There’s an old joke among cyclists: “What’s the perfect number of bicycles to own?” “N+1: however many bikes you own, there’s always room/need/desire for one more.” When you live in an apartment, you kind of have to keep that in check for obvious reasons, but it also gives you a good reason to update whenever time and money allow you to. I’d been putting off going down to Giant Ottawa to get a new bike, mostly because it wasn’t like the old Giant Escape 2 W wasn’t…bad…it was just long and heavy. Seriously heavy. At first I thought it was me (grad school, combined with working a full-time civil service job, didn’t do any favours to my girth) but then I realized that, no, maybe the Escape was just a little bit more of a flatlander than I needed it to be. I’m also kind of short through the torso, and found that I was leaning on the flat handlebars more than I had to, which was generating numbness in my hands. (I’ll cop to a case of RSI that pre-dates grad school by about 20 years, but, again, typing a 140-page thesis didn’t help that, either.) Or maybe it was just the pull of the new; leasing, unfortunately, isn’t a thing with bike manufacturers, which means that, inevitably, a changeup always means a purchase. And I’m not one for impulse buys, and certainly not ones of this calibre. I guess that spoke for itself this morning when I went to pick it up, and the salesperson noted that I’d come armed with matching accessories.
So here it stands in my living room: the Giant BeLiv 2 City.
This is the first commuter/cyclocross bike I’ve owned since I bought the Orbea Arama in 2008 to go across Spain. I loved that Arama, but like the Escape, it weighed a ton: the bike took a ton of abuse, but could only do so because of the steel frame and heavy components. I’d been warned by the sales staff at Giant that the BeLiv would weigh about the same as the Escape, but the BeLiv feels about five to seven pounds lighter. The matte black finish is pretty cool, punctuated by silver and hot pink accents (hubs, headset and wheel rim accents) so it doesn’t look like you’re riding a two-wheeled version of the Stealth Bomber). Here’s what I love, (with one big minus that, really, doesn’t take away from the bike all that much):
Overhand brake levers. God, how I missed those from the days of the Arama!
Shorter frame length: when I’m climbing, my wrists hit my knees. I don’t know if that’s a proper bike fit or not, but it works for me, since that’s what I’ve got on my road bike.
Road handlebars: so many more options for hand position, and a LOT less numbness in my hands.
The step-through frame: Normally I’m not a fan of step-through frames because they scream “girly”, but the older I get (and the harder it gets to swing a leg over the back wheel), the more I can come to peace with them. The one thing I’m not sure about is how low the top tubes are relative to the bottom tube, especially for retrieving the bottle, but that’ll probably come with practice.
Disc brakes. Yeah, I’ll admit to being a little reticent about having disc brakes, especially since I’d gotten pretty good at replacing brake pads on the road bike. The brakes are still a little loose on the new bike (I almost had to Fred Flinstone it today at a four-way stop) but I don’t know anyone who’s regretted making the move to disc brakes.
All of which brings us to the one downer: the rack. Oh, the poor rack.
The side rails on the rack come down about 3″ from the top of the rear tire, which makes it too low to put Arkel panniers on them. There is another tube that sits above the rear wheel, but it’s rounded, which means the clips of the pannier don’t sit cleanly on them. The design might be specific to Axiom panniers; but after paying nearly six hundred dollars for a set of Arkels, I’d rather swap out the old rack that was on the Escape, and buy a new rack for the person who’s buying the Escape.
So that covers the features. The ride is smooth and zippy, even with tires that have a bit more grip on them – not knobby tires, exactly, but they’ve got enough tread to handle gravel and uneven surfaces. The more compact frame makes climbing less of a chore (even with grad school weight!), and a triple chainring means that you’re not going to be out of options before you’re out of gas. I can’t say that I’d ever want to go back to riding mountain passes in southern Spain or the Pyrenees, but if I had to do it, I’d much rather do it on a bike like this: light, well kitted-out and just plain comfortable to ride.