Bicycle Profile – Wabi Classic 42 cm

For the past two years, I’ve enjoyed riding my Wabi Classic 42 cm.  I don’t have a name for it, but I describe it as “My blue bike that looks like a toy,” even though it is a serious road bike and great for commuting.

 

Wabi Cycles 42cm
Lakefront bike ride when it was new

This is my favorite bike, the bike I use when I want to have fun, go fast and feel like I can keep up with anyone else on the road.  Tiny and powerful, it is a bike I can ride for 20 + miles and not feel like it’s taken all of my energy to do so.  It’s the kind of bike that immediately changes your attitude when you’re having a bad day and the kind of bike that has people ask you where you go it.  It’s also the kind of bike I carefully lock up or bring inside since I’d be very upset if it ever got stolen.  It’s put into heavy use during the spring and summer on my commutes and on recreational rides around the city.

Specs:

Model: Wabi Cycles Classic 42 cm

Purchased: June 2013

Miles ridden: Strava says I have 1850 miles, but I know I have biked much more. Probably 2000+

Gearing: 44 x 17, single speed.  One gear is fine since there aren’t many hills around

Weight: ~17 lbs of steel and components,  it is very light compared to my other bike

Pedals: Platform MKS Sylvan Touring Bicycle Pedals, since I can use a variety of shoes with it, and I don’t see the need for clipless pedals.  These were purchased separately for about $35.00.

Tires:  Changed stock tires to Continental Road tires in 2014

Seat: stock ladies saddle, will upgrade to a newer bike seat eventually

Rear rack: None, since there is no room for one. I use my messenger bag or cycling backpack to carry supplies.

Lights:  Enough room on the handlebar to mount front lights, I have a tactical flashlight with a flashlight holder mounted to it.  The seatpost has room to mount a rear light, but I usually have a light clipped to my backpack and one on my helmet for rear lighting.

Speed: I average 13-15 mph on this bike and have recorded myself as going as fast as 27 mph downhill, 22 mph “hammering” on a flat stretch of road or a steady 19 mph keeping up with traffic on busy roads when I am brave enough to take the lane.

Price: $750, a great value

 

Wabi bike on side
Bike with water bottle and emergency bike pump on the frame.

At the time, I wanted another bike in case my main hybrid commuter bike was in the shop for repair.  I wanted a fast bike, it had to be light so that I could easily lift it onto the train, and be maneuverable enough in heavy traffic.  This bike fit all of these requirements.

 

If I was running late to catch the train,  I knew I could pedal fast enough to make it in time and still be able to lift the bike up the stairs while catching my breath.

My bike taking up two seats on the Metra.  Two grumpy people probably had to move so I could park my bike.
My bike taking up three seats on the Metra. Three grumpy people probably had to move so I could park my bike.

Why Wabi?

Since I’m short (5’0″) my options for road bikes were limited but I wanted to find a stylish road bike which could be used as a commuter bike.  There were many options from the big name brands, but after reading around the internet, Wabi kept being mentioned.  Even though it was a single speed bike, and I had never ridden one before, I thought it made sense since the bike would be lighter and more efficient.

I looked at www.wabicycles.com and was immediately drawn to how simple and beautiful the bike was, especially the turquoise blue color.  Due to my height, the only option that made sense was the 42 cm model.  I wasted no time and contacted Richard Snook who owns Wabi Cycles.  Richard was very helpful in helping me decide on the build of the bike.   Our conversations over email and phone focused on my physical measurements, riding style, and my desire to bike long distances.  He suggested I get a stem riser so that my handlebars could be more upright and that a 44 x 17 gear ratio would allow me to comfortably climb hills in the suburbs while maintaining a good cruising speed in flat Chicago.  He also answered any questions I had about bike sizing and not being able to test ride the bike before purchasing.  My fears aside, I placed the order through the website soon after our final discussion.

My biked arrived packed in a big cardboard box.  I only had to figure out how to put on the front wheel and the pedals I had purchased.  The first ride was a short ride around the block.  Richard told me that since I was used to riding a hybrid bike, it would feel like upgrading from an old SUV to a Porche.   He was right as I was instantly impressed by its speed and somewhat unsure if I had bought a bike that was too fast.

After a few rides, I got used to its speed and I took it to my local bike store and made some minor adjustments to the seat and handlebars.  Since then, I haven’t had to perform many adjustments or maintenance on this bike and it has been a very reliable ride.

Final Verdict

Everything about this bike is awesome and feels good, especially the effortless pedaling and steering.  Since the bike is so responsive, I can confidently negotiate traffic, easily avoid potholes and be fast enough so that I can make all the green lights before they turn red on the road.   Overall, this is a fantastic bike and it fits my commuting and recreational biking needs.  You will see me riding this bike for many years to come.

Some thoughts on Winter Biking

The cold Chicago months are now upon us and it’s time to commit to winter biking.  Yes, riding around in the cold is something most people do not consider, but it is fine if you are prepared.  When you bike in the cold, you learn fast if something does not work and then quickly adapt.  Winter biking is definitely more challenging and harder on the body.  The coldest temperature that I’ve ridden in has been 13 degrees.  Bicycle parts don’t work as well when the temperature is that low, but it is still manageable.

This is my third winter biking, and here is a summary of the past few years:

2011: First winter biking, mild Chicago winter.  Made the mistake of biking of the sidewalk after a first snow thaw.  Smacked my knee on some ice and then have never ridden on the sidewalk ever again.

2012: 2nd winter biking, mild Chicago winter, avoided biking in the Northern Burbs since drivers don’t give me space.  Rescheduled my working hours around a different train line that would bring me closer to work so that I would spend the majority of my time bicycling in Chicago.

2013:  The day after Thanksgiving the temperature dropped into the 20’s and I hopped on my bike to buy some seafood at the fish market.  Horrible cold, snow and ice Chicago winter with no relief.  No bike commuting for nearly 3 months waiting for the snow to melt.  I remember still seeing a remnant of little pile of snow up in my office research park in May and thinking how awful it was.

2014: Cold snap hits early, which means more time to try to enjoy the cold.  Made the 2nd annual trip to the fish market the day after Thanksgiving for some red snapper and oysters.  December is starting off cold but with no precipitation.  I intend to bicycle as much as possible before the snow hits.

 

Things to just accept and prepare for when winter biking:

1) Being in the cold

Yes you will be cold and then it becomes a game of mental motivation over your physical hesitations.  Probably the most uncomfortable thing I find about winter biking are the first few minutes to heat up.  Once my body temperature is elevated, then everything is okay.

Whenever it is cold outside, go out and enjoy the cold.  The more you expose yourself to cold conditions, the less likely you’ll feel uncomfortable when the temperature really drops.  When the first cold snap hits, I usually just go out and bike to acclimate myself for what’s to come.

Being in the cold is not a limiting factor for me as I know how to properly layer and keep myself warm.  I usually wear wool layers to keep myself warm and make sure my extremities are covered.  Wear appropriate clothing to keep yourself warm and cover any exposed skin or put a thin layer of Vaseline on your face.

Your feet will become cold when you bike.  You can combat this by wearing wool socks or getting off your bike at every intersection and jumping up and down or shaking your legs.  I used to do this but became lazy and decided to wear thin athletic socks with toe warmers.  For my hands, I usually double glove with an outer mitt.  If conditions are super cold, (below 20°F or a nasty windchill) I will place handwarmers in my mittens as well.

Yes, you will need to blow your nose, so carry some tissues.

Your eyelashes will freeze only if you don’t wear some sort of eye protection.  I use cheap safety glasses to prevent my eyes from becoming dry and frozen.

Keep hydrated.  Everytime you see your breath you are losing water.  I use a thermos bottle to keep my water from becoming so cold.  A regular water bottle will just freeze

On longer commutes, you will probably need to switch gloves halfway through if you’ve been sweating.  You hands will freeze otherwise.  I have done it on 20 miles commutes, but it becomes very uncomfortable when your hands feel like icicles and you are trying to brake.

2) Being in the dark

Morning or evening it will be dark and lonely.  Make sure you have lights and that you are visible from all angles – front, back and side.

3) Winterize your bike

Have appropriate lights, wider tires, a properly lubed chain , and occasionally rinse off your bike from the road salt.   You can add knobbies or studs to your tires if you’re really hardcore.   I prefer to use my hybrid bike with its regular tires and avoid biking when there is snow or ice on the ground.  Talk to your local bike shop and have them look over your bike and give suggestions.  This is the time of year when I know that it will be nearly impossible for me to fix a bike out in the cold.  Thank goodness for public transportation and a cell phone to call someone to come pick you up.

4) The cold wind

There are no windbreaks as all of the leaves have fallen off the tree, so you will feel the full force of the wind.  Just get used to it.

5) Trust your judgement

If you feel it’s not safe to bicycle around for any reason – cold, precipitation, or wind, then don’t do. it.   I avoid biking when the snowfall hits as there is not enough room on the road for both cars and bikes to share.  Also, the side of the road is filled with slick spots as the snow melts and freezes, and I do not feel as safe.  Also, check the weather forecasts for temperatures, wind, and precipitation conditions.  If it’s too nasty, then don’t put yourself through awful conditions since it simply won’t be fun and might be dangerous.

 

Why do I enjoy winter biking?

One of the more enjoyable things I find about winter biking is how quiet the air sounds.   I like hearing the sound of my pedals and my tires rolling over the cold pavement.   I like being able to conquer the cold.   Knowing that I can travel on my bicycle when the temperature is below freezing gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.  An advantage of winter biking is that you will most likely have the trail and road to yourself.

Also, with the holiday season it is a great way to fight off those extra pounds and to maintain your fitness until the weather warms up again.   When spring hits, you feel so much faster and confident on the bike because you’ve endured such harsh conditions throughout the winter.

In the winter, you will find yourself to be more alone on your commutes.  Some people will look at you strangely.  They seem to want to roll down their car windows and tell you that you’re crazy.  Some do, but only to complement you that you are brave, they could never do it, and to keep at it.