Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Walking on Thin Ice

Recently, I found myself shopping for a 29er mountain bike. I'm a fan of Bianchi bikes, having owned three of their steel framed road/touring bikes. So, I decided to check out their big wheel offerings. I was in luck, they sell a 29 speed model with a good fork, good component spec and at a reasonable price, the SOK. So I start calling around. A shop over in Santa Cruz has a single speed model in my size and they'll let me ride it, even in the rain. You can't hurt a single speed with the rain, the guy says. I like these folks already. So I romp it through the neighborhoods in a light drizzle, off curbs, through yards, up bark covered slopes and back to the shop. I like it. Can they get a multi-speed version? Yes they can. So I go home and check it out on the web. Wait.. what? This thing is built with aluminum horizontal dropouts with no adjustment and a welded on derailer hanger?

Photo swiped from Bianchiusa.com.

So, if I drop this thing to the right, or skim a rock with it, I'm gonna bend that hanger in and I walk home? And then, when I try to bend it back, it snaps like a cheap paperclip? Nein danke. I am reminded of the smash Yoko Ono hit, Walking on Thin Ice...

Apparently, the quality of their engineering is reverting. Back in 2005, they sold single speeds with chain tensioners and aluminum frames with replaceable dropouts. Now they sell this:

Photo swiped from Bianchiusa.com, check out that hideous paint removal, and what happens to the disk brake when you move the axle?

What gives?


Mark said...

Actually, many 29er frames that I have seen are made this way. My Qball has an integrated hanger like the Bianchi although I never intended to run it geary. Why not go with the SS? Hey, if you are going to drink the koolaid, why not go all out?

Let me know what you decide.

-d said...

Yeah, most single speeds have horizontal dropouts, but they also use chain tensioners. These not only help tension the chain and correctly align the rear wheel, but also prevent the axle from moving forward if bumped during riding. If they don't have horizontal dropouts, they usually have an eccentric bottom bracket. Either way, there are quite a few options for aftermarket chain tensioners out there. If I were to buy this bike, I would definitely slap some on. By the way, I checked out the Qball frames - nice looking 29er and I dig the bottle opener on the dropouts! As for the age old aluminum vs. steel question - aluminum is lighter and more brittle than steel. It would just take a greater amount of material in the aluminum dropouts to achieve the same strength as steel dropouts. However, it would still be more brittle. To each their own, I guess!

Mark said...

Good point - I don't think I have seen an aluminum SS rig with straight horizontal drops like what you see on steel versions. My Fetish Fixation has horizontal drops but there is a cover/attachment that strengthens it.

One of the reasons I like steel is for the fact that you mentioned - it's softer as opposed to aluminum which is much more rigid. In fact riding my aluminum SS 26er I feel more beat up then riding my steel 29er.

-p said...

The end result of the shopping was a Niner NCR. Matches mark's jacket in the picture. It will be blogged about some day soon.