There's an old covered bridge in the valley that's
been closed to cars for at least a couple of decades now.
One of the first things I noticed when riding the bike is that the tires (38mm) really do a great job of smoothing out the roads. Our roads are in about the worst shape I can remember - our winters have been terrible on the roads these last few years because the temperatures fluctuate so much throughout the season, resulting in endless cycles of freeze/thaw, freeze/thaw - and that is hellish on asphalt. But these wheels/tires really seem to subdue the chatter. I mean, that's always been the big selling point of 650B, isn't it? Well, I have to say that the hype is true on that score. On gravelly sections, I felt like "Gravel? What gravel."
Another thing I noticed was the handling. I don't know if the handling is altered significantly from what it would have been with the 27" wheels it was originally designed for (or even 700C), but the bike feels "zippy." That's the best word for it. It changes direction quickly, with very light input - yet it tracks straight and rides easily no hands. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise - that head angle must be 74 degrees! I still cannot believe that this bike was described "back in the day" as a touring bike. I did worry a little about toe-clip overlap - but it isn't an issue. There is one tiny spot in the crank rotation where the leading tip of a toe-clip can just barely "kiss" the back edge of the fender, but the likelihood of it happening is so slight, and even if it happened, it would be inconsequential. If it were fenders over 700c or 27" wheels, it might be a problem.
A friend had told me that I might find the bike a bit slow going uphill. Other things being equal, I cannot think why that would be the case. Why would a bike with 650B wheels climb any more slowly than 700C? Maybe if one were using heavy rims/tires it could make the bike feel slow, but it seems to me that I made some smart choices in that department. Anyhow, my ride today had several hills in it - some pretty steep - and ALL my rides end with a long difficult climb out of the valley. I just did that out-of-the-valley climb last week on my "racy" green Mercian, and did not find the 650B Motobecane to be noticeably slower. I mean, I didn't time either climb, but it certainly didn't feel any slower. However - it's worth noting that switching to smaller wheels will absolutely lower a bike's overall gearing. Between 700C with 28mm tires and 650B with 38mm tires, there is a gearing difference - albeit a small one - in terms of "gear inches" it would probably reduce the gear by an inch or less. Would someone be able to feel that difference? I don't know. I did find that I rode in the large chainring a little more than I might have done otherwise.
I did alter my gearing slightly since I posted my report on the finished bike and listed all the specs. I had originally installed a 5-speed freewheel with a range from 14 to 28 teeth. It's difficult to find a 5-speed freewheel with cogs smaller than 14 teeth. Looking through my freewheel collection, I found that I had a SunTour Winner "ultra 6" (a narrow-spaced freewheel meant to fit into the space of a 5 speed) that was 13 to 26. That gave me a slightly higher high gear, and the low gear (with a 34 tooth chainring) is plenty low enough for me. And I picked up an extra gear in the middle. The shifting on the narrow freewheel is smooth, quick, and quiet. And the old SunTour ratcheting bar-end shifters work great.
|I stopped at the produce market - of course. It was a lot busier than it looks here.|
|Despite the chips, scratches, and touch-ups, the old Motobecane really gleams in the sun. All that shiny aluminum really catches the sun too. I'll never get the current fashion for black bike components.|