Monday, January 15, 2018

What Wood Jesus Do?

Remember the Renovo Aerowood?


Wait, sorry, wrong picture.



You may recall that the bike was creaking on climbs, which is something that shouldn't happen, even beneath a rider as powerful as myself.  It sounded to my expert ear like the creaking was coming from the rear hub, so I changed wheels, which did wonders for the braking but took a devastating toll on the aesthetics:


(Thick, swoopy frame just can't pull off low-profile rims.)

Alas, the creaking continued.

At that point I figured the source of the offending sound could be pretty much anything, and with my time in even shorter supply than my patience we agreed that I'd send the bike back to Renovo who would get it all sorted out for me.  Lazy?  Sure.  However, I'm supposed to be evaluating the bike, and would the sort of person who buys a $10,000 wooden bicycle deign to figure out why his or her bike is creaking?  I think not.

Nevertheless, I'm so deeply and profoundly lazy that I never even got around to packing the bike so someone else could fix it for me, and instead it just sat there.

Then came the new year, and my resolution to ride only one bike...this one:


Cunningly I'd included in my resolution a test bike loophole, because obviously as a semi-professional bike blogger I've got to be able to evaluate bicycles, right?  Hey, without me it's just the sphincter-tightening reviews over at VeloNews or Bicycling or CyclingTips or whatever the Freds are reading these days, or else the douchechill-inducing himbo bro-fest over at the Radavist.  I consider it my mission to provide you with the sort of edifying and substantial fare that on a good day hits at least freshman English major levels of pretentiousness and word bloat masquerading as erudition.  

Anyway, as you can imagine, after riding the monstrosity above multiple times my thought began to drift to the test bike in the basement.  Drop bars...  electronic shifting...  crabon wheels...  It all sounded so dreamy!

Hey, I am a recovering Fred after all.

So on Friday evening I headed down to the basement and, determined to eliminate the creaking, went to work on the Renovo.  (I also threw in a couple loads of laundry because that's where the machines are.)  The wash cycle was just enough time to swap cassettes and brake pads and restore the wooden bike to its original crabon-wheeled state, and as the clothes tumble-dried I pulled the cranks, tightened the bottom bracket, and put on some of those quick fenders.  Then the next morning I went for a ride:


Not only was the bike now blissfully creak-free, but it was also an absolute joy to ride.  Is at least some of that joy attributable to the fact that for the last few week's I've been riding a 30-pound mountain bike almost exclusively?  Almost certainly.  In fact, while I'd always been a bit uncomfortable with the sheer lavishness of the Renovo, I was now positively reveling in it, so starved had I been of my Fredly vices.  So between the juxtaposition factor and the resolute silence I have to admit that I am currently in love with this bicycle.

Speaking of the fenders, not only do I think the bike looks much better with them than it does with bare wheels:


But they also work almost as well as proper full fenders thanks to that rear wheel cutout:


Amazing.

At this point you're no doubt thinking I'm a massive hypocrite, and of course you'd be right.  Isn't committing to bicycle austerity and then hopping on a sumptuous Fred sled when the mood strikes you no different than declaring veganism but saying it's fine to eat cheeseburgers just as long as you don't pay for them?  Of course it is, which is why I put the loophole in there in the first place.  

Hey, I'm not as stupid as I look--and I look pretty stupid:


(Photo by Grant Petersen)

Nevertheless, I maintain that my resolution is no less valuable for it.  In fact it may be even more valuable, since sticking to Ol' Piney means when I do hop on another bike I'm more able to appreciate it and discern its best features, thus making me a better bike reviewer.  Then again, a vegan sneaking a cheeseburger after two weeks of chia seeds will probably declare even a mediocre one the best burger they've ever had, so in that sense I suppose it's possible the resolution will make me a worse bike reviewer.  

All of this is very troubling to me for about fourteen seconds, after which I decide I don't give a fuck.  Plus, the Renovo is not at all suited to riding in dirt, so you can be sure I'll continue to spend much of my time on Ol' Piney.

Nevertheless, I will continue long-term testing of the Renovo for the benefit of cycledom in general and people interested in purchasing high-end wooden bicycles in particular, and I will also allow myself to revel in its decadence.

Someone's gotta do it.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

It's All About Performance

Further to my post about Citi-Biking to the Icarus screening, a commenter commented thusly:

Anonymous said...

Good post, but 50 minutes to go 8 miles?

January 11, 2018 at 11:08 AM

Two days after a blizzard, 15 degrees, riding through snowed-in bike lanes, fighting icy headwinds along the waterfront and stopping repeatedly to call and text with my wife who was having train trouble?

Yes, that 8-mile ride took me 50 minutes, but sure, whatever makes you feel better about yourself.

Sometimes bike people really are the worst.

Speaking of stats, today I took a ride on Ol' Foodie:


Unfortunately this picture is misleading since that short section of trail is snow-free only because of some freak confluence of wind direction and building and tree cover.  Otherwise, it was very slow going indeed and I stuck mostly to the road.  Still, as aesthetically questionable as Ol' Foodie is, it's not so bad in the context of dirt, now is it?


Okay, fine, it's still ugly as hell.

Anyway, my brief dirt detour aside this was mostly a road ride.  Typically in these conditions (warm, wet, lots of melting snow), my choice of bike is a no-brainer:


Alas, as I am now committed to one bike for the entire year this was not an option, so Ol' Foodie it was.

Anyway, I know what you're wondering (especially if you're a Fred, and especially especially if you're the dork who left the comment I mentioned at the beginning of the post):

"Did you sacrifice any performance?"  

Good question!  Let's go to the Strava:



Shit, sorry, wrong link:

Sweet Fancy Lobster I feel like a douchebag embedding a Strava ride.

Anyway, looking at the steepest climbs on my ride, I did the one by my house in 2:12, which is my slowest-ever time by a pretty decent margin:


As for the one I do up in Westchester before heading back, I did that in 2:26, which one second off a personal worst (and that personal worst was set on a longer ride so I was probably tired by that point):


So yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and say the bike is definitely slowing me down.

Fortunately however this doesn't matter, for a couple of reasons:

  • Except in cases where it's too snowy or wet I almost always incorporate some trails into my ride so the bike's aptitude in those conditions should make up for the fact that it's slower on the road;
  • I really don't give a shit how fast I go anyway.
Still, I'm not going to lie: it was hard not to reach for the Milwaukee today.  It's not hard to imagine I'll be desperately grasping for excuses to break my resolution, and in fact I almost did just that when I broke a spoke on the ride today:


"Oh well, that's it, I guess the bike is ruined now," I declared.  Unfortunately not only is it an easy fix, but I also have a drawerful of spokes, one of which will no doubt fit, so it won't even cost me any money.  Plus, it didn't even really affect my ride since between the 31 remaining spokes and the dick breaks, once I removed the offending spoke I barely even noticed a difference.

Of course the flipside of using this as an attempt to excuse my way out of my resolution is to use it as a pretense for getting some new wheels ("How can I ever trust you again, wheel!"), and it's not hard to imagine that sticking to one bike will end up costing me far more money in the long run than simply continuing to spread my riding across a whole bunch of bikes would have.

Ah, who am I kidding, if I stick to this resolution through March it'll be a miracle.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Sun Can't Burn Your Wings When It's 7 Degrees

Today I headed out for a little spin on Ol' Foodie, which what I'm now calling Ol' Piney when it's in "road mode," since it looks like a food delivery bike:


Certainly not the most attractive bike, but lack of a front fender aside it was absolutely perfect for a post-blizzard ride:


I wonder if the bike would be any less ugly with proper fenders on it:


Maybe a tiny bit.

I'd certainly be a lot cleaner, that's for sure.

Anyway, speaking of post-blizzard rides, this past Saturday I invoked my Citi Bike exemption and rode one of their azure bank-branded beasts all the way from Astoria, Queens to Brooklyn Heights, which is a distance of something like eight (8) miles.  If you're wondering why this is remarkable, it's because not only was the blizzard a mere two days old, but also because it was like 15 American Degrees out:


("So it was really hot out is what you're saying.")

The reason for the ride, as I mentioned Monday, is that this guy I know who used to be a pro bike racer had invited me to a screening of this documentary:


Here's that ex-bike racer, by the way:


He invited me on Saturday morning and the screening was that very evening, indicating to me that I had been an afterthought.  On one hand, I considered this an affront to my status as the world's greatest bicycle blogger.  On the other hand, I had to admit that even the people I consider my closest friends only invite me to stuff as an afterthought, so what's the big deal?

Plus, shouldn't I be grateful?  After all, imagine a life so glamorous that Lance Armstrong--a two-time Tour de France stage winner no less--invites you to film screenings.  Then imagine you've got to ride this bike for a year:


As you can see, it all cancels itself out.

Most importantly, my wife and I had already been planning to leave the kids with my mother for a bit that day and go have a drink or something, and the screening meant we'd have an excuse to do that at the douchey Brooklyn hotel where the screening was being held instead of at our usual spot down the street from her place in Queens:


And so I graciously accepted.

As for the documentary itself, I didn't really know anything about it prior to receiving the invitation, but basically it's about the Russian state-sponsored doping program, and apparently Armstrong was doing this screening-followed-by-a-panel-discussion thing because he can "relate:"


You know, because of the drugs.

Anyway, the plan was that I'd bring the kids over to my mother's while my wife went into Manhattan to ride a bike inside, then we'd meet in Brooklyn for the screening.  Some things in life never change, and one of those things is lying to your mother about how you're going to get someplace.  See, there's a Citi Bike station right on her corner now, but if I'd told her that's how I planned to get from her place to Brooklyn when it was 15 degrees outside she'd rightfully attack me with a wooden spoon.  So instead I told her I was taking an Uber, but as soon as I got outside I made for the Citi Bike dock like a teenager sneaking a cigarette and set out into the frigid post-blizzard wasteland.

About 50 frigid minutes later (Citi Bikes handle pretty well in the snow I must say) I arrived in Brooklyn and rendezvoused with my wife, and after thawing my insides out with a Jameson we headed over to the hotel and ensconced ourselves in the screening room:


Judging from the conversations and the wardrobes these were mostly film industry people, none of whom I recognized, though there was no mistaking the countenance of Neil deGrasse Tyson when he walked in:


Sadly he didn't do the "I'm going to blow your mind!" hand gesture as depicted above, but his presence sent a ripple through the audience regardless.

As for the movie itself, here's a summary:
  • Fred (the director, Bryan Fogel) rides the Haute Route
  • Fred decides he's going to dope for the next edition, ostensibly to prove how easy it is to circumvent WADA protocols, but you can't help suspecting it's because deep down he just wants to
  • In seeking a consultant, Fred winds up working with Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, head of Russia's anti-doping lab and instrumental figure in their doping program--just as the house of cards is collapsing
  • Fred brings Rodchenkov to the US and winds up getting a front-row seat to the ensuing shitshow as the doping program is exposed to the world
The story of Rodchenkov and the doping program is fascinating.  However, the transition from "Fred's gonna try doping" to "international intrigue" is a bit jarring.  Also, Fred could have done a bit more to coax out some of the subplots.  Or at least that's what my wife and I thought, and we're genuine New York intellectuals whose opinions on these sorts of things matter.  I'm sure I'd have been more into it if I'd have watched it at home, but I'd be lying if I said it's the sort of thing you want to watch in a theater on a Saturday night.

Oh yeah, Fred also totally blows his doped attempt at Haute Route when his Di2 system runs out of batteries, so quibbles aside it's probably worth streaming the movie for that moment alone.

Anyway, after the movie we were softened up with some complementary wine, and then we were shown to a conference room where you'd think someone was kicking off a presidential campaign:


Ironically though the person to whom Armstrong confessed his doping may have done just that the following night:


If you had told me 30 years ago that one day Oprah Winfrey would be running against incumbent Donald Trump I'd have said, "Yeah, that sounds about right," and then cranked up the Dayglo Abortions again.

Anyway, inasmuch as my wife and I were enjoying a rare night away from our seventeen (17) children we were disinclined to stay for the entirety of the Q and A, even if we were thrillingly close to the back of Neil deGrasse Tyson's head:



I will point out though that Armstrong has now reached the point where, when he makes sly references to his own doping, the crowd laughs knowingly and appreciatively, like when aging rock stars winkingly mention their debaucherous pasts.

In other words, while there's still all sorts of lingering resentment among bike dorks, it's fair to say the mainstream culture has pretty much forgiven him.

In any case, we eventually slipped out and made for the bar:


And when it finally came time to leave and collect the children I made good on my earlier promise and called an Uber because, you know, seven degrees:


Which is too hot for cycling, obviously:


Monday, January 8, 2018

Detoxing from Fred-dom

Firstly, late on Friday, Outside published my latest column which is all about that idiot Amy Alkon and how she thinks carrying kids on your bike is child engangerment:


Comments on their Facebook page range from claims that children should wear helmets while being carried slowly in box bikes to whatever the hell this is:

Aaron Daney It's ironic that Outside Magazine promotes unrelated liberal agendas while at the same time writing on topic pieces poo pooing the types of agendas that liberals promote. It's like the stripper that knows she's crazy but will put a 4" heel through your skull if you actually call her crazy.

That's not even a word salad.  That's a word purée.

Secondly, you'll be pleased to know I finished throwing together some "road" wheels for Ol' Piney and the results are, well, rather unattractive:


In fact it looks very much like a New York City food delivery bike:


Rest assured I do not mean that as an affront to New York City food delivery riders, who work harder on the bike than just about anybody.  Still, that doesn't mean I have to find their bikes attractive, nor is it in any way at odds with my respect for them.  Sure, I'll never understand the high fender thing, but presumably they have their reasons:


Anyway, back to Ol' Piney, I'm afraid I didn't have time to put in a proper ride on it in that configuration.  Also, it was like 15 degrees and there's still a ton of snow on the ground, so I'd be lying if I said I was inclined to make time.  However, a quick spin around the neighborhood reveals that, aesthetic configurations aside, it feels quite comfy and nimble with the "skinny" tires on it:


At some point I'll try to work out a better fender solution--preferably one that provides for full coverage yet isn't too onerous to install and remove--but for the time being it is what it is.

In any case, my hope is that between the two pairs of wheels I'll be covered for everything from full-on offroad rides to longer mixed-terrain rambles with a fair amount of pavement.  Will I look terminally uncool when the bike is in jacked-up hybrid mode?  Absolutely.  But part of the one-bike-for-a-year* experiment is about attempting to cure myself of those concerns once and for all.

*[With plenty of convenient exceptions, of course.]

Finally, by way of a teaser, this past weekend this guy I know who used to race bikes invited me to a screening of this:


Tomorrow I'll tell you all about both it and the "epic" Citi Bike ride I undertook to get there.


Friday, January 5, 2018

There Will Absolutely Be A Friday Fun Quiz, Just Not Today

Wow, I can't believe it, there's only one outraged comment on Outside's Facebook post for my latest column!



Rebecca Ruth Why on earth would you want to. Won’t bother reading this one. What will they think of next.

You know, Rebecca, if you actually read the column you might find out why on earth you'd want...oh never mind.



Mitch Walker Would you PLEASE focus on outdoor articles. NOT politics. I’m about to write the CEO of the publishing company.

Uh-oh!

And my column was merely the latest in a series of indignities to which Mitch has been subjected by Outside.  He also had to witness a picture of two similarly-gendered people sharing a single sleeping bag:

Mitch Walker Between this article and the one last week featuring two guys in a sleeping bag (which I don’t agree with but it’s the way the millennial a operate LOL), the mags comment “get over it,” the company needs to clean up its image. Highly unprofessional

I don't know what's dumber: getting freaked out by two guys in a sleeping bag, or blaming everything you don't like on "millennials."

None of which is to imply Mitch is some sort of idiot, of course:

Mitch Walker How about all of you suck a fucking dick

Just kidding, he clearly is.

Anyway, clearly I've got to get these people more angry, and a column about how riding carbon fiber causes birth defects should do it.  (Especially if I emphasize that you should have the right to terminate that pregnancy.)

Speaking of only riding one bike for a year, you'll no doubt be fascinated to know that I'm in the midst of curating a pair of "road" wheels for Ol' Piney:


I had some Bruce Gordon Rock n' Road tires lying around, and I had some 29er wheels lying around.  Now all I've got to do is install the 180mm front rotor and ridiculously huge 11-42 cassette I just received and then wait for some of this fucking snow to melt:


I did take a very short spin today and it was a total shitshow out there.  The trails are too snowy to ride even with my chubby tires*, and the streets are a slushy mess besieged by impatient and inept drivers.  I mean seriously, how the hell do you rear-end a Department of Sanitation snowplow?  I don't know, but the idiot in the SUV with the Georgia plates somehow managed to pull it off.  

*[And no, I'm NOT GETTING A FAT BIKE!  That wouldn't have helped either, because I don't see anyone grooming the trails for me anytime soon.]

Finally, sometimes I worry that time and the Portlandia TV series have mellowed Portland, but then along comes someone who's crowfunding a project to film Cyclocross Nationals on Super 8 film:

Super 8 CX Nationals Project from Local Cycling Network on Vimeo.

If there's one thing the world needs more of it's niche sports filmed with obsolete equipment, and it probably won't surprise you to learn that the filmmaker is painfully earnest about this project:


Or that Super 8 film looks like crap:


So crappy in fact that you can barely make out the bunny ears:


Still, of course I understand it's not about the quality, it's about getting together afterwards and watching it while drinking craft brews and twirling the ends of your waxed mustache. 

I wish him nothing but the best, and I look forward to his next fundraising campaign, which will no doubt involve bike polo and Polaroid portraiture.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hey, Wouldya Look At That, It's Another Outside Column!

And it's no ordinary column, either.  It's a column about how I'm going to undertake a challenge so daunting, so profound, and so un-Fredly that I daresay no other bikey media doofus would ever dare attempt it.  Yes, that's right, for one whole year I'm only going to ride one bike*:



*[With certain exceptions of course, because come on.]

This isn't some gimmick where I'm going to go out and find the perfect do-everything, only-bike-you'll-ever-need bike, either.  (Everybody knows that the whole "only bike you'll ever need" thing is a myth invented by the bike industry to sell people like me their 14th bike anyway.)  Nope, I had to choose an existing bike from among my vast velocipedal holdings, and what I decided to go with was Ol' Piney:


Is this because I think Ol' Piney represents the perfect bicycle?  Certainly not.  This is the perfect bicycle:

However, of all my bikes I suspect Ol' Piney is the one that will allow me to partake in all my currently preferred styles of recreational riding without really missing anything.  Obviously it's got the offroad stuff covered, and with a quick wheel swap I think I'll be covered for the more road-oriented rides too--especially since I'm not exactly getting Lycra-ed up and slotting into any pacelines these days.  Plus, my one-bike resolution conveniently includes a review bike loophole, so once I resume testing on the wooden bike I'll have an opportunity to indulge my inner Fred if I so choose.

Anyway, with regard to outfitting Ol' Piney for the road, I'll be adapting my old 29er wheels for that purpose, and I'm hoping that switching between those and the full-on chubby wheels should just about cover me--despite what some may think:

Yeah, looks like a fun bike but for this particular stunt I don't think so:.  


We may be the only bike company in the world to suggest you only need to own a single bike. But having pioneered the gravel/adventure bike realm (ahem, Country Road Bob, circa 2000) we know a thing or two about designing bikes with a tasty blend of performance, durability and versatility. It’s an idea we’ve pushed even further with the A.D.D. Road bike, CX bike, mountain bike, loaded touring/adventure bike—you can run 700 x 25–40mm road, CX or gravel tires, or switch up your wheels and run 27.5 x 2.1 MTB knobbies.

Firstly, now that I've tasted the sweet nectar of the 3.0 tire I don't think I can go a year limited to just 2.1.  Secondly, mountain biking with drop bars is kind of like eating a hamburger with chopsticks, whereas with the Jones bars I don't think I'll mind a few hours of pavement time without proper drops.  If anything, I suspect one year of upright riding may finally force me to admit I should adopt a more Petersenly position.

In any event I'll be sure to keep you apprised.

Finally, there's a storm currently bearing down on us, and I refused to take it seriously until they decided last night to close the schools.  This means that no matter how much snow we do or don't get I'll be totally buried in parenting duties.  Fortunately, in anticipation, I did manage to get out on the bike for a bit--yes, that bike:


Rather than head up north I undertook sort of an urban ramble, dropping in on the Highbridge mountain bike trails for a few laps:


Paying homage to the High Bridge itself:


And of course basking in the crotch of this ersatz stone sentry:


Then there was this:


It's what a car looks like after you drive it through a Home Depot:


Among its more distinctive features was this rear-mounted tableau:


And the rear end includes multiple electrical outlets and a pair of door holders for reasons unknown:


Evidently it's been around awhile, though I've never seen it in motion.

I'm not sure I want to, either.