Monday, 13 August 2007

Where Art Meets Craft in the Cafe of Practicality

Sometimes there is no substitute for engineering. The cold, clinical precision of technology providing the lightest, fastest, most exhilarating ride you can throw a leg over. Yeh, it's cold, it's dead, but it's FAST, man!

Then there is beauty. Fleeting, priceless, warm and not a straight line in sight. Warm because it is organic, made from timber. Priceless because, while these could be mass-produced, they shouldn't be, it'd just be wrong to destroy whole forests to cheapen the rarity of a hand-crafted piece. Fleeting because, many of us wouldn't dream of spending money on something so precious, simply because... well, what if you dropped it, laid it down at speed? Horror! Never mind the skin, varnished wood won't heal itself when grazed!

This fleeting, beautiful and warm poetry of motion, with it's laminated frame and wheels is the Gota. Gota bicycles are inspired by the shapes of nature and crafted in Brazil. Get back to the bicycle's roots.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Cell S2200 Road Test

Following up on my earlier report on Cell's bargain basement road rocket, I've now had mine nearly a week, so it's time for a road test report. I could sum up this bike in one word - AWESOME!

At AU$449 you don't expect much bike for your money. With the S2200, that expectation just goes out the window from the minute the courier hands you the box. My exclamation at this, "It's lighter than my Giant Iguana and it's still in the box!"

I expected the retro downtube shifters and I expected the cheap, nasty Cheng Sing tyres, the latter common on even $2000 bikes. I guess the manufacturers all expect people to have a favourite tyre they'll swap to right away and keeping the cost down that way is good business. I didn't expect the Shimano 2203 triple-ring gears to be so positive and clean shifting and I certainly didn't expect Tektro Promax head system or the Selle San Marco saddle. This bike is cheap, but not a compromise.

I've been riding mountain bikes for the last 20 years, so the steering I find very twitchy compared to trusty old "Iggy", but the effortless way I can take the S2200 up to 30km/h is just dreamy. Lets face it, road bikes are meant to be a bit "hairy" in their steering, and it's not taking me long to get used to the differences. It's actually quite well mannered and responsive like a well set up sports car to a mountain bike's family wagon feel.

The downtube shifters are the only "cheap" bit, because according to Shimano's specs, 2303 groupset has integrated shifters as an option, but the position and geometry of my 56cm frame make them no less difficult to use than STIs. The only time it's a problem is climbing out of the saddle, where you have to sit, change, then stand again. (I'm sure old-timers will tell me there's a trick that'll take me a month to learn... if I'm lucky ;-)

So how is it overall? Light, fast, tight and in every way feels like a bike of at least twice the $450 price tag. Replace the Chen Sings with Michelins or Contis and it's a fine road warrior, if only for the weekend warrior. How they make a 7005 heat treated frame and 24 speed bike so cheap and so damned good defies belief. Even if you buy this and immediately replace the downtubes with integrated shifters, you'll still be in front. This bike is an absolute winner in the under $1500 category, probably even keeps up with some $2000 bikes. All this comes down to one word, as I said at the start, AWESOME!

Training Improves With Weather

With the arrival of my new bike, the Cell S2200, and the almost "tropical" break in the usually miserable Tasmanian winter, your intrepid Circumcyclogationists have got out on the bike a bit lately. This includes two stints for me (once for Dan) round Hobart's bridges.

Round the bridges is a good training route that takes in a safe cycle path, heavy traffic, undulating shoreline backs streets and a short hill. It's a good run and I recommend anybody try it, whether they live here or are just visiting.