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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 08-06-07, 12:42 PM   #1
jpmac55
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Van Dessel's Country Road Bob?

Hello,

I am trying to narrow my search down to two singlespeed bike options. Right now, my two bike, short list is the Van Dessel "Country Road Bob" and the ever popular Bianchi "San Jose." There is much written about the San Jose but little to be found on the CRB. I am guessing the major reason is the CRB price ($900) is much higher than some comparable bikes. Do you have any experience with the Country Road Bob?

http://www.vandesselsports.com/crb.php?bike=9

Fyi, I am looking to ride in winter in upstate NY although will likely wait until the roads are clear of snow. Still, I want to add fenders, wide tires and not have to concern myself with derailers, etc. Regardless of which bike is best, is a SS the right bike or should I reconsider an internal gear hub model?
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Old 08-06-07, 01:51 PM   #2
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Heya--

I bought a San Jose a few months ago, after going on a search similar to yours. I briefly considered the Van Dessel, but was turned off by the following:

-- Price
-- Frame. It's Aluminum, which is a no-go for me.
-- Fork. Unless you race, I don't see much need for a carbon fork. They don't take abuse like steel (in my opinion, though I'm sure that someone will disagree), and I don't like my entire weight being supported by a material that can't be nicked or bumped.
-- Color. I think it's ugly, but I generally prefer more muted paint schemes. (Ex.-- I think the stickers on the San Jose are too loud...)
-- It seems really 'race-ey' to me, which I don't care for, either.

On the plus side, it's probably better built than the San Jose.

I went with the San Jose for its bang-for-the-buck value. I think it works well, but it's not perfect. I get some toe overlap with fenders (on a 61cm frame), it doesn't have double-eyelets on the rear, so I had to improvise on the rack/fender mounting, and-- on my bike, at least-- I don't have front mounts for a lowrider pannier. It doesn't have ridiculous tire clearance [w/fenders], and I couldn't find an affordable rear rack that was tall enough (this is probably due to the size of my frame). But for the money? It's great, and I'd buy it again.

If you don't mind building your own bike, I'd suggest the Cross-Check frame. Has horizontal dropouts so you can run SS, but also has a derailer hanger for use with gears. As such, it could probably take an internally-geared hub pretty well; I don't know much about them... It has ridiculous tire clearance, and Surly is a well-regarded company. I wanted to get one, but the frame plus build came out to be more than I wanted to spend. (Or what my wife wanted me to spend, rather....)

Here's my San Jose, modified to be a little more commute-friendly, just to demonstrate what can be done with it:

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Old 08-06-07, 02:49 PM   #3
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If you can get one, the older Country Roads were quite nice (and unique).

The Cross-Check give you the option of some truly gi-normous tires, I've got 42 semi-knobs on mine.

Just out of curiosity, what do you consider upstate NY. Above NYC, Albany, Syracuse or God's Country?
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Old 08-06-07, 02:57 PM   #4
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I've had a Country Road Bob for over two years. I just sold it (green frame with curved top and down tubes) because I finally admitted it was too small, and got a new larger one with straight tubes. The bike is a great commuter. Fits full fenders and room for 32mm cross tires for the winter. Aluminum frame does not rust, and the ride is not bad - I don't feel beat up at all, even though the frame is stiff. This could be due to wider tires (I run 28mm most of the year) or the carbon fiber fork. The fork is very sturdy - I have had no problems with it. New ones are for sale at Amazon.com for about $725, and you can find a used one on ebay for around $400-$500. The Van Dessel has a flip flob hub that allows fixed or singlespeed, and I think the San Jose hub is only singlespeed. Finally, the curved tubes, in my opinion, are unique and look good.
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Old 08-06-07, 03:32 PM   #5
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My '07 San Jose has a flip-flop. Comes with a 17t cog and 17t freewheel, which is kinda silly, but easily remedied.
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Old 08-06-07, 03:58 PM   #6
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Just out of curiosity, what do you consider upstate NY. Above NYC, Albany, Syracuse or God's Country?
I live just outside of Albany, NY (the real upstate).

Gordie - your San Jose is sweet! I am a Brooks saddle man, too. I do happen to like the looks of the Country Road Bob. You certainly don't see that style or color scheme on every corner.

I really appreciate everyones help. I considered the Surly Cross Check but despite not being much of a mechanic, I knew I'd start upgrading components if I was going through the build process. Since I am not sure if a Singlespeed will even serve my purpose, I decided buying an already built bike made more cents.


Just between us, do you guys ever miss a quiver of gears?
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Old 08-06-07, 10:31 PM   #7
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I posted my response in the Regional forum.
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Old 08-06-07, 10:41 PM   #8
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here is a linky to one

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Old 08-06-07, 10:47 PM   #9
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I've got a CRB. It's my main commuter bike. I'm going to see about racing it single speed cross this fall. I'm very happy with it. Bikemania.biz has them for $750 with free shipping.

The San Jose is a nice bike. The CRB gives you lots of options.
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Old 08-07-07, 08:10 AM   #10
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I've got a CRB. It's my main commuter bike. I'm going to see about racing it single speed cross this fall. I'm very happy with it. Bikemania.biz has them for $750 with free shipping.

The San Jose is a nice bike. The CRB gives you lots of options.
One thing on the CRB, I haven't been able to locate is the stand over height measurements. They forgot to include it in an email. I'll likely fit into a 50mm bike.
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Old 08-07-07, 08:20 AM   #11
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Hmm, I just noticed that the CRB includes a removable derailer hanger and cable guides. This is pretty nifty-- if you like the look and the geometry, I'd say go for it...with these features, you could always add gears later, if you find that you don't like SS or need the bike for another use.

It is strange that they don't include standover in the specs...but I've noticed that some frame makers who have 'unusual' designs sometimes omit certain measurements, as they aren't equivalent with 'regular' frames.
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Old 08-07-07, 10:38 AM   #12
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I had no problems getting a Trek Interchange rack and SKS fenders on my San Jose. I have no problem with the amount of tire clearance on the San Jose; in fact, I'm getting rid of the 32c's it came with as they are too fat for me and I don't ride trails anyway. My headset needs tightening for the third time since I got it; if I hit a bump or hop a curb I get that "K-chunk" sound. At some point I'll swap out the stock saddle; maybe for the Arione. But for the money; San Jose hard to beat.
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Old 08-07-07, 10:55 AM   #13
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I had a cross check and sold it in favor of the CRB. The heel/pannier clearance on the CRB is huge compared to the CC due to the long chainstays. The current CRB design has a flat top tube. I can measure standover on my 56 if you like, or just call up VD. They are helpful over the phone.

If you're buying from bikemania, see if you can find out what wheels come with the bike. The freewheel hub may be metric threaded (mine was). The current wheels are english thread. English wheels are black spoked, and metric wheels are stainless.
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Old 08-07-07, 12:09 PM   #14
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Gordiep, what wheels do you have on that San Jose? I like the shiny, high flange bling. The saddle and bartape go really well with the green too. I'll have to think about that for mine if I get around to changing them.
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Old 08-07-07, 01:58 PM   #15
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Gordiep, what wheels do you have on that San Jose? I like the shiny, high flange bling. The saddle and bartape go really well with the green too. I'll have to think about that for mine if I get around to changing them.

They look to be the stock Alex Solo wheelset, with decals removed. I did the same with my SJ.
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Old 08-07-07, 06:16 PM   #16
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Single-speed or Internal Gear

John,

You ask some good questions. Regarding the single-gear or internal-gear hub, I have both but use them differently. I've got a Marin San Anselmo (only made for 2 years) with a Shimano 7-speed Nexus hub and 700c wheels This is my main ride for all local errands and it has a rack and pannier. The gears do help when loaded up but I wouldn't worry about using a fixed gear to replace it unless I regularly had to climb steep hills. A downside of the Nexus is that it's even worse than a fixed gear if you get a flat rear tire. Both the shift and brake cables need to be removed and not one bike shop, including the place I bought it, has gotten things right the first time after a repair. That said, I noticed that Harris Cyclery is offering a specially modified Bianchi San Jose with the latest Nexus-8 speed hub, making it a quite unusual touring-type bike.

No matter what you buy, I'd put really tough tires on it before it ever leaves the shop, and I'd opt for a steel frame ride every time.
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Old 08-07-07, 06:30 PM   #17
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They look to be the stock Alex Solo wheelset, with decals removed. I did the same with my SJ.
Indeed. Lots of folks (including myself) have griped about the stock SJ wheels, but they're really not too bad. Their main weakness as I see it is their low spoke count-- only 28 hole. The rims themselves seem pretty beefy, though they aren't eyeleted. The hubs seems fine-- generic 'Bianchi' badged-- but they're cartridge which I like, 'coz I don't like obsessing about the conditions I ride in, etc... They don't have rubber seals to cover the cartridge units, but oh well.

The low spoke count means I get some sponginess when I load up the rear rack with books, but that's 40lbs of books plus my 180. I've kept the stock tires, which aren't the fastest (or most puncture-resistant), but work fine. My wheels seem competently built-- I've had to true them once, but that's after 1000 miles or so... I'll probably go with Surly hubs mated to Velocity Dyad rims in the future...once I can distract the missus long enough to steal her pocket book...
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Old 08-07-07, 07:56 PM   #18
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John,


No matter what you buy, I'd put really tough tires on it before it ever leaves the shop, and I'd opt for a steel frame ride every time.
Tough tires meaning for winter or just in general? Opting for a steel frame would suggest Country Road Bob oughta take a hike?
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Old 08-31-07, 11:53 AM   #19
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Folow up:

I just ordered a CRB from my LBS. Thanks for everyone's help!
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Old 08-31-07, 11:55 AM   #20
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post a review/pics when you get it.
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