Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Need a city bike and live in a city with big hills?

My friend Jim in San Francisco needs a new bike and doesn’t want to build one himself. Can you blame him? I can’t, especially because his old bike got stolen from outside his house... after I rode it last. And, I hope and assume, locked it with his bad cable lock. My only fear was that the 8-speed nexus hub wouldn't go low enough to handle to hills in San Francisco. Turns out there is no need to fear.

Here’s what I wrote:

Jim,

Even though it’s aluminum, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Milano. $630.

Celeste, by the way, is a sexy manly color. Don’t ever think otherwise.

The Sparta don’t look bad, either, if you want to stick with a derailleur and more traditional mountain bike design.

But the suspension may be theft encouraging. And unless suspension has gotten very cheap, the price seems too cheap for the rest of the bike to be any good.

I just did a little calculating about gears on Sheldon Brown’s website. Bottom line is there’s no reason not to go with the internal hub.

Measured in Gain Ratio (Sheldon’s invention. The numbers don’t really matter except in relation to each other. He says, “5.58 ... means is that for every inch... the pedal travels in its orbit around the bottom bracket, the bicycle will travel 5.58 inches.”).

Basically you plug in crank length, wheel size, and your chainrings (or internal hub) to get a number. Big gears have bigger numbers. So for San Francisco you would want to compare the small number, the granny gear.

On my Bianchi road bike (2 chain rings), the gain ratio goes from 7.8 for 14th speed to 3.1 for 1st gear.

My Bianchi road bike: 7.8 to 3.1
The Bluebird: 7.6 to 2.5
The Screamin’ Salmon (fixed gear): 5.8
The Sparta: 7.5 to 2.2
And the Milano: 7.2 to 2.3

That means the granny gear on the Milano is less than 10% harder than the granny gear on the Sparta (and about 1/3 easier than my Bianchi). You’ll max out of the Milano faster, but how often are trying to peddle to get top speed going down a steep hill?

The Bluebird has higher gears because it uses a 46 tooth front chainring (negated a bit by smaller wheels) while the Milano has 44 teeth. The rear cog on the Nexus 8 is also replaceable. So you add or take away a tooth or 2 there, if you really wanted to. But I’d bet you don’t.

The other weird but cool thing about the Milano is the blinking seat. It’s actually a very good light (unless covered by the tail of your jacket). But it does mark the bike as a bit of a yuppie bike. But fuck it, you’re a bit of a yuppie. But you’ll have to lock the seat to the frame (thus unmarking your bike a bit as a yuppie bike.) I like how the style is called a “cafe racer.” That seems perfect for me.

I rode a Milano in Chicago last year. A cute chick stopped me to ask where she could buy a blinking seat.

It’s an excellent city bike. Go buy one right off the rack. And the internal rear hand brake is great!