Here is a new feature which we are calling STAFF PICKS! Each month one of us will curate six to seven items that we sell here at BDB that we think are great. Here is my list.
I've been riding one of these since they first came out in 2007. I've been a long time Brooks saddle rider, but I always had a few issues with the Brooks saddles. The main one was that on my saddle of choice for randonneuring, the Team Pro, the rivets that attach the leather to the frame are located on the rear portion of the sit area. As I shifted around on long rides, I would find myself sitting on the rivets. Also, the leather of Brooks saddles was a bit too thin for my tastes. As my saddles wore in, I could feel the metal frame under the leather. Again, on 400k plus rides this became a sore subject for me. The Berthoud Aspin (and all Berthoud models) have the rear attachment bolts on the back or rear facing edge of the saddle. No more sitting on rivets or bolts on long rides. Also the Berthoud saddles use a very thick piece of leather so the possibility of feeling the frame through the saddle is pretty minimal. The thick leather is also treated in a manner which makes it less stiff than the leather found on a Brooks, so there is less of a "break in" period. The Berthouds are comfortable right out of the box. I would not hesitate to ride a 200k or 300k on a brand new Berthoud Aspin. I've ridden these saddles on numerous Super Randonneur Series, Fleche's and Darts, and at least two Grand Randonnee's including PBP; plus all the countless training and fun rides in-between.
Now adays there are some really nice cantilever brakes out there. I've ridden a lot, NOS Mafac Criteriums, old XT's, Suntour XC Pro, TRP's, Pauls, and these here Campy CX brakes. What I like about these besides their ability to stop me and my bike are: they come in a nice silver polish, they use threaded cartridge pads, they have spring adjustment on each arm, the springs are external (g00d) and at the rear so you can install an M-12 or M-13 rack without a crazy hack or adapter, each set has an integrated straddle cable barrel adjuster, they look good, and when you buy them, you get a full bikes worth. Boom.
3-Grand Bois Tires
These tires rule. Made by Panaracer for I's Bicycle in Kyoto and imported to the USA by Jan Heine. This is another product that I started using because of randonneuring and dirt road riding back back in 2006 or 2007. I used to use the great Panaracer Pasela for all my riding needs. Those are good, but sometimes felt a bit stiff and sluggish on the longer hauls. I also felt that it would be great to have a tire choice around 30/31mm in 700c. These tires came along and I got myself a pair. Wow, just wow. They are lighter, roll better, and are more comfortable than the Pasela, and they come in that 700x30 size. They are a bit more fragile than the Paselas, or the Tour Guard Paselas, but I still get about 3-4,000 miles of hard riding out the the tires before I start thinking of swapping them out. I ride them on the fire roads and trails of Marin, as well as on the paved roads of the Bay Area and Northern California. My favorite versions are the Cerf in 700x30 (32mm on 23mm rims), and the 650bx42mm Hetre. If your bike can fit them, give them a ride.
You are probably sensing a trend here. I like parts that work well for randonneuring. Again, back in 2005 and 2006 the cutting edge in lighting was either crazy bulky battery lighting (no thanks), or generator halogen lights. Back then the Schmidt E6 was king, it more or less lit the lane and projected light an okay distance. Descending a dark mountain road was more of an adventure than it needed to be though and if it was raining, forget about it. You could run two in sequence to get better road coverage, but you were still sometimes wishing for more light thrown farther down the road. It was great always having a light on your bike and not having to worry about batteries. In late 2006 or early 2007 Schmidt dropped the Edelux on the rando world. The Edelux blew everything out of the water, and in my in opinion it still does. Not even the new Luxos is really better. The Edelux has an aluminum body, an easy to use switch, runs consistently brighter than other LED generator lights, it is small and light, and has an amazingly good lens. It has great lane coverage, and very good light throw. I no longer need to unnecessarily slow on nighttime descents, and visibility in rain is not an issue. It is easy to set up, and it is easy to wire in a rear light. It also comes in a neat upsidedown or hanging mount version. The Edelux is also very well sealed against moisture, unlike some other high end generator lights.
A newer item out there. I am most excited by the 650b option. It is great to get another high quality non disc specific 650b rim. These rims are high polish silver, they are crazy light (430 grams for 700c, 404 for 650b), eyelets, welded seam, machined brake track, and they are 23mm wide. Another plus is that they look like the crappy steel rims found on cheap 60's, 70's and 80's bikes, so your friends and other bike nerds will get confused as to why you have steel rims on your nice Pelican Randonneur. Haha made you look! I have a pair built up on my UBI built frameset and have put about a thousand paved and unpaved miles on them. Solid. Now I am trying to find a way to justify building up another wheelset for my as yet unfinished Winter built Pelican. Moar wheels!
This one might be kind of obvious, but I really do love these framesets. I like that we have been able to have it manufactured in the USA by skilled framebuilders for the past 5 years. I like that even though the price has gone up over the years, we are still providing an extremely well designed and well built frameset for on and off road riding, randonneuring, and touring. The Pelican was designed and continues to be refined by first hand use, and many many thousands of miles ridden on these frames. In a way, I feel that this adds some real authenticity and value to the frames. The Pelican wasn't just copied from some historical specs, or designed by a random engineer to meet a new market segment. The Pelican was designed by a cyclist who uses the frameset daily, who cares about the small details and puts in the time and the miles. I like both my 650b and 700c prototypes. I like that I can ride these bikes over pretty much any terrain. I like that the Pelican comfortably handles crappy "roads" and carves on paved and dirt descents equally well. I like low trail bikes. I am very lucky to have both styles of these frames. I am very lucky to have been involved with the project. If you are looking for a thoughtfully designed, USA made low-trail frameset, give the Pelican a try.
All Nitto racks are good. The Campee is one of the better racks that Nitto makes in my experience. It is great for camping, randonneuring, pass hunting, commuting, touring, etc. The M-12 is great for rando or monstercross bikes, and the M-13 is a more refined version of the M-12. If you don't want a Tubus rack, or you cannot afford a custom rack or build your own, you cannot go wrong with a Nitto. They also are pretty. How can you go wrong? What, you don't like pretty and useful things? You don't like strong steel racks? Steel, isn't that heavy? No, it's not. Nitto, it's whats for dinner.