Drumheller

Last week we had our first snowfall of the season. Although it didn’t amount to much and melted quickly it was like receiving a letter from Winter’s lawyer instructing us to Cease and Desist all summer activities.  Never fear, the cycling will continue as it is an all-season activity. Winter may disagree with me on that point, but the growing numbers of cold weather cyclists will soon convince him otherwise. However, this little snowfall has given me the motivation to finish up my backlist of summer blog posts.

MEC Dahon Origami in Drumheller

The Labour Day long weekend saw most members of the Tuckamoredew household visiting the town of Drumheller in the Alberta badlands. Originally established as a coal mining town, the town is now famous for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, a center of research that hosts a collection of more than 130,000 fossils.  Here’s a friendly word of advice dear readers: If you ever visit the museum (and you should, it’s excellent) try not to do it on a long weekend along with hundreds of other visitors, and most definitely try to avoid dragging a cranky 4 year old boy through aforementioned crowd.

The town sits in the valley cut by the Red Deer river, and as you drop down from the prairie above you enter a fantastic arid landscape, a 360 degree geology lesson. This terrain has been used to good effect in television and movies, notably Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”.  I would like to have spent a good deal of time exploring the area by bike but the family nature of the trip meant a lot automotive tourist activities. Also, the logistics of this trip meant I was only able to bring my wife’s MEC Origami folding bike. I did get to ride it some and tested it out on some badlands trails. I am pleased to report that it performed quite well, even when pulling my boy through rough terrain in a Chariot trailer. The first major stop was of course the museum.

The usual suspects were present in the museum.

My daughter providing a comparison of scale.

In addition to the Paleontology museum we checked out the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, an interesting window into the industrial past. The tour guides were lively and entertaining, regaling us with tales of scurrilous coal marketing, flatulent miners and hard working wild west type antics. I was interested to see the staff gliding about their business on a number of old bicycles.

Tuckamoredew will spot the bikes anywhere…

This is the last remaining wooden coal tipple in North America. The tipple was used to store, sort and deliver the coal to the freight trains. Our guide for the tour through the tipple provided a vivid description of the difficult working conditions for the workers of the time.

A graveyard of old coal mine carts.

Finally, no trip to the badlands is complete without seeing the hoodoos. These striking spires are formed when a cap of hard rock somewhat protects the softer rock underneath from erosion. My daughter showed her paternal genetic heritage by scampering to the top of the valley in my more cautious company. The rough trail to the top was somewhat alarming, with precipitous drops completely lacking any safety railing. I was acutely aware of my transmogrification into concerned parent as it would not have bothered me in the slightest when I was a youth.  I was aghast at the young children being allowed to crawl around the perilous terrain. Yes, I am but a shadow of my cliff-crawling, rock-hopping childhood self.

Hoodoos! These formations were protected from destructive idiot tourists by a fence.

However, there was no shortage of fools climbing about the surrounding terrain. I was one of them and it was the most fun I had on the trip.

Spectacular.

At the end of this busy day I managed to squeeze in a solo sunset ride on the Dahon. The ride was short but lovely and I’d like to visit the area again with more time to pedal. Someday…

TuckamoreDew saying farewell to Drumheller.

Advertisement

MEC Dahon Origami Folding Bike

The household bike fleet has had a new arrival, a shiny new Dahon folding bike from Mountain Equipment Co-op, the Origami. This bike replaces my wife’s old bike, an 80’s vintage Dahon V. The old bike had made her a fan of small wheeled bikes, liking their small size and nimble handling. The old Dahon however was a rickety specimen and not a particularly good bike overall. We had considered some of the higher end folding bikes but considered that this one would best suit her needs and our budget. On Mother’s day she gave one a test spin and was quite taken with it. The two they had in the shop were on hold but they had two more in stock not assembled. We paid for one and the MEC bike shop had it ready by Tuesday. This is a momentous occasion. It is the first time I have ever purchased a bike new from a shop as I am more of a used bike kind of guy. It was nice that the bike came with some instructional documents and a two tubes of  paint for touching up scratches.

The specs according to MEC are:

  • Centre hinge allows lightweight aluminum frame to fold back on itself.
  • 20 x 1.5in. tires provide plenty of cushioning.
  • ProMax V-brakes are powerful and easy to maintain.
  • Nexus 8-speed internal hub allows rider to change gears whether pedalling or not. Gear range suits most city riding.
  • Folded size is approximately 34 x 67 x 64cm (13.3 x 26.1 x 25in.).
  • Adjusts to fit riders from 125 to 188cm (4ft. 10in. to 6ft. 2in.).
  • Designed to support a maximum weight of 105kg (230lb.).
  • Seatpost telescopes into the frame.
  • Handlebars telescope and fold flat.
  • SunTour pedals fold against crank when not in use.
  • Comes with a canvas carrying case, fenders, and a rear rack.
  • Manufactured by Dahon to MEC specifications.
Weight 11.9kg (One Size Fits All)
Frame Dahon R-series custom-drawn 7005 aluminum
Fork Dahon Integrated
Stem Dahon Folding
Seatpost BioLogic w/pump
Headset Dahon Fusion+
Handlebars Dahon Flat
Grips/Tape Velo Ergo
Brakes ProMax V (V-brake rim)
Brake Levers ProMax V aluminum
Shifters Shimano Nexus Revo
Derailleur (Front) N/A
Derailleur (Rear) N/A
Crank + Rings Dahon aluminum
Bottom Bracket Dahon
Pedals Suntour folding
Hub (Front) Dahon Mini
Hub (Rear) Shimano Nexus 8-speed
Cassette Dahon 13T
Chain KMC Z410
Spokes Stainless
Rims Dahon aluminum
Tires Dahon Roulez 20 x 1.5in.
Collar Dahon Covert
Saddle Dahon Comfort

I took the bike home using my Chariot child trailer. Folding the bike was easy enough to do without consulting any sort of instructions. It doesn’t fold particularly small or quickly but this is not a feature we will be using often. If they were easier to find we might have purchased a small wheeled bike that doesn’t fold at all. Still, it is definitely an improvement over the old Dahon which was a beast to fold. The center hinge does seem stiff to me but is quite solid.

In short order it was unfolded and ready to go. My wife took a short spin and was very pleased. Later that evening I snuck off and took a short spin myself and I

Ready to go!

Unfolding.

can report that this is quite a nice little bike. It is very solid with no flexing or creaking, has a nice tight turning radius and is overall very zippy (technical term). It is SO much more rigid than the old Dahon. I quite like the internally geared hub. It is shifts to lower gears very smoothly, almost unnoticeably. The shifting to higher gears is more obvious but still smooth. Being able to change gears while stopped is certainly a commuting advantage . I haven’t taken the time to figure out the gear inches or to test it on hills but so far the gear range seems spot on for urban use. It has a number of other nifty features that I’ll  detail in the photos below.

Home from the Famer’s Market with a load of groceries.

Loaded Panniers.

This week-end my wife borrowed  a set of my panniers and went on a shopping trip to the Farmer’s Market downtown. The rack is quite small and my feet had heel strike problems with the 40L panniers when I was testing them out on the bike . My wife, on the other hand, has much smaller feet (size 5 1/2 AA) and had no such problem. The origami proved quite able on this utility trip and she hauled home lots of groceries and some bedding plants. It is worth noting that we have been having uncharacteristically windy weather here in Edmonton and she was able to power through the headwind.

Time will tell how this bike holds up an performs but so far, so good. My wife says it makes her feel more like a real cyclist though she does miss the smaller 16 inch wheels of the old bike. I’m looking forward to trying out more myself and I’ll be sure to post any new observations here.

UPDATE:  I have discovered that to incorporate the built-in pump the seatpost is a larger diameter than is normal. This made it harder to fit a rear light to the post using the light’s provided mounting clip. In the end I had to find a longer bolt.

UPDATE (May 2013): MEC has put this model of bike on clearance for $550.00 which is an absolute steal. If you have been considering it I recommend snapping it up while supplies last. 

The old and the new.

The brake lever has a nifty little integrated brass bell.

Fenders and rear rack with cargo bungee.

The cargo bungee hooks into this little slot on the rack.

The pedal in the folded position. The pedals are a little clunky looking for my taste but they work just fine. (EDIT: These pedals are fairly slippery when wet)

The seatpost contains a built in pump.

Here’s the pump. The flexible hose is nice but it doesn’t have a quick release. I haven’t used a screw-on pump since I was a kid. Or maybe there is a part missing.

I do love a double legged kickstand.

A litte magnet doohickey for holding the frame together in the folded state.

Showing the chainguard.