Novara Randonee Bike: Review

Novara Randonee Bike

I just have to add a review on the 2011 Novara Randonee bike from REI. This is one of the best values for the money on the market. For years, the industry has been remiss in offering a real touring bike. A bike with comfortable geometry, low gearing, drop bars, a steel frame/fork and braze-ons for racks and fenders. REI this year offers the perfect value touring bike. To highlight the salient features, the Randonee bike is made from durable Reynolds 520 ChroMoly (frame/fork), the gearing is Deore LX Mountain (44/32/22 x 11-32), the wheelset is Mavic A319 rims with 36 spokes laced to Deore LX hubs and the frame will take 32c tires and probably up to 38c for an extra comfortable ride.

For a versatile road bike that has good tire clearance, low gearing and good components, have a look at the Novara Randonee.

Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14: Review

The Rohloff Speedhub is an internal gear hub (IGH) with 14 equally spaced gears in a sealed housing. Unlike a conventional rear derailleur system, which has exposed gears, the Rohloff hub is completely sealed. The hub holds a small amount (approx. 25ml) of special viscosity oil, maintaining continuous lubrication. Also, unlike conventional derailleur systems which use opposing spring/cable tension to actuate shifting, the Rohloff hub uses a dual wire loop to pull the gears up or down via a gripshift on the handlebar. Shifting takes place internally along the hub axle, with teeth engaging different gear ratios to the drive of the axle. The range is a phenomenal 526%, roughly 25% greater than the new 11-speed IGH. In terms of gear inches, a proper chainring/cog combination would give 19.0-99.6″ (700 x 35c tire / 175mm crank arm). Slightly lower gearing of 18.4-96.5″ can be achieved with a 46/19T combination. This is similar in range to a mountain triple crank with 12-32 cassette.

There are several benefits of the Rohloff Speedhub over a conventional geared drivetrain with derailleurs:

– completely sealed (impervious to the elements)
– much easier to maintain than derailleurs (straight chainline, longer chainlife)
– more reliable and durable (Speedhubs with 90k+ miles and no failures)
– shifting gears at a standstill or while pedaling (while pedaling, back off pedal momentarily to shift)
– 526% mountain bike gear range for any terrain
– Much more efficient shifting in inclement weather

Unlike other internal gear hubs, the Rohloff Speedhub is more efficient, more reliable, has a wider gear range, is rated for higher loads (ie, tandem, aggressive off-road, loaded touring) and is the only IGH available with a quick release skewer. It sets the standard for all internal gear hubs. To date, with more than 10 years on the market, there has never been a Rohloff hub worn out to the point of retirement in the field. Sounds a little like the old Maytag commercials…

The Rohloff hub will be part of a custom build that will be showcased in the near future on Velo Bike Parts.

For more details on the Speedhub, please contact your local Rohloff distributor:

Schwalbe Durano Skid: Review

The Durano Skid is the latest development from Schwalbe. Designed specifically for fixed bikes, the Durano Skid, with a high durometer rubber down the centerline and a strong rubber-coated side wall, greatly increases durability. Under heavy loads, such as those experienced when back-pedaling a fixie, wheel lock is inevitable and also extremely abrasive to your tire. Having to switch out tires frequently is a nuisance and it certainly costs more.

Without a doubt, Schwalbe has set the standard for bicycle tire design over the years. The original Marathon XR tire set the standard for the best touring tire worldwide. The variable durometer tread ensured lower rolling resistance, better durability and enhanced grip when cornering. With the new Durano Skid, you can expect the same leading design. The high durometer centerline should prove worthy in withstanding greater frictional loads considerably longer than other tires with its deeper, abrasion resistant tread. Stay in the saddle longer and don’t fiddle with your bike.

The Durano Skid – for Bikes without Brakes. Available in 700 x 25c (black only).

Schwalbe Ultremo ZX: Review

The Ultremo brand of tires are the perfect balance between performance and puncture protection. The ZX is the newest development from Schwalbe, with HD Speed Guard and RaceStar Triple Compound. These components are tailored to the rigorous demands of the competitive cyclist. I have been using Ultremo tires for more than a decade. They are the best performing race tires on the market. The new ZX has reduced rolling resistance for better speed and the shoulders have been reinforced to increase durability.

Available in a variety of colors and also 25c and 28c for added rider comfort (black only). Try these on, you won’t be disappointed. The ZX is the best Ultremo ever!

Selle an-Atomica Titanico Saddle: Review

The Selle An-Atomica Titanico is a leather saddle with a generous cutout in the center to relieve saddle soreness. This saddle was designed by Tom Milton over a period of 4 years. Extensive research was carried out to determine where the pressure points on a rider are most vulnerable, how a rider moves as they cycle and how can a saddle be designed to accommodate the asymmetrical movement of the human body. The Titanico saddles are made with ‘watershed’ leather (waterproof) and have a reinforcing leather laminate to increase durability. For lighter riders (<140 lbs), the Titanico Legacy offers greater flexibility to the rear of the saddle (the laminate is forward of the rear rivets). This version is only available in black.

I have been using a Titanico saddle for more than 6 years now on my race bike. Without a doubt, it is the most comfortable race saddle available on the market. When sitting for long periods of time on a narrow bicycle saddle, the pudendal nerve of the perineal region of the body is compressed, leading to numbness and pain. The Titanico effectively minimizes this compression, relieving much of the discomfort and allows you to sit for longer periods of time in the saddle. I have tested more than 50 different race saddles, all claiming to ‘relieve pressure’ on your sit bones to increase comfort. None come close to offering the comfort of the Selle An-Atomica saddle. For long rides on your race bike, this saddle is a must. Padded, gel and recessed saddles are great in theory, but in practice, they do not work as well as the Titanico design. Saddles that are tipped down at the nose, or have no nose, offer no support up front and increase the pressure rearward. The Titanico is a little like a hammock that distributes the pressure more evenly and also flexes with you body, unlike any other saddle on the market.

For further information, visit the Selle An-Atomica website (, or view a demonstration of the saddle in action (

Velocity Psycho 700c: Review

The Velocity Psycho 700c is the newest and toughest rim Velocity manufactures, making it the best choice for downhill or fully loaded touring. The rim is extremely stout, offering a low profile box section with eyelets. The weight penalty is approximately 50% greater than the Chukker rim, but they’ve been built to handle anything you can throw at them. Available in a variety of spoke counts, but only available in black. The Psycho rims are available in 700c for a limited time, but are also available in 26″. They will be part of a custom build that will be showcased in the near future on Velo Bike Parts.

Velocity Chukker 700c: Review

The Velocity Chukker is a recent rim designed for the expanding market of bicycle polo and fixed gear enthusiasts. The rim is essentially a cross between a Dyad and a Deep V. The width is 24mm and the depth is 32mm. It is a strong rim, like the Deep V, but able to accommodate larger tires. I have been using the Chukker rims on my fixie for over a year now and absolutely love them! They’re nice and stiff, accelerating hard with little or no noticeable windup. A great rim for your fixie/track bike which sees more torsional load than a rim with rim brakes. For tricks, a 48h version is optimal with minimal weight penalty. I use the Chukkers with 23c tires at high psi. As long as your tires are inflated properly, the tire will hold snug and corner like a dream with less roll-over than with a standard, narrower rim. This is my preferred rim/tire combination for my main training bike (Montague Boston SS). These are available in a variety of spoke counts and colors. For high stress tricks and stunts, a higher spoke count is preferable. The Chukker is also available as a 26″ rim.

Velocity Dyad 700c: Review

The Velocity Dyad rim sets the standard for 700c touring road bike wheels. They are amongst the most reliable rims available on the market for use with clincher road tires. I have been using the Dyad rims for more than 10 years and have never experienced a failure or defect beyond normal wear. The 22mm V profile box design gives plenty of strength to the rim. The Dyad has been a favorite of cycling enthusiasts for years, offering outstanding reliability and comfort for use on long tours and treks. The 24mm width easily accommodates 40c-50c tires for loaded touring, smoothening out the bumps for your long journey. If trekking or touring is your goal, and you’re looking for a reliable rim, then the Dyad is just the rim for you. Keep in mind, the higher the spoke count, the less load your spokes will carry and the less stress that will be transfered to the rim over time and the longer your spokes and rim will last. For loaded touring, 40h or 48h rims are preferable. These rims are available in black and silver anodized colors. Available spoke counts of 32h, 36h, 40h and 48h. If you’re looking for a reliable road rim that will give you good service, look no further than the Velocity Dyad 700c rim.

Velocity Deep V: Review

The Velocity Deep V rim sets the standard for 700c road bike wheels. They are amongst the most reliable rims available on the market for use with clincher road tires. I have been using the Deep V rims for more than 6 years and have never experienced a failure or defect. The deep 30mm profile gives plenty of strength to the rim. If lower spoke count is your goal, then the Velocity Deep V’s will offer sidewall rigidity that you won’t find in a box rim without significant weight penalty. These rims are available in a variety of anodized and powder coat colors. Available spoke count ranges from 16h – 48h in 4 spoke increments (except 44h). If you’re looking for a reliable road rim that will give you good service, look no further than the Velocity Deep V rim.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus HS 348: Review

The Marathon Plus tire is the newest generation of flatless tires by Schwalbe. The tire incorporates the SmartGuard belt which is a strong, highly elastic, special rubber layer offering extremely effective protection against penetration punctures. The layer is approximately 7mm thick, which helps prevent sharp puncture flats. The SmartGuard layer, along with the enhanced tread design and high durometer centerline, do not increase rolling resistance compared to a non-SmartGuard tire. If you’re traveling or commuting, especially in the dark, you don’t want to get a flat. With these tires, flats become virtually obsolete. Nothing can be better than the peace of mind of reliable transportation. For general purpose, around town and commuting, there is no better tire available than the Marathon Plus tire. Hands down the leader in puncture protection.

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