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N. Hollywood, CA
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It's been about a year since I got my Co-Motion Nor'wester so I figured it's time to get around to reviewing the bike. Thought it would be more interesting to talk about our pannier tour in the redwood forests last fall, so most of these photos are 'on tour'.

I bought the Nor'wester on the presumption that I'd be doing 95% day rides such as centuries, perhaps 4% loaded touring, and maybe 1% fundraiser racing. Having spent the previous 16+ years on aluminum racing bikes, you might say I'm now reformed and returned to the grassroots of it all. These days I'm more likely to reminisce about a pannier tour up the coast of Maine on my Fuji Palisade in 1986, and unlikely to think much about the handful of seasons of racing that followed.

So anyway, here's a few snapshots. Starting our tour near Eureka, CA. My Nor'wester was loaded pretty well with gear front and back. Double-A pulled a Bob trailer behind her go fast Basso Loto. We tent camped. Saw lots of banana slugs. And searched in vain for crystals at Agate Beach...
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Co-Motion in the Pac N/W

A few details about the bike. I was ready to pay for a custom fit, but the LBS said I was a perfect fit to the stock 58cm frame size, and since they seemed to be well versed in the subject, I went with their recommendation. The top tube is actually about 56.5 cm; a little shorter to offer an upright posture for touring comfort and safety. I stacked some spacers on the steerer tube, and quickly warmed to the comfort of having handlebars within a few cm of the seat level.

The Tubus racks fit very well, front and rear. I had no heel clearance issues, partly due to moderately long chainstays and also asymmetrical rear panniers. While on tour I ran 32mm Kenda "holiday" tires, which just barely fit under the SKS (40mm) fenders. Next time I'd choose steel fenders instead, because the SKS felt flimsy and vulnerable, especially considering there was some toe overlap as well as stuff on the rear rack that could slip down.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
September in NorCal

We had pretty decent weather in mid-September. There were some misty damp nights, and some sunny days. A couple days were also misty and damp, but no nights were sunny. We each got a thin wool jersey from the Ibex outlet for this trip, and as claimed, we were able to live in them for a week straight with no smell or discomfort. Wool is great!

Northern CA is very lush and overgrown with foliage. Lots of references to bears and oxes and such. There were lots of white folks up there, especially compared to our home turf in North Hollywood. We didn't notice if many had the abundance of chest hair that ol' Bunyan's showing...
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
greenery on tour

We took a break at Jedediah Smith wilderness, and hung our feet over the Smith river. What a nice spot, especially on such a warm sunny day. Can you find the cause of the dark circular shadow under the water?

We hiked through the ancient forest and were surprised to find stands of bamboo. Probably not native, but who knows? There were some big trees, and lots of fungi...
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Nor'wester outfitted for touring

This was an out-and-back tour, up and then down Pacific Coast Highway. It seemed to get sunny and warm as we went south. We left the fog and mist of the redwood forests behind us, and had some nice hours cruising south with the beach and rolling surf on our right.

I had good luck with the panniers. On the rear I used the largest Lone Peak panniers, and even with the asymmetrical cut they had enough room for the essentials. And the outside pockets were good for storing stove, fuel bottle, 1st aid kit and such. The panniers are well made in the traditional style - that is, not waterproof unless clothes are wrapped inside plastic bags. Which is how I prefer it. The mounting/clip system on the Lone Peak panniers is excellent - I highly recommend them. I got them from Wayne at The Touring Store. I had him mount a third set of upper hooks just as a precaution. Probably not necessary, but conservative measures are good on tour.

The front panniers are Jandd Standards, which are a slim set normally used for commuting. Got a bargain, new, on EBay, and can't complain. The seams on Jandd bags are really well done, in that they're not exposed, but "inside stitched". I don't like the upper bare metal hooks, though, and will soon retrofit some of the nylon types as used on the Lone Peaks.

As you can see, there was plenty of gear atop my rear rack as well. Guess we don't travel light, but camp is always comfortable!
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Details details...

So here's a view of the cockpit. Got the neat map case from Adventure Cycling (along with the yellow safety triangle hanging from my seat). The case is perfect for the AC maps, or any other page folded about in half. The rear view mirror is sold by Peter White. I can't recall the name, but they work reasonably well. I managed to mount mine by strapping under the brifter and it's nearly out of the way regardless of how I hold the 'bars.

Looking down at the front wheel, you can see that my front tire is actually about 28mm. It's a Rivendell Roly, and they're sooooo nice to ride! Fits better under the slim SKS fender than the 32mm on the rear. That's a Lumotec headlight mounted to the left fork blade. A motorist told me at a lunch stop that he could see the headlight over a mile away in his rearview mirror while driving earlier. That's cool. Also an overhead view of the Shimano road style cantilevers. Not exactly graceful, but functional, clean, polished, not gaudy.

I'm running a Sugino triple touring crank (48-36-24), mated with a 12-27 cassette and long cage Ultegra rearD. There were lots of hills on PCH, and I definitely used the lowest/granny gear many times, but didn't need anything lower.

That's a SON dynohub on the front wheel. I'm addicted to "light on demand" and love the feeling/knowledge that I'm supplying all the power any time light is needed. No worries about losing battery power here! I could go on and on... anyway, I love dynohubs. Resistance is barely noticeable when the light is off. And pretty minimal even when burning. Now I use dynohubs all the time, regardless of the type of ride.

You might also notice the Nitto threadless, polished, stem up front. Not a museum piece, but it does the job, is tasteful, and of course will never fail. I considered going with a quill stem, but Co-Motion standardizes on threadless and they say it's similar to their tandem setup (so quite beefy for touring).
 

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Big is relative
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11,901 Posts
Thank you for posting the pictures. I have driven that route several times, but I had never seen it in clear weather. It was always raining. Is the place with Paul Bunyan still called Trees of Mystery? When I lived in the PacNW, I always wanted to do the Olympic Peninsula loop but never did. I guess I will just have to make the time and do it. What a great excuse for a new bike.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
what about Bob?

Well that's almost it. A quick note about Double-A and her setup. She wasn't thrilled with the trailer, although it did track well at speed. She didn't like the low speed handling, or any situation involving maneuvering the bike into or out of a parking slip. I say slip because it's like piloting a very long barge when you're trying to park on a sidewalk or lean against the wall of a local cafe. Very cumbersome. She seemed happier with panniers on our previous mtb camping trip, so perhaps a more touring-friendly road bike is in her future...
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Nor'wester wrap-up

So what about the Nor'wester? Well, one of the reasons I chose it was for the S+S coupler feature. I've been riding for a year and haven't had any issues with the couplers or the quick cable disconnects. They always stay tight, but are easy to disassemble when necessary. I haven't packed it in a suitecase yet, and who knows if that will happen much. I thought it may come in handy, but we've been travelling less.

The TIG welds are really professional. Clean, even, small and well controlled. Clearly the framebuilders are masters. Which should be expected given the premium made in USA source. Of course there are lots of good TIG welds out there, so don't think I'm knocking anyone else's bike.

The panel paint job was my choice. What can I say, except it makes me happy.

Any issues with the Nor'Wester? Well, unfortunately, yes. I experience front end oscillations above 14 mph when carrying rear panniers. I got up over 20 mph and they never got 'bad', and I haven't bothered to run any faster since that's not normally a goal when touring. I've tried some remedies, such as matching front & rear tire sizes (duh!), but so far no luck. I've got a new, well adjusted King headset, and that doesn't seem to be the issue. I've run front-only panniers without a problem. But virtually any weight on the back end seems to induce the problem - even just a pair of U-locks, pair of Tevas and pair of windbreakers (in rear panniers on a steel Tubus rack). So my initial enthusiasm for this fine bike has been tempered somewhat. I'm still in discussions with Co-Motion, and for the record they're very responsive and communicative. I just haven't taken the time, yet, to completely eliminate other possible sources of the wobble (no matter how unlikely in my opinion). They advertise the bike as being great for riding, light touring, and light racing (my words). There's a lot of grey areas anytime you design compromises in order to appease competing demands. I will continue to do short tours on this frame, but no longer consider it my across-the-USA do it all bike.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
on a good note...

I can't leave it on a bad note, because this is really a great bike for so many typical road rides (day rides). We've done lots of centuries, and I've always been happy. As advertised, the handling is neutral, meaning balanced yet nimble. Classic road race handling, with just a dash of conservativism for touring. I've climbed 10,000 feet elevation in a day, and was always happy with the performance. A half pound of weight due to couplings simply doesn't matter at all. And of course with all that climbing, we've done our share of high speed descending as well. At 40 or 50 mph it's still stable yet nimble - a real joy. And the Nor'wester carves corners with aplomb! Now I'm not saying it's a crit racer, and neither do they. But this bike would be fine on a road race course.

Here's a final photo - from the Nautica Malibu Triathlon last fall. We were a relay team, so I biked, Double-A ran, and a friend swam. I swapped out the touring wheels for Cane Creek Cronos hoops, removed headlight, racks and seat bag, and strapped a tool/tube wrap to the seat rails with an old toe strap. The Nor'Wester really jumps when mated with such light weight wheels. Clearly the only limitation on its performance on a road course is the strength of the engine (which was so-so). That's a team Disney shirt, complements of Double-A's employer who fielded many solo and relay efforts, and raised hundreds of thousand$ for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. So thanks Disney for the opportunity!
 

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I wouldn't call what you did "Light touring".

ispoke said:
Any issues with the Nor'Wester? Well, unfortunately, yes. I experience front end oscillations above 14 mph when carrying rear panniers. ....They advertise the bike as being great for riding, light touring, and light racing (my words). There's a lot of grey areas anytime you design compromises in order to appease competing demands. I will continue to do short tours on this frame, but no longer consider it my across-the-USA do it all bike.
OTOH if I had those problems I would likely get rid of the bike....

BTW Did I mention that this was a great ride report.

AJSYK Next time don't forget to invite us! :cool:
 

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Bacon!
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9,193 Posts
Very nice ride report! Enjoyed it a lot although I'm too wimpy to actually go touring. I absolutely love the Eureka-Crescent City area. Some of the most gorgeous beaches and the weirdest people I've ever seen. The fog and mist only adds to the atmosphere. Thanks!

PS: In this pic:

That's not bamboo, that's Equisetum hyemale, or common Horse Tail. Sorry, got be a jerk but I guess it's the biology background I'm stuck with.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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754 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
well yes, but...

MB1 said:
OTOH if I had those problems I would likely get rid of the bike....
I probably asked too much of an event bike that wasn't intended for a full touring load. Which is why I've been sitting on the issue for months. But recently I carried just U-locks, Tevas and windbreakers in rear panniers, and the bike still oscillated. I haven't checked, but two U-locks couldn't weigh more than 10 pounds. Plus the weight of the steel rack. In that case, I'd consider it very light touring, and so I was disappointed. That was about 6 weeks ago and I made a call to Co-Motion to ask for advice. So I'm working through their list of questions. As an aside, the only front handlebar bag I've used was a small one for wallet and keys, so that's an easy factor to eliminate.

Meanwhile I read and re-read the Jobst Brandt article about front end wobble. Basically it seems to be an unpredictable circumstance related to long/flexible top tubes and weight distribution of both rider and load. One reputable LBS asked if the couplers might contribute to a flexible top tube, but the S+S literature claims they're stronger than the original steel tube. So I wonder if it's a quirk of that particular frame, or perhaps I should be asking for heavier gauge steel tubing?

Then I read the VBQ article about forks, and the related information about the Kogswell Porteur (which has interchangeable forks depending on usage). That got me wondering if a fork with altered trail could improve the handling of the Nor'Wester (under load). That would be much easier than getting a whole new frame - but I doubt if such a complex issue is ever so easily solved(?).
 

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ispoke said:
I

Then I read the VBQ article about forks, and the related information about the Kogswell Porteur (which has interchangeable forks depending on usage). That got me wondering if a fork with altered trail could improve the handling of the Nor'Wester (under load). That would be much easier than getting a whole new frame - but I doubt if such a complex issue is ever so easily solved(?).
great trip report!

I would consider trying a different fork first, especially if the comotion fork works fine unloaded.
you can get a surly fork pretty cheap: either the long haul trucker or the cross check. worth a try?
 

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Now, that was a ride. I've never gotten much farther north than Richardson Grove (on a bike), but I'm pretty tempted to remedy that failing now. Thanks for posting. (...and just what did cast that shadow? I'm thinking a very large bubble could have.)

My experience with oscillation on a loaded bike leads me to think your supposition about the top tube is likely correct. My workhorse touring bike is an elderly Novara Randonee, a touring-specific design with an especially burly top tube, and the thing is like a Barcalounger regardless of how it's loaded. I've done some light-to-medium touring on "sport" road bikes and 'crossers that occasionally was hair-raising (particularly on steep descents) because at speed there was a tail-wagging-the-dog effect. After a few experiences like that, I relegated these bikes to pulling a B.o.B., which I happened to like.

Is this LBS actually a SoCal shop? I don't think I've ever seen anyone around here carrying Co'Motion, and I've been itching to check 'em out after all the favorable writeups in Adventure Cycling.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
LBS and the shadow

The Walrus said:
...and just what did cast that shadow? I'm thinking a very large bubble could have...
If you look towards the top-left corner of the photo, you can see a pincushion like disturbance on the water surface. My feet were underwater, with big toes sticking out in the air. If I drew my big toe straight down into the water, fast and smooth with no splash, it created a small recirculation cell. Water rushes in towards the center, travels downward, and then recirculates outward to the edge of the 'peculiarity'. Apparently there's enough diffraction to create a shadow. Double-A noticed it first, and then we spent about half an hour trying to duplicate the effect and get it on film as it slowly moved with the current.

As for the LBS, there's a Co-Motion dealer in Seal Beach, so you can see the (mostly tandem) frames. They're listed on the website. I won't repeat their name because they were by far the rudest humans I've ever dealt with. In fact I've never been insulted by one person so many times, repeatedly, face to face, in two separate visits. Suffice it to say that I highly recommend the Nor'Wester for non-touring applications, but I hope you can travel to another dealer to avoid the condescending treatment I experienced. It must be an anomoly, since the CM guys in Oregon are so nice.
 

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Thanks for the trip report. It got me thinking about my next trip....

It seems that even top-ranked suppliers like Co-Motion can't limit their marketing to those nitches where their product excells. Now how can something that is good for touring - even light touring - also be good for racing!

I think the Nor'wester is ideal for touring with a BOB trailer. Perhaps you can trade your panniers for Double A's BOB when she gets a touring bike.

I think that one reason Co-Motion is so nice over the phone is that their retail distribution - the premium bike shops - know next to nothing about touring. The retailers fully expect that their knowledge of MTB's and road bikes spills over to touring, but it does not, and it pisses them off when a knowlegeable customer challenges their point of view. I bought an Americano from another So Cal retailer and had a hell of a time getting them to set up the bike appropriately. The retailer was adamant that there was a design problem with the frame such that the disk brakes wouldn't operate appropriately, but after more than 6 weeks of them playing with it, they finally figured it out.
 

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Ouch! That wouldn't happen to be the shop on the main drag about 2 blocks from the pier, would it? Musta changed hands since I was last there (admittedly quite a while ago)--I had no problems with the guy there. Between your comments and Cyclesafe's, I'd better be cautious about where I go looking for a Co-Motion when the day comes.
 
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