Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Testing Bikes Is Very Hard Work!

As you know, since late last week I've been subjecting the Tresca TCA-1 to an intensive testing process:

Now, before I go on, at least one reader was wondering where the name "Tresca" comes from.  Well basically, Henri Tresca was a mechanical engineer who devised the Tresca failure criterion.  So basically it's a nod to all the engineering Freds out there.  Now you know.

Anyway, this Tresca testing ("Tresting" if you will) now moves into a new phase, and I began by recalibrating my scranus yesterday:

If you're not a semi-professional bike blogger like me you may not realize this, but your crotchal region adapts to whatever bicycle you were riding last, and it holds that adjustment until you ride another bicycle.  This is why, for example, your road bike will feel way faster after you ride a Citi Bike for awhile, even if you've made no changes whatsoever to said road bike.  Therefore, when testing bikes, I'm always careful to establish a scranial baseline before moving forward.

To that end, by way of zeroing out my scranus, yesterday I commuted to my radio show in Brooklyn (you can listen to it here, by the way) aboard my midlife crisis fixie:

If you're wondering why I'm riding a $299 mail order fixie, it's because Bicycling asked me to write about it and I've since grown quite fond of it.  In fact I've been riding it to Brooklyn every week, carrying my laptop and sundries in a Two Wheel Gear pannier briefcase, which is also working out rather well:

Now that I've ditched the incredibly painful Vans grips that came on the State (as I've said, they basically feel like someone's standing on your hands while wearing Vans) the bike is perfectly comfortable, and while there are times I wouldn't mind shifting, in New York City it's always good to have a bike you can throw up against a pole, lock up, and walk away from without worrying too much.  I am a little self-conscious about the white wheels, which are unbecoming of a gentleman of my age and stature, but they're suitably tank-like for my bombed-out urban environment and it's certainly not worth the effort to change them.

Anyway, as you can imagine, this Generation Z special with its straight-gauge high tensile tubing, foamy saddle, and a single gear ratio that's at least two teeth too high for a gentleman of my age and stature was a perfect tool for scranial calibration, and by the time I got home I basically had a flat EQ situation between my legs.

Now, the next step in testing a bike is to have a "control" bike with which to compare your test bike.  In this case the appropriate control bike is my plastic Fred sled, inasmuch as that's my dedicated racing bike and the Tresca is nothing if not a race bike.  Alas, as I mentioned in my last post, the Fred sled was in need of a new chain, and so I tested it against my new-to-me titanium "Forever Bike" instead, which was something of an apples-to-slightly-different-apples comparison.

Therefore, on the way back from Brooklyn yesterday, I stopped at Master Bikes on W. 72nd St. and purchased a brand new chain and a brand new cassette, and installed both on the Fred sled forthwith.  Then this morning I headed out for a ride:

Every time I get on this bike I think about what a shame it is I don't ride it more.  If it wasn't for the "Forever Bike" I would ride it more--in fact it would be my go-to road bike--but because I do have said forever bike I wind up saving the plastic bike for races instead, employing the logic that this way I'm saving the tires and so forth and won't have to replace stuff very often.  In practice however this is stupid, because when you ride a bike often you're good about maintaining it, whereas when you don't you wind up having to change the chain and cassette prematurely because you never bother to clean the drivetrain after drizzling perspiration and sports hydration mix all over it.

All of this is to say it's a really nice bike.  Yes, it's easy to dislike Specialized.  Obviously there's the lawyer stuff, and on top of that the bikes are everywhere and if you're of a certain disposition you have an adverse reaction to ubiquity.  (90% of the riders headed over the GWB on any given weekend day are wearing Rapha jerseys and riding Specialized bicycles.)  Be that as it may this bike feels great--and it has a threaded bottom bracket and it's black, though if you get in closer you see it's really full of stars:

By the way, not only did the bike feel great, but it also had a new chain and cassette on it, which mean the shifting was absolutely perfect and overall the drivetrain had that feeling you get in your mouth after you get a tooth cleaning.  (After a tooth cleaning you gratuitously run your tongue over your teeth all day, and after a new chain and cassette you shift a lot for no reason.)  Soon I was at what we here in the greater New York City metropolitan Fredding region call "River Road:"

At which point I stopped to adjust my saddle position, which is a completely ridiculous thing to do on a bike you've had for almost a year, but everything felt so damn perfect and for whatever reason after all this time I felt like another three millimeters of saddle height would make it really perfect.  (And no, the seatpost isn't slipping, I mark all my seatposts with tape.)

Of course, Specialized being Specialized, instead of a regular seatpost clamp (all bikes should have regular seatpost clamps and threaded bottom brackets, no exceptions) this bike has an integrated wedge-type arrangement, and there's a tiny rubber plug for the hole where you access the binder bolt.  As I removed the tiny rubber plug I thought to myself, "You better not lose this!"  I was going to put it in my jersey pocket but I thought maybe I'd drop it by accident while rummaging around back there.  So instead I placed it carefully on top of the saddle, which was an exceedingly stupid thing to do because the next thing I knew it was gone:

I'm a strange person.  I will ride my bikes for months without cleaning them.  I don't care if they get scratched.  And yet the idea of riding my bike without this tiny rubber plug which serves no purpose except to cosmetically fill a hole (I mean sure, I guess technically it also keeps water out but let's get real) was utterly unacceptable.  Desperately I scanned the area, but it was impossible to discern a tiny rubber plug amid all that gravel:

(Should have used a gravel-specific plug.)

I wandered around in circles, trying to remember the shape and consistency of the tiny rubber plug in order to forensically calculate its trajectory.  Would it have bounced?  Rolled?  Skittered away like a bug?  I couldn't find it anywhere.

"Maybe it never hit the ground," I thought, wondering if maybe it had fallen through the scranial channel in the saddle and gotten lodged in the seatpost hardware:


Clearly my bike was now ruined, especially when you consider it's also missing the stupid plastic front derailleur cap that holds the excess cable:

I have already obtained replacements, but the little tab from the original cover is still lodged in the bolt and I can't see how to get it out (at least not without removing the binder bolt altogether, which now that I've got the front shifting all perfect I'm not prepared to do), and so instead I simply tuck the cable end into the derailleur tab like a folkie too lazy to cut the ends of his guitar strings.

By this point riders were passing me and asking me if anything was wrong, as you might if you saw someone frantically circling a tiny area like a dog looking for a place to relieve himself.  Eventually I was forced to acknowledge defeat, and I remounted despite a strong impulse to turn around, go home, and order 50 replacement tiny rubber plugs immediately.

But a funny thing happened.  Within moments I decided I felt good that the tiny rubber plug was gone.  "This was what I needed," I thought.  "Now that there's this gaping hole in the top tube I can just flog the bike regularly without fussing over it anymore."  This put a real spring in my pedal stroke, and I relished the sensation of speed as I big-ringed it up some inclines, rocking the bike back and forth and reveling in its whiplike feel.  Oddly however the bike suddenly started feeling a lot less whiplike, at which point I realized I had a flat.

Between the lost tiny rubber plug and the flat I felt dispirited, but I possess an incredible amount of mental fortitude, and its precisely this strength of character that enables me to continue riding my bike in the middle of a beautiful Tuesday while the rest of you schmucks are working, despite monumental setbacks such as these.  Ultimately I completed the route I had set out to ride, and there were no further setbacks.

I'd also like to say that I overcame my irrational feelings about the tiny rubber plug, and that I've since let it go.  However, my return trip brought me past the site of the disappearance once again, and with fresh eyes I surveyed the ground one last time--and there it was!

Basking in the sense that all was now right with the world, I plugged the hole in my frame, and in so doing I also filled the void of my soul:

So there it is.  The scranus is now tuned to the plastic Fred sled, so the next ride will be on the Tresca.  Stay tuned.  (Or, if you prefer, never ever read this blog again.  Can't say I'd blame you.)


Serial Retrogrouch said...

Calibrate, test, repeat. Podio?

NYCHighwheeler said...

Having just had a tooth removed at the oral surgeon today, that lost little rubber plug story spoke personally to me in a a very deep way.
No, wait, it was the painkillers that are speaking to me deeply.

Glad you are out riding, now get back in the woods! The trails are in great shape.

mark ifi said...

you are very enthusiastic about rubber plugs

Chazu said...

ShouldaCouldaWoulda put the plastic cap under the elastic leg band of your stretchy lycra fred shorts.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding like a canine behaviourist Fred; I believe when dogs 'frantically circle a tiny area', they're not looking for a place to urinate, but rather "flattening out the grass at the spot they're gonna lay down". Making their bed, as it were.

It dates from the days when dogs were wolves and weren't living in carpeted apartments, yet the same routine is still observed in even the most domesticated mutt today. Must be hard-wired, a primitive practice that hasn't been bred out of 'em.

Also, for something purely cosmetic, that Specialized butt-plug sure is ugly. Can't you replace it with a bespoke one?

Matt said...

Good for you Tan...you outfoxed the gremlins! (they are responsible for all lost items that seem to magically disappear in a seemingly impossible way)...when you stop looking for the lost item they smugly put it back knowing they GOT YOU...however by returning to the scene of the crime you GOT THEM! I'm still looking for that Craftsman 10 mm 6-point socket I lost when I was 16...those damn smug gremlins are STILL holding that one on me!

HDEB said...

A new chain and cassette is delicious : )

dancesonpedals said...

Nothing like an early fall Fondont to really rest a bike

Skidmark said...

With the profits from all your bike giveaways you could commission a local starving artist to adorn the white rims of the GenX bike. Of course, then you would have to insure you $299.00 bike for like $2500.00 dollars. But still..

Bogusboy said...

But the guitar SOUNDS different if you cut off the ends of the strings.

Some guy from upstate said...

I am going to be completely insufferable about correctly postulating that the name Tresca referred to the yield criterion developed by that Tresca dude. Completely insufferable. Insufferable enough to point out that it is a criterion for yielding, rather than failure, although for this application you could probably consider permanent deformation (yielding) as failure, and for a high strength alloy like they must be using ultimate stress is not much higher than yield anyway.

Also, every single time, autocorrect changes "Tresca" to "Fresca". It's really starting to piss me off.

P. Bateman said...

god i love a good mystery. glad that little sucker was saved in the end. so many bikes! so much intrigue!

Tan Tenovo Private Investigator. or Privates Investigator if you decide to go the porn route.

huskerdont said...

They may be unbecoming of a gentleman of your age and stature, but if you ride that pig in the rain a few times, the rims will no longer be white. I felt the same way about my old Fuji Feather that had white wheels when it was young. Oh why did I ever sell that bike, with the wheels no longer white.

Our dog does the circling thing when he wants to poop. Peeing he just lifts a leg, sometimes right when he's walked into the pet store or vet.

JLRB said...

That plug is silly - is the point of the design to make the seat post clamp more aerodynamic? I guess working with plastic gives the designers lots of options...


Skidmark said...

Listening ta yur radio call in show on WBAI radio. l find, being a Florid/Georgia cracker, l must not think that the Brooklyn callers are kvetching— until at least finishing the first (1st) sentence.

BikeSnobNYC said...


If I'm not mistaken, Specialized bikes are made by Merida. Recently I was checking out their website and noted that all Merida's road bikes seem to have seat clamps. Go figure.

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

I have a Blinky light that I've Dropped on my way to work TWICE and subsequently found again on the ride home 8+ hours later. First time on a very busy Hike/Bike path! Second time it was in the middle of the street! How it wasn't run over I'll never know?? Yes, it's quite satisfying to miraculously find things like that again - masmojo

Anonymous said...

I told you to take the plastic Fred sled on vacation but you didn't listen to me.....

thielges said...

I'll admit that I would have also put that much effort into recovering that little seat post plug too. Dunno why but thanks for making me feel like less of a freak.