Even though the Ebisu was ridable a week ago, I wasn't completely happy with its set up. After replacing the VO Zeplin fenders on it with Honjo fluted fenders, M. and I took off on a ride in the Berkeley Hills.
We left our house and criss-cross through downtown Berkeley toward the hills. Oxford Ave has recently become our favorite access to tilden. It has short pitches of steep climbs accompanied by undulating rollers. From Oxford we turned onto Indian Rock, San Diego, South Hampton, Santa Barbara, Florida, Colorado, and Michigan. These streets are buried deep in the clean and quiet residential areas in Berkeley Hills with one nice house after another and on-and-off vista of the San Francisco Bay. South Hampton consists of two steep, but relatively short hills that get your legs warmed up for Michigan, which is not only steep (just about 15% grade) and not short (about 1/4 of a mile). It connects at the top to Spruce Ave, which is a popular street to get into Tilden. I have done this hill many times, mostly with my Kogswell P/R and also a couple of times with the Romulus. Throughout the climb from the flats, I began to become familiar with how the Ebisu respond to my pedal strokes--it's not as flexible as the Kogswell, but with the 165mm Sugino cranks one can easily find a sweet spot where the bike seems to harmonize with one's strokes--dare I say "planing"? The bike is light, even with front rack, front back and fenders, and climbing up these steep hills certainly felt easier on this bike than on the P/R. While the P/R seems to favor sustained off-the-saddle pedaling, I felt comfortable spinning through these steep hills on my seat.
At the top of Spruce, we entered Tilden Park through Wildcat Canyon Road. It's a fairly scenic, two lane road that's popular with local cyclists as it connects Berkeley to the more rural regions to its east. The hetre tires performed splendidly over somewhat rough pavement on this road, allowing me to maintain a good speed. We were heading toward the top of Grizzly Peak, which means climbing three sequential hills--golf course dr to golf course, then from the golf course to Grizzly Peak, then Grizzly Peak to the steam train at the top. The lower 2/3 of this climb to the top are at around 10% gradient. Similar to experience with earlier climb, I was able to find a rhythm spinning fairly easily as the bike seemed to plane for me, even though the downtube has a diameter of 1 1/4" (the top tube has 1" diameter and the seat tube has 1 1/8" diameter). Maybe my heft (195lbs) allow me to flex the slightly thicker downtube (than Kogswell's 1 1/8") just enough to produce the effect.
On flat, Ebisu is very responsive. It seems to take the full force from my wind-up and accelerates with ease. Once at the desired speed, I can easily maintain my speed (much like I can on my Kogswell). The slightly thicker downtube act to stablize the bike--the Ebisu feels more stable laterally than the Kogswell. On the flat portion of Grizzly Peak, I rode no-handed for extended period of time at various speed and there was no sign of shimmy
We descended on Skyline through the shades of redwood trees. It was a beautiful afternoon with sunshine and cool breeze--typical nice northern californian weather. On descent the low-trail geometry lets me turn without excessive input. The hetre tires chirped slightly on sharp turn but stuck to the ground with confidence. The whole bike was smooth, quiet and glides downhill gracefully.
The road continue its descent for a little longer on Redwood Road. Then we began to climb on South Pinehurst. It felt easy to get up this 5-7% grade climb and also easy to stay with M., who usually leaves me in the dust. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could probably climb as fast as she can for the entire climb. We descended once more on the other side of the hill, then entered north pinehurst in Canyon, one of our favorite stretches to ride anywhere.
North Pinehurst is a slight incline for about 3 miles, then goes up more steeply for another 1.5 miles. The two of us maintained a good pace (around 14-16 mph) through the flatter part with ok pavement. Throughout the steeper section, the Ebisu went up more easily than any other bike I have ridden before.
Unfortunately, a absolutely beautiful ride didn't finish quite well, as M. got a tree branch stuck in her wheel when a SUV got too close. The derailleur was toast, so was the cassette. The rear wheel needs some repair and truing, and the derailleur hanger needs alignment. I rode downhill to drive the car back to pick up M. and the bike. It was a pretty tough ride--35 miles, 5000 ft of climbing. Here is the bikely route map
Overall, the ride on the Ebisu was exceptional. The bike seemed to plane and harmonize with my strokes. It climbed well and descended even better. On flat I was able to sustain cadence and speed fairly easily--about as easy as the Kogswell, and easier than the Romulus. The bike is super stable, and I can ride with no hand at various speed ranges. The Kogswell is definitely more flexible, and I can feel it plane more easily, though the thinner downtube makes for less lateral stability--not to say that it's unstable, just less stable than the Ebisu. I haven't carried any heavy load on the Ebisu to compare the handling characteristics under those conditions. The Hetre tires make noticeable performance improvements from the Riv. Fatty Rumpkin--they are cushy yet fast. However, for urban riding and trails, the F/R give me more confidence in puncture resistence.