After a protracted, freezing and rainy spring, summer finally hit Shanghai a few weeks ago. Prior to the sun breaching the clouds (if not always the smog), the streets were full of the poncho-wearing cyclists like the two in this shot by Flickr user jrodmanjr. Yes, two – the yellow blur is also a biker who whipped past at just the right moment. Ponchos are inevitably brightly colored because it’s hard enough surviving as a cyclist in Shanghai traffic without being invisible during frequent winter and spring rains.
One of the fastest growing segments in adventure travel over the past few years has been in the area of cycling tours. Many active travelers have discovered that rolling along on the back of a bike provides a unique and personal perspective to the places they visit. A cycling tour gives riders a chance to travel at a measured pace, allowing them the opportunity to savor the environments they pedal through while interacting with the locals on a completely different level. Each of these elements has helped to contribute to the rise in popularity of these types of tours, which are now offered on six continents.
Unlike many other types of travel, a cycling tour is the kind of trip that you actually have to physically prepare for long before you actually embark. For instance, you’ll want to ensure that your body is up for the long days in the saddle and capable of pedaling for extended distances. You’ll also want to be sure that it is actually something you’re going to enjoy, otherwise the trip will quickly turn from a relaxing experience into endless days of misery.
One of the key elements that can sway your decision in either direction is the quality of the bike you train on. You’ll want something that is lightweight, properly sized for your body and just plain fun to ride. Take for example the CAAD8 5 105 from Cannondale, a bike that is designed with beginner and intermediate riders in mind that offers a refined cycling experience at a surprisingly affordable price.Cannondale was generous enough to loan me a CAAD8 to test drive for a few weeks and as an avid cyclist, I can honestly say that it has been a blast to ride. It features an aluminum frame that is both tough and incredibly lightweight, and the included components are of a higher quality than I would have expected for a bike that falls into this price range. Those components include a Shimano gear set, Tektro brakes and plenty of Cannondale’s own proprietary equipment. The CAAD8 has even inherited some design elements from Cannondale’s more expensive, upscale models, giving it a premium feel without breaking your bank account.
All of those technical specs don’t amount to much if the bike doesn’t perform well out on the road. Fortunately, over the past 40+ years Cannondale has learned a thing or two about putting a great bike together. The CAAD8 handles extremely well, hugging corners like a sports car and accelerating along straightaways with impressive bursts of speed. The gear system was quick to respond when shifting either up or down and the breaks brought the bike to a halt quickly, smoothly and quietly.
Of course, a lot of bikes handle well when they aren’t put under too much pressure, but add a few decently sized hills to your route and you’ll quickly gain a better understanding of just how well they truly performs. With its lightweight and nimble frame, I found myself effortlessly pedaling the CAAD8 up some challenging slopes that looked a lot more daunting when approaching from the bottom. The bike’s ability to climb so well will be much appreciated by beginner cyclists who are still learning the nuances of riding as it provides for a more forgiving approach on longer and steeper hills.
I’ve mentioned several times throughout this review that the CAAD8 5 105 offers great performance for the price. This really can’t be stated often enough as this bike does deliver a surprisingly great value. While putting it through its paces on a variety of roads I was continually amazed at how smooth it rode and how well it handled. If I hadn’t already known the price tag on this bike you could have told me it cost twice what Cannondale is charging and I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least. The fact that this bike can compete with bikes in an entirely different price class says a lot about what has been delivered here.
And just how much does this model of the CAAD8 cost? The MSRP on this bike is $1450, which puts it well out of the range of those who would typically buy their bikes at Walmart. But that price is actually quite affordable for a someone who is serious about cycling or is hoping to get into the sport more fully. Cannondale hasn’t skimped on the extras either as the bike ships with a basic pair of pedals, a fairly comfortable seat and even a water bottle cage. Some of those items will actually cost extra on a lot of bikes from the competition. That said, you’ll probably want to upgrade the pedals at some point, as I found myself missing the clipless models on my personal bike while I test drove this one.
So, just how well does the CAAD8 perform as a training or touring bike? In both cases, I’d say it does a remarkable job. The bike is fast, agile and just plain fun to ride. That is the magic formula that makes you actually want to take it out on the road, which is just what you need when you’re prepping for a cycling tour of Italy or France. And should you decide to take this bike on one of those tours, I think you’ll find that it is more than up to the task.
Beginner cyclists will love the CAAD8 for its forgiving ride that allows them to build their skills without crushing their new-found love for the sport. More experienced riders will find the bike more than exceeds their expectations for the price. Those poor saps are apt to wonder why they paid so much for their bike without getting an appreciable gain in performance.
On a recent Saturday, the streets were filled with bicycles. Bells rang and horns sounded as the cyclists wound their way throughout the city like a moving train of youth and energy.
This wasn’t in Portland, or Paris, or any of dozens of bicycle-friendly cities around the world. This was in Guatemala City, a city known more for its violent crime rates than its progressive bike culture.
But one group is trying to change that. Biketun is a new organization started by Javier Mata and Lucia Pivaral with the purpose of promoting a more sustainable way of life and transport in Guatemala.
The group’s signature event is a nighttime bicycle tour of Guatemala City. The first was held in December and drew around 250 people. The second, held in February, drew more than 500. The goal is to one day attract 10,000 cyclists to Guatemala’s streets.
According to Pivaral, Biketun’s mission is to show the country that a better lifestyle is possible – “a lifestyle in which Guatemalans own not only public spaces, but most of all, our freedom. A lifestyle in which we can go out on our bicycles, go to the park, walk on the streets, and interact with different people without any worries.”
Pivaral says that public spaces in Guatemala City have been abandoned because of fear, which then leads to degeneration, negative perceptions and danger. Parents keep children at home because they are scared that they will be exposed to drugs and violence on the city streets.
“This is similar to a field with bad grass,” she says. “When we don’t use the field, bad grass grows and the only way of removing it is re-taking control of the field and making use of it. This is what this movement is about.”
Biketun events wind through different parts of Guatemala City. The December event was centered on the main avenues – Bulevar Liberación, Avenue Américas, Obelisco, Reforma, Plaza 30 de Marzo, Septima Avenida – with an itinerary designed to take in the Christmas sights and lights. The second event was organized in cooperation with the Municipality of Guatemala, which provided an educational tour of different sites in the Historic Center of the City, like the National Palace, Iglesia La Merced and Railroad Museum.
“Doing this regenerates my energy and soul, along with my hope for humanity,” says Pivaral. “I deeply believe that for a city to progress, we need to take into consideration sustainable ways of living. The best way to approach this, for me, was not talking about it, but starting to live it.”
The next Biketun event is scheduled to coincide with Earth Day in April. There is no cost to participate, and a limited number of bicycles are available for rent on the organization’s Eventbrite page. For more information, visit Biketun on Facebook.
Finding the perfect carry-on bag can be a never-ending quest for some travelers. It has to be capable of carrying all of your gear, while still keeping its contents safe from harm. It should also be comfortable enough to lug around all day, but also durable enough to survive the rigors of the road. It also doesn’t hurt if it happens to be attractive and affordable.
That description fits the new Quick Backpack from Cannondale to a tee. Yep, you read that right. The company that is best known for making some of the best bikes in the world also happens to make a pretty great backpack for travel. Originally designed for commuter cyclists looking to haul their gear around, the Quick Backpack is so well designed and versatile that it can be used for far more than just pedaling around town.
The Quick’s main compartment is massive and seems to swallow up all the gear you can throw at it. I tossed in my digital SLR camera, along with a few lenses, and they barely took up any room at all. When I added an extra jacket, a couple of books and a spare pair of shoes, I started to wonder if the bag was actually bottomless. A separate laptop sleeve kept my computer nicely protected while an additional interior organizational pocket was great for small items like pens, USB drives or a pair of earbuds. A large exterior zippered-pocket makes for a fantastic storage space for travel documents or other items you want to keep close at hand, such as a cellphone, iPod or passport.Harkening back to its cycling roots, the pack also features two large pockets on either side that are designed to accommodate water bottles. They of course come in handy for holding your favorite beverage while on the go, but they’re also deep enough to be used for other things as well. For example, I found that they made excellent pockets for holding an umbrella, which is one of those items that can’t be easily accessible enough when you really need it.
Made from high-quality 600D nylon fabrics, the Quick Backpack is designed to take abuse on daily cycling commutes. That means it is more than up to the task for most travel needs as well. I was very impressed with how well built this pack is and after several weeks of testing, there is nary a scuff, scratch or rip to be found. Better yet, those same fabrics also happen to be quite water resistant, helping to keep all of the precious cargo inside safely dry. The designers of this pack took that protection one step further, however, by lining the bottom of the pack with a rubberized fabric. This prevents the bag from soaking up liquids, and potentially damaging its cargo, when inadvertently set on a wet surface.
Perhaps the biggest surprise that this pack has in store for us is just how comfortable it is to wear. Its shoulder straps are easy to adjust and are nicely padded, while its back panel allows for plenty of ventilation and incorporates some of the best cushioning I’ve ever seen on a pack of this kind. All of that padding allows the Quick Backpack to carry a heavy load with ease, ensuring you won’t strain a back muscle while hurrying to catch your next flight.
If you’re already a cyclist then adding the Cannondale Quick Backpack to your gear closet seems like a no-brainer. But this is the kind of pack that many travelers might dismiss outright because it was primarily designed for riding. That would be a mistake, however, as this is quite simply a great pack that is both highly functional and versatile, whether you ever get on a bike or not. Its ability to comfortably carry large loads and its high level of durability makes it an excellent choice for active travelers looking for something a little different in their carry-on bag. With a price tag of $120, it also happens to be a real bargain too. I know I’ve certainly paid more than that for a bag that wasn’t nearly as good as this one.
Cyclist Martyn Ashton got his hands on the very same frame recently and let’s just say he put it to test in ways that Wiggins wouldn’t even attempt. No one will ever confuse the two riders out on the road, as their styles aren’t even remotely similar. See for yourself in the video below, in which Ashton finds new and creative ways to abuse this very expensive bike.