Archive for November, 2015

Fred’s Hierarchy of Needs

A Fred's Hierarchy of Needs

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Bike Rentals, Electronic Shifters & Disc Brakes

synapticI’m in LA on business with some frequency and I’m constantly told how great the cycling can be in SoCal, but I never had the patience to deal with a bike rental and getting to/from the shop. Then I discovered Synaptic Cycles – a self described “concierge road bicycle rental service that caters to you” who’s core service is bike rental delivery. This already seemed to good to be true, but then when I saw that $60/day can get me any high-end road bike from an offered assortment, I was definitely interested. I talked to the local guy, Greg, a few times and always got the feeling that this was truly a “service first” business. So on my most recent trip, I committed to riding a few times and booked a 2-day rental.

On the morning of my rental, Greg showed up (yes, in that car in the photo) precisely on time. I was expecting him to be a little late because, well, LA traffic – and the fact that he was coming to me an hour earlier than his normal start time so I could fit a ride in that morning. Greg was professional, knowledgeable and pleasant – everything I experienced on the phone, and the bike was ready to ride after the simple matter of running my credit card.

And before I talk about the gear, one more shout out to Synaptic Cycles. Nearing the end of my ride, I got a flat. I was in a bit of a rush so I called Greg to see if he was nearby. While he wasn’t, he still offered to come get me if I wanted him to do that. He’d never explicitly said that roadside assistance was included, but as I said earlier, he clearly seems ready to do what it takes to satisfy the customer at every turn. Since he was more than 30-minutes away I changed the tire myself and was back at my hotel in about 20-minutes.

Electronic versus Mechanical Shifting

My bike came with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and I’d never used electronic shifting before. It took me a few minutes to get used to it and since I ride (and I’m sponsored by) Campagnolo I still managed to go the wrong direction several times on the ride. Adapting to the “button press” in place of the “lever swing” was pretty easy and overall I found the shifting to be easy and somewhat mindless. But the only time I really enjoyed the button press shifting was in the drops at high speeds. In those moments, the ease of pressing a button paid off; but then again, how often do you need to shift in those moments?

Personally, I’ll stick to mechanical shifting for a few key reasons:

  1. Mechanical shifting keeps you connected to your ride and let’s you feel the bike. I really missed that when pressing a button.
  2. While I’m super geeky about computers, cameras and the like, when it comes to my drivetrain or other core components, I’m old school. I never want to be stuck on the road with an issue I can’t repair because it’s inside the closed system of an electronic black box.
  3. While the Di2 goes a really long time on a charge (like, months) there’s still that outside chance I’d forget to charge it, go on a long ride and, well, you get the idea.

Disc Brakes – a Brief First Impression

I’m guessing that the movement to disc brakes is somewhat inevitable where electronic shifters will likely remain a matter of personal preference for quite a while (just my opinion, of course.) My first impression riding on disc brakes, though, is to wonder why there’s such debate about these in the first place. Granted, on a high speed descent I felt a bit more deceleration and control, overall I didn’t see much notable difference. And they were occasionally quite loud; not that you’ll never hear a sound from caliper brakes, either. And never mind what the weight weenies will have to say about the “heft” of a disc brake system. Anyway, when they are forced upon me, I won’t resist, but I don’t otherwise see any reason to switch. Granted, I didn’t get to descend in the rain, and maybe that’s the clincher, but we’ll see.