Monday, April 28, 2008

Bicycling: The New Golf.

Yeah. Bicycling is "the new golf" according to some pap printed in Bicycling mag a couple of months ago.

I think we have Bicycling magazine to thank for that. Be sure to visit them at and thank them for sh*tting all over the sport I love. (Yeah-- do it for me.)

For the past few months I couldn't flip through the magazine without twitching a couple of times. It's the signs of absurd affluency that piss me off. Ads for piloting school? (Featuring the shadow of a small airplane over a golf course-- awesome.) Those retarded Scott USA ads featuring mountain bikes with more composite materials than a Stealth bomber-- yeah those things cost EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS. What?

Obviously I AM NOT a typical representative of Bicycling magazine's readership demographic.

What has me all fired up enough to actually spend some of my precious time ranting?

It's the June issue feature "2008 Editors' Choice". There are apparently user categories that I was not aware of. The editors' pick for "recreational" road bike is the Cannondale Six13 that costs US$1,800. uh...okay. To me "recreational" connotes someone that rides occasionally. But the Cannondale is hardly some Wal-Mart clunker worthy of only occasional bike-path excursions.

Then we have the "enthusiast" road bike pick: The Jamis Xenith Pro for a fiddling US$3,200. No, I didn't get the first two digits transposed. One of the testers had the temerity to say this: "Any hardworking rider looking to stretch a dollar would be foolish not to consider the Xenith Pro." I'm sorry but that's a boat-load of dollars to "stretch". In fact that really isn't "stretching" hard-earned dollars AT ALL. That is, in fact, SHOVELLING them on. That's rolling them up and using them to light your fat-cat stogie with.

I'm sorry, but I'm an "enthusiast". I love bikes. I love what bikes represent. I love my old rusty 1989 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp. I love my 1994 Cannondale R400 road bike (that I bought for US$650-ish back in 1994.). I love my 2001 Cannondale F700 (US$900 ON SALE!) MTB and my 2006 LeMond Poprad (US$1,200 full price). I love them all.

When I ride, I'm serious about riding. I love riding. I don't use a heart-rate monitor-- never will. No power-measuring devices. When I shop for parts I wait for sales, use coupons or even scrounge Craigslist.

Best of all is the "entry level" road bike. The US$930 LeMond Reno. What does that mean? Is an "entry level" rider not a "recreational" rider? Do they ride differently? So if one is enthusiastic about bike then one wouldn't be entry level.

I'm damned enthusiastic about bikes (you may recall from earlier in this post) and that "entry level" LeMond is looking pretty sweet.

I just don't understand much of what bicycling mag publishes these days. Maybe it's time for me to take up golf.

Pffft. Not.

Thanks goodness for Dirt Rag magazine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If the bike's fun to ride... it will get ridden.

Yesterday on there was an article about how a church group teamed up with the Community Cycling Center in NE Portland to hold a free bike tune-up and used bike donation drive.

I thought the idea was awesome-- together they tuned up about 80 bikes and gathered about 60 more as donations to re-use and refurbish.

I like what the CCC is all about and what they do. I'd like to get involved but unfortunately they're too far away to be practical. Here's why-- they're not MY community.

I know you're probably thinking "Jerk!" but read on for just another minute.

See-- I like to think as locally as possible. I live in the suburbs (sort of) and there isn't really any low-cost support for cyclists. The bike shops around here part of a massive national chain, a large-ish local chain or cater to high-end cyclists. Now, I'm not knocking the shops-- I shop in all of them-- but I think that most bike shops in general are intimidating to Joe Q. Public. Joe rides his bike on sunny Sunday afternoons with the family. When he goes to buy his kids a bike he goes to a department store. Unfortunately the bikes are, for all intents and purposes, disposable. They get used but never maintained beyond a generous blast of WD-40 on the squeaking parts.

I see lots of kids riding around on these rusty, squeaking clunkers. They get left outside in the rain and cold and baking sun. After a year or two, the $70 bike has outlived its usefulness-- the brakes barely work and the chain has rusted into a piece of re-bar. Off to Wal-Mart to buy another bike.

The thing that concerns me is that soon the bike deteriorates out of tune. It was likely not even properly assembled in the first place judging from the number of ill-fitting bikes I've seen. Is an ill-fitting, squeaking, malfunctioning bike fun to ride? Is it embarrassing? A hassle to deal with as brake levers flop around? I've seen bikes with brake cables disconnected because the wheel was so badly out of true.

Wait... what was my point? Well let me make a few assumptions:

1.) There are many many department store bikes out there. These bikes serve as the "gateway" to cycling.

2.) These bike little to no maintenance.

3.) They aren't going to see any experienced technical care.

4.) Eventually, when the bikes are so degraded due to prolonged neglect and exposure to the elements, they will cease to be fun to ride.

5.) The riders will fall back to automobiles for transportation.

This is something that occurs to me just about every time I hit the roads around here on my bike. I see so many opportunities missed as bikes sit in a rusting pile in the back yard. No one in the family knows how to take care of them and they aren't going to make it to a bike shop for repair.

What if these folks were offered the opportunity to have their bikes tuned up? Lube the chain, adjust the brakes, true the wheels, and make the bike fit the rider. Just basic stuff that seems so simple to me makes a HUGE difference in the ride-quality of a bike. I mean, bikes don't have to be made race-ready-- they just have to be fixed up to the point where they don't suck to ride.

And this is my hope: That by making their bike not suck, maybe the kids will enjoy riding and, most importantly, KEEP riding.

Did any of that rambling make sense? I don't think it matters where you live-- there are lots of kids and their bikes. I want to see these bikes getting ridden because they're safe to ride and operate properly.

One of these days I'll get the gumption to do something about this. Thing is-- where do I start? How much will it cost me? What sort of supplies should I have on hand?

One day... one day...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Backslide into moral turpitude...

Oh good heavens. Just last week, as I was preparing to go for a ride, I spied a flaky patch of dried mud on my rear tire. In flicking off what I thought was an amalgamation of mud and leaves, I discovered that I was actually attempting to flick off a ragged flap of my TIRE!!!


And that wasn't the ONLY spot!!!


In spots, almost the entire carcass was separating from the casing. I had made the last couple of rides (fortunately short lunch-time getaways) on not much more than the nylon casing.

Time for a new set of tires.

Since we're trying to live within our means that means cash, not credit, for stuff like this. Which also means my budget is quite a bit smaller.

So I came out of the bike shop with a pair of Continental Ultra Race tires. Okay, right? Wait for it-- They had WIRE BEADS!! *gasp*

Oh the shame!

Oh yeah, and they're 700x25. Yep. Big ol' sausages.

I guess it was the Grant Peterson in me. I was being sooo practical.

And realistic.

My road bike is 13 years old. It has downtube shifters. I don't race it. (I tried a couple of summers ago. Ugh.) I used to inflate the tires to at least 110psi (or whatever the max psi happened to be for the particular tire).

I only weigh about 150 so I decided to bring the pressure down to 95 psi and experienced a big difference in road feel and comfort (through a lack of vibration).

Grant Peterson (of Rivendell Bikes) advocates nothing narrower than 27c.

So I split the difference and went with the 25c. I also couldn't find a Kevlar bead tire for less than $25. I almost bought a pair of Panaracer tires but since I needed a new chain and some lube I decided to save some money and get the Contis that were on sale for $20. And that meant a wire bead. After all this typing it's obvious that I've got some issue with wire vs. Kevlar bead.

The only difference? (I guess) Weight. About 70 grams per tire. The Ultra Race is also available with a Kevlar bead-- but just not where I was shopping that day.

Since I don't race do I really need a Kevlar bead tire? I suppose not. One might argue that anyone would benefit from less rotational inertia. But wouldn't a slightly heavier wheel roll longer, once up to speed? And don't I sound like a complete dork?

I must have looked like one at the shop, going back and forth between the "cool" tires on one shelf and the hanging racks of wire-bead tires against the wall. Like that guy in Clerks who was taking all the eggs out of the cartons and trying to stand them on end.

Oh well. I am a bike dork.