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If you are approaching cycling in a conventional fashion, there are generally 5 places where you touch a bicycle whilst riding it. Two feet on pedals, two hands on the handle bar and of course your derriere (which s randonneur speak for bottom) on the seat. Needless to say, these are all important places for the proper control of the bicycle, and as you’ll be getting personal with all these parts of your bicycle, it’s worth paying attention to them all with regard to your ongoing comfort and support.

Pedals, need to be sturdy enough to bare 1/2 your weight (each), rotate freely and provide a solid platform. ‘Serious’ cyclists use clipless pedals so as to eek out every watt of performance from each cycle stroke, and my experience with this style of pedal really focused my mind on posture, cadence and efficiency. So much so that the restricted feel of the pedals pretty much consumed my experience of cycling down to these elements. Perhaps I didn’t use clipless long enough to really get used to them and forget they were there. Who knows! The impression they left on me was that they certainly improve performance, but I felt they took something away from the pleasure of cycling. Some parts of touring, and most parts of racing leave the fluffy enjoyment bit at home, and concentrate on pure efficiency. In these uncompromising circumstances they have their place, but most commuting, touring and transport around town should be done with a smile and at a comfortable pace. Perhaps in these circumstances, you just don’t need them. When I began my search for pedals, I looked for something simple.

As with all bicycle components, there are literally hundreds of options for pedals. As they all serve the same basic function I wasn’t after anything too fancy or flash, but my preference was for those that looked light, durable, cheap and not too ugly. What I came up with was the Wellgo M142 sealed bearing pedals.

The specs are:

Body: Aluminium 6061 Extruded, CNC machined
Spindle: Cr-Mo CNC machined
Bearing: DU / Sealed
Size: 100* 60 * 24.5 [mm]
Weight: 236 g/pr

After a couple of rides they seem pretty good, and well worth their price. Before installing them I wondered if they would be big enough, and they are – just. My size 44 feet are comfortable enough when wearing firm soled shoes, but I need to take care with softer soles to place my feet suitably. Once my feet are in place, the extra grippy platform does not let my foot slide around. They seem well constructed, nicely designed and have been silky smooth.

Having said all the above, perhaps they could be a little wider, and they won’t suit someone who doesn’t do footwear. What they are is a light, study, smooth and handsome commuter pedal, that can be obtained for a good price.

My only caveat here would be that if you have a big hoof – these may not be wide enough for you. I’m 185cm and have a biggish foot and they are just big enough.

Frame Materials are pretty important to the feel of the bike so I thought I’d include this in my rambling thoughts about my bicycle of the future.

There is a good synopsis of materials on wikipedia so I won’t summarise it here but will make a few comments about what the metals mean to me in terms of frame material.

Aluminum
Aluminium is light, strong and relatively corrosion resistant, but fatigues over time. When fracturing etc appears it is not an easy repair job. For me its defining quality is stiffness – If I were to go with aluminum I would consider a suspension seat post. I am trying to think long term with the bicycle frame, and give it’s propensity for fatigue fractures, I think aluminium probably isn’t what I am after.

Steel
Steel as far as I know is heavier, less corrosion resistant and relatively hard. It is strong, but has a subtle flexibility to it. High quality frames are usually alloys and widely used in many cycling applications. There is some debate about frame materials as you might expect and some believe that a lugged steel frame offers a great deal in terms of ‘feel’, durability, ease of repair, cost and aesthetics. It has a lot to offer someone looking to design a bicycle that will last many kms. Steel can and does rust and so stripping the frame and repainting may be required over the longer term.

Titanium
High strength, light, highly corrosion resistant, more flexible than steel, but difficult to weld and repair and high cost. I can’t be sure whether I am afflicted with a lust for titanium beyond the good properties of the metal, but a Ti frame would be very nice indeed. It’s defining feature for me is high corrosion resistance, feather weight and a supple ride…Hmmmm

Carbon Fibre
Super light, Stiff or supple depending on the design, corrosion free, but strong only for the forces it is designed for. Crash or crush the frame and it’s good night! Too risky considering it’s price, and my potential application. This material is for well sponsored athletes, not me.

Very quickly in summary I reckon that Steel and Titanium are the likely candidates here. The decision will be about price and how long I intend to have the bicycle. Something that lasts a long time is good value if you get enough use out of it. My only apprehension about Ti is that it may be hard to repair, but would I repair a damaged frame – or get a new one? In the case of steel a new frame would be affordable, however a new Ti frame may not, so steel is probably my first choice.

I haven’t forgotten bamboo and plastic as materials, but I’m not seriously considering them for a long term, reliable bicycle. Making a bike out of Bamboo would be fun – but it’s not at the top of my list of things to do right now. If I had the time, it might be an interesting way to get acquainted with frame geometry and strength.

It’s hard to know where to start with the perfect bicycle The frame is the basis for many of the ride characteristics of a complete bicycle, but as I have a few frames in mind with different wheel sizes I starting this rambling discussion with wheels and tyres.

29 inch or 700c (622mm)
These wheels have the same rim diameter, however with the addition of their usually very different tyre, the effective diameter changes significantly.

Built as 29 inch mountain bike wheels, these large wheels usually have a relatively heavy duty rim and tire, and because they are heavier, they take more effort to start and stop. These wheels also take more effort to turn due to having a larger footprint and higher rotating mass. What this tyre and rim combination does well is roll over obstacles.

Built as 700c road wheels with a light rim and smaller tyre, they maintain their ability to roll over obstacles, and shed much of their weight. The compromise is a better handling wheel, that isn’t built to take the punishment you might dish out to a mountain bike wheel on a fast decent. This is a very popular size  and the availability of tyres, mud guards, spokes etc is all essentially universal.

The issue that is generally cited about this wheel size is toe overlap. It is something that I’ve noticed in the past and given that I am considering a bike that will be touring, city commuting and shopping, I’m definitely interested in making sure that toe overlap isn’t an issue with the bike I decide upon.

650b (584 mm)
This is a size that is regaining some popularity in the touring and randonneuring community. Availability of parts isn’t as good as with 700c and 26 inch, but it is getting better. This wheel is less likely to have toe overlap issues and is lighter, stronger, and a more responsive than the 700c wheel. When this wheel is coupled with a 700c purposed frame, the wheel size will slightly lower the bottom bracket, reduce toe overlap and slightly reduce the ‘trail’ of the front wheel – quickening the handling. The main draw back is availability of tyres and mudguards, but what I have found so far isn’t too expensive, and suits my purposes. If you use this size wheel on a 700c frame – you may want to get a slightly shorter crank.

26 Inch (559mm)
This is a size most commonly applied to mountain bikes. It further reduces the possibility of toe overlap, is very responsive, is strong, and allows plenty of room for mud guards. My guess is that this wheel will eventually loose out to the 29er on mountain bikes as it doesn’t roll or look as good as the 29 inch. However in other respects it is a good package for the maneuverability required in mountain biking. Availability of all related consumables is good.

Hubs
The flanges on a hub, I believe, don’t radically change the stiffness of a wheel and mostly the flanging relates more to the arrangement, number and lace pattern of the spokes. Aesthetics and fashion also play a role here. The width of the hub however does have a significant effect, and a centred rim, rather than a dished rim is much stronger. So a wheel that has been dished to include sprockets, will be weaker than a fixed, single or internally geared hub.

Tyres.
There are heaps of tyres out there in many different styles so I am going to keep this general. Probably the best tyres I’ve owned would be Continental, Town and Country. A tyre for all seasons but only available in 26 inch. I’ve done alot of touring on these tyres and they were extremely puncture resistant, durable, comfortable and efficient. I’d like to replicate this feel on the new bike if possible.

Jan Heine, Editor of Bicycle Quarterly has written a great deal about his experiences and has also done some testing relating to tyres, wheel size and pressure on his website “Off the Beaten Path” – If you want to find out about wheels and tyres (and randoneuring) the Bicycle Quarterly and Off the Beaten Path is going to toast your bread! In summary, it’s complicated. According to Jan and his testing, increases in tyre pressure don’t necessarily lead to increases in efficiency and decreases in rolling resistance and so a medium sized, supple, softer walled tyre may be more efficient than hyper hard, 23mm racing tyre – This is good news and somewhat vindicates my oft misty eyed remembrance of the performance of my town and country tyres. There are optimum pressures depending on your weight and tyre choice so there’s plenty to consider in selecting a tyre if you want to get fanatical about it. If you’d like to know more – try – Science and Bicycles 1: Tires and Pressure by Jan Heine.

Decision?
I’d be happy with any of the wheel sizes and so I suppose they aren’t a determining factor. The 650b does seem to be a rather happy medium between the various sizes – but I wouldn’t choose a bike on it’s ability to accept a 650b wheel.

Tyre choice and pressure, on the other hand, is something I’ll look at more closely when I have decided on a frame and wheel – it’s crucial.

Child carriers are not all the same, and it’s worth considering a few of the styles before parting with your hard earned coin.  Getting one that really suits the kind of riding you’re likely to do with your little passenger will add a great deal to the utility and shared enjoyment of your cycling; Getting the wrong one will only add to the pile of good intentions in your shed.

Loosely speaking, from the bicycle riders perspective, they fall into two distinct categories. Trailors, which are hitched to the bicycle in some way; and seats which are fixed to the frame either stern or aft of the rider.

The first port of call, is the seat variety. This is the first type that will spring to mind as they are popular due to their availability and modest price. The concept behind their design is pretty straight forward. They are essentially an extra bucket seat for your little passenger to sit with you on the bike, usually behind the rider, sometimes in front on the top tube. The main advantage of this style of carrier is that the child is easy to get in and out of the seat. They are pretty good for short trips with riders that are confident, and can deal with the extra weight up high on the frame of the bike. As you might expect, the extra weight high on the frame does make a difference to the handling of the bike. The effect on the bike is minor when you’re up to speed and coasting, but becomes increasingly evident at slow speeds. I’d say this effect is greatest on the most common style mounted on a bike rack behind the rider – the weight of the passenger can end up cantilevered behind the back wheel and it generally feels more tipsy. The type of seat that I have most recent experience is the one situated on the top tube of the bike in front of the rider, and is from Wee Ride. It is prone to the same lateral physics as the rack mounted rear seat – but feels more centered and stable. Yes you need to spread your knees, and yes you either have a dedicated bike, or remove the seat after use, but the riding position for our little passenger is perfect. On the model we have, there is a ‘desk’ – not unlike of the bridge of the starship enterprise – for your little passenger to place their hands, and if its been a big day, your little passenger can lean forward and sleep with their head supported.

This is the bridge of the good ship “Coffee” by Schwinn, aka the ‘wee ride’ bike seat.

This is the basic layout of the seat and “control desk”

This is the mounting bracket minus seat. The seat can be removed or re-attached without tools in 10 seconds.

The second port of call is the trailor, and these fall loosely fall into two categories. The variety that hitch to the seat post or rear stay and the variety that mount near or at the the rear axle. Trailors are generally more expensive, bigger, heavier, make your bicycle footprint wider and longer, need to be stored somewhere, and it can be a little more difficult to get your little passenger loaded. But for their disadvantages they can be very useful. If you buy one that hitches up high on the frame, it will have similar effect on your handling to that of the high mounted seat. Trailors that hitch at or near the axle handle much better. You can still feel the weight – but unhindered by it’s destabilising effect  – you can ride the bike with gay abandon – or however you normally ride.

This is a low mounted hitching point for the Croozer 737 trailor. This hitching bracket stays on the bike. We have two bikes fitted with the bracket.

I have some cycle touring experience pulling loads with trailors and I like them. Like their cousins, child carrier trailors also excel at handling weight. Some trailors can accommodate two passengers, and most have useful storage capacity. If you’re going to pull any amount of weight, be sure to get one of those trailors that are hitched low to take advantage of the improved handling. Again, if you’re unlikely to load up your trailor with gear and/or children – this may not actually serve much of a purpose. Trailors come into their own on longer voyages – It would be interesting to take one on a multi-day ride – I don’t think you could do family cycle-touring a better way.

bucket(ish) seat with 5 point harness looks pretty comfortable

the trailor pictured is a single seater and has a fair bit of storage space behind the main cabin

The position of the passenger in a trailor is pretty low, so the view from the trailor isn’t as expansive as from a high mounted seat, and some may consider the trailor to be more dangerous as it is closer to the ground. As stated, trailors are pretty large. Motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians can see you pulling it from all angles – this is a matter of personal preference – but if it were a lump of concrete the same size – no one would be falling over it. In this respect, again, not all trailors are created equal. Some have protective bars running around their cabin and wheels – some don’t.

The croozer 737 is a more expensive option, but has many useful and safety enhancing features.

There are a variety of trailors out there and one interesting option is that some come with an attachable jockey wheel that turns them into a pram. A great option – but not perfect for tight spaces like supermarkets – better for boardwalks and footpaths. The croozer also comes with a larger wheel for the front so you can use the pram as a jogger – I don’t condone jogging under any circumstances and hope that one day it will be banned during daylight hours – it is painful for everyone.

This wheel, previously pictured in the storage compartment fits to the trailor frame quickly and easily

Trailors can also be made largely weatherproof and some have UV filtering plastic windows – a really important feature for Australian conditions. Trailors are vastly more sleep friendly so if long trips or outings are on the cards – the extra hassle may be worth you while.

With trailers there’s a certain investment in storage space, hitching and unhitching, width and weight – but if you’re seriously thinking about replacing car trips with little passengers they can go the extra mile and carry that extra kilo.

The wheels on the Croozer 737 come off with a push of a button – useful for storage of the trailor.

If I had to choose one – It would come down to personal preference. I’d probably take the top tube mounted seat because I’m more likely to take trips to the park or beach as a short morning or afternoon trip with my little passenger, but if I was a stay-at-home dad, the trailor would be invaluable for day trips, picnics, shopping and whatever else.

Extra information about the seat and trailor pictured are here: Wee Ride and here: Croozer 737