Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Varsity Tech n' Spec:

The Varsity weighs in at 26.5 lbs as delivered, at least from a double-weighing on my bathroom scale. By contrast, my Force-and-Rival mix, Eurus-wheel equipped DBR race bike weighs 16.5.

SIZE: You can get this bike in any size, as long as it is a 56. The top tube C-C is 55 or so, but it's just a bit below the "virtual top tube" of about a 56. It's not a compact. Stem is a 110mm actual length, 100mm or so reach because of a steep rise.

The polished aluminum finish is pretty decent, though the "carbon-fiber-look" stickers are cheezy. Know what else is cheezy? The quick release. Not, quick releases -- the rear wheel is bolt-on. If they're going to make you carry a wrench...

The welds are predictably atrocious. It looks like a 5 year old missed with a hot glue gun, and then that was painted over. Okay, I was wrong, there is another quick release: on the seatpost.

It's got a double crank, which is a funny throwback to the "10-speed" road-racing STYLE bikes of "the day," whenever those were around -- it was before my time. To complete the retro style, I guess, chainrings are 52 / 42.

7-speed shifters are mounted near the stem, and they are large, plastic rocker paddles. It's pretty easy to flick them with your thumb, if you are riding on the flats, but from the drops it is impossible to do.

Other features include:

* 52 / 42 cranks, 170mm alloy crankarms (labeled!), square-taper BB -- no branding on these

* Shimano no-series front and rear derailleurs, 7-speed shifters. I haven't determined if it's got a cassette or freewheel yet -- I've never owned a freewheel bike! Gearing is wide-spaced touring gearing: 14-16-18-20-22-24-28. For reference, 42 / 28 is identical gearing to 39 / 26.

* KMC chain, labeled "Z6-C" narrow. Since 10-speed KMC chains are "DX10", etc, I wonder, is this a "narrow" chain meant for 6-speeds?

* Promax dual-pivot brakes (with non-cartridge pads using non-allen nuts-and-bolts for pad installation)

* Wheels: Joytech hubs have a lot of seal drag. 36 stainless steel spokes on "weinmann" labeled (made in china) low-profile rims. Factory true is okay for machine built wheels. 700 x 25C Inova tires.

* A kickstand!

"It's a modern road bike," at least. When I compared this bike to the "GMC Denali" at Walmart, a few things stood out: The Denali had Schraeder valves, a threaded headset, 28mm tires, and spooky 60's-looking centerpull brakes. The Varsity had 25mm tires, a threadless headset (I think it's 1"), modern sidepull dualpivot brakes, 25 mm tires and presta valves, etc.

Other notes:

The pedal axles are the modern, standard diameter. I will be putting some clipless pedals on it shortly. I may soldier on with the stock saddle for a week or two, but I will probably end up putting my own Concour or the like on there to make things tolerable.

The fork rides like a brick. Ka-thump. Fork has fender eylets, and plenty of space, but the rear triangle is not drilled for racks or fenders. Combined with the lowest gear being pretty sporting -- for a casual recreational rider -- this is definitely a single-purpose road bike, not a great call for all-around touring / commuting / etc. I might consider trying a carbon fork I have in a box, just to see what difference that makes, but the main test is "run what you brung."

Build Quality from the store was not only terrible, but downright dangerous. The rear brake was adjusted fairly close to properly; I'm guessing the builder made this one work. The front brake, though, was funny, because at full squeeze the pads did not even contact the rim. The stem was pointed pretty seriously off-angle from the front wheel; I'd say about 15 degrees. The front wheel QR was barely tight enough to keep the wheel on (I guess that's why there are lawyer tabs,) and both retention springs were installed on one side of the wheel. When you pressed the shifters, rather than shifting, the whole clamp that the shifter assembly was mounted to would instead rotate about the stem -- that's how bad they were. Several scratches in the polished finish from tools during building.

Any other questions?


  • At 7:31 PM , Blogger josh said...

    could i see some pics of the hubs per chance?

    diggin the reports so far, let us know how you fair if you take it to tuesday worlds


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