Author Topic: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?  (Read 462 times)

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7980
  • reisen statt rasen
What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« on: January 10, 2022, 10:45:28 PM »
[Originally posted as a response to Moronic's thread discussing the ride characteristics of his Mercury here...
http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=14275.0
...I broke it out as a separate topic so I would not dilute his...]



If you find a bike you like -- even love -- simply keep and enjoy it and love it to pieces! Moronic, your Mercury is a beauty and I've enjoyed your Forum updates and impressions of it and the discussion that has followed. I love my Nomad similarly.

We all "know" what we like, but quantifying it is difficult because there are so many contributors and variables to our own preferred "ride". In my fleet of 15, I find I rotate favorites as they grow stale. I switch and rediscover some forgotten quality in another bike, then return to find the first one feeling fresh again. My bikes all fit and are fitted the same with identical positioning on them, so there is "something" in the mix that differentiates them. For me, geometry -- particularly trail -- plays a key role as it directly affects handling and wheel flop and therefore feel in the frames I've built and bought. As for weight, a full set of empty/full water bottles is enough to mask 'most any difference in frame mass. Tire width/section/weight/pressure makes as big a difference in feel for me. My tandem makes a comfortable single tourer for rides up to 200km and actually weighs in close to my Nomad.

On the other hand, two of my frames are identical (I inherited one from my late father, pics attached), differentiated only by the components, wheels, tires and build focus. One is my favorite randonneur bike and will also road-tour. The other is setup as my gravel bike that will also bikepack. Same 700C wheel diameter. They feel similar but very different -- enough to make each feel best suited for the intended task. Since the frames are identical any difference in feel has to be down to the rest of the mix. Similarly, I "felt" a noticeable difference when I freshened the first of the two bikes with new racks, swapping in a sus-seatpost and a new Brooks saddle to replace the old one. Adding/deleting an empty Tubus Tara to the fork of the gravel-oriented bike changed its "character" enough for me to notice.

The resultant feel of frames I design and make as a hobbyist framebuilder is heavily dependent on the "build" -- in this case, the components -- sometimes enough to change the character of the frame I originally designed and envisioned.

Anecdote:
Once -- actually twice, 'cos he moved away from Eugene and then back again before permanently relocating to Petaluma --  Bruce Gordon lived near me and was gracious enough to be a guest speaker at the bike touring classes I facilitated in the late 1970s/early 1980s and did some machine work on my frames in his barn workshop out near the airport. He brought several of his personal bikes to show the class and they were all large frames to match his long inseam. This of course triggered questions about frame stiffness, so he went back out to his van and brought in one bike that had an integrated seatpost. The seat tube had been extended through the seat lug and capped with a chopped Campagnolo clamp. Oohs and ahhs and lots of opinions followed as he stood off to the side and his grin grew larger. Finally, someone asked him how much difference it made and he replied, "None I can tell. I was just having fun trying something new".

"Trying something new" is sometimes used to differentiate a frame in the marketplace or because someone thinks they have a better idea. The resulting difference in weight, ride or feel can be quantitatively small but qualitatively large if the rider convinces themselves it is the reason why they like a bike. I'm in-process renewing the first bike I got that saw a lot of miles. The frame is made from pretty pedestrian high carbon unbutted steel. I've owned, built, and ridden a lot of high-end butted chro-moly frames since, but still remember that one fondly as the geometry was on the money for me and I associate it with happy times and accomplishment. I want to see if those "wonderful ride" memories still hold true even though time has passed and the components and wheels have changed. I may or may not be disappointed and it will be fun to see if memories trump objectivity.

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 07:40:31 AM by Danneaux »

Andre Jute

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3775
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2022, 12:19:35 AM »
All good reading, Dan. I liked the anecdote about Bruce Gordon. But this particularly struck me:

Quote
Adding/deleting an empty Tubus Tara to the fork of the gravel-oriented bike changed its "character" enough for me to notice.

It follows from my belief that control of micro-vibrations -- hell, even a belief in their importance -- is the last frontier of bicycle design, which can be crossed by adding small sliding weights to the tubes of bikes under experienced riders and just asking them for their impressions of various positions of the weights.

One of the really good examples I know of is Brooks' edge-on leather ring handlebar grip, held together by little bicycle spokes through cast aluminum ends. Just looking at these bits of hard saddle leather  and trying to compress even one piece with your fingers, you just know they're hard enough to transmit every tiny road irregularity into your hands, a perfect recipe for RSI.

Don't believe a word of. Whatever vibration survives my bike's low pressure biggest Big Apple tyres and complaisant angles, is less than with even good gel grips. I remember RSI vaguely...

Of course, I'm not claiming that the exclusion of micro-vibrations is the sole parameter of judgement, but it is one that is undoubtedly important in the feel of my bikes over my roads. And it is very likely a large implicit reason in the perceived superiority of steel as a bicycle frame material.

***
I'd be interested in which aspects of your frame's behavior you believe "Adding/deleting an empty an empty Tubus Tara to the fork of the gravel-oriented bike changed its 'character' enough for me to notice." Either pro or con of course.

mickeg

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2088
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2022, 02:36:23 AM »
I can't think of any bikes that I felt were "special".

Mostly I differentiate by tire width and then think about which tire width I would prefer for the ride conditions.

Road bike, 28mm tires.
Rando bike, 32mm tires.
Light touring, 37mm tires.
Medium touring (Thorn Sherpa), 40 or 50mm tires.
Heavy touring (Thorn Nomad Mk II), 57mm tires.

Also have a folding bike that is used where the folding capability makes it a prefered bike.

And a couple bikes that I consider errand bikes for short distances, shopping, etc.

And a vintage Italian bike that I really like the ride but I hate the downtube friction shifting for the rear.  Have not ridden it for a few years.

I do not have a suspension mountain bike, but I have a suspension fork that I can fit to the Nomad for that purpose, also recently bought a used Thudbuster that I can fit to it.

The road bike with 28mm tires and the rando bike with 32mm tires are somewhat redundant with each other.  But the rando bike has wider gearing and fenders (mudguards) while the road bike is a Ritchey Break Away frame that can be split for easier packing in small places.  Thus, although they are very similar to each other for ride and type of road surfaces, they have other characteristics that make them quite unique from each other.

And in other ways the rando bike and light touring bike are very similar and somewhat redundant with each other.  But the rando bike can't carry the loads that the light touring bike can.  And the rando bike has better gearing for unladen riding on mostly paved hilly surfaces where the light touring bike lacks the higher gears.

So, each bike has some overlap with other bikes in the fleet.  They all have compromises.


Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7980
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2022, 02:57:38 AM »
Quote
So, each bike has some overlap with other bikes in the fleet.  They all have compromises.
Yes, mine too, George. I was thinking more in terms of feel rather than function, but that wasn't clear from my topic title.  ;)

Since people have asked me in PMs and emails about the bikes in my fleet, here is a list by function, year of production, drivetrain, and wheel/tire size...

26in WHEELS...these are my more "Adventure-oriented" bikes
ē Enduro Allroad/bikepacking/rugged tourer = 2007. Includes choice of Thorn Sherpa Mk2 forks for low 40mm trail or neutral 57mm trail. 3x7 indexed/friction bar-end shifted crossover derailleur drivetrain. 26 x 2.0 tires. LT sus-post.
ē Expedition tourer = 2012 Thorn Nomad Mk2 with suspension-corrected rigid Thorn fork. 14sp Rohloff drivetrain with T-bar mounted grip-shift. 26 x 2.0 tires. LT sus-post
ē Touring tandem = 1989. 3x6 indexed/friction thumb-shifted crossover derailleur drivetrain and bar-end shifter actuated drag/drum brake. 26 x 2.0 tires. Danneauxmade telescopic sus-post. Slated for a Rohloff conversion after the current drivetrain wears out.
ē City bike/porteur = 2007. 3x8 indexed thumb-shifted crossover derailleur drivetrain. 26 x 1.5 tires.
=====
20in/406mm WHEELS/FOLDERS/RECUMBENT
ē Full suspension custom touring Folder, Danneauxmade. 3x7 indexed thumb-shifted crossover derailleur drivetrain. 20 x 1.5in tires.
ē Full suspension custom recumbent, Danneauxmade. 3x7 indexed grip-shift crossover derailleur drivetrain. 20 x 1.5in tires.
ē Casual Folder = 1970 with U-frame. 3-sp Sturmey-Archer thumb-shifted indexed IGH drivetrain. 20 x 1.5in tires.
ē Touring Folder = Unserialed development prototype from local factory. Sachs 3x7 cassette/IGH combo. 20 x 1.5in tires.
=====
27in WHEELS
ē Traditional Club racer = 1970. 3x5 downtube friction-shifted crossover derailleur drivetrain. 27 x 1-1/4in tires.
ē Commuter = 1977. 3x5 downtube friction-shifted half-step and granny derailleur drivetrain. 27 x 1-1/4in tires.
=====
700C WHEELS...these are my more pavement-oriented go-fast bikes
ē Go-fast bike = 1987. 3X9 brifter indexed crossover derailleur shifting. 700 x 25C tires.
ē Gravel bike = 1983/4.  3x7 downtube indexed/friction half-step and granny derailleur shifting. 700C x 38mm tires.
ē Randonneur/Road Tourer  = 1983/84.  3x5 downtube friction half-step and granny derailleur shifting. 700C x 32mm tires. ST sus-post.
ē Randonneur/LeCampeur = 1980, made to order dimensions. 3x6 bar-end shifted  friction half-step and granny derailleur drivetrain. 700C x 38mm tires. ST sus-post.
ē Fixed-gear/single-speed = 1970. 1-sp fixed/single-speed flip-flop rear hub. 700C x 25mm tires.
Other
ē Traditional Gentleman's roadster = 1938. 1-sp coaster-brake drivetrain. 26x1-3/8 tires.

All have steel frames. And yes...my hub q/r levers are mostly on the right side for easy access when the bikes are laid on their non-derailleur/left side as I do for rear puncture repairs, especially with panniers attached. Has caused surprising controversy in other venues but makes no functional difference, just a personal preference.

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 05:00:27 AM by Danneaux »

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7980
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2022, 02:57:55 AM »
Quote
...It follows from my belief that control of micro-vibrations -- hell, even a belief in their importance -- is the last frontier of bicycle design...
It think you may be onto something here, Andre, and I have concrete examples between these two bikes, one dynohub related and the other having to do with the front rack.

The blue bike on the left -- my rando-tourer -- is the only bike I've fitted a SON28 dynohub to that I may need to remove due to the vibrations it induces through the handlebars. The hub is new and there's nothing wrong with it. I've read some people riding some frames have this problem and I seem to be one of them. It isn't severe, but is...irritating...especially on 300km+ day rides where I am most likely to need dyno-powered lighting when coming home in the dark and where on-bike charging is nice to have. It happens whether the light is on or off and generating power to the USB converter or not, but these operations do change the frequency and range of the vibrations. At some speeds, it is completely unnoticeable.

The same happens when I swap the SON to the other blue bike...but not to any of my other 700C-wheeled frames. The vibrations in these bikes' handlebars occur with the SON at various speeds and -- based on what I've read -- may be the result of "crashing" or collisions of overlapping flux waves between the dyno poles that then propagate up the fork blades through the quill stem to the handlebars. More poles as SON uses should reduce vibrations as the poles claws pass the magnets and they do, but this is different. I've swapped out the SON and it addressed the problem so I know it relates to that wheel. I wish I'd had another brand of dynohub to try in a different wheel, but I don't and the gravel bike uses a chainstay-mounted dynamo that doesn't produce the problem. I've swapped handlebars and that mitigated the vibration/pulsing to an extent by changing how noticeable they were but did not mitigate them. The two bikes have two different handlebar coverings. The one on the left has Morgan Grips by Morgan Concepts, a late product no longer made, intended to damp vibration through the use of molded, collapsing channels that support the ergonomic grips. The other bike has padded vinyl tape compression-wrapped over dense foam. The Morgan Grips help more than the wrapped foam. Swapping hub q/rs had no effect, but the vibration was worse with the original SON q/r threaded retainer and worse if loose (duh) but also more problematic than the q/r when tightened to the recommended spec. Both bikes use threaded 1in steerers and are fitted with investment-cast, fully sloping fork crowns that cap the fork blades. Fork blades are Tange Champion aero cross-section. KEY POINT: The SON-induced vibrations at the handlebars are greatly muted when I hang a full or empty Ortlieb handlebar bag on the bracket.

For related impressions, see...
http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=10657.0
https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=86196.0
https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=76240.0
https://www.bikeforums.net/electronics-lighting-gadgets/510817-generator-hub-vibration.html
...and two more complete reports here and closest to my experience with a SON28 on this bike:
https://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/dynamos/Schmidt_son28/index_en.html
https://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/dynamos/theorie/index_en.html

Sort-of related wrt vibrations: I had the devil of a time figuring out what was causing my severe headaches when riding my unladen Nomad on really rough logging roads when I first got it. I would have sworn it was due to non-compliance at the very robust front wheel/fork/unthreaded steerer/stem. However, when riding out of the saddle I had no headaches. In a "light bulb moment" I fitted a Thudbuster LT and the problem went away completely. The headaches were caused by vibrations/road shock traveling up the frame and my spine from the rear wheel; the front was no problem at all! Similarly, the blue rando bike on the left benefitted from fitting a short-travel Thudbuster ST. Though this bike is not used offroad, it really made a difference in my overall fatigue, comfort and endurance on long 300-400km day rides, especially over chip-sealed roads; I returned feeling much fresher. In contrast, the gravel bike on the right is fitted with a rigid seatpost and it has been no problem, likely because it is not ridden so far on pavement and when on gravel, it has fatter tires at lower pressure, and I spend much of my time either standing or lofted lightly above the saddle with my knees serving to absorb the shocks. Since the bike frames are identical, I think the difference is down to use and component differences -- particularly the larger cross-section tires mounted on wider rims for the gravel bike. My SON dynohubs present no vibration issues on my other bikes that run them, likely because those use much far more robust threadless forks with shorter blades sized for 26in wheels.

Quote
I'd be interested in which aspects of your frame's behavior you believe "Adding/deleting an empty an empty Tubus Tara to the fork of the gravel-oriented bike changed its 'character' enough for me to notice." Either pro or con of course.
Remembering the difference in tire size/cross section and the wider rims, there is still a noticeable difference when I add or remove the Tubus Tara and I really can feel it. The Tara weighs in at 500g/18oz, just a bit over a pound. Its mass is pretty well centered over the front hub, cantilevered a bit forward but the pannier rails pretty much offset the forward hoop. Its mounting points span the lower dropout eyelet and the mid-fork eyelets and is essentially rigid when mounted; moreso when loaded with the mass of full panniers, as they press down against the rail attachment points. Any triangulation that occurs is in the lower portion of the fork blade where section width of the blades is slimmest.

For me, the added mass of the Tara makes a "heavier" feeling fork assembly with if not greater wheel flop, then greater "swing" of the front wheel when turning and cornering. Looking down when riding on a rough road or "hopping" a bit when standing in the saddle, the fork with the unladen Tara fitted is less compliant. Unladen, doing these gymnastics results in a clear fore/after movement of the dropouts in relation to the fork crown. The fork on both bikes is compliant, no doubt a major reason why they are comfortable...and a likely related reason why the SON-equipped wheel transmits vibrations unfelt when fitted to my other bikes. Finally -- and not surprisingly -- the unladen Tara makes the bike feel a little nose-heavy, as it does add 500g of nonrotating weight to the front end.

I prefer compliant forks for comfort and notice the difference they make apart from tire size and inflation. I replaced the large diameter MTB-like unicrown fork on my Enduro-Allroad bike with a Sherpa Mk2 fork with tapered blades and immediately felt a difference in comfort.

Another anecdote from way back in the day (late 1970s to mid-1980s): Both my late father and I welcomed Blackburn's introduction of lowrider front racks, as they attached midway up the fork blades instead of at the crown and dropouts as was the case with their conventional self-triangulated platform rack. We really felt the difference in fork compliance laden or unladen and it was something we could see as well. No, a platform rack made of aluminum rod was not sufficient to fully triangulate a raked steel fork and make it rigid, but it certainly changed its compliance to a noticeable degree, enough to make us glad to be rid of ours and put me on watch for how future front platform racks attached to lightweight forks.

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 10:27:41 PM by Danneaux »

JohnR

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 347
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2022, 11:51:31 AM »
On the subject of vibrations, in October I decided to try a carbon fibre seatpost https://www.wiggle.co.uk/brand-x-carbon-layback-seatpost both to shave a few ounces off the bike weight and to see for myself whether the comments about reduced virbrations were true. They were. I had been running the 50mm G-One speed tyres a slightly below 30 psi to reduce the vibrations created from rougher road surfacings but after changing the seatpost was able to put the pressures up into the mid-30s psi. Some people have reported broken carbon seatposts but without giving details of the failures. I assume the most likely failure point is where the seatpost enters the seat tube. If the latter has a square edge then it will be a good stress inducer. The Mercury uses a shim which contains a rounded edge and, when I fitted a a carbon seatpost onto my Elan frame I took the precaution of rounding the inner corner on the top of the seat tube with a file.

My handlebars (see photo) are the Ergotec AHS Basic Sport https://www.ergotec.de/en/products/lenker/sub/city-trekking-lenker/produkt/ahs-basic-sport-25-4.html but fitted with the Ergon GP1L grips and Ergotec Buffalo https://www.ergotec.de/en/products/vorbauten/sub//produkt/buffalo.html instead of the foam grips. That's added weight but much increase comfort and durability. I also use mitts with gel padding but remember that one morning on my LEJOG noticing, after an hour or more of riding, that I hadn't put the mitts on which indicates that the bars and grips were doing a good job of keeping my hands comfortable. The AHS handlebars may not be for everyone as their safety level rating is 2 which effectively excludes heavier riders https://www.ergotec.de/en/wizard-1.html or heavily loaded bikes but is fine for my needs and gives me two primary hand and body positions: (i) Slightly more upright with hands on the main grips and (ii) a more sporty position with hands on the outer front parts of the grips. Position (i) is used more than half the time and if I need to have quick access to brakes or gears while position (ii) is useful for cruising, particularly if there's a headwind.

Andre Jute

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3775
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2022, 12:30:58 PM »
From Dan:
Quote
Both my late father and I welcomed Blackburn's introduction of lowrider front racks, as they attached midway up the fork blades instead of at the crown and dropouts as was the case with their conventional self-triangulated platform rack. We really felt the difference in fork compliance laden or unladen and it was something we could see as well.


I'm not surprised Jack noticed. You need to be a looooongtime thoughtful cyclist or a trained and experienced engineer to study the disposition of the socketry rather than merely count the number of sockets. It's a mistake I recognize because I made it on a much larger scale when I thought the most expensive Peugeot imported into Ireland would be okay; it wasn't: the tubes were only slightly oversize but they were specified in some superstiff new wonder alloy by an inexperienced designer who then aggravated his crime by specifying Marathon Plus tyres; that bike killed my back and made my physio rich, and forced me to learn about bikes rather than trust the trendies.

***
From JohnR:
Quote
I decided to try a carbon fibre seatpost https://www.wiggle.co.uk/brand-x-carbon-layback-seatpost both to shave a few ounces off the bike weight and to see for myself whether the comments about reduced virbrations were true. They were.

Much as I hate vibrations, I'd try to solve them another way than a carbon seat post. One afternoon, coming out of the library, I found another cyclist waiting beside my bike, blood on his thighs, wondering if I knew where he could buy a seat post. His carbon seat post had broken under him as he rode away from the airport. I lived over the surgery at the time, so I took him home with me, and after I had his wound dressed, sat him down on a cushion in my study with a large whisky in his hand to congratulate him on riding 22km from the airport standing up and bleeding. He was a Scottish doctor, and he had three days to tour Ireland from the far South here to his cheap flight out of Belfast in the far North. I called around to find him another carbon seat post, though I though him crazy to want another. Before the medication put him to sleep, he gave me a tour of his bike; it was the first time I'd ever seen a SON dynamo. His entire bike was built so light, I thought it would collapse under me; it did collapse under him, and that before he even reached the rough roads on the Ring of Kerry. I thought, with Noel Coward, "Scottishmen and mad cyclists ride on carbon seat posts."

***
I'm not envious, not one bit, definitely not, of all Dan and George's purposeful bikes.

Any time the little green man pops up, I think of all that cleaning...

All three the bikes I have left fit the description of a Dutch vakansiefiets, which is basically a more luxurious, too good to leave at the station, sit-up-and-beg Dutch commuter, and functionally is a multipurpose bike. Mine differ technically in their drive and transmission, and a good bit in their comfort, even at this level of comfort (one has electronic-adaptive suspension and a full-automatic gearbox), because one has much wider forks and thus can take much wider, lower-pressure tyres than the other two. The most interesting of the bikes I let go was a Giant Revive semi-recliner I bought for an experiment, for which a fellow on the road offered me multiples of what I paid for it, so I let him have it. (On the subject of how little we're all separated, he and I both had an uneasy feeling we should know the other, and not just from both living on the Costa del Tax Exile; it turned out that we had both been "attached" to the same movie project, but had never met or spoken on the phone.) The Revive just wasn't suitable to me, because riding it next to trucks with their wheel nuts above my head was a nightmare scenario: the reason I like the Dutch stadssportief style is that at my size of bike and sitting upright, I look truck drivers right in the eye; professional truckies have an ingrained reluctance to run over anyone they are making eye-contact with, which of course doesn't apply to Sneaky Petes trying to fly under the radar on recliners.

energyman

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 575
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2022, 04:15:29 PM »
My RST, which is still my absolutely favourite bike even though it has no motor ! (Other than me).  The dimensions are perfect.  The saddle is just right (ditched the Brooks ages ago), the Thorn Comfort bars are just right (and I've tried various styles)  It rides beautifully on multiple terrains on its 26"Marathon Plus Tours. 
I get on it and I become part of it - man & machine in perfect harmony.
I still have to get off and walk up some hills but even then it's a joy to push.
Of course it has a Rohloff, 'nuff said.

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7980
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2022, 10:33:21 PM »
Quote
I get on it and I become part of it - man & machine in perfect harmony.
Yes! This, e-Man!

Fit is really key to making a bike feel "special". If my positioning is off by more than several millimeters each way, that "magic" fades away.

Best,

Dan.

Moronic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 109
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2022, 09:22:01 AM »
It's all very personal and emotional I think. I was pretty obsessed with bikes when I was a child. I learned to ride when I was five on bikes owned by family friends, but didn't have a bike of my own. My parents, with three young children and a mortgage, couldn't find the money for one. I noticed that a very rusty bike resided consistently on the back veranda of an uncle's rural property, and pestered my parents to ask him about it. When finally they did, the uncle gave it to us, and my father sanded and repainted it, and fitted new parts where required (including mudguards). I think I received it as a gift for my eighth birthday. It was a single speed with a rear hub brake and I rode it everywhere I could. I also started reading everything I could find on bicycles. As I got older, and acquired from an older cousin a bike with three speed hub gears and a mildly crash-bent top tube, I found myself reading about the alleged magical feel of Reynolds 531 steel and fantasised for years about what it might feel like to ride a 531 bike. I had read that if felt like the bicycle was alive beneath you.

I think I've been hankering for that lively feel ever since. About the age of 17 I purchased, heavily discounted from a friend who worked as an assembler for the local distributor, a high-end Peugeot racer that was 531 and good but not quite satisfying. When I purchased my lugged carbon-tube Trek in the late 1990s it was partly because the sales assistand waxed lyrical about how good carbon felt - like great steel only better, he said. He wasn't all wrong, and I enjoyed that bike every time I got on it.

Having sparked this thread with some observations about the Mercury in my review (reply 63), i'll say that what is most special about the Mercury for me is just that sense of liveliness I pick up from it. Just what it is that generates the feeling I don't know. I tend to think it begins with the frame but others suggest I'm an exhibitor of confirmation bias and they may be right. Without doubt, another reason why I like the Mercury so much is that it fits me so well.

The observations alluded to above stemmed from my having ridden the Mercury home after an outward leg where I rode a good vintage steel mountain bike that had been adapted for touring by my brother. There is a sequel to that story that I haven't put in the review thread. A day or two after the ride, I got a phone call from my brother, whose relevant body dimensions are just about identical with mine (albeit he is at least 10 kilos leaner). He said he'd been reflecting on our ride over a day or two, and had realised that on his ride with me back to my place on his touring MTB, his thoughts had been elsewhere - on what he needed to do afterwards, on his anxiety about whether we would be home in time, on his fears about being caught in traffic on a necessary cross-town journey close to peak hour, on how limiting were cycle paths compared with the rural roads he rode at home, et cetera. In contrast, he volunteered, when riding the Mercury on the outward leg he had given a thought to nothing but how much he was enjoying his experience. Sure, it was a novelty. He didn't think that was all there was to it.




JohnR

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 347
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2022, 05:16:30 PM »
Much as I hate vibrations, I'd try to solve them another way than a carbon seat post. One afternoon, coming out of the library, I found another cyclist waiting beside my bike, blood on his thighs, wondering if I knew where he could buy a seat post. His carbon seat post had broken under him as he rode away from the airport.
Your comments have prompted me to do more research as well as check my bike. Reports of broken carbon seatposts in the bike forums (fora?) seem to have diminished considerably in recent years which could be due to a number of factors such as fewer people using them, stronger seatposts or a better understanding of how they are best fitted. The carbon seatposts I bought have a 2.3mm wall thickness and aren't significantly lighter than aluminium seatposts and I think they have prioritised durability over weight. There are various potential failure mechanisms but failure is often caused either by a sharp corner at the top of the seat tube or the seatpost clamp pressing into the seatpost. My Mercury uses a shim which has a slightly rounded top and the shim will help to spread the clamping force. On the Elan I've slightly rounded the top of the seat tube with a file and also turned the clamp so the bolt is at the front which should help to spread the clamping force and not pinch the seatpost at the back. I don't think all 65kg of me will overload the seatpost and there's only about 100mm of post protruding so I'm not going to be applying a lot of bending force.

mickeg

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2088
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2022, 08:27:29 PM »
A gal I used to work with was riding her bike to work.  Aluminum seatpost, one of those that only has a one bolt clamp to hold the saddle to the seatpost.  That bolt broke.  Fortunately she did not stab herself on the seatpost, but she did crash.

If someone was riding from an airport, that suggests to me that their bike was transported by air, probably damaged in handling at one of the airports.

On my Iceland trip, two Italian cyclists at the Reykjavik campground were asking around where to obtain skewers.  Both of them had bent front skewers, their skewers were in the front wheels during transport but the wheels were not in the frame.  I am not sure how they were bent, but they were and on a Sunday it is not easy to find bike parts. I never did see a bike shop, but I am sure there was at least one somewhere in the country.



PH

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1562
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2022, 10:38:28 PM »
Iím not sure special is the word Iíd use, all my bikes are right for me, they provide that feeling when out on a ride that all the stars have aligned and the riding seems as good as it gets, or even the mundane getting home without some nagging thought that it could have been better.  I donít feel this all the time, but often enough to know itís not the bike when I donít.  Getting there has involved some trial and error, a few bikes and components that didnít work out, learning not just abut the bike but also my cycling Ė I had three good Audax bikes over a period of fifteen years, before realising I wasnít riding them in a way where I was benefitting from their main attributes Ė I could say I now have a good idea about what I need to be comfortable, though it might be more accurate to say Iíve learnt some things to avoid.  The bikes handle the way I expect them to, Iíve rejected steering geometries that seemed to twitchy or ponderous, though some of that might be familiarity. Iíve found components that work for meÖ I know it allÖ except I donít know much at all.
Itís like when you go for an eye test and they put a lens in and everything looks crystal clear, then they put another in and it looks even better, then another and another, till thereís nothing left that can improve itÖ With bikes, unless you have unlimited time and resources, youíll stop looking when it feels good, youíll never know if thatís the best, just that itís the best you know and you can be happy with it.  Iíve rejected the things that havenít worked for me, or have felt that about.  I donít know more than that, itís both easy and dangerous to think those anecdotes constitute enough data to be sure of any conclusion.  You prefer bike B to bike A, maybe thereís a dozen differences between them, you think you know which are improvements, maybe you do, but unless youíre able to try every permutation you donít know.  Maybe you even started with an idea and as Moronic says the result is influenced by confirmation bias.  It doesnít matter, as Dan says at the top of this thread ďIf you find a bike you like -- even love -- simply keep and enjoy it and love it to pieces!Ē
A story to illustrate the point Ė I ride with someone whoíll tell you that lugged steel frames are the most comfortable. Heís had lots of bikes and the common denominator of those heís found comfortable is that theyíve all been lugged steel. Heís not interested in having any other differences pointed out, oversize tubing, compact frames, the different frame materialÖ Itís entirely his business what he prefers, but he insists on telling every new club rider thatís what they should have.
Then, even with your limited data, thereís the minefield of interpretation.  I have two Mercurys, my best bike, Rohloff, dynamo lighting, mudguardsÖ and my original crashed/repaired one, heavier fork, no dynamo or guards, Alfine 8 gears, slightly chunkier tyres. My rides on the Alfine one have been faster, I have the data. So, itís a faster bike? No, the lack of low gears means it doesnít go into the Peak District, the lack of lights and guards means it rarely goes out in the rain or after dark, because itís less precious to me I might ride it with a bit less respectÖ OK, Iíve made those differences obvious, but sometimes thereís subtle ones that if youíre not careful can lead to false impressions.
Then there's aesthetics, I know bikes are for riding and the look doesn't alter that, but we are vain, well I am, I'll like a bike more if it looks right.
Special for me is the cycling, the right bike is one that doesn't detract from it.

EDIT Ė Just for fun my bike list, in order of mileage, highest first
Surly Ogre, Rohloff, dynamo, mudguards, rack - My most used bike, utility, light off-road, full-on camping. 29er 2Ē Almotion tyres.
Mercury Rohloff, dynamo, mudguards, rack - fun rides, Audax, lighter touring, social club runs. 700c, 40mm Supreme tyres
Mercury Alfine, no dynamo or guards, rack. - Still finding itís place in the stable, might get more utility use in place of the Ogre in the summer. 700c 40mm Almotion tyres
Airnimal Folder, Rohloff, optional rack and guards, also a matching trailer. - My travel bike, any touring that includes considerable non cycling travel, this is the bike Iíll use.  24Ē 1.75 Marathon tyres
Hewitt Cheviot SE, quite traditional tourer, derailleur and drop bars. - Somewhat superseded by the Mercury, currently built up quite light, no rack or guards, will use it on sunny club runs and shorter Audax. 700c 35mm Supreme tyres
Brompton B75, the most basic model though I added guards and a rack.  Bought specifically for some work that involved rush hour train travel, Iím a fan of the fold, but Iím unlikely to ever ride it further than necessary.  16Ē and standard tyres?

If for some reason I had to start afresh, I'd replace the Mercury, Ogre and Joey like for like, but wouldn't bother with the 2nd Mercury or Hewitt, simply because they add nothing that the others couldn't cover. I'd replace the Brompton if and when I had a use for it.

Also, for work I have an E-bike, a Trek Allant+ 5 with a Bosch Performance CX motor and two batteries.  650B, 60mm tyres. Last year it did more mileage than all the others combined, but itís only used for delivery work. I havenít done any other riding on it though I keep saying I might.  I does the job and itís sometimes fun to power up the hills that I would otherwise struggle on, but I have no love for it. 

« Last Edit: January 15, 2022, 11:38:24 PM by PH »

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7980
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2022, 12:21:27 AM »
Wow, that was nicely stated, PH!

I especially liked this line...
Quote
Itís like when you go for an eye test and they put a lens in and everything looks crystal clear, then they put another in and it looks even better, then another and another, till thereís nothing left that can improve itÖ With bikes, unless you have unlimited time and resources, youíll stop looking when it feels good, youíll never know if thatís the best, just that itís the best you know and you can be happy with it.

Best,

Dan.

JohnR

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 347
Re: What makes a bike feel/ride "special" to you?
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2022, 12:03:04 PM »
Itís like when you go for an eye test and they put a lens in and everything looks crystal clear, then they put another in and it looks even better, then another and another, till thereís nothing left that can improve it.
Except that the ideal bike for one task isn't ideal for everything unless you can find the bike equivalent of a varifocal lens which is good for both distance and reading and everything in between (and, for those who haven't been there, there are different varifocal lens configurations to try to meet different user needs). This leads to the discussion about if you are only allowed one bike then which would it be?