The Perfect Commuter Bike (for at least one person)
Nuvinci equipped commuter bicycle, I am more pleased than ever with the choice of this internal gear hub with its infinitely variable gear steps. I am pleasantly spoiled with the effortless gear changing and the ability to make micro adjustments in my riding effort. The novelty effect has longs since worn off, but I find I am still enjoying the ability to make slight adjustments for terrain and wind and effort. I cannot stress enough how nice that is. Yes, there are lighter options, but I have no desire what so ever to go back to any other system.
I have the N171 version of this hub. The manufacturer now makes the newer N360 version. I have a front chainwheel of 33 teeth and a rear sprocket of 17 teeth. With a 26x1.75 tire, this gives a high gear of an 86 inch wheel equivalent and a low gear of 24.6 inches. This gives me plenty of range to travel paved and gravel roads with gradients up to and just over 10%. On the rare occasion I have a long down slope, I can easily pedal up to 25 mph. Faster than that and I won’t bother to pedal anyway.
I made the chain guard even more enclosed and this has worked well at keeping the chain clean on wet and gritty roads. The convenience of not having to tie up or roll up my pants cuff is very nice. After years of having all the cuffs of my pants grease stained and torn, this is another satisfying improvement.
The Cadillac step through frame has worked well. I converted from the original 700C wheels to 26 inch wheels to get a better low gear, to keep the bike seat a bit lower, and to increase the clearance on the wheels for full fenders. I notice that most bike manufacturers do not make adequate clearance for fenders. With the regular rain and commonly gritty roads around my town, the use of fenders is a must. I also like to ride unpaved roads, and most bikes have frustrating limits on the tire sizes that I can use. On gravel roads, little stones will start getting caught between the tire and the fender unless there is an inch or more of clearance.
I have added a mountain bike front shock, SR SUNTOUR XCR. I want a soft ride but I do not want a tall suspension fork, so I took this fork apart and shortened the spring and changed the spacers so that it sits lower. It still gives me plenty of cushioning. On steep uphill climbs I will notice that it bounces, but I can live with that. The modification, changing the wheel size and front fork, has slightly changed the steering tube and seat tube angles, but the resulting handling feels good.
My bike is heavy, but I don’t carry it very often, and in normal use, I do not notice the weight. If anything, the extra weight is probably good for me, giving me some extra exercise. Having a nice basket, a weatherproof bag, fenders, generator hub, and fat tires that keeps me rolling in all conditions and in comfort, I am fully ready for the daily activities I want to pursue. One can over do the quest for light weight. If I were loading this bike on and off a vehicle regularly, the weight would be more of a concern.
The Nuvinci hub with the disk brakes on this particular frame does have one real drawback, changing the rear tire is not as easy as a standard derailleur system with quick release hubs. In order to take off the rear wheel, I have to loosen the disk calipers to allow the wheel to pull out of the frame. If the angle of caliper placement were just slightly rotated forward, or the slot for the axel mount was changed slightly, it might work better. I notice that some manufacturers using the Nuvinci hub and disk brakes are making changes in either the dropouts or how the calipers mount, or using a chain tension arm to make this process easier. That would be nice. I have removed the wheel a number of times now, and I can do it smoothly, but it certainly takes extra time and more care, and extra tools to carry. I have the notion that an A-shape kickstand would be convenient, but I have not gotten one yet. On my frame, the hub needs to be able to slide forward and backward slightly to make the chain tight and to allow rolling the chain off the gear prior to removing the wheel. This complicates the use of disk type brakes because the caliper needs to center accurately over the arc of the disk and the caliper frame prevents the wheel from sliding back out of the frame.
All in all though, even with the added fuss for removing the rear wheel, I am very happy with the clean and efficient nature of the caliper brakes and the Nuvinci hub. Some of these features may be more relevant to me because of the wet climate I live in. When I lived in Arizona, I did not go through chains and sprockets and brakes and rims the way I have in this northwest climate.
My Shimano Generator Hub and homemade light continue to work wonderfully well. I enjoy the regular comments I get from drivers that my lights are bright and attention getting even in the day, and no one has complained that my light is annoyingly bright. The fact that the light is always on, always ready for night use, and completely no fuss has been very satisfying.