Masi Speciale Randonneur Update


It’s been a rough 6 weeks for riding here with some unexpected snow and ice. I did manage to get two rides in and really like the bike so far. It comes as close to planing as any other steel disc bike I’ve ridden but does have a slightly stiffer fork than I’m used to. Not nearly as stiff as a carbon fork but stiffer than other steel disc forks like from Soma or All-City. So I’m very excited to put in some long rides once the weather clears. The bike rides much more neutral than expected, no shimmy so far with 8-11 pounds up front in a rigid bar bag. Low wheel flop makes turning the bike easy and cornering is much less of an affair than the higher trail bikes I’ve been riding that do the fall and catch style cornering. My previous bike had 26mm flop/75mm trail so I’m still acclimating to the Masi but it handles much more intuitive than I expected. I don’t have enough data but so far the only speed differences I’ve seen have been slightly faster.

I feel the bike misses some small things. The seattube and front downtube bottle bosses are very high. This impacts mounting a frame bag and limits front water bottles to 20 ounces or smaller. The brake housing to the rear runs along the downtube and is mounted at a degree that prevents mounting a minipump under the bottle cage. There is no good front platform rack mounting options, the user is left to double-up bosses on the drop-out or is limited to one rack from Compass made to fit the low-rider boss. I think the bike should have either come with a front rack or had a specific rack designed and sold by Masi available. I emailed the product manager and they specificly recommended the Compass UD-1 rack, which is $180 plus shipping. Right now I’m using a $40 Soma Lucas rack and that will probably be the only rack I use. The rear fender should have been attached through the fender to a boss on the underside of the brake bridge instead of being the typical side through-bolt that clamps to the fender body. I also think this kind of bike makes more sense for being sold as just a frame and not a complete build but whatever.

The components are surprisingly very very good. 4700 Tiagra has a very light action with extremely crisp shifting for both the front and the rear. Much better than 5800 and really indistinguishable from 6800 IMO. The brakes are also surprising, they seem to work very well despite appearing to be a low-quality OEM design. I need to get some rain rides in but for now I’ve shelved my plans to replace with Spyres. The brake housing is typical squishy OEM nonsense so I will be replacing that at some point but it works fine for now just obviously not the best. I replaced the 50/34 Tiagra crank with a Shimano RS500 46/36 crankset from Merlin Cycles for $72. I looked at the Ultegra 46/36 crankset or even just the 4-bolt 46t chainring but both options were extremely expensive. Shimano 4 bolt is not something to which I can afford to convert. I also replaced the handlebars as they have a ridiculous flare that is more appropriate for dirt bikes and not a primary road bike like this.

I will add that if anyone is on the fence about running 650b as a tubeless set-up, go for it. The difference in ride feel is shocking. Replacing the weight of a tube with sealant makes climbing completely different and mounting the wheel in a truing stand and spinning by hand it is very obvious the difference in power required to spin the wheel without a tube. It’s really great. Of course not 30 seconds into my second ride I ran over a nail or something that blew out a hole that would not seal and I had to remove all the sealant and put in a tube so I could ride. I’ve patched the tire and it seems fine now but it sure was a kick in the pants. True punctures have been rare for me as the only flats I’ve had for the past 16 months have been slow-leak glass flats that happen hours or days after running over the glass as it works its way through the tire into the tube. So I’m hoping this will be an exception.

I like the bike and will be riding it as my only road bike once I get it completely set up – I’m trying to tune the fit to match my other bike that I can easily ride for 10+ hours and it’s taking a bit with the weather. It’s the most expensive bike I’ve ever purchased and as most of my bikes have been from the Raleigh/Diamondback corporate discount program the Masi’s price was staggering. I can’t help but feel it should be priced closer to $1000 but that’s probably a bit unrealistic for what seems to be niche geometry/design.

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Goodbye to the 650b

I really wanted to get to 10,000 miles riding 650b wheels/tires but I’m just tired of them so I’m going to be stuck at around 9,000 miles. Oh well.

Despite all the “testing” done in Bicycle Quarterly I have not found the large 650bx42 tires to roll, pedal or ride as fast as good 700c racing tires. There are a few reasons for this, the main one I think is the hysterisis losses from pedaling causing bounce in the tire that does not occur with narrower higher pressure tires. This has not been explored well at all as it will be almost invisible when a rider is pedaling around a velodrome at a consistent speed or on a smooth road – as a lot of the testing was performed.

Another is that the testing is always exclusive of real world riding. I know, I know “it’s too hard to control for variables” but really if your clean room laboratory shows one thing and my 570+ hours of outside riding show a significantly different result – which one is right?

Anyway, so about 570 hours evenly spread around three different bikes. What did I learn?

There is a lot of overlap in terms of speed for any given point. 700c is definitely faster in absolute terms but in some situations 650b will be as fast or faster. One thing that has only been addressed tangentially is the roll-over difference between 650bx42 and 700cx23. Even though the outer diameters are essentially the same there is a difference in roll-over due to the compression of the bigger tire as it moves in and out of bumps and road features. It’s exactly the same as the 26/29 wheelsize in the mountain bike world. 650b is great because the tires are wider but compared to 700c at the same width it’s going to ride much more poorly over bumps and obstacles.

Remember too that 650b is much closer to 26″ than 700c. Chart below:

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650bx42 is a tire and wheel size that should be ridden by the majority of recreational cyclists. It’s just a better size for most people who do not race. It’s safer, less prone to flats and handles weight better than 700c racing tires.

It’s easy to get sucked into good marketing and believe things that aren’t true in my reality. I was enamored with 650b and totally ignored the massive decrease in average speed that occurred with the tire size switch. Mainly due to the effective marketing from BQ. I didn’t lose anything and it didn’t cost me any money – 650b tires are a good product and the things BQ promotes and sells are generally good idea – it was just shocking how easy I swallowed that hook. Good to double down on my resolve to have a critical eye for everything from now on. Really kinda miffed I spent money on 3 years of Bicycle Quarterly – they pretty much jumped the shark 2-3 issues after I subscribed.

Bicycle Quarterly has basically turned into Bicycling for people who like their marketing tinged with french flavor and randonneuring focus. Re-enactment old folks, snobs and wayward dirtbag tourers. Compare the tests prior to issue 53 with the ones after. The Specialized Diverge review makes a travesty of honest reporting. The stock tires, handlebar tape, handlebars and saddle were replaced by Compass parts – the bike had some major issues and even so was given a glowing review. Really sad to see. At least the first 52 issues are genuinely good stories, reviews and writing. Now it just seems like a way to sell stuff and fund Jan’s trips to Japan. Anyone want to buy out my remaining 2.5 years worth of issues?

So really, I guess this is goodbye to both the 650b wheelsize and Bicycle Quarterly. The former is still very much a good wheelsize and really a great thing for a lot of people. The latter probably not so much unless you want to know how great Compass parts are.

Best Practices for Front Loading High Trail Bikes

  1. Load should be as far back as possible. Ideally behind the front hub, even an inch makes a big difference.
  2. Load should be as low as possible. My front rack is only about 20mm above the front tire and actually touches the front fender.
  3. Ride the bike. A lot of the “poor handling” mythos comes from lack of time on a bike. I’ve found that high trail front loads don’t handle poorly, they just handle different. The more you ride, the more natural it seems and the better the bike feels.

I’m not currently set up for or interested in front panniers but I think I’ll try them out once it gets warmer. May add another wrinkle but we’ll see.

Most front racks are pushed too far forward by the fork crown support. I’ve been looking at rack and setups and it’s obvious that with most racks mounted as recommended there’s no way not to have your load in front of the hub.

Here’s a good set-up. Even though it’s low-trail (high fork rake) the rack is as far back as possible, it’s too high but there does not appear to be any adjust-ability as this is most likely a rack designed for 700c being used on a 650b bike.

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Here’s a poor set-up. Rack is too high and too far forward due to poor fork crown attachment design and overall poor rack choice.

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Here’s my bike, it’s nice and low and far back. I can get most of what I carry behind the hub so handling is close to neutral.

Front loads and high trail

Link to trail info for Diamondback Haanjo Comp

So I’ve got two rides on my bike now that it’s set-up with a front rack. First ride was front rack + saddle bag load so 2 pounds for the rack(?), 2 pounds on the front rack and 3 pounds in the rear. Steering felt a little heavy and bike was slower to respond but seemed to like the weight and pedaling felt easier and less spinny than previously. Essentially the additional weight made it feel more like a 700c bike than a 650b bike as far as pedaling was concerned.

Second ride I ditched the saddle bag and moved everything up front. 2 pounds for the rack and 3 pounds for the load. Steering feel increased a bit and responsiveness decreased a bit as well. Although really it’s sorta like the responsiveness changed instead of decreased. The bike wants to flop when turning so it requires a lot of body english and counter-steer but it can be made to respond like before, it’s just harder. I also noticed there is a lot of wheel flop during steep seated climbing. The bike wants to wander all over and when I’m really tired it takes more energy to keep tracking straight. However, this is offset by how much better the standing climbing is, which is cool because I am a great stander and a poor sitter.

What really blew me away was how much better the bike felt pedaling in all positions without the saddle bag. Who knew this would be so much of change? It seemed to plane for me in a way that it was not doing before, although I’ve only got one ride this way so it may just be bullshit. I’ll find out I guess.

I love this bike now

Added a front rack to my Haanjo Comp today. Perfect day for it too. 67 and warm when I left and 47 with rain by the time I got back.

Made it super easy to carry all the clothes I needed and extra tube. I’m going to figure out a better solution than a hip-pack in a ziploc bag but for right now it’s still awesome. Handling is a little different – bike wants to turn instead of lean but it’s not too bad and certainly not as bad as I would have thought after reading all the Bicycle Quarterly stuff about low and high trail and front loading.

Today was just another one of those days where I feel like I can just pedal forever. Such a good feeling,  always forgot how much easier and more fun it is to ride when I’m skinny instead of chubby. Like my legs always have the same strength no matter my overall weight.

I can’t wait to ride some more and see how it works with different load outs. Rack is a Sunlite QR-Tec that mounts 100% to the quick-release. It has a anchor point for the brake caliper hole but I just cut that off and ziptied the back of the rack to the front fender stabilizer.

Haanjo Comp Update

Right under 2,000 miles/6 months on my Haanjo Comp so I have a little update. Overall the bike is still riding fine. Spent quite a few hours riding in the rain this week and blew through the stock pads on the front spyres pretty quickly. Replaced with Shimano B01S pads and performance is significantly better. Here’s a nice little post from another blogger that was helpful:https://accidentalrandonneur.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/replacing-pads-on-a-trp-spyre-mechanical-disc-brake-caliper/

I did have an unusual issue on Monday; riding in the rain and dark I took a little shortcut in behind a strip mall where all the dumpsters are and ended up riding through an invisible trash pond that went up past my hubs. I have two bright front lights but it was so dark and wet I just didn’t see the huge pond/puddle that had filled the road caused by a series of blocked drains. I managed to ride it out but almost right away my rear shifting had degraded significantly and my front shifting has show a little chain suck as well.

As few days later I noticed my brakes were sticky and took a lot more pressure to squeeze the levers. Nothing else seemed to be affected but I wouldn’t be surprised if the wheel or bb bearings were affected as well, but not much to do about those now. Anyway, I fixed the rear shifting by cleaning the guide area under the bb and adding two turns to the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur. Front is ok but not 100% like it was before. I know riding through a huge trash pond is unusual but I would still question the wisdom of routing cables under the bb on a gravel bike.

Anyway, the brake issue was a lot more surprising, I cruised through my apartment complex and when I went to brake at the gate I squeezed the lever and nothing happened. OH SHIT!

After a quick panic I SQUEEZED the lever and and felt a solid click/clunk and then the brakes were working ok but took a lot more pressure than before. I suspect the capillary action drew water up into the housing and started the cable rusting or housing corroding. I spent a few days trying to lube it but back to perfect function but I went ahead and just replaced the cable and it works fine now. I didn’t see any rust on the cable but did see a little bit of white corrosion on the cable were it would be under the handlebar tape which is really weird and makes me wonder if there is a hole in the housing? Anyway, weird and unusual and I’ll try to stay out of such deep water in the future.

So, the bike is riding fine and I still like it pretty ok. Wish it had a front rack.