Self Image and Sloping Top Tubes

Betty Foy and Detour Deluxe

Mixtes were traditionally known as “women’s” or “girls” bikes, the concept being a low top tube is more well-suited to riding and mounting/dismounting in a skirt. As that stereotype has begun to fade in recent years, more gender-neutral frame designs with low-slung top tubes are showing up. Two examples that come to mind are the Rivendell Yves Gomez and the Civia Loring. When I was a kid, a boy wouldn’t be caught dead on a “girls” frame, but these days, more people of both genders are appreciating the ease of use step-through frames provide.

Ironically, some of the most “macho” frames out there have steeply sloping top tubes and nearly qualify as “step-through”. I’m thinking of modern mountain bike frames and some compact road frames. These frames differ from traditional step-throughs in that they don’t have the seat tube that extends vertically above the sloping top tube (thus requiring extremely long seat posts), but otherwise the top tubes can be nearly as low as on some mixtes.

Take a look at the photo above. I think it’s interesting that these designs are fairly similar, yet because they come from different lineages our perceptions of them are so different. The Raleigh on the right is clearly gender neutral, yet the mixte is clearly a “woman’s” bike. Of course, the way they’re outfitted plays a big part in this case; the pale blue paint and wicker basket exude a definite feminine vibe, whereas the silver and black motif of the Raleigh is more “manly”.

Rivendell came up against this self-image issue frequently enough that they took their Betty Foy mixte, painted it black, and renamed it the “Yves Gomez” for those men who wanted a step-through but didn’t feel comfortable riding what they perceived to be a woman’s bike. I have to admit, if I was going to buy a Betty for myself, I’d probably go with the Yves version instead. That’s probably a reflection of my own insecurities more than anything… LOL.

Loring Lens Test

A bike that does a great job of blurring the line between what is traditionally thought of as a woman’s bike and a man’s bike is the Civia Loring (above). The top tube just slightly swoops, and it’s just barely low enough to step over, yet the bike doesn’t clearly say “girl’s bike” or “boy’s bike”. The 2012 Gotham from Novara (below) does the same thing with its mixte-ish top tube and black paint. I think these designs are subtle and genius, and I really appreciate the fact that they so successfully mix up and mess with the old streotypes.

Novara Gotham

Tuesday Morning Commute: After the Storm

Tuesday Morning Commute

Selle An-Atomica Titanico X

Saddle Comparison

Selle An-Atomica, makers of my personal favorite saddle, are coming out with a new model for riders over 200 lbs. From S-A:

You asked and we heard you. Selle An-Atomica Titanico X is the saddle for riders over 200 pounds. Less stretch, more comfort. A limited beta test of Titanico X is being performed prior to wide release. To apply to be a beta tester please fill out an application. The application deadline is Monday October 17th.

Prior to the saddles being widely released, S-A is offering a limited number for beta testing. If you’ve ever wondered about these unique saddles, here’s your opportunity to give one a try.

Selle An-Atomica
Beta Test Application

Chain Waxing 101

Waxed Drivetrain

We receive a surprising number of inquiries regarding chain waxing, so we pulled together the links to our articles to (hopefully) clear up any lingering questions on the subject.

Click, Click, Click

We’ve all experienced annoying little clicks and creaks on our bikes. You know, like the kind that happen each time the crank comes over the top at 2 o’clock. I often hear people talk about tightening crank arms and checking bottom brackets when this happens, but odds are it’s a pedal. See, many of the pedals we commuters use, particularly those such as the low-end models from Shimano or the touring pedals from MKS, contain the cheapest bearings on our bikes. They’re the most likely to run rough, and they’re also the most likely to click and creak. If you find one of your pedals making noise, it’s usually a simple matter of disassembling the pedal, cleaning, and re-packing with Phil (be careful to make note of how it came apart and don’t lose any ball bearings). The MKS pedals are particularly simple to overhaul, one among many reasons I prefer them over Shimano pedals, some of which require special tools to adjust.

Gov. Brown Vetoes the 3-Foot Passing Law

More at the CBC Facebook page

Gallery: Alan Goswell’s Carrera Subway

Alan Goswell's Carrera Subway
Alan Goswell's Carrera Subway

After retiring I was diagnosed with diabetes, and took up cycling, after a pause of 50 years to beat it. I became interested in cycle touring. I toured the Scottish Outer and Inner Hebrides and the Scottish highlands on an old Dawes Galaxy and a smooth tyred MTB. But I wanted something better.

Being a pensioner on a limited income meant I could not afford a big name purpose built touring bike. But I noticed that the English bike shop chain Halfords had a solid looking quality commuter bike for £300 ($480) that seemed as if it could be a good basis for a tourer. The Carrera Subway had a strong aluminium frame, 26″ wheels, a 24 ratio SRAM gear train giving a spread of 18″ to 92″ ideal for fully loaded touring. It had cable operated Tektro disc brakes, and on trying it, the frame geometry suited me perfectly. Adding mudguards (fenders?), a Topeak disc rack, Panaracer Pasela tyres and bottle cages was simple.

For my first tour on it I did 500 miles around Brittany France, including 100 miles on rough canal towpaths. I ride this bike most days in the Chiltern Hills 40 miles west of London and often take it for day tours to scenic places like the hilly Cotswolds, full of quaint villages of honey coloured stone houses , and the New Forest, the hunting ground of Tudor monarchs.

This year, I had saved up £250 and added butterfly bars, a Brooks Flyer saddle and replaced the no name wheels with handbuilt 36 spoke, Deore hubbed, Rigida Grizzlys fitted with a Shimano dynamo hub on the front to charge my smartphone. Later the bike took me on a camping tour of Normandy France including the D Day Invasion Beaches.

In all the bike has only cost me £700 ($1120), half or less of what a ready built high quality tourer costs. It weighs a hefty 34lbs all up, but its rock solid loaded and fantastically stable. I created a comfortable versatile rugged tourer and fitness bike that’s at home on tarmac or track at a bargain price.

I am very happy. You don’t have to pay a fortune for a decent bike, just use your nut!

South Oxfordshire

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