Thursday, August 23, 2018

Monstercross News' Jon Severson's Review of the New Albion Drake



The New Albion Drake has been a curiosity of mine since I saw the first pictures of the prototype surface awhile back. It caught my eye because unlike most gravel/touring/commuting frames/bikes out there, it wasn’t being billed as a bike that could take 700c wheels and 650b wheels….but only 650b wheels. Why does this matter? Because most bikes in that category are designed with 700c wheels in mind first, then just squeeze in whatever width 650b they can make work second. So the idea of a dedicated 650b frame that can fit up to a 2.1 x 650b without fenders and up to a 42mm wide 650b tire with fenders…well, no one was making that in a dedicated platform below $1000 for a frameset that I knew of and the new crop of road orientated 650b tires had peaked my curiosity. So when I finally was able to pick up a Drake frame set, I did.

Really, it all started with being fascinated with the New Albion Cycles line in general. In this day and age a really nice looking frameset with well thought out features, graphics, and name brand tubing typically starts off in the $700 or so range. Heck, sometimes just a frame is that much. Go any lower and it shows. Graphics aren’t impressive usually, tubing is either listed as chromoly that’s not always double butted made be who knows or has a made up name made by who knows. Features like full rack/fender mounts front and rear, a 3rd bottle cage, and
Rolhoff compatibility are rarely found as an add on item on their own much less all of the above. Yet the Drake has pretty much every braze on you’d order for a modern touring/commuter bike, as well as Tange tubing. Much less at this pricepoint.

Winning.

Pricepoint and features like these was key in looking for a solid commuter/adventure rig/townie in my book. Being able to run 42mm-2.1” wide 650b tires was an added bonus which just opens up the possibilities. For me, commuting to meetings & running errands on my bike isn’t something I do often enough to warrant an expensive build. Nor is going on an overnight trip. But both in one? Pricepoint aside, that had my interest. I don’t have the pocket book to buy a bike for each much less spend a lot. Throw in the fact that it can also serve double duty as sort of a neo-retro mountain bike with disc brakes & 650b wheels it just made sense to go ahead and build one up.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering to yourself…why does it matter it’s a dedicated 650b? Why didn’t you want 700c wheel compatibility? I mean, why limit what you can do? Especially on the road side. Well, that’s easy. First off, one wheel set is a bit of spending cash on it’s own to build up much less two. Two wheels means two cassettes as well. Next, with all of the new 650b road plus tires coming out from Panaracer, Soma, WTB, Compass, and well everyone else my options for “road” tires was far from limited. On the 650b mtb tire side of things, their are options galore in 2.1 and had a set of 2.2’s I thought I could try as well. For my needs, switching tires would be infrequent and less expensive.

650b road in my opinion is great by the way for town/commuter use. Why? Smaller wheel/bigger tire accelerates faster than it’s 700c cousin. Great for stop and go traffic and poorly timed stop lights on city streets that are poorly maintained with lots of potholes. Long term, the smaller wheels are stronger as well which means less messing around. Especially when loaded. Now slap on a set of fenders for rain/slush and I have a bike I can ride year round with minimal fuss that is still sporty while being reliable.

The Drake is designed around drop bars and touring, hence the head tube extension that minimizes the need for $20 worth of spacers and keeps the looks clean. For my needs however I slapped a low rise/big sweep handlebar which while about 100mm less than what I ride on my mountain bike it’s just right for around town riding and rocking local single track. No doubt, it’d be a blast with drop bars, but looking in my parts bin of used stuff that wouldn’t get me much on Craigslist my wallet said this would be a more mountain bike orientated build. Riding the Drake with a normal flat/riser bar tuned out to feel so good I almost forgot it was designed for drop bars originally.

Riding the Drake is exactly how you’d expect a nice steel frame in the next price bracket up would ride. It’s smooth, but not flexy. Out of the box, the frame may not feel light, but on the road it’s smooth sailing. Whether it be riding single track or railing the gravel trails/roads nearby it’s a solid machine. I’ve primarily been riding on a set of 650b mountain bike tires, however they are 2.2’s which is just a touch more than the frame was designed for though they do fit the fork just fine. Ended up swapping out the rear as it did rub just enough on climbs/sprints that I finally admitted it wasn’t meant to be. However a set of 48x650b Gravelkings worked as well as anticipated in road mode while still holding their own better than skinny cross/gravel tires on gravel/singletrack.

Overall, it’s hard not to be happy with the Drake. It’s a workhorse type of frame set that does it’s intended job better than expected. No, it’s not going to win races nor is it a replacement for your full time mountain bike. But that’s not what it’s intended to do either. If you need something to get you to work, allows you to play on dirt trails on the way home, run errands or roll out for dinner, that you may want to take on a tour down the coast or across country  one day the Drake is for you. Or perhaps you live in a big city where owning multiple bikes is tough for the space available in your home, the Drake truly can be set up to do just about anything. It’s a frame set that has a strong appeal to the working man, and a price point to match. It’s the kind of bike you’ll have for life, not because it cost you thousands but because you’ll always find a use for the Drake, as it’s ready to do just about anything. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New Albion Drake Frame Is Ready For Action



We started posting photos of the prototype Drake early last year, because we loved how it turned out.
However we took our sweet time test riding it and we only received our first production run this month.

So let's take some time explaining what you can do with a Drake.
We call it a 650b (27.5") wheel adventure tourer.
We designed it with a wheel base length between a cyclo-cross bike and a fully loaded touring rig, to offer the stability desired when you're 'packing, but without taking away too much spirit when you want to just rip around gravel roads and dirt trails.

It will fit 42mm Soma Cazadero or WTB Resolute tires with fenders or 2.0" mountain knobbies without fenders. You can also put on WTB Byways or Panaracer PariMotos for velvety road cruising.
Can you or should you run 700c tires? Depends on what you want to achieve. We gave it 10mm more BB height than your average road bike, because we wanted to make it more dirt-capable, so don't expect it carve downhill corners like our Homebrew road frame.

While you can't ride this as fast over gnarly trails as a bike packing hardtail, its front triangle will fit a larger frame bag than a hardtail.

Other features:

  • Beefy cast dropouts that allow for separate rack and fender mounting. And though not Rohloff-specif, it is friendly to Rohloff set ups.
  • Chainstay-located IS disc tabs doesn't interfere with most rear racks.
  • PF30 Bottom Bracket offers a bottom bracket option with larger cartridge bearings and stiffer platform. If you choose to run geared hubs or single speed, you can get an eccentric bottom bracket, which allows you to adjust chain tension.
  • Tange Champion CrMo tubing throughout
  • Front mini rack mounts and pannier rack mount on optional matching fork
  • Rear mini rack mount and pannier rack mount
  • S-Bend chainstays
  • Downtube shifter compatibility
  • Optional lugged crown disc fork

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Homebrew Has Returned



The original Homebrew was arguably the most handsome bike in our small line with it Town Red paint job and traditional lugged construction. The complete bike also featured downtube shifters instead of modern integrated brake/shift levers. The frame also used a high tensile steel instead of more desirable and lighter Chromoly Steel in order to lower the costs created by using investment cast lugs. Those factors might have made it a bike that was harder for managers to put on the shop floor.

We have rethought the model. Gone are the lugs that drove up the price of what we wanted to be a budget roadster. Instead we are using TIG-welding which is just as strong as lugs. This allows us to spec a super tough Tange Champion #2 chromoly tubeset. And we have adopted a threadless 1-1/8" steerer to allow for more stem and headset options. So it loses a little vintage vibe, in order to make it easier for budget cyclists to collect parts.  It retains the hot red look and the skinny road tubes of the 70's.

The Homebrew still has the retro touches like downtube shifter bosses, a lugged seat collag, and cool dropouts with double eyelets for mounting fenders or racks.




Our photo build features Rivendell 57mm reach Silver brakes, Soma Shikoro 700x33c tires, IRD Drillium ZST aero levers, IRD 46-30t Defiant cranks which offers decent climbing gears when matched with an 11-28t cassette. The mechs are Sun Race which are affordable and just plain work. Wheels were Suzue/Ukai. The bell is a Crane Suzu that mounts to your headset spacer stack.

The Homebrew is available as a frame only with lugged fork as an option. Lugged fork has mounts for fenders and mini-rack.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Albion Helps Raise Funds for Lady Craft Brewers

Grissette Nouveaux organized this homebrew contest. Awards ceremony as well as a craft brew talk were held at the Local Brewery Co. in San Francisco's SoMa district.

Benefiting Pink Boots Society.

Lucky raffle winner of our Homebrew road bike.



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Albion Bikes Around Social Media

Sometimes we wonder if company blogs are still worth keeping up, if said company is already on Facebook and Twitter, etc.  Sometimes even we get tired of finding ways to toot our own horn. But still we must, if only to let folks know we haven't gone on a permanent vacation.

Here are some photos from around the web of our bikes for use as proof of life.

Starling on the cover of Momentum Magazine

Sera picked up a Starling from Glady Bikes in Portland. #newbikeday

Kim Horgan borrowed this Homebrew from Volker Cycles to
photograph Kansas City, MO. She couldn't resist taking
a few photos of the bike as well.

A Privateer build for Bicycle Times Magazine to review.
Currently our cover image on the Facebook.
Yasmine with her customized Homebrew courtesy of Swell Cycles.
Christopher U. hashtags....bikecamping....outside is free!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Albion Cycles Dealers

Here is a list of great bike shops who have ordered New Albion bikes or frames.
Not all these shops will have bikes on the floor, but all will be able order and fit you on one.
We will post this on the main site eventually.

UNITED STATES
Arizona:
Transit Cycles, Tucson, AZ

California:
Stone's Cyclery, Alameda, CA
Village Professional Bicycle Parts, Fallbrook, CA

Bike Connection, Palo Alto, CA
Motostano, Redwood City, CA
Ikon Cycles, Sacramento, CA
A Bicycle Odyssey, Sausalito, CA
American Cyclery, SF, CA
Citizen Chain SF, CA 
Pedal Revolution SF, CA
Swell Cycles, SF, CA  

Colorado:
Jinji Cycles, Denver, CO
Peak Cycles, Golden, CO


Florida:
All Bicycles, Deerfield Beach. FL

Illinois:

Rapid Transit Cycle Shop, Chicago
Ciclo Urbano, Chicago
 
Indiana:
Bikesmiths, Bloomington, IN

Maryland:
Gravel and Grind, Frederick, MD

Massachusetts:
Laughing Dog Bicycles, Amherst, MA
Hub Bicycle, Cambridge, MA

Bikes Not Bombs, Jamaica Plain, MA
The Spoke, Williamstown, MA


Michigan:
Treefort Bikes, Ypsilanti, MI

Missouri:
Hartsburg Cycle Dept, Jefferson City, MO
 
Nebraska:
Polkadot Bicycles, Lincoln NE

New Jersey
Bikemania.biz, NJ


New York:
Sid's Bike Shop NYC
 
North Carolina:
Island Hopper's Bike Shop, Ocean Isle Beach, NC
 
Oregon:
Crank Bicycles, Portland, OR
Gladys Bikes, Portland, OR

Green Bike Coop, Waldport, OR
Cyclotopia, Corvalis, OR

South Dakota: 
Cranky Jeff's Bicycle Shop, Rapid City, SD

Texas:
Ozone Bikes, Austin, TX
PhatTire.com, Richardson, TX
Bicycles and Smoothies, Houston, TX

Utah:
Saturday Cycles, Salt Lake City, UT 

Vermont:
Onion River Sports. Montpelier, VT

Virginia:
Lucky's, Richmond, VA

Washington:
Aaron's Bicycle Repair, Seattle, WA
Alki Bike and Board, Seattle, WA
Counterbalance Cycles, Seattle, WA
Recycled Cycles, Seattle, WA
School of Bike, Seattle, WA



INTERNATIONAL:

British Columbia:
Dream Cycle, Vancouver BC 
Union Street Cycle, Vancouver BC
The Bike Kitchen, Vancouver, BC
The Lions Cyclery, Kelowna, BC


Quebec:
Fitz & Fowell, Montreal
Revolution Bikurious, Montreal


Manitoba:
Natural Cycle Co-op, Winnepeg


Singapore:
TR Bikes


Switzerland:
Velostatt, Wabern

Other Dealers: If you don't see your name listed here and you are stocking us, let us know. Bike shops can purchase New Albion through one our distributors.
Retail Customers: If you walk into one of the shops and don't see a New Albion, don't be afraid to ask them to order one for you.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Alex's Recovery Gift - A New Albion Bicycle


Vanessa won a New Albion Starling mixte frame in our contest with Momentum Magazine. She had it built up (by Seven Stars Cycles) for her wife Alex as a gift. Alex was diagnosed with thyroid cancer back in May. She had her thyroid removed in June and is recovering. We wish them both well.