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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance To The Radio

As you may or may not or may may not be aware, WBAI, the station that was broadcasting my radio show, has stopped broadcasting:

Hey, at least I got mentioned in the article:

Oh well, it was a good run.  Yes, my radio career was quite the thrill ride.  There I was, sitting on the couch eating Doritos a few months back, when the WBAI program director called and asked me if I wanted to be on the radio.  "Sure," I replied, brushing the crumbs off my gut and shuffling off to the shower, and the rest is history.  On one foot I'm sad that I no longer have a radio outlet on which to bloviate, but on the other foot I no longer have to schlep all the way to Brooklyn every Monday, so it all works out in the end.

Of course, WBAI is simply the latest victim in a long series of august enterprises I've successfully tanked.  For example, there was Islabikes, who sent me (well, my son) a bike to test and then shuttered their United States headquarters:

Then there was Renovo, and we all know what happened with them:

As for why this is happening, I have two theories:

1) Companies only reach out to me out of sheer desperation, and by the time they do they've already got one foot in the grave;

B) I am truly cursed and my touch causes even the ripest fruit to wither and die on the vine.

Either way, I imagine Tresca are like, "What the hell were we thinking?"

Speaking of the Tresca, while I may not have been blown away by its performance in a racing scenario, I'm not writing it off by any means, and will continue to experiment with it as time permits.  Unfortunately I don't have unlimited access to a wide variety of components, but certainly swapping wheels with my plastic bike is in order, and a saddle change as well as a swap to a longer stem with some rise would also be worthwhile.  I will say though that when, the day after the race, I hopped on my Plastic Fred Sled I was like, "Wow, this bike feels good:

Then when I hopped on my new-to-me titanium "Forever Bike" I was like, "Wow, this bike feels really good:"

I may not have a radio show anymore, but I'm in a pretty good place as far as bikes go, anyway.  And isn't that what's most important?

Finally, I've got a new column on the Outside website, and it's about how we should stop making such a big fucking deal about bike lanes already:

If the media constantly referred to toilets as "controversial" we probably wouldn't have enough of them either.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Tresca Going-Fast Bicycle: Testing Update

Yesterday, after a brief hiatus, I finally got back on the Tresca for a standard-issue New York City-area road ride:

And then, this morning, I finally had an opportunity to test the Tresca in a real-life race-type situation in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

I am dismayed to report that I failed to complete the race.

Now, I am not blaming the Tresca for my failure.  For one thing, it's October, and ordinarily I'd never subject myself to a road race this late in the year--the only reason I did so was to try out this bike.  For another, it was cold and windy, which made matters that much more difficult.  And finally, on yesterday's ride I did feel like I was dragging ass, so I'm not surprised that this general sensation of sluggishness carried over into today.

At the same time, while I certainly didn't feel great, I must say I was not thrilled with the way the bike felt, either.  This surprised me.  Since taking delivery of the bike a few weeks back I've quite enjoyed riding it, and while it lacked a certain amount of refinement compared to my plastic Fred Sled and my new-to-me titanium "Forever Bike," I put a lot of this down to the extremely thin bar tape.  Furthermore, I assumed the bike would really come into its own in a race, given its aggressive position and overall demeanor.

This isn't quite what happened.  Instead, I found the bike lacked a bit of stability on the downhill and when reaching into my jersey pocket or down for a water bottle, which was distracting.  There are also rough sections of pavement in Prospect Park, which if you're not attentive and you fail to position yourself properly ahead of time you get forced into riding over at speed, and these moments were more unsettling on the Tresca than on the plastic bike.  Also, on the "climb" (Prospect Park has one big-ring incline you go over like 12 times at full speed, which is where I ultimately slipped off the back a little past the halfway point of the race), the bike felt kind of like a wooden block--which is ironic since the actual wooden bike I used to have felt nothing at all like a wooden block.  All of this is to say that, whil the bike wasn't even remotely terrible, I simply never felt great about the bike.

HOWEVER, it's important to keep in mind that my perception was no doubt tainted (and possibly even totally undermined) by the fact that I simply wasn't feeling it this morning.  I also have no idea if something as simple as, say, a proper set of race tires would have made a significant difference in how the bike felt.  (The Tresca has Continental Grand Sport Race tires, with which I have no experience, and which are on the heavy side.)  And let's not forget that before this morning I hadn't taken part in a bike race since the end of August, and that I hadn't taken part in a bike race in Prospect Park since April.  So maybe what I was interpreting as a lack of stability was just me needing to find my footing after over a month of leisurely solo riding.

Still, as lousy as I am at bike racing, and as rusty as I am at the moment, it's fairly unusual for me not to finish a race in Prospect.  Also, I've never had moments where I doubted my plastic bike in a race; if anything I'm always stricken by how well it performs, even when I don't.  (It's easy not to like the "S" company but they've clearly figured out how to make a race bike.)  And even my Milwaukee with its filthy, balky 10-speed 105 drivetrain felt like a perfectly competent race bike the time I pressed it into service for a wet Prospect Park race:

So while I'm hesitant to criticize the Tresca for what could easily be simple matters of component choice or the fact that I was an even bigger mess than usual out there this morning, I also felt what I felt.  Maybe it's as simple as fit: the Tresca comes in S, M, and L, and while I'm pretty much smack in the middle of the height range Tresca recommends for an M, the bike's certainly smaller in pretty much every dimension than what I usually ride.  (Looking at the L, I could probably ride it with no headset spacers and a short stem, but I don't know that this would be an improvement.)  Regardless, sizing is certainly another reason they'll have a hell of a time competing against aluminum bike makers such as Cannondale.  (A CAAD13 with 105 costs $1,800 and comes in eight sizes.)

In any case, you never really know a road racing bike until you, you know, race it.  A great race bike isn't there: you're focused on the wheels around you and the road surface and not getting dropped and feeding yourself and all the rest of it, and you really only notice the bike if it mis-shifts or something else about it bothers you.  So whether it's just a matter of the sizing (most likely, the more I think about it) or the components or something else, I didn't quite get there with the Tresca today.  I'm sure if I changed some parts around I could get almost there--or maybe I could even all the way there--but as it is out of the box it's not the bike I would choose for my sad middle-aged park exploits.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

New Outside Column And More!

Firstly, I've got a new Outside column, and it's about how hard it is to buy a lousy bike:

At the same time, it's also truly hard to buy a great one, and certainly the preponderance of nearly-identical and eminently adequate "genre" bikes means upstarts like Tresca have their work cut out for them:

By the way, if you're wondering how things are going with the Tresca, the next phase of testing will involve riding it in a sanctioned bicycle race, which I plan to do this weekend.

Secondly, I was also on the radio waves again yesterday, and you can listen to that show here:

A number of people have asked me if the show is available as a podcast, and the short answer is "no."  As for why it's not available that way, you'll have to ask the radio station, because I have nothing to do with that stuff.  I just show up, sit in front of a microphone, and set my brain to "bloviate."

And finally, while I've been riding my Midlife Crisis Fixie to the studio on Mondays, yesterday I rode the Jones SWB instead so I could drop it off with the winner of the essay contest!

Please note this is not how the bike looked yesterday; rather, it is a photo of the last time I washed it, which was quite awhile ago.  Rest assured the winner received a fairly dirty bicycle.  I did, however, add sealant to the tires and replace the chain before riding it down to Brooklyn and turning it over.

Since doing a back-to-back comparison between the SWB and the LWB I've been on the latter pretty much exclusively, so when I hopped on the SWB to head down to Brooklyn I was immediately stricken by how much smaller and more playful the SWB feels--as I'm sure I've mentioned, it has a sprightliness that belies its considerable heft.  That certainly doesn't make one bike better than the other, and indeed I'm committing to the LWB over the SWB because I value its overall composure.  (I like the longer wheelbase on the road, and I like the additional pedal clearance on the trail.)  But certainly in an ideal world where space weren't an issue I'd happily go back and forth between both bike--and in a really ideal world I'd have an LWB in titanium with really light wheels and parts, because a bike like that would be truly amazing.

Hey, maybe we'll all get lucky, I'll get that titanium Jones, and I'll have an LWB to give away. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Wait, It's Friday Already?

Firstly, I'm wildly remiss in filling you in on who won the Jones SWB:

The short version is the winning essay involved a thrilling tale of international intrigue, and ultimately the Jones will be embarking upon a thousand-mile journey from the Black sea across the Caucasus and Zagros Mountains.  Or something.  I'll share more later.

Anyway, there were a number of deserving entries, but none matched the nuanced backstory and sheer ambition of the one I ultimately deemed the winner.

Of course my own Jonesian outings are quite pedestrian by comparison; indeed, they're not particularly adventurous by any standard.  Nevertheless, I sit before you feeling tired yet satisfied after my latest Friday ramble astride the Jones LWB:

Before I go any further, I should mention there's some douchebag out there who's always leaving comments on how I'm a shill and a sell-out because of my professed love for the Jones as well as my enthusiasm for other bicycle-related products.  My response to that is, "Bite me."  I'm [redacted] years old, I've got nothing to prove anymore, and I love riding too much not to be honest when I'm enjoying something--and the Jones (in both SWB and LWB versions) has brought me a tremendous amount of cycling enjoyment.  Certainly it was the Marin Pine Mountain that set me on the path, but the plus-sized tires, dedicated rigid geometry, and upright position of the Jones have been nothing less than a revelation for me.  I'll probably always want to get on a road bike and hunch my aging body over a set of drop bars at least some of the time (some of us just have Fredliness in our DNA), but the rest of the time the Jones is the bike that lets me just ride.  A little pavement, a little dirt, a little singletrack...  For me, drinking the Jones ayahuasca has been the culmination of a long process that began with my moving from Brooklyn to the Bronx back in 2012 and thus acquiring ready access to terrain that previously required me to slog through the city for two hours or else (gasp!) drive in order to ride.  But from here, I've got mixed-terrain riding right out my back door, and can do the sorts of rides that most people don't associate with living in New York City.

Anyway, the point is I'm in a very good place with my riding life, and the Jones is no small part of that.

Moreover, my current place of residence is situated on what is slowly shaping up to be the premier cycling route in the New York City area.  Not only are they paving the mud bog that is the Putnam Trail through Van Cortlandt Park, but up in Yonkers they're now installing bicycle repair stands along the South County Trailway, which blew my mind:

From here, soon you'll be able to ride over the Tappan Zee (sorry, "Mario M. Cuomo") Bridge to all the Fredly routes on the opposite side of the river, which means by next year or so you'll be able to do a great big trans-Hudson loop, either paved or unpaved depending on your mood, and I'll live right on said loop.

As for my ride today, it included a foray into the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall, which owing to car-induced sprawl I often access by means of a sidewalk--where, oddly, I came across another new bike repair stand:

This is hardly a bicycle thoroughfare, and thus is a highly unlikely spot for a bike repair stand.  Given this, I have two theories:

1) The City of Yonkers is involved in some sort of kickback scheme whereby they bought a shitload of bike repair stands and they're just installing them wherever;

B) The City of Yonkers is genuinely attempting to be bike-friendly, so they bought data from Strava to see where people are riding--and because I visit the Trails Behind The Mall so frequently, they've mistakenly identified this as a heavily-trafficked bicycle thoroughfare, so essentially this bike stand is just for me.

If the second scenario is indeed the case, I'd like to thank the City of Yonkers, because this pump is ideally situated so that I can drop my tire pressure before hitting the Trails Behind The Mall, and then top them back up again for the ride home.

In any event, from the Trails Behind The Mall I took in a couple of other lesser-known spots.  I could easily have kept going all day, but familial responsibilities compelled me to come about and steer the good ship Jones homeward:

All in all, it was a successful outing, and I can highly recommend moving to the Bronx and purchasing a Jones.

Monday, September 23, 2019

New Radio Show, New Jones Owner!


Don't get too comfortable, this is just a quick update.

Firstly, I was on the radio again this morning, and here's the show for your listening...well, for your listening:

Secondly, I have no second item.

Thirdly, the Jones SWB officially has a new owner!

It was a really hard decision, and I'll share more later once I've consulted with the lucky winner, but let's just say for now the bike's new curator has some very, very, very big plans for it.