The Beta Bikes are bikes that were used to commute for a number of years by Mark and Richard. They were where the first beginnings of Milk Bikes started.
Mark's Beta Commuter
8 February 2011 | Posted by Mark
Way back in 2008, I came across a '97 Fuji Tahoe frameset. A rigid aluminium frame that I built into a dedicated commuting bike. It ended up being a real "bitsa" - a bit of this and a bit of that! But it did the job really well.
Starting with the bars, I flipped-over and chopped-down an old set of drop bars to make some nice narrow bull-horns (would have used bull-horns, but didn't have any to hand at the time). An old Ultegra 9-speed road groupset just about managed to fit on the frame - love the minimalist look of the tiny cassette on the MTB. I didn't want to run bulky STI shifters, so used a Dura-ace bar-end shifter and a Paul's Thumbie to fit the rear shifter. Could only run one ring on the front (due to wider chainstays), so didn't run a front mech - all added to the compact minimalist look of the drive train.
Dia-compe Gold Finger brake levers really worked well with the V-brakes and continued the minimalist theme. Full 'guards (or fenders!) were a must, although looking at this pic I could have got them to follow the tyre a bit more closely... The 26" wheels were fitted with uber-robust City Jets - check out Rich's review below.
All in all a great bike, but it was never perfect and the 'admin' that went with running the bike as a commuter planted the seeds that eventually evolved into Milk Bikes. Always had to clean the chain, replace worn brake pads, replaced the rims within a year, charge batteries, etc. Also the ride from rigid aluminium wasn't the plushest.
The prototypes have addressed all the little niggles - can't wait to get the production bikes in and spread the Milk commuter bike love!
City Jet Tyre Review
21 November 2010 | Posted by Rich
When I built up the Beta I ordered some cheap tyres to put on it for commuting. I didn't get the ones I ordered but the Cuty Jets as a replacement. At first I was disappointed. On the first few ride they had felt a bit draggy next to my 23mm road tyres. Not surprising really. I mentioned to Mark that as soon as they wore out I would replace them with something else... He laughed, he also has City Jets on his Beta and they look almost new after nearly 2 years of commuting. I knew I was going to have to ride them for a long time. That said they only add 5mins to a 1hr commute. Their biggest weakness is their grip on wet roads. In 10 months of commuting on minor roads I have only had 2 puntures. This is was really brough home to me when today I have had 3 punctures on my 75 mile Sunday ride and that has made 4 punctures of the week on the 23mm road tyres...
So the City Jets have been great commute tyres cheap, hardwaring and good resistance to punctures all of which is good for the commuter.
Their main weakness is grip in the wet but if you accept this and take it steady on those day then all is good...
Posted by Rich
Appropriately I met Mark while riding to work. We started to ride together regularly both to and from work and at weekends. We became good friends. Conversations often went over what would make the best commuter bike. A workhorse that could be used daily with minimum maintenance but still be a bike that you would love to ride and would become a reliable friend.
At the time I was riding my winter training bike. This was a steel framed racer that my dad built for me 20 years ago as my then racing bike. The bike was taking a beating being ridden every day and I was replacing the rims every 18 months. Before Mark decided to go ahead with Milk Bikes our conversations had inspired me to build a more dedicated commute bike that could be taken out of the shed everyday and ridden. I looked around at hybrid bikes because they had disc brakes but they all had flat bars and being an old road rider I ideally wanted drop bars. It did not seem possible to buy just the frames so I decided to make may own commuting mongrel which became the Beta.
The basis was a steel MTB frame so that I had the disc mounts. The forks came from a friend who had tried them on his MTB for the winter but had not got on with them. The rest of the parts came out of the spares bin in the shed. Originally it had flat bars as this was what I had spares for and I was keeping my eye out for a cheap set of levers on the bay. I rode it like this for a few weeks and then Mark found a set of levers in his spares bin and the bike was complete.
The Beta has been great. While the fat tyres originally felt very slow, still do, they have the advantage that you don’t have to concentrate to hard on the road surface as they are very forgiving. This is brilliant when it is dark and the roads are wet and even the best lights don’t illuminate all the holes in the road. The beta has not been maintenance free as it still has a chain that needs oiling and occasionally cleaning but I have needed to do way less than on the training bike and the training bike has remained in good condition. The few things that don’t work on the beta; the swinging saddle bag (as I could not fit a rack because of the disc brake caliper); the frame geometry being slightly wrong for the road and the chain maintenance are all designed out of the Milk Bike design so I am really excited about getting my hands on the prototype. (as long as it does not get sold before I’ve had a chance to ride it…)