SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Kogswell 700C P/R -- First Impressions

kogswell panda #1
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop
Yesterday I got acquainted with my new bike by spending a few hours riding the local 45-mile route known as the "Paradise Loop", which winds from SF across the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) , through Sausalito, up Camino Alto, around through Paradise Valley Drive to Tiburon, then back to Sausalito and finally back home across the bridge.

I had an enjoyable ride, certainly partly fueled by the new-bike rush. In a nutshell, I wasn't hugely blown away by the Kogswell -- in that it
wasn't a *profoundly* different experience than riding my other bikes. A few random highlights in no particular order:

1. The tires (cheap wire-bead 700x35 Paselas) OH MY the tires are GREAT. @50psi they feel cushy, supple, and non-slow. Love 'em! If nothing else, this is the big win. I've got Riv Nifty Swifty 650Bs on my RB-1 and I usually run those near 75psi -- I REALLY need to try those at a lower pressure (although reports indicate those aren't as supple as these fat Paselas)!

2. So this is low trail? I honestly wouldn't have especially noticed it if I didn't know about it beforehand. The steering is a little slow/vague feeling especially near-center, though it doesn't feel as heavy and truck-like as, say, my Fuji CX does with mushy knobby tires. The bike feels LONG and somewhat top-heavy, but that might be due in part to my overly high (for me) handlebar position. It steers by leaning like my Nishiki Sport vs. by turning like my 700C classic road-racing-geometry bikes (ADVN and 700C RB-1). This bike MAY hold a straight line better at low speed than my higher-trail bikes, but I need to do more research on that. I was hoping that cross winds wouldn't blow me off course as readily, but as I was dropping down Polk street towards downtown SF, a big gust of wind from my left pushed me abruptly off course and nearly into the back of a parked car, so it's hard to report positively on that point yet. I also experimented with looking back over a shoulder to see if the bike wandered off it's line, and I can report that it does -- I see no difference/improvement there than with my other bikes.

3. Descending on this bike put a smile on my face. Zipping down the
north side of Camino Alto, I found that the combination of the fat cushy tires and (I guess?) the neutral low-trail handling was very confidence boosting. For the first time I feel like I might have a significant advantage in speedy descending (and since I suck at descending, every extra tool is welcome). While my 700C RB-1 wanted to understeer/go straight and I had to wrestle it away from the guardrail, and with 650B wheels the RB-1 wants to oversteer/fall into the curve requiring me to attentively hold it on course, the P/R is delightfully balanced between those two extremes. No fighting or extra-attention needed...it just goes, and mid-curve corrections are nearly effortless.

4. It may "plane", but I need to futz with stem lengths and heights to
adjust my position better so I can maximize power output on the
bike and know for certain. Even in spite of this (and #5 below), several times I found myself off the saddle, "dancing" up several hills vs. sitting and shifting to an easier gear. This is a characteristic that I enjoy very much in my RB-1, and this bike may have it also. Or it could be due to the fact that I've been commuting on my fixed-gear a lot recently, and my legs are now stronger. Who knows?

5. This bike is HEAVY. It's not the frame's fault (frame and fork weigh around 7lbs) -- I think that's mostly due to my 36-spoke rear
wheel, big (wire bead) tires, and the large/solid 11-32 cassette (my Fuji has an XTR 12-32 that is much lighter due to the spider).

6. It may just be due to the way I mounted the rear fender, but I'm kinda annoyed that I have to deflate the rear tire to remove the rear
wheel from the frame. Vertical dropouts really are the way to go for a fendered (geared) bike!

7. To be fair, I purposely loaded this bike "wrong" -- I mounted my
usual Banana Bag at the saddle and Candy Bar bag at the front, with
their usual contents (tool kit/first aide/spare tube in rear, food/gloves/camera/jacket/misc up front). The heaviest stuff was in the rear bag. The bike may handle better/differently with the weight biased towards the front, but that'll have to wait until I figure out a front rack + bag solution.

8. I like my V-O bell, although I think I'd rather mount it on the
stem or on the handlebars vs. on a spacer mount. It's awkward to
reach when you need it, and I bump it with my knee during
out-of-saddle riding.

Someday soon I need to do back-to-back loops on the Kogswell and a couple of my other bikes...that might really highlight the differences
in their character.



Anonymous alex wetmore said...

I think the differences between high trail and low trail bikes are subtle. It took me a summer of switching back and forth (of riding one bike for around a month, then another...the bikes were a Quickbeam and my Kogswell P/R) to discover that I always felt more comfortable with the Kogswell handling than the Quickbeam's.

I hate the Kogswell dropouts too. From my point of view Matthew is just tweaking out all of the horizontal adjustment until he gets to the point where it might as well be vertical. If he wants the bike to work as a singlespeed then I think it would be better to use an eccentric bottom bracket.

I like the Paselas too. They are heavy, but the ride is awesome and they work well on pavement or dirt. Plus they are cheap.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Gino Zahnd said...

Thanks for this seemingly very objective review. I'll be interested to hear what you find over some more miles, loaded in a rando fashion.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Esteban said...

Really interesting thoughts. Maybe when you get some weight on there things will change regarding low trail handling. Do you find the bike very stiff/flexy?

1:58 PM  
Blogger Jim G said...


I am going to experiment with different tires and pressures on the front end of this bike to see if that highlights anything unique to the low-traild design.

I didn't notice that the bike was especially stiff nor flexy, though as I wrote in my original posting, it did feel lively when pumping a big gear up a hill.

2:18 PM  
Blogger jvossman said...

was the frame a size 64? I thought every other size was a 650b wheel...



1:08 PM  
Blogger Jim G said...

No, it's a 59cm frame. There were a limited number (~20) made in this size with 700C wheels -- these predate the 64x700 frames.

1:14 PM  

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