City to country: Bianchi San Jose

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My first adult bike a was a late nineties Trek 820, a USA-made rigid cromoly steel mountain bike.  It was paid for in part by lawnmowing money.  I was thirteen years old.  Several bikes followed, including a new Gary Fisher Tassajara and a used Cannondale touring bike, as well as several cheap singlspeed and three-speed cruisers purchased at garage sales after the two previous bikes were stolen.  This Bianchi San Jose marks my reintroduction to bicycles in 2006, following a brief hiatus where I commuted everywhere by longboard.  This bike was paid for by the entirety of my first paycheck as a dockhand at a marina.

Originally, the Bianchi San Jose came as a tough singlespeed cross-bike, built more for commuting than racing.  With versatile 32mm tires and a 42-16 gearing, I rode everywhere, especially between work and home.  The first day riding home from work, I was thwarted by a steep uphill grade.  The second day, by the same route, I bit hard and muscled up the hill.  I count singlespeeding and fixed gear riding as significant developmental periods in my time as a cyclist.  At the time, I was an aspiring mechanic that would sometimes make things worse, rather than better, by attempting repairs.  A singlespeed bike was the perfect place to practice my skills. 

The bike gained a pair of eggplant purple deep-V Velocity rims, a Brooks Professional saddle and narrow road tires, along with an absence of brakes.  It was a your average urban fixie, although I thought it above average.  I chopped a pair of old drop bars into a homemade bullhorn bar, eventually turning them backward for a narrow upright position.  It is this permutation that I liked best.  It is like this that I rode to Seattle for the first time, from Tacoma, and decided that a cross-country tour was possible, and eventual.  I still have not ridden cross-country, but that autumn I left on my first bike tour.  

The bike now lives in uptsate NY.  It was a gift to my brother for his high-school graduation, at which time it gained an 8-speed Nexus internal gear hub, practical urban tires, full-coverage fenders, swept-back handlebars, a rear rack with a basket, and a bell.  It has become my daily rider when visiting home.  

The details of the build include: Shimano Nexus 8sp IGH, CST Selecta 700x38mm tiresSKS P45 Longboard fenders, Velo Orange Tourist handlebar, Delta rear rack, Wald basket, and Velo Orange brass bell.

The Rocket Ring is drilled for both 110mm and 130mm 5-bolt BCD.

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Full-coverage fenders, IGH, puncture-resistant tires, and reflective sidewalls– not far from the average Dutch bicycle.

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Shimano internal gear hubs boast incredibly light shifting, even under moderate load.

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The front mudflap nearly reaches the pavement, keeping feet dry even through puddles.

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The basket is zip tied to the rack, as recommended by Rivendell and others.  It is best to wrap the zip ties several times before locking them tight.  Here, they are wound around the rack only once.

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Cantilever brakes provide excellent stopping power when properly adjusted.  Brick-colored Velo Orange brake pads offer excellent stopping power, and are a less expensive upgrade than Kool-Stop pads.  They work very well in wet weather.

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The basket is huge, and conveniently carries a salad for six, dressing, a rain jacket and my Porcelain Rocket purse/camera bag.  Actually, the Porcelain Rocket bag is designed as a front bag, to be used in front of the handlebar roll or drybag.  With a shoulder strap, it works well around town. 

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It has been great fun to explore new and old ideas.  I may seriously consider an IGH in the future on a personal bike, and my next pavement touring bike might just have a couple of baskets.  




10 thoughts on “City to country: Bianchi San Jose

      • Don’t be. Sparse phrasing that is evocative of a spring wind through winter wheat; direct descriptions that leave no nuance unturned, yet delivered with an economy of style and simple friendliness that makes me want to stop whatever I am doing and go ride a bicycle. Or hug one. Photography that would win awards if anyone were paying attention.

        And your subject matter, real bicycles being ridden everyday, (and the places you can go) deserves a WAY broader audience. Your lifestyle is exemplary and I, for one, am constantly influenced by your work and ethic and I look forward to seeing where your path takes you and also do I look forward to sharing the ride.


    • Highly recommended! Layer a piece of inner tube under the cage to protect the paint and dampen vibration, then belt the tape around the frame tube and the back part of the cage. Lightweight and easy to install. Appears it will last for the long haul. Tape is lightweight, so be sure to use plenty for security.

  1. Hi:
    I have a new Dahon Curve D3 folder of November 2012 with a Sram 3 speed IGH. The Curve SL with its Nexus 8 is no longer available, so I´m planning to convert the D3. My only trouble is the weight increase, but I already have the Nexus 8 Speed hub. Tell me please the results you obtained with this hub. Thanks in advance, Teo

    • If the Nexus 8 provides the gear range that you need, it will be a necessary improvement. The Nexus 8 has been great for me– it shifts very smoothly and offers as much range as I need in a city bike. However, if you live in a flat city and do not carry too much luggage, you might try the 3-speed system first. You can always choose a lower gear for the three-speed system (although you sacrifice the top range). This could be much cheaper.

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