Courier bikes - Which one to buy?

When I go back to Australia, we are moving over east to Melbourne. I'm going to hopefully be a bike courier again, riding around the streets at ridiculous speeds trying not to kill myself or anyone else. To this end I'm considering what bike to buy here in the UK (where choice is much better) to take with me when I go back over.

The choices so far:

Cannondale Bad Boy 8
Bianchi Pista

I'm looking for a bike that is clean, beautiful and good to ride. I think both fill these criteria, although the each is quite a different style of ride.

Bianchi Pista

The Pista is a fixed gear bicycle, meaning the rotation of the cranks is fixed to the rotation of the back wheel, no freewheeling. There are many couriers who love this style of riding and I'd really like to give it a try. Melbourne is quite a wet city with variable conditions so I'm not sure I feel totally confident about riding without brakes. Fortunately the Pista comes with front forks pre-drilled to accept a front brake.

image of the Bianchi Pista

The Bianchi Pista

Cannondale Bad Boy 8

The Cannondale Bad Boy 8 is a new concept (based on an old one) where the bike has an old style drum hub with eight gears. This means an enclosed gear section with hopefully low maintenance as it is sealed from the elements. It also makes the bike look very sleek and clean, especially with Cannondale's new cable routing through the frame. The Bad Boy also has disc brakes, nice Avid Juicys, which means excellent braking in wet conditions. I don't know what the gear ratios are like but I'm guessing I can change the rear cog or the single front ring if I need more speed.

image of the Bad Boy 8

The Cannondale Bad Boy 8

I'm also hoping there are horizontal dropouts on this or some way to keep the chain tension. Anyone have any idea?

Full bike specs are here. Check out the larger image too.

I'll post which one I decide to go for in the end. Meanwhile I'm sorting out bikes for our Land's End to John O'Groats ride in three weeks time. So many bikes, so little cash!

Update

I put a bid on the Cannondale Bad Boy 8 on an eBay auction and got it for £600. It had done 300 miles of commuting and is in great condition. My only disappointment is the weight of the Alfine rear hub and that it is silver when pretty everything else on the bike is black. But a major bonus is the use of an eccentric bottom bracket which means no need for expensive hubs if I decide to go single or fixed (which is quite likely). The bike is fast, I'm going to put some 700x25 tyres on for a bit of extra speed. It handles very nicely and the gears are growing on me.

Update 2

I ended up stripping the gears out of this bike and turned it into a fixed gear Bad Boy. Very nice.

17 comments

Jump to comment form | comments rss

Comments

Tancredi26.10.07 / 9AM

Tim, its a great job, you don’t earn big bucks but its a really good way of getting to know a city. I’ve written a fair amount about it on this page: http://tancredi.co.uk/2006/11/9/im-a-bike-messenger

There is also a phone number to call in the comments section of that page.

Good luck in getting a job and I hope you enjoy Australia.

tim25.10.07 / 19PM

Hi.
Im going to australia in the new year (i live in england) and i stubled across this site. I was thinking of being a courier in australia as i need earn some money to live. I was just wondering if you have any advice as to getting a job and whether or not it is worth getting my road bike sent over rather than just buying something when i am there?

Cheers

p.s. good job on the site

sean22.08.07 / 23PM

Thanks for the concern. The gear change is perfect, and yes the two yellow dots line up in 4th gear. I’m not 100% sure that it isn’t the gears, but this is the first time it’s happened under serious load (with associated flesh wound consequences) All the other times it has happened whilst spinning nice easy circles: chain just seems to drop off, and always over rough tarmac. Am very wary now and really don’t know what to do. Have written Cannondale a stern email essentially saying ‘is Alfine really up to the job’? If the LBS cannot find anything wrong and it continues to happen then I’ll be getting it changed at no expense to myself. Will keep you posted.

sean22.08.07 / 20PM

(out of characters.)

…narrow gauge to reduce the play. Any ideas on whether this would work?”

Tancredi22.08.07 / 20PM

Ouch! I hope you are alright Sean, that sounds like an impressive dive. Certainly replacing the chain with a quality chain can’t hurt. Most fixie riders I know use a BMX style chain for strength. I think they are wider than the usual Shimano 8/9sp chains. The cogs on the Cannondale should be able to support this kind of chain without any problems and you shouldn’t get any slip. Are you sure the failure was with the chain and not some kind of slippage inside the geared hub? Are your gears perfectly tuned, so that the two bright yellow markers are lined up on the hub next to the cog? I found that if they weren’t perfectly lined up then the gear changes could be pretty slow or even uncertain. Maybe the hub decided to change gear and slipped under load?

Damn, that is annoying for you though. Let me know if you find anything out.

sean22.08.07 / 19PM

Disaster!

25mph crash on my commute in this morning. Top gear, out of the saddle and monstering to the top of a rise in the road this morning when the chain decides to jump off at the rear. Well you can imagine the carnage. I’m sat here covered in road rash, cuts, bruises and a swollen calf. Somehow I managed to drag the bike to the left (still doing about 20mph) and into the kerb / verge before finally succumbing to gravity and pitching spectacularly to the floor. I am not a happy person. Fortunately the bike seems to be ok save for being covered in soil and grass where it dug into the verge (I gouged a huge divot of turf out of the ground like some sort of golf pro!) have since inspected the drive and just cannot see how it has happened. Everything is tight, there’s no play. You can’t pull the chain off with your fingers etc. very weird. Am at a loss for what to do now. The only thing I can think is that the ‘Nexus’ chain is not designed to cope with the power of a ‘proper’ cyclist. The chain is an oversize ‘width’ and there is quite a bit of play side-to-side where the chain runs over the sprocket. I’ve compared to my play thing (Kona Coiler custom build) and this has hardly any play. My LBS (Cannondale dealer) were not very helpful. I think I might replace the chain with a narrow

Tancredi22.08.07 / 3AM

Awesome! Thanks for that Sean, I really appreciate you taking the time to post that. No doubt I will be needing that knowledge pretty soon as I’m going to be riding as a courier again in a few weeks.

I’m building up a fixed gear wheel at the moment, I’ll post my experience of riding on it in a future post.

sean21.08.07 / 18PM

Hi Tancredi,

Bit of an update since then. Got home and had a bit of a fiddle with the badboy to adjust the chain tension. Essentially there are two T-25 (torx) bolts that hold the eccentric plate in place - both located on the drive side (it would have been much easier to access the bolts if they were on the non drive side - as it is the chain ring gets in the way - bad design cannondale!) Loosen them both off a few turns (no need to remove them) and it should be possible to then rotate the bottom-bracket plates so that the bottom bracket itself moves eccentrically. It’s fairly easy, and there are even hex holes in the plate that you can push an allen key into to assist the rotation. Then when you’re happy with the chain tension, simply retighten the two torx bolts and voila! Unfortunately even with the BB in it’s furthest point away from the rear wheel axle centre line, my chain was still slack, so I had to remove a chain link and then fiddle with the BB plates again. The bottom bracket is now pretty much at it’s nearest point to the axle, and I guess by the time the chain stretches enough to require full movement of the plate it will be knackered and need replacement.

Hope this helps, if not now, but for the future!

Cheers,
Sean.

Tancredi20.08.07 / 3AM

Hi Sean, you are right about the chain tension being done with the bottom bracket. Its an eccentric style BB and as it rotates it increases or decreases the tension. I’ve yet to try it as the bike came properly tensioned. It can be quite hard to find information on how best to do it. I think I came across something on Shimano’s site, in a FAQ area for the geared hub range they offer.

It is a great bike, and the hub works pretty well. I think its an ideal commuter bike but I decided to turn it into a fixed gear after all. If I had the model with the black hub I may have been convinced to keep it but with the bright shiny silver hub it looks all wrong as everything else is black.

Have fun riding Sean, its an awesome bike.

sean19.08.07 / 18PM

Could anyone answer this query?

I have a bad-boy 8 that I purchased exactly 3 weeks ago, so far I’ve done 600km’s (commuting.) The bike is excellent in every way (I’ve even got the black Afine hub so it looks like some sort of stealth-velo…) However the chain has fallen off 3 times in the last ride home. All whilst riding over rough tarmac - and not particularly laying the power down either, just rotating the cranks at a nice pace. Upon inspection the chain looks a bit baggy and sloppy. And if you look down whilst freewheeling along rough tarmac, the chain vibrates side-to-side quite alarmingly, almost like it’s about to jump off. It’s obvious that the chain has stretched already, but the manual that came with the bike is dire - absolutely no mention of how to adjust. Am I right in thinking that in absence of a horizontal dropout, the chain tension is adjusted via the eccentric BB? Unfortunately I’m not on it at work today so can’t check, but I remember there being some sort of Allen bolt.

Dave @ http://www.golfclubs101.info27.02.08 / 4AM

I'd go with the Cannondale.I owned one they are great bikes.Id also go with either a hybrid or a mountain bike.It will hold up under the conditions you are going to be riding.Eg.jumping curbs etc....

Sports-Trader01.04.08 / 13PM

I'd definitely go with the Cannondale. I've owned a couple of older models in the past and they were terrific. For your use, I'd suggest a mountain bike...

Tancredi27.02.08 / 7AM

Hi Dave, as mentioned in the article above I ended up buying the Cannondale. Really nice bike but I have to say the only issue I have with it is the eccentric bottom bracket which constantly creaks. I've tried numerous things to fix it but nothing has worked so far.

tom01.08.07 / 0AM

im gonna head to bricklane at the weekend see if i can buy a halfinched one cheap from a cockney wideboy

Tancredi31.07.07 / 18PM

Tom, you are so right. It sounds crazy but all I can think of is stripping the Cannondale down and putting a fixed gear on it. This would mean a new rear hub as there are no horizontal dropouts on the frame, it uses an eccentric type hub to retain chain tension. I can see this being a future mod of the bike as I’ve settled on buying the Cannondale.

Tom31.07.07 / 17PM

take the fixed gear on the Bianchi Pista and put it on the Bad boy.. then you got a perfect bike.

Olivia Barr01.07.07 / 0AM

Both are beautiful and mean looking beasts. Tough decision. But can you ever really get past a Cannondale called “Bad Boy”?