Test: Nokon brake and shifter housing

nokon%2002.jpg Nokon segmented aluminium cable housing has been on the market for a number of years; I’ve used it myself for at least 4 yrs. It’s available in a number of anodized colors, weighs less and costs several times what you’d pay for perfectly good lined cable housing from Shimano or Jagwire. Why would you want it?

Nokon’s housing consists of short segments of aluminium with alternating convex/concave ends, allowing the housing to articulate, plus a fibreglass-reinforced Teflon liner that runs the length of the cable, sealing the system between split stops. While it does weigh less than standard housing, it’s time-consuming to install, adding or subtracting segments like beads on a string to get the perfect lengths.

However, the stuff works well, at least for brakes. The Nokon segments have virtually no compression once the pads hit the rim (or rotor), so more hand power is translated to stopping force. Many people talk about cables stretching to make the brakes feel mushy, but it’s as much or more housing compression than cable stretch.

Nokon also works well for really tight bends in housing. I originally got Nokon for myself because my mtb’s rear V-brake was so close to the seatpost that the housing run was all effed up and the inflexible standard housing prevented reasonable centering of the brake arms. The Nokon system for V-brakes replaced the “noodle” with extra-short segments that did not overpower the spring adjustment on the brake arms; as a bonus, the system is sealed so water and grit did not foul the rear section of housing anymore.

On my road bikes, I have a really tight run from the handlebar to the front brake caliper because my bikes are small and I run my bars somewhat low. Nokon’s extra “flexy”-ness with low friction really helps. I bought one set of Nokon roadbike brake housing and split it on the front brakes of two different bikes. It works great.

I also use it on my Sycip travel bike. Since I have to stuff the bike in an S&S case, I like the Nokon because it won’t kink no matter how roughly I pack the bike.

Where Nokon doesn’t work so well is shifters. Standard shifter housing is generally coaxially reinforced, so Nokon doesn’t have much that it can improve upon (standard brake housing has the more compressible spiral-wound reinforcement, probably so it will not collapse from high cable tension like coaxial can). Nokon always has a little bit of slack in the system before you add tension, then it goes firm. This plays havoc with tuning out a shifter/derailleur system, especially if the indexing is for short cable travel. In other words, it affects 10sp shifters more than 9sp because the 10sp shifters pull less cable per shift. Also, SRAM shifters are less affected than Shimano since SRAM pulls more cable per shift.

I rode my Sycip across Japan last summer with the Nokon system that allows you to route the shifter cable of an Shimano STI under the bar tape, like Erik Zabel famously did when his team switched from Campag to Shimano in 2004. I did this not for aesthetics; rather I had a handlebar bag sitting right in the natural path of the shifter cable. Shifting would have been unacceptable for race conditions, but I learned to live with it. On a touring bike, you don’t need hair-trigger shifting performance. But as soon as I got home and removed the bag, I re-rigged my shifters. So did Zabel.

Verdict: Nokon looks cool, is somewhat lighter, works great for tortured housing runs, makes brakes feel better, subpar for shifters.

What? Segmented metal housing is too plebeian for you? Hold tight, Nokon has segmented carbon housing available now too…it will melt your credit card.



Speedplay’s Pedal Museum—130 years of pedals

I’ve been looking for some new pedals recently and stumbled across Speedplay’s Platform/Quill Pedal museum. They’ve got some amazing specimens, including the Ramsey Swing and the Phil Wood ‘CHP’ pedal (yes, as in CHiPs). The earliest is from 1860, and would look right at home at a lamp or two we have at our place. No trace of the Wellgo’s I’m trying to replace, maybe they’re still accepting donations? They’ve also got timelines for road and mountain clipless pedals, and toe clips and straps. Looks like the site’s been around for a while, but it’s new to me and blew me away.



Being Visible

Laek House makes casual clothing inspired by cycling’s rich history and the realities of urban riding; like getting doored, brushed by a pink-haired-lady on her way to Bingo, and f’ing SUVs. Visibility drove Laek to develop ELVS, a retro-reflective ink that appears grey in ambient light but blasts bright white in focused light. Nice, but wearing a super-reflecto hat doesn’t show too much under a helmet, so Laek also offers a limited edition black ELVS Deep-V.

laekflash.jpg

That’s Kevin “Squid” Bolger testing the wheels. And while those ain’t as splashy as these DIY sparkly wheels from SpokePOV, drivers are def going to see you at night.



Stylish Seattle Bags in the Post Intelligencer

elephantcivfull.jpg It looks like the P. I.’s stumbled on one of Seattle’s little secrets – R.E. Load bags. I’m still shocked at the number of people in Seattle riding around with bags made elsewhere when we have great bag makers right here in town. Out in Philly, where R.E. Load originated and still has the original branch, it sounds like the bags are endemic. R.E. Load makes the most unique, most stylish bags I’ve ever seen. Not good enough? Tell ‘em what colors you want and they’ll run you a custom anything. Bags range from huge, professional courier bags to more manageable sizes for those not hauling boxes of medical records around.

Amazingly, you can only see these bags in person at a few locations world wide, so I encourage you to drop by the E. Pike St (I haven’t checked out the Philly Store yet, please let us know if you have!). There’s plenty beyond bags inside – lots of clothing, art and culture that you can’t find on their site. R. E. Load’s just turned 10 years old. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing their bags for many more.

I’ve got my own bit of R.E. Load Baggage – the quality is great, and the customer service was very good. I definitely like the creative designs I see on their bags. However, the thing that impresses me the most about R.E.Load is how they’re growing market for other artists. It’s great to see so much hand made stuff in the store front. It looks like quite a bit of it comes from ‘friends of friends’ (or maybe just friends), but I’m not sure how else you’d grow a network of custom goods. Sadly only a fraction of it is on the site.

The other interesting thing about R.E.Load is how they’re scaling their business – slowly. It looks like they’re keeping things sustainable by staying away from high production/low quality deals. Sustainable’s smart if you love what you do, and it looks to me like a lot of love and labor goes into the bags. Good on ya, R.E. Load, keep it up!



Amp Energy Event

We wouldn’t expect much to blog about during the Super Bowl, but the Amp Human Energy spot got our attention. Like the human-powered, Mion booth we covered earlier, but on a much larger scale, Amp Energy is uploading 30 minutes of power for the Fox Pre-Game show.

humanEnergy.gif

I’m thinking that spin classes across the country could get plugged in and offset some carbon or just recharge cell phones. Joking aside, the Amp Energy site has all the background videos and more. There’s a drill sergeant yelling at the cyclist to pedal harder and a Monkey game.

There probably hasn’t been stronger evidence that cycling is ubiquitous in pop culture (like the cycling mom Volvo commercial) than a monkey-pedaling game. Well, ok, a DKNY Neon Orange Bike is pretty good as well.



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