Keith Snyder
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Your friendly bike nut checks in

Non-bike-nuts (and I believe that would be all of you), you probably want to skip this.

Here's the last time I saw my heavily modified Trek 7000 hybrid:

I sold it to a guy in the East Village who unfortunately discovered a mechanical problem I hadn't noticed and had to take it immediately to a bike shop (sorry, Ryan). But we reached an agreement, and hopefully it's working out for him.

So then I bought this, which I'll ride on the North Fork Century on the 26th:

I had them put the Eggbeaters on it that used to be on the hybrid I just sold, and also made probably a mistake by adding cyclocross brake levers (little secondary brake levers on the straight top part of the drop bars, meant to prevent puzzled expressions and painful crashes as hybrid riders try to stop speeding road bikes by squeezing an unadorned aluminum tube), and I replaced the stock tires with Bontrager Hardcases, but other than that, it's stock. I rode it a short distance yesterday morning. It squeaked like a family of mice were living in the wheels. So I left it home and rode the Matrix into the city to meet my friend Jim, who's in town cat-sitting--and then blew a tube on the way back in, a mile from home but only a few blocks from the bike shop.

Remember those logic problems about the fox rowing the boat to the island, and then the chicken climbs down the tree, and the cat goes back to the mainland on the Jetski, and the chicken... well, anyway that's what it was like getting both bikes fixed the same day. Especially since one has Eggbeaters (and requires matching cleated footwear), and the other doesn't. But the upshot is, both are back home and resting comfortably.

Speaking of the Matrix, it continues to mutate. Here's what I posted today at the Dahon forums:

The Dahon marketing verbosity says "It's a fast and nimble bike that begs to be ridden hard."

My experience is that it's a good, utilitarian frame that needs to have components replaced before you can ride it even medium-hard in New York City. I figured I'd share what I've done so far, as well as ask for advice and suggestions on the things I don't know a lot about (like gears).

In a nutshell, I don't think this bike was designed by a heavy-duty urban rider. But I do think it's a great solution to my commuting problems, once some of the less effective choices are swapped out.

Here's what I've done, and why:

1. Replaced the brake cables with steel ones. This was on the advice of my LBS, after I brought the Matrix in the day after a rainy commute. The brakes were suddenly rubbing the morning after they got wet--the LBS said it was because the cables had stuck after I rode in the rain, and stainless would stick less. I don't think Dahon expected this bike to be ridden by people who actually commute; they expected it to be ridden by (a) yacht owners, and (B) people who need to get from the train station to the office. And for all I know, (c) mountain bike riders who live in small apartments.

2. Replaced the pedals with FUNN Soljam Vipers. The stock pedals are annoying to get your feet onto in rush-hour traffic, because they're not symmetrical. You've got to find the top surface. Even if that only takes half a second... half a second in heavy urban traffic can be a problem. After that, they've got about the same foot-slippage factor as any other stock platform pedal I've ever owned. The Vipers are awesome; I never have to almost get doored because I'm looking down, trying to flip the *%&^$ pedal 180° so I can step on it, and my foot has slipped a total of once in about 1500 miles of Viper riding--on a big pothole bump. I got some hiking sandals to ride them with, and it's nearly the same feeling as being clipped into the Eggbeaters I use on my road bike--only I can get my feet off immediately. I love these pedals. I'll get some lightweight hiking boots to go with them when the weather gets colder.

3. Replaced the Continental slicks with Bontrager Hardcases. I really hated doing this, because I liked how the slicks looked, as well as how they handled on dry pavement. But they're awful at preventing flats. After three in the same week on the FRONT wheel alone (the front? how often do you get a flat in front?), I took a close look at the condition of the slicks and saw they were getting killed by NYC streets. They had slits, holes, punctures, gashes, all over, and obviously they were letting a lot of pointy things through. I've put Bontrager Hardcases on previous bikes and always seen an immediate and lasting reduction in flats, so now they're on the Matrix, too.

Here are more specific things I intend to do, and why:

4. A shorter stem. The reach to the handlebars is about 2 inches too far for me.

5. Replace the grip shifters with levers. 2000 miles into my ownership of this bike, and I'm still accidentally triggering shifts a couple times a day. In rush-hour traffic on 2nd Avenue, that's just not a great thing.

And something I'd like to do, but don't think it's possible:

6. Replace the disk brakes with V-brakes. The disks have been a pain in the ass since I got this thing. They're constantly needing adjustment, especially after wet weather. I've given up on riding silently; the "shing-shing-shing" sound is simply how this bike sounds. Disk brake response is also slower than I prefer. V-brakes with KoolStop Salmon pads would be my preference, but the LBS doesn't see how they could be mounted on both wheels. Disk brakes look wicked and have a high marketability factor, but IMHO they're just not the best choice for urban commuting.

And here's my question:

7. The shifting is the least smooth of any bike I've owned. However, I know nothing about gears. Any suggestions? While I'm at it, I wouldn't mind a different gearing that would fill the gap between the current 2/5 and 2/6 ratios.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Keith, with an attractive orange road bike and a solid commuter folding bike, all you need now is, well, nothing! Your life is complete! You're done!

Yeah? Think so?

  1. The Kettler Flipper came today. It won't mount correctly on the Matrix and I don't want to balance an astonishingly strong, kinetically unpredictable 40-pound toddler over a skinny high-pressure tire on a road bike I'm not used to yet.
  2. What am I supposed to ride in the snow?
Fear of further Matrix problems due to rain prevented any really long rides last week, but here are the two most recent:

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