Gone Fishin'

HEY!

I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!

7.06.2011

Bikesdirect.com Minivelo- Mercier Nano First Impressions and Review

I mentioned the other day that BikesDirect.com was selling a minivelo, and that I was excited that somebody was bringing the concept to the US in a big way. (Soma did it first, but theirs is much nicer and much, much more expensive).  Well, the arrival of the Mercier Nano on Bikes Direct coincided neatly with the arrival of a refund from Performance for my cracked Scattante frameset.  So I took the plunge and ordered.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for unique bikes, and I wanted to support the wider availability of a different type of bike in the US. Minivelo are popular in Asia, largely because they are easier to store in small apartments and transport on trains than their 700c wheeled counterparts. In various Asian countries, you can get Bianchi, Masi, and Gios minivelo. You can get them with full Dura Ace grouppos, and you can get them with carbon forks and carbon frames. I'd love to see that kind of variety n the US some day, but it isn't going to happen unless people buy some of the first examples available here. 


So mine arrived about a week ago and I built it up. It came packaged the way every other Bikes Direct bike has ever come packaged (to date, six of their bikes have passed through my basement shop), which is to say, the frame was well wrapped and padded, the bars already taped, the pedals, front brake and stem uninstalled, and the brakes and derailers in need of adjustment. I had it all together and ready to ride in about 40 minutes.  The bathroom scale method yielded a weight of 26.6lbs.  So not a light bike by any means, but lots of parts swapping that could lead to something a little more zippy. 
All built up and adjusted.


After weighing the bike, I made the first modification, which was to swap the rubber rim strips out for some Pedro's tape I had laying around.  This is a new bike, but the bikeforums.net thread on this bike contained multiple reports of people flatting because the rubber rim strips had crept away from the center of the rim. No sense in letting that happen, and the tape was a wee bit lighter than the rubber to boot.  The tires come with a max recommended pressure of 65 pounds. I heard somewhere that the maximum recommended pressure on a bicycle tire represents a compromise between the tire company's legal department and their marketing department. I'm guessing Legal wins most of those arguments, so I went ahead and pumped them up to 70lbs.  I also installed a pair of Look Keo Easy pedals, which shaved a little more weight and allows me to use my road shoes on the bike. I fiddled with the seat position, seatpost height, and stem height until I arrived at a riding position fairly similar to my Trek 460 fixie. That's the cool thing about a minivelo: you have a smaller bike without getting all scrunched up on it like a clown or something.
Downtube shifters on the head tube, so you can reach 'em.
 I took a test ride. The small wheels are noticeable, the handling a little more nimble, bordering on squirrely at first, than I was used to. After a while you don't notice the wheels anymore, and you get used to the shifters, and it's like riding any other bike. Except for the rolling resistance. 406 wheels with big tires at 70 pounds just on't do it for me. My next planned upgrade is a set of skinny tires and light tubes so I can run a more road-ish 110 pounds.  Who needs shock absorption, anyway?


I don't have a picture, but I also changed out the squishy saddle, a "Velo" brand one, for a Nashbar road saddle with titanium alloy rails and a few fewer grams than the Velo. Actually, the Nashbar saddle is made by Velo as well. But it's white, which looks PRO. Why I'm trying to make my minivelo look Pro, I have no idea.






I'd say that, for under 300 bucks, this is a lot of fun and a great bike to have in the stable. It's going to be fun to modify, it's a riot to ride (the little wheels make it a wheelie machine on par with a Stingray, though I try to refrain from wheelies when I'm clipped in!), and it looks cool. Don't expect it to be like your 700c bike, or like any other bike you've tried. Don't expect it to be light out of the box, maybe ever. Do expert to be able to fit it in your car, cubicle, or commuter train in ways that a 700c bike won't, and stay tuned for updates as I make changes to mine.  Oh, and please feel free to ask me questions in the comments.


Viva la minivelorution!