Townie Road Test!

Avid followers of Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting are well acquainted with the CRC editorial policy of brutal honesty with our opinions on competitive randonneuses for randonneurs and randonneures. So up front and honest are our opinions of the sub-par geometry and slap-dash assembly of the tested randonneuse that we no longer have a wait-list for the latest new cycles clamoring for our valued opinion as to their proper assembly, component choice and general roadworthiness. But fear not folks, for we have ample steeds with which we may run through the paces of a thorough road test and find the faults that glare under the cruel sunshine of our inspection and attention within the stables of our friends and relatives!

Rupert Smedeley’s partner of some decades now M. Clarissa Peattibogg possesses a townie with which she is especially pleased and was eager to offer up to us as a worthy cycle for our sagacious and vigorous testing trials and opinions.

Clarissa's 'Babe'

Clarissa’s ‘Babe’ The fender lines are not at all pleasing, the gaps between racks and fenders disappointingly large, and that saddle interfered with road feel. Not happy, nope, we are not happy.

First Impressions:

Clarissa’s cycle is a blue early 80’s mountain bike of a no longer extant manufacturer transformed into a townie with the addition of upright bars, fenders and a front mounted luggage rack. ‘Babe’ as Clarissa insists on referring to the cycle (something about the cycle being blue and being a ‘bunyan’ cycle [whatever that may be] thus calling it after some blue ox of commonplace mythological origin, or so she claims) is somewhat pleasing, but in no way leaves the impression of luxury or a constructeur-built randonneuse or townie like the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie, the Bucephalus. Why, I Rupert, cannot go anywhere or perform any essential errand without collecting a handful of ‘loveley bicycle!’ shouts from observers, general cat-calls and at least three or four phone numbers from individuals desirous of my valuable time, opinion, and companionship because of my own 1972 constructeur built townie. No one called to me when I was mounted upon Babe, or offered a single complement – this silence mirrored that of our muse such that we are struggling to paste together prose for the reader’s edification.

‘Babe’s’ racks and fenders are adapted from other cycles (Clarissa is an itinerant lecturer on library conservatory and wool garment darning techniques and belabours the superiourity of the Dewey Decimal system endlessly and thus enjoys sporadic income and is famously thrifty) and do not show the precision and care of tailoring of the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie, exhibiting the large gaps of adaptability and not the precision pairing and mating of components that allow no fitment or re-use on lesser machines with parvenu cutesie names such as ‘Babe’.

The author is somewhat concerned with the integrity of ‘Babe’s’ torchwork as numerous small gaps in the brazing and the bugbear bulging of the seat mast tube beneath the seat cluster demonstrates construction that one would expect from a factory and not from a fine constructeur built cycle such as Bucephalus.

Riding the Contraption:

We are spoiled these days – the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie Bucephalus is soo sweet to glide to and fro upon, basking in the admiring glances and adulation of others – that truthfully the author could not bear to swing a leg over ‘Babe’ for more than a ride round the block, but what a telling circuit of our proving ground this was!

Babe did not at all handle with precision. All feel of the road was insulated by a ginourmous gel saddle and 50mm wide tires, which resulted in a decidedly limp and dispirited impression on the rider. Not a single pothole was noticed, not a single streetcar rail sucked a tire into its groove – folks this lack of feedback can lead to dangerous situations when attempting to ride in a spirited manner! We were so disappointed with the tyres we attempted to replace them with supple tyres of our own manufacture, (Trojan, with extra feeling and supple qualities) that we might properly perform a road test, but sadly ‘Babe’ requires a tyre size we have not yet gotten past prototyping.

Unsightly gap between the mud guard and the front luggage rack diminishes any aesthetic appeal. Owner modified tyre, apparently offending knobs were cut off - thrifty!

Unsightly gap between the mud guard and the front luggage rack diminishes any aesthetic appeal. Owner modified tyre, apparently offending knobs were cut off – thrifty!

As far as ‘Babes’ performance goes, clearly the designer who specified the tubing thicknesses and lengths prefers differing flex characteristics in a frame than the author’s own 1972 constructeur built townie Bucephalus(!) and was a big disappointment. Truly the long stem, long handlebars and that ginourmous gel saddle influences the flex characteristics as well, but to determine the extent of their influence on planing will require a double blind test that will be scheduled for publishment in a future issue of CRC.


Component selection in the case of ‘Babe’ was performed by bean counters decades ago so that ‘Babe’ was kept at the fiercely competitive $250 price point in 1982 and in no way reflects on Clarissa or the torchwork assembly line craftsperson, but! The gearing choice of 48/42/30 in front and 14/34 (six speed freewheel! How positively archaic!) in the rear is not classic half-step gearing and the test rider was constantly hunting between gears during the promenade of the CRC test circuit. The tester did not particularly like the Suntour power ratchet thumb shifters and now we understand the agony of riders of grand randonnee’s who no longer have the strength to shift gears after a few thousand kilometers. The rest of the components worked properly and thus, were beneath our notice.

Kickstand is inappropriate for a constructeur built cycle

a kickstand is inappropriate for a constructeur built cycle


‘Babe’s’ lights were stolen while parked outside the San Francisco Main Library and were not available for testing and proper scrutiny. A constructeur built cycle like Bucephalus has integrated lights that inhibit theft, by the by.


We were unable to lift ‘Babe’ onto a scale and can only conclude that ‘Babe’s’ extra weight probably comes in little increments here and there throughout the person of ‘Babe’ and was not overly noticeable while riding. Babe is surprisingly agile despite being large boned and just a little overweight.


Babe is a fine cycle if one wishes simply to go from A to B in comfort and convenience with a fair amount of utility, but! The racks do not add elegance to the lines of the frame or fenders. Further, the fender line is slightly off! The tubing choices in the frame simply did not reflect the preferences of this road tester. This cycle shows promise for future iterations if the constructeur were to take our criticism to heart but the current execution is sadly lacking, and we cannot at this time recommend to our readers a purchase of a like cycle unless our advice is placed into action in the construction of subsequent cycles.

Cheers, Rupert T. Smedeley, CRC Chief Roadtester

Clarissa responds:

I was surprised to see your comments on the gearing, as I did not notice you shifting the gears once – in fact you kept on asking where the bar-end shifters were while simultaneously looking for down tube shifters and in the end I had to prevent you from using a stick to shift the gears. Why ever can’t you listen to me! You are forever looking off into the distance when I speak to you and I find that hurtful and tiresome.

I have never had a hint of sore hands from shifting while riding my Babe between villages and I do ride quite regularly, up to 30 miles at a stretch between my lecturing engagements, and I shift often, being a spinner and not a gear masher such as Rupert is. I find the shifters quite comfortable and the gearing ratios available an excellent aid to riding enjoyment and utility.

I am not sure what to make of your comments on Babe’s handling characteristics. I have raced bikes for over a decade and at Cat. 1 level. I was known as one of the fastest through the turns and my record on Repack has stood for two decades. Bend your elbows! Shift your weight! Babe is a scorcher at heart if you only set her free! You suck.

[Rupert replies: CRC rarely tests companions and friend’s cycles for exactly the above reasons. Individuals are often highly emotional about their cycles and cannot endure objective and brutal honesty in the interest of providing optimized cycles for spirited competitive randonneuring and commuting. For images of a proper constructeur built townie, please see Rupert’s FB page.]

an integrated system for carrying multiple locks is begged for, but overlooked by the constructeur of this cycle - disappointing!

an integrated system for carrying multiple locks is begged for, but overlooked by the constructeur of this cycle – disappointing!

Fellow CRC roadtester Percephone’s view on ‘Babe’:

Babe is a fine cycle – why can’t Rupert and Clarissa just stop bickering and get hitched? Sheesh.


2 thoughts on “Townie Road Test!

  1. People for the Ethical Treatment of '80s Mountain Bikes

    What a travesty!! What an abomination to the legacy of Ben Lawee!!! Only a faint hint remains of what was once a fine Univega MTB. The ghost of this machine has its origins in the golden age of 1980’s cycling––when frames were still silver brazed by hand. Clearly, the seat tube still bears the “Bike Peddler” decal of the legendary Santa Rosa shop. We can imagine former days of glory when the original machine tackled the renowned South Burma Trail at Annadel. Now look what it has been reduced to. Have you no shame?

  2. Brock Gordon

    I can’t help but notice that below that bike peddler sticker there is also a sticker that reads ‘for off road use only’. Who do I text at the next stoplight so I can report you scofflaws to the authorities so that you can get reformed by water boarding and stuff and get you off our pristine law abiding roads?

    thank you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s