Topeak SmartGauge D2

Unlike my on-going saga with destroyed floor pumps, I’ve actually had much better luck with hand held bicycle pressure gauges.  But nonetheless, I’ve had three gripes: (1) how the hell do you know if it’s still accurate after years of service, (2) unlike pumps, bike pressure gauges are generally presta- or Schrader-only, and (3) the “reading lock” feature often times fails after a few months or years, making it impossible to easily get a pressure reading after removing the gauge from the tire.  The first issue had been in the back of my mind for the past decade as I continued to use a seemingly indestructible plastic Zefal gauge from the 90’s – the problem was, it never seemed to match any of the gauges on my floor pumps, which themselves seemed more like random number generators than actual pressure indicators.

Not too long ago, digital pressure gauges were notoriously inaccurate and poorly calibrated from the factory.  While I still wouldn’t trust most of the dollar-store digital gauges you see everywhere, digital pressure transducer technology has improved a lot, so now $15 or so will get you a quality digital gauge that will not only read accurately new out-of-the-box, but also five or so years down the road.

But it was the 2nd issue above that led me in search of a gauge capable of using on both presta and Schrader valves.  Somehow I ended up settling on the Topeak SmartGauge D2 after a fairly limited search.  

After several months of use on both types of valves, as well as benchmarking the reading against other gauges, I’ve decided the Topeak is a winner.  Cool features:

  • Rotating head lets you fit the gauge into tight or awkward situations
  • Pressure release but to let’s you bleed out pressure to hit a precise target
  • Switches between presta and Schrader by moving a little lever
  • Digital pressure reading is maintained on the display after you remove it from the valve
  • Big LCD display is easy to read
  • Press a button to switch units
  • Battery-saving auto-off
  • 250 psi max pressure for applications like shocks

Lezyne Classic Floor Drive Pump

I can name off a long list of floor pumps that I’ve had love-hate relationships with – Scott, SKS, Silca, Topeak, yadda, yadda.  When they are brand new, everything is wonderful, but within a matter of weeks or months things start heading south until you spend as much time trying to get the pump to work as you do actually pumping air into your tires.

I’ve bought replacement heads, rebuild kits, new hoses and even made my own gaskets trying to keep my floor pumps alive, but to no avail.  The three figure Silca was probably the most disappointing, as it never seemed to work great and probably cost more than the other combined.

I’ll admit that it’s still early in the game, as I’ve only been using this Lezyne Classic Floor Drive pump for a few months, but I’m smitten.  But the big difference with this pump is that there are many small indications that this one is finally going to last: extremely high quality constructin and materials, awesome gauge, super smooth head engagement, fast disengagement and accurate pressure measurement.  

The Lezyne Classic Floor Drive pump in black

The head operating is not intuitive, so you’ll have to read the instructions the first time.  No funky levers or switches that push down against a rubber gasket when switch from Schrader to Presta, just a different sequence with the awesome CNC collar.  It’s no surprise that the ABS2 pump head is available separately as a way to bring other brands or pumps back to life.

Lezyne’s ABS2 head is available separately

I’ve used the Lezyne for the presta tubes on our bikes and for the Schrader tubes on our Burley and my daughters Linus bike, and I can honestly say that the pump works equally well for either, which is a big deal for some folks.  At the same time, the dual-functioning head is – maybe for the first time in floor pump history – not a detriment to using it for just one valve type.  A roadie could use this for his or her presta valves for years without even knowing that it works on Schrader valves as well, and the same goes for someone who has never even seen a presta valve.  Heck, I even used it with a needle adapter to pump up a soccer ball.

Finally, I love love love the huge 3 1/2 inch gauge on this pump – so squinting or bending over to distinguish between psi and bar!

All City Cycles 2015

All City Cycles 2015

While checking out the steel wares being displayed at NAHBS 2015, a friend of mine mentioned seeing some nice new stuff coming from All City Cycles, a company that I’ve been watching for some time. Apparently, though, I haven’t been watching them closely enough.

All City seems to be one of the very few companies that fill the niche-gap between inexpensive Tange steel frames and expensive custom 853-type frames. At the bottom, you have companies like Surly with cheap (about $500), mass-produced, no frills steel frames. I’ve never been a fan of Surly because their frames are no better than any entry-level steel production bike from any big-name manufacturer, yet by the time you build a full bike, you’ll be paying way more than an off-the-shelf Trek, Marin, etc. Next, you have companies like Soma Fabrications, that offer much better products at moderate prices (roughly $500-$1000), which actually are nice enough to justify an inexpensive bike build. After that, nowadays you pretty much jump up to about $2000 for a semi- or full-custom Columbus or Reynolds tubed frameset. Every once in a blue moon, a big company like Raleigh might offer a quality steel frameset for around $1500, but generally this is an under-served market.

That’s why All City’s bikes and frames are pretty exciting. The Mr. Pink road frame uses Columbus Zona tubes, custom stainless odropouts, internal top cable routing, a tapered steel fork, and has an MSRP of about $1100. Plus, All City designed enough clearance for bigger tires and/or fenders. Nice. (And if you don’t get the Mr. Pink reference, then you can’t own this bike.)

above: All City Mr. Pink frameset (

My personal favorite, though, is All City’s Macho King frameset, a cross rig fabricated from Reynolds 853 tubes and a Whiskey 7 carbon fork. It boasts similar frame specs as the Mr. Pink, but is disc ready.

above: All City Macho King frameset (

All City also makes a single-sped version, the Nature Boy 853 – apparently available as a frameset (also $1200) but mostly seen as a complete bike.

above: All City Nature Boy 853 (

Greg Lemond Washoe

Greg Lemond Washoe

Many cyclists from the 90’s cringe at the memory of Trek’s nefarious destruction of so many classic, high-end brands, as one by one they first gobbled up the Gary Fisher, Klein, Bontrager and LeMond brands, neutered them and eventually killed them off, leaving ruin and nothing but cookie-cutter OCLV products in their wake. Money, money, money.

For a short time, it seemed like the Trek LeMond bikes would escape that fate, as a clean product line was briefly maintained by the Trek overlords, which included some decent Reynolds 853 frames. Despite their amazing popularity, the hand-welded frames likely didn’t make enough profit for Trek compared to mass-produced molded frames, so LeMond eventually disappeared, too.

image from Greg LeMond Bicycles

Last year, Greg LeMond himself re-entered the cycling industry, bought Time USA and is now selling two bikes carrying his name – his full name this time. One of those bikes is the Greg LeMond Washoe, an ultralight Reynolds 853 road racing machine. Luckily, it’s available as a frameset with a color-matched Enve carbon fork. As others have noted, the frame isn’t a classic remake – it carries updated, modern geometries, on oversized headtube and PressFit30 bottom bracket shell. It’s also set up to accept either mechanical or electronic components. Plus, it’s made in the US and hand-painted in Minnesota without the use of decals! The result is a frame priced like a full-custom frameset, but in 7 stock sizes. So if you ride, say, a 58cm frame like I do, then you’re out of luck.

Breadwinner Cycles

Breadwinner Cycles

A friend recently tipped me off to a Portland’s Breadwinner Cycles, which has won awards at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Run by Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira, Breadwinner builds a fine selection of classic yet innovative custom steel frame types. They make their own custom stainless dropouts and their frames include matching lugged crown steel or carbon forks.

The Aufderheide is probably my favorite Breadwinner, a touring frame with every possible mounting point you could ever want. Set up with fenders, lights and a rack, you could use this as your daily commuter – especially if you have a long commute.

above and below: the Breadwinner Aufderheide
images: Breadwinner Cycles

The Arbor Lodge is a porteur-style frame with an integrated front rack, and comes in flat top tube or mixte versions. There is even an option for an integrated lock!

above and below: the Breadwinner Arbor Lodge
images: Breadwinner Cycles

The Continental is a classic road frame with a level top tube, lugged fork and traditional geometry. Breadwinner gave this frame clearance for fenders or up to 38c tires without fenders, so you can use this frame for many purposes.

above: the Breadwinner Continental (image from Breadwinner Cycles)

Breadwinner also offer two carbon-forked road frames, the B-Road gravel racer (claiming two Trans Iowa wins!) and the Lolo, a lightweight road racer. The hardest part might be choosing which Breadwinner you would ride the most.
above: the Breadwinner Lolo
below: the Breadwinner B-Road
images: Breadwinner Cycles