Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Wood That I Could

You may remember that last week I posted about SRAM's mustache-rich promotional video for their new DUB crank interface:


While I speculated that SRAM may have some sort of facial hair-related hiring policy, one commenter pointed out the following:

Anonymous said...

FYI - Yes it was filmed in November (read the YouTube description). No, it was not a corporate challenge. It was a charitable challenge honoring a co-worker who had passed.

January 23, 2018 at 1:19 AM

Well now don't I feel like a douche:


In any case, while I was wallowing in the comments, I also came across this:

Anonymous said...

I have also found the square taper to be reliable. And cheap. When it is improved upon I will stop being a retrogrouch.

JANUARY 19, 2018 AT 9:01 PM

Nothing against square taper, but it has been improved upon:


Hollowtech II uses the same bottom bracket shell and makes installing and removing cranks about as complicated as adjusting your threadless stem.  Plus, since it's external, the bottom bracket itself is a lot easier to install and remove.  I'd call that an improvement--certainly not an "I'm gonna change all my bikes over immediately!" improvement, but easily an "On my new bike I'm gonna go with..." improvement.

I will entertain no additional opinions on this matter, and if you're tempted to leave a comment about how square taper bottom brackets allow you to adjust your chainline I invite you to send it here.

Then there was this comment:

Jojo Potato said...

Why are mountain bikers in videos with pounding music always going downhill?

JANUARY 18, 2018 AT 10:15 PM

Because going downhill on a mountain bike looks cool and going uphill doesn't:



Moving onto more roadlier matters, as I mentioned yesterday I've been doing some intensive testing on the Renovo Aerowood, aka the "Loophole Bike," shown here with my finger in the shot:


And please note that's "Loophole Bike," not "Knothole Bike:"


No knotholes in the Renovo, so if you're a squirrely rider you're gonna have to find someplace else to hide your nuts:


Sorry.

In any case, the dead of winter may not be an ideal time to test an aero bike with skinny tires:


Nevertheless, now that I've sorted out the creaking (as I mentioned, it turned out the bottom bracket simply needed tightening--which was very easy since it's a Hollowtech II with a threaded shell) I've been riding it regularly, and so seductive is this exotic wooden bicycle that my inner Fred, dormant for years, is now sprouting anew from the frozen earth.  Yes, it's true: while at first I thought the bike had kind of a deluxe backgammon set aesthetic that was at odds with my recent affinity for unhurried riding on pragmatic metal bikes, I must admit I now find myself beaming from the sense of self-satisfaction that comes from riding an esoteric Fred Toboggan.  Indeed, as I pedal, I'm transported 20 years back in time, when I used to look covetously at the older riders astride their Calfees and Colnagos and tally up the components in my head.  "Perhaps one day that will be me," I used to pine.  "Successful, busy with children and career, yet able to reward myself with an expensive bicycle and--most importantly--also still able to hammer."

Well, here I am: I've got the kids and I've got the expensive bike (on loan anyway), and while I may not have a career, be successful, or even be able to hammer, it turns out none of that really matters that much when you've got a couple decent kids and a sweet bike.

Basically riding the Renovo makes me feel like I've arrived, despite having never gotten up off my ass.

So yes, I'm here to confess that this bicycle has managed to rekindle my inner Fred.  Moreover, between this and Ol' Piney I'm currently existing in an ambiguous Schrödinger's cat-like state, suspended between monied master douchedom and jorted, fat-tired dirtbagitude.  Of course I'll fully revert to the latter when it's time to send the Renovo back, but until then I'm enjoying the paradox.

As for the particulars of the bike, it rides beautifully, as you'd expect from a well-fitting bike with high-end components.  My experiments with wheel-swapping also indicate it preserves this ride quality even when fitted with wheels costing roughly 1/10th of the price of the crabon wheels with which it came.  (Not to mention the metal wheels result in much better braking.  While the crabon wheels stop acceptably, they're nowhere near as smooth as metal rims, and they continue to shriek intermittently which is, quite frankly, antisocial.)

As for the cost of the bike, as the discount perineum salesman says, "Taint cheap:"


But let's just say you have actually arrived in life, and you want to blow a bitcoin on a road bike that will draw attention to you.  Here's comparably priced bicycle:



On one hand it's got Dura Ace instead of Ultegra, but on the other hand it's not from Portland and made of wood.  And if you've got a globe that opens up into a bar, you're gonna want to go for the latter:


Anyway, now that I've taken delivery of an 11-speed cassette I plan to configure the metal wheels for the Loophole Bike and continue riding into the spring and summer when I can truly unleash my pent-up Fredness upon the world, and like it or not I'll continue to keep you apprised of my exploits.  (Of course, they might want the bike back before then, but I'd like to see them try to get it.  Portlanders don't scare me.)  And watch out, because already over the weekend I bagged my first Strava KOM!


That is 100% a Strava error since I actually made a right before reaching the very top of the climb but I'll be goddamned if I'm gonna report myself.

So there.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Put On Your Coats, It's Time To Go Outside!

Good morning!  Isn't it great to be alive?  Here's my latest Outside column, which is about how our mayor is waging a misguided war on ebikes:



There are many reasons I continue to make this town my home, but certainly one of the main ones is the astounding level of governmental graft and hypocrisy.

Anyway, go ahead and chew on that, and I'll be back tomorrow with an update on the Loophole Bike:


Note that my finger managed to encroach on the shot, and it's just this level of professionalism on my part that compels people to send me expensive bicycles to review.  

Until then,

I remain,

You'rs Truely,


--Wildcat Rock Machine



Friday, January 19, 2018

Sawdust in the Wind

As you know, I'm a conssie connoiss  guy who knows a lot about wooden bikes, so I watched this with interest:



Just a tip for those of you looking to join me on the timber express, whichever bike you choose just make sure it's hand-blown:


See, a lot of builders cut corners by vacuuming the sawdust:


You may think it's all the same, but I can assure you the difference in ride quality between hand-blown and auto-sucked is readily discernible to the wood aficianado officianado expert.  If you're really looking for that soulful feel that only wood can give, there's really no substitute for a frame that's been lovingly exhaled upon by a builder whose breath carries the faint scent of single malt scotch and salami.  It works its way into the woodgrain and results in something I can only call magic.

Speaking of wood bikes, you're of course familiar by now with the Renovo--or, as I call it, the Loophole Bike, since it allows me to skirt my onerous one-bike resolution:


Well, the Renovo is equipped with Di2 electronic shifting, about which I have mixed feelings.  On one foot, there's no denying this stuff feels really nice.  On the other, I can't help feeling a bit of range anxiety as, unlike your phone, there's no battery life indicator.  (Yes, you can press the shifter and an indicator light will sort of tell you the battery life in Morse code, but it's not the same as an actual picture of a battery.)  Plus, as a Di2 novice, I have yet to use up my first charge, and therefore I have no idea how many miles to expect out of it.  In a way it's like riding a motorcycle without a fuel gauge, in that it takes you a few tanks to get a feel for how many miles you'll get out of a fill-up.  And, in another way it's like the miracle of Hanukkah in that I haven't charged the bike since I received it yet the battery indicator still says it's full.  (Though of course between blizzards and eliminating the source of that pesky creak I've only got a couple hundred miles on it.)

Then there's the actual charging.  See, I live in an apartment building, yet unlike most New Yorkers I refuse to keep my bikes inside my actual apartment.  (With the exception of the Brompton which lives by the coat rack.)  Fortunately we have a bike room in the basement, where I am able to house my stable in conditions that, while somewhat squalid, still beat tripping over the damn things.  Alas, there is no power outlet in the bike room, meaning that in order to charge the bike I'd have to bring it upstairs.  This is a problem, because not only is it annoying, but also once the bike is exposed to the luxurious conditions in my home it may never want to back to its subterranean hole.


(Me lowering supplies to my bikes.  Unlike most Freds I do not coddle them.)

Anyway, when it comes time to juice up the hand-blown Fred Sled (more of a wooden toboggan, really) I may have a solution:


It's a little portable powerbank thingy my kid got at Five Below.  I figure if I just plug the Shimano charger into the USB port I should be all set.  Of course, if there's a reason I shouldn't do this and the wooden bike will burst into flames, feel free to let me know.  Otherwise, not only am I going to use this to charge the Loophole Bike, but I'm also going to back to Five Below, buy a whole bunch more, and sell them to Freds at a 500% markup.

Moving on, I've not been paying much attention to the controversy over Chris Froome's salbutamol test, but you can be sure that VeloNews have been, and I guess he's been claiming it's the result of kidney failure or something:

In case you missed it, French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Tuesday that Chris Froome and Sky are considering a legal defense that argues his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol was the result of kidney failure.

Yes, kidney failure.

In making such a claim, Froome and Sky are of course engaging in the time-honored cycling tradition of making baroque excuses:

It appears that the British team is prepared to take its anti-doping cases into the realm of what I refer to as the “head-slap zone.” That’s the realm in which the explanations are so unlikely and far-fetched that even casual cycling fans slap their heads in amazement. Yes, this is the realm of Tyler Hamilton’s chimeric vanishing twin, Lance Armstrong’s French conspiracy, Raimondas Rumsas’s “The steroids were for my mother-in-law,” Adrie van der Poel eating juiced pigeons, or Gilberto Simoni taking a cocaine cough drop from Peru. Simply reading those excuses in succession makes me want to slap my head.

There, I just slapped myself.

Ultimately, there are only two conclusions to draw from all of this:

1) If even half the claims Froome has made during his career are true then he is by far the sickest athlete on the planet.  Asthma?  Dodgy kidneys?  Blood-borne parasites?  At this point I'm just waiting for Sky to claim he's clinically dead--which seems fairly plausible actually since the guy looks positively vampiric:


2) Anybody who still has the mental energy to expend on all of this stuff (specifically cycling fans and people who write for publications like VeloNews) should probably seek treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Or, you know, at least take up birdwatching or something.  Why these people want to basically shrink themselves down and live in these riders' bodies is beyond me.


Speaking of doping, Lance Armstrong says it costs him $100 million to confess his doping to president-elect Oprah Winfrey:


USA Today quoted Armstrong as saying via email that the confession had cost him "in excess of 100 mil". In the days after his confession, long-term sponsors such as Oakley, Trek and others suddenly dropped their huge endorsements and sponsorship, massively reducing his income.

But, you know, he did get a podcast out of it, so there you go.

As Jesus said, "Let the Fred who's ever had $100 million to lose cast the first stone:"


Ah-meh and Holy Luau.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blog Titles Are Like Mustaches And I Decided To Shave This One Off

First of all, more than anything, I'm extremely excited about the new SRAM DUB bottom bracket interface.  Is it because of the blah blah compatibility with the blah blah blah?  Hardly. As far as I'm concerned cranks and bottom brackets attained perfection with the Hollowtech II system and everything else is just noise.  (Literally, given the press-fit systems' propensity for creaking.)

No, I'm excited about DUB because keeping abreast of the latest bro fashions is very important to me, and now that the fixie edit is a thing of the past bike tech videos are my only window into the world of male style.  And from what I can tell, either mustaches are very in right now, or else you've got to have one to work at SRAM:



There was this one:


And this one:


And this one:


And of course, incredibly, this one:


Looks like something Rivendell would commission from Nitto.

That's the lab manager, by the way:


From what I understand, in order to curate his mustache he stuck his face in the Lynx 220L and fashioned it with a lathe:


Here's a closeup:


Amazing.

Then there was this suspiciously bare-faced test lab technician, who may in fact be a Shimano spy:


When you're under suspicion of corporate espionage at SRAM they make you ride around and around on the test track until you crack:


Here's someone with a mustache and a pencil behind his ear:


A pencil behind your ear makes you look smart, and a wispy mustache doesn't, so they effectively cancel each other out.

Honestly though, I haven't seen that many mustaches in one place since the "Scorcher Squad" got together for a group photo in 1899:


Even their helmets have mustaches:


Moving on, yesterday I took a ride on Ol' Piney, configured as the Good Lob intended--with chubby knobbies:


I'm beginning to suspect that switching back and forth between wheels may be a waste of time and it makes more sense to just leave it as is, but I'm going to keep messing around with it anyway in the name of science.


Speaking of epic rides, you'll no doubt be delighted to know that the organizers of Dirty Kanza have added a 350-mile route:


DKXL riders will depart at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 1, from the All Things Gravel Expo in downtown Emporia. They are expected to complete the 350-mile trek sometime Saturday evening, around the same time DK200 riders are completing their 200-mile challenge. DKXL participants will be totally self-supported during the entire 350-mile challenge, having to rely solely on convenience stores along the route for any resupply. For navigation, riders will rely on GPS route files, along with maps and cue sheets provided by the event promoters.

Alas, the route is limited to 34 riders, but I have some good news for you: I'm pleased to announce that my next Gran Fondon't will feature a 400 mile option!  Not only is that fifty (50) more miles than the DKXL, but my ride is also completely unsupported--and best of all there's no rider cap!  All you have to do is show up at my place around noon-ish, give me fifty bucks, and in return I'll give you a detailed route sheet:



Then you're free to fuck off.

Oh, and be sure to drop me a line and tell me who won.

Finally, today is Muhammad Ali's birthday.  Ali was of course a sports icon, a conscientious objector, an activist, a philanthropist, a humanitarian--and, in Portland, a white guy, apparently:
I'm sure that's exactly how he'd have liked to be remembered.

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.