All around us, the glaciers are receding, and the air is redolent with optimism and uncollected dog feces. Alas, as spring peels away the scabs of snow and ice the earth is too still far too soft and raw for off-road exploits, and so I stick to damp roadways littered with grit and pockmarked with potholes. I can't quite stomach the idea of crossing the George Washington Bridge and dealing with the Wobbly-Legged First Freds of Spring, and so instead I scamper and scurry up and down the short, steep hills along the Hudson north of my home:
Also, because it's still messy out (see uncollected dog feces), I'm sticking with the trusty winter bike and its full filth prophylactics at least until April:
As you can see, this bicycle is equipped with mountain bike pedals, and one thing that has been occurring to me recently is that there's no reason for me to use road bike pedals anymore. I'm effectively retired from the high-stakes world of Category 3 road racing, and beyond that such pedals offer little or no benefit. In fact, as someone who spent all his racing years hiding in the pack they really never offered me any benefit beyond roadie aesthetics. Let's look at the benefits of road bike pedals:
1) More Cornering Clearance
Yeah, whatever. I can assure you I'm getting dropped before any corner that requires that kind of pedal clearance;
2) Larger Platform For Better Power Transfer
Please. 90% of my power is lost through my portly midsection before it gets anywhere close to my feet;
3) Lighter, Stiffer Shoes
Now let's look at the drawbacks:
∞) Suck For Walking
Yes, for some reason I continue to use road bike pedals even though I've almost busted my ass on the stairs you see above on more than one occasion. Plus, as I get older I have to urinate more frequently, so why I'm trampling through the undergrowth in road shoes in order to do so is beyond me.
Really, the only benefit I'm still yielding from road bike pedals is that I can use a fixed cleat, because I'm the only person on the planet Earth who actually likes pedals with no float:
When you ask for these at bike shops, the kids behind the counter act like you're ordering a shot of isopropyl at a bar. Then they tell you how awesome the Specialized Venge McLaren is and wonder why women won't talk to them.
But apart from that, this may be the year I finally just put mountain bike pedals on all my "sporting" bicycles--and now that I think about it I've only got one bike left with road pedals anyway, and it's this one:
I give myself ten years AT MOST before I give up all this click-in, stretchy-clothed crap once and for all and go Full Riv:
Rivendell Bicycle Works - Fork Wars from Rivendell Bicycle Works on Vimeo.
I draw two conclusions from this video:
1) No matter what a fork is made out of it's going to get fucked up pretty bad if you bang it against stuff;
2) Cyclists lack upper body strength.
I mean really, was that a tickle fight or what?
Speaking of my last remaining bike with Fred Pedals, it is a stainless steel Ritte, and so it was with interest that I read the Bicycling review of what is essentially the same bicycle:
I received my Ritte in August of 2011, so it's about three and a half years old. This is young by bicycle standards, but certainly an epoch in Bicycle Review Time. When I got the bike, I was still racing. Now, I'm far more inclined towards open-ended mixed-terrain ramblings, and I've fitted the compact crank and Brooks Cambium accordingly. The bike has indulged me in all of this. We've gone fast, and we've gone slow. We've seen fire, and we've seen rain. We've been to the mountaintop (well, Bear Mountain, anyway) and we've been around the block. But neither the bike nor I know what the fuck this is supposed to mean:
Under hard braking, in can-I-make-it corners, during prolonged furious efforts in tight packs, and in top-end sprints, the frame neither excessively deflects nor holds resolute so much as it yields then strikes like a Tai Chi master. It's a living ride. It has a heartbeat.
Oh come on.
In an attempt to understand the simile, I viewed this video:
But this left me even more confused, except for one thing, which is that the video would have been even more awesome if they'd been fighting with bicycle forks like in the Rivendell video.
Of course, the simple explanation for my lack of understanding is that my bike is an early prototype, which was built by Russ Denny, whereas apparently the new Ritte stainless bike is artisanally Chinese:
The stainless steel frame is made one per day by a small-batch build factory in China run by a Dutch family.
A Dutch family overseeing a small Chinese bike factory sounds like it would make a hilarious sitcom.
They could call it "Tulips Are Better Than Wan."
In any case, Tai Chi masters notwithstanding, after three and a half years with the Ritte I have only two complaints. The first is the press fit bottom bracket, which is a system I despise from a maintenance perspective. (The threaded bottom bracket shell with Hollowtech II bottom bracket is the very apotheosis of crank interface development.) The second is that "stainless steel" is a misnomer, and this is what happens if you don't constantly keep after it:
This surface rust would not be an issue if I wiped my bike down after every ride and was otherwise fastidious about it, but that's not how I operate. When a bike gets really cruddy I spray it down, and every year or so I replace the cables and chain and do a thorough tune-up as needed, but I'm not the type to pamper a bike with a rag for 10 minutes after every ride. Here's what KVA says I should be doing, but I don't have that kind of time:
Now, I should point out that this rust is merely cosmetic. Also, as the kind of person who doesn't wipe down his bike after every ride, I'm also the kind of person who doesn't really care too much about some rust stains as long as the bike's working well. In fact, I kind of like the way it looks, since it's the sort of blemish that gets roadies upset. (Plus, there are people who call this sort of finish a "patina" and even pay extra money for it.) However, I probably don't represent the typical stainless steel bike consumer, and I'd imagine a lot of Freds would start to cry if something like this happened to their shiny silver bicycle:
Also, digging the rough-and-tumble industrial look of my expensive handbuilt stainless steel bicycle is sort of like wearing $250 pre-distressed jeans.
It's also worth noting the bike Bicycling reviewed is partially painted, which I suppose would help prevent this from happening:
Anyway, none of this is to denigrate Ritte, because I enjoy riding the bicycle very much and will continue to do so--and I will continue to update you on the bicycle's evolution. Mostly, I share this with you to underscore the fundamental difference between literary device and what's it's actually like to live with a bike for awhile.
It's also why I believe that, with the exception of tires and bar tape, the minimum amount of time that should pass before reviewing a bicycle or component is one (1) year.
Really, you don't know the first thing about a bike until you've had it for at least a year, which is why I can't imagine anyone would want to back this:
Just wait until the first time you ride it in rain, the electrical system shorts out, it folds while you're riding it, and you've got to go to the hospital to re-inflate your squashed nuts.
Lastly, speaking of technology, a bicycle delivery worker found a crashed drone on the Upper West Side and returned it to its owner:
A high-tech drone equipped with a video camera crash-landed on Columbus Avenue and 61st street around 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The drone was probably owned by a hobbyist doing some video-taping — or, heh heh, the NSA.
Heh, heh, no, not the NSA. Just some inconsiderate wanker who likes to play with toys in the most densely populated county in America.
The delivery guy found the drone-owner’s phone number on the machine and called the person.
Wow! I would have kicked that piece of shit right into traffic, because the last thing this city needs is more plastic projectiles falling from the sky--though one commenter on the story had this to say:
The thing weighs only a couple pounds, probably wouldn’t give you more than cuts and scrapes regardless of the altitude it fell from considering it’s un-aerodynamic shape.
Oh, shut up. If that stupid contraption falls into the middle of the street it could easily cause a delivery cyclist--or any cyclist--to go right over the bars and into the hospital or worse. And what happens when it crashes into a car's windshield and the driver takes out three or four pedestrians as a result?
Well we know what happens--"no criminality suspected," of course--but that doesn't make it okay.
You want to fly a drone around, go buy a farm. You know, before someone else does.