Archive for the Bike Snob NYC Category

Bamboo You

01/14/2022 0:03

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently received a pair of bamboo handlebars (why do we think of a single bar as a “pair” anyway?) from Passchier:

I knew I’d use these on my artisanal singlespeed mountain bike from Engin:

So I opted for the 650 width, since it was close to what I’d already been using.

Furthermore, since I’ve been increasing my use of flat pedals, I figured I’d add a little pumpkin spice comfort in the form of some Crankbrothers Stamp 1 pedals:

And some ESI Extra Chunky grips:

I also rotated in my old Brooks Cambium by way of tying the proverbial room together, and when I put everything on yesterday here was the result:

Aesthetically speaking, I find large platform pedals impart sort of a duck-footed goofiness to most bikes, and the orange isn’t helping. Still, I think the Engin is able to pull it off.

Now, I should note that Passchier’s bars, while duly strength-tested, are not rated for full-on, big-hit, big-air mountain biking. Fortunately, I don’t really engage in full-on, big-hit, big-air mountain biking–I’m more of a scurrying-around-in-the-woods type, and I’m certainly not getting any more rowdy as I age. Nevertheless, just in case, I asked Passchier if they’d be safe for an old guy riding a one-speed bicycle on singletrack, and they said yes. I suspect on certain rides I might be flirting with the limit of what they recommend for these bars every now and again, but for the most part I don’t think I’m tempting fate too wantonly. Also, I did ride down two (2) sets of stone stairs, and here I am typing this, so there you go.

So besides looks, what’s even the point of bamboo bars at all, let alone ones that cost $250 and are not designed for your Danny MacAskill hijinx? Well, according to Passchier, it’s this:

And flex they do–you can really see it! (Yes, you can see it on plenty of aluminum bars, too, but this is something else.) Granted, the rubbery saddle and silicone-y grips also played a role, but there’s no question they imparted an almost unctuously smooth quality to the ride, which I quite enjoyed:

The clamp area is wrapped in crabon:

I have no idea if there’s a torque specification, so I went by feel, and since I didn’t hear any crackling sounds I figured I did okay:

They have quite a bit more sweep then the bars I was using, which is nice:

Though I’ve also begun to realize that when it comes to sweep I’m kind of an “all or nothing” guy, in that if I’m not getting that full-on super-comfy wheelbarrow angle it’s almost not worth it:

Here’s how the Passchiers compare to what I was riding, by the way:

In case you’re wondering, those are titanium bars with an aluminum shim that Drew Guldalian made along with the frame. They were also considered wide at the time, though now they’re practically narrower than some drop bars. Fortunately if I ever need a little extra width there’s always plenty of bamboo lying around:

In fact there’s so much of it you’d be forgiven for thinking it sprouts right out of the ground!

And how is it that nobody is selling a bamboo kickstand yet?

Hopefully when Passchier sees this and starts making one they’ll cut me in.

Anyway, as I’ve written before, over the last 20 years bike designers have lost sight of the fact that cockpit flex can be a very good thing, and bars like these certainly offer a way to get some into your modern threadless setup, if that’s what you’re after:

Who needs suspension when you’ve got bamboo bars and a rubber saddle?

As for the pedals, I got the Stamp 1s because I love the Stamp 2s I put on the Jones but I also love saving money, and while they feel just as good beneath my feet as their metal siblings they’re not quite as grippy:

I’m not sure if it’s the body, or the pins (there are fewer of them), or both. Regardless, I didn’t do the sort of riding that would put their traction to the test, so time will tell if it’s sufficient. But as the ground began to thaw beneath the afternoon sun…

…one thing that was definitely insufficient was my landing stip of a filth prophylactic:

When it’s messy out, don’t dress your bike in thong underwear.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

The Play’s The Thing

01/13/2022 0:03

As I continue to live in the midst of an ongoing hot tub installation project, my day-to-day affairs are in slightly more disarray than usual. However, limited time and frigid temperatures provide me with a perfect excuse to nip over to the park and trot around for a little bit:

Such forays are not, strictly speaking, legal, but inasmuch as the First Commandment by which I live my life is “Thou Shalt Ride,” I am beholden to defer to God’s law over man’s law. Anyway, when it’s Nineteen American Freedom Degrees out I’m certainly not bothering anybody, the ground is frozen solid, and it seems foolish not to enjoy one of my favorite sounds, that being the crunchy sound of icy snow beneath high-volume tires:

Also, it beats riding on the road, where you’re more likely to hear the squishy sound of moist rodent:

That rat really should have been wearing a helmet.

Meanwhile, last week I mentioned my attempt to eliminate the play from the rear hub of the Eye of the Tiger Bike:

Well, I rode the bike twice over the weekend, and I’m sorry to report it’s now got more play in it than The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare:

I’ve long been considering upgrading this bike to Shimano Hyperglide compatibility to avail myself not only of the wider cassette compatibility but also the improved shifting, and this was precisely the excuse I needed. “A wheel, a wheel, a kingdom for a wheel!,” I cried to Paul at Classic Cycle, and it looks as though one or perhaps even two may be forthcoming. This makes me exceedingly happy, as the RockCombo has proven to be an ideal winter all-rounder.

In the meantime, I’ve also got another small project in the offing:

Not too long ago, Passchier, a maker of bamboo handlebars, asked me if I’d like to try some, so I replied in the affirmative. When they arrived, in light of my recent flat pedal pivot, I thought it would be fun use them as an excuse to change the vibe of my singlespeed mountain bike somewhat. The orange is admittedly somewhat “flambullient” for me, but it seemed like it would go with the bars, and anyway a little color never hurt anybody, except of course when it has.

I’ll let you now when I’ve got everything buttoned up, and we’ll see whether it makes the bike look whimsical or like a corny Halloween nightmare.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

Finding Your Pack

01/11/2022 0:03

Well, it was bound to happen:

In case you don’t know who Doug Gordon and Peter Flax are, they’re two of the more prominent voices in bicycle advocacy. Doug tweets as Brooklyn Spoke and is one-third of the “War on Cars” podcast:

While Peter has held a number of editorial positions in outdoor media (including serving as the editor-in-chief of Bicycling for awhile), tweets as @Pflax1, and is building a brand around his own advocacy:

Nice Try Flaxy! is the adopted but beloved half-stepchild of Peter Flax, a journalist and lifelong bike lover who lives in Los Angeles. The brand, at least for the moment, is all about being in love with bikes while also being more than a little bit pissed off about the struggles that riders face.

Doug’s tweet about was prompted by a recent post in which I used one of his tweets as an example, and Peter’s refers to my recent Outside column about bike lane obstructions. I mention them not because I mind being critiqued or even disparaged (I’d be delusional if I expected everyone to agree with me or like me), but because of the oddly disconcerting manner in which they both refuse to mention me specifically, as though I’m Beetlejuice and they don’t want me to appear:

As Oscar Wilde famously said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

However I’m not sure he addressed the strange and paradoxical state of being talked about without being acknowledged, which is where I seem to have found myself. It’s especially conspicuous to me since I known both of them for awhile, and Peter even interviewed me for a piece in CyclingTips awhile back. Yet Doug has me muted (which I hardly blame him for, I mean I’d probably mute me too), while Peter finds my Outside column worthy of his commentary, yet doesn’t even link to it when offering said commentary, which I suspect Oscar Wilde would have applauded as a delectable snub. (It’s too bad Oscar Wilde lived before the Age of Twitter, he’d have dominated the medium.)

While I can’t help feeling a little indignant (in a way we’re colleagues, since we’re all in the business of opining constantly about bikes), I’d also be disingenuous if I pretended to be surprised. Of course I realize that, if I write a column saying maybe we’re too focused on people blocking bike lanes, some people will be annoyed. Furthermore, a commenter on last Friday’s post sized me up accurately by noting my inclination to go one way when everyone else around me seems to be going the other:

I’d like to believe that, while I may write things about bikes and advocacy that challenge what others believe, I’m at least open to good-faith discussion and willing to engage with anyone who’d like to hold me to account. I’d also like to give myself the benefit of the doubt by saying I’m not just being contrary for contrary’s sake, and that fundamentally I get uncomfortable when people start telling me what to do–and when lots and lots of people start feeling one way about something, they sometimes start putting lots and lots of pressure on other people who feel even a little differently. As far as bike advocacy goes, that can sometimes manifest itself in an all-consuming self-righteousness in which you’re so convinced of your own virtue that you’re compelled to stomp out any and all discourse that questions or conflicts with your own.

This assessment isn’t just me pointing fingers at others, by the way–it’s something I’ve often engaged in myself, having railed against innumerable politicians and community boards and tabloid columnists and people who dared speak ill of the bike on Twitter. However, over the last couple of years, as people seem to have given themselves over completely to framing things in absolute terms, I’ve tried to at least be aware of this impulse in myself and keep it in check, in the same way you make a half-assed attempt to improve your diet when someone in your orbit has a heart attack. I don’t always like who I’ve been when whipped up into a froth over a Steve Cuozzo column, or an inconsiderate driver, so columns like the one about blocked bike lanes are my attempt to say it’s okay to prioritize your own sanity sometimes. As I’ve written before, the relentless pursuit of advocacy can undermine your happiness, and just as it’s fine to stop for a red light and put your foot down when you’re riding in the city, it’s also fine–more than fine, essential really–to remove yourself from the cycle of anger, fear, and shame.

It’s hard for me to separate bikes and writing and the world and life in general because to me they’re all the same thing. Riding bikes requires balance, of course, and to maintain that balance you’re always making corrections–some imperceptibly small, others more drastic if the terrain or the circumstances warrant. Riding bikes can also be totally solitary or deeply social, and both approaches can be equally rewarding. However, when you’re riding in a group, the pack is far less tolerant of these corrections, as they can result in chaos. Moreover, the corrections you do make in a pack are informed not just by the terrain and the circumstances, but also by the riders around you, and you ride on it in their terms, not your own.

The time I’ve spent riding in packs has brought me a lot of joy and taught me a lot about riding and myself, and I have lots of respect for the people who excel at it. I’ve never been one of them though, so maybe I’m just more of a Lone Wolf type:

Though I probably don’t deserve that distinction, since while I may like to pretend I’m not part of the pack, I still define myself in relation to it.

Really, I think I’m just a garden variety wheelsucker, only the wheel I’m sucking happens to be my own.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

By The Hair Of My Chinny Chin Chin

01/8/2022 0:04

As the snow fell this morning I took the opportunity to do some maintenance on my Fender Bike:

My intent was simply to install the new and much-needed brake pads I’d just received:

So I headed to the basement and got to work:

I recently decided to start wearing latex gloves when working on my bikes, partly because my hands are always grimy for days afterwards, and partly because I suddenly started worrying that all these lubes and solvents might be leaching into my bloodstream and brain.

Brake pads are of course a pretty simple affair, but invariably one things leads to another. For example, I noticed the cable adjuster was immobile, probably because nobody had used it regularly:

So I took the opportunity to free it up again:

Once I got all the pads on I leaned over the cockpit to check the operation and pad alignment of the front brake, which is when this happened:

I promise that image will haunt your dreams forever.

At this point I should have cashed in my chips, but instead I figured I’d try to get rid of the little bit of play I’d been noticing in the rear hub. So I removed the axle:

Which revealed the hub was in need of cleaning and greasing:

So I repurposed the packages the brake pads had come in to hold the ball bearings:

Then, remembering the care package I’d received from Dumonde Tech, I drizzled some of this stuff into the freehub area in hopes that it would work its way in there:

Next, I degreased the bearings and races:

After that, I smeared them all with this stuff:

Which looks dangerously like caramel:

Once I was done I put everything back together, and I’m pleased to report that the play is not only still there, but it’s possibly worse. I probably should have removed the cassette and seen if there was anything else going on, but I’d already done more than I meant to and I was running out of time.

At least it’s now full of caramel-y goodness.

As for the gloves, sadly there was some breakage at the fingertips:

Now my bike’s going to get pregnant.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

Enjoying The Bridge

01/7/2022 12:03

This morning I headed out for a short ride:

As I rolled along the mighty Hudson River, it occurred to me that it’s supposed to snow tomorrow, and that I should make the most of the favorable conditions.

So I kept going.

After 20-ish miles or so I found myself in South Nyack, a place so popular with cyclists that locals have adopted the bicycle as the official symbol for “unwanted person:”

And shortly after that, I found myself at Fish & Ships:

Where I spent fifteen minutes trying to order a basket of fried clams via the touchscreen menu, until I finally realized that Fish & Ships wasn’t a restaurant at all, it was an observation deck on the Tappan Zee Mario Cuomo Bridge.

The screen wanted to know if I was enjoying my experience, and instructed me to share my experience on social media:

Like most users of social media, I generally only share my experience when I’m annoyed:

Unable to conceive of a world in which someone might want or need to ride a bicycle outdoors in less than perfect conditions, the New York State Thruway Authority or whoever is in charge closes the bike path at the very first hint of precipitation. I don’t know who actually makes the call, but I imagine it’s similar to Groundhog Day, except instead of using a giant rodent as their bellwether they use a garden-variety roadie. If he hops on his bike and pedals away, they open the path, but if he goes back inside and fires up Zwift they keep it closed.

Today, I was in a better mood, but instead of sharing my experience with social media I decided to use the observation deck as my own personal photo booth:

Here is the bike looking pensively out to sea:

Here is the rapid-rise derailleur. See how the spring is pushing it towards the larger cogs instead of the smaller ones?

Of course you dont.

Here’s how much wear the Schwalbe Marathon Supremes are exhibiting after over a year of use:

I’d quantify that amount as “virtually none at all,” and while my riding is obviously spread over multiple bikes it’s still pretty impressive.

Oh, and here’s some filth, just to annoy the fender Freds:

Deal with it.

Once over the bridge I headed south towards home, and along the way I came across an older woman with a bloodied face who had fallen on the path. She hadn’t been on a bicycle herself, but a man with a well-used department store bicycle was already helping her. She was shaken but coherent and wanted to go home, so together the man and I righted her, gathered up her small bag of groceries and her cane, and she leaned heavily on me as we accompanied her a couple of blocks to a two-family house where we helped her upstairs to her apartment. As she had her wits about her, once she was situated we left her with instructions to call family.

Sometimes a ride takes you onto a new bit of trail; this one took me up a narrow staircase in Yonkers and gave me an unexpected and intimate glimpse into someone else’s life. The ability to lend a hand now and then is yet another argument in favor of flat pedals. Those wacky roadie getups don’t let you participate in humanity.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

You Say You Want A Resolution

01/6/2022 0:03

Hokey as it may be, the beginning of a new year is an opportunity for change and self-improvement, so I’m pleased to announce that this year I’ve resolved to learn how to ride a bike with flat pedals:

More specifically, I’m going to learn how to ride an all-terrain bicycle with flat pedals:

My immediate reason for this is that I think my aging body is finally beginning to revolt against using clipless pedals in a mountain bike scenario, and I suspect my musculoskeletal system will benefit from the combination of a wide platform and the ability for my feet to automatically find their most natural position. (Apart from being perched on an ottoman while I watch TV, obviously.)

More philosophically, however, I’m saddened by the fact that over-reliance on clipless pedals has made me an even poorer cyclist than I might have been otherwise had my feet remained unfettered. See this fresh-faced youngster?

[Photo: Danny Weiss]

He had no problem bunny-hopping at least as high as his tube socks.

But see this old doofus who looks like he’s about to fall over?

He can’t even get over a damn log without having his feet attached to his bike–and while said bike probably weighs at least four times as much as that Haro FST (not to mention the considerable mass the rider himself has accrued), it’s still sad. So it’s about time I listened to my own advice and got back to basics:

Fortunately, this should be easy, since the older I get the more of a “woosie” I become, meaning that with each passing day I’m less likely to encounter the sort of terrain that would challenge my ability to ride it without foot retention in the first place.

Speaking of resolutions, apparently people drop theirs pretty quick:

By Jan. 17—or quitter’s day, as it’s known at Strava Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters—the company expects traffic to drop dramatically, as inertia defeats another year’s crop of aspiring cyclists and distance runners.

Though Strava is now profitable:

Horvath says the company was profitable in 2020 and 2021. Such financial success has been long in coming. The company—which Horvath founded in 2009 with Mark Gainey, a teammate from Harvard’s lightweight crew squad in the late 1980s—grew at a plodding pace in its early years, focusing on generating revenue through paid subscriptions, rather than by selling advertisements. “Back in 2010 and 2011, if you couldn’t get to a billion people in three years with an ad model, you weren’t worth investing in,” Horvath says. But the success of Netflix, Spotify, and Zoom have put subscription businesses back in favor. Last year, Strava raised $110 million in a round led by Sequoia Capital and TCV.

Which means an IFO (Initial Fred Offering) could be coming soon–though statistically I’ll be back on clipless in a matter of days.

Whatever, I don’t typically do very well with resolutions anyway.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

Classic Cycle Thursdays: Vintage Titanium Road Bike Shootout!

01/4/2022 0:04

It is my great pleasure and privilege to continue offering you this blog in 2022, long after the very idea of blogging went out of fashion and most practitioners of the craft either moved on to creating other forms of content or simply got real jobs. So as we ceremonially unwrap the brand-new pair of bib shorts that is the new year, I humbly submit that you consider my words the chamois cream that helps ameliorate the irritation of your day. There comes a point in all our lives when we must look back upon our deeds and assess their value, and if my own endeavors have served to distract and amuse you for even a moment or two over the years then I will consider mine worthwhile and my purpose upon this earth to have been fulfilled.

Though of course I realize I’m basically this guy, and I’m totally fine with it:

Anyway, as a semi-professional bike blogger, I don’t have the sort of access to the newest and latest crabon wonder sleds that allows me to regale you with tales of their lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. I do, however, have the ability to dip freely into the bikes of yesteryear thanks to Classic Cycle, and after putting in some decent miles on the Colnago Bititan I finally feel ready to present you with a…

Vintage Titanium Shootout!

*[Editorial note: for those of you who are troubled that I’m not concerned enough about climate change, which I know is a thing because every so often somebody announces they won’t be reading anymore because of it, please note that all these photos have been recycled from other posts.]

Part I: The Bikes

2001 Litespeed Tuscany

Back in 2019 I became the owner of this 2001 Litespeed Tuscany. Even though it’s over 20 years old, it doesn’t seem like a vintage bike to me, since it feels like only yesterday I was an enthusiastic 20-something Fred coveting bikes just like it. Since receiving it from Classic Cycle and realizing my decades-old dream of becoming a self-important titanium bike owner (though arguably when you’re talking about titanium bike owners the “self-important” is implied), the only real change I’ve made to it is the wheels, though the Mavic Scaryums it originally came with are still in service–currently on the Milwaukee, which I’ve basically given to my son:

1995 Colnago Bititan

In early November, after a reader purchased the Davidson Impulse I’d been riding, Classic Cycle sent this Colnago Bititan in its place. While separated by several years, the Litespeed and the Colnago are nonetheless similar bicycles, in that they’re both pure road bikes with titanium frames and traditional wheels. So how do they compare? Let’s toss them in a ring like a couple of gamecocks and let them fight it out in some key categories.

Craftsmanship

I’m quite neglectful when it comes to cleaning and don’t really mind looking down between my legs and seeing something grimy. (If you’re wondering whether that last sentence was about bikes or personal hygiene, the answer is “yes.”) However, I’m also paradoxically intolerant of imperfections; for example, the myriad discolorations and blemishes on my Ritte Rust Bucket secretly drove me crazy, no matter how much I tried to convince myself it was just patina. I’d also argue that road bikes should be held to a higher standard, since rolling along on pavement mile after mile affords you ample opportunity to notice (and obsess over) imperfections.

The Litespeed offers me no opportunity whatsoever to fuss over such matters. The frame is fastidiously assembled and almost antiseptic in its perfection. The tubing is also gracefully shaped and swoopy, and while I have no idea to what degree this contributes to the bike’s ride quality, it’s certainly nice to look at and enhances your sense you’re riding something special.

I don’t know anything about metalworking so can’t say whether or not the welds on the Colnago are “better” or “worse” than those on the LItespeed. Also, they’re under paint. However, I will say the Colnago foregoes the swoopy tubing and the pump peg for the trademark “Master”-profile top tube and of course the split downtube, both of which purportedly stiffen the bike:

If you believe what people say on the Internet, Bititans were prone to breakage, though apparently later examples such as this one were more reliable. Either way, the angular nature of the Colnago’s construction makes it seem more weaponlike than the Litespeed, and while the split downtube mayor may or may not make the frame stiffer, it does mean that you’ll find a gritty skunk stripe on your water bottle when the road is wet.

Winner: Litespeed

Compatibility

Titanium, we tell ourselves, is the ideal material for a “forever bike.” Sure, you’ll fall for the next gimmick long before you wear out your tires, let alone your frame, but let’s just pretend for a moment that your titanium bike is in fact the last one you’ll ever buy. Is it on the road to obsolescence? While the Litespeed sports rim brakes and “tight” clearances by modern standards, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest you’ll be able to easily source replacement pads and 25mm tires for at least the next 30 years. The same thing goes for inch-and-an-eighth threadless forks, stems, and headsets. Even quick-relase hubs with 130mm spacing are not in imminent danger of going extinct, thru-axles notwithstanding. And of course the traditional threaded bottom bracket shell has proven so boringly functional that companies like Specialized are returning to it, even for their most “advanced” crabon bikes.

Meanwhile, all of the above is also true for the Colnago, though should you need to replace the one-inch threaded fork or convert it to threadless you might have fewer aftermarket options. Then again, barring a major incident such as a collision, you’ll probably never need to replace the steel fork on the Colnago. Plus, the threaded setup arguably makes the bike more future-compliant, since it’s that much easier to raise the bars as you age.

Winner: Draw

Aesthetics

I’d characterize the looks of the Litespeed as clean and graceful, if maybe a little dated due to the decals and fade job on the fork.

The Colnago is flashy bordering on garish. At the same time, I get a compliment pretty much every time I head out on the Colnago, whereas I virtually never get one on the Litespeed. And while I’ve always been a little ambivalent about Colnago’s paint jobs, I admit this changed once I actually started riding one. I particularly like the mix of metallic blue and bare titanium, and the straight-blade steel fork appeals to me much more than the plastic one on the Litespeed.

Winner: Colnago

Heritage

[Photo: Graham Watson]

Being a newer American company, Litespeeds were mostly the domain of monied masters racers and uber-competitive Freds in general–though they did briefly provide bikes for team Lotto before beginning their aluminum bike death spiral:

Remember when every aluminum bike had to have crabon stays even though it did nothing except make the bike heavier? That was hilarious.

[Photo: From here]

Colnago on the other hand has heritage oozing out of its bib shorts. Where do you even begin? Here’s Abraham Olano winning the 1995 World Championship road race on a Bititan…though even they were not immune to the aluminum-with-crabon-stays craze:

Winner: Colnago

Founder’s Charisma

David Lynskey assembles bikes himself and looks like he drives a Chevy Suburban to Home Depot.

Ernesto Colnago is a cardinal, claims to have invented everything in cycling (including the titanium bicycle), and looks likes he drives around in a Ferrari with a 22 year-old mistress.

Winner: Colnago*

*[Disclaimer: these are superficial observations based on wardrobe and regional stereotypes, I know nothing of the lifestyles of either one of these men. For all I know David Lysnkey is ripping around Chatanooga in a Ferrari chasing tail while Ernesto Colnago does the crossword in his bathrobe all day. Actually, looking closer at them both, they may be the same person.]

“Fred Factor”

“With the attention to detail on the rear triangle, the frame is incredibly stiff when you’re laying down the power, but pleasingly (for us in London at least) it is also vertically compliant.” — RoadcyclingUK

“…the BiTitan is a great all-around bike. It’s light and nimble, perfect for jockeying in position for the field sprint.” — Bicycle Guide

Winner: Draw

Conclusion:

Like a stupid puppy or a nightclubber on Ecstacy, I tend to fall in love with whatever bike I happen to be riding at the time. The Bititan has been no exception, and as I stomped up a climb or splayed myself out over the cockpit in those Spinacis, some passing Fred’s “Nice bike!” comment still ringing in my ears (I get passed a lot, which makes it easy for people to gaze upon my bikes), I’d catch myself thinking, “Maybe I should sell the comparatively staid Litespeed and become a vintage Colnago guy.” But becoming a Colnago guy is kind of like becoming an orgy guy, and when it comes down to it I’m not ready for the Assos and unguents and white shoes it would take for me to fully embrace the lifestyle.

More importantly, as I found when I flirted with the idea of pivoting to the Davidson, every time I get back on the Litespeed I immediately realize, “Nope, this is the road bike for me.” Furthermore, so consistently pleased am I with it that since divesting myself of my crabon Fred sled I haven’t looked back for a moment. “Forever bike?” Who knows. But I suspect my aging body will reject clipless pedals and drop bars long before I’m compelled to replace it. (That’s not a particularly bold prediction, either, since it’s already starting to happen.)

If you’ll pardon the banal and phallocentric simile, I’ve always felt that a road bike is like a suit, in that you should always have at least one, even if you only use it occasionally. Furthermore, it would stand to reason that this suit should be both classic and comfortable, and as suited to a festive function as it is to a funeral. For me, the Litespeed is that timeless suit, whereas the Colnago is maybe a little dated–the lapels a little too wide and shiny, the crotch a bit too tight–though I should point out this difference speaks not just to the Colnago’s attributes, but also to my decreasing ability to pull it off.

So while the overall winner may be the Litespeed, the real winner is time. You can’t keep reaching into those drops forever; sooner or later the bars need to come up to you instead.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

This Just In: New Outside Column!

12/30/2021 0:02

I’m deep in holiday mode, but I’m climbing out of the punch bowl to let you know that I’ve got a new Outside column up on the Internet:

TLDR; we’re all a bunch of hypocrites.

And now back to the punch bowl!


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

Merry Holidays!

12/24/2021 0:03

Today is December 23rd–Christmas Eve Eve, or the day some people observe as Festivus by erecting an aluminum pole:

[“It’s made from aluminum. Very high strength-to-weight ratio.”–Frank Costanza]

By the way, you’ll note there in the lower right-hand corner of that Cannondale catalogue page that their Festivus technology yielded frames that were “light as metal matrix.” I didn’t know what metal matrix was then, and I don’t know what it is now. I do seem to recall it was a thing Specialized were doing, and clearly it was popular enough at the time that Cannondale felt the need to denounce it along with titanium and chrome-moly. To my knowledge nobody’s tried to resurrect it yet, like they seem to do with magnesium every 10 years or so:

[“A Vaast, ye matey!”]

Apparently, riding a Vaast is an out-of-body experience, which…wow:

I don’t liken it to reducing your tire pressure, however, as that often comes with more bounciness and a generally more vague sense of what the contact patches are doing. Instead, it’s almost what I’d imagine an out-of-body experience would be like where I’m watching myself ride from above. It’s very weird, and very unusual, but also very comforting (in quite the literal sense).

Presumably if you fitted it with some Jan Heine tires you’d ascend directly to heaven.

By the way, I was testing magnesium bikes before it was cool:

That was actually a pretty badass bike. I’m also a pretty badass bike blogger, because I got questioned by the shomrim while taking all those photos. Fortunately I was able to give them the secret handshake, otherwise I might have been forced into the back of a Honda Odyssey and who knows what might have happened to me.

Anyway, with the holidays upon us there’s a better-than-decent chance you may not be hearing from me again before the New Year, though I do deserve the right to pop in if there’s something I need to share before them. I’ll also note that my hot tub installation continues. This has rendered my bicycle-specific clothing only intermittently accessible, which in turn means I’ve been plain-clothesing it on my pair of Rivendae on a daily basis instead of Fredding it up:

I was a day late for the winter solstice, but you wouldn’t know it from the sheer Druidity of that tableau.

Anyway, all of this is by way of wishing you a festive and velocipede-filled holiday and a laterally stiff and vertically compliant New Year. May your tire pressure be optimal and your drivetrain smooth and friction-free. And thank you for reading the words I persist in typing into the void all these years later, even if it’s mostly just a way for you to kill some time on the terlet. (I will neither confirm or deny that I write this blog in order to kill time on the terlet.)

This is going to be the best 2022 ever, I can feel it!

XOXO,

–Tan Tenovo


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

Be It Resolved

12/22/2021 0:04

It’s getting to be that time of year to make a resolution, but before I do I’m assessing last year’s resolution:

Sadly I did not follow through, though I did manage to limit my helmet usage to bike-testing situations:

As well as competition:

Anyway, it’s clear the resolution was misguided, and that what I really should have resolved to do is clean up my damn face.

Well there’s always next year.

It’s also the season where the metaphors are everywhere you look. It can be easy to lose sight of life when you can’t see the forest for the trees:

And it can be equally easy to forget that two heads are better than one:

This is especially true when one of them is occupied and you really have to go.

A wise person once said it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness–I’m not sure who, but it was probably someone with a selfish agenda and deep financial ties to Big Wax. However, I can personally attest that it’s better to have a dynamo hub than to not have one:

The fact of the matter is that for urban riding (at least around here) you don’t really need a proper headlight, just something that helps other people see you. However, lately I’ve been heading out of the city late in the day owing to a somewhat upended riding routine, and the headlight has made all the difference:

Just as the depths of the ocean are teeming with bizarre bioluminescent life forms:

So too are the trails and multi-use paths of suburbia at night a strange place of blinky light-laden bicyclists and dog walkers wearing headlamps–though they’re pretty werid during the day, too, and you might even have an encounter with a platypus!

The horror…the horror.

Finally, in cultural news, for awhile it seemed the “collabo” bike had gone out of style along with the fixie, but designer Stella McCartney and Cannondale have returned to the trough:

Now more than ever, bikes have become an important part of people’s lives. They are changing the way we move around and have fun. Both Cannondale and Stella McCartney share a heritage of material innovation and commitment to environmental stewardship, with bike riding offering significant benefits to the health of both people and planet. Stella McCartney recognises this shift and promotes cycling as being a community of shared values.

Instead of taking some new plastic bikes that will never get ridden, wouldn’t it have been more in line with their environmental messaging to repurpose something vintage?

It even looks like the crickets we’re all supposed to be eating:

By the way, you might recall that Stella McCartney’s mother sponsored a pro cycling team:

Seems to me the time is perfect to launch new team that rides bamboo bikes and uses insect paste energy gels…

…but all I hear is crickets.


Categories:Bike Snob NYC

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