Chicago Critical Mass 12.29.06

So yesterday after taking a short holiday schedule at work, I went to the city to have my new Dahon Vitesse 5 speed tuned up at Rapid Transit Bikes, where I bought it. This was in preparation for the last Critical Mass of 2006.

I used the new Bolsa bike bag to carry the folder on the Metra commuter train to the city. The ride to the Clybourn stop was uneventful.

We got off the train, folded the bikes up and headed down the bike lane on Cortland through the yuppie borough of Bucktown. As I was pedaling amongst the city dweller hoopties and the yupster whips like Mini Coopers and Range Rovers, I detected a major clicking and vagueness coming from the Sturmey and Archer rear hub. This was not a cool feeling coming from any bike much less one that was a week and half old.

We get to the shop and they put the Vitesse on the rack. There was a mood of familiarity that permeated the room as if they had seen problems with this ride in the past.

Apparently Sturmey Archer is now owned by another company and is NOT known for the quality that I am familiar with from vintage Raleigh 3 speed transmissions.

The mechanic replaced the gear selector cable, ground down the adjustment barrel, replaced the cable again, and when I took the Vitesse on a test ride the same problem was evident. The bike couldn't find gears in the rear end and when it could, it could not stay in gear for long. Bogus.

Things were not looking good to use the bike for the final Critical Mass of 06.

After another agonizing hour, I said that it didn't look like the bike could be fixed, as the mechanic had tried everything. He seemed releived, then he shared with me that they had taken back 5 of this model due to similar issues. Dahon had even made a mod that was supposed to rectify the situation.

Strike #1 Dahon company.

I still kept my cool, but I was very determined to have a bike to ride in the Mass, especially since I took time from work and planned to meet a few people from both out of town as well as from the surrounding area.

They are determined to keep customers happy at Rapid Transit, so they let me pick out another Dahon in even exchange. The one that I selected was the Speed 8, which is much more of a performance bike as opposed to the 16" Piccolo and the D5 Vitesse, which are commuters. Also the Speed 8 has a derailleur instead of an internal hub tranny.

While this bike is off the floor, and could still use a few adjustments, I can say that it honestly hauls. The SRAM shifter moves the chain over the cogs pretty consistently with nary a skip.

So after getting a quick felafel at Sultans Market, (in Wicker Park at North and Hoyne), we flew down Milwaukee and enjoyed the bike lane all the way to Lake Street. We were able to see a tall bike and a stereo equipped trailer bike as we stopped for the requisite Old Style 6 pack.

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