In a previous post, I have alluded to the purchase of my current commuter bike, so I think it’s about high time to write a review about it. The disclaimer is that I am not now, nor ever have been, affiliated with the Trek Bicycle Corporation, and I was not compensated in any way for this review.
EDIT #1: New thoughts added at the end of the article.
EDIT #2: More thoughts
Let’s start at the beginning. When I first attempted to commute to work, I did it on a Raleigh mountain bike purchased at Canadian Tire. I made the purchase knowing nothing about bicycles, or proper fit, and I paid dearly for my ignorance through pain: back pain, arm pain, neck pain, and ulnar nerve inflamation. The bike just did not fit right, whether it was too big for me or another reason, but I did not diagnose this problem until this past September when I started to be somewhat interested in commuting by bicycle on a more regular basis.
Doing a Google search regarding proper sizing revealed a multitude of sources that told me proper fit is a must. I measured my inseam and did the calculation to find out that my proper frame size is 20.9 inches. Armed with this information, I started to research what kind of bicycle I would like to ride. Mountain bikes were out based on my previous bad experience, though now I can see that they have their place in the commuter’s arsenal. Road bikes are somewhat intimidating and they do not appeal to me that much. Due to these limitation, I decided to check out the many urban/commuter offerings from companies like Jamis, Giant, Kona, Specialized, Trek, and others.
There are some really nice machines out there, with great components like disk brakes, internally geared hubs, dynamo hubs, etc. Ultimately it came down to price, and as a student my budget was fairly limited, so I decided that I will view this purchase as an investment and as such I should determine how my investment will pay off. I covered this part in the previous blog post: based on the distance I drive to work and school, the cost of maintaining the car, and the cost of gasoline, I was led to believe that my bicycle investment would be paid off within 18 months, and as soon as 12 months.
Finally, based on the above criteria, I narrowed my search down to the Trek Allant which fit into my budget and had all the components I absolutely needed, among which are fenders, rear rack, swept-back handlebars for comfort, bell, kickstand, and 700cc wheels with 35mm wide tires. It did lack all the fancy gear I mentioned above, but that wasn’t a deal breaker.
The technical specifications for the 2010 Allant are no longer available on the Trek website, but the components are not top of the line. However, for the price, they are good enough. Shimano and SRAM feature prominently on the spec sheet, along with the required Bontrager, Trek’s in-house brand.
My only big beef I have about the Allant is that the frame is made of aluminum which renders a pretty stiff ride. This bike is phenomenal on well maintained and newly paved roads because there is no energy loss through the movement of suspension components. Gravel paths are also great if there aren’t too many bumps. These advantages do not apply to my commute so much because I usually ride on suburban side roads, and we all know Waterloo region’s roads are somewhat poorly maintained. There are lots of bumps along the way and I feel every single one of them, which means I have learned to stand while riding through a particularly rough patch. Over the past few years of riding this bicycle I’ve had to replace my rear wheel because it went out of true and could not be brought back to true. I believe this to be a cause of my weight and the rough roads I ride.
Despite this negative aspect, I am very pleased with the performance and the general utility of this bike. I am very comfortable in the saddle due to the upright sitting position, which means I am more likely to ditch the car in the morning. I can ride through puddles and stay perfectly dry due to the full fenders. I can carry anything on the rear rack with my panniers, such as my work clothes, lunch, and other gear. Shifting gears is a simple flick of a lever, as opposed to a twist dial, which means no more guess work with the gears. The little bell comes in handy on multi-use trails when pedestrians take up the whole width of the trail and I need to tell them that they’re about to be handlebar ornaments. Ideally, this bike would have had integrated front and rear lights powered by a hub dynamo, but I have purchased my own dynamo hub wheel and lights (see EDIT #1 below).
The bottom line is that the Allant is a joy to ride in the sun, rain, and even snow. The minor inconvenience of a rough ride through certain spots is certainly overshadowed by knowing that my pedaling power is not wasted through suspension parts. There is so much more to be said about this bicycle, but nothing beats a test drive at your local bike shop. I got mine at Ziggy’s Cycle and Sport but there are other Trek dealers in the area.
After 2 years with this bike, there are some things that need to be said in addition to the article above. My bike has undergone one slight modification from the stock setup, and I can’t help but feel that this feature should be included in the next model release. This feature, of course, is lighting. For a mere $150 I purchased a basic generator hub rim from Amazon, with rim tape, tube, and new tire from a local LBS. The lights I already had from a previous attempt at self-generated power, but a set of lights shouldn’t run more than $20 on Amazon. Why couldn’t Trek include this feature as an option on top of the base model? It would make the Allant the perfect commuter bike.
Another gripe I have about the bike is the handlebar grip design. For the first few miles of a commute they can be downright comfortable, but after that grace period they become really slick from sweat and are fairly uncomfortable to hold for extended periods. I suppose wearing a pair of bike-specific gloves would help, but that’s not really the point. The 2012 Trek Allant has different grips, but I haven’t been able to test them in a commute yet. I’d like to give the 2012 model a try for a day or two, if Ziggy’s will let me.
To conclude this edit, I think I made the right choice for the money I spent. I think the bike will last a long time with regular maintenance and care. Much of the maintenance I can do myself at this point, so it’s not a money pit either. The bike has repaid the investment in gas saved and improved health, and it’s all gravy from now on.
It is now close to 2014 and 3 years since I purchased the Allant. Trek tried to introduce a cheaper version of the Allant for 2013 with only 7 speeds and no rear rack. In 2013 this was the only version of the Allant that was available, but it looks like they came to their senses and brought back the original bike for 2014.
My first impression is that this new version has been improved slightly by the addition of a rack that is set further back. The implication is that there is less of a chance to hit your heels on the panniers mounted to this rack.
Regarding my bike, I’ve had to replace brake pads, chain, cassette (my choice), pedals (my choice), and lights. The brake pads and chain are parts that need to be replaced due to wear and tear. The cassette was replaced because I wanted taller gears for faster speed. I had to replace the cheap plastic Magten lights because I dropped one and it broke. The new lights were purchased from Dutch Bike Bits and are really awesome so far.
The pedals were replaced because I thought the originals made a weird clicking noise, which turned out to be a false assumption. I am now under the assumption that the bottom bracket is making the noise and will look into taking it apart and checking out the issue.
I have added some other accessories as well because I wanted to take my daughter out on rides. I got a Bobike mini child carrier from Dutch Bike Bits, and a Chariot double trailer/stroller. I am quite happy with both these purchases and my daughter loves to go on rides with me.