Thursday, December 12, 2019

New Outside Column!

Remember how yesterday I said riding inside was the new gravel?  Well, in the spirit of remaining steadfastly behind the curve, here's your guide to getting in on the whole gravel thing:

Given my unbroken record of never, ever having participated in Dirty Kanza I'm clearly an authority on the subject of riding bicycles over very small rocks.

Happy pebbling!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Gravel Is Out, Linoleum Is In

Remember when all the cool people were riding on gravel?  Well, it looks like riding drop-bar bicycles over tiny pebbles is over.  According to Strava, your living room is the new gravel:

Indeed, in January of this year over 15% of Strava dorks uploaded indoor rides:

While this may sound like a lot to you, as a Strava user myself it seems incredibly low to me, because I haven't seen anyone log an actual outdoor ride since at least October.  No, it's all Zwift rides now.  "Wow, I wonder what so-and-so is up to," you think, and then you check the route map of their latest ride and see that like 90% of it is underwater:

Alas, following people on Strava now is basically like eating grated parmesan: you think you're getting the real thing, but a distressing percentage of it is just artificial filler.

Of course, just as I've become a total Strava wanker, I'd no doubt be Zwifting too if only it weren't for my living arrangement, which is probably the only thing keeping me honest.  See, space is at a premium here in the Tenovo household, and I'm not about to drag a trainer into the mix.  I'm sure if I lived in the suburbs I'd be Zwifting my life away in the basement on a daily basis, partially because I'd have the space, and partially because when you move out of New York City you're not allowed to take your pride beyond the city limits.  (I do have a little pride left, though the space required to store it is yet another reason I can't fit a trainer in my home.)  As of now, however, I simply pretend I'm taking a bold ethical stance.

Then again, it's not too hard to ride outside all winter long here.  Single-digit temperature days are fairly rare, and in the event of snow the city salts the streets like a pretzel and plows them more or less immediately.  This means that at the very least I can at least manage a ride down to Central Park, which is what I did today:

We'd gotten some light snow this morning, but prior to that it had been warm and rainy, meaning the trails would be far too soggy.  So I set out on the Milwaukee for an urban ride instead:

As you may recall, the rear hub on the Milwaukee is rather draggy.  So before setting out I solved the problem by ditching those wheels and putting on different ones:

In fact, they're the very same ones the bike arrived with in the first place--Shimano RS21s, a cheap pair of wheels they don't seem to make anymore:

I've abused them on various bikes since then and they've given me nothing to complain about.

I also replaced the brake pads, since I just happened to have two fresh pairs I must have bought some time ago in an uncharacteristic fit of preparedness.  The upshot of all this labor is that the bike stops, the chain doesn't sag, and as of now I can even access more or less all my gear combinations!

I'm ready for winter.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Rudderless and Fenderless

This morning a window presented itself between rain showers, and so I headed out once again on the Tresca:

I've been enjoying this bike as a winter workhorse, and on a whim I swung by their website to see what was new.  As it happens, it looks like they're now having their own artisanal hand-curated IPO:

Confession: way back in the 20th century, when Cannondale went public, I bought some shares.  It probably won't surprise you to know those shares became worthless in fairly short order.  There were a number of reasons for this, including a foray into motocross bikes on Cannondale's part, which I probably don't have to tell you was fucking stupid.  Anyway, those shares sat in my account with a value of roughly $0 ever since, until just a few weeks ago when my brokerage account finally zorched them from my balance sheet.

If only I'd invested that money in Amazon or Google instead of Cannondale I'd probably be typing this from a diamond-encrusted sofa, instead of the food-encrusted sofa I'm typing this from now.

So it's up to you whether or not you want to invest in a startup bike company, but if you do you should sell as soon as they start talking about motocross bikes.  Either way, you can subscribe to my financial advice newsletter here.

As for my ride, I wasn't sure where to go.  Rain was imminent, and given yesterday's deluge I knew River Road over in Jersey would probably be strewn with debris.  So I decided to roll around the city limits check out the new bike lane on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx:

The lane runs along the New York Botanical Gardens, and the ghost bike in the distance is for Heather Lough, whose killer received the customary wrist-slapping.  I was exceedingly pleased to learn that the DOT had finally put a bike lane here, since I take my kids to the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo by bike from time to time (the two institutions are adjacent to each other), but until now once you got to Southern Boulevard there was zero bike infrastructure and you were on your own.  (Southern Boulevard is too hectic for kids, which means you've pretty much got no choice but to take to the sidewalk.)  So this project could be potentially transformative--at least for me, anyway, which is what's really important--and as such I had high hopes.

Well, hopefully this is a work-in-progress at a very early stage, because so far I am not impressed.  Firstly, it's a two-way bike lane, but there are no markings to that effect, save for the portion that runs past the entrance to the Botanical Gardens parking lot:

Also, most of the bike lane was full of buses:

And when I say full, I mean it:

Even without the buses, riding south along the painted "buffer" was mildly disconcerting what with the car traffic barreling towards you and all, and obviously with the buses there the whole thing is utterly useless. 

I mean I don't want to jump to any conclusions here, since the city may only just be getting started, but if that paint is all that's going to stand between motor vehicle and the bike lane then this ain't gonna work.

From there, I continued on with no particular destination in mind, as you can see from my weird route:

Actually, the route map also looks kind of like a rudder, which is ironic.

Eventually I decided I'd head down to Central Park, then I headed back up the west side of Manhattan, and at around the George Washington Bridge the rain started coming down, so I was nice and soggy by the time I got home--but it was a good soggy, for somehow when I head out for a ride I always arrive home happier than I was when I left.

Though maybe it's just relief that I made it alive.

Monday, December 9, 2019

I've Just Been Handed An Urgent And Horrifying News Story...

Further to Friday's post about winter bikes, for off-season road riding that's not quite sloppy enough to warrant full wheelbrows, I've been riding the Tresca, shown here in the exact spot where I fell headlong into my own urine back in 2009:

How many bike bloggers have as rich and storied a history as me?

Not too many.

By the way, you'll be pleased to know that this time around I relieved myself without falling down, of which I am very proud.

Anyway, the Tresca is ideal for this time of year, mostly because its silver and black color scheme disappears into the melancholy winter backdrop almost completely:

Also, you may remember two things about the Tresca:

1) It is a prototype with an incorrectly placed brake bridge, resulting in MetroCard-thin rear tire clearance;

B) I exploded the rear tire recently after riding over something sharp in Yonkers.

Well, I've since replaced the severed tire with a 25mm Continental Gatorskin I found in my tire pile.  (Anyone who's been riding for more than a few years has both a tire pile and a punctured inner tube pile.)  Not only was this frugal inasmuch as I didn't have to pay for a new tire, but I actually made money since I finally got the dollar back that I used to boot the old one.  Now that's how you monetize a bike blog.  Also, even though the destroyed tire was also a Continental, and also ostensibly 25mm wide, the Gatorskin turned out to be quite a bit narrower, which upgraded the clearance from one (1) MetroCard to two (2) Discover cards:

Yeah, it's still pretty tight, but now I don't actually hear grit hitting the brake bridge when I ride through puddles.

So you can put that problem in the "solved" folder, and then drag and drop that file right in the trash because you probably didn't care anyway.

Moving on, there's been a bit of bike world blowback regarding a recent story in which a pair of bro-bags set a cross-country Cannonball Run record in a douched-out Mercedes.  I first heard about it from Peter Flax's Twitter:
Then Joe Lindsey wrote about it in Bicyling:

His point being, basically, this:

While I do agree with both of them in spirit I can't quite manage to get worked up about this stunt or the fact that people think it's cool--and not just because I used to love the 1981 movie of the same name:

I haven't seen it since I was like 10 years old, and can only imagine that in 2019 it's completely awful in every way.

No, the reason I can't get worked up over it is that I don't actually think a couple of car freaks driving across the country as fast as possible is "everything that's wrong with the car culture."  On the contrary, I think the millions of inattentive people who make short trips in giant SUVs on a daily basis are everything that's wrong with car culture.  Or, to put it more succinctly, here's everything that's wrong with car culture:
Basically, "car culture" is a heady melange of grotesque entitlement and complete and utter obliviousness.  For all the douche-tastic hijinx of the Cannonball Run stunt, at least it requires some degree of focus and precludes squandering a bunch of time on tormenting cyclists.  Again, I'm not disagreeing with either Peter Flax or Joe Lindsey exactly, but I just think it doesn't make sense to frame the Cannonball Run as an indictment of car culture in the same way it doesn't make sense to use Lucas Brunelle to frame your argument against cyclists:

Sure, I can't stand the antics of Lucas Brunelle, who to me is not so much an athlete or a daredevil as he is a purveyor of vehicular cycling porn.  At the same time, his brand of niche douchery is fairly self-contained--well, most of the time, anyway--and, ultimately, meaningless.  Similarly, if you're a cyclist, it's probably not people driving around in WRXes with "shocker" decals who are causing you consternation.  If anything, whatever your chosen stunt vehicle, at least identifying as an "outlaw" precludes the sort of entitlement the woman in the pickup feels, since you can't really feel like you "own the road" when your whole schtick is basically that you're stealing it.

So yeah, I'm not worried about the drivers making a Cannonball Run once a year so much as I'm worried about the ones making the school run on a daily basis.

Finally, with the holidays right around the corner, here's a gratuitous reminder that a tool roll makes a great gift:

There, I just finished your holiday shopping for you.

Friday, December 6, 2019

An Ode To The Winter Bike

J.D. Salinger once said:

"The hardest thing about writing is laying down that first line.  So every morning I sit down, crack my knuckles, and type, 'fuckityfuckityfuckfuckfuck.'  After that the prose practically flows from my fingers like beer piss.'"

Please note the above quotation it completely made up.  I don't want to get in trouble again.


Right, so back in the spring of 2017 I signed on with New York City advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives to write their "Bike Forecast."  The idea was you'd wake up, pour yourself a piping hot mug of Bike Snob coffee:

(It makes a great holiday gift!)

Then you'd peruse the Bike Forecast and get caught up on the weather, bike-related news, DOT advisories, etc. before heading into the New York City street fuckery.

(Also somewhere in there you'd go to the bathroom, but I don't need to walk you through the whole process.)

Anyway, I mention this because this morning marked the final Bike Forecast post, and going forward the bike commuters of New York City will have to read something else while going to the bathroom.  And while I'll miss curating the Forecast--it was as much a part of my routine as going to the bathroom--no longer doing so will afford me more time to spend over here on this blog, and now that I look around the place I realize it sure could use some upgrading.  Maybe I'll even install a bidet.

 Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will continue to cement my position as the World's Most Thorough Bike Reviewer.  For example, we are now well into year four of my ongoing review of the Milwaukee road bike, which I received way back in 2015:

Well, a lot's happened since then.  Disc brakes took over, gravel bikes got big, and also a certain real estate developer became president.  (Coincidence?  I think not.)  And yet I'm still cranking away on the Milwaukee, and I still love it.  Here it is on the Col du Maison de Snack earlier this week:

Basically, the Milwaukee is a classic road bike with a sporty/racy geometry, except it also takes medium-reach brakes so you can fit it with wider tires and/or fenders--you know, all the stuff you "need" disc brakes in order to do.  (I have nothing against disc brakes, but if you don't feel like making the switch because you appreciate the simplicity of rim brakes or you have like 20 years worth of spare rim brake parts to go through it's good to know there's still a bike out there for you.)  In my time with this bike our relationship has changed and evolved: at first I basically used it as a "gravel" bike (mixed-terrain rides), but as I became a plus-tire convert and eventually a full-on Jones cult member I forewent the Milwaukee for those sorts of rides and instead outfitted it with skinny tires and fenders for messy-weather road riding.

"Winter road bike" is not a glamorous career for a bicycle, but in a place like New York it is an essential one.  From December through April it's crucial to have a bike for those days when the trails are too snowy or muddy, and the roads are rideable yet wet with snow run-off and strewn with salt.  Wide tires are not especially necessary during this time (you're not taking off-road detours when it's 40 degrees and the trails are slushy), but full-coverage fenders are, and a bike like this will see you through all but the very worst days.

Of course, conditions like these take their toll on bikes and components.  In fact, by the time the fall rolled around the Milwaukee was in rough shape, so I sidelined it until I had a chance to give it an overhaul.  Then December rolled around and I needed my winter road bike, at which point I decided it was silly to put new stuff on a bike that was just going to be subjected to months of salt and road spray, so I lubed the rusty chain, played with the derailleur until it would shift into all the gears again, and hit the road:

Yes, there's about 200 grams of extra grime and sludge on this bike, but it's still operating pretty smoothly, all things considered.  Really, the only issues are: 1) That the front shifting requires a little extra force, possibly due to the bent derailleur I had to subsequently un-bend, or possibly due to the digger I took on the Old Croton Aqueduct when I broke my thumb, or, most likely, both; and 2) the rear hub is super draggy:

I bought this hub as part of a second-hand wheelset many years ago, and being overbuilt as Chris King components are, it's now on its second rim with plenty of life in it.  At the same time, even after opening it up and lubing it it's always been draggy to the point that the chain will droop and hit the chainstay if I backpedal.  So I've basically relegated it to winter duty, where performance is secondary to imperviousness to the elements.

Other issues I've been loath to address include this unsightly gap between fender and rear tire:

Basically, these are the same fenders that were on my old Scattante:

Because of the way these fenders are designed you've basically got to remove the stays and cut them in order to get everything lined up perfectly.  Being the lazy person I am I was of course reluctant to bother with all that again, so when I put them on the Milwaukee and they didn't interfere with the tire I figured that was good enough and that was that.

The bar tape is also in really rough shape:

I've been meaning to change that, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like the proper attitude is, "Why bother?"

The one thing I will change before riding it again are the brake pads, which are virtually nonexistent:

I was easily one or two wet descents away from metal-on-metal, though fortunately I had my draggy Chris King hub to help slow me down.

Nevertheless, the Milwaukee still manages to emit a faint glow of class from beneath the grunge, thanks in part to the raised stainless downtube badge:

And head badge:

In a way it's a real shame I subject it to this sort of treatment.  This is a reasonably priced frame and fork made out of good quality tubing by Waterford and is well-deserving of a Campagnolo group and some fair-weather prancing about.  (Yes, I'm a born-again Campagnolo fan thanks to my New-To-Me Titanium "Forever Bike.")  Indeed, it appears the Potenza group is available in silver:

Milwaukee offer a whole bunch of colors, but seems to me you pair that with one of these and you've got yourself an extremely genteel Fred chariot:

That being said, apart from the aforementioned front shifting issues, the 10-speed 105 stuff on this bike has held up very well, and as a bonus it's also silver.  (I do like silver road bike groups, which I imagine won't be available much longer.)

And while I'm at it, I might as well pivot to another long-term bike review subject, that being the Brompton:

On Monday I rode it to the radio show, and yesterday morning I was sitting on the couch and staring at the wall like I usually when a text message reminded me I had a dentist appointment in like an hour.  Yikes!  Fortunately the Brompton was still sitting by the front door, so I grabbed it and off I went.  I didn't even bring so much as a lock, which was totally fine since I just left it in the waiting room while they went at my pearly yellows with the belt sander.

See that?  A Brompton will pay for itself in preventative dental maintenance alone.  Without it I'd probably have skipped the appointment and my teeth would eventually have fallen out.  Then I'd need to pay Renovo to make me a set of wooden ones...

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

New Outside Column!

Here's my latest Outside column, and it's about the folly of ticketing people on bikes:

Please do not read this as a self-serving "Woe is me, I had to pay a fine!" screed.  Frankly, as a semi-professional bike blogger a $190 ticket is merely a relatively small business expense that has already yielded me not only a column in a mainstream publication (see above) but also a new brand name for me, that being Tan Tenovo:

See, I was ticketed while riding my erstwhile Renovo; the cop noted it a "Tan Tenovo" on the ticket, and this in turn served as the genesis of my latest alter ego.

So no, if anything the ticket was a gift I'm still wringing material from a year and a half later, and what I'm lamenting is all the people out there for whom a $190 fine is actually a crushing blow and yet another reason to swear off bikes and say, "Fuck it, I'm leasing a Hyundai."

Speaking of the Renovo, when you're done reading the column you can swing over to Classic Cycle and pay it a visit.  It is, quite literally, a museum piece.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Radio Is Podcasting For Retrogrouches

Grab your Little Orphan Annie secret decoder rings, because now you can stream my radio show from yesterday!

Spoiler alert, but I'm afraid you're going to be rather disappointed in the message:

See what I mean?

As it happens, yesterday we also received our first shipment of foul winter weather.  Generally I relish the opportunity to ride to the studio in Brooklyn, for in cutting a great swath through the heart of this city I get to observe and experience much fuckery, and it's precisely my firsthand knowledge of said fuckery that makes me the engaging and authoritative radio host that I am.  At the same time, with the weather set to worsen as the day wore on I didn't necessarily want to commit to a round-trip, since when it comes to fuckery consumption even I have my limits.  And so I opted for the Brompton:

The Brompton is in many ways the ideal New York City commuting bicycle, and not just because you can fold it up and hop on the subway when you hit your fuckery threshold.  For example, the tiny wheels are also an advantage.  Oh sure, we may have potholes in this town large enough to swallow an entire Brompton, which means you've got to pay a little extra attention, but it's well worth it for one simple reason: smaller wheels equal less wheel spray.  See, between the fenders and the mudflap and the tiny wheel diameter there's a very comfortable distance between you and all that winter sludge.  Also, the bike's diminutive overall size makes it highly maneuverable in traffic, which is especially helpful when the streets are even more crowded due to snow.

But yeah, obviously the real advantage is the folding.  Not only was I able to tuck it away on the corner (and drape my Inspector Gadget jacket over it) when it was not in use:

But after the show, with the snow beginning to fall in earnest, I was also able to say "Fuck it" and hop on the subway for the ride home.

And isn't being able to say "Fuck it" whenever you feel like it what living is all about?

You're welcome for the free ad slogan, Brompton.

By the way, if you saw me on the subway straddling my British folding bike and wearing both a hand-tailored jacket and a smug grin, you'd probably have thought, "That looks like precisely the sort of asshole who's in love with the sound of his own voice"--and you'd be absolutely right, because I spent the entire ride listening to my own radio show.

Moving on to full-sized bikes, Cyclingnews gravel-splains why your next tiny pebble-specific bike needs to be made from the crabon:
Basically, it's because crabon has "infinite diversity:"
This is a great point.  Other frame materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium have one or maybe two molecules at most.  It's true, I learned about it in science.  Something about Avocado's number and how many molecules fit inside a Mole.  A lot of chemistry is about dips and sauces.

This was also compelling:

Oh please.  Sure, crabon is good for making racing bikes.  It's light, it's strong, and it rides good.  There are certainly valid reasons to choose a bike made from it.  But if you're being tormented by "small-bump juddering" and suffering from "terrain induced vibration fatigue" you're either using the wrong tires or you need to find another leisure sport.  I'd recommend one that involves making no contact with the ground whatsoever, such as boating.  (Bonus: you still get to obsess over crabon.)

That said, I'm totally getting a crabon folding bike.  Just think how much more efficient my commute will be when portaging it over the subway turnstile...