Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Outside Column!

Hey everybody, look!  I have a new Outside column on the Internet about how drivers should keep their fucking mouths shut at all times!

You know how it is: when that window starts going down you know with 100% certainty that something stupid's gonna come out of it.  Maybe it's just a "Duh, where am I?," or maybe it's a full-on slur, but regardless, it's time someone engaged the child lock on these fuckers once and for all.

Moving on, I'm on Ol' Piney again today:

Why Ol' Piney instead of the Jones?  Well I had to bring The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back to the garage, I wanted to go for a ride after, and my roof rack won't accept thru-axles.

Don't worry, I didn't address any cyclists during my brief drive.  Well, except the roadie I tailed for 15 minutes and then pulled alongside so I could subject him to a tedious analysis of his pedal stroke.

That doesn't count, right?

By the way, when the gasoline-powered recumbent is finished at the garage it should have a hitch receiver on it, which should greatly facilitate chubby bike haulage.  I do have my reservations though, because when they asked me what I was going to be carrying and I replied, "Bicycles," they acted really relieved.  I probably should have said "Boat" so they'd think I was towing something heavy, but now that they know it's just some bikes they'll probably stick the receiver on there with bubble gum and hose clamps.

(Also, if you're wondering why someone who writes so much about the evils of automobiles uses one himself, it's only because I'm a gigantic hypocrite.)

Speaking of the Jones and unsolicited critiques, here's a comment someone left on yesterday's post:

Get a thudbuster! Hard tails really need one. Also the bike is clearly too small for you . So thudbuster and shorter stem will make it greater.

Oy.  [Insert Picard Facepalm meme here.]

Firstly, in all my commentary about this bike, where was the part where I complained about the goddman bumps?  My whole thing is that I like riding bikes without suspension.  So why, after finally procuring a bike from Jeff Jones, a lavishly bearded man who has dedicated his entire career to crafting suspension-free bicycles, would I put a bouncy seatpost of all things on it?  I mean if someone wants to use a Thudbuster then by all means go for it, but come on.

Secondly, the bike is not too small.  The recommended height for the medium is 5'7" to 6'2".  I am 5'10" soaking wet.  (I'm taller when dry because of my hair.)  Also, I don't know Jeff well, but based on my interactions with him it's clear he's a very thorough individual, and not the sort of person who's wont to send you the wrong size bike when he's launching a new career-defining product.  And if it's the spacers that are throwing you, keep in mind you gotta have room for the truss fork when you really go Full Jones:

Penultimately, here's another comment from yesterday:

Pabateman said...

Snob, I would be excited by a new bike too, hell, i used to be excited by one when i dropped the frame off for fresh fresh fresh yellow paint about 7 weeks ago....

But you couldn't cobble together one line about stage 9?

Kidding. Just wanted to say cobble. But was nice sunday race for fans of 25 to 28mm 

32 is best though. Science and Lob have seemed it true.

I did watch Stage 9.  In fact, I was enjoying it so much I didn't even bother going for a ride myself.  Also, I think the excitement of the stage sort of permeated the household, because afterwards I took my three year-old outside and he rode a bike with pedals for the very first time:

Now every single member of the household except for the cat can ride a bike, which means my work here is done and fatherhood is just coasting from here on in.

(He insisted on the helmet by the way.) 

Finally, yesterday I rode the forbidding Trails Behind the Mall, and on the way there I passed some police activity which turned out to be this:

YONKERS - A man who was found dead near Tuckahoe Road Monday morning was shot "numerous times," police said.

Police said Monday evening they are investigating the suspicious death. 

Just another idyllic day out on the bike.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Reasonably Priced Chubby-Tired Bicycle Shootout!

Okay, well not really, but as you know I recently took delivery of a Jones SWB Plus complete bicycle:

And since the fall of 2015 I have been in possession of a Marin Pine Mountain, which in the ensuing years I have thoroughly Jones-ified:

This of course raises the question:


Okay, Jesus Christ, calm down!  First of all, I've only had the Jones for a little over a week, and it takes months to get to really get to know a bicycle.  However, as of today I have now done essentially the same ride on both bikes, and I'm at least ready to share some first impressions with regard to how they compare.

For my testing grounds, I have been using Sprain Ridge Park, which the NYCMTB page describes thusly:

Sprain is a mix of technical cross country, fast flowy trails and big freeride lines. It’s located on the top of a small ridge line, so there’s plenty of exposed rock to play on. Many expert lines are located just to the side of the main trail, making it a great place for groups of varying abilities, but to enjoy Sprain, you should really be an intermediate rider with good technical skills. Beginner trails are located on the West side of the park (the beginner trail head is marked on the map below), and are considerably less technical than the intermediate and advanced trails. For the fearless, there are drops ranging from 2 feet to 10+, gap drops, numerous steep rollers and a growing number of skinny log rides. Keep your eyes peeled to the sides of the trail for hidden gems.

I can reach Sprain by bike from my home in under an hour without trying very hard, which has made it my go-to all-terrain cycling destination since I smartened up and moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx back in 2012.

Since taking delivery of the Jones I've ridden it up to Sprain three times, and I've made a point of doing more or less the same ride each time so I can get to know the bike.  My most recent ride was this past Saturday, and after lowering the bars a touch and nudging the saddle back a hair I'm prepared to say that I've got my position on the bike pretty much dialed.  Note that I have changed the saddle since I just couldn't hang with the one it came with, but other than that everything's stock and assuming it continues to hold up I can't see any reason to change any of it:

Therefore, with a fairly good sense of how the Jones behaves at Sprain, I figured it was about time to head up there on the Marin, which I did this morning:

Of course the weenie move would be to analyze the Strava data for each bike and compare them.  I'm not going to do that as there were far too many variables.  For example, my first time up at Sprain on the Jones I was rusty from spending way too much time road-Fredding recently, and my last time up at Sprain on the Jones I went early in the morning when it was like 10 degrees cooler and so I felt very sprightly, whereas today on the Marin it was very hot so I rode more slowly and lazily, but even so I still managed to sweat so much that it looked like I had wet my jorts:

Most importantly, when I'm riding a bike with chubby tires pretty much the last thing I'm worried about is how fast I'm going, so even if one bike were demonstrably faster than the other I wouldn't really give a shit.

No, the real metric here is feel.  But before I address that, let's briefly consider the objective stuff, by which I mean the various holes and parts and stuff, as well as the amount of dollars you'll need in order to get each bike.  The Jones costs $1,799 and this is what you get:

The Marin Pine Mountain costs $989.99, though it is different today than when I took delivery of it, and it now looks like this:

Of course the first thing you notice is that the Marin is considerably cheaper.  However, for the purposes of this post we're comparing the Jones to my Marin-That's-Been-Turned-Into-A-Jones.  And if you're going to turn a Pine Mountain into a Jones facsimile you're probably end up spending another couple hundred dollars.  (Bars, stem, grips, tape, new cables, and so forth.)

Moving on, let's address wheel holes.  My Pine Mountain has old-fashioned quick release axles with "traditional" mountain bike spacing, whereas the new ones have 141x9mm axles in the rear and 110x9 axles in the front.  As I seem to recall from a commenter recently, this new unique-to-Marin setup makes using different parts very difficult, but I have no first-hand experience with it so I'm just going to throw up my hands and roll my eyes innocently.  I can understand why they'd move away from the old-fashioned axles to a wider spacing, since on my bike the chain does hit the tire from time to time.  However, I don't mind this, and I also like that I can use my Pine Mountain with all the old stuff I've got lying around, such as skewers, 29er wheels, and even fork mount roof rack trays.  

As for the Jones, it's got a 148x12 Boost thru-axle in the rear and a 150x15mm fat bike-sized thru-axle in the front.  All of this is hopelessly newfangled to me, but it is now fairly standard stuff, so fitting aftermarket parts shouldn't be a problem--though it's become clear to me I'm going to have to suck it up and get a hitch rack for The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back.  (I don't drive to rides very much these days, but, you know, sometimes I do.)

Both bikes have thread-in bottom brackets like The Great Lobster On High intended, but the Marin (mine, anyway) has a "regular" crank whereas the Jones has a Boost-compatible crank.

The components are pretty much on par.  Both bikes have Shimano Deore 1x10 shifting.  (Though my Marin came with Sram 1x10 shifting.)  The Marin has Shimano hydraulic brakes with 160/180 rotors in the rear and front respectively, whereas the Jones has Tektro mechanicals and 180/200 rotors.  So far the Tektros are great, and anyway I'm currently using mechanicals on Ol' Piney as you may recall.

Both the Jones and the Marin have steel frames with like a zillion bosses on them.  I'm not going to do a side-by-side comparison of all the mounting points because long-distance multi-day rides that require carrying lots of stuff are simply incompatible with my lifestyle.  Suffice to say each bike can carry lots of shit.

The Ride

I love Ol' Piney.  Indeed, it's Ol' Piney that set me off on the path to Jonesdom.  And when I set off on it this morning I loved it just as much as I did before I received the Jones.

However, so far my impression of the Jones is that it's a more nimble and at the same time more balanced bike fore and aft than the Marin (or at least the Marin as I've curated it).  You notice this when you hop over logs--it feels like you're sitting more in the middle of the Jones, and so the front and rear wheels come up and over a little more naturally.  (The Jones makes you want to hop over things more.)  It's also better on climbs, particularly twisty ones: on the Marin the front wheel kind of wants to pop up, especially if you hit a rock or a root, whereas the Jones fees more planted--yet at the same time it makes you want to pop wheelies.  (In fact I attempted to oblige some teenagers who requested a wheelie as I passed, and while my wheelie was brief and pathetic it did pass muster with them, so there.)  Overall I'd venture to say the Jones is a snappier and more lively bike than the Marin, including on the road where getting out of the saddle and rocking the bike back and forth feels maybe a little more natural.

Conversely, while the Jones climbs better, the Marin is probably a more stable descender.  Also, I don't know what the number say, but I definitely get more pedal strike on the Jones.  It's not a big deal or anything, but it's one of those things to get used to.

All of this notwithstanding, I've only had the Jones for a little over a week, so all of this is a first impression.  I reserve the right to revise or walk back any or all of these observations at any time.  

So Which Is Better?

Well, if you already know you want a Jones-style bicycle (a go-anywhere bike that's ready for anything) that's easy: the Jones is better.  Is it so much better that if I were an ordinary civilian I'd abandon my Marin-That's-Been-Turned-Into-A-Jones and spend the $1,799 for an actual Jones?  Not necessarily; the Marin took me most of the way there.  However, knowing what I know now, if I were starting from scratch and deciding between the two I'd obviously go for the Jones, even given the higher price.  

Of course I'm not a civilian, though.  I'm a semi-professional bike blogger.  Therefore the onus is on me to suffer through having both bicycles and continue to compare and contrast them, which I fully intend to do.  

Hey, it sucks riding all these bikes, but someone has to do it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

This Just In: Test Bike Revealed!

*UPDATE: Specs, ordering info, etc. now on the Jones site here*

I stand behind my tweet of yesterday in which I expressed this sentiment:
Nevertheless, when it comes to both fun and versatility you'd be hard-pressed to out-awesome a bike with voluminous tires and a wide gear ratio like the one I've been testing:

Which I can now identify as the Jones Plus SWB complete:

Yes, that's right, complete, like right out of the box.  Why is this a big deal?  Well, let's just say you're someone with a bike like this:

You like riding trails, but you also ride to and from the trails.  And while you love the bike you'd also like a variety of hand positions so you can enjoy the to-and-from part as much as the singletrack part.  So you install a Jones Loop Bar and eventually you wind up with this:

Now you love the bike even more, but having basically turned your bike into a Jones you realize that now you want an actual Jones.  After all, you're never going to put a suspension fork on that suspension-corrected bike, and Jones bikes are designed as though bicycle suspension doesn't even exist, which you find tremendously appealing.  However, getting a Jones isn't necessarily a cheap proposition.  Even the least expensive frame and fork is more than a thousand bucks, and you've got to build it up from there.

I think you know where I'm going with this:

Well now you can!  The Jones Plus SWB complete is $1,799 and here's the story:

(Wow, he's really good at riding bikes.)

I've been sold on Jeff Jones's approach to bikes for awhile now, so when told me he was going to offer a complete bike and asked me if I wanted to try it I politely replied "Send it the fuck over here right now."  Pretty soon after, this arrived:

Right away I opened it:

Took out the bike:

And got to work:

The bicycle arrived mostly assembled and what little I had to do was very straightforward, so before long I had a ready-to-ride bicycle on my hands:

Since putting the bike together this past weekend I've gotten three rides in on it, including a couple of forays into the forbidding Trails Behind the Mall:

I'll save any attempt at nuanced evaluation for a later date (with 60-ish miles on the bike so far I'm only just getting to know it), but for now I'll just say I've been enjoying this bike enormously.  It became clear to me early on that I was never going to get along with the saddle and so I've changed it (changing the saddle on a new complete bike is pretty much a given), but other than that all the components seem solid and I'm looking forward to many more rides on it:

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sorry for my absence but...

...I was off riding a bicycle in Queens:

Trust me, riding bicycles in the middle of a weekday is the very last thing I'd like to do, but being a semi-professional bike blogger is hard work.  See, I've got to ride all my knobby-tired bikes as much as possible so I can get a better perspective on that mystery bike I'm testing:

So is Jones revealing his first recumbent?

I'm not telling!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

This Just In: Ironman Has Rust In Brain

The day has already gotten out from under me like a triathlon bike from beneath its rider, so I'll just take this as an opportunity to share with you the dumbest cycling-related tweet I've seen in awhile:

You'd think that with a sphincter that tight Christopher Brisley's entire anal canal would have exploded in a hail of congealed energy goo years ago.

What a putz.

Also, I should mention that yes, I've seen this:

I know I'm supposed to hate it but I can't be the only one who doesn't think, "Still with the derailleurs?" at least once a day.  Not that I think this is the future of drivetrains necessarily, and I realize that at this point this is just a glorified Lazy Susan, but I for one welcome our new derailleur-less overlords in whatever form they may ultimately take.  Derailleurs were awesome technology like 70 years ago, but I think it's well past time that we moved on.

Of course this is the point where some weenie pipes up and says "What about my Rohloff hub?!?" because the opportunity to do so is exactly why people go out and buy Rohloff hubs.  And yes, I'm sure Rohloff hubs are amazing, but they also weight ten times as much as a freehub, and what happens when you want to switch wheels?

Hey, if someone can engineer a light drivetrain for sporting-type bicycles that doesn't involve a series of pulleys hanging off the back of the bike then good for them.

Finally, how about that Touring of France finish today, huh?

Yes, I've actually been making a half-assed effort to watch the Touring of France.

The Midlife Fredding Crisis continues...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Testing, Testing

As I mentioned yesterday, I've got a new testcycle, and I've just returned from Day 2 of intensive backwoods testing in the wilds of Westchester county where I duly put the bicycle through its paces on the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall:

I'm still waiting for the go-ahead to reveal the make and model of the bicycle, but so far I'm enjoying it greatly.

In the meantime, while we're on the subject of testcycles, I should probably apprise you of the status of the other bikes I'm currently evaluating.  By the way, this is as much for my own benefit as yours, since I've got a lot of bikes on loan and it's getting increasingly difficult to keep them all straight.  Anyway, in addition to the Mystery Bike I've also got the Islabikes Luath 24:

Naturally this bike required a test pilot more diminutive of stature, and so I've engaged my 8 year-old in that capacity.  (Child labor is both free and legal when you're the parent.)  The bike was an immediate hit, and he's taken to it like a Fred to Lycra--although I'm sparing him the indignity of Lycra:

Drop bars certainly aren't for every child but this one seems to have inherited the cursed gene that causes some of us to gravitate to them.  They're very natural to him, and it's heartening to watch him master the various hand positions and learn how to remove and replace his water bottle while riding.  Also, if you're grooming a juvenile Fred or Frederica, here's one bit of advice: keep a safe distance.  As a parent I prefer to ride behind my child so I can keep an eye on the situation at all times, but they're completely incapable of taking your presence into account when braking.  (Or at least this one is.)

Anyway, $800 is certainly a lot to spend on a kid's bike--unless you're sure they've inherited the gene, in which case you'll find a way to justify it, and I don't see how you'd find a much better 24" bike than this one.  Single ring, integrated shifter, cantis...basically it's the all-around bike you'd want for yourself, only smaller.

Moving on, I have of course also been testing the Renovo Aerowood since last November:

As I explained recently, I've come to love this bike.  As I've also mentioned on many, many occasions, the bike needs a damn water bottle on the downtube.  In fact, just this past weekend I partook in a race in Central Park.  In something like 20 years of park racing I've never dropped a water bottle, but guess what I managed to do on the second lap of this particular race?  Not only that, but the bottle kind of danced around between the seat- and chainstays while the spokes batted at it, and now the rear wheel has a blip in it.  Nevertheless, I did manage to finish the race, albeit parched and with my mouth nearly glued shut as I had nothing to wash down my energy gel.

Other than that, it rides like an absolute dream.

Then of course there's the 1950 (or 1957 according to one commenter) Drysdale from Classic Cycle:

I have been dying to get fully wooled up and take this thing out for a proper ride, but as of yet I have not made the time to do so.  The period between the end of school and the start of camp is a busy one for a parent, but now that camp has started this ride will happen very soon.  (I'm thinking a little jaunt to Stone Barns for an artisanal lunch would be perfect.)  I also plan to ride it to the site of the old Drysdale workshop, which I believe was in Hell's Kitchen or something.

Of course what I'd really like to do is try to race on the thing, but frankly I don't know if I've got big enough testcycles to try it.

So for now I think that about covers it.  (Note I'm not including bikes like Ol' Piney, which started life as a testcycle and then got absorbed into my permanent collection, or the Brompton, which they'll get back over my dead body.)  As someone who loves bikes I probably have no business testing them since unless the bike's a true piece of shit (like the Base Urban, what a piece of crap) I basically just enjoy the hell out of all of them, but I'm not gonna let that stop me.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Who Are You Calling A Litist?

Wow, I have so much exciting stuff to share I don't know where to begin!

Okay, fine, let's begin with my latest Outside column:

Which is like super topical now thanks to this tweet:

I'm surprised Twitter's algorithms didn't auto-reply with a GIF of someone eagerly eating popcorn after that one, because whoa.

Anyway, I highly recommend perusing the thread, because what's more ironic than a smug celebrity bike activist from Scandinavia calling out other people for their white privile(d)ge?

And yes, this is totally white privilege in action:

In more exciting news, I've taken delivery of a brand new testcycle!

Alas, I can't yet reveal the identity of the testcycle, but I can tell you the following:

  • It will be reasonably priced;
  • It is not made of wood.
Rest assured that I'll share all the details as soon as I have permission to do so, and that in the meantime I'll be using the bicycle extensively because this is the kind of bicycle you want to use extensively.

Finally, this past weekend I wound up in Brooklyn and came across a sign that said "free kayaking:"

I hadn't even gotten past the word "free" (is there a sweeter assembly of letters in the English language?) when next thing I knew my progeny and I were adrift in the fetid brine of New York Harbor:

It was all rather delightful.

Kayaks truly are the Fixies of the Sea.