in urban settings? How does a traditional roadster interface with public transit? Did the bike designer meet his goals and does the bike serve its intended purpose? Often, once the questions are answered, the bikes are ready to move on to a more permanent home. Some linger longer if they happen to fit our needs. Others don’t last long, not because they aren’t good bikes, but because they may not fit our needs at that time.
All of this was an extremely long-winded way of saying we have a bike for sale. Our Pashley Roadster Sovereign is now on consignment at Gold Country Cyclery in Shingle Springs, CA. The asking price is $1,100 and it’s being offered for local sale only. The bike is in like-new condition. If you have questions about the bike, feel free to ask in the comments or send an e-mail.
I’m stating the obvious here, but finding the right saddle is very important for rider comfort. Every person is different, so it can take some experimentation to find a good fit. You know you have a good fit when your weight is supported by your ischial tuberosities, or what are called “sit bones”, and little to no pressure is placed on the soft tissues between the bones. We’re naturally accustomed to supporting our weight on our sit bones, so it only makes sense to do so when we’re on our bicycles.
The goal is to identify the saddle that works best for your physique, on a particular bike, with a particular build.
Handlebar height in relation to saddle height affects saddle fit. As a general rule, the higher the handlebars in relation to the saddle, the wider the saddle needs to be. High bars place the rider in an upright position, rolling back the hips and placing more weight on the wider portion of the sit bones. Low bars place the rider in a forward leaning position, moving the pressure points to the narrower, front portion of the sit bones. A wide saddle combined with low handlebars is likely to cause chafing between the thighs, while a narrow saddle combined with high bars is likely to place too much pressure on the soft tissues between the sit bones.
I wish I could say there’s a simple method for finding the perfect saddle. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that a fair amount of expensive trial-and-error is required. Even among the bikes I ride on a regular basis, each requires a different saddle. For example, the Brooks B67 that works so well on my Surly set-up with North Road bars doesn’t work well at all on my Civia with its lower flat bar, and conversely, the Selle An-Atomica that is so plush on my Civia is too narrow (for me) on my Surly.
The goal is to identify the saddle that works best for your physique, on a particular bike, with a particular build. Taking into consideration the relationship between saddle height and handlebar height will get you there quicker and greatly simplify the search, saving you time, money, and maybe even some discomfort in the process.