Tuesday, May 14, 2019

At This Point Just Call Them All "Bikes" And Be Done With It

Firstly, I wrote words, and they're in the Transportation Alternatives magazine, Reclaim--though you can read them on Medium:

And of course there's always the Transportation Alternatives Bike Forecast, which is curated by none other than Your's Truley.

I truly do put the "semi" in "semi-professional bike blogger."

Secondly, as a middle-aged dad living in the cycling backwater known as New York City, I'm pretty out of it.  As such, I only just learned that Shimano has announced the world's first dedicated gravel component group:

I suppose there was a time when I'd made fun of this--you know, back when I was funny.  Now, however, I simply root for the bike companies whatever they're selling.  Gravel groups?  $1,100 hardtail mountain bikes for kids?  Fixed-gear carbon fiber gravel-specific recumbents for your laid-back bikepacking adventures?

Hey, as long as it's not a helmet, I say bring it on.

Moreover, as far as the gravel stuff goes, what's not to like?  I mean yes, it's easy to laugh at gravel-specific shorts, but if the Freds need a special word to make it okay to use clothing with more pockets then who am I to complain?  Plus, when it comes to drop-bar bikes, component makers have traditionally offered lots of nearly identical stuff that differs only in price.  Mechanically speaking, the differences between, say, Dura Ace and Ultegra are virtually meaningless.  So the fact that you can now have the option of a single-ring setup with a clutch derailleur that doesn't require any kludges or workarounds is pretty cool.

Granted, I'm not particularly crazy about the name--do you pronounce "GRX" as "Gurcks" or "Jerks?"--but that's just a minor detail.

Nevertheless, while I'm no longer particularly angry at the bike industry (there are much better industries to be angry at), I still find the cyclists themselves incredibly annoying.  Specifically, in perusing the comments sections on the various Internet posts about these new components, I've noticed disturbing new phenomenon:

Humblebragging about how low your gearing is.

See, it used to be that everyone was using gearing that was way too big, and that was annoying enough.  Now, however, it seems that everybody's running gears that are too small in order to prove what rugged terrain they ride and how much crap they carry.  As far as I can tell, with GRX you can run something like a 31 in the front and a 34 in the back, and yet I keep seeing commentary along the lines of, "This GRX gearing is not low enough!  I have three WolfTooth adapters on my long-cage derailleur so I can run a modified 53-tooth front chainring as my lowest gear in the rear, and I've got a 13-tooth rear cog bolted onto the spider of my front crank, which is what you really for the climbs around here--especially when you're carrying a pour-over coffee maker in the pocket of your Rapha gravel shorts."

At this rate the low-gearing backlash is all but assured, and when that happens I've got two words for you: "fixie bikepacking."

Finally, speaking of fixies:

The Luna Fixed is a fixed gear styled electric bike. For the uninitiated, fixed gear bikes are generally minimalist frames lacking cable clutter and have their pedal input rigidly connected to the rear wheel without a freewheel, meaning if the bike is moving then the pedals are moving too.

But while old school fixies may be a timeless classic, the Luna Fixed offers a very 21st-century twist. A 400 W mid-drive motor and 250 Wh battery are both hidden in the 6061 aluminum frame of the unassuming bike.

Looks like a pretty cool bike, but I'm reasonably certain neither the designers nor the writer of the article have ever seen a fixed-gear bicycle before.


pbateman doesnt want to crash because of the wrong shorts said...

are your jorts gravel specific...cause you look soooo ROCK HARD?

i've always worn my mountain bikey sort-of-baggy shorts over my padded-in-the-junk-area road shorts, mostly cause i dont like riding around with spandex, and i like having big pockets for my banana and my phone and such.

question is...will this set up work on gravel? i do ride on sand a lot, which is like gravel, but smaller, with no issues, but haven't really tested on an all gravel ride.

i'd better play it safe and get some new clothes tailored to the precise conditions.

Edwin Headwind said...

Love that the Shimano GRX ad copy says, "We aren’t here to dominate the gravel scene or change its direction," as though silk screening the letters GRX on a derailleur could do either.

Grump said...

"it used to be that everyone was using gearing that was way too big"....??????
Too big for who??

dancesonpedals said...

More Ti, please

Houston said...

Dude, 13 and 53 the wrong way? That's over 700ftlbs of torque even if you're a light weight. You could go up a vertical cliff or tow a car with that.

Unknown said...


Some guy from upstate said...

OK, can you at least make fun of gravel Freds switching from a SRAM Force 1x setup to GRX because the SRAM drivetrain is for cyclocross, and not gravel-specific? Please?

Also, maybe podium, but probably not ...

theEel said...


Billy said...

"But with an internally geared hub, the Fixed can have it all." wat

I was really hoping that electric thing was *actually* fixed, so I could watch YouTube videos later of people getting mangled by the electric motor driving the pedals around while they crashed.

Heinz Stucke said...

Sometime ago I found my touring shorts from the early 80s, that had lots of pockets. You all will never know what I look like now, let alone when I was in my 20s, so I will say I looked "dope" to the "max" in these shorts, and this article of clothing gave a meaning to the word "shorts" that young people today can not comprehend. Proof of this second fact is the good 20 minutes of screaming my kids did when they saw me wearing them. I wear baggy short over them now to save my ear drums. (Best chamois materiel ever, cotton terry cloth, in those 80's shorts.)

Dirk Montero said...

"Gravel" ... grumble ... Every time I read "Gravel-Specific", I'm going to try to replace it in my mind with "larger tires, lower gearing, possible concessions for comfort and utility" and remind myself that the end result is bikes that work better for a broader spectrum of riders in a broader spectrum of conditions. Only in the land of affluenza do we need to brand a bike that is actually less absurdly specific as more so in order to sell it.

Whatever humblebragging is, I really don't want to do it, but there is plenty of reason to go lower than 31x34 if the road is steep or one is carrying stuff on the bike. My wife's bike goes down to 26x32 and both of my primary rides are geared even lower. The hills out here are steep!

Your Eroica-dominating Brand X is 34x28 in its lowest gear. I mashed it up to Grizzly Peak (the Berkeley Himalayas) via one of our steeper paved routes the other day. I am fully aware that this is perfectly normal road bike gearing, I just can't understand why one would make this choice voluntarily.

And finally, that fixie ebike does indeed use a fixed rear hub, but the mid drive allows freewheeling. So the chain is always in motion while the bike is, even if the pedals are stopped. Shimano tried something similar in the 70's (something like a fixed multigeared rear hub with a freewheel for the front chainrings) so non-racers could shift while coasting. Can't imagine why it never caught on...


Anon said...

"this bike isn’t technically a fixie in the traditional sense."

Or in any sense.

BikeSnobNYC said...


It's not the low gearing I find funny, it's the clinging to the "road" bike (which, let's be honest, is all a gravel bike is) I find funny.

--Tan Tenovo

BikeSnobNYC said...

*I mean clinging to the road bike for that type of riding.

Anonymous said...

Team Luna in this year's TDF?

Anonymous said...

Call me a dork, but I like to wear my roadie stuff on "gravel and dirt" events. I even wear it when mountain biking with my mtbing friends (is that why they go ahead of me and ignore me? :)). I just store what little food I eat and the water bottles in the traditional spots on the frame.

I suppose when we start to go straight from the trails to the bar I'll have to change my ways - for now, I just open the car door and change behind that. To each his or her own, I guess.

ricochet said...

fixie bikepacking = #trackpacking

huskerdont said...

Call me a dork, but I like to wear my mountain bike stuff at roadie group rides. MTB shorts over tights, actual pockets,* a visor on me helmet, never owned a onesie. I think they'd like to ignore and drop me, but technically they're no-drop rides, so even if they do manage to get out of sight, I'm still way ahead of the laggards and it's easy to come back for more of the ignoring.

*Pulled a hankie out of one of the pockets once and a guy said, "dude, is that a handkerchief?" Sorry, but I prefer comfort to snot rockets.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...I bought my first and only pair of mt bikey shorts a couple of years ago. Put'm on for a long tour, and on day 2, a nurse was taking them off of me with a pair of scissors in the ER. I've never bought or worn shorts since then. My hairy legs must transfix motorists and they come at me like moths to a lightbulb.

...24/34 gearing is my sweet spot for the killer hills of NYC.

...do hipsters even ride bikes anymore? I thought they've all moved onto cafe racers and vintage tiny cars.

Die free said...

Wholly crap, there is nothing "hidden" in that frame.

Pist Off said...

I don’t hang out with gravel folk but am usually afraid to mention my own low gearing, as Colorado is full of ex-roadie jocks on crabon bikes who live to compare meaningless things. My next door neighbor was breathless about the new wireless 1x SRAM gravel stuff and its 31x34 capabilities. So I’m like, well my “gravel” bike that gets groceries and carries loads and stands up by itself and has 700x45s for trails has a 20x34, and he was like averting his eyes cuz cables and triples just ain’t cool. Maybe extra uncool because it has a Suntour crank? I bet my finger-as-front-derailleur 2x on my mountain bike isn’t cool either. Bitches, my gearing is my business. You shouldn’t think of yourself as a badass if you have multiple gears, period. Ya also don’t see many singlespeeders over 45 in the mountains, and knees are two good reasons.

David Suto said...

My take on gravel bikes is that since we are now in the post-Lance/race era and road surfaces are so bad (in California at least) we are essentially reverting to pre-paved road bikes when all bikes were essentially 26, 650B, or 700Cish and had 1-1/2 to 2" wide tires.

Schisthead said...

I thought that was one of those 1x 'features', like you run a 58T low gear out back because then your 28T ring is bearable when you have a very long climb.

Then again, it's also useless gearing when you are going downhill destroying your precious 9T as well, but that's a whole nother can of BS.

Then again, I run cheap old crappy gear, perhaps my gravel sensibilities are too coarse to perceive the nuance.

Beck the Biker said...

Shimano jumped the shark about the time it went to 10 speed. Those high-end 9 speed road RDs were sexy! The luddite in me scoffs at electronic shifting and hydraulic road disc brakes. 24-34 is nice on a triple, that this new 'gravel' gearing doesn't give riders the range of a widespread triple is also a bit laughable. 50-24 triple paired with an 11-34 is speedy and climby, allowing a rider to both put the hammer and climb 20% grades. FDs must scare people - are riders really concerned about dropping chains on their gravel rides? I know it's consumer marketing of planned obsolence and the need to stay competitive with other parts manufacturers, but sometimes 'new' doesn't equal 'better'. I'd be quite happy if Shimano reintroduced silver metal road pedals, even if they're marginally heavier than the carbonfibre options available now. Cheap clips. And, what happened to all the wool?

HDEB said...

I've dreamed for years about towing a boat by bicycle

mikeweb said...


The first drop-bar bike I had as a teenager had that Shimano group and what they called the 'Front freewheel'

It did make shifting a heck of a lot easier, albeit in the pre-STI stone ages.

Steve Barner said...

@Dirk, It's already been noted that the chain always moving system was named Front Freewheel. This was typically coupled with Shimano's first foray into indexing, called Positron. Positron started as a 2-cable system, which looked complicated and weird and was a throwback to designs from the 1930s. This waas quickly replaced by a stiff cable that could both pull and push, like the throttle on your lawnmower. All this was just too different, too complex and too costly for bike shop folks to get behind, and it required one to admit that the derailleur systems on the other bikes they sold were difficult for beginners to use. It didn't make enough difference in the sales of Schwinn Suburbans and Calientes to justify all the unique spare parts that a shop now needed to stock, though most of the FF and Positron systems were well-made and didn't break.

One thing people were afraid of was getting something caught in the chain and not being able to stop it through pedal action. Manufacturers failed to point out that there was a safety feature built into the rear cluster that allowed each cog to slip forward, if this occured. This was attained through hidden springs and pawls on each individual cog, providing yet more complexity and cost, yet many salespeople simply shrugged when customers asked what would happen if a pants leg got caught by the chain.

Finally, one doesn't notice a slightly wobbly chainring while pedaling, but the FF system made it impossible to miss. On the class of bike to which FF was typically fitted, the stamped steel chainrings always wobbled. On top of that, the chainring bearing that was at the heart of the system had enough built-in error and play that perfectly straight chainrings would wobble back and forth while coasting. I once overheard a salesman telling a customer that this wobble helped the front derailleur shift faster. "It's a feature!"

A lot of people never shifted their 10-speeds anyway, as attested to by all the worn out 14-toothed cogs I saw on the stand.

What's wrong with this paragraph? said...


which is what you really for the climbs around here

Check your work

Fixed-gear and carrying gear is historically normal said...

Fixed-gear touring in the Green Mountains of Vermont (light 20-lb CREDIT CARD load) was a lot of fun for me. Yes, I walked a couple short sections and that stretched my calves.

Bikepacking requires stupid-looking bags and fork braze-ons that I wasn't going to send money on and didn't exist yet. I didn't start cycling or continue as a way to support the bicycle manufacturing and bicycle accessories industries.

Repair and service... I support that.