My Recreational Bike

My Recreational Bike

MEC Chance - Stock Photo
MEC Chance – Stock Photo

For recreational rides, my bike was a Cannondale R1000si road bike, but “times they are a-changing” as they say! I enjoyed the road bike, the light frame, narrow fast wheels/tires and speedy travel was fine for many years, but now in my later sixties, I realised that I was riding slower and stopping to “smell the proverbial roses” much more often… Basically, I didn’t need to go that fast anymore! So time for a change of pace and bike. I sold the Cannondale R1000si and replaced it with something completely different…

My criteria for a new bike was, amongst other things, a more upright position, comfort, 700c wheels, nimble, ease of attaching accessories, i.e. fenders, lights and maybe a rack. As I would be riding this bike year-round, the fender issue was very important to me as I live in the Pacific Northwest, where a meteorological degree is not required to understand that it will definitely rain here somewhat (a lot!) in autumn and winter. My R1000si had very little clearance for fenders between the wheel and frame, so any small debris that the wheels picked up would scrape the inside of the fender – this was especially bad on roads covered in wet leaves. To be honest, the bike wasn’t designed for fenders but I just shoe-horned them on! So it was a great bike for summer use but otherwise it was a chore in the winter trying to keep it clean etc.
When I checked out the MEC website, I saw that they had a decent selection of moderately priced bikes with good components. Pictured above from MEC’s website, the MEC Chance caught my eye as it had neither a front nor rear derailleur, but rather was equipped with a Shimano 11-speed internally geared Alfine rear hub. Interesting! No dirty gear cassette cogs, cages, jockey wheels to clean; the chain would stay cleaner and probably last longer too! In addition, the bike was equipped with hydraulic disc brakes which would also be a much cleaner proposition in wet weather rather than rim brakes which tend to deposit dirt all over the rear wheel and frame. Moreover, there would be no rim wear with superior stopping power in wet weather when compared to rim brakes. None of my touring bikes had disk brakes as that was not really an option at the time of purchase. Furthermore for touring, I would have chosen mechanical disc over hydraulic, as getting a hydraulic leak in far away places could have been problematic. But for this urban bike purchase it seemed perfect.

I researched the bike and components extensively (especially the rear hub), reading reviews etc. which for the most part were very positive, so I was good to go. After checking stock as the local MEC store I put the bike rack on the car, then with credit card in hand set off to the store. Once at the store, I checked out the quality of the frame welds and finish, checked my size and fit on the bike and decided on the medium frame. The bike mechanic at the store needed a little time to prepare the bike for sale, so I went through the accessories department to load up on some necessary items such as fenders, a kickstand, bottle racks and rear rack – this proved to be a good time to buy those bits and pieces as buying them together with my bike purchase qualified me for decent discount!

Once I got the bike home  I installed my pedals, then the first item to change out was the Fizik Nizene saddle, which for some maybe ideal, but for this guy’s sit bones nothing beats a well conditioned Brooks leather saddle; especially the Brooks Team Pro I installed, which I had previously modified with a pressure relief cutout…

Modified Brooks Team-Pro Saddle
Modified Brooks Team-Pro Saddle

I then donned my bike gear and helmet to go for a test ride. After the inevitable saddle height/position adjustments, I could immediately tell that the bike with its wider (than road bike) Continental Sport Contact 700 x 32 tires was certainly more comfortable than my previous road bike was – of course, that’s akin to comparing apples and oranges, as the road bike ran on narrow, high pressure 23mm wide tires!
Shifting the Alfine hub gearing took a little getting used to as one must just about stop pedalling to shift without some gear crunching noises emitting from the hub. Shifting with a derailleur equipped bike is more forgiving and more fluid as one can continue gentle pedalling while shifting gears. But I soon got used to the method and suspected that, as the bike got ridden more, the gears in the hub would bed-in somewhat.
Other than that the bike was very enjoyable to ride and the hydraulic disc brakes work very well – in fact at first, I had to be very gentle with my finger pressure on the brake lever in order not to launch myself over the handlebars!
Cornering was smooth with the bike tracking very well around sharp bends at speed. Also, the bike seemed very well balanced as a short stint of “no hands” saw the bike track in a straight line without much body movement – I don’t do that very often anymore as my balance is not as good as it used to be!

After finding some steeper hills, I decided that the lowest gear on the Alfine was a little high for my riding ability, but I knew that I could fine tune that by either changing out the crank sprocket or the rear sprocket. Checking online, I found that the 39 tooth crank that the bike was equipped with was the smallest available, but rear sprockets were available, not necessarily Alfine parts but rather Shimano Nexus – Nexus are Shimano’s other internally geared (IG) hubs. I soon discovered that Nexus and Alfine sprockets were interchangeable, albeit the Nexus did not have the integral plastic guard – no big deal as the guard is not really required for functionality. So I swapped out the original 20 tooth cog for a 23 tooth – all is well and the hills are a little easier. A small sacrifice was to lose a little speed on the high gear, but the bike rolls quite fast enough as is.

One other item I wasn’t sure of at first was the Race Face straight handlebar. Although giving me that more upright position that favoured my back, neck and shoulders, I was not fussy about the straight bar with my wrist issues. I added some ergonomic grips with small integrated bar-ends to see if that would be any better.

Velo ErgoGel Grips
Velo ErgoGel Grips

Although the grips made a difference in comfort, I was still not totally happy and still suffering from some hand numbness, so I decided to install a Butterfly handlebar, the same model that I installed on my touring bike. After all, with my extended experience using that type of bar on the other bike, I just knew that its multiple hand position options would be more comfortable.
The multiple choices of hand positions certainly alleviate some hand and wrist issues that may occur from having one’s hands constantly in the same position while riding. Drop-style handlebars, by design allow for multiple hand positions, but personally I found that I very rarely used the drop portion of that style of handlebar. Hence my preference for the more upright position with flatter handlebars.

Nashbar Butterfly Handlebar
Nashbar Butterfly Handlebar

Installing a Butterfly bar usually requires a longer stem and, as one can see from the photo above, this was definitely the case here. Besides the availability of hand positions, the Butterfly bar also made positioning my accessories such as the bike computer/odometer, bell, light and mirror very easy due to amount of space available when compared to the straight bar.

My MEC Chance
My MEC Chance

I really enjoy riding the bike and the simplicity of the components. After a few months of riding the bike, the shifting is quite a bit smoother and I’ve noticed that pedal action/pressure when shifting up to higher gears is more forgiving than shifting down, where I really have to have the pedals almost at a standstill to avoid any damage to the internal gearing – it’s not something I have to think about though, as the more that I ride this bike, the shifting method seems to come naturally now.

Maintenance seems to be minimal – I lube the chain and other moving parts every so often, clean the bike and pump up the tires. The rear hub is oil lubricated with Shimano’s special oil. The maintenance schedule called for an oil change after the first 500 miles and then every 1,000 miles. I passed my first first five hundred quite quickly then serviced the hub at that point. Most riders may decide to take the bike to a local bike shop for service, but as I have serviced all my bikes myself, I elect to do these kind of tasks. And as a mechanically minded person (ex-machinist/fitter/mechanic) I enjoy tinkering and taking things apart to see what makes them tick! So instead of just draining the oil and refilling with fresh oil, I partially disassembled the hub to perform the oil change. I’m glad that I did too, as there was some evidence of very fine metal particles in the oil and on the surfaces of the gear cluster. Opening up the hub seems to be to be a far superior method than just draining and refilling. Disassembling the hub also allows for a thorough cleaning before reassembly and adding fresh oil.

Alfine 11-Speed Hub
Alfine 11-Speed Hub
Alfine 11-Speed Hub
Alfine 11-Speed Hub

Present Components

Frame – MEC tapered 7005 Aluminum
Rear Derailleur – N/A
Front Derailleur – N/A
Pedals – Shimano PD-M324 combination clip/clipless
Shifter – Shimano Alfine Rapid Fire
Brakes – Shimano M505 (hydraulic disc)
Cassette – Shimano Nexus 23T (was Shimano Alfine 20T)
Bottom bracket – Shimano Alfine
Headset – FSA NO. 23/CC Integrated
Front Hub – Shimano Deore
Rear Hub – Shimano Alfine 11-Speed
Crank – Shimano Alfine 39T
Rims – Mavic XM319 Disc
Fork – Carbon
Tires – Continental Sport Contact Reflex 700 x 32
Saddle – Brooks Leather – Modified Team- Pro (was Fizik Nisene)