Archive for category Reviews
So I picked this up over a year ago, and it’s time to see how well it’s fared, now that I’ve taken it out today after the summer in storage to deal with some truly shitty weather.
The swrve milwaukee jacket comes in a whole bunch of different colors, and the real kicker (in a good way) is that they offer it cut in a variety of fabrics, so you could theoretically have a different one of these suckers for all weather conditions, except for brutally hot and humid. I picked up a midweight, size large gray one for about 100USD.
The stitching here is pretty bomb-proof as far as ease of tearing goes, but none are taped, so you won’t be able to use it as a drysuit in the pool. If you stand in hard rain for more than 5 minutes, it will soak through on your shoulders. In non-biblical rain, the jacket will bead water, especially on the sleeves for a good 15 minutes before it starts soaking through the fabric. That being said, it dries in reasonable time. Little grommetted holes under the arms, and the fabric in general, give it pretty good marks for breathability–it will take a bit of effort to work up a sweat under this thing. Nevertheless, the midweight jacket is pretty warm–I’m comfortable cycling in it with only a t-shirt underneath down to 50 degree F weather. I’ve worn it in near gale-force wind and while it did billow ridiculously, it put forth an admirable effort against what I must say was some real badass wind. Like, you can lean like 30 degrees into the wind without falling over badass.
As a cycling jacket, it’s cut long enough in the back to cover your plumber’s crack (I’ve actually sat on it on the saddle, so it may be a bit too long). The shoulders are wide enough for me, so they should be wide enough for just about anyone, and the extra-length sleeves have longer tops to cover your hands while you’re riding. I’m about 165 and 5’10”, and a large fits be well enough to fit a down vest under it pretty comfortably. The whole thing just fits best when you’re riding on the hoods or in the drops.
The only real misstep in deign is the hood .The hood is substantial and will cover your head and makes a little visor over your face, but it also covers too much of the sides of your face, which it has to be said limits your peripheral vision significantly, so I don’t use it unless it’s really cold/rainy or I’m not to worried about being bum rushed by a bus, which is to say, I use it rarely. It also isn’t cut at chin level, but instead quite a bit lower, which leads to it annoyingly rubbing on your adam’s apple, and you can’t turtle up in it and cover your chin. So if you’re really bent over your bars, you might be getting some wind going down your shirt like a teenage boy’s down his girlfriend’s blouse.
Zippered back pockets that reach all the way down the butt-flap hold a surprising amount of stuff, so you may not need a saddlebag on your next ride. The front pockets are average, no-zipper front pockets, except there’s a little stash pocket (everything has a stash pocket these days) on the inside of the coat, although it opens from the top and has no velcro or anything to keep it shut, so I’d think twice before putting keys or drug money there, or in the front pockets.
Like just about everything cycling-related today, it comes in a bevy of colors, which is cool and all, and I figured gray would go well with most stuff I wear and it does. The Milwaukee jacket looks good enough to use as a normal jacket, and while the lack of reflective stripes is a downer for night-cyclists, at least you won’t light up list a construction worker when you enter a strobe-ridden club. It washes easily and has no logos or anything on the outside, which is kind of refreshing given the ubiquity of North Face fleeces and their logo adorning like everyone’s left breast.
Butt flap covers your crack and has good pockets with zippers
Simple, clean style.
relatively warm and water and wind-proof
Price isn’t too bad compared to similar offerings from chrome and its ilk.
Available in a variety of colors and fabrics
Hood design leaves a bit to be desired
No zippers on the front pockets.
Stash pocket is of limited use and will be easy to detect if you get patted down by even the laziest cop, you druggie.
*Note: I bought this in 2010, but now they only offer the $50 more expensive ES (for extra-special) hoodie, and it looks better in just about every way possible, especially the hood and collar design.
- that’s Zhejiang magazine
- Vineyard cafe
- Speaker Chicken
- People’s Bike
- Specialized Bikes
- WHM bikes
More sponsors are coming on board every day. There will be cheap drinks at Vineyard, our start/finish/afterparty location. Prizes may or may not be awesome, but the glory will be. Check out hangzhoualleycat.com for more information as the date approacheth!
Finally – an Alleycat poster that doesn’t involve a graphic of a badass/angry cat. +79HP Ningbo. Nothing against feline inspiration for race graphics, but a crab sparing with a chainring, in a ring of chain–brilliant work. Also +2 charisma for darkish text, especially the Chinese.
Upon learning of the race from our friends over at PPLS BIKE, my girlfriend and I embarked upon this adventure, aided only by maps from the Ningbo Guide Magazine, who rather brilliantly ran an article on the race. After a train-ride in on Saturday morning and then an afternoon nap (it’s how I get psyched for this stuff) we rolled our way over to Laowaitan, which seems to be, ironically enough, where everything laowai/foreign in Ningbo lives. It’s a neat little set of walking streets with some expat-y bars and restaurants, among which was Office Bar, the start and finish point for the race. Once there, we registered and met the organizers Nick and Nolan, both high-charisma rogues, who informed us that there were no other Hangzhouvians. WTF Hangzhou. -50HP. Across the street from Office bar Was Tasty’s, serving BBQ, which to be honest was a little rubbery. -1Strength.
As we waited and exchanged items and tales of adventure with other racers, more and more people kept coming to register for the race. Bikes of every stable–fixed, cruiser, mountain, road, hybrid–with an even more diverse collection of riders. By 8:30, when the race started, nearly 100 bikes and riders hit the road.
Since we had only spent about 6 hours in Ningbo, we opted spend the race following a local fighter-class cyclist, who henceforth shall be referred to as the Hero. Let me sketch for you a Chinese man, about 30 years of age, slightly portly but strong with a round face and lively eyes, riding a bright red, geared, high-quality folding bike, brand: Alligator. Stats: high strength and charisma, average intelligence, above average agility. His armor-set was probably the most memorable part: white/championship-color helmet, beige collared shirt, black fanny-pack, and 5-inch inseam bike shorts, such that when standing, or cycling, really, he appeared to be pantless–for the win.
So we followed the Hero for the entire race, which included him
- taking us through what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse complex as a “shortcut” in which he could have easily taken our kidneys,
- following bad directions from a friend and refusing to ask for help,
- smoking 5+ times in the back half of the race,
- heading straight for the free beer after finishing,
- continuing not to wear pants
Sadly, I failed to get a picture of him, but I’m afraid my camera would have just exploded due to his sheer awesomeness. +50 charisma.
So we finished the race, but apparently since we seemed to do an opposite circuit of what most people did, by the time we got to the final checkpoints, closest to the finish, the checkpoint-sitters had already scrammed for the finish, which was kind of lame: we weren’t like rolling up at midnight or anything. So anyhow we bagged the final two checkpoints, or rather, we were forced to bag them, which was upsetting mostly because at every checkpoint you got a little Livestrong-style bracelet as proof you were there, which was actually a brilliant idea, as were free glowsticks, although the glowsticks turned out to be nearly invisible on the road and not actually much use for safety, but a good idea nonetheless. +10 intelligence.
Back at Office Bar, we partied and drank (have I mentioned it was free?) beer available to anyone with aforementioned power-bracelets. The prize ceremony was mercifully short (+15HP), and the overall winner and fastest fixed/non-local was none other than Tyler Bowa from Shanghai. Congrats to you dude, +45HP. And congrats tot he race organizers, for bringing in twice as many people as expected!
In summary, the bikes biked, the beer flowed, a contingent from Shanghai swam in a fountain (+15 Cholera (-80HP)), and one man didn’t wear pants.
After a year of saving/drooling over various possible builds and color schemes at pedal mafia, I finally indulged myself and got a nice bike, something with as few budget induced compromises as possible, although I salvaged a lot of parts from my stuff back in the states and the setup has changed a bit since these pictures. The idea was to get a classic-styled, lugged, steel frame, built in China (like most frames out there, but at least this one is a local brand) for tearing ass around HZ.
OK, so color options are limited: black or white. I selected black to express my rage. Graphics-wise, it’s kind of a busy frame. Every tube on the front triangle has some sort of text all in a yellow vintage curly script. The top tube sports the text, Special light, toward the aft end of the tube. The down tube has a big W.H.M Cycle curly-script logo, although the periods after W, H, and M, bug me for a reason I’m not entirely clear on.
The seat tube has a vertical WHM written between two world-champ color bars, which is kind of cool. However, I’m not crazy about the nautical star on the back side of the seat post–it kind of contrasts in style with the more classic styling of the stripes. The head tube sports the WHM crest in yellow, but only as a decal. Actually, all of the graphics seem to be decals, but you’d be hard-pressed to remove them cleanly.
The lug work of the frame is, in a word, pretty. There is a difference between pretty and beautiful, take note. All the joints, including those between the stays, have lugs with nice curving cutaways.
The seat tube/seat stays/top tube lug is rather troublesome with the seat post bolt going right through the seat stay inserts, which to me seems like it would compromise the strength of said stays, especially if you over-tightened the bolt. Also, you have to have the exactly right size bolt and nut to fit in the hole, and of course whenever you need something very specific that is doubtlessly produced in China, it suddenly becomes impossible to find. All that being said, the lugs are nice and seem reasonably stiff.
The frame features no-name tubing, which isn’t the lightest, and I’m certain it’s not Columbus or anything, but it’s stiffer than the cheapo cranks I’m using. The paint job seems kind of soft, although I rest it against a good number of light posts.
My biggest gripe is with the integrated chain tension system, which use a small bolt through the front of the dropout to push the rear axle back and tighten the chain. In theory, it’s great, but the holes through the dropout aren’t drilled perfectly center, so the bolt doesn’t rest at the exact center of the round axle. Additionally, the WHM axles tighten with an allen wrench to the bolt, which seem to be made of soap, rather than metal, making it impossible to really tighten them down as much as they should be. All of this combines to make a system that ends up bending tension bolt after tension bolt. After replacing three of those little bolts on the drive side, I’ve given up and started using more traditional BMX style chain tension systems.
It accelerates pretty quickly off of lights, although with the weight of the Aerospoke added to the relatively heavy tubes, it isn’t the quickest bike off the line, as evidenced by my getting stomped at the AFGC sprints (of course, that had nothing to do with my cycling ability).However, that Aerospoke makes a nice flywheel, so it holds speed pretty well. Handling-wise, it holds a line like nobody’s business and I can easily ride no-handed for blocks at a time. Cornering is predictable, although the wheelbase isn’t so short that I would call it twitchy; the geometry seems to be a touch less aggressive than a true track bike.
In the current setup, this is the most comfortable bike I’ve ever owned/ridden. A large part of that is due to that saddle, which even for 30RMB is by far the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever owned. It rides pretty soft on the road and the steel soaks up a good bit of vibration. The other big comfort factor is just that the bike fits my body nicely, which is something one could say about any bike.
It’s a pretty good frame for the price, as a lugged steel steel will usually set you back about 600 US buckazoids, and at about 330 US, this isn’t too bad. The integrated chain tension system isn’t good for anything more than bending bolts, something needs to happen differently in manufacturing I believe. It’s not the lightest bike you could get (duh, it’s lugged steel) but it’s also not as light as a lugged steel frame with Columbus tubes. All that aside, it’s a comfortable ride that will not surprise you with super twitchy handling, so you could ride this all day. I know I have before.
Sometime in April–this was a while ago and I honestly forget exactly when–I got word of an alleycat in Hangzhou, the news about which was posted on a microblog somewhere that I didn’t have access to. Turns out is was organized by Jeaky of the local brand WHM bikes. I don’t know what WHM stands for, but I see We Behind on some of his stuff, which actually doesn’t make anything clearer at all. I’m not sure if it’s self-aware Chinglish, or like we behind the times instead of we’re behind the times, or if it’s we be hind, which is also confusing for its lack of conjugation and the fact that hind is, according to the dictionary on my computer:
hind 1 |hīnd|
adjective [ attrib. ]
(esp. of a bodily part) situated at the back; posterior : he snagged a calf by the hind leg.
1 a female deer, esp. a red deer or sika in and after its third year.
2 any of several large edible groupers with spotted markings.
noun archaic chiefly Scottish
a skilled farm worker.
• a peasant or rustic.
Perhaps the most sensible is the female deer definition, because deer are fast and stuff, like bikes. I don’t know. I do like the archaic Scottish though, just because it humors me that perhaps Jeaky is an authority on archaic Scottish even if we can hardly speak a lick of contemporary English. Just imagine him in a elbow-padded blazer, pipe in mouth, lecturing on haggis.
This review should really just end right there, but I’m going to forge ahead anyhow.
We met on a Sunday afternoon at Wulin Square, and by the time the race started there were between 15-20 riders, generously. I know, I should have counted, because how hard is it to count to under 20, but I didn’t. The point is that this was mostly Jeaky’s friends, all Chinese, except for me, which was a point of pride/awkwardness for me. Maybe there just aren’t any other foreigners riding fixed out here. I’ve only heard rumors and legends of them. Pre-race highlight: some kid’s mom dropped him off, and everyone was really cool about it. Also that same kid (high school) had the two English swear words he probably knew Sharpied on his rims:
Charming. Glad to see someone loves their bike.
The race itself was a nice ride around Hangzhou, although given the small organizing comittee, each checkpoint was not very well-marked or staffed, which although because I live here isn’t too big a deal, is still a little annoying. More annoying is Nanshan road around Leifeng tower on a beautiful Saturday afternoon; put simply, it is a true test of one’s ability to weave between smoke-belching buses and spitting tourists. I hadn’t been to Sunday! fixed gear shop in a while and it took a while to find it, as it’s about the size of a walk-in closet now and not easily visible from the street.
The race took me about 90 minutes, going what seemed to be the long way, because the winner, whose name I didn’t get, finished in under an hour. Post race, there were prizes for the first, second, and third place finishers, respectively a WHM frame, Nike Sneakers, and a hoodie. Post race, we had a small a buy-in sprint, in which I took a respectable third but still lost a big 10 RMB.
Mostly we just dicked around afterwards–did you really expect anything different?
Also there was a Segway rolling around Wulin. The End.
Is it just me, or does riding a bike through a city completely change your perception of it, especially when all you’ve done previously is take taxi or subway rides? I know it did for Shanghai—I didn’t know my away around until I brought my bike and puzzled over a map for a while. In Shanghai I concluded that riding through the city was faster than most other transportation unless you ride like someone from the China league of beleaguered seniors. Maybe it’s the European design of the streets and infrastructure, maybe I just ride fast (probably not—look at my winter beer belly). Either way, it’s not bogglingly big or unapproachable. Maybe a bit bigger than my home HZ, but hey, it is Shanghai after all.
Shanghai is to Hangzhou as drinking at the bar is to drinking at home. Drinking at the bar is wild, the bar is bigger than your apartment and full of unfamiliar faces, but drinking at home doesn’t have to be lonely and depressing; you can invite your friends, lounge about wearing whatever the fuck you want, and shoot the shit without worrying about getting change.
But I’m not talking about Shanghai in this review. Beijing. Beijing. In one word, this review is: big.
I found out about the event little less than a week before it, which says something about the attempts at publicity outside of Beijing (or lack thereof, it goes without saying), and I hustled to the ticket office and bought my Friday sleeper train tickets to Beijing.
All I have to say about sleeper trains is: pray pray pray you don’t share a berth with someone who snores. Especially if you have to participate in a bike race the next day. This guy in my berth kept everyone awake with his olympian snoring abilities. I mean, he could snore on his side, his back, even with his face in the pillow. Even with my music all the way up, I could still hear him. Now anyone that cohabitates with a S.O. will tell you that snoring is a natural part of life, but I submit that there was nothing natural about this guy. It’s one thing if the snorer is at least consistent—I can fall asleep to that—but this guy snored like a huge congested frog hacking apart an even bigger frog. Really, that was the most memorable part of the weekend.
Fast forward to the race.
The sponsors Li-ning and Natooke pulled some big crews for this event (guess which one put in most of the cash): FTC, Nabiis, and myself. I teamed up with Jeaky, the only other Hangzhouvian there, and with the Nabiis crew from Taiwan, who promptly left us in the dust; but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Most of the racers were Beijing expats and Chinese, although those trickster rascals from Guangzhou/Shenzhen came as well, but not to participate in the race. I’d guess there were between 80 and 100 riders gathered at the Iberia Arts Center in the 798 arts district, which is just so full of hipsters so far beyond my reckoning that I won’t even start to make fun of them here. After all, we are talking about a white guy who lives abroad and rides a fixed-gear bike and studied at a small liberal arts college and I’m just going to stop right here.
The race itself…was OK. I decided right away that I wasn’t in this to win, the major factors leading to this conclusion being 1. How fast some of those Taiwanese guys here and 2. 15mph headwinds not matter which way you were going. I won’t bore you with a minute by minute, play by play recounting of the events. It’s enough to say that there were five checkpoints, and at each one one had to complete some sort of task, from lifting your bike over your head five times, or holding a bike fork in front of your face (which made me realize what an effective weapon a bike fork could be), putting the other end to the ground and then spinning around on the ground like that, which makes me a bit nauseated just thinking about it now. All of the checkpoints were difficult to find if you weren’t a Beijing ren, which is kind of lame if you’re having all sorts of fly people from outside of China come participate.
I finished in a little under four hours (but to my credit, I did help another dude with a flat tire for a while). I don’t know who the winners were because by the time I arrived at the finish they were starting the awards ceremony, slow people be damned, which, even though I wasn’t DFL, didn’t do wonders for my self-esteem. Also, I hadn’t eaten anything that day other than some chips and a Snickers, so I felt a bit like passing out anyhow. My bad.
After a bit a rest at the hotel, I headed back to 798 for the afterparty, which resembled a cross between an industry giant’s press conference, a convention, and a concert. It was weird, but had its charm, in a Chinese way. Jeaky of WHM bikes got me into the VIP section, where we both honestly just stood around acting like we were expecting to see someone we knew any minute now. However, we did get to meet and chat up chappies from FTC, Subcrew and Nabiis, and I was too tired, ignorant, and by this time buzzed off the free drinks (either Carlsberg or alcohol+vitamin water). There were some bike performances, and some rap performances, but it turns out, especially before the race when he insisted on mic checks while we were trying to get started, drowning out the organizers’ frenzied shouts about making sure that if you got stopped by the police to call it a game, not a race, MC Hot Dog is kind of a dick.