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take in healthy slices of both Sprain Ridge Park and the Old Croton Aqueduct trail before many of my neighbors had even withdrawn their MetroCards.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.


wishiwasmerckx said...


Funnelwebmaster?!? said...

Surprised that The Snob hasn’t commented on today’s NYT article on bike deaths rising in NYC and DeBlasio’s promise to fix it.

BikeSnobNYC said...


I did an entire radio show about the recent deaths on Monday (though the latest hadn't occurred yet), I've been tweeting about all of this regularly, I've discussed it on the Bike Forecast, and I've written an Outside column that should be published imminently.

These days I've sort of been reserving this channel for bike dork stuff.

--Tan Tenovo

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...Mr. Tan, I have a suggestion: why don't I accompany you on one of your back to back rides? Hear me out: I'll ride one of the two Joneses... and you get to switch between them to your heart's desire. I guess I'll be sort of a domestique.

...This is all for the sake of science, of course. It has nothing to do with wanting to test the Jones myself.

huskerdont said...

I am a bit tired of the pedal strike (and chainring strike) I've been getting on my 27.5 so I've been considering going to a 1X with a shorter crank. Might just be easier to buy a Jones.

Chazu said...

Thanks for the bike dork stuff here. If I recall correctly, this blog recently turned 12 years old.

Some guy from upstate said...

There is probably a really long list of the ways the Jones is the complete anti-Renovo; your first photo reveals the most unexpected one: the seat tube appears to be the only place on the Jones it is NOT possible to attach a bottle cage. I suppose that location would be in the way of the giant frame bag that you are meant to be "rocking", but still, seems odd.

I will continue to ride my cyclocross bike in gravel-type events, because I already have one. Of course, my cyclocross bike is also the nicest road bike I own, so there's that.

Also, it looks like Governor Cuomo might not sign the E-bike bill that our legislature has finally passed. I think he is pissed that the legislature passed a whole bunch of progressive shit without asking him, and he needs to show them who's boss while pissing off the smallest number of people, so cyclists get the Cuomo smackdown. What a dick. Here's the text of the bill, in case anyone else wants to wade through it.

hellbelly said...

Outside pure road efforts (ie. zero dirt or potential dismounts) it's hard to go wrong with original (not the newer varieties with the tension adjust) Time ATAC pedals for any clip in needs.

Richard Nixon said...

Just got around to reading the latest Outside column (A Car Is the Path to Financial Ruin). I would never say so but others might point out it sounds a bit like that "Industrial Society and Its Future" essay.

Anonymous said...

RE: low pedals

About 2 years ago I got an 1984 Trek 720 off craig's list, that has a 54 tooth big ring and 180 mm cranks. The 720 is a full-on touring bike with a low bottom bracket. The pedals are less then 3" from the pavement, so I've learned to stop pedaling on all turns.


The 180 mm cranks really fit my long legs and feet. If I paid attention in machine design class all those years ago I might have an engineering explanation for this. And the extra leverage of the long cranks cancels out the large front gear, so it is really like a 51 or 52 tooth ring. This is currently my favorite bike, and I feel I can ride both faster and farther with more comfort. I'm never going back to 170 mm.

Of course I don't ride off road.

Anonymous said...

Is bike packing in some far off local in your future?

Chazu said...


I agree with you. However, I have Time ATAC pedals on my road bike anyway. It simplifies the configuration of multiple bikes and my footwear.

I enjoy the occasional side glances at my Sidi Dominator MTB shoes when I'm standing around talking with fellow road Freds. My shoes are so heavy and UN-aerodynamic looking, it is simply appalling.

1904 Cadardi said...

"totally negate any desire I may have felt in the past for a "gravel" bike"

The betting pool is now open on how soon Tan gets a gravel bike.

Anonymous said...

That Jones seems pretty expensive for a comfort bike.

1904 Cadardi said...


Pedal and shoe choice seems to be blurring more lines than ever, or at least mountain over to road. I'm more of a roadie and have road pedals on my road bike, but most of the people on my office lunch ride have mountain bike pedals and shoes even though none of them are serious mountain bikers. Around here really everyone but the hard core roadies are in mountain bike shoes.

I have Shimano SPDs on my mountain and cross (gravel?) bikes which makes sense. I just put a pair of flip-flop flat/SPD pedals on my travel bike because I'm likely to get off and walk places when out exploring cities and things, but dual sided because sometimes it's nice to just ride down the street in whatever shoes are handiest. They are heavy and it is somewhat unhandy to have to flip the pedal to whatever side you need, but at least there's always one side that doesn't suck.

If it makes your riding easier, more enjoyable, simpler you won't get flack from me.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 4:03pm,

Totally, everyone knows expensive bikes shouldn't be comfortable.

--Tan Tenovo

BamaPhred said...

That was a lot of content to absorb before the July 4 break. Outside, blog, forecast, radio show Strava, Twitter. It’s a media empire! Enjoy the holiday.

HDEB said...

The LWB Jones looks fun and seems ideal for someone who only wants to own a single bicycle. I just got back from Toronto--their bicycle infrastructure is superior to NYC's and drivers seem far less like psycho-killers.