Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saint Joe (Bianchi San Jose)

It’s rained 17 out of the 20 days this June, and it’s been a chore to clean the sand (there’s a lot of it here on Long Island) and grit, etc., from my drive train. I keep thinking of my bike as a commuter, but it is also a sort of racing/endurance bike- not that it’s a carbon-fiber- pro racing bike for Quickstep, but I’d like to keep it in good condition for a long time. Call it what you will: laziness, fear of my ‘fast’ bike’s drivetrain wearing down, or overzealous need for ‘yet another bike’. But I can justify it by merely saying I need something for foul weather.

Enter the Bianchi San Jose.

I am not a hipster, nor am I a fan of the big scene that encompasses the ‘singlespeed’ or ‘fixies’ niche group. This cadre of folks knows their shite and if you don’t, they’ll let you know it (just log on to bikeforums.net and ask a newbie question in the Singlespeed group, I defy you!). As a commuter, the singlespeed makes sense: I don’t have to mess with tuning and am less likely to have any problems. The Bianchi San Jose is also a cyclocross bike, which could take full-length fenders and racks, wider tires to handle the roadside debris and other shocks of the road, especially when weighted down with a lot of stuff in my panniers. I was on-line for a good part of my day for a couple of weeks checking the forums, the reviews and of course, the bike. So when Jenson’s had it on closeout in my size, I couldn’t resist.

In the weeks before making this decision, I was wondering whether or not to get the Kona Smoke or the Jamis Commuter 3. Both were good bikes, around $400 (I could not spend more than that or I would here from my wife’s lawyer regarding separation) as well as having fenders. Although, what killed me is that I hate flatbars- they serve their purpose on mountain bikes, but I love the drops just for the simple fact of more postions. Kona is a great bike manufacturer and The Smoke is a favorite among commuters, but I was hesitant from the flat-bars. Jamis I heard was heavy and not that great a ride and… mustache bars. Then I saw the San Jose was on sale, so I put that on my list.

The deal-breaker- it’s a cyclocross bike and with that comes versatility. And damn it, I could never afford a ‘cross bike when I was originally looking, so here was my chance. It’s got a flip-flop hub so I have an option to make it a fixed-gear bike should I be inclined. I have a relatively flat commute (there are a couple of hills, but one doesn’t climb for long) and I’m curious as to the difference. There has been nothing but positive comments on the San Jose. And Bianchi makes pretty bikes.

When it came in, I came home for lunch almost every day since to slowly put it together, since I haven’t much time in the evenings to tool around, having kids sucks time in the day- and during the work week, it’s usually the chores of feeding them, bathing them and putting them to bed that makes the most of our evenings. So when the bike came, it pretty much wasn’t assembled until a week. I also ordered Planet Bike Cascadia fenders (touring/hybrid size) and an Eco Rack.

It was fairly easy to put together, although I needed to go to Home Depot and buy some 10-32 stainless steel bolts (3/4 inch). Why? Because the San Jose has only one eyelet on the rear dropout. To accommodate both the rack and fender, I needed a longer bolt- this fit fine (after a few tries with ½ inch and other hardware from the Planet Bike packages). I will need new tires and pedals, but it’s almost ready to ride.

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