So last year for myself was a nightmare. Chest infections, knee issues, and broken hands all meant I spent more time on a sofa than on a saddle and as such, I got fatter rather than fitter. This year I decided I will get back to fitness and I will achieve new targets on the bike.
I also decided after years of riding HALO level equipment I was beginning to enjoy having the newest, shiniest, most expensive tech rather than actually cycling. Working in the trade was slowly distorting my experience of cycling. Sora was so far beneath me that I sneered at bikes with it on. You have a steel bike without Thomson parts well I sneer at you. You can only have a Carrera, well I would be a snob about that as well. You got your bike from a recycling charity, well I sneered at that as well.
As someone who studied politics, I had always felt I was on the left and slowly I was becoming more and more tormented by the bicycle trade, lusting after Veblen goods. I was turning into someone I was not, someone I despised, I was slowly making myself go crazy. I left the bicycle trade, I never wanted to see another bike as long as I lived. The bike trade had killed cycling for me.
We had got to a point where all we did was complain about the internet, instead, we should have been focusing on service and great advice, remembering that at the end of the day we have hands and that the internet as of just now does not have hands. Instead, we all just get into a spiral of discounting and having to discount as the manufacturers will only sell to you at a good price if you buy in a ridiculous number of bikes during the time of the year bikes do not sell. Then as they start to sell the manufacturers show you next years bikes that you can not get for another 6 months and you have to reduce the price of the now “outdated” stock you have. We are in a trade that is constantly fighting with itself to make sure it can not sell items at a livable margin.
This was killing me, I had to move away and as I started to want to ride again after a few months I decided that a succession of illnesses and injuries was to be a much more preferred journey. So over Christmas I decide this year I would write about the bike trade and its descent into madness whilst also trying to highlight products that I feel are actually good value. So I decided for my personal goals I wanted a single speed, preferably made of 4130 steel and it would nicely have the ability to go everywhere.
I came across the Marin Nicasio SS, it looked OK and it cost £500. This all looked promising. I then searched about and found an ex-display one for sale at Charlie the Bikemongers, at the very reasonable cost of £379. This now made even more sense, whilst looking at the bike I was being messaged about doing the Great Glen Way and I felt this could be the baby to test myself on.
So the Marin Nicasio SS is part of Marin’s Beyond Road category, a category in which we find the uber trendy gravel bikes. Gravel bikes are one of the few places I think the bike trade may be making a sensible move, instead of making a road bike to suit the professionals, we now get a road bike to suit most mortals. We get wider tire clearance as that easily gives us comfort, bearing in mind that despite what frame manufacturers want you to know, 90% of your comfort will come from tires, not a decoupler or a Zertz insert.They also tend to come in a relaxed geometry and as most of do not want to shave our legs (you can if you want and I will not judge you too harshly if you can explain exactly what you hoped to gain from doing it, that goes for women as well, free yourself from societal pressure), we probably also want a bike that is not going to try and kill us whilst going downhill.
It also has a threaded bottom bracket shell, with a square taper bottom bracket at the minute. This means I have none of the issues and heartaches you get with press fit, press fit just does not agree with Scottish weather and the square taper will nicely see me through the rest of winter and then I can have a look and try and pick up a nice little Hollowtech chainset to make future maintenance almost nonexistent and the ability to ride a bike with no bottom bracket squeaks makes me a happy man.
The frame is made of 4130 steel and this also makes me a happy man, it appeases the BMXer in me and also nicely ties in with a piece I wrote about steel that can be found here. Carrying on the BMX theme the frame also uses a Campy spec headset, this may not be my favored option but I have a stockpile of BMX headsets that means I am safe for the foreseeable future for headset bearings. The paint job is a nicely understated gray, which I have not managed to highlight in the above photograph, it looks better in the flesh than in my photo and hopefully, when I get it out in the sunlight we can get a much better photograph of the color. It also has a lot of different mounts for bottles and racks and fenders, this means that I can tailor the bike slightly to whatever I feel like doing that day.
The sliding dropout design I like, I have had this design on a Pivot Les and a GT BMX and as such it works. It looks complicated but really anyone with the ability to think rationally will be able to use this design for tensioning their chain easily. This design also means we can fit an internal hub gear wheel at some point if we want to. The wheels come with a set of Schwalbe Spicer tires which I think will deal nicely with the road but for beyond road I would have preferred a set of file tread tires. The only part of the bike I have a problem with is the Promax Render R brakes, they can accurately be described as crap.
I have come across these brakes on many lower priced bikes and have always thought that they are one of the best ways to put people off buying drop bar bikes with disc brakes. Thankfully with the saving on the bike I can search about and get something like TRP Spyres and still have only paid around £500 for the complete bike, but at least I will have brakes that are not a nightmare to set up and that actually work. I know in the past I have had people try bikes with the Render brakes and just brought the bike back to the shop and bought something else. I get the price point argument but it may be worth making a bike a touch more expensive and actually putting brakes on that work, even canti brakes work better than these Promax.
I think the brake quibble is not as big as it sounds and if you buy in a shop you should be able to haggle for something better, even if it is only £50 off a better set of brakes. Trust me it will be worth it. My only other problem is sizing I am 5ft 7 (Well 169cm so borderline) and pretty evenly proportioned, I’m also not doing the usual building myself up an extra inch that cyclists do but according to the Marin sizing chart I am at the top end of the 52cm frame size and the bottom end of a 54cm. I can tell if I ever step over the front end of the 54cm I will be speaking in a high voice for a little bit, as such the 52cm top tube is very touch and go. As such even on the 52cm I am having to cut my seat post down to fit. I would therefore advise checking the size in a shop.
Apart from that, I like the bike and at the minute it is waiting for me to fix my pedals on and go take it for a spin.