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.

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: