[Bike] – GT Avalanche 2014 Review


It’s been a month since I bought it and now it’s time for an official review 🙂

Specifications


As some may notice…


This is the women’s version of the GT Avalanche, so really, the real name is GTW Avalanche.

There is nothing wrong with a guy riding a women’s bike. The difference is usually a dropped top tube and a smaller bike at the same size rating.

Dropped top tube – Historically speaking, this is done so that women can wear skirts on bikes. For me on a mountain bike, maneuverability is always welcome. Having a dropped top tube means I can get into more positions without smashing my crotch. Yup, I definitely don’t want to smash my crotch, therefore I conclude this as feature for guys too. The guy version of the GT Avalanche also features a dropped top tube, but not sure if it is as aggressively dropped as the women’s version though.

Smaller sizing – Just buy a larger size. I am probably a size S on guy bikes, but nothing wrong with going with a size M on women bikes. (Might be a problem if one is sized XL as there is no XXL to move up to)

Clean of stickers


Edmonton has a bike theft problem. Having all these fancy stickers on the bike just screams “oh, sexy eyes, sexy nose, sexy mouth, don’t you know?” (Bonus points for knowing what song this came from!) To me this bike already screams sexy in its sticker-less natural beauty form, so I took them all off.

But these stickers look good though, throwing them away is a bit of a waste…


So I stuck some of them on to my Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet. Because you know, “oh, sexy eyes, sexy nose, sexy mouth, don’t you know?” 😛

The drive train

This is definitely an area of concern. Snow, slush and salt is just all bad for the drive train.

How I take care of it:

Every day after the commute is done, I rinse it down with water.
Every week I wipe the chain, lube it, run it through the drive train and wipe off the excess


So far the rear is looking good, no visible rusting. In combination with the Shimano Deore, the shifting is as smooth as I can imagine it to be.



The front is looking good too, no visible rusting as well. Even though the Shimano Acera is a lower-end part, there is no problem with it so far.

Shifters


I have to angle the shifters down quite a bit in order for my thumb to have full access to the rapid fire mechanism. This is a slight design problem as the “window” that shows which gear I am in is now completely facing forward, or away from me.


Yeah, because it’s facing forward, everyone can see the gear I am in except me. Not a big problem for me as I am pretty good at remembering what gear I’m in. Design flaw? Maybe. Or maybe I just have short thumbs.


Can be quite convenient though, here I’ve managed to slip the bell closer to my grip. A more accessible bell is always a plus on a commuter bike.

Braking


This is almost critical in Edmonton given the amount of snow that we have. They can lock the wheel way better than a v-brake system since the braking mechanism is much further away from the elements of the road.


The system is hydraulic based so it is very responsive. The reach is adjustable, I like it further away so that I can have my fingers (with gloves) under it even with it pressed down.


To those who are v-brake believers, this is why they don’t work well in Edmonton. This is my other bike, the NEXT Challenger. Yes, it has a cheap v-brake system but physics don’t play nice. No amount of money will buy you a v-brake that works well when Edmonton turns them into ice.

Handlebar


Not especially wide, so you are not going to be getting crazy controls out of it. That slope between the grip and the middle will make mounting a pain or impossible unless it’s rubber band based. Which is why I have nothing mounted at those points.

Suspension fork


A Rock Shox 30 Silver TK. I have the rebound set to “turtle” mode, aka slower rebounds. Mostly a commuter bike, so smoothing out the occasional bump is all I ask of it. I can’t speak for what happens to it when it compresses to the maximum 100mm as I’ve never had it go that far. I have had it go down to 50~60mm and no problems there. One thing about suspension forks on snow/ice is the extra movement sometimes makes you think you slipped when it is just the suspension moving. So sometimes I make some corrective maneuvers when it’s not necessary. Not a big deal, but might give some people a scare.

Frame


Features GT’s triple triangle design. Supposedly gives you a stiffer frame. This looks like it has some bmx DNA to it and kind of rides like it has some bmx DNA to it. I think it makes sense on a mountain bike.

Saddle


I mostly ride off saddle, so not very important to me. The slim shape is good, gets out of my way. The nose is long enough for my thighs to grip on to it while riding out of saddle for extra control. For the times that I do sit on it, feels ok, nothing special. Cosmetically, I like how it has some purple highlights to match with the frame, nice touch.

The accessories

These are not part of the bike purchase, but they do add to the experience. Since I am reviewing the bike as a whole as it is setup, these will be included here.


CATEYE Velo 9. Was debating on either this or the Sigma BC 5.12. Friend has it and said it worked reliably for years so I got it too. The quick release mechanism is slide based. Not a big fan of it as it looks like it might break one day, but we will see. Other than that, very typical wired bicycle computer. Current speed (with comparison to average indicator), average speed, max speed, total time, total distance, CO2 offset, calories burnt and time.


Planet Bike – Blaze 500 XLR. Given the name, it outputs 500 lumens for 2.5 hours, a low mode at 250 lumens for 4.5 hours and a blinky mode. I bike at night in ok-lit areas (like I could technically see without a flashlight), running this in low mode (250 lumens) was plenty for me. At 500 lumens it can light up around five meters of road, plenty for me to react. When it comes to lighting up street signs (which are reflective) the range is stupid far. It lights up signs that are beyond the resolving capabilities of my eyes. Mini-usb rechargeable means I need a separate cable because everything like smartphone nowadays use micro-usb ports.


Knog Blinder 4 – Rear version. Four red LEDs, 44 lumens and claims 50 hours on eco-flash. In eco-flash, only two LEDs come on at once, alternating creating the flashing pattern. I personally use the flash mode where it flashes all four LEDs at once. Battery life is closer to 4~5 hours in this mode.


Integrated charging solution. The USB port flips out for charging! Quite convenient as that means you can charge practically anywhere anytime.


Zefal Deflector FC50. The most useless front splash guard I’ve ever used. It basically blocks splashes that would otherwise been blocked by the frame already. Basically, you are still going to get splashed in the front with these. I have them put on strictly because it came in as a package with the rear splash guard.


Zefal Deflector RC50. The complete opposite of its frontal counterpart. This is the most effective splash guard I’ve ever used. Never had a single dot of mud or splash on my back with these on. Despite the looks it is very stiff. I can put a wet towel on it and yes it will bend, but not enough to hit the wheels. So don’t worry about it flapping around. The grey part is reflective material, bonus!


A Diadora branded ring ring. I like the tone that it makes. However, the color scheme doesn’t really match my bike.

Oh well 😛

Conclusion

To shorten my review into a sentence? This thing rides like a dream.

 


 

[Online adventures] #10 – New Balance 574

“I am at a whole new level of laziness”


This, will not be a review. I’ve been wearing this “type” new balance shoe for a long time and all I have to say is this: don’t run in these, walk in them.

Why do I say “this type”? This is why:


http://www.scorpionshoes.co.uk/amazon_b/New%20Balance/M373_Black_White01.jpg

This is the “373”

 


http://kicksdeals.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/new-balance-501-black-white-2.jpg

This is the “501”

 


http://images.footlocker.com/pi/ML515SGY/zoom/new-balance-515-mens

This is the “515”

 


http://d2ob0iztsaxy5v.cloudfront.net/product/197720/1977207250_main.jpg

This is the “574”


http://www.sneakerfreaker.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/New-Balance-996-American-Rebel-Pack-Black-1.jpg

This is the “996”

I think I made my point, all these new balance shoes practically look the same, but they all have different model numbers. How do I know these numbers? Wearing them for the past ten or more years help.

But I digress…

The real purpose of this post is to talk about why “I am at a whole new level of laziness”.

Needed to buy some shoes, preferably ones with a flat bottom for biking. “These” New balances and Converse come into mind. Never wore a converse ever, so New Balance it is.



It was available in Foot Locker at West Edmonton Mall.


But it’s 40 minutes away from downtown…


Free shipping on $49 or above items! You probably know where this is going… Shipping it is. (Or does this count as trucking? I sure hope it didn’t hop on a ship 😛 )


Got acknowledged e-mail on January 25th.

Feeling incredibly lazy, using UPS for 11KM. But hey, it was free. Oh well 😛


Got shoe on January 28th 3PM.

I like the description: “Met customer man”. Yeah man, I met up with the delivery person!

The end? Nope.


Got confirmation e-mail on the same day an hour later at 4PM. Wait what?

Yup, UPS got to me faster than the confirmation e-mail did. Even e-mails are getting lazy.


Once I open the box I am reminded of how lazy I am, I had West Edmonton Mall UPS a shoe to me for 11KM.

Trip to St. Albert by bike (Yuzen for Ramen!)


In Edmonton, this is a good day, nice and warm, despite that it says cloudy, it was actually really sunny too! To me this screams get out of the room, and get on the bike 😛

But where to go yo? It’s been awhile since I had nice ramen. In Edmonton, the only place that has nice ramen is Yuzen, in St. Albert.

Destination: Yuzen, St. Albert

The Plan:


15KM ride leaving from downtown. Unlike last time with Sherwood Park (link), I did not get lost so this is also what actually happened.

Preparations


Battery for emergency charging (bike lights, phone what not)

Snacks for me. I cannot emphasize this enough, bring some emergency snacks for bike rides. In this case it is especially important since I am going on an empty stomach and I can run out anytime.

No tools this time, as I am riding my GT Avalanche and I am not expecting this bike to act funny on a short trip


Ready to go!


Yuzen only does ramen up till 2PM, last order 1:45PM. Better get going!


Obstacle course by design? This was on 112 Street. Due to parking on the sides, it’s pretty much a bi-directional single lane. However, cars here are very slow and very courteous. Cars drive towards the sides or even stop to let me pass. Other times I do the same for cars, it’s mutual.

Riding in the neighborhoods. Minimal traffic, very calm, quiet and great weather. Beautiful


Sherbrooke Ave, one more turn and I will be going into the St. Albert Trail, the main road.


St. Albert Trail. This is the last photo before I enter St. Albert. There is a reason for that. Remember what I said two photos ago?

“Riding in the neighborhoods. Minimal traffic, very calm, quiet and great weather. Beautiful”

Yeah, toss all of that.

Here on the main road, traffic is real, getting up to speed is very important. My shifting strategy was 32:24 >> 44:24 >> 44:18 as described previously. (link)

Max speed here is 60km/h and 60km/h is probably what these vehicles are doing. Me? I was doing 28km/h-ish.

At first I rode near the curb for safety, but people like to push their luck. Some cars still thought it was a good idea to pass me with one meter clearance in the same lane when the other two lanes are wide open.

So I used another tactic, in the right most lane, ride in the middle and “dominate” the lane. Much safer, cars get the message and now use the other two lanes.

Sidewalks availability is spotty. Sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. So if you want to traverse St. Albert Trail on sidewalks, you’ll have to switch left and right quite often. Every time you switch, you are crossing six lanes of traffic, not good.

So I stuck with my ride at the right lane, and dominate the lane strategy.


Welcome to St. Albert. For some reason, I really like seeing these “Welcome to” signs


I have arrived at Yuzen!


40 minutes, 13KM. What? 20km/h? So slow?


Finding parking. It took me 10 minutes to find a place a place I can lock my bike to. Unlike Edmonton, where there is a place to park everywhere. St. Albert? I didn’t see any near Yuzen.

I ended up using some pole that seems to protect the water pipes from getting crashed on by cars in a back alley.

Locking strategy here:

First u-lock locks front wheel to fork brace

Second u-lock locks back wheel and frame to the pole

Not the best, ideally I want both u-locks to go through the pole, but this is best pole I can find around.

Took me another 5 minute to walk from parking to Yuzen. Arrived at 1:30, just in time as their last order is 1:45 🙂

Yuzen


Oh did I mention Yuzen only does ramen Saturdays 11:30am-2:00pm? Yes, one day for 2.5 hours a week.


The menu


Being a ramen fan, I loaded this up 😀

Tonkotsu ramen – 12 CAD

Chashu (the meat) 5pc – 3 CAD (the ramen comes with one, so now a total of six)

Ni-Tamago (soft egg) – 0.5CAD (1CAD originally, but owner said it’s not perfect today so 50% off. Even though it’s “not perfect” today, they still beat just about any Edmonton or Vancouver ramen shop you can name. Yes, even Vancouver, it’s that good)

Seriously, don’t let the plain looks from the camera fool you. This bowl of ramen is probably one of the best tasting ramen I’ve ever had in my life. That’s saying something because I’ve had a wack load of ramen at all kinds of price points in various places. This is definitely up there. How do you know it’s up there? I biked all the way from Edmonton downtown to St. Albert in winter just for it. I’ve been here before (by bus which is painfully slow) and I know, at the end of the bike ride, I will be rewarded with a bowl of nice ramen.

I won’t describe the taste as I don’t want to spoil the magic moment you get a taste of it. Actually, it’s just so good I can hardly convert it into words 😛

So I’ll just leave it at this: 10/10 or as the kid that sat next me likes to say: “A+++++++++++++…” (so cute!)

The return trip

Normally, I would just take the same way back, but then I had a bit of a “Jacky moment”. I thought “hey, let’s trying going straight down into University of Alberta! I think it’s going to be really quick” (I will soon find out, quick indeed)


So instead of turning at Sherbrook Ave, I ignored it, and went straight down. In hindsight, sigh… I will quickly regret this decision.

Oh well 😛


Through the small roundabout, into Groat Road

The lack of real life images probably tells you that I might have been busy…

Groat road… max speed 35km/h.

Normally I bike at the gear 44:18 for a speed of around 27km/h. Then downhill…

*click* I shifted into 44:15

*peddle, peddle* 33km/h…

*click* I shifted into 44:13

*peddle peddle* 38km/h…

I was tempted to shift into my final gear 44:11 but I’ve hit the speed limit. As a law abiding citizen I stopped shifting, and I am now traveling as fast as the cars around me.

What’s the fuss? Roadies do this stuff all the time.


Look at those curves… and the frozen road. I’m on a mountain bike without winter tires. I definitely understood why the 35km/h speed limit was in place. I knew if I went any faster, I might skid. If I tried to brake I might lose control of the rear wheel. Pick your poison scenario.

I decided to freewheel through at ~37km/h, off saddle and shifted my weight to the back just in case an unavoidable pot hole comes up. That turned out to be an okay decision, given the situation.

With every decline, there is an incline. Yeah, that wasn’t much fun either. Some fish tailing here and there but I was on a sidewalk this time. Also I was only going at a puny 15km/h so no big deal.


I reached University of Alberta in about 25 minutes on this path. An extra 10 minutes to get back to downtown. The route was 4.5KM longer, but I still got back five minutes faster.

Conclusion

Overall, not surprisingly, staying off the main road (St. Albert Trail / Groat Road) will be the safest and most peaceful way to get to St. Albert. A safer route will be going through normal streets and minimizing time on the main road. However this safety detour will probably add another 5KM to the total. Totaling upto to 20KM.

For those who like the fastest way, St. Albert Trail and Groat Road is doable in the winter, but not for the faint hearted. Maybe better in the summer? At least slip and slide won’t be an issue.


Looking at this should give you a good idea of what I looked like after the ride.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t like to go fast in winter.


Oh well 😛


But hey! I burnt 471 calories!


… and most importantly, I came back for this 😛

Until next time


[Bike] – Taking the GT Avalanche to the trails

“It was only -10C that day”


This is a warm day in Edmonton


Everything is covered in snow


I am not looking forward to the clean-up work. However, I had a lot of fun making this mess!


No pictures of me wiping out on the bike, but here’s what happened when I told my friend about the event. Me in blue, friend in gray.

My approach to nice mountain bikes:

Out in the wild, do whatever it takes to keep the wheels spinning. Get wild, wipeout (optional), whatever! Have fun 😛

Back at home, baby it like it is your one and only. Take good care of it and it will serve you well in the next ride 😀

New exercise every day!

While crawling around the internet, I ran into a massive list of exercises.

Curiosity strikes again!

I have decided that I will try all of them 😛 If running has taught me anything, starting small and taking it slow is the way to go. Of course, throwing in some break days would be great too 🙂

What I will do

Every day, I will try a new exercise and we start easy.

The next day we will do the same exercise we did the day before + the new exercise for that day.

Every three days is break day.

Increase length for previous exercises

Example

Day 1: Exercise A – 1 min
Day 2: Exercise A – 1 min, Exercise B – 1min
Day 3: Exercise A – 1 min, Exercise B – 1min, Exercise C – 1min
Day 4: Break Day!
Day 5: Exercise A – 2 min, Exercise B – 2min, Exercise C – 2min, Exercise D – 1min

The list

I’ve filtered out everything that requires some kind of apparatus or equipment investment, so basically all one would need for these is a floor 😉

Most of these I’ve never heard of, but then again, I only run and bike, so all this stuff is new. I don’t even know what they do.

Insert here <i_have_no_idea_what_i_am_doing.jpg>

Jan 3 – Drop squat
Jan 4 – Split jump
Jan 6 – High knee run
Jan 7 – Butt kick
Jan 8 – Skater jump
Jan 10 – Power skip
Jan 11 – Carioca
Jan 12 – In and out squat
Jan 14 – Rotational chop
Jan 15 – Running Mountain climber
Jan 16 – Spider Mountain climber
Jan 18 – Super skater jump (Replacing skater jump and power skip)
Jan 19 – Side to side Mountain climber
Jan 20 – Diagonal Mountain climber
Jan 22 – Semi-circle Mountain climber
Jan 23 – Jumping Mountain climber (*stop* high knee run jump)
Jan 24 – Long Jump Mountain climber (*stop* Butt kick)
Jan 26 – Seal jack (*stop* Drop squat)
Jan 27 – Jumping jack (*stop* Split jump)
Jan 28 – Plank jack (*stop* Carioca)
Jan 30 – Cross body jumping jack (*stop* in and out squat)
Jan 31 – Predator jack (*stop* rotational chop)
Feb 1 – Burpee (*stop* running mountain climber)

Somewhere down the road we “stop” doing some older exercises. This is because:
A) I am trying to keep this under one hour every day
B) On top of these my primary transportation is by bike, so I spend an hour on that every day too
C) I have other things to do (like writing this blog!)

Hopefully I can manage… (Today is break day! Well, it was… like 5 minutes ago)

[Bike] – Exploring the gears on a bike

Bikes nowadays feature a lot of gears regardless of price range.

Representing a decently priced mountain bike with a market value of 800CAD, my GT Avalanche has the following:


Sunrace CS-M98 – 9 speed cassette


SR Suntour XCM-T414 – 3 speed crank

With 3 in the front and 9 in the back, this in total gives the GT Avalanche 27 gear combinations to play around with. Woah

Representing a cheaply priced mountain bike with a market value of 100CAD, my NEXT Challenger has the following:


Unknown manufacturer – 6 Speed freewheel


Unknown manufacturer – 3 Speed crank

With 3 in the front and 6 in the back, this in total gives the NEXT Challenger 18 gear combinations to play around with. Talk about value!

Woah, what should we do with all those gears?

I bike on the road with cars pretty often, so getting up to reasonable speed quickly is often my #2 concern. (#1 being how to stop effectively in snow) So understanding what these gears mean would help. Since we have numbers, it looks like we can check this out using math 🙂

First step – Rotations per minute (RPM)

It is safe to assume that I can comfortably pedal at ~70 RPM, with a max burst at ~90 RPM. Pro’s can do 120, but hey, I’m not a pro.

Second step – The gear ratios

With different combinations of front and back gears, it will give us different ratios. For example, if the one in front has 22 teeths (the spikey things), and the one at the back has 11 teeths, this gives us a 1:2 ratio. That means, every time we do one full pedal (1 RPM), the wheel at the back will spin two times.

For this exploration, I am going to use the GT Avalanche as the number of teeth in each cog is clearly documented.


Data for the front


Data for the back


All the possible combinations. Ratio = Front / Rear

But hey, the ratios are all over the place, let’s sort them by ascending order


Here we can see that, going with a bigger gear in the front doesn’t always means faster! We can go with a 44 in the front and 36 at the back, giving us a ratio of 1.22. Meanwhile we can go with a 22 in the front and 15 at the back, giving us a higher ratio of 1.47!

*With 22 in the front and 15 at the back, this qualifies as “cross shifting” on my bike. This should never be done if you love your bike. But for the sake of math, we will assume that these are valid combinations.

Third step – Calculating the speed

Speed (km/hr) = RPH x Ratio x Circumference of wheel in km

RPH = Rotation per hour = Rotation per minute x 60 = (90) x 60 = 5400

Ratio is calculated in step 2

Circumference of wheel = 207cm on my GT Avalanche or 0.00207km


Basically, if I pedal at 90 RPM, these are the speeds that I will get with the different gear combinations.

Armed with this information, it is up to your personal preference / ability to determine how you would like to ride.

Personally on the road

I consider 15km/hr the casual bike speed and it looks like 32:24 will get me there

Next I would aim for 20km/hr the reasonable bike speed on bike lanes and it looks like 44:24 will get me there

Next I would aim for 25km/hr the reasonable bike speed on road and it looks like 44:18

At this point I would consider the bike speed to be “road friendly” so going faster from here is optional and dependent on road conditions.

Those gear choices seem fairly arbitrary what was the thought process?

One might ask for 25km/hr why 44:18? Why not 32:15? Both are pretty close. Let’s explore the 20km/hr >>> 25km/hr scenario a bit.

Given the tables:


At 20km/hr, our gear combination would be 44:24. That is gear 3 on front, gear 4 on back.

Going to 25km/hr using 44:18. That means our target combination is gear 3 on front, gear 6 on back. That means two upshifts on the back will get us there. Number of actions = 2.

Going to 25km/hr using 32:15. That means our target combination is gear 2 on front, gear 7 on the back. That means, one upshift on the front and three down shifts on the back. Number of actions = 4.

Every single time you shift are times that you can’t pedal as hard because the gears are “shifting”. I want to accelerate as fast as possible so cars don’t hate me (which they probably already do). To do this we would want to minimize the amount of time shifting so we can spend more time pedaling.

Therefore, I’ve chosen 44:18 as my next gear combination instead of 32:15.

The same logic applies to what was previously proposed…

0 >> 15 – I use 32:24 which are gear combinations 2 and 4.

15 >> 20 – I use 44:24 which are gear combinations 3 and 4. So one upshift on the front will get us there

20 >> 25 – I use 44:18 which are gear combinations 3 and 6. So two upshifts on the back will get us there as discussed above.

If additional speed is required: one upshift on the back (so 3 and 7) will get me to 32km/hr

If I still need more speed: one upshift on the back (so 3 and 8) will get me to 38km/hr

More speed? One upshift on the back (so 3 and 9) will get me to 45km/hr

I might as well be a car @ 45km/hr (Not that I sustain this lol)

TL;DR the shifting makes sense, we minimized shifting time so we can spend more time pedaling.

* On top of that, none of these are “cross shifts” so we are still being nice to the bike 🙂 (3 and 4, might be pushing the definition a little though :P)

Why are there so many gears if all you are going to use is like… 3?

Short answer: different target speeds for different scenarios.

On the road we had very clear goals. 0 >>> 15 >>> 20 >>> 25.

But what if you were off road? Your goals might be 0 >>> 5 >>> 10.

This is a mountain bike and they are supposed to handle a variety of terrains, so all these gears are there for those specific use cases.

Is it necessary to shift though?

Biking around town? No. However, your chain might live longer if you do. The shifter on my NEXT Challenger was left broken for a month or two. I single speeded it all the way. I picked a “middle of the road” gear combination. This resulted in:

A terrible 0-15 acceleration. I’ve stretched the chain a little doing this and my legs are way beefier now (woohoo adaptation :P)

A top terrible top speed. 25km/h? Not possible given my current max RPM.

But did I get around town ok? Sure I did.

Do I miss my gears? Sure I did.