• Bloomer Park, Rochester Hills, MI

  • Racing the Provincial's Crit 2014

  • Forest City Velodrome - London, ON

  • Larkenville Challenge, Buffalo, NY

  • Winning the Sprint at the ForestCity Velodrome

  • Track Nationals 2014: Keirin

  • Track Nationals 2014: Points Race

  • OCUP #1: Feb 2015

HongFu CarbonCommuterIt has been some two weeks since I rode outside and commuted via bicycle to work. I think the longest I lasted not riding to work was three weeks - and that is because I broken my collar bone in August 2012. Two weeks ago it was bone chilling cold. -17C or colder in Toronto in a city that rarely sees temps this low. Some time ago, I put a limit of -10C on bike riding because it just gets too much. Last week, the power to the office building where I worked was cut because the transformer feeding the building blew up. No joke - the sidewalk outside the building is still blackened. So, I spent the week working from home. Today, I tossed all the rules and climbed on my trusty carbon commuter in -11C weather with a wind chill in the negative teens. I didn't care how cold it was and I was praying to the snow would stay at bay because I can't stand riding my cross bike - all 25lbs of it with it's snow tires. My carbon commuter bike has become my favourite.

Last year, after trashing my bike in a race in April, I decided I had enough. I had damaged a bike frame every year for the last four years, and $2000+ each time was getting expensive. Frame repairs are also expensive and the frame is never quite the same. So, I looked around for cheap carbon frames and settled on a Hong Fu. Give my history of trashing frames, I decided to order two frames instead of one. In May 2012, I took delivery of the new frames. I reviewed the sprint frame in a previous blog post. One sprint frame for $450 and one Pinnerello knockoff endurance frame for $320. I rebuild my bike on the sprint frame. 

 

When I switched jobs last spring, I ran into problem where the building management would not allow bikes into the building. I used to bring my $10K Giant bike up to my desk to park it. I had to figure out how to ride to work without having to resort to buy a peice of crap Walmart special. I used my fixed gear commuter bike for a while, but 75 gear inches is a hard slog up hills when you are tired as I am often after my bi-weekly gym workout (I ride to work, to the gym, and home). So, I took my spare frame, the Pinnerello knockoff, and built it out as a commuter. I bought a Shimano 105 group for $400 and use the Mavic alloy wheel set I already owned. I used the cheapest seat I could find. I think the total cost of the machine with all the parts, frame, bars, saddle, etc. was less than $1500 minus the wheelset I already owned. Everything is carbon. The frame, seatport, stem, handlebars, and waterbottle holders.

 

I think of the bike now because it is the machine I road to work today. When I got to the office, the water bottle was completely frozen, yet the -11C weather never affected the performace of this bike. There is dirt from the road caked on in some places because, other than the chain, never have time to clean it and with commuting daily, there is little point. It is also the bike I used in the Centurion C50 because it just handles much better than any working bike I own. The endurance geometry means that is holds it line down fast descents better than my Giant or my Hong Fu sprinter. It handles almost like a Vitess bike. The 105 group also shifts quicker and more accurately that any of the DuraAce components of any of my other bikes. I actually like the fact the shifters are solid metal over the carbon/plastic of a DuraAce shifter setup. There is a noticable CLUNK to each shift: a positive and solid feeling. The external cable routing of the frame means I never have issues with dirt and water jaming up cables; nevermind, installing new cables, when needed, is much easier. We are a month so away from spring, and I've been riding this bike outside in the cold and on salt and on grime covered roads without any issues.

With my Chinese bike experience, I can not see why anyone would spend $10K on big name brand off the shelve bike. For most amateur racers, losing weight be better done on the waistline rather than on the bike and the latest tech will make so little difference that the expense is not worth it. This bike is actually about the same weight as my sprint bike with it's carbon wheelset or my Giant. It is also the stiffest carbon bike I own. I think the next time to go to France, I'm taking this machine with me. It just handles well.

Basically, for the amount of money I spent, this is best bike I own. DuraAce components, to me, now are completely overrated. I may upgrade to the Ultregra DI2 group for my sprint bike, but I won't be spending money on DuraAce again, nor will I bother with name brand bikes. The chinese frames are good enough for the average amateur on a budget. If you want to spend money on a bike, go with one of the custom builders.

There is a down side to owning a Chinese bikes. No support. No bike fit. You are completely on your own. You have to build the bike and support it. If there is an issue with it, there is no one to call. No bike shop to return to. Secondly, there isn't anyone to help fit the bike to you. You have to rely on experience and feel. Some of the custom bike builders offer a complete bike fit as part of their service. However, for me, it's not a big deal - I've learned to service my own bikes and adjust the fit as need bit. It is something anyone buying from across the Pacific should consider before taking the plunge.

Check out Hong Fu Bikes online: http://www.e-hongfu-bikes.com

 

 

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