Among rim brakes, my favorites have always been high profile cantilevers. I cut my teeth on this style of canti back in the early days of mountain biking. Sure, they can interfere with some panniers, and heel clearance can be an issue with certain combinations of bike/rider, but there’s no other style of rim brake that performs so well while also providing nearly limitless clearance for tires and fenders.
The Paul Neo-Retro is a modernized — and much improved — copy of the classic Mafac “Tandem” high-profile cantilever produced in France up until the early 1980’s. The geometry of the Neo-Retro closely matches the Mafac, but it’s been totally updated with adjustable V-brake style pads; sealed, stainless steel pivots; self-contained springs; and, a simple, but effective spring adjustment mechanism.
These are high performance brakes. Powerful, crisp, snappy, and with excellent modulation; the best cantis I’ve ever used. This particular set replaced the already very nice Tektro CR720s on my Rivendell. The Pauls are a clear step up in performance, quality, looks, and ease of use.
Like all Paul components, these brakes are made in their small shop in Chico, CA, USA, using only the highest quality materials. You absolutely will not find brakes with a better fit and finish; if you’re a canti devotee, these are as good as it gets.
Paul Component Engineering →
The Velocity Dyad is a tough, no frills, 700c commuting/touring/tandem rim available in 32, 36, 40, and 48 spokes, with or without machined sidewalls. At 24mm, it’s slightly wider than your typical touring rim. The Velocity Synergy looks more traditional with its boxy cross-section, but the Dyad’s V-shaped cross-section makes the rim stronger and eliminates the need for eyelets. The 36-hole version properly laced to any decent hub makes a bomb-proof commuting wheel.
Besides being available in the usual silver and black, the 32H and 36H Dyad is available in what is called a “Halo” reflective finish. Here’s a description from Halo Coatings:
Halo is leading the retro-reflective industry with their patented, innovative powder coating that is unmatched in its luminosity and brightness. Halo has developed and commercialized the world’s first and only retro-reflective powder coating. It is extremely durable, cost effective and looks great by day. At night, the coating protects people and objects with over 1,000 feet of bright, incandescent, and life-saving visibility.
Microscopic glass particles that reflect light are embedded in the powder coat. During the day the rim looks gun metal gray, but at night it lights up when struck by a headlight beam. The nighttime benefits on a non-machined disc rim are obvious, but even on a Dyad with machined sidewalls, a fair amount of reflective material remains visible due to the rim’s V-shaped profile. It’s a cool technology.
Bead seat diameter: 622
ERD = 596
Velocity USA →
Michael had a birthday and the Birthday Bunny brought her a Po Campo Loop Pannier with a floral print that nicely matches her Betty Foy.
For those who aren’t already familiar with them, Po Campo bike bags are designed by women, for women, and handmade in Chicago, IL.
Po Campo bags are smartly designed and beautifully appointed, with zero compromises made in quality or construction. They’re a bit pricey, but worth every penny.
Po Campo →
We gave up plastic water bottles in 2008. We were at least mildly concerned about BPA, but mostly we were tired of foul tasting water and excited to finally have a few reasonably priced alternatives in stainless steel.
We’ve been very happy with Klean Kanteens; they’re easy to clean, tough as nails (the bottle pictured here has been in daily use since 2008), and they don’t contaminate water. The only issue that we ran into is that they rattle in some bottle cages.
People have come up with a number of ways to silence rattling bottles including wrapping the bottle with twine, covering the bottle with a sleeve made of leather or neoprene, or even sewing leather sleeves onto the cage itself. All of these solutions work fine, but we’ve been searching for the perfect cage that doesn’t require any modifications.
Synthetic cages are quiet and inexpensive, though they leave something to be desired aesthetically, and they can be fragile in cold weather. I had decent luck with a Profile Design nylon “Kage”, and Klean Kanteen offers a polypropylene cage specifically for their bottles.
Our current favorite cage for holding stainless bottles is the Iris from King Cage. The Iris is made in Durango, CO from tubular stainless steel. It’s a pretty, but stout, cage that silently carries either the 18oz or 27oz Klean Kanteen stainless bottles. Velo Orange sells a similar cage that I haven’t yet tried, but I’m guessing it too will perform well with stainless bottles.
- 48 grams
- 304 Stainless steel tubing
- Made in the USA
King Cage →
We’re big fans of MKS pedals. They’re well-made, reasonably priced, and they’re offered in a wide variety of traditional and modern designs. Three of our favorite models are described below.
MKS Lambda (aka Grip King)
Lambda (aka “Grip King”)
The MKS Lambda (also known as the Rivendell “Grip King”) has a long but narrow platform. The extra length front-to-rear (118mm) provides excellent support for use with soft-soled street shoes, and the narrow width provides tons of cornering clearance. The Grip King lives up to its name when dry, but I’ve found it to be somewhat slippery when wet. While I appreciate the generous cornering clearance provided by the relatively narrow body, I personally prefer a pedal with a slightly wider platform.
- Cage Dimensions (width x length): 78mm x 118mm
- Width from Crank Arm to Outer Edge: 98mm
- Weight: 420 g
- Price: $54
MKS Sylvan Touring
The Sylvan Touring has been my favorite pedal for many years. I usually have 4-5 pair around to throw on whatever bike needs a set of pedals. It’s what many call a “Rat Trap” design that looks a lot like the old Campagnolo touring pedal. The Sylvan Touring is wider than the Grip King, but shorter front-to-rear. I like the fact that I can feel the pedal through my shoes (I often ride with Keen walking sandals), though some people find this causes foot pain. The wider platform reduces cornering clearance but feels more secure than the narrower Grip King under my foot. The Sylvan Touring is a steal at under $30 a pair.
- Cage Dimensions (width x length): 93mm x 63mm
- Width from Crank Arm to Outer Edge: 115mm
- Weight: 360 g
- Price: $27
MKS Touring Lite
The Touring Lite is MKS’ deluxe version of the Sylvan Touring. It’s lighter while providing slightly more grip and support. I’ve been told that the Touring Lite uses upgraded bearings from the Sylvan and it does seem to run smoother. Because the pedal spindle is narrower than the Sylvan’s and there’s no outside cage, I sometimes have trouble feeling the outer edge of this pedal. I still like it enough to use it on my daily commuter.
- Cage Dimensions (width x length): 93mm x 70mm
- Width from Crank Arm to Outer Edge: 105mm
- Weight: 320 g
- Price: $56
All of the above pedals use standard 9/16” chromoly spindles and aluminum bodies.
Tubus makes just about the toughest racks out there. For transpo riders who regularly carry a lot of weight on their bikes, Tubus racks are hard to beat. Unlike many less expensive racks on the market, Tubus racks are either brazed chromoly, welded stainless, or welded titanium. This nearly doubles their weight bearing capacity over most aluminum racks, while allowing Tubus to provide a full 30 year warranty.
My personal favorite Tubus rack is the Logo. As you can see in the top photo, the pannier mounting rail on the Logo is placed down and back from the main rack. This carries the load lower and further to the rear which is ideal for commuting bikes, many of which don’t have the heel clearance of touring bikes with their ultra-long chainstays. It also keeps the center of gravity low when running briefcase-style panniers that often ride a little high on standard racks.
At around $120, the Logo’s not cheap, but as a primary carrying device on a bike used as a car replacement it’s a great long-term investment. Highly recommended.
Weight: 1.65 lbs.
Maximum Capacity: 88 lbs.
Price: Approximately $120
Bromptons come stock from the factory with small, hard plastic rollers mounted to the rear triangle for rolling the bike when folded (the “R” models have a second set on the rack). While these tiny rollers work reasonably well on smooth surfaces, they leave something to be desired on rough surfaces. Fortunately, Bromptom offers higher quality rollers called Eazy Wheels as an upgrade. Eazy Wheels are larger diameter than the stock rollers, they have rubber “tires” mounted over hard plastic inner rims, and they use sealed cartridge bearings in place of the stock bushings. They make rolling the bike as a cart much easier, and they add to the stability of the bike when parked. Of all the accessories one could purchase for their Brompton, at $24 for the set, these pack the most punch for the dollar. Now if they’d only do away with the plastic rollers altogether and include Eazy Wheels as a stock item…
[I bought my Eazy Wheels at NYCeWheels. NYCeWheels is a sponsor of this website.]