BSNYC Product Review: Segal Magnesium Road Bicycle

Firstly, I'm pleased to announce the podium order for the BSNYC/RTMS Fat Cyclist Knuckle Tattoo Tribute contest. While votes continue to trickle in, I officially closed the polls this morning-ish, and here are the results:

As you can see, it was a tight race for the top two places, but in the end "Knuckle Pants" managed to edge out "Moose Knuckles" to take the Special Super Deluxe Über Grand Prize and overall victory. So congratulations to the creator of "Knuckle Pants," as well as to all the other prizewinners. Also, if you did not win a prize, do not despair. Firstly, you can still enter Fat Cyclist's latest contest, which could net you an actual crabon fiber road bike with electronic shifting. (Electronic shifting will completely change the way you think about bicycles--assuming, of course, that you previously thought of them as being relatively inexpensive and easily serviceable.) Secondly, Fatty himself has expressed a willingness to offer some additional prizeways of his own, so some of you may still get to hear the sweet, sweet call of free stuff in the not-too-distant future. (If you're among the winners, please give me a little time to get in touch and arrange for delivery, as my helper monkey, Vito, is rather overwhelmed at the moment.)

Incidentally, I noted in yesterday's comments that some readers felt that the "Moose Knuckles" submission was inappropriately named, and that "moose knuckle" is actually the male equivalent of "camel toe." However, in consulting a popular search engine I find that use of the phrase "moose knuckle" seems to vary from person to person and that it's clearly a controversial subject. Furthermore, language (like human genitalia) is constantly evolving, so it seems pointless to assign a specific gender to the term anyway. In the end, I think it all comes down to which appendage the crotchal bulge resembles most. And if you're still concerned that applying the term "moose knuckle" to women can be misleading, you may want to use an alternative like "labial palp" instead:

Speaking of "palping," despite the fact that I am in no way a real bike reviewer, people continue to send me bicycles to test. This time it came in the form of this Segal, which is a magnesium road bike made in Israel:

Now, I maintain that I have no James Huangian aspirations. However, when you're a cyclist and someone asks you if you'd like to try out a bike for free, you should always say "yes." Also, while I did review a crabon fribé road bike some time ago, it was sort of a comfort-oriented faux race bike. The Segal, on the other hand, is an actual race bike, and since I do like to race I was tempted by the notion of sucking on a bicycle other than my own. (Naturally, I mean "suck" as in "perform poorly." I don't recommend actually sucking on any bicycle, even if you were born with a labial palp.) And perhaps most enticing was US distributor Trish Cohen's website, which is charmingly irreverent and higly entertaining:

Yes, Trish Cohen's enthusiasm for Jewish-themed schtick is rivaled only by her love of the Segal bike itself, as you can see from this revealing pictorial on her website:

Trish obviously rides her Segal hard. Note the wayward shoe:

Sure, Jens Voigt may be the hard man of the peloton, but I've never seen his shoe stuck in a venetian blind.

However, I did have one reservation when it came to accepting the Segal: it had already been reviewed by VeloNews:

Frankly, I felt a bit squeamish about accepting VeloNews's "sloppy seconds"--or thirds if you count Cohen's footwear-flinging romp. Ultimately though I decided to cast my reservations aside like a used bidon (that's bike-pretentious for "water bottle"), purse my labial palp, and suck it up.

Obviously, the Segal is something of a two-fold novelty, in that it's made of magnesium and it's Israeli. Clearly, this fact has not eluded Trish Cohen, who is not shy about playing up the Semitic angle in particular in order to get publicity. However, I feel that focusing excessively on the Segal's atypical (for a road bike) provenance is to ignore more pertinent matters. Sure, Cohen's site is funny, but both the bicycle and the prospective buyer deserve to be taken a bit more seriously than that. As such, in sharing my impressions with you I plan to completely ignore the bicycle's Israeli pedigree and instead look only at matters of performance.

Anyway, here's the Segal I got:

Apart from putting on my own pedals and a longer stem, this is the bike as I received it. (Oh, I also added the mix-matched bottle cages to irritate the sorts of people who use white handlebar tape.) From a distance, it looks pretty much like a typical aluminum road bike, which is probably why Segal put decals that say "magnesium" all over it:

At this point, you may be asking in a Jerry Seinfeld voice: "What's the deal with magnesium?" Isn't that the stuff that burns so brightly it can scorch your cornea? Can I get welder's flash if I ride it on a sunny day? Also, doesn't it corrode really easily? Why would you make a bike out of it instead of out of sweet, sweet crabon? Well, I'm certainly no metallurgist, so I can only defer to the people at Segal. Segal is part of a company called Alubin who make all kinds of things out of all kinds of metal and have done so for a long time. In particular, they "manufacture magnesium for automobiles, sound systems, heavy machinery, home appliances and military use" and so they feel magnesium is also a good material for a race bike. Here's their reasoning:

Magnesium is 33% lighter than aluminum and has a much higher dampening capacity than carbon. Dampening capacity is the ability of the material to buffer impacts by means of elastic energy. Thus, all of your energy is transferred to the drivetrain instead of being wasted by the frame flexing. This shock-dampening quality gives magnesium more strength per gram than aluminum, steel or titanium. In addition to making the frame more responsive to accelerations, magnesium's high dampening capacity also helps to protect the frame in the event of a crash.

In other words, it's that old bike industry bruchah with which we're all very familiar: "laterally stiff and vertically compliant." Whether you believe magnesium is indeed a superior material for bikes or whether you think Alubin simply use it because they had a bunch of leftovers laying around after building speakers and tanks is up to you, but since my understanding of metal goes only as far as distinguishing between "shiny" and "not shiny" I'm certainly in no position to dispute them. Anyway, Segal are confident enough in both their claims and their punning ability to use a smooth-soaring seagull for their head tube badge (which is real and riveted on and not a sticker, and which will matter to you if you're the sort of person who uses white handlebar tape):

Oh, and what about the corrosion part? According to Segal, they've got it covered:

Segal has avoided magnesium's problems with corrosion by coating the frame, inside and out, with chrome. Segal also adds three additional layers of chrome on the outer surface.

So basically, Segal's coating resists corrosion as strongly as a Jewish woman stereotypically resists performing oral sex.

But of course the big question when you're reading a bike review--even a fake one like this--is: "What about the bottom bracket junction? Is it beefy?!?" Well, it's not crabon beefy (nor, you can be assured, is it porky) but it does have a lot of welds and gussets around it:

I'm assuming this sort of construction is necessary in order to make the frame do what it's designed to do (which is to not break) since it's clearly not done for aesthetic reasons. Depending on what kind of person you are, you might think this is refreshing and that the bike looks purposeful--you might even be relieved that Segal prefer not to waste time thinking about how to make stuff look pretty and instead simply get the job done. Or, if you're the kind of person who uses white handlebar tape, you'll probably find the whole thing disgusting. Either way, the world of road bikes is increasingly one of extremes, with bulbous crabon formations in one hemisphere and "exquisite lugs" in the other. This bike is neither, and if you like the idea of a bike that seems like it was built by someone who also builds lethal weapons (which is because it probably was) you'll probably find yourself "feeling" its weldway.

So How Does it Ride?

I do not doubt there are important differences in frame materials. However, in terms of differences that you can actually perceive on something as relatively simple and small as a road bike, there are many, many things that will affect the ride more than the substance from which the frame is made. Really, attempting to determine the ride quality of a frame with a bunch of parts around it is like trying to determine the stiffness of your floor by walking around on your dining room table. For example, the Segal fit me well, but it was smaller than my usual road bike. This meant the handling was a bit more pronounced. Some reviewers might then say that "the inherent properties of the oversized magnesium tubes made for a ride that was snappy yet resilient." No it didn't; the bike was just smaller. Also, the Segal came with a SRAM Red group. My usual road bike does not have a SRAM group, Red or otherwise. Trust me, when you're riding around on a completely different set of shifters than the one you're used to, it's the shifters and not the frame material informing your experience--just like if you're making out and fondling someone's buttocks you're really not noticing their feet.

However, there are things that you do notice on a race bike, like weight. I'm not talking about a few grams here and there. I'm talking about multiple pounds. The Segal frame is light, which is good for racing. You also notice things like odd geometry, or improper fit, or bad placement of braze-ons, or weird dropouts that make it difficult to change wheels or don't allow you to close certain skewers. (It's getting increasingly difficult to use the superior enclosed cam skewers on newer frames.) The Segal didn't have these things, which was also good. You also notice stuff like proprietary bottom brackets, headsets, or seatpost clamps, which can make it difficult to replace things quickly and cheaply or disassemble a bicycle to travel. (When you race a lot, you need to replace things and travel.) The Segal didn't have that stuff either.

I did multiple races on the Segal (all of which I passed), as well as long road rides (though sadly none of the road rides were "epic" since nobody was wearing Rapha). Naturally, I have complaints, but none of them have anything to do with Segal. For example, as a person who does not use white bar tape, I don't like white saddles either--things that come in contact with either your hands or your posterior really shouldn't be white (except for toilet paper, of course). Otherwise, you've either got to clean everything frequently, or else replace it altogether, which means you're constantly running off to the LBS for supplies:

As you can see, the white saddle is already looking a little schmutzy:

Sadly, the shop was closed, so I figured that in the meantime it might at least help to cover the saddle when not in use. However, those Brooks saddle covers seemed somehow inappropriate, so I improvised:

Also, you might have noticed the "My First Tallis-N-Teffilin" kit in the shop window, and speaking of wrapping things the bars were covered with that faux carbon bar tape:

Personally, I find that stuff about as comfortable to hold as an angry hyrax.

But again, all of this is simply personal preference, and otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed the bike. Of course, when you actually buy a bike, you're not so much paying for the ride quality as you are for the image and marketing. Since any decently-engineered race frame that fits you will be pretty much the same, it all comes down to what you want to say with your bike, how much money you have, and to whom you want to give it. You can race just as well on a cheap mass-produced frame as you can on an expensive custom-built one. Furthermore, many of the expensive non-custom frames now are made in the same few factories in Asia. And while the Segal's not exactly cheap, it's not ridiculously expensive for a light race bike, and it's also handmade in Israel, which may mean something to some people. Because let's face it--this bike gets Jews excited:

Though you certainly don't need to be Jewish to ride one:

Furthermore, you also may feel strongly for reasons of your own that magnesium is indeed a great frame material, in which case the Segal is less expensive than other magnesium frames such as the Zinn Mortirolo (Lennard Zinn really should have called it the "Mag-a-Zinn," which also sounds kind of like someone saying "Magazine" with an Israeli accent):

Or the Pinarello Dogma (which costs $5,500 for the frame and fork, and which has a name that people who are not religiously orthodox might find off-putting):

As far as whether or not a magnesium bicycle is durable over the long term, quite frankly I have no idea (which is yet another reason why bicycle reviews are ridiculous), though Trish Cohen assures me that the bicycle does have a warranty and I'm sure that if you're interested in a Segal she will be happy to provide you with the particulars. In any case, in keeping with road bike review tradition, I've devised a rating system to apply to the Segal, and I'm pleased to announce I'm giving it seven out of eight Hanukkah Cysts:

Of course, if before I return my Segal it should suddenly fall apart like an emotional person at a Barbara Streisand concert I reserve the right to remove some or all of them. In the meantime though, thanks very much to Trish Cohen and to Segal. And remember, you don't have to be Jewish to ride a Segal:

But you should like magnesium, lots of gussets, and pointy chainstays.

automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine