Back to work

The Bianchi Orso 105, intended for everything from “commuting to centuries, long distance touring to backroad bikepacking,” according to the company website.

Just as I was getting used to the idea of not having much to do, being a geezer whose increasingly feeble revenue stream depends on the depleted wells of bicycling and journalism, suddenly I have two bikes to review for Adventure Cyclist, and one of them posthaste, if you please, as another reviewer’s bike seems to have gone someplace without him.

REI’s Co-op ADV 1.1, a classic triple-ring tourer tarted up with hydraulic disc brakes.

The new arrivals are a Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1, a $1,299 tourer from REI, and a Bianchi Orso 105, a $2,100 “all-road” bike with its roots in the venerable Volpe line.

Some people snicker at the idea of buying a bike from REI, but I’ve reviewed a couple of Co-op’s Novara predecessors and felt they delivered solid value at a reasonable price. “The Novara Verita,” I wrote, “will take you everywhere but to the cleaners.” The Mazama adventure bike was likewise “light on the wallet” and fun to ride.

I have some time on Bianchis, too. When she was affiliated with the organization Sky Yaeger loaned me a Castro Valley for a spell, and I liked the Zurigo Disc enough to add it to the fleet, though it suffers from an alloy frame, carbon fork and disc brakes, a.k.a. the Three Horsepersons of the Apocalypse.

The Co-op will be first out of the chute, and boy, am I glad I have some kilometers under my bibs, because it weighed in at 34.7 pounds before I installed the pedals. Expect to see me paying frequent visits to that 26-tooth granny ring. I guess that’s why they call it “work.”

Speaking of adventure, T.E. Lawrence died on this day in 1935. Keep an eye peeled for all them derned kids on bicycles, hogging the road.

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33 Responses to “Back to work”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    God, I wonder if my Long Haul Trucker is even as heavy as the Co-Op.

    Spent till almost midnight cursing out the Six Thirteen last night as I couldn’t get the indexing quite right. Finally put the old mid-cage Chorus derailleur back on it to see if that mattered. Mumble, grumble. I think it is time for a full freshening of that bike. Hopefully I can make it through Sunday’s Fanta Se Century without angering the gods.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’d forgotten the big ride was this weekend. You doing the full century? I honestly don’t remember the last time I did a hunnerd-miler. Used to do ’em alla damn time — Santa Fe, TORGV, Hardscrabble, Front Range, you name it.

      An old steel Trek went into auto-shift on me once on Heartbreak Hill. Kept dumping me into the 19T on the steepest pitch. Maybe the 17T. The gods were very angry that day. Big fun was not had by all.

      A colleague once opined that Surly uses “surplus 1940s lead piping” in their bikes. Having ridden the occasional bike that relied upon repurposed playground swingsets for tubing I feel your pain.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I thought of doing the whole thing but will likely settle for fifty. At most, seventy five as there is a figure 8 with one big loop and two little ones. Since I am not bike commuting from Fanta Se to Bombtown, my mileage and fitness have, shall we say, suffered. I thought of riding to work one or two days a week but those roads are driven by maniacs. At least on the BMW I can get out of my own way.

        The Long Haul Trucker was a fun little project. I had a box of parts left over from the old Trek tandem, which along with a Sugino triple crank I bought from Sheldon Brown (which I will never part with) got hung on the Trucker frame. It weighs a lot but was a great commuter. One of these days I have to try it on the road.

        Agree with Pat below. 34×32 low gear for long distance touring? Sure, if it is credit card touring when someone else is carrying all your stuff. Even then I would probably swap out the 11-32 for a 12-34, assuming the rear derailleur could cope. Bikepacking? Gimme a break.

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    I wonder about “no name” tubing referred to by the bike manufacturer by some name made up my marketing types. “Cromolite” is what Bianchi calls the Orso tubing. I assume the tubing made from a 4130 chrome moly alloy, but I don’t know. Butted? Double butted? Heat treated? Bianchi bikes should be made from Columbus tubing, right? The REI spec sheet says double butted chrome/moly steel. That’s a little better I guess. Do the bikes have stickers or stamping on the frame indicating country of origin?

    The Orso gearing doesn’t seem suited touring much less bike packing. We have had this discussion many times before, but I wouldn’t want to ride the Orso with “racks and sacks” as you say up a big hill. Not even 20 years ago.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Yeah, everybody has their “house brand” tubeset and component line these days. It would be interesting to do a story on where all this stuff comes from. Probably off the rack in some humongous Asian factory.

      “Hey, pull down a few hundred bikes’ worth of tubes, dude. What kind? Who cares? I got a drawer full of decals. Gimme a shitload of stems and seatposts while you’re up there.”

      • Herb from Michigan Says:

        I think a lot of what is labeled Cro-mo is really just hi tension. In the 80’s it was well known that bike companies slapped the Cro-mo stickers on many an import that had only ONE tube of the triangle that truly was. Even some vaunted higher end models had hi tension chain stays. Wouldn’t doubt it’s still going on.

        • Herb from Michigan Says:

          As a further retro-grouch continual,I have to say I totally could care less about thru-axles. Or carbon anything for that matter. Now Ti, well that’s my weakness. Yes I know the cost isn’t justifiable or the performance benefits defendable but hell….I just like how Ti is damn hard to work with…like me!

          • Pat O'Brien Says:

            I hear you on titanium. I wanted a Litespeed Veneto in the worst way. Even drove to Phoenix when a shop said they had one in my size. They didn’t have it. Then Litespeed quit making them and I retired. I’m on a steel budget now. At least it’s Tange Prestige.

          • Mile High Devs Says:

            Just realized my Litespeed Obed will turn 30 next year. No way a plastic bike carries my quarter ton ass for that long without splintering. Expensive in 1989 dollars, but cheap when you pro rate it.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Hah. I knew a framebuilder once who was tasked with creating bikes for a team using a specific brand of tubing. He didn’t like the way it was shaping up, so he used a brand he was familiar with and liked for most of the frame. Top and down tube came from the other outfit, and those were the ones that sported the decals.

          Also, and furthermore, death to carbon fiber, hydro brakes and thru-axles (each one operates differently, f’chrissakes!). My DBR titaniums are a quarter century old and still rolling along. I wish I could acquire a Moots to keep them company, but every time I broach the subject with Herself I get another dope-slap.

  3. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    These modern bikes look strange to me. They look like the top tubes are all the same length – only the seat and head tube lengths seem to change with the sizes.
    Buy a bike from REI? Why not? I read a review of a “German” bike ordered via the innerwebz that cost $5K and came with a one-piece bar/stem (I will never use the word cockpit) with electronic and hydraulic lines running through it. Unless you happen to fit perfectly on this thing it’s like buying a car with the driver’s seat welded in place. It’s gonna cost a lot in time and money to fix it.
    For all the variety of bike types these daze, getting something that fits properly seems to be sacrificed – “We got any type of bike you can imagine, but don’t expect us to make one (or make it easy) to fit you. We don’t even care if you actually ride it…in fact if you don’t we’ll have fewer warranty claims!”

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Fit is definitely an issue. Nobody carries any inventory anymore, so you’ve got to go by whatever’s on the website. I routinely guess wrong. Where the Co-op is concerned, I probably would be a little better suited to the L rather than XL. Plus it would be a few grams lighter.

      Component selection is what it is. That’s an ongoing discussion at Adventure Cyclist. Anyone who’s ever toured outside of Nebraska knows that a low end of 34×32 leaves something to be desired, and yet that’s what you see on a lot of these “adventure” bikes.

      There must be a shit-ton of compact road cranksets in a warehouse somewhere. And it sure doesn’t help that nothing mountain works with anything road anymore. So you see workarounds like Microshift bar-cons on bikes with full-zoot TRP hydraulic disc brakes. There’s another answer to a question nobody was asking: “Can I get hydros on my $1,200 touring bike?” Also, and too, see the 1×11 drivetrain.

      Easton is doing a 46/30 double, and Praxis is doing a super-compact, and Rivendell does some nifty wide-low doubles, but if you’re gonna buy off the rack you gotta take what they’re baking in that big ol’ velo-kitchen back east.

      Me, I think that if I were to get serious about touring, I would get some artist like Mark Nobilette to build a beautiful steel frameset and then buy all the components my biases and preconceptions support: rim brakes, Shimano bar-cons, XT/LX derailleurs, nine-speed cassette, triple crank or subcompact double, etc.

      Then I could spin past all the overloaded suckers pushing that 34×32 knee-popper on the climbs, going all like “Bwaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha” an’ shit.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        I did like you said, minus the custom frame, with the Soma ES. You’ll see it when I come up for the Ruta. I ordered the ES frame and built the bike just the way I wanted it, even the wheels. And, the price was comparable to a similar off the shelf bike. Why settle for an off the shelf bike? I don’t get it. I also don’t understand why more LBS don’t advertise that “build it the way you want it, option.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        That’s how I always built my cyclocross bikes, Pat. Start with a Steelman frame, fork and stem, then add bits:

        Chris King headset, Ultegra STI, some sort of 110 BCD crank that would take 48/36 or 46/34 chainrings (Race Face on my prime bike), 11-28 cassette, Mavic Open Pros laced to Ultegra or Dura-Ace hubs, Michelin Jet clinchers, Deda or Cinelli bars, Off the Front tape, Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring cantis and Frogglegs top-mounted levers, RockShox bouncy seatpost, Selle Italia Flite saddle, Time ATAC pedals. Not cheap, but exactly what I wanted.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I think the problem is that the major bike companies sell bikes to people who, statistically speaking, ride them around the block. So the bar is set low. Kinda like SUVs are sold to people who use them to pick up the kids or groceries. You don’t need highly optimized stuff to ride to the local Starbucks, or pick up the kids from soccer practice or rescue them from the local mass shooter, in a highly technical SUV so whatever crap can be loaded onto a steed to sell it at a profit will do.

        If I were ever to get serious about long distance cycling or cyclocross, I would design something myself. I like the LHT as built as it has a superwide range gear ratio (48/36/24, 11-34) and can take 26×2.5 inch tires or anything smaller. It was great as a commuter and I suspect would be great to tour the spine of the Rockies, if I got off my ever widening ass.

        With the La Tierra trails a mile away by trail and quiet road, the Salsa La Cruz with those 700-40 mm Donnelly MSOs are a hell of a lot of fun. I actually prefer the 700-32 Richey racing cross tires but after a bad, shoulder smashing descent into Lamy (and my shoulder still hurts, two weeks later), wider is gooder.

        • larryatcycleitalia Says:

          Your SUV analogy is spot-on. They’re selling the “Not that you WOULD, but you COULD” fantasy. How many buyers of these things ever load ’em up with gear and pedal ’em over anything tougher than a freeway overpass? I’m betting the percentage is in the single digits.
          To psobrien – one of my fave all-time bikes is/was the old Torelli Gran Sasso – the first bikes we put into our rental fleet more than a decade ago. Tig-welded by the guys at SAB from (I think) ORIA tubing though there are no decals saying this with a steel fork to match. Campagnolo Mirage (yep, with the plastic brake levers) 9-speed triple and hand-laced 32 spoke box-section clincher wheels. They weigh 10 kg without pedals but you never notice it except when hoisting one onto a roof rack. I’m taking one with me when we move to Napoli later this year for 6 months for the wife’s Fulbright studies. I figure it’ll likely be stolen down there and I don’t want to lose one of my made-to-measure Mondonico-built Torelli bikes!

        • Mile High Devs Says:

          // I think the problem is that the major bike companies sell bikes to people who, statistically speaking, ride them around the block. //

          Problem … or someone’s opportunity. If the majority of bikes aren’t used for racing or touring, then the market should address that. Make more $200 bikes with features that fit the real world.

          We moved to Fort Collins this time last year. Bike crazy town. First thing I noticed was that, by and large, everyone here rides a bike that actually fits them. Second thing was, there are for sure more than a few $10k plastic racers, but also the full spectrum of trikes with trailers, Dutch front end loader cargo cruzers, clunkers with six pack carriers, and grocery haulers of every shape. And don’t even get me started on electric motor whizzbangers. If you want to study real world bikes, you’ll see them all in 5 minutes just walking through the New Belgium employee parking lot.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          IIRC, most mountain bikes never set tire to trail. They just happen to provide a more comfortable, more upright position than the average plastic-fantastic road-warrior rig. Now comes the steel gravel/adventure/all-road bike, which does pretty much the same thing, but without the additional weight/maintenance of a suspension fork.

          “You can ride it anywhere!” they say. “Anywhere” being mostly on the road, bike path or sidewalk.

          Incidentally, the people I do see riding mountain bikes on our neighborhood trails are mostly massively overequipped for the task at hand. Bringing a double-boinger to these loops is like putting the F-350 into 4WD for a trip through the Whole Paycheck parking lot.

          And yeah, Fort Collins is nutso for the ol’ bikey bike. My sis and her husband live there and love the place. We did some killer cyclocrosses there back in the Nineties, and more than a few road races, too. Everybody should do the Buckeye Road Race at least once. A buddy once T-boned a wandering sheep in a hideous crosswind, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about that event.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Regarding TE Lawrence. My Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider/coach, who also races motorcycles, once quipped “your motorcycle is always trying to kill you. It’s your job to stop it.” So far I am one step ahead of the K1100RS. For now…

  5. Hurben Says:

    Regarding the Co-Op, those are interesting brakes for hydraulic. Cable to the brake & then the magic happens, I’ve not seen those before.

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Just got back from the memorial ride for Dave Alva, a local rider who was killed by a drugged up driver last week. About 70 riders there, and we had a short dedication by a retired Army chaplain/cyclist followed by a short thank you from Dave’s wife. Then the bagpipes played which got everyone a little misty eyed. His wife, who I didn’t meet and don’t know here name, is a very nice and fit lady who slowed down and checked on me on the descent out of the Coronado National Memorial. Nice ride and day. Plus Dave gave us one hell of a tailwind coming back into town!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s a tough one. We don’t need to lose any more of us, not that way. Well done for showing the flag.

      Meanwhile, Hal sent me a note about a couple Washington-state mountain bikers jumped by a cougar, and no, not the fun kind you young hepcats keep dreaming about. One dead, one injured. Is there no sanctuary?

  7. khal spencer Says:

    I rode the half century (since my riding lately is half-assed; this was my first time over 35 miles since the shoulder surgery) with the Seniors on Bikes up here in Fanta Se. The conversation kind of put a damper on the joy. Two of the SOBs are freshly back on the bike after recovering from injuries from a road rage incident on NM 41 a few weeks ago and as one of the SOBs put it, “another one of us is still being put back together with titanium screws”. We lost one SOB in Tucson last year to a drugged up driver.

    But today was a good day out there. Other than dealing with the ferocious wind, that is. Closest I came to getting knocked on my ass was by some really important and fit guy from Colorado who was doing the timed Fondo version of the event. He thought, apparently, that I was an obstacle in his way to shaving five seconds. The SOB on my right said our handlebars were a couple inches apart as he shot past me in a gap by the curb without warning. Thank Campagnolo I used to ride on a race team. I did tell him where he could stick his water bottle.


    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Good job, Hoss. Especially given the wind and the wankers. Recognize the jersey? Might be worth a chat with his club about ride etiquette.

      Bozos like that are one reason why I don’t like riding in a big bunch of strangers anymore. The group rides in Bibleburg got to be ridiculous … on the rare occasion when I could stay in contact long enough to be judgmental.

      The SOBs have been through a rough patch or two, for sure. Good on ’em for soldiering on.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Talking to the SOBs, the road rage incident on NM 41 doesn’t sound like it is being taken very seriously by the legal establishment. Almost makes me think about acquiring a little bicycling insurance of the 9mm kind. I really hate to think that way, though. There are enough eejits packing heat out there without me setting a bad example, even though I have all the credentials in order.

        I was riding MC escort for the Dick Evans one year in Honolulu and some malfeasant tried to pull in front of the breakaway group from a side street. I slammed on the brakes and put a boot on his front bumper with the Harley (which was all I could rent– a BMW would have been traditional) in front of his car. Just then one of Honolulu’s Finest on a cop motorcycle pulled up and took over. I made a lot of friends in blue that day, oddly enough. Something about kinship among MC riders.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Yeah, I’m afraid it would end badly. If they do you from the rear, you don’t have time to draw, and if you survive a near miss and catch the miscreant at the light, then you face an assault charge at minimum, even if you only pistol-whip the sonofabitch to learn him some manners.

        The law will be a lot harder on us than it is on them, I’m afraid. We’re those arrogant, tax-evading, road-hogging, Lance Armstrong wanna-bes, remember?

        “Give him a fair and impartial trial and then hang the bastard! Use his own bibs for the noose!”

        • khal spencer Says:

          What I read about the NM 41 incident was the motorist threw the car into reverse gear and backed, deliberately, into the peloton, tossing people hither and yon.

          Sorry. Just makes one think about the old concept of Western Justice.

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