Monday, July 15, 2019

RTMS to Tan Tenovo

So not only am I still on the radio, but I officially* have the #1 bicycle-themed show in New York City in the coveted 10am Monday time slot!

*[Disclaimer: when I say "officially" I mean I've decided this must be true.]

Furthermore, I've asked WBAI to make it available as a podcast, but until that happens all shows are archived on their website, and you can also listen to this morning's episode right here.

Thank you for bearing with me while I explore the antiquated medium that is terrestrial radio, because blogs weren't outdated enough.

Speaking of this blog, obviously Rip Torn (or, more accurately, his mugshot) emerged as sort of an unofficial logo for it during its heyday:

Here's the story of how that happened.

Anyway, owing to this association, a number of people were compelled to notify me through various channels of Rip Torn's recent passing, even though it's 2019, we all have phones now, and on top of that I spend a lot of time on Twitter, which means I find out when famous people die immediately, just like you do.  Still, I can't deny that his death does represent the end of an era as far as this blog is concerned, even if I did think he was already dead, which I suppose also says a lot in and of itself.  Indeed, it was on Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 that I hit the "publish" button on my very first blog post, and here we are 12 years later, my posts serving now largely to point you towards my other outlets, including my Outside column, and the Bike Forecast, and of course now my radio show.  All of this is to say that in the wake of Rip Torn's death I did take a moment or two to reflect on the fact that I arrived upon the scene an upstart anonymous bike blogger with a cutting sense of humor, and I'm now an an overexposed bloviator who halfheartedly entertains the anecdotes of people who call into radio shows and who can't even get upset about people who salmon in the bike lane anymore.  (I really can't.)

In other words I couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out.

Speaking of my erstwhile sobriquet (that being RTMS, or "Rip Torn's Mug Shot,") not too long ago it gave way to "Tan Tenovo," which of course refers to the unintentionally comic rendering of my bike's make and model on ticket I got while riding my erstwhile Renovo over a year ago:

Well, I pleaded guilty to the alleged offense, and it now occurs to you that I'm remiss in reporting to you that on Friday, July 5th I appeared in traffic court on Fordham Road in the Bronx to mount my defense.  Given that this was right in the middle of a long holiday weekend I admit I had hopes that the ticketing officer would be a no-show, but show he did, and presumably everyone there in the courtroom had felt the sting of his ticket-writing pen.  (I'm assuming I was the only cyclist there, but I don't know for sure, since I was the second person called and I left immediately after the proceedings, as you will soon read.)

After the judge dismissed the first defendant's case due to what seemed to be sloppy note-taking on the part of the officer, he then called me to the stand.  Haltingly, the officer read from his notes, explaining that he had been driving behind a motorist (he kept calling me "motorist") who did not stop for a red signal.  So he stopped said motorist-er, cyclist-in a safe location and duly summonsed him. 

Now, I should point out that I have no recollection of what color the light was, for the simple reason that I didn't look.  I was fresh off of negotiating a very tricky stretch of road, and I was almost home, and as I approached the intersection in question my priorities were as follows:

  • Get home safely
  • Not inconvenience any pedestrians
  • Get home safely
In light of this, as I approached the intersection in question, I saw there were no pedestrians in or near the crosswalk, nor were there any motor vehicles approaching.  And so I made a right turn--on what, according to the officer, was a red light.

That's when I heard the blip of sirens, and next thing I knew I was proffering my ID.

Anyway, as the officer recounted this, I realized I didn't have much of a defense, since if he had in fact been right behind me I couldn't very well claim he didn't see what color the light was.  Therefore, when it came my turn to question the officer, out of pure desperation I opened up a line of interrogation about the configuration of the street.  Specifically, the officer could not say whether there was or wasn't a bike lane on the street on which I was riding (there was), which confirmed my own suspicion that the NYPD are physically unable to see bike lanes, and which would explain why the precinct in which I was ticketed has issued zero (0) tickets for parking in bike lanes since 2018.  I then introduced a new line of questioning about why he didn't use his siren to go through the red light I had supposedly run, but the judge was unmoved--in fact, more than that, he was annoyed.  Swiftly, he found me guilty, and ultimately I alighted back onto Fordham Road $190 poorer.

On the way home, it occurred to me that losing in traffic court is almost exactly like getting dropped from a bike race: you feel embarrassed, you're out a bunch of money, and you keep going over what you might have done differently.  In any case, in retrospect it was all worth it just to hear the officer testify in court that I had been riding a Tan Tenovo bicycle, which gave me a secret little thrill.

Moving on, this weekend I got to spend a little more time on the Jones LWB Plus Complete:

As I mentioned back on July 4th, I'd been forming the impression that the LWB is sort of the galloping horse to the SWB's wild boar, and my last ride only reinforced this notion.  While I was less inclined to change lines on the LWB, there was also less need to do so, since it rolls so easily over roots and rocks.  And inasmuch as I'm a two-wheels-on-the-ground rider more than I am a throw-the-bike-around rider (or, if you want to get technical, a "woosie") I'd say at this point I'm partial to the LWB. 

Then again, I'm the guy who's been commuting on a State Core millennial special:

Call it a midlife crisis, but I've been enjoying this bike (except for the Vans grips, which feel like someone standing on your hands while wearing a pair of vans), and I'm also still pleased with the Two Wheel Gear briefcase:

I'm pretty sure that every single street in the Bronx is currently being resurfaced, and if this thing can stay securely on the rack through all of that than I suspect it can handle pretty much anything.

Monday, July 8, 2019

New Radio Show! And More Of The Rigorous Product Testing For Which I Am Famous!

Firstly, I was on the radio again this morning (I have my own radio show now in case you've been avoiding me lately) and you can listen to it...

...right HERE!

I recommend you do, too, because it's a very exciting time here in New York City and I talk about it all.  Mainly, drivers have been killing cyclist at an alarming rate, and in response the NYPD has announced they'll be cracking down on the most dangerous driver infractions.  In practice, this basically means they've been running Citi Bikers off the road "for [their] safety:"

As well as blasting Vision Zero messages out of parked vans:
So yeah, as you can see, things are going just great on this end.

Secondly, speaking of my radio show, it means that for the first time in awhile I have to commute again just like the rest of you schmucks.  Granted, it's only once a week, but in my defense I've grown weak and soft and could not possibly be expected to commute five days a week at this point in my life.  Indeed, as the World's Greatest Living Cycling Writer (And Broadcaster) I need to be incubated as much as possible with my brain soaking in Palmolive and the comforts of home at arm's length at all times.

Still, my one (1) commuting day does involve riding the nearly 20 miles each way between the Bronx and Brooklyn, and so when a marketing person reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to try some bikey bags I readily accepted.  See, now that I'm a broadcaster, I have to travel with my laptop and a voice recorder just in case and of course my horns and whoopee cushions and other assorted novelty noisemakers so I can make wacky sounds while I'm on the air.

Anyway, the bikey bags in question are from a Canadian company called "Two Wheel Gear."  And the bags I got are this one:

And this one:

Both of which attach to your bicycle rack pannier-style by means of this clip system that works really well:

Basically you hook the black clips onto your rack, then you engage the red clip with your thumb, then you're ready to go.

Anyway, lately I've been commuting on my Milwaukee, but for various reasons I won't bore you with I decided to test the bags with the State Core-Line fixie Bicycling asked me to write about back in May:

At this point in my life I'm just too old and dorky to care about how...well, dorky I may look riding a circa-2007 Fixed Gear Gallery entry come to life.  Anyway, it's a fun bike, it's got eyelets for a rear rack, and sometimes you just need a no-frills bike you can ride in sneakers.  Also, I have to admit that if I see yet another fucking earth tone gravel bike I'm going to puke, so in a way riding a mail-order fixie with white rims is my own personal act of rebellion.

In any case, yesterday I finally got around putting a rack on the State, which was a straightforward affair other than the fact that I had to file down the very bottoms of the rack stays a few millimeters to clear the great big integrated washers on the rear axle nuts.  After mounting both bags on the bike I decided I liked the profile of the briefcase better, and so that's what I used. 

Oh, and naturally it was raining this morning, which meant I got to use the rain cover that comes with the bag:

Here's the bag without the cover:

Now I should say that a bike like this--short wheelbase, lots of toe overlap, etc.--isn't ideal for using with panniers.  If you're going to load a bike up you want some stability.  (I was once ejected from the Ironic Orange Julius Bike after I ran over a plastic water bottle and an overloaded pannier flipped me over onto my side like a runner coming into home plate, and that's a much more stable bike than the State.)  Even so, the State did handle the weight just fine (though I wouldn't attempt to carry much more than I did), and I experienced absolutely no heel strike.  If you're wondering, here's what I had in my bag:

  • Bike repair essentials (tube, patches, tire levers, mini pump, multi tool)
  • Laptop and power cable (I've gone from a MacBook to a Chromebook and I haven't looked back)
  • Phone charger
  • Voice recorder just in case
  • Windbreaker just in case
  • Extra t-shirt just in case
  • U-lock
And I think that about covers it.

Oh, and the clip system was indeed highly convenient, and disengaging the bag was (don't type snap don't type snap) ...a snap:

And, most importantly, it rained pretty much the whole way there and about half the ride back home, and my cheap Chromebook and everything else stayed perfectly dry.

So there you go.

Durability and so forth remains to be seen, and I haven't tried the backpack, but so far the briefcase is promising.

Oh, and I was also wearing the shorts Outlier sent me way back in 2009:

I hadn't worn them years, but this morning I mended a tear in the crotch seam and put them back into service, and I kind of feel like a schmuck for waiting this long because they're pretty comfy.

And they still had sand in the pockets!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

New Outside Column And More Test Bike Hijinx!

Happy Birthday to Canada's addled downstairs neighbor!

Basically, Canada's just trying to live its life, while we're down here banging on the ceiling with a broomstick.

So why am I popping in during this auspicious holiday?  Well, firstly I figured I'd let you know my new Outside column is up:

Basically it's time to move past the "here's a new bike lane" phase and into the "here's a bold new policy that's going to dramatically reduce the number of cars and trucks on the streets" phase.

Secondly, remember how yesterday I took a ride on the Jones LWB?

Well, today I took the exact same ride, only on the Jones SWB:

And when I say exact I really mean it.  Not only did I leave at the same time as yesterday, but I also wore the same jorts!

So what did these two rides reveal?  Well, the SWB is indeed a more nimble and playful bike, whereas the LWB is smoother and more stable.  Going up steep climbs, taking tight turns, and riding smooth, undulating sections of trail is a bit more fun on the SWB, whereas riding over logs and rough patches is a bit easier on the LWB.  At the same time, it's not like one does a certain thing that much better than the other, so while it all comes down to preference it's also not like you can really go wrong.

Or, if you prefer overblown bike review metaphors, look at it this way:

The LWB is like galloping through the woods on a horse, while the SWB is like ripping through the woods on a wild boar.  On one you're sitting higher up and stepping over everything with grace, while on the other you're closer to the ground and being led by your snout--and I mean that in the best possible way, except that you will occasionally thwack your pendulous boar testis on a root or rock, since as we established yesterday the SWB is more prone to pedal strike.

All of the above is a bit unfair however, because as I mentioned the differences between them are ultimately not that stark, and the two bikes overlap way more than they don't.

So which would I choose?  After all, Jones isn't going to let me hang onto two bikes forever.  Well, yesterday I thought it would be the LWB, but after today I'm less certain, though I am very slightly still leaning that way since I do like the more generous proportions of the LWB and I also value my testis.

But it ain't over 'til the wild boar squeals.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

I Ride Test Bikes So You Don't Have To

As I've said many times before, living in New York City's only mainland borough has two significant advantages:

1) When the glaciers melt the rest of you suckers will all be underwater and my home will be worth millions;

B) I can easily do a dirt ride in the same amount of time the rest of you suckers spend doing laps in Central and Prospect Parks.

Insofar as B) is concerned, I did just that earlier this morning, and was able to take in healthy slices of both Sprain Ridge Park and the Old Croton Aqueduct trail before many of my neighbors had even withdrawn their MetroCards.  And of course I did so on the new Jones LWB:

Unlike my last foray on this bike, this route is one I've ridden on the SWB many, many times, and so I was able to make a more direct comparison between the two bicycles.  While I still plan to undertake some back-to-back rides, my first impression was that the SWB is a slightly "rowdier" bicycle in that it sort of encourages you to lift the wheels up and throw it around, despite its heft.  The LWB on the other hand feels smoother and more genteel, and while I was less inclined to throw it around I also didn't really need to since it rolls over rocks and logs so easily.

But while I would not characterize any of the aforementioned differences as earth-shattering, there is one other area in which they do seem to differ fairly significantly, and that is ground clearance.  As I've mentioned, my only complaint about the SWB in a mountain bike capacity is that it is prone to pedal strike--I mean I can totally deal with it, but it is a factor here in the land of roots and rocks.  Alas, I only had time to ride a portion of Sprain Ridge Park this morning, but it does seem that the LWB is better in this regard.  Furthermore, when I got back home I performed a highly scientific test by placing the bikes next to each other with the cranks in the vertical position:

Were the cranks perfectly vertical?  Were the bikes even standing perfectly upright?  I have no idea.  However, based on this cursory comparison it looks like the LWB was almost a pedal's thickness more clearance than the SWB.

The chainring also appears to be quite a bit higher, which would stand to reason because even disregarding the geometry differences the SWB has a 32-tooth chainring and the LWB has a 30-tooth:

Again, standing the bikes next to each other for two seconds is not really the basis for drawing conclusions, and more trail time will reveal just how much of a factor any increased ground clearance is, but so far I do prefer the LWB in that department.

As for smooth dirt and pavement riding where clearance is not a factor, the LWB also feels a bit more road bike-like, most likely due to its proportions.  Regardless, what both bikes have in common is that they totally negate any desire I may have felt in the past for a "gravel" bike.  The fact is that between a regular road bike for full-on road riding and a Jones for everything else you're totally covered without sacrificing anything.  Oh sure, I suppose if you're an ultra-competitive Gravel Fred you might want a crabon pebble chariot with drop bars and a flat-back positioning and all that stuff, but barring that a bike like this is ideal for everything from a mellow mixed-terrain ramble to full-on trail riding.  (Plus you can carry all your worldly possessions on it, which quite frankly I'll probably never, ever do.)

Anyway, having typed all that, I reserve the right to flip-flop pending the completion of back-to-back identical rides on both bicycles.  So far the only thing I'm completely sure of is you can't go wrong with either.

Monday, July 1, 2019

First Ride On The New Jones!

Firstly, they still haven't kicked me off the radio, which means I'll be on WBAI here in New York City once again this morning at 10am.

You can also listen online via their website.  Or listen to it later on their archives.  Or not listen at all for all I care.

Secondly, despite my myriad familial responsibilities, I did manage to get some quality time with the Jones LWB Complete this past weekend:

As I mentioned last week, the LWB is the longer-wheelbase, 29-plus-wheeled, ready-to-ride-right-out-of-the-box version of the SWB I've been riding and loving for the past year.  By the way, while I've put many miles on that bike, I also freely acknowledge I have not come even remotely close to realizing its full potential, mainly because I'm a homebody and my idea of bikepacking is stuffing a windbreaker in my handlebar bag in case it gets chilly.  In light of that, I recommend you read this extremely thorough review of the SWB from someone who actually puts all those attachment points to good use:

Still, I'd argue that even I can appreciate the sheer versatility of the Jones, inasmuch as I'm (mostly) a ride-to-the-ride person as opposed to a spend-20-minutes-futzing-with-an-air-compressor-next-to-my-pickup-truck-before-heading-into-the-park-for-a-45-minute-"session" person.  See, for me this is the real beauty of the Jones: not only do you enjoy it on the singletrack, but you also enjoy it on the 10 or 15 miles of road you need to ride in order to get there and back.  The SWB has been a revelation to me in that department, and I was eager to see how the LWB compared.

My first outing on the LWB was into the wilds of Yonkers this past Friday with my elder son, and all signs pointed to "promising:"

My appetite for fat-tire riding having been whetted, I was eager to undertake a longer adult-sized excursion over the weekend.  However, owing to my wife's demanding career I was parenting solo.  So how to meet the bike-testing requirements of my own not-at-all-demanding "career?"  Well, I popped the Jones LWB on the trusty Saris SuperClamp EX (which accommodated the substantial dimensions of the bicycle with nary a complaint):

Then we headed to my mother's place in Queens where the kids disembarked, and from there I hopped on the Jones and rode to to Cunningham Park, undoubtedly the finest mountain bike trail system within New York City limits.  It's a good 10 miles or so from where my mother lives straight through the heart of the city's largest borough, and the ride takes you past storied landmarks such as the Unisphere:

...and, well, that's pretty much the only storied landmark, unless you count the LIE.

Anyway, Queens is a brilliant patchwork of cultures, and undoubtedly one of the most interesting places in the United States if not the entire world.  At the same time...well, let's just say it's not exactly the first place you'd choose for a long ride.  I mention this because a trans-Queens ride on a hot day (on a bike with 3-inch wide knobby tires no less) has all the makings of a slog, but in this case it didn't feel like a slog at all, and I credit the Jones for this.  This is largely due to the comfortable upright position and the multiple hand positions afforded by the bars, but I also wonder if maybe the bigger wheels and longer wheelbase made it feel a bit more "cruisy" and gave it better road manners.  Granted, it could have just been new bike excitement, but either way I arrived at Cunningham feeling much fresher than I should have given the high temperatures and the roughly 450,000 traffic lights between the start of my ride and the trailhead:

So how was the Jones on the trail?  Well, awhile back one commenter postulated that "I'd imagine the turning radius is ridiculous, making that bike unsuitable for silly-tight singletrack."

Well, it doesn't get more silly-tight than six miles of trail crammed into a park in Queens:

And I'm here to tell you that the LWB carved it up like a tofurkey on a vegan Thanksgiving.  Having only ridden Cunningham once on the SWB I'm loath to make any sweeping pronouncements about the differences between the two bikes, but the LBW sidled through even the tightest turns, and it went over those logpiles as gracefully as Fred Astaire.  (Fred Astaire was an avid mountain biker, by the way, everyone knows that.)  It does feel "bigger" than the SWB of course, but in a good way--it's smooth and stable, whereas the SWB is nimble in a way that makes you want to throw it around despite its substantial heft.  Still, to really know the differences between the two bikes I need to take the LWB on my usual SWB routes.  Also, my only complaint about the SWB as a full-on mountain bike has been the fact that it's somewhat prone to pedal strike, and I'm very eager to see if the LWB does better in that regard.  (Pedal strike certainly wasn't an issue on my Cunningham outing, but it's not particularly rocky there compared to the trails north of the city.)

Regardless, after 35 miles on a hot day in Queens I still love the bike, and that's saying something.

Friday, June 28, 2019

New Outside Column That Will Make You Rich!

Here's my latest Outside column, which is about how owning (or leasing) a car is like going through life half-drunk:

On top of that, if you're also a moderate drinker, you're basically going through life totally drunk.

Not that I follow my own advice, mind you.  Last weekend I loaded up The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back and did a mountain bike race in New Jersey.  On top of the registration fee I also spent money for fossil fuels and tolls, not to mention the amount of time I spent sitting on my ass in the car--at least an hour of which involved waiting to cross the George Washington Bridge back into New York City.

In the end, I probably spent like $100 and six hours just to ride my bicycle for an hour and 20 minutes, when in the same amount of time I could have woken up early, hopped on the Jones, and done an "epic" ride up to Blue Mountain and back.

Not that I regret the race, mind you--it's a fun course, and sometimes you've got to put a number on your bike and quantify just how badly you suck--but it's also important to quantify the resources you've squandered in order to do so.

And keep in mind I didn't even address the period of time during which I owned a Saab.  Had I sidestepped that pitfall my net worth would probably be at least 50% greater than it is now.  (My current net worth is two (2) Jones bicycle and the hatchet Grant Petersen sent me.)

I really should build a bike around that hatchet...

Thursday, June 27, 2019

And The New Test Bike Is...

Well, school's out, and you know what that means:

I'm riding early!

In fact this morning as the sun was just peeking over the horizon I headed over the George Washington Bridge and once again encountered a "pesticide"-related road closure:

It's not unusual to find the so-called "River Road" barricaded, and it's common practice among cyclists to disregard them.  However, I've been riding on River Road for over 20 years, yet only now do I seem to be encountering closures due specifically to spraying.  Maybe it's just bad timing on my part, or maybe it's a vast conspiracy.  Either way, this time I said "Fuck it" and kept going--right past the pesticide truck as it was in mid-spritz, by the way, and I'm pleased to report I feel totally fine with no adverse affects whatsoeaeeiarEOEPWOIAR....U9HE.

In other news that you'll no doubt find far more interesting than my Fredly endeavors, I finally received my package from Jones Bikes, and here's what I got!

(Relax, I only got one bike.)

Yes, it's the new Jones LWB Complete!  Last year Jones introduced the SWB Complete, which is what I've been riding (and loving) for the past year, and now he's offering an inexpensive, ready-to-ride version of his LWB bike.  And I got one to test!

So what's the difference between the SWB and the LWB?  Well, here goes:
  • "SWB" stands for "Short Wheel Base," "LWB" stands for "Long Wheel Base."  So the LWB has...a longer wheelbase!
  • The SWB comes stock with 27.5+ wheels; the LWB comes stock with 29+ wheels
  • When ordering the LWB you can opt for a smooth tire setup or a knobby tire setup (I went with the latter)
  • The SWB comes in black; the LWB comes in black or red!  (But I got black)
  • The SWB sells for $1,799, and the LWB sells for $2,050
With regard to that last bullet point, first I'll say that I've had absolutely no issues with any of the components on the SWB.  However, the LWB does feature some upgrades.  For example it's got a SRAM Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, whereas the SWB has a Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain.  It's also got a cartridge bearing headset versus the SWB's caged ball headset.  The tires on the LWB (whether smooth or knobby) are also tubeless ready, whereas the tires on the SWB are not.  (Though in a flagrant disregard for my own safety I've been running mine tubeless for many months now, and apart from some pesticide-related delirium I'm doing just fine.)  And oh yeah, the rims on the LWB have eyelets.  I may be missing other parts differences, but these are the ones that were most obvious to me while assembling the bike yesterday.

"So relatively minor component differences aside, what's really the difference?  Which one do I buy?"  Well, I haven't actually ridden the bike yet!  Also my kids are out of school and my wife has a business trip coming up so this thing may be taunting me for the next few days.  But rest assured once I've got some time on it I'll report back and do my best to articulate the differences.

In the meantime, here's a photo of the two bikes side-by-side:

(Photo: Elliott Weiss)

Please note I've preemptively replaced the saddle, but other than that (and the pedals) the bike is as I received it.

Anyway, until I've actually ridden the thing for awhile it's all speculation, but I am extremely excited to see what this thing can do.  There are lots of roots and rocks around here and on paper this looks like it should handle that sort of terrain with aplomb--maybe even two plombs!

I'll keep you posted.