Saturday, September 20, 2008

Green Bike Project: 2009 Novara Transfer (REI)

Program overview
In cooperation with REI and the Cascade Bicycle Club, and funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, King County (specifically, KC Metro) has rolled out a new program this fall called the "Green Bike Project".

A new REI Novara commuter bicycle is provided to new bicycle commuters (they must have identified themselves as being a "drive alone" commuter prior to the program as the grant conditions stipulate it is being used to buy drivers out of the single-occupant vehicles). The model is the Transfer, an award-winning commuter bike. I've heard the MSRP is about $650, though the GBP got a deal from REI but we don't know what the reduced price was. The special green color is a limited edition with only 200 made.

I got into this program because despite my love for fooling around with bikes and experience as a team leader during bike to work month (May each year) in 2007 and 2008, 99% of the time, I was commuting as a solo driver. It's been 25 years or so since I last rode a new bicycle and had one that was fitted to me.

The sponsors' logos on the chainstay (the other side would have made more sense where it is less likely to get slapped around and marred by the chain).

The project has a web site that the participants must log-in their trips during the duration of the program.

Bike features
The bike has a number of cool features that make it great out-of-the-box for commuters. This includes puncture-resistent tires with reflective sidewalls and full fenders, for example. Some other of the features are shown in the photos below.

A bell is integrated into the brake lever housing.

The rear flashing light is triggered on automatically by movement and also low light conditions. It goes off automatically after 3 minutes if you've stopped and parked the bike.

The matching rear rack is robust and takes pannier bags or in this case, makes for a place to strap things down with bungee cords.

The front light is driven by a dynamo (generator) encased in the hub of the front wheel. It comes on whenever you're moving forward or backing up. Since it stops when you're stopped, I added an additional battery-powered headlight that's mounted to the handlebar (not pictured).

Shifting and adjustments are easy (I hope) compared to a regular multi-speed bike with derailleurs. This is strictly a 7-speed with a single front chain ring. Shifting is handled by a Shimano Nexus hub with 7-speeds. I am told the high and lows are the same as a mountain bike but there are fewer ranges between gears than you'd find in a 18, 21, 24, etc. speed bicycles. I've found it does seem like the gear you'd want for flat out on flat paved surfaces requires more effort and you don't get a lot of speed. For now, I think it is my own physical abilities that are the limiting factor, so we'll see how that changes in the months ahead. Most of my riding is either all downhill or all uphill, so for me, the quality of the brakes (rim brakes), tires (26 x 1.75), and uphill gearing ratio are of more importance to me.

With the rear hub being a internal geared style, the rear axle is nutted, which means it needs the rider to carry a 15mm wrench to take the wheel off in the event of a flat. This produced a bit of a problem when the project first started out and some riders, somebeing not-so-mechanically minded, had difficulties when they had a flat tire for the first time.

I'll update how my rides have been going and what I've discovered about the bike over the next couple months.

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