Halo is a UK-based brand founded in 1995. Their initial focus was on bikes that were designed to take flight, but they’ve expanded their line to include cross country mountain bike and road bike wheels. And with stateside distribution they’re set to make their mark on the US market.
When I set out to build my latest city bike, I knew that I didn’t want wimpy wheels, and I didn’t want anything proprietary—not even straight pull or bladed spokes. Even though I’m not known as a wheel crusher, I do like to go off road whenever possible, and my shortcuts often include some of the roughest alleys and parking lots in town. Plus, the bike in question, a Surly Straggler, is spaced for a 135 mm mountain bike rear hub. Enter the Halo Vapour wheelset.
Designed for serious mountain biking, but not necessarily racing, the Vapour wheelset features 32-hole, deep section, 26 mm wide rims. Made from heat treated T10 aluminum, they’re double walled with eyelets for durability. For the duration of this test the rims held 700 x 35c steel beaded tires. I would think the wide profile wouldn’t work well with anything smaller than a 700 x 32c.
The rims come laced to forged alloy hubs. Both front and rear feature international standard six-bolt disc rotor mounts. The rear hub uses six double-point pawls which equates to 12 points of engagement. I really can’t ask for more when it comes to responsiveness, and whir of the freehub sounds like that of a very expensive hub.
Aesthetically, these may be a bit flashy for a city bike, but I like them. The red anodized nipples offer a splash of color without looking gaudy, and the rim graphics warrent a double take. That’s neither silver ink nor faux-brushed aluminum decals—the graphics are laser etched into the rims.
As tested the wheels weighed 872 g front and 961 g rear. Retail price is $199 front and $295 rear. Check out www.halo-usa.com
In 1579 Sir Francis Drake landed in northern California and dubbed it New Albion. In 1976, Jack McAuliffe founded the now defunct New Albion brewery in Sonoma, which was regarded as the first American microbrewery. And in 2012, New Albion Cycles formed with the idea of bringing classic bicycle designs to the market. The Homebrew is their flagship model.
The Homebrew is best described as a classic roadbike with a hint of modern technology. It joins just a handful of bikes on the market with downtube shifters. The steel frameset is lugged and TIG welded, and of course readily accepts racks and fenders. The fork features a 1” quill stem and eyelets for a mini rack and fenders.
The Homebrew offers a classic cycling experience that countless cyclists have enjoyed in recent years by restoring second hand bikes from the 80’s. But not only are those old bikes becoming harder to find, their downfalls are eventually exposed, namely poor braking, a lack of hill-friendly gearing, and limited tire clearance. The Homebrew takes care of all of those things with aplomb.
If you’ve never ridden with single-pivot brakes you might not appreciate the mechanical advantage that dual-pivot side-pull caliper brakes offer. But it’s night and day, and so thankfully New Albion decided not to go that retro. The IRD B57’s have clearance for up to 32mm tires, which is good because the Homebrew can accept them. It ships with 700 x 28c Kenda Kwick tires.
The tires might be more aptly named Komfortable, as they’re rather high volume and low pressure (85 psi max) makes for an incredibly comfortable ride. The tires are mounted to 32-spoke polished aluminum rims.
The drivetrain is predominantly composed of Sun Race components. I have nothing but good things to say about this groupset, and the pairing of a 50-32 crankset with an 11-32 cassette was highly appreciated. Pittsburgh, like San Francisco, is a city known for its steep hills.
Downtube shifters aren’t for everyone. They’re not as convenient as STI or even bar-end shifters. But they get the job done. They also make for a clean looking handlebar with less cables to interfere with a front rack, should you choose to go that route.
I did, in fact, ride the Homebrew with both front and rear racks for the majority of the test. I occasionally strapped packages to the rear rack, but I rode with a handlebar bag nearly every single time. The additional weight on the bars was quite obvious at times, especially on rough roads and when locking the bike up. But for the most part it wasn’t a hindrance. And because I was usually able to fit everything I needed for the day in said bag, I was able to commute on the hottest days of the year without a backpack or messenger bag. For someone like me, who almost never rides without one, the experience is refreshing.
And that might be the essence of the Homebrew, it’s a refreshing change of pace. It’s not a technological wonder, it’s a classic. The kind of bike your parents rode, the kind that made millions of people fall in love with cycling. It’s also worth noting that the bike is simply beautiful, as countless people pointed out during my time on the Homebrew.
Detractors may point out that the frame and fork are made from high tensile steel and not chromoly, but the difference is predominantly a matter of weight, not performance or safety. The decision of course is a matter of cost, which might seem unlikely since at $999 the Homebrew doesn’t fit into the category of affordable, but I contend that it’s worth considering. You’re not going to see a million of these on the streets of your city, and some people like to have a bike that no one else has. But I digress.
At the moment I have 16 working bicycles at my disposal. Even though another one might be more appropriate for a given ride, I keep opting for the Homebrew. That pretty much sums it all up. Check out www.newalbioncycles.com
Enter our Facebook contest to win an Abus Bordo 5700.
With the Bordo, ABUS has revolutionized the bicycle lock and established an entirely new type of lock. The Bordo family offers light weight and flexibility in a compact design. Features include 5 mm steel bars and a premium cylinder for high protection against picking. Click here to enter.
Contest ends August 10, 2014.
WOHO has released an updated version of their Flying Fender. Version 2.0 is one-size-fits-all, and has a distinctly Gundam Wing inspired design. Like the previous version it’s super lightweight (45g) and attaches with Velcro. It can be rolled up and stored in a number of ways, and retails for $14.99.
Check out www.wohobike.com
The Especial Raider backpack was designed for people who don’t just want to ride to work, but who want to log some miles before they punch in. People like the Mission Cycling club, who collaborated with Timbuk2 to design this backpack. The main parameters were that it had to be a lightweight bag that wouldn’t impede your performance on the bike, but it also had to carry all of the essentials. And that includes not only clothes, but shoes, as well.
Timbuk2 really rose to the occasion. The Especial Raider weighs less than one pound thanks to its primarily ripstop nylon construction. It features ventilated padding on the back and shoulder straps, but not so much that it feels bulky. The shoulder straps are adjustable, and so is the sternum strap (it can slide up and down so you can adjust the height). On the outside the bag features one zippered pocket across the top and two stretch pockets on the hips. There’s a blinky light tab and a hook and loop tab to hang your helmet on once the ride is over.
Inside the bag, things get much more interesting. Though the bag has a rather trim profile (roughly 10 x 18 inches) it offers more than 1000 cubic inches of carrying capacity. The bag has two internal shoe compartments that basically keep the bottom half of each shoe in place. Then there is the back panel pocket, which includes a plastic folding board and a hook and loop strap. This system allows you to fold your clothes and keep them neatly pressed against your back. Finally, the bag has a built in metal hanging hook that allows you to conveniently suspend the bag while you change.
As someone who works a 9 to 5 and has to adhere to a business casual dress code, I truly appreciate this bag. Even when I’m not heading to work, I like the light weight and functionality of the bag. And I like the way it looks, it’s clean, simple and black (though there are now new color options). The bag fits me quite well, and unlike a lot of commuter specific bags, it’s quite appropriate for off-road riding, too.
My only real nits to pick with the bag largely revolve around wishes, not truly complaints. First, I wish the bag were more water resistant. I mitigated this by riding around with an extra-large Ziplock bag for my phone, wallet and other valuables that aren’t waterproof. I wish they had provided a convenient way to deal with the excess straps (I took care of this with rubber bands). And I wish the exterior pocket was a little deeper because once you unzip it all the way, things have a tendency to fall out.
The Especial Raider backpack retails for $79. Check out www.timbuk2.com
Enter to win one of five reflective sticker packs from Fiks:Reflective. These vibrant retroreflective stickers are designed to allow you to be as creative [or boring] as you want. They enable you to make an almost endless number of patterns and their microscopic embedded glass beads will reflect light to help keep you seen out there at night. 52 tessellating reflective stickers per pack. Click here to enter.
Contents Include: Utilitarian Bicycles in China, City Report: Washington DC, Gallery: SF Courier Portraits, Redhook Crit Women’s Race, World Naked Bike Ride. Product Spotlight: Marin, SRAM, Detroit Cargo, Abbey Bike Tools, Product Reviews: Fuji, Knog, Hiplok, Vaya and more, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Worksman Cycles, Know Your Derailleur Limits, No Exit, and The Almanzo 100.
Photos by Kevin Dillard – www.demoncats.com
City: Washington, DC
Nickname: DC, the Nation’s Capitol, Dead City
Claim to Fame: You’ve got Obama’s House, a bunch of suits walking around Capitol Hill, Ben’s Chili Bowl, cherry blossoms, mumbo sauces, and of course chicken and waffles.
History in 100 Words or Less: The US capital was originally located in Philadelphia. But in 1790, a new location between Maryland and Virginia along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers was chosen by George Washington and DC was officially established as the nation’s capital. The city was designed by a Frenchman to appear reminiscent of Paris. Most of the city burnt to the ground during the War of 1812. In 1963, MLK, Jr., gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington.
Random Fact: When John Denver was playing a two-week gig in 1970 at a venue long gone called The Cellar Door in DC, two fellow musicians told him about song they were working on while driving through winding roads of Maryland. When Denver heard what was to become “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” he just had to have it, even though it was meant for Johnny Cash. Now, Denver’s iconic folk song is a symbol of mountains and West Virginia, even though it started here in DC.
City’s Terrain: Mostly a flat city, DC does seem full of one-way streets, diagonal nightmares, and lots of traffic downtown. The small neighborhoods of DC stemming out from downtown are very bikeable, especially on side streets. The city has seen a good amount of bike infrastructure in the past few years, with a beautiful long cycletrack down Pennsylvania Ave., and two additional separated cycletracks downtown. The area east of the River, the Anacostia neighborhoods, have close to zero bike infrastructure and are extremely hilly.
Weather Forecast: We get beautiful springtime and fall weather, perfect for bike riding with Cherry blossoms and fall leaves in Rock Creek Park. But DC feels like a southern city in the summertime with high humidity and grueling heat. The winters are fairly mild and we typically only get a few good snowfalls a year (except for this winter which was record breaking cold).
Top Shop(s): DC has so many bike shops and they each offer mechanics and shop owners with different personalities so it’s hard to choose. My personal favorite shop is the Bike Rack because of their laid back and friendly vibe. I’ve always had good service at Revolution Cycles in Georgetown. And the guys and gals that work at CycleLife, Capitol Hill Bikes, CityBikes, and Bicycle Space are all stellar folks.
Best Watering Hole(s): GBD near Dupont is my favorite bar with it’s very good “stiff punch.” American Ice Company serves its beer in mason jars and has Swachos (BBQ pork nachos). Lucky Bar is where the messengers hang out after work, so there’s always someone to talk to and they’ve got cheap beer. The Pug has got hands down the best atmosphere at a bar. And Smoke and Barrel is the best for your craft beer nerds.
Authentic Local Food: Ben’s Chili Bowl with their chili cheese fries and just about any brunch spot with their chicken and waffles. Also mumbo sauce. Not sure what it is, but you can put it on pretty much anything from fries to wings to maybe even waffles.
Must See: The Old Post Office tower. It’s thought to be a tourist attraction so it took me a few years to go up and see the view, but it’s a towering view of the city you’ll never see anywhere else. And a sunset from Meridian Hill Park in the summertime is just beautiful.
Must Ride: Definitely ride down the Pennsylvania Ave. cycletrack at night heading east, with a view of the Capitol dome right in front of you. The Anacostia Riverwalk trail across the river is tree-lined. Rock Creek Park is where roadies ride on the weekends and you feel like you’re not even in a city anymore.
Best Time to Visit: Just not the summertime, or any major holiday. Too many tourists. Come for a DC bike event to see what the city is really like, such as one of our annual alleycats (Dead City for Halloween is my favorite), DC’s Eastside Thaw polo tourney in March or a monthly DC Bike Party ride.
Need For Speed: DC’s probably always had bike messengers, and a lot of the ones we still have today have been at it for years. There’s at least half a dozen alley cats per year, hosted by local couriers or bike kids, with the number growing. One of the favorites is the Presidential Inaugural alley cat—no other city can do that. DC also hosts one epic cyclocross race each year, DCCX, on a golf course at the Old Soldiers Home, which also houses President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Two Wheeled Celebrities: Older couriers like Scrooge and Bruce—everyone knows them. They’re legends. Lia who started and runs DC Bike Party somehow got 500 or so folks out on their bikes each month. And very recently, the Chocolate City Cycling crew.
Top Tourist Attraction(s): It’s DC, so of course anything that has to do with the president, Congress, and the Smithsonian. Walk along the National Mall, take your photo in front of the White House, and stand at the feet of Lincoln at his memorial.
Advocacy: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, DC’s only bike advocacy non-profit, has been around since 1972. Over the years they have won major victories like getting the Capital Crescent Trail (an 11-mile rail trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring, MD), Beach Drive (a beautiful winding forested road in middle of the city) closed to motorists on weekends, and bike access on public transit. WABA launched an innovative workshop program, Women & Bicycles, to get more ladies on bikes. They host bike rides and social events throughout the year, monitor local trails through the Trail Rangers program, and do friendly outreach in the bike lanes with the Bike Ambassador program.
Locals Only: For those with cross bikes, Kingman Island in the Potomac is a secret and awesome spot to get some gravel and cross action in. And if you want to practice sprinting or work on your pace line skills, meet up with a group at Haines Point to do almost car-free laps. If you’re really legit, apparently there’s a superfast pace line at noon everyday called the Power Hour.
Check out www.waba.org
Raleigh simply wants to give 2 deserving “families” a complete set of bikes (up to $2500 MSRP) I use quotes around “families” as this is a very loose term…we just want to give deserving people bikes.
It’s a nomination style submission. Like we state…we all know some pretty amazing people, that do amazing things, and ask very little in return. This is a great opportunity to submit a simple ‘thank you’…and have Raleigh provide them with new bikes.
We’re not asking for anything out of this. No email sign up. No ‘likes’ to our FB page. We just want an opportunity to pay it forward. (you do have to register to submit…but that’s so we can contact people later on)
Submission is easy. Either type some quick words telling why these people deserve new bikes…or submit a video. The video doesn’t have to be fancy…it can be video just talking about the people. (no need for editing…fades…explosions)
After the final submission date…we’ll evaluate the top submissions. Pick out 6. We’ll then follow up with the top 6 and do an equal and fair write up (or video) on all 6 and post them up for voting. The top 2 get bikes.
Check out http://bit.ly/raleighBunch
It’s with great sadness that we report that Ezra Caldwell has passed away. Known to many for his prodigious photography, to some as a skilled woodworker, to others as a creative bicycle framebuilder, and to many as a friend and an inspiration, Ezra battled cancer like few ever will, in full view of the public and with neither an apology nor a request for sympathy.
We at Urban Velo are forever grateful for Ezra’s contributions, for his friendship and for the encouragement he gave us. To his wife, Hillary, as well as his friends and family we extend our most heartfelt condolences.
Rest in peace, Fast Boy. Rest in peace.