Thursday, December 10, 2009

Swobo Baxter: Day One

See more photos of the build and more info on

I'd actually considered riding the Baxter all the way downtown this morning. At 3 degrees, it'd be the third coldest bike-only commute I've done, but I am dealing with these temperatures quite well. I have records of clothing that works in most conditions we get here in KC, so I nailed my clothing spot-on.

The only thing really stopping me was the fact that I hadn't ridden the bike in earnest. I just assembled it, adjusted fitment, and took a bunch of pictures. In hindsight, I'm very, very glad I didn't ride all the way to work on it this morning.

The 32mm Vittoria Randonneur tires surpassed my expectations of traction on the snow and slush, but the bike still got squirrely on me. It gives you a very upright seating position and coupled with the already raised center-of-gravity due to my backpack (versus panniers) it felt like any moment I was rolling on snow could mean a wipeout.

The bike itself feels a bit like a fast cruiser bike. The 8-speed alfine is very widely geared. First is good for climbing, but it's nowhere near as low as the lowest gears on my road bike or mountain bike (both with triple cranks). The highest gear (97 gear inches) is plenty higher than my mountain bike (84 gear inches), but doesn't hold a candle to my road bike's massive 52x12 top gear (114 gear inches). The Baxter should do about 29 MPH at 100 RPM cadence in its top gear, but given the wind resistance of sitting bolt upright, that seems terribly generous unless you have a great tailwind or a long downhill journey.

This evening, I rode the bike all the way home, and let's just say I won't be doing that again. While it rolls more efficiently than my wife's Townie, the experience was roughly similar. So far, this bike's strengths seem many (and I'll save my thoughts for my final review) but comfort for longer distances is not among them. Perhaps a rack and panniers would have made the experience a bit more pleasurable, but this evening had me thinking twice about my decision. All the extra weight in my backpack (layers I didn't need on the much warmer homeward commute) could have been a major culprit here. And the Baxter is sufficiently equipped with eyelets for a rear rack and a set of fenders.

I'll probably continue using the Baxter for bike/bus commuting, though. It is an absolute blast to ride, but I can't do the upright thing for 15 miles in one sitting.


MRMacrum said...

Is the build cast in stone? Or would you possibly be willing to alter the bar/stem combo? Along with racks and panniers, a different set up there might change your attitude about longer rides than 15 miles.

Noah said...

I have two bikes with racks on them I could move over to this, but I don't see with this bike's top tube length and other geometry features how it would work with a flat-bar. The pedals are a bit more forward than an MTB (but not as forward as my wife's Townie).

This is a review bike, so I can probably accessorize it just find, but by the time you start talking about swapping handlebars on a brand new bike and that sort of thing, I think it's clear that you're probably trying to make a bike something it wasn't designed to be.

Nancy said...

Flip the stem and it will probably feel a whole lot better...

MRMacrum said...

I had made an assumption you got this as a frame, not a complete bike spec-ed by the company. My mistake.

BluesCat said...

I'm a rabid fan of Trekking handlebars. I've got them on my MTB bike, a set for my son for Christmas (shhh!) and a set in the closet for my next bike.

Ron said...

The 32mm Vittoria Randonneur tires are what I've used on my flat-bar road bike through last winter and what there has been of this one. As you said, they've been amazing considering they are thin and "non-nubby." They don't slip nearly as much as I'd expect and they cut through "crunchy-snow" very well.

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