Friday, December 30, 2016

Waters muddied

Being a somewhat acquisitive sort, I am always looking for a new bike to add to my hypothetical stable. Lately, though, it's been the process more than the goal; I'm riding all sorts of bikes. And I had settled...no, almost settled on a drop bar road bike.

But then I rode here:


This was a short trail that I ran into while attempting to find another trail. Riding this trail for even a short distance, I was glad that I didn't have a skinny-tired road bike. The Schwalbe Big Apples on my bike navigated the dirt and mulch just fine.

But it did start me thinking about how nice it would be to have a mountain bike.  Which muddies the waters somewhat as far as the decision making process...but it does mean that I'll now have more fun in the process by test riding mountain bikes as well as road bikes.

Or I'll go crazy trying to come to a decision. I'll let you know.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My (almost) year of biking

Make no mistake -- riding a bicycle can improve your life. There are the obvious benefits such as better cardiovascular health and endurance. When I started biking, I couldn't walk two blocks up a hill near my house without getting winded; now I walk up that hill without thinking about it. In February I could barely handle a 1% grade that was a third of a mile long. A few weekends ago, I rode over thirty miles with a friend one Saturday.

But there have been other benefits for me. I watch less television. This is partly because it's impossible to watch television when you're outside and traveling between ten and fifteen miles an hour. But it's also because I don't need the television to relax; I'm already relaxed after a bike ride.

I've met more people this year as well. They're mostly bike nerds, but not all. Sometimes people will just talk to me when I'm stopped at a corner. Possibly it's that being on a bicycle makes me more approachable.

There's also the benefit of being able to eat more and weigh less. Well, perhaps I don't weigh less, but less of my weight is flab and more of it is muscle. Through bicycling I've been able to change my physique (if you can call it that) in a positive way. I've gone from a pot-bellied, slouching, sullen introvert to a slightly pudgy introvert with much better posture and a much better outlook.

Apropos of the better outlook: exercise is simply good for your mental health. It's sort of a cycle: tackle a physical challenge, succeed, gain more self-esteem, repeat.

Then there have been the benefits of not having to drive everywhere. For one thing, I just don't like to drive. For another, it's sometimes easier to navigate the urban environment without a car. I sometimes like to go to a nearby farmers' market on Saturdays. If I drive, I have to get there as early as possible just to find parking; if I take the bike, I can go when I feel like it and always find parking.

Bicycling has also given me goals. Granted, these goals are largely related to bicycling, but then, what would you expect? Next year's goal is to ride anytime despite the weather. I need to be able to ride in the rain; otherwise I'm not using my cool waterproof panniers to their full potential. Or something...

And finally, there's the sightseeing advantage. It's simply easier to stop and look at things when you're on a bicycle than when you're in a car. When was the last time you stopped your car in the middle of a bridge just to look at a river? Or to look at a building or an interesting mural in the middle of a block? On a bike, you get to do some of these things multiple times per ride.

See? A river!
And an interesting mural!

The sightseeing is related to part of cycling that I hardly ever think about: getting lost. I usually start out a ride with only a vague idea of what my goal is ("go downtown...get coffee...").  I often have no planned route or mileage. This gives me the freedom to turn any direction without worrying about  my exact location. Well...it does help that ninety percent of my cycling is the city -- it's hard to get truly lost, but I enjoy not knowing exactly where I am or exactly how to get home. I might not enjoy being lost  as much if I were on a long-distance tour and out in the country past sunset...

And the best part of all this? It's fun.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas ride

These are  a couple of photos I took on my Christmas morning ride.

Christmas in California. I moved here from the Midwest thirty-nine years ago. While I sometimes think I would like the challenge of riding a fat bike in the snow, that's not enough to make me return to the Midwest.

And an abstract piece of bike art...



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy, Merry, however you want to do it

I've written a short but extremely cranky post about the obsession with minutiae that many cyclists have. I realize that that's all been said before. And it's probably been said better. Not that that will stop me from publishing it later.

But right now I want to say these things:

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, I hope that your celebration is extremely happy.

If you celebrate a holiday that involves gift-giving, I hope you get what you want.

And if you don't celebrate at all, I hope you're still extremely happy.

And I wish that the next year will see you happier than this year.

And because a post without a picture is less interesting, I leave you with this picture of what happiness looks like around my house:



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Serious training for the frivolous cyclist

Today I did my first serious ride in a while; that is, "serious" by my standards. I and a friend of mine rode about thirty miles, with the requisite stops for taking pictures. I also lost my biker gang cred by getting off the bike to allow some pedestrians to pass on a tight pathway.

But I didn't lose my frivolous cred. I led the ride in the most haphazard way possible. When asked my plans for the next segment of the ride, I was at a loss for words.  Plans? I don't never have no stinkin' plans. So I came up with this: "We're going to do a u-turn up at the next intersection. We're going to go back to that little market that has the grand opening sign. I'm going to buy a lottery ticket, win the lottery and quit my job. Don't worry, you'll get a new bike out of it." That pretty much satisfied my friend as far as plans went.

And here's the only interesting picture I got out of the ride:

You can make up your own story about this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Curmudgeonly on Carbon

I admit I have an unreasonable prejudice against carbon parts. Some of is based on things like this six-year-old article, which was answered to almost nobody's satisfaction in this similarly dated article. Some of it is based on the advice of more experienced cyclists who have told me cautionary tales of broken carbon forks and worse tales of broken carbon seat posts.

I also find anecdotal evidence of the virtues/evils of carbon all over the interwebs. If you google "fragility of carbon fiber bicycle parts", you'll find pages and pages of articles espousing the virtues of carbon fiber frames. You'll even find videos like this one where aluminum and carbon are (sort of) subjected to the same stresses; though if you're one of those who believes in using rigidly controlled scientific experimentation to obtain proof, you'll probably just be entertained.

Or you could watch this video, which demonstrates that carbon breaks, but steel deforms. Come to think of it, most of the videos I've seen from searching the phrase "fragility of carbon fiber bicycle parts" demonstrate something like that.

So...this is the spot where I would put a picture of a broken carbon fork, but no, it's too sad. So instead, a nice steel bike:
Picture owned by Rodriguez Bicycles
Given the evidence, anecdotal or not, I wouldn't pass up a nice ride just because it had a carbon fork. But I wouldn't seek out a bike simply because it had carbon parts. I'm still undecided. Or agnostic. 

But I'm not going to blindly believe any opinions on either side of the issue until I have a chance to see for myself. Empirical evidence is the future, baby.




Friday, December 9, 2016

Test riding, and how I Felt

What follows is a monsoon of uninformed opinion. But:

  • I am stuck inside with a bad cold, and besides
  • It's raining
So here's another post for bike nerds who may or may not care about my opinions, but who like reading about bikes anyway. And with no segue...


The interwebs have brainwashed me. Or I've brainwashed myself because of my reading of the interwebs.

It is easy, I believe, to form opinions based on the experience of others. We all do it. "On the You Need A More Expensive Bike Forum, five out of six posts state unequivocally that you need to lube your dynamo hub with real Italian extra virgin olive oil...so anyone who settles for any other kind is deluded!"

So of course I need a steel bike. And it has to be all steel. No carbon fiber parts at all. And no skinny tires. Because the guys on the You Need A More Expensive Bike Forum told me so.

This idea was stood on its head the other day when the owner of my favorite LBS talked me into test riding a Felt V85; an aluminum frame bike with a carbon fiber fork and seat post. And 28mm tires, which I've always thought would make the ride uncomfortable. I surprised myself by liking it a great deal. It ranked with the Salsa Vaya Deore for ride comfort, but it was lighter and in terms of ease of shifting, I liked the drivetrain (Shimano 105) more than than the SRAM/Shimano drivetrain on the Vaya.

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without a picture of the bike under discussion.
This picture belongs to Felt Bicycles and I only hope that their lawyers don't come after me for using it.
In the past, I've always felt that the rider should be happy with the looks of the bike; that that would contribute to the enjoyment of riding it. That's another idea that got turned around when I rode the V85. I don't find the frame particularly attractive. I don't like that the paint job is ninety-nine percent black. But when I rode the bike, I just didn't care what it looked like. I've also read that Felt bikes are geared largely towards racing. I would find this off-putting except that riding the V85 showed me that it would be a great bike for many purposes. I could easily see using it as my main commute bike, for one.

Was there a downside to this bike? Well, one big one...it's no longer in production. I wrote to Felt Bicycles to ask if the spec was changing for the 2017 V85, and was told that the V series was being replaced by the VR series. Of, if you prefer the marketing terms, the "Adventure" bikes were being replaced by the "Endurance" bikes.


Monday, December 5, 2016

First training rides

Saturday

It's Saturday afternoon. I've just finished my first training ride ever; that is, I went on this ride with the intention of pushing my limits. At twenty miles this wasn't the longest ride I'd ever done, but it was one of the roughest. I rode on the local equivalent of cobblestones for a while, and I even took some dirt roads.
Where the pavement turned to dirt
Oddly, the most difficult part of this ride was the result of me trying to make the ride a little easier. Part of getting to the area I was intending to ride involves taking an overpass to get over some railroad tracks. A few blocks before the overpass, I turned right to see if I could find some roads not meant for cars that I would be able to negotiate.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Combined challenges

Imagine a life without challenge. You wake up. You do the same thing you've done every day for the last...well, for as long as you can remember. You come home, eat, relax, go to bed. Repeat ad infinitum. Boring, right?

We can agree, I think, that challenges are good. They don't have to be large. You don't have to climb Kilimanjaro. You don't have to write a symphony or open a Michelin-starred restaurant. You just have to step out of your comfort zone a little.

What is your comfort zone as relates to bikes? Do you just run errands? Do you commute? Do you ride centuries every weekend? Do you stay out of the rain?

My comfort zone is variable, but it's not wide-ranging. Various injuries have kept me off the bicycle for months at a time. I've only ridden in the rain once. I've only ridden more than twenty miles two or three times recently; and I've always stopped to take pictures on those rides. I commute by bike two to three times a week. My average mileage is about forty miles a week, and I take it easy for most of those miles. And in my adult life, I've been riding a bike for less than a year.
Gratuitous photo, but it was taken on a bike ride


I've decided to challenge myself a little. I registered for a charity ride to benefit local schools. It's forty-five miles on a largely flat route. There are some unknowns to this ride, though. The most worrying is: can I actually ride forty-five miles at a steady pace? I don't really know. What if I get a flat? I've never changed a flat while on a ride. It's likely that it wouldn't be a problem, but who knows? Also, can I keep up with the group? Again, I don't know.

To be honest, I'm somewhat fearing taking this on. And looking forward to it. There will be training rides before it happens, and I do have until the end of April to get ready. But will that be enough?

There are also the logistics of the bike. When I first started thinking about doing this ride almost half a year ago, I envisioned doing it on a sportier and lighter bike than the one I have. That's not going to happen, and that's both good and bad. I will have to train harder while at the same time training sensibly. I'll have to work against my tendency to overdo; I don't want to be sidelined by another injury. I'll have to get better at pacing myself.

There is a secondary challenge to this ride, though, and it's something I truly hate. I have to ask people to sponsor me. In uncertain economic times, I have to ask friends and acquaintances for money.  I'm uncertain how to best approach this; feel free to advise me in the comments section if you've ever been in this situation.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving

In the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. One of the traditions of Thanksgiving, at least in my family, was to go from person to person at the dinner table and have everyone say what they're thankful for.

So: I'm thankful that I have a bike, and that I'm physically well enough to ride. That's only one thing I'm thankful for, but...well, this is a biking blog, right?

I'm also thankful that places like this are within riding distance of my house:
Here I am wearing my fanciest cycling clothes
For those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving, today is the birthday of Harpo Marx, and you can certainly celebrate that -- perhaps by watching Duck Soup?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The great beauties of Europe

It's raining today. It's raining really hard. Hard enough that I can't get out on my bike. This makes me grumpy. On days like this, one or more of a few things might occur. I might pick up a musical instrument and play a while. I might watch a movie. Or I might just let my mind wander.

Today I let my mind wander into the future (imagine that there was a dramatic sounding echo on "the future"). In the next year, I'm hoping to travel to the EU, and perhaps stop in England when I'm there. Of course, when I think of that part of the world, I think of some of the bicycles that are available there that we in the US don't see very often if at all.

The bikes I'm thinking of aren't the fancy racing bikes of Italy.  They aren't the carbon wonder bikes you might see in the Tour de France. They're not even the "bike next door": the Dutch City bike.

The bikes I'm thinking of are the sensibly specified bikes made for traveling. The down-to-earth bikes that will see you though inclement weather. The bikes that will allow you to climb serious hills no matter how slowly you do it or what age you are. The bikes, in other words, that you can stay with.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

double lament

Grant Petersen, owner of Rivendell Bicycle, has often expressed the idea that "racing culture" is taking the fun out of bicycle riding.  That many cyclists, adopting racers as role models, bring an intensity and an attitude to riding that turns every ride into a competition.

I think: well, you want to be a racer, great, go for it. Find a place you can safely race and have fun. As long as you don't hurt anyone. And as long as you're not racing in commute traffic. And...I could go on, but I believe you understand.

Going fast is fun, indeed it is. Pushing pedestrians and slower commute bikers out of the way in a dangerous manner is less fun.  And...one thing....try to realize when you're biking during commute hours that it is extremely unlikely that other people on bikes want to compete with you. 

And Mr. Racer, I can pretty much assure you that the families on the multi-use path that you travel at 30 mph are not there to race you. Or even to see you race.

Ok, that was it. I'll stop yelling now.

Or not.

I believe that another harmful side effect of the trend towards racing culture it that bicycle-makers now feel that they must cater to the racing crowd. It might be something as benign sounding as using a compact crankset on a bike that is ostensibly for touring (and has a 9-speed cassette). Or the trend toward 1x11 drivetrains (which I've heard is a cyclocross thing).

The end effect of all this is that bicycle manufacturers are not making real-world bikes. They're giving us "lifestyle" bikes, but with a high performance SRAM drivetrain. Or touring bikes with 2x9 gearing, when a 3x9 setup would make the bike a more serious contender for touring.

I do realize that bike companies stay in business by offering the latest and greatest. But here's an idea: what if a bicycle maker put out a series of bikes advertised as "real bikes for your real life"? Bikes that would make it easier for the average person to get on a bike and do the shopping or run errands? Maybe start the line with a step-through or compact frame bike with a seven-speed internal gear hub? Perhaps make sure that the parts on the bike are easily replaceable standard components? And start them at five hundred dollars, not seven hundred.

Or perhaps there's someone making a bike like that right now, and I just don't know about it. If you know, please share the knowledge.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Another coffeeneuring ride outside of the rules

I think this ride is outside of the stated rules of coffeeneuring. As I recall, coffeeneuring is supposed to take place only on the weekends unless your days off are during the week; I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

This was my coffeeneuring treat today:


The pastry is a Kouign-amann filled with apple chunks.  It is absolutely as delicious as it looks.

Here's a photo of the cafe I stopped at:
As far as I can tell, the name of the place is "Cafe". I'll stick with that.

Place: Cafe
Date: Nov 11, 2016
Drink: Cappucino
Observation: Good coffee, great pastries, a little hipster-ish for my tastes. But all the seats were outside, and the day was balmy, so all is well.

If you're bored by coffeeneuring, rest assured that there is some different stuff coming in this space, in which I will express my uninformed but semi-educated opinions and tell you why I think Grant Petersen is right vis-a-vis racing culture and it's effect on recreational cycling. And I promise not to do it using any more run-on sentences because as we all know, run-on sentences are an offense against both good grammar and good taste.

Monday, November 7, 2016

another (kind of) try at (sort of) coffeeneuring

Sunday, November 6th. I find myself jonesing for a bike ride like I've never jonesed for one before.

About a week ago, I did something...I don't know what...but it sent my back muscles into spasms. Today was the first day I've been able to get on the bike without pain since then.

And I thought, "Well, my entire day is open. Why don't I try coffeeneuring again?" So...

Coffeeneuring without a goal is probably not the way to go. I don't know if it's even possible within the definition of coffeeneuring. Fortunately, there was an actual cafe I wanted to go to. Here is a photo of the actual coffee I had at the actual cafe:


Place: Actual Cafe (yes, that is the actual name of the place)
Date: Nov 6, 2016
Drink: Latte
Observation: Bike friendly place (you can bring your bike inside if the interior racks have room). Coffee was good.

I had a comfortable table outside. It was a cool overcast day, and the combination of the weather and the lack of traffic gave the whole thing a very relaxed feeling.

Coffeneuring done, I found that I had only been out for about two hours. And I still hadn't satisfied that urge to ride. So...what to do? Did a little research, and found that there was a new coffee shop opened by Bicycle Coffee, a local roaster. (They deliver coffee by bicycle.) And it was only four miles away from where I was, so....

Here it is...the Bicycle Coffee Cafe:

It was remarkably uncrowded, considering that their coffee is some of the best in the area. Oh, yeah, coffee!
Place: Bicycle Coffee Cafe
Date: Nov 6 2016
Drink: Cafe Au Lait
Observation: Very bike friendly. Below you can see a picture of my bike inside the cafe.


The barista encouraged me to bring my bike inside, then complimented me on having such a nice ride. I don't like to be smug about it, but my bike is a thing of beauty.

Total distance covered? About fifteen miles. I think I set some kind of record for riding slowly, because I was out for about five hours.

Side note: my town has loads of great murals! Here's one of the many I saw on my ride. Not bike-related, but still cool.


Finished up with a visit to the bike store (of course), where they told me that my bike had a loose rear hub. Fortunately there was no damage because of this, and the bike rode more smoothly after the hub was tightened up. I also did another test ride, but I'll talk about that at some future date.

I've read the coffeeneuring rules again, and I now realize I may have broken a rule by stopping at more than one place. I'm hopeful that this infraction during coffeeneuring training won't endanger my chances of getting a patch when I actually...um...compete?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The more things change, the more I want to change things.

For months, I've been searching for a bike that fills some of the functional areas that my current bike doesn't. That's "fancy-speak" for "I want another bike because I want another bike." Let's face it; bikes are cool.

What can a new bike do that my bike can't? Well, it could be more sporty. Or easier to set up for touring. Or...I don't know. I do know this: for my next bike I want a steel frame with drop bars. Of all the bikes I've ridden that fulfill both of these criteria, my favorite has been the 2017 Vaya Deore.

I'm pretty sure I need to credit Salsa for this next picture. The bike is so beautiful, I just wanted to show it here.


Look at those wide tires and that beautiful steel fork. And that lovely straight top tube. Nice combination of SRAM and Shimano components in the drivetrain (no, I can't tell by looking; I read the specs).


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Successful Coffeeneuring ride.

It is Saturday, October 29th, 2:56pm, and this morning I completed my first successful coffeeneuring ride. Coffeeneuring wasn't the main objective of my ride; I was riding to a local roaster to pick up some beans.  But I thought, well, I'm going to where there is coffee, and since I'll be there, why don't I have a cup of coffee?

I started out in the morning to weather like this:


Fortunately, the weather changed by the time I reached the coffee shop (about four miles away). I didn't get a picture of just the sky for this one, but you get the idea. I did get rained on when I was riding, but not enough to be really discouraging.


And at last, I fulfill my goal to be a coffeeneur (is that a word?) by taking this picture of a cup of coffee and a slice of banana bread:


The coffee was good (as it should be, coming from the roaster). The banana bread was wonderful.

I had a great ride home. And when I got home, my wife had done this in the garden:


I really like the way this is put together.

And that was today's coffeeneuring. Even though I had to remind myself to take pictures, I enjoyed the ride and the process. Possibly I'll take part in the challenge next year.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Living in the past

There's a series on PBS called Grantchester. It takes place in rural England in the early 1950s. One the protagonists is a clergyman who, when visiting his parishioners, almost always rides his bike. He never seems to be hurried; he's going somewhere, and the bicycle is just the way he does it.

I admire that attitude; bicycling not as a goal, but as a means. It's been pointed out that there is a segment of the population who, when they take up a hobby, go all in. Or all out. They have to become the best. For many in bicycling, that's racing. In racing, it's easy to tell who's the best, because of course it's competitive.

I've been finding, though, that that attitude seeps into other aspects of bicycling. The group ride becomes a matter of getting to the goal in the shortest time possible. The social ride becomes a competition to see who can "lead the pack".

But what if you don't subscribe to that attitude? What if your goal is not to get to your destination as quickly as possible, but simply to see what's on the way? At that point, the journey becomes the goal, and you are not primarily a cyclist, but someone who travels by bike.

When you take that attitude, that the bike is a tool and not a platform from which to compete...well, then, what sort of bicycle do you get. A hybrid? A touring bike? An "all-around" bike?

Seriously, I'm asking. If you don't think of biking as competition, what is your goal, and what kind of bike do you think will help you realize that goal? I'll go first: my goal is long-distance riding, not just to get somewhere, but to be able to be in different places every day. The bike I think of doing this on (in my dreams) is a steel framed bike with a Rohloff IGH. And a dynamo hub up front, so I can be the power source for the bike lights. This hypothetical bike will also ride best with a front load; two panniers and a handlebar bag.

How about you? If you're not competitive, why do you ride a bicycle? And what bike do you think will help you realize this goal?


Monday, October 24, 2016

Style, comfort, and some other stuff

Taking a break from thinking about politics in America to post a stream-of-consciousness about tires and handlebars...

When I decided to take up the bicycle again at the beginning of this year, I had specific ideas about the type of bike I should get. For one thing, it couldn't have drop bars. Drop bars would force me to ride in an uncomfortable position. And it couldn't have skinny tires, because I wanted to go any place that looked interesting -- and sometimes those places were a little muddy, or were just simple dirt tracks.

I came to these opinions with no basis except for knowledge gleaned from reading the internet, and...well, you know what that's worth.

But thinking about these things did start me thinking about the audience for most current bicycles. The idea of "wider is better" as regards tires has pretty much gained acceptance, and I'm all for that. Perhaps not to the extent that we'll all end up riding fat bikes, but at least to the extent that it's easier to find tires that are not wafer-thin and prone to pinch flats.  Yesterday I rode through what I felt was an inordinate amount of broken glass for a ride of less than fifteen miles, and yet I was not worried about flats. I suppose I should check my tires for cuts, but still, I'm much less worried than I would be on skinny racing tires.

It also seems that straight handlebars are gaining larger acceptance. Even the iconic Surly Cross-Check is available in a flat bar model. It seems that just a few years ago the only bikes that didn't have drop bars were beach cruisers, mountain bikes, and children's bikes. Now we have the ubiquitous hybrids with flat bars. I believe this is largely due to the rise in the use of bikes for simple transportation and recreation; or at least that many of us have given up the idea that bikes are for racing.

You may have noticed that this post is not trying to make a point; I'm merely expressing my opinion about what seems to be a few current fashions in bicycling. Either of my two regular readers should feel free to express their opinions.

Another thing that is gaining wider acceptance is the idea that streets are not exclusively for cars. Yesterday the city where I work shut off about twelve blocks of a main street, making those blocks for pedestrians and bicycles only. It was very crowded, and part of it turned into a test of how slowly I could ride a bike. I'd really like to see this more, though; even if a city only does this once a month, I think it makes the city more livable.

I apologize for the rambling nature of this post. Next time I'll try to have an actual main point. Or, if not, I'll just start modeling myself more after BikeSnobNYC. Yeah, that's it...I'll start calling myself BikeSchlubCA (CA for California, not Canada).  Then I'll start making a quasi-living at this. And bike manufacturers will start sending me samples for review. Yeah, yeah...that'll happen.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Test ride Saturday - Slight Reprise

This post should probably be called "Test Ride Saturday Redux" or something like that, but the title I used is a nod to Jimi Hendrix, one of my childhood idols.

Between the last set of test rides and this Saturday, I talked to a colleague who asked what the tire pressure was on the Sutra LTD when I rode it. So I went in for another test ride, this time lowering the tire pressure on the Sutra a bit.  The pressure was even lowered a bit more on the rear tire per the recommendation of the clerk at the LBS.

The route I took with the Sutra LTD was my normal work commute. In terms of repair, it's one of the worst roads in the neighborhood it goes through. Potholes, cracks, and just general bumps. For my test ride, I rode over some of the worst parts of this route.

And...only minuscule differences from the last time I rode it. The Sutra LTD is still a zippy ride. Under good road conditions, it seems to "get out of the way" better than most bikes. The bikes I know that come the closest to doing this are the Surly Cross Check and Straggler. The major difference between the Surly bikes and the Sutra LTD is that both of the Surly bikes insulate the driver from washboard roads; the Sutra LTD communicates those bumps to the rider. With a lower tire pressure, the ride was better than previously, but still...I felt most of the bumps. A different saddle might help with this, but as is, I couldn't like the bike as much as I wanted to.

I was also able to ride a 2017 Vaya Deore. Not sure why it's called a Deore, unless the convention is to name it after the rear derailleur; the majority of the drivetrain components are SRAM. That's not a complaint -- every SRAM-equipped bike I've ridden has been great in terms of shifting.

I was told that there were some changes in the frame geometry for the 2017 Vaya, and I can believe it. The 2015 Vaya is a nice ride, but the 2017 is the most comfortable drop-bar bike I've ever ridden. The reach was just right for me, and the frame absorbed the bumps from our local washboard streets.

I wasn't that fond of the brakes on the Vaya Deore. They're Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes, and they felt a tiny bit spongy. That could be something that's easily adjusted; or it could be the difference between hydraulic (which I'm used to) and mechanical.

The one thing that felt wrong about the bike was the saddle, a WTB Pure V. It wasn't that it was outright uncomfortable. It's just that I could see it becoming uncomfortable on a long ride. If I were to purchase a Vaya Deore, I would change the saddle before I left the bike shop.  There are a lot of people who like this saddle, but I'm not one of them.

However, if I needed a bike today, it would definitely be the Vaya Deore. That's how much I liked it.

Sometime in the future, I'll be riding both the Surly Straggler and the Vaya Deore again. In my imaginary bike sweepstakes, the Vaya is the leading contender right now, if only because I know it would get a lot more use than the Straggler.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Where are we going in such a hurry?

This is in the nature of an editorial.

I often go out on our local multi-use path (MUP) for a nice leisurely ride. I am, of course, riding my incredibly stylish Big Rove AL. It's perhaps the most stylish bike on the path. I attribute that largely to the matte purple color and the incredibly cool BMX-style pedals. Oh, yeah, the Planet Bike fenders contribute their share of pizzaz as well. As do the Metropolis North Road style handle bars. Cap that off with my cycling uniform of jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes and, well, you can imagine the picture of ultimate cool that my bike and I show the world.

But for all my cool, I'm not a fast rider.  I ride at a casual, unhurried pace. And that means I get passed by many, many riders.  But even if were riding three times as fast as I do, I would still get passed by some riders. And those would be the guys "training" for...well, whatever they imagine they're training for.

When this happens, when I'm passed by someone who is riding on the MUP at over fifteen miles per hour, I think: what is the hurry? You're on a path with families, with little children and sometimes infants. Isn't there some place you can "train" where you're not endangering other people? Or are you more concerned with people seeing you?

On my local MUP where there are many pedestrians, someone put up a sign saying "Would you ride that fast past your granny?"

What was the point I was attempting to make? Oh, yeah...slow down you guys! No imaginary race or elusive Strava goal is worth endangering other people. If you're really training, do it somewhere where you can train under real racing conditions. The people on the MUP who see you racing aren't thinking "That guy is with his carbon bike and faux-racing-team-styled spandex sure is cool!" They're thinking "Hey, that incredible jerk came really close to my baby stroller!"

I'll repeat myself here, because I think I have a point worth repeating: if you were really training, you wouldn't do it where there are vulnerable, fragile obstacles like someone's aged parents or someone's small children. You want to do something really cool?  Then practice slowing down to walking pace and saying "excuse me" to the people you're attempting to pass. When you can do that, you'll be truly cool.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Test ride Sunday: bikes rehashed

This last Sunday, I was able to get out and look at bikes that I've looked at before: the Surly Straggler and the Salsa Vaya 2.

The first thing that struck me about these bikes was how similar they are. Neither of them are lightweights; if you're looking for a fast, light bike, you should probably look elsewhere. Both of them have very stable handling. And both of them eat road bumps as well as any bike I've ever ridden.

On that last point: I've ridden some bikes that seem to transfer every bump to the undercarriage of the rider; many of those were light, fast bikes. And I've ridden heavier bikes that seem to do the same thing. I've also ridden bikes that were designed with wide shock-absorbing tires to keep vibrations away from the rider; my Kona Big Rove AL is a good example of this.

But with both the Straggler and the Vaya 2, it seems that the frames eat most of the vibrations. Both of them use fairly wide tires (42mm and 41mm respectively), but  I have ridden other contemporary bikes with wider tires that did not do half as good a job of  keeping road vibration away from the rider. This leads me to believe that the frames of these bikes play a huge part in keeping the rider comfortable.

As for the differences:

The drivetrains are totally different. The Vaya 2 runs a Shimano 105 groupset with a road triple. The Straggler runs a groupset that is mostly SRAM Apex; the cassette is from Microshift.

Despite the fact that the Vaya 2 has a road triple and the Straggler has a compact crankset, I found the Straggler to be the better climber.  I've always thought that triple cranksets allowed the rider to tackle climbs more easily; in this case, even though I was in the lowest gear on the crankset,  I didn't find that to be true. However, most of the triples I've ridden before this have been mountain triples, so it may be my lack of experience with road triples that led me to believe this. But the relative ease of climbing with the Straggler led me to believe that the Straggler frame might be lighter, despite the reputation that Surly has for producing heavy frames.

Note: The copy on the Vaya 2 from the Salsa website claims that it's drivetrain is compatible with "any road compact or touring triple crankset." I'd love to put a different triple crankset on the Vaya 2 and see how that affects its ability to climb easily.

The saddles on each bike are different as well. The WTB on the Vaya 2 seems to be almost overly padded. The Velo saddle on the Straggler, while less padded, was at least as comfortable as the WTB, if not a little more so.

I believe that the Vaya 2 might have more braze-ons. Not quite sure.

Could I make a choice between these two bikes? Not at this point. I would have to take both of them on far longer rides than the distances I was able to go today.

I'm also going to check out the 2017 Vaya Deore at some point; my current bike has Deore components in the drivetrain and I've been fairly impressed with them.





Sunday, October 9, 2016

Test Ride Saturday

One of my favorite Saturday activities has become a short ride around our downtown area. There's a beautiful lake, some relaxing places to stop, and interesting architecture to look at.

I didn't get any pictures of the lake on this Saturday ride, but I hope I make up for it with this shot:


As you can see, it was a beautiful day. The temperature reached 83 degrees fahrenheit (28 celsius) and though it was quite warm, it was still very pleasant.

Even on my recreational rides, I like to have a goal in mind. Around the lake, to the coffee shop, what have you. In the afternoon I got the itch to ride some more, but had no specific goal in mind. When that happens, I think the best thing to do is to hit the local bike shop for some test rides. Those of you who aren't bike nerds can stop reading now.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Looking for the perfect roll

My bike, the Kona Big Rove AL, came stock with Schwalbe Big Apple tires. The Big Apples are lined with Kevlar for puncture resistance, and they weigh about two pounds apiece. For the least rolling resistance, Schwalbe recommends about 50 PSI, but about 45 PSI for protection, durability, and grip.

Collective wisdom, not to mention many people on group rides I've been on, says that wider tires = more rolling resistance. Schwalbe refutes this with this quote:

"The wider the tire, the lower the rolling resistance. Because a wide tire has a shorter footprint in the driving direction, the tire bounces less and the flattening of the footprint on the road is smaller", explained Frank Bohle. Result: The tire deforms less, remains "rounder" and rolls more easily.

Frank Bohle, the guy they're quoting here, is one of the company's founders. If that makes you take his statement with a grain of salt, so be it.

Jan Heine, the editor of Bicycle Quarterly, has a somewhat different take on the "wider tires roll better" viewpoint. He believes (I'm paraphrasing) that "wide, supple tires" roll better. Mr. Heine is also one of the owners of Compass Cycles, who sell tires; so he has, as they say, a dog in this fight.

Well, the Big Apples are wide, but supple they are not. Probably something to do with the Kevlar lining. They're great for bike commuting through refuse-laden city streets. But for faster group rides, not so much. So for the sake of a fast group ride I went with thinner tires; Panaracer Paselas. At 75 PSI/35mm they rolled really well. But for comfort...well, I could've done better. Even dropping them to 70 PSI didn't noticeably increase the comfort level.

The Big Apples go back on. The comfort level goes back up.

And the search for the perfect roll goes on.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

First post

As a first post, a picture from today's "rehab" ride (recovering from injury). Yes, it was beautiful.