Tuesday, November 12, 2019

New Outside Column, New Radio Show, Jones LWB Rundown...Whew!

As I mentioned yesterday, WBAI is back on the air, and if you want to hear yesterday's show you can do so by clicking this.

By the way, people regularly ask me if the show is available in podcast form.  The answer is "no."  All of that stuff is up to the radio station, and inasmuch as they can barely stay on the air I wouldn't hold out much hope for them to make this into a podcast anytime soon.  However, you can listen live via the website, or else stream it later--or just ignore the show altogether and read my latest Outside column instead:

The "repair" described herein is my attempted installation of the so-called "Hub Doctor" bushing-to-bearing conversion kit for the Mavic Scaryum freehub.  Since penning this column, I managed to undo the damage I did, and then simply installed a brand-new Mavic freehub instead.  And after all that, the wheel still creaks.

Fortunately I've had slightly better luck riding bikes than repairing them, and this past weekend I took my artisanal singlespeed out to the Isle of Long:


I used to ride here pretty regularly when I lived in Brooklyn, but I had not been back since moving to the mainland back in Two Thousand and Twelve, and I'm pleased to report Stillwell remains mostly unchanged and immune to the passage of time, much like Long Island itself.  The trails here are twisty, gently undulating, and distinctly non-technical, which makes them the ideal terrain for an old-fashioned rigid singlespeed bicycle with "narrow" tires.

There is of course a time and a place for ratcheting your way through a tricky section of trail, but Stillwell is not that time or that place--it's all about going as fast as you can without washing out in those sandy turns.  (Not that I can go very vast, but still.)  It's hard to imagine a better bike than the one above for these conditions, and I even encountered its motor vehicle equivalent in the parking lot:


What makes this Maserati the equivalent of my Engin?  Well, they're both black, they're both sleek, and they're both timelessly impractical.

But yes, since moving to the northern precincts my knobby-tired rides consist of less sandy singlespeed scurrying and more rocky multi-geared meandering.  It was Ol' Piney that first increased my range and got me going longer as opposed to doing the old "hit one MTB spot and ride around in circles" thing, but once I fell in with Jones is where it all really came together:


Since being indoctrinated I've transitioned from the SWB to the LWB pictured above.  This is of course the complete out-of-the-box version, which I'm riding with all the stock components (with the exception of the saddle which I swapped for an all-weather Cambium), and as I rode it last Friday I figured I might as well give you a closer look what's on it and and how it's all holding up so far.

The rear derailleur is a SRAM NX Eagle and it moves the chain up and down a 12-speed NX Eagle 11-50 cassette:


I guess the higher-end SRAM groups now use a smaller freehub or driver or whatever you want to call it that allows you to use a cassette with a 10-tooth high gear, giving you more range with your de rigeur/au courant/whatever-other-French-expression-you-want-to-use single-ring drivetrain.  However, I'm in no particular hurry, everything works great, and the gearing range leaves me wanting for nothing on either end.  It's paired with a 30-tooth front chainring, by the way, and the crank is a Truvativ Stylo:


Jones specs short cranks on his bikes--the small comes with 165mm, and the medium and large both come with 170mm.  (Traditionally if you're my size you'd use a 175mm on a mountain bike.)  I'm one of those people who can feel the difference in crank length, and when I first got the SWB (which also comes with 170s in my size) I was worried.  But then I discovered something: just because I can feel the difference, that doesn't mean the difference is bad.  On the contrary, I got used to it quickly and now think absolutely nothing of it.  In fact I had a similar experience with my New-To-Me Titanium Forever Bike, which came with 175s instead of the 172.5s I'd usually use on the road.  In short, it turns out a 5mm difference in crank arm length is pretty much meaningless, go figure.

As for the design of the crank, I am of course an outspoken proponent of the Shimano Hollowtech II system, which when paired with a standard threaded bottom bracket shell is inarguably the greatest interface of all time.  The Jones does use a threaded bottom bracket shell, but the Stylo crank works differently than the Shimano system, and it has this collar-type thing on the non-drive side to set the preload:


I have touched absolutely nothing since taking the bike out of the box, and it all runs smoothly and silently, so I ain't complaining.

The shifter is also SRAM NX Eagle:


I slightly prefer Shimano shifters since the upshift lever works in both directions, but mostly all I think when I ride this is, "Holy crap, this is supposedly 'entry level' stuff and it works perfectly, it's amazing how far mountain bike shifting has come."  (I still love my singlespeed, but the crappy shifting that made singlespeeding a thing clearly doesn't exist anymore.)

As for the brakes, they are Tektro mechanicals:


As a lousy bike mechanic with retrogrouchical tendencies it won't surprise you at all that I'm a fan of mechanical disc brakes.  Yes, hydrolic dick breaks feel better and all that stuff, but the fact is that good mechanical disc brakes also work excellently, and as a bonus they're downright idiot-proof.  The brakes that come on the Jones have both outboard and inboard pad adjustment, the pads seem to last a long time (I never changed the pads on the SWB and they seemed to have plenty of life left when I gave the bike away), and overall they give me no compelling reason to contemplate changing them for anything else:


Finally we come to the tires, which are 29x3.0 Vee T-Fattys:


Though of course you can order the LWB with smooth tires if you're not going to be using it in a mountain bike capacity.

They come with tubes, but converting them to tubeless was completely straightforward, and so far they've been quite durable:


I believe they're even e-bike rated, which could explain the durability, though I also have no idea what exactly what qualifies a tire for e-bike use so I probably shouldn't speculate.

Anyway, all of this is by way of giving you an up-close look at this bike in case you're actually considering buying one, and to assure you it comprises quite a solid package.  (Yes, I've only had this bike since July, but after many happy and trouble-free miles on the SWB I'm pretty confident in Jeff Jones's ability to spec a bicycle.)

Oh, and you'll also be pleased to know my new Pearl Izumi clothes pair well with jorts:



Somebody really ought to market a pair of $500 performance jorts, it seems like a no-brainer.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Static Age: Back On The Air!

Good morning!

Remember when I had my own radio show*?  No?  Well, I did, but then I didn't, but now I did again, because the radio station that broadcast it is back on the air:


This means I'll be on this very morning at 10am.  So tune in if you're local, or stream it via the miracle of the Internet.  Or just go on about your day like nothing is happening, it's totally up to you.

Your's ect.,

--Tan Tenovo

*In case you're wondering, a "radio show" is to a podcast as bar-end shifters are to Di2.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

New Outside Column!

Just a quick note to alert you to my latest column for Outside, which is all about that new Lummox Matrix helme(n)t:


Spoiler alert: I don't like it.

Also, remember how I mentioned I fell off my bike because the cable housing was too short?  Well, I'm pleased to report I've now solved the problem--not by installing a longer cable housing, but by putting the shorter stem back on there.  Done, and done.

Now that's how you lazy.

Monday, October 28, 2019

What Pressure Am I Running? I'LL NEVER TELL!!!

As I've mentioned, I'm currently working my way through a pile of awesome bike stuff, and when last we met I was swaddled in Merino finery from Pearl Izumi:


Not only had I worn the aforementioned ensemble the very day I wrote about it, but the very next day I headed out in it again without even washing it.  (Yes, I wore different shorts and socks obviously, I'm not that disgusting.)  I did so for three (3) reasons: 1) To test the miracle properties of Merino, which supposedly doesn't retain odor; II) It was a Saturday, and when you're stepping out onto 9W on a weekend day you've got to look your best; C) I headed out really early, it was dark and I'm lazy, and that's what was sitting on top of the laundry pile.

Well, I'm pleased to report that not only did I feel relatively fresh in my unwashed attire, but if I smelled nobody said anything about it, and that includes my family who I can assure you are quite forthcoming when it comes to critiquing me.  I guess what I'm saying is, sure it's expensive, but you can amortize the expense by not washing it.

Anyway, today I figured I'd start out the week by trying out yet another decadent product, so I grabbed a pair of Donnelly LCV road bicycle racing tires in the 25mm sizeway and the tan sidewall colourwhey:


With a thread count of 240 and a price of $75 per tire these are easily more supple and more expensive than any of my bedding.  The reason that I have them is because after my last experience with the Tresca I figured I owed it to the bike to see how it felt with a really nice pair of tires, so I called in a favor.  Then, in the process of calling in said favor, it occurred to me I might as well really push it by asking for two pairs of tires so I could also try a pair on my New-To-Me Titanium Forever Bike.  Incredibly, Donnelly accommodated me, and shortly thereafter I received two (2) pairs of the LCVs, one pair in tan sidewall and one pair in black sidewall.  (I asked for one of each to be especially annoying.)

As of yet I have not gotten around to installing them on the Tresca, but this morning I put the skinwall pair on my NTMTFB and headed out for a ride:


(I figured the tan sidewalls would look better with the traditional wheels, though now I'm wondering if maybe the black would have looked better, but I don't care enough to try and see.)

As I've said repeatedly, I really love this bike.  You know all that fawning crap people write about titanium?  Well, it turns out it's true.  And yet I'd never tried the bike with a really nice set of tires on it.  When I first received it from Classic Cycles it had a pair of Mavic Scaryums with Specialized Roubaix Pro tires on it:


In my experience Specialized tires are pretty good, and these seemed nice enough, though clearly they're designed for versatility and durability as opposed to Maximum Fredness.  (I mean arguably that's a good thing, but still.)

I immediately fell in love with the bike, but because the wheels were a little persnickety I wanted something a little more traditional.  So Classic Cycles were kind enough to furnish me with these:


This pair of wheels was far more in line with my sensibilities, though the tires were unremarkable: wire bead Vittoria Rubinos.  Please do not take this as a complaint--I didn't expect Classic Cycles to include any tires at all, so I was pleasantly surprised that the wheels showed up ready to ride--but at the same time once you go that far down the lineup the tires do start to get noticeably sluggish.  Nevertheless, they were brand new tires, so I figured I might as well wear them out before buying new ones.

Alas, the difference in tire quality was noticeable enough that I'd find myself switching back and forth between these wheels and the Scaryums.  However, the Scaryums were plagued by noises I have still not been able to quell (I don't even want to get into it), and while I don't mind dirt or ratty bar tape or anything like that I have zero tolerance for noises.  All of this was a disservice to both me and my beloved NTMTFB.

But now this bike has the wheel and the tires it deserves:


I expected the bike to feel nicer (according to the respective websites a Rubino is 60tpi and 320g while an LCV is 240tpi and 224g), but I was surprised by just how much nicer the ride is now.  You know when you're reading a review of a wheel or a tire or something and the reviewer says they automatically rode in a higher gear than usual and you're like, "What a load of shit"?  Well that happened; the cassette on these wheels is a 12/25, and I'd always felt like it stopped a little short on the low end, until today.  I'm certainly not saying this is unique to the LCV--I'd no doubt have felt the same sensation by switching to pretty much any high-end racing clincher--but this just happens to be the one I switched to, and the bike feels better than ever now.

As for the attributes of this particular tire, here's what the tread looks like:


And here's a closer look at the sidewall:


I'm not sure what you're supposed to glean from any of this, except that my overly long valve stem is clearly creating excessive rotating weight and wind resistance.  As for traction and all that stuff, I doubt it will surprise you to learn I don't exactly corner like Jobst Brandt:


But I will say it's fall and it rained all day yesterday which means there are wet leaves everywhere, and I felt as confident with these as I do with any road tire.

Of course, under ordinary circumstances I would not be installing a pair of brand-new high-end lightweight $75 racing tires on my bicycle in late October; heading into the winter on tires this nice is like eating ribs in a linen suit.  However, these are not normal circumstances, and the bike felt so exhilaratingly sprightly today I'm now ready to embrace being the kind of person who rides around on fancy tires all year round Just Because.

Hey, I think I've earned a little decadence.

And yes, one (1) ride of 40-ish miles tells us nothing of durability or anything like that.  Certainly I don't expect them to perform like a pair of Gatorskins in that regard but naturally I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime however I plan to enjoy them.

As for that second pair that I'd earmarked for the Tresca, I may just hoard them for the spring instead.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Fred-peror's New Clothes

Sorry for my absence, but I've been positively drowning in luxury bike products!  I mean you know about the Trail Butter, but that's just the gooey tip of the sticky iceberg.  I've got tires, a bike lock...but what I'm going to talk about first is clothes:


These are not the clothes in question.  Indeed, times have changed since Rapha came around and ushered in a new age of monochromatic, vaguely fascistic garments.  (Yes, armbands are fascistic, but we're talking about road riding here, so it works.)  Now there are two basic sartorial approaches to dressing yourself for a road ride:
  • Muted earthtones with some Dayglo accents
  • Super over-the-top colors and intentionally cheesy patterns
The latter is generally the domain of younger people who discovered bikes three years ago via the Radavist and then started irreverent cyclocross teams, whereas the former is slightly more pan-generational.  Sure, you still see people wearing their 20 year-old Discovery kits or their finely aged charity ride jersey, but for the most part the post-Rapha and post-gravel cycling world is decked out in olive drab like the rebel army in Star Wars.

I should stress this is not a bad thing.  Remember stuff like this?  

I mean obviously we're a lot better off.  Anyway, all of this is by way of saying that Pearl Izumi came to New York City not too long ago to show their fall apparel to the press and they gave me some clothes to try.  So that's what I've been doing.

Before I move onto the clothes, I should probably give you an inside glimpse into the fabulous life of a semi-professional and semi-retired bike blogger.  The Pearl Izumi press event consisted of an early morning weekday ride around Central Park.  Alas, with seventeen (17) children to ship off to their respective learning institutions and factory jobs I could not join said ride.  So we made arrangements to meet in the park later in the morning, and I took them up to the popular local route known as "River Road."

I should not have to remind you that I'm slow.  However, people who live in Colorado and work in the bike industry are not slow.  Furthermore, it was a freakishly hot 80-degree October day (much to the chagrin of the Pearl Izumi people, who had come to New York expecting crisp autumnal conditions in which to debut their wares).  The upshot of all this was that I spent like 40 miles sweating my pants yabbies off and watching my new acquaintances vanish up the road.  Upon our return to Manhattan I pointed them downtown and figured after seeing me in action they wouldn't want me associated with their brand, but to my surprise a package containing some fashionably subtle au courant apparel soon turned up on my doormat.

I was very careful to snip the tags and put them aside so I'd know the actual names and prices of what I've been wearing.  Obviously I immediately lost them.  However, thanks to the Internet I've pieced it all together and here's the ensemble my sweat earned me:






I'm sure you know the line on Merino: it's warm, it's comfy, and it doesn't stink.  This makes it a great material for cycling clothes, especially base layers.  I know this because I had a Merino base layer I wore for years until I left it in California at the last L'Eroica ride, goddamn it.  (It did, however, develop a hole in it, possibly due to moths.)

At the same time, I got that base layer for free just like this one, which retails for $80.  (Trips to California, free base layers...sometimes I step outside myself and marvel at what a rarefied life I lead.)  To be perfectly honest, I'd never pay $80 for a base layer.  In fact, the base layers I wear most often are Uniqlo Heattech undershirts, which cost like $15--and even those I got for free, because they were giving them away one time I went shopping at Uniqlo.  ("Hmmm, these things would probably make great base layers," I thought to myself--and they did!)

So while the Merino base layer from Pearl Izumi is extremely nice, and while I'm very happy to have a new one to replace the one I left behind, I'm also not going to sit here and tell you to run out and buy an $80 base layer--unless of course $80 simply isn't a lot of money for you, in which case good for you, go crazy, or unless you're just a Merino snob, which some people seem to be.

The jersey is also a very fine garment, and after about 100 miles in it so far I like it very much.  However, it's also expensive at $195.  It's obviously a lot easier to justify an expensive jersey with zippers and pockets and stuff than it is an expensive undershirt, but yes, it's still a luxury item.  I will no doubt wear the hell out of it this winter, but it's also the sort of thing I'd be unlikely to buy myself, and would instead tell someone else to get for me for Christmas.

To me the real standout item is the vest:

In keeping with the theme it is not cheap, but it's outerwear, and if you're going to put money into anything it should be your outerwear.  (This is true on or off the bike.  Your outerwear should be lasting you decades.)  It's quite comfortable and warm, and of course it's got that rebel army look that's So Hot Right Now.  

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Please don't show me a picture of you wearing this stuff."  Well, I'm afraid your request is denied:


I took this photo in a River Road restroom, and as you can see, after your ride you can just throw on some designer jeans and some body spray, slather your helmet hair with styling gel, and hit the club:


By the way, not only was I decked out in Fredly finery, but I was also wearing the deerskin gloves Barry Wicks sent me:


I just thought they were funny at first, but I gotta say I'm kinda into the deerskin gloves now.

I may pick up a few more pairs at Home Depot.

And not only have I been busy testing clothes, but I've also been busy tweaking my crabon Fred Sled:


Since taking delivery of this bike almost a year ago now I've been resigned to the fact that, while overall I love it, I'm just not that crazy about the shape of the bars.  I figured eventually I'd get around to changing them once the bar tape needed replacing, but the other day I decided enough was enough and instead rolled the bar tape back just enough to play with the lever position--and wouldn't you know it, with a little bit of fiddling everything feels great now!


Clearly the fact that it's taken me almost a year to figure this out means I have too many bikes.

Alas, between switching to a longer stem awhile back and moving the levers further down the bar I managed to take up a decent amount of cable housing slack, thus tightening the bend of the cable where it crosses the front of the stem.  I realized this was not ideal and that it could cause binding, but I was also disinclined to re-cable the bike or run the cables under the bars where there's no groove for them--and anyway, how many sharp turns are you making on a road bike?  Well, today I was navigating the notorious hairpin turn on the George Washington Bridge when the rear brake cable got hung up on the stem bolt.  You can see how that would happen here:



This had the effect of locking up the rear brake, which in turn had the effect of dumping me onto the pavement.  I've now got a scuffed shifter lever and saddle, as well as a large black and blue mark on my dignity.  

But hey, at least I didn't rip the clothes.

Friday, October 18, 2019

It's Friday! New Outside Column! Bike Rides! Exclamation Points! Hooray!!!

Way back in 1986 when I started this blog, I never would have imagined virtual bike racers would be getting busted for virtual doping.  But here we are, as I explore in my latest virtual column for Outside's virtual magazine presence:

Cycling really needs its own "Black Mirror"-esque near-future dystopia show.  It could be called "Black Chamois."  The Tyler Hamilton's Chimera episode practically writes itself.

As for me, I took an old-fashioned outside ride today, though it wasn't totally analog because I uploaded it to the Internet:


Believe me when I tell you I don't even remotely enjoy taking leisurely rambling mixed-terrain rides on cool, clear autumn Fridays.  I'd much rather be in a cubicle working on spreadsheets.  However, I've recently taken delivery of some exciting new products, and as a semi-professional (and, at this point, semi-retired) bike blogger and social media influencer it is recumbent upon me to try these products out and report on them.  One of these products is Trial Butter, which is basically delicious adult baby food for outdoorsy types:

When I get hungry on my be-jorted rambles I generally stop at a very expensive gluten-free bakery, or else treat myself to an even more expensive artisanally locally sustainable etc. lunch at Stone Barns, because that's the kind of person I am.  However, this time I simply stuck a packet of Trail Butter (the dark chocolate and coffee flavor) along with some rice cakes in my Jones handlebar purse.  (I had to break up the rice cakes in order to make them fit.)  Not only was it quite tasty, but it also sustained me for the entirety of my ride, and best of all I didn't have to wait on line behind the sorts of horrible people who shop at gluten-free bakeries and artisanal nature centers.  (Yes, I realize I'm one of those horrible people, and the last thing I want is to be surrounded by people like me.)

Of course the big question is: "In a pinch can you use Trail Butter as a tire sealant?," and while I didn't have occasion to try I'll certainly keep you posted.

As for the ride itself, I explored a new trail.  It wasn't until after I rode the trail that I saw a sign indicating bikes were not allowed on said trail, so for that I apologize.  Then when I left the park I found myself trapped in some creepy suburban subdivision, and while I didn't see a single human I did find some zombie deer:


Seriously, they just stood there, it was totally creepy.

Finally, I've also noticed that at least two of the new repair stands in Yonkers I recently discovered have disappeared, and I can only assume someone's stolen them.  This one, however, remains:


Though the fact it's secured to the sidewalk by these ordinary bolts as opposed to some sort of theft-proof fasteners does offer some clues as to why the others vanished so quickly:


You could practically remove the thing with that multitool.

Friday, October 11, 2019

It's Friday! Don't Even Read This, Go Ride Your Bike!

There's nothing like a bicycle ride on a blustery fall day:


Yes, that's gravel, and no that's not a gravel bike, but don't worry because I walked it.

What, do you think I'm crazy or something?

By the way, for those of you wondering what's going on with the Tresca, here's an update:


For those of you who are sick of hearing about it, here's one of the worst cover songs ever recorded.

Even the original song is pretty dumb, so it's kind of impressive they managed to limbo under such a low bar.

And yet after linking to it I listened to the entire song, go figure.

Right, so after my lukewarm post-race notes on the Tresca the other day I figured they'd want their bike back.  On the contrary.  Not only did they tell me I could keep experimenting with it, but they also said they're working on a 56 (that's my size) and are planning to offer a wider range of sizes overall.  Furthermore, they said they'd send a 56 when it's ready (probably in the spring sometime when the races are starting up again), and words like "Dura Ace" and "crabon" wheels and parts were also bandied about, though they did spell crabon "carbon," which I'm assuming is the British spelling.

All of this is to say honesty is the best policy, because now I get more toys to play with.  I'm not sure how or why I've wound up as Tresca's test pilot, but it's not like I have anything better to do, so I'm not complaining.

They probably shouldn't listen to me though because if they do they're just going to wind up selling 20 year-old Litespeeds.