Posts Tagged review

Review: WHM Special Light

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.

The Frame

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.

The Ride

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.


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Hangzhou Friendly Race Between Friends (or HFRBF) Review

Pre raceFor real this time: something about Hangzhou for once.

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.

hind 2
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.

hind 3
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:

Fuck. Bitch.

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.

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