My KM is now the ultimate winter commuter! (28"/internal gear hub content) [o]- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    My KM is now the ultimate winter commuter! (28"/internal gear hub content) [o]

    OK, I promised this a week ago, but then came down with a cold and couldn't ride for a few days. I have converted my KM into the ultimate winter commute bike. The last few years I've been commuting on my singlespeed 'crosser, but my current route includes over 800' of climbing on the way home, with a long, steep, fast descent. That means the ideal commuter bike would have:

    • Gears. But after singlespeeding for so long, I really don't like the idea of running a derailer (squeek-squeek-squeek!) through a rainy Portland winter. I've been perfectly happy with 4 speeds since last summer, and for winter conditions 3 speeds will do just fine. The obvious solution is ... an internal gear hub!
    • Disc brakes. I got along OK with V-brakes and sticky Ritchey pads on my crosser when my commute was flat, but I now have a 3-mile continuous descent at speeds of 25-30 mph. When I need to brake I need maximum braking power instantly, regardless of how hard it's raining. Gotta have discs.
    • Fat tires. To utilize that braking power, I want more grip (i.e., fatter tires) than I can fit on my 'crosser. At least 700x42, and I may even experiment with the Schwalbe Big Apple.


    Since the KM is already a disc-ready, horizontal-dropout frame with enough tire clearance, this project was very easy to do. I acquired a SRAM DualDrive Disc 3x9 hub. This is a 3-speed internally geared hub with disc mounts on the left, and a conventional freehub shell on the right. It's designed to be used with a cassette and derailer, for a complete 27-speed drivetrain at the back of the bike with a single chainring, and is commonly spec'ed on recumbents. I'm not using a cassette, just 1 cog (well, actually 2, so I can experiment with this thing off-road too) and a bunch of spacers, single-speed style with no derailer or tensioner. At about 900g, this hub is about a pound heavier than an XT disc hub. In other words, the total drivetrain weight would be about the same as a 1x9 using a conventional cassette and derailer.

    I had the hub laced up to a Salsa Delgado Cross rim, to match my other 29" wheels. The complete build on this wheel (including hub) was well north of $300 by the time it was all said and done, but since I bike to work 2-3x per week I decided I could justify it. Compared with the venerable Rohloff, this hub is half the weight and 1/4 of the price. If you really need 14 gears, well then get the Rohloff. But if you can get along with 3 gears, get this one.

    Tire-wise, I'm running a 700x42 IRC Mythos XC Slick in back. Actually I'm disappointed with this tire's grip on wet pavement, and I plan to swap it out for a Maxxis WormDrive in the same size. Front tire is a studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta 700x45. In western Oregon we're too close to the ocean to get both cold and wet weather at the same time. It's either/or: usually either wet and above freezing (30s/40s F), or dry and (in the morning) just below freezing. A few years ago I fell on frosty pavement (fortunately at low speed), and I've run a studded front tire all winter ever since. Heavy as hell (~1000g), but worth every penny and every gram.

    OK, here's a photo bike, fully outfitted for commuting:



    Note to self: hold the camera steady next time (duh). Sorry.

    Here's a picture taken with flash, and headlights blazing, in the exact same light conditions.



    That's what a motorist is going to see at night: 25 watts of halogen light, multiple LEDs (not all visible here) including spinning TireFlys, and a couple square feet of DOT-grade reflective tape. Not only is this bike impervious to all weather, it's visible in all weather. I don't care too much that it's ugly, although I do have a very cool project planned to beautify this bike and maximize visibility at the same time.

    Drivetrain closeup:



    This hub is shifted via a pin in the center of the axle. The black "clickbox" ($20, about 50 grams) mounted on the end of the axle converts shift cable travel to action on the shift pin. I'm still experimenting with the gearing. I tried 38x18 initially, but after the first ride I lowered it to 36x18 so I could take advantage of the high gear more of the time. Ideally I'd like slightly tighter spacing, especially between the middle and high gear, but it's acceptable. With internal ratios of 0.70, 1.00 and 1.35, I have gear choices of 38, 55 and 74 gear inches, respectively. I'll also be experimenting with this thing off-road this winter using 34x20 gearing (34, 49 and 65" gears).

    Here's the rather busy cockpit:



    I've grown fond of having a second set of (stubby) bar ends mounted inboard of the grips to get an additional comfy/aero hand position for cruising the flats. I mounted the shifter (old DX front friction thumbie) on one of these, for quick installation and removal so I can yank off the drivetrain and go singlespeed mtb'ing at a moment's notice. That makes the cable routing kinda funny, but it works. Also notice the trail bell, Air Zound horn (don't use it often, love having it when I do), integrated mirror/bar ends and TurboCat S25 headlights.

    Note to self: uh, I guess this bike is not a full-time singlespeed anymore. Gotta replace the "Singlespeed / One Is All You Need" top cap with the "29er / Bigger is Better" top cap.

    Note to self: geez, clean the deck already!

    So I've ridden this bike to work the last 2 days (7 miles am, 12 miles pm) and it has worked great. It's been pretty rainy, including a torrential downpour on part of yesterday morning's ride, so it's been a good test. Love having the discs -- when it's wet they make a lot more noise than rim brakes, but they sure stop better too. In the dark and rain I do not notice any efficiency loss with this hub, and I'm not sure it's very noticeable in better conditions either. In any event it's certainly much more efficient than a derailer drivetrain with a chain that's gotten all crusty and cruddy from riding in the rain. I'll post another report after I've ridden it for a few weeks, but so far the verdict is a big thumbs-up.

    - Dan

  2. #2
    pepito
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    that bike certainly brings a whole new meaning to your handle. very interesting and well thought out setup.

    the_dude
    "Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling" ~James E. Starrs

  3. #3

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    Where did you get your reflective tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by GlowBoy
    ...and a couple square feet of DOT-grade reflective tape.
    I've been looking for some good quality reflective tape for my hitch rack. The stuff on your bike looks to be really high quality. Is it durable? How's the adhesive? Is it available on the web?

    Thanks.

  4. #4
    Is my rear tire flat?
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    Wow, that is quite the ride. May even be the ultimate commute machine. Have fun with that badbay.
    D

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmoe
    I've been looking for some good quality reflective tape for my hitch rack. The stuff on your bike looks to be really high quality. Is it durable? How's the adhesive? Is it available on the web?

    Thanks.
    Liberty Lake Wa.

  5. #5
    Sofa King We Todd Did
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlowBoy
    Here's a picture taken with flash, and headlights blazing, in the exact same light conditions.



    That's what a motorist is going to see at night...
    So basically you plan on scaring the bejezzus out of them, making them think that a UFO's landed?

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    fix photos please

    Can't see 'em.

    thanks

    -jv

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmoe
    I've been looking for some good quality reflective tape for my hitch rack. The stuff on your bike looks to be really high quality. Is it durable? How's the adhesive? Is it available on the web?

    Thanks.
    I bought it at the auto parts store. Pack of four 2"x24" strips (1/3 white, 2/3 red) is $9.99. It seems to stick quite well and is fairly thick and tough looking. Make sure to get the automotive grade (DOT) stuff. It reflects at least twice the light per surface area as a cheap bike reflector.

    Dunno about the pic problem. They look OK to me.

  8. #8
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    gear inches

    Can you point me somewhere that I can make more sence of gear inches please? I'd like to understand this better, as it relates to my current 9speed setup, and towards possible single speed options.

    Thanks,

  9. #9

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    No better place than Sheldon brown http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/

    That is indeed the super commuter - I have something similar planned!

    Sam

  10. #10
    SS Clyde 29er
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    umm..keepin it a simple SS i see?

    duude, loose all the STUFF, look within, hide ur credit card, exercise those compulsive consumption demons. ur gona confuse folks n they are gonna think ur a UFO, heheh.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by fire horse
    duude, loose all the STUFF, look within, hide ur credit card, exercise those compulsive consumption demons. ur gona confuse folks n they are gonna think ur a UFO, heheh.
    Well, I knew sooner or later a post like this had to come along...

    Listen, you're talking to the wrong guy about KISS. When I go mountain biking I'm a singlespeeder - and rigid - because I like simplicity in my bikes. I ran my road bike as a SS for two years, and even now is just a 1x4, for the same reason.

    But I'm not an ideologue about it. If there's something on my bike, it is there specifically because through years of experience, I have seen its value and it has absolutely justified itself in terms of both its weight and its expense.

    So let's go down the list of stuff that, to some people who don't commute regularly in heavy rain, might appear extraneous and clutter-y:

    • Disc brakes: justified because of far superior stopping ability, as extensively described in my original post. I should add that they are also simpler to adjust and maintain than rim brakes, so plus one for simplicity here.
    • Internal hub: again, advantages extensively described above. Don't get it, and don't want one? Don't buy one.
    • Outer bar ends, IncrediBell and Thudbuster: These are for mountain biking, and I'd rather not have them on my commuter bike. But for now this bike is doing dual duty as a commuter and mountain bike. So it's got stuff on it that's suited towards only one purpose or the other, and that adds up to more stuff than I need or want for either activity individually. In fact, that's one of the primary reasons I intend to buy a second 29" frame.
    • Inner bar ends: I use these for both types of riding. Not something most people use, but highly recommended.
    • Fenders. In the Pacific NW, these are components. Not accessories. 'Nuff said 'bout that.
    • Air Zound horn. Obviously for commuting only, with QR for quick removal for mtbing. Try commuting 2000 miles a year, in an urban and suburban environment in all weather conditions, and you'd get one too. Not very expensive, and weighs nothing.
    • Mirror? Ditto. Picked up on clearance anyway, so a tiny expense. Besides, I'll run something lighter once this is a dedicated commuter bike.
    • 25W light system. I was riding with 10W until last winter, when my commute changed and I found it insufficient for high speed descents in heavy rain in poorly lit suburban areas. That means a heavier battery to run it too, but that's just tough t1tties.
    • Various LED lights and reflectors. This stuff is inexpensive anyway, and if its value requires an explanation, you don't commute in the dark, or at least haven't done so long enough for Darwin's principle to take effect yet. The more visible you are, the fewer negative interactions you will have with cars. Period. Quick reminder: last night while driving, I pulled out from a 4-way stop and almost hit a cyclist who ran his stop sign with no front lights or reflectors. The flash photo I posted may look dramatic, but it also exaggerates. In reality I'm probably still a bit less visible than the average car on the road.


    In any event, even with all this expense it's still cheaper for me to ride to work than to drive (not to mention the other benefits!) The beauty of having a bike that's really ready for the commuting conditions I might encounter is that I look forward to getting on it no matter what, regardless of how crappy it looks outside. That reduces the temptation to get in the car just because it's more comfortable or "safe", and means I'm arriving at work or back home with a big silly grin on my face. What in the heck is wrong with that?

    If you have a problem with my spending $300+ on a hub (by the way, I'm assuming you meant "exorcise" and not "exercise" in your post), and you think I'm just being defensive in arguing this point with you, try this: I urge you to also post the same lecture to everyone on these boards who buys a $350 King hub, or a $800+ Rohloff, or a $2000+ titanium frame. See how well that is received.
    Last edited by GlowBoy; 12-10-2004 at 03:33 PM.

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    ... and if we just ...

    When you said weatherproof I really expected titanium.
    You disappoint me....
    lol

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    My local powder coating place has reflective additives they can add to any color. The claim in silver and red it qualifies as DOT approved reflectivity. How about getting you fork painted with that in silver reflective and the rest of the frame in red reflective. That would be very cool. .

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymo853
    My local powder coating place has reflective additives they can add to any color. The claim in silver and red it qualifies as DOT approved reflectivity. How about getting you fork painted with that in silver reflective and the rest of the frame in red reflective. That would be very cool. .
    Thanks for the suggestion - my "beautification" plans include exactly that kind of thing, although using rattle-can paint. Krylon makes a spray product called Reflect-A-Lite that makes anything reflective, and that will be part of my plans. I'll post more info once I'm close to ready to do it.

  15. #15
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    ok ok...points well taken...

    just dont leave that puppy outside unattended

  16. #16
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    That's awesome, one of the best dual duty bikes I've seen in a long time.

    I'm moving up to Portland next year, is this kind of weather what I'm in for? We lived in Seattle before, but I had to leave the bikes behind so I never got to ride to work. I don't remember it being below freezing in the winter, but then again Seattle is right on the coast.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaun K
    That's awesome, one of the best dual duty bikes I've seen in a long time.

    I'm moving up to Portland next year, is this kind of weather what I'm in for? We lived in Seattle before, but I had to leave the bikes behind so I never got to ride to work. I don't remember it being below freezing in the winter, but then again Seattle is right on the coast.
    Not much different from Seattle (where I spent 6 years before moving to Portland, so I know it well). Overal rain is about the same amount -- 37" a year, less than Atlanta or NY, if I'm not mistaken -- but it rains slightly less of the time and a little more intensely than in Seattle. Still much milder and more-frequent rain than back East though.

    Frost is probably a little more common than in Seattle because we're further from big bodies of water, and quite common in the western suburbs where I work, which are in a valley protected from the easterly winds by a 1000' ridge. Hence the studded front tire.

    Snow's pretty rare - last year it snowed several times, including a 10" dump, but we didn't get any snow other than a couple of flurries for 3 whole years before that. One unusual Portland weather phenomenon that Seattle rarely gets is the Gorge-effect ice storm, caused by the fact that the Columbia Gorge is the only gap in the Cascades between Canada and Mexico, and occasionally the cold high-pressure air east of the mountains pushes through. When it's 20 degrees out, there's a half inch of ice on everything and it's raining, you do not drive, let alone get on a bike. It's a pain when it happens, but it sure is beautiful. On average we get one of these storms once or twice a year.

    Summers are also quite a bit hotter -- by 5-10 degrees, with lots of 80+ and some years a fair number of 90+ days -- and, oddly, more humid with much less evening cooldown. In the Spring you get just as much rain but a lot more sunbreaks and fewer of those days where the fog and clouds just refuse to burn off. I'm talking subtle differences here - it is still a NW climate, and someone coming from back East or down South wouldn't notice that much difference between the two - but there you go.

  18. #18
    FIFI!
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    been a while, wondering how the hubs holding up?

  19. #19
    Strongbow or Bust!!!!
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    SRAM hub............

    Dan, keep us posted on how the Dual-drive hub works. I know Bob (RedHaze) had one but I have not talked to him lately, as well as I moved too (no Barbie Camp for me this year ). I'm thinking of getting the Dual-drive hub for my next project bike.

    Rob


    PS-If you need some more reflective tape I have a roll of yellow MIL spec tape.
    Fermented Apple Juice rules!!!!!! BURRRRPP!!

  20. #20
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    Can't get too much light

    Quote Originally Posted by GlowBoy
    Thanks for the suggestion - my "beautification" plans include exactly that kind of thing, although using rattle-can paint. Krylon makes a spray product called Reflect-A-Lite that makes anything reflective, and that will be part of my plans. I'll post more info once I'm close to ready to do it.
    Hello from Spokane Wash. Glowboy. I do most of my commuting/ grocery getting after dark. I have two large cruiser type wire baskets on the back with a Michels craft store plastic sewing box over the rear wheel. I can carry 3/4 of a grocery cart of food with this set up and it justs amazes cashiers. About a year ago I was in the median (center section no-mans land) of a four lane highway waiting to cross the last two lanes. My bike had a good rechargeable head light (not near as bright as yours) reflectors in the wheels, and a flat triangular shaped LED flashing tail light on the back of the sewing box. It was after dark in the winter and after I crossed the road and pulled up to the front of the grocery store, an off duty UPS driver that had just pulled in, told me "hey man I could see you from the front and the rear, but when you were standing sidways out in that median you were invisible! This shook me pretty good and I installed reflective strips along the top tube and sides of the sewing box. I also added one more light, a Trek "Disco Inferno" which radiates flashing light in about a 270 degree circle. Most people use this as their rear light attatched to the seat post, but I was worried about getting T boned so I put it under the top tube right close to the steering tube. It does a great job of flashing light to the left and right and tword on coming cars. I figure that all the gas I save in several years of riding won't even begin to cover the hospital bills I'll have from a bad accident (if I live) so I don't care if I look like a "UFO". Actually I prefer to be recognized as an "IFO" and "Identified Flying Object". You got a nice bike, ride safe.

  21. #21
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    reflective powdercoating??

    Also, back to the earlier post, does anyone know who can do reflective powdercoating? thx.

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    One more thing.

    To be the ultimate commuter you need a chain guard.

    A fully sealed drivetrain with integrated bash guard would be my dream commuter rig.

    Work that hub hard and give us a review soon.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weaver
    been a while, wondering how the hubs holding up?
    Quote Originally Posted by The Tractor
    Dan, keep us posted on how the Dual-drive hub works. I know Bob (RedHaze) had one but I have not talked to him lately, as well as I moved too (no Barbie Camp for me this year ). I'm thinking of getting the Dual-drive hub for my next project bike.

    Rob

    PS-If you need some more reflective tape I have a roll of yellow MIL spec tape.
    I used the hub for about 5 months this past winter and spring, and had no problems whatsoever. It ran smooth and (so far) has handled our wet weather just fine. When the weather improved this spring I switched to a 1x4 derailer drivetrain for better gear choices. In about a month the rains will start up and I'll switch back to the internal hub again.

    Probably the nicest thing about this hub is its efficiency. I found that a derailer drivetrain was slightly more efficient only when the chain was perfectly clean. With a moderately dirty chain (such as one would expect to get from riding in the rain regularly) the internal hub was substantially more efficient. Admittedly, this observation is based only on "feel" and on timing my commute home, but here's an article that backs it up : http://www.ihpva.org/pubs/HP52.pdf. In this study, 3 different 7-speed hubs, the Rohloff Speedhub and Shimano 3 and 4-speed hubs all had overall efficiencies in the 89-91% range. A Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub and a standard Shimano 3x9 MTB drivetrain both had overall efficiencies of 93%, and the Sachs (aka SRAM) hub they tested had an overall efficiency of 94%. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

    The other dig against internal hubs is their weight, but if you look at overall drivetrain weight it's still pretty favorable. My SRAM hub weighs about 950g including bolts -- or about 400g more than an XT disc hub including QR. Sounds heavy, but ... a derailer drivetrain is going to have easily 100-150g more weight in the cogs plus a 250g derailer. In other words, the internally geared drivetrain is only barely heavier than even my lean 1x4 setup. Can't remember the exact figures, but on the scale, my built SRAM wheel and my built XT-hub wheel, both built with Delgado rims were less than 400g apart, presumably due to the well-publicized variation in the weights of those rims.

    I believe Bob's SRAM hub may be dead. Last I checked his opinion was that it was plenty strong for mountain biking in terms of power delivery, but that it didn't hold up to all the jumping involved in his particular riding style. You might want to check with him to see if he's been able to revive it.

    My only complaint about this hub is the gear spacing. The gears are 35% apart, which is a big jump. No matter how I gear it, I end up with a middle gear that's a bit lower than I'd like or a high gear that's a bit higher than I'd like. 25-30% jumps would be better for my use , and would still give me adequate overall range.

    As far as paint goes, I haven't done anything yet. I'm still considering upgrading my KM to something with a better dropout setup and a bit less weight -- both the SIR and the Kona 29"er look very promising for my use. I do have cans of both Reflectix and Krylon Glowz sitting around, but I need to make my frame decision first before going crazy with the spray cans.

    Quote Originally Posted by SCRAMPY
    To be the ultimate commuter you need a chain guard.
    True enough. One of these days I need to figure out how to bolt a chainguard onto a KM. Shouldn't be too hard.
    "People like GloyBoy are deaf. They are partisan, intellectually lazy & usually very angry." -Jaybo

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlowBoy
    Well, I knew sooner or later a post like this had to come along...

    Listen, you're talking to the wrong guy about KISS. When I go mountain biking ....
    Agreed.

    I ride single speed only on my mountain bikes now. When I'm mountain biking it's about a be one with the mountain, have fun, zen kind of thing.

    when commuting its all about function. I want as much noisy, bright, reflective, clangy, yet functional stuff as possible between me and the concrete jungle.

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