Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

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

Friday, July 17, 2009

Long-term review of Clubman ; Sneak Peak of 2010 version:

I've been rolling my Clubman for almost a full six months now, and it's carried me through nearly seven thousand miles.

That's, well, quite a lot of miles, when I really think of it; I think long enough to give you the rest of my thoughts on the machine. You can read my initial observations here:

In sum: Yeah, I'm into this bike. Enough that I'm thinking about trading it in for the new 2010 when it comes out. Yes, of course, the steel frame will last a LONG time, but check out this sneak peek of some of the twen-ten road steel family. I'm digging color-matched steel fenders, especially since I've broken three plastic ones on the rough roads of Tacoma, WA.

(that's the Sojourn, One-Way, and Clubman, top to bottom)

I was happy to hear I wasn't the only one with a few suggestions about color and shape -- check out the silver bits, traditional dropped handlebars, and bartape -- it's a much more complete-looking bike, and it makes the modern 1 1/8" threadless headset look a lot sleeker.

I've taken it on a couple of fast group rides as well as my commutes, and once it's up there, it's got no problem taking pulls with the rest, although I do feel the added weight getting it up to speed. When it gets to the twisties I can feel a few numbers: compared with my Team Carbon race bike, it has almost 20mm longer chainstays, 5mm less fork offset, 1 degree slacker head angle (72.5 versus 73.5 degrees).

The result of all of this is that the Clubman is smooth, comfortable, and predictable, where the Team is responsive, fast, stiff, and nimble. Overall, the Clubman is your old best friend, the one you've grown up around, spent so much time hanging out with that nothing they do really surprises you any more.

After trying a commute on my race bike, I suddenly appreciated the Clubman more: all of the potholes, ruts, gravel sections, bricks, and crumbling asphalt that grace Tacoma's streets turned against me me. My wrists and back felt it at the end of the day. I had to pay a lot more attention to where my front wheel was going, so there was less relaxing and looking out at the water.

For about a thousand, I think this thing is a great value. The Tiagra shifters don't have the level of positive feel and no-effort click that Dura-Ace does, but they've done the job just fine. If you'd rather dispense with those, Clubmans come with both downtube shifter bosses and forward facing, semi-horizontal dropouts, so you can run this sucker single, fixed, or traditional.

Also, though few people know it: Shimano DOES produce SL-7900, indexed, 10-speed downtube shifters, and they did make SL-7700 9-speed downtube ones. If you've ever tried to friction shift through 9- and 10-speed systems, it's pretty finicky.

One note about those dropouts, though: it's possible for the wheel to move front-to-back within them, so it's also possible to pull the wheel off-center. The stock wheelset includes open-cam quick releases (image to follow), which don't provide nearly as much clamping force as a conventional, closed cam skewer. (image to follow). I ended up having my wheel move about in the dropouts on fairly steep, big-ring climbs, so I switched to a Dura-Ace skewer I had on hand. You can use anything, though -- Shimano sells XT ones separately -- but I still wish the bike had included this style of quick release.

People ask me about weight fairly often. That seems like a silly question to me on this sort of bike, but, if you want a general answer, I'd say "mid-twenties." I weighed my 57cm in at 25 pounds, 3 ounces -- that's with bottle cages, pedals, and fenders. Keep in mind that you're looking at well over a pound for a Brooks leather saddle, and it has tough, wire-bead tires.

Some bikes are comfortable because of fancy-sounding high-zoot bits of springy stuff smooshed into their frames, or whacky sweepy curves all over the place. The Clubman gets it done traditionalism: it doesn't have the thinnest, stiffest tubing in existence, so the frame keeps a lively feel while soaking up the nastiest parts of the road.

Bikes are a little like coffee: If you poll people about what they'd like, they will claim to plump for the darkest, boldest, coffee around. Maybe having the taste for this sort of unyielding beverage is meant to say something about its drinker? In any case, when it comes time to drink, what most people want is a nice, versatile medium roast. Here's my call: Stumptown, from the new Satellite, in Tacoma.

I sometimes plan my ride so as to NOT ride past this place on the way home -- then I'd have to stop, get a cup, and before I knew what was what two hours home would turn into four.

Likewise, people will say they want the lightest, stiffest, fastest bike on the block, and while I love my race bike, most of the time, I ain't racing. And neither are most cyclists. The Clubman is agile enough for most of my riding, reasonably light, and comfortable enough for my four hours a day.

I might have a few more words to say, and I've got to grab you some illustrative skewer pictures, but my time here today is up. I'm off home. On my Clubman.


  • At 10:42 AM , Blogger Louque said...

    nice blog, i'm getting my 2010 Raleigh "one way" tomorrow and am very excited to go on coffee runs in New Orleans.


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