After flogging my road bikes around town all summer and early fall, the change in the weather has me thinking about the perfect everyday bike. Of course, where you live has a lot to do with what you ride.
I live in Boston. It snowed here last night shortly after it finished raining daggers. I was on my road bike with a stupid, clipped-on fender, and I got soaked and spent too much ride time wondering what hypothermia actually feels like. You start to feel warm, don’t you?
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
My challenges are: 1) I like to go fast. I do not have the patience to ride an upright bike with fat tires, fenders, panniers, etc. 2) I live at the top of a steep hill. The end of every ride features a kilometer that varies between 6% and 14%. It’s not a back breaker at all, but it’s always there whether I feel strong…or not. 3) We get a lot of rain, snow and in between slop.
So how do I go fast, keep a gear small enough to climb a real hill and keep the weather off me, all at the same time?
My current thinking is to build out a titanium cross bike with an internally geared rear hub. I’d run mini V-brakes for better stopping power. I’d put 28mm or 30mm tires on it and a good pair of fenders.
The titanium will resist the rust that comes from so much water and salt being sprayed at the frame for so many months out of the year. The internal hub will also add to weatherproofness and simplicity. I need my everyday bike to need less tuning. Simplicity is good. The mini Vs will stop when they’re wet. I have never run a pair of cantis that had that ability. In Boston’s winter rush hour, you want to be able to stop. Your life depends on it. Finally, the slightly wider tires give me stability in bad conditions, but still stay skinny enough to make time across town. I hate fenders, but they’re a no-brainer.
I think I will build this bike. Given my time constraints, I should have it ready for the first sunny day of Spring.
Anyway…this week’s Group Ride asks the question: What is your perfect everyday bike? Build it out for us. Explain your choices.
Do you live in the flats where a single-speed demon will do the trick? Do you live in a warm, dry place, where you can ride your carbon race bike 360 days a year? Do you live in the Yukon and have designs on a snow bike with 4inch tires? I cling to the perhaps foolish belief that there really is a perfect bike out there, and that if I listen to those who know better, and think as hard as I can, I will eventually build that bike and ride it all the way to the grave.
I was at a wedding reception. You always find yourself with a random selection of friends-of-friends at an event like that. I told the woman sitting next to me that I was in the bike industry, and that inspired her to tell me what she thought of cyclists.
Mostly she doesn’t like them.
She doesn’t understand why they run lights. She is afraid she is going to run them over. They’re unpredictable. They’re rude.
The woman sitting across from me knows me well, and we’ve had a litany of conversations about crappy drivers, crappy cyclists, crappy roads, etc. etc. She gave me her knowing smile, and I said, out loud, “She’s not wrong. Cyclists can be very annoying and rude.” I think, in that moment, my neighbor realized maybe she had expressed some slightly-too-candid opinions, and the death rattle of the conversation was drowned only by the obnoxious sound of silverware against glassware as someone rose to give an awkward speech about the bride and groom.
Saved by the bell, as it were.
I try to remain realistic and honest about cyclists. They are my people. It’s true. But it’s also true that some of them (us) behave badly. I’m not quite convinced that a few bad apples spoil it for the rest of us, but mostly because I’m not convinced it’s spoiled. My observations of our species suggest that, perhaps, where there are humans, there is mess. It’s how we are.
Having said that, I know what I think it’s wrong for cyclists to do. But what do you think? What are our worst habits? Pardon the expression, but what drives you nuts about cyclists?
Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.
Until I was about 25, I had never worn a bike helmet. I went through my entire childhood, riding BMX, my soft melon of a head exposed to the predations of pavement and dirt. I hurled myself, full speed, at ramps made of plywood scrap, propped up on loose brick or, on a good day, a couple of cinder blocks. I tore through the woods, whizzing past pine trees and flying off red clay dirt jumps with nary a care in the world. I was oblivious to the very concept of ‘concussion,’ and my parents were equally unconcerned.
Parenting in the ’70s was a much more laissez faire affair.
So yesterday, in the office, we were talking about helmets. None of us wanted to have the great helmet debate, but there we were. And then Neil said, “Here’s the thing. If someone told you, you could never wear a helmet ever again, would it change the way you ride? Would you stop riding altogether? Would you ride different bikes?”
And Joe said, “I would never ride a mountain bike in the woods again. I would probably get rid of my road bikes. I would get a single-speed cruiser, with coaster brakes, and a large basket, and that would be it.”
For all the times I’ve said, “I don’t know for certain that a helmet makes me more safe, but I’m willing to err on the side of caution given the possible consequences,” I’ve never taken the time to consider the question in the absolute terms Neil proposed.
So now I put it to you. Forget the helmet debate. Are they good? Are they bad? Do they make you more safe, less safe? That is not what we’re doing here. All we’re doing is answering the question: If you could never wear a helmet, how would it change your riding?
Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
What is wrong with the Vuelta a España? No. Seriously. What is wrong with this race? It’s a grand tour for crying out loud. It takes in some of the most beautiful roads in Europe, in a country with a rich cycling culture, passionate fans, great food, etc., etc. And yet, the Vuelta is a second tier race.
You know this is true because you’ve read the previews that highlight guys like Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Igor Anton and Joaquim Rodriguez as potential winners. None of those guys is a world beater. Nibali is defending champion, but this year’s Giro showed just where the young Italian is in the grand tour pecking order, close but not quite at the top. The top Spanish rider, Alberto Contador, prioritized the Giro and Tour ahead of his home country’s race. What does that say?
Perhaps the Vuelta’s diminished shine has something to do with its timing. We’ve already had two grand tours, and most of the big riders are thinking about the world championship now. Would a move back to the beginning of the racing season return the Vuelta to its previous stature?
The proliferation of shorter stage races (e.g. California, USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Romandie, Eneco) also clearly has an effect on our appetite for more stage racing this time of year.
Finally, there seems to be a finite amount of oxygen for grand tours, and the bigger the Tour and Giro get, the less air remains for the Vuelta. Say what you will about Angelo Zomegnan’s recent Giri (the man just lost his job), but that race has been fantastic in recent years, and the Tour remains the Tour, the ne plus ultra of the cycling year.
So, tell me, what is wrong with the Vuelta a España? Is it timing? Is it organization? Do we even need three grand tours? Would more prize money ensure more big name participants? If you were Javier Guillen, the director, what would you do differently?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the Contador verdict and the Armstrong retirement, I really, really, really needed to focus this week’s Group Ride on something cycling-related, rather legalistic, medicinal or scientific. This need derives not so much from a lack of interest in the former, but rather in a desire to push back the tide of outrage and despair as regards our sport at its pointiest end.
You see, I rode my bicycle this morning. After my plaintive cry of a post earlier in the week, I have been gifted some good weather. Flesh has seen sunlight. Vitamin D has been absorbed. It’s not yet Spring really, but we’ve been given a taste, and for that I am thankful.
So rather than roll around in the misery and controversy, I thought we should talk about riding bikes. After all, as I sped (oh, yes, I sped) across town on my faithful Torelli, neither Alberto nor Lance was riding shotgun. I encountered no blood bags or McQuaids. Cycling, it must be said, doesn’t depend on any of those persons or things.
And so, with all due apology to our readers in the Southern Hemisphere, this week’s Group Ride asks: What are you looking forward to this spring? Is it a long ride, a return to regular training? A big race perhaps? Have you allowed yourself to utter the names Het Volk or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne yet? Has razor met leg? Is there a new bike in your near future?
Share your hopes and dreams with us. Wax optimistic. Start now.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Some years ago I was sitting in an editorial meeting for a magazine when the topic turned to lifestyle and how to portray the roadie lifestyle in a magazine. It quickly devolved into a debate about just what the roadie lifestyle was. What was the bullseye at the center of the roadie lifestyle. Was it the double century crowd? Was it racing? Was it bike commuting?
In the 1990s, there weren’t that many people who were passionate about bike commuting or the prospect of a social revolution based on the concept of the bicycle as primary transportation. Fortunately, that has changed. But back then, the idea of making commuting the centerpiece of a magazine’s editorial mission seemed like suicide to me. Similarly, the fact that some double centuries may only get two or three dozen entrants makes them outliers even-wise and not a donkey you want to pin your tail on. Even centuries don’t typify the riding life of most riders; after all, they may only do two or three in a year. Racing? Most of the people I ride with don’t have a racing license anymore.
My opinion is the same now as it was then: The center of the bullseye of the roadie lifestyle is the group ride. If you hope to reach cyclists with a lifestyle publication in print or on the web and you don’t get what a peloton is, you’ve already lost the battle.
As the day-in-day-out social nexus of the riding community anywhere I’ve ever lived, group rides do more for cyclists than provide a great way to train. They offer the community a valuable way for riders to get to know each other and form bonds beyond the sweat that drips off them. I could never live some place that had no group rides.
So this week’s FGR is a bit different, a bit more literal, as it were. Tell us about the group rides where you live. Are they year round? How many riders show up in-season vs. out-of-season. Does it slow down in the off-season? Does it have a killer name? Is it the same course each week, or do you switch it up? How long? How fast? And finally, are there so many riders and rides where you are that you have a menu to choose from come Saturday morning?
You never know what might turn into a feature for someone.
Andrei Greipel has laid down a marker. As the season cranks up and folks begin thinking about who is going to win what, the German sprinter, with three stage wins and an overall at the Tour Down Under, has reminded everyone that the Manx Missile isn’t the only show in (Columbia) sprint town. In the US, the media focus last season was on Tyler Farrar’s attempts to best Mark Cavendish, though Thor Hushovd showed that there is more than one way to skin that particular cat (Get it? Manx? cat? Alright, whatever.)
The standings from 2009 look like this: Cavendish – 23 wins; Greipel – 20 wins; Hushovd – 9 wins; Farrar – 9 wins; and just for excrement and giggles, Edvald Boasson-Hagen had 9 wins (B-H isn’t a sprinter, really, yet, but he’s fast).
So this week’s Group Ride looks at the flats. So many of the season’s tune up races are fodder for the faster fellows.
Who do you think has the best shot at toppling Cavendish? His teammate, Greipel? Hushovd? Farrar? Boasson-Hagen? Or perhaps a dark horse like Gerald Ciolek (Milram), Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank),Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Robbie McEwen (Katyusha), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) ?
Who is the next, next thing, or the old, next thing or the right now thing? Who will save us from Cavendish’s inane victory celebrations? Who has the best shot at being the fastest man in the peloton in 2010?
Welcome to the Christmas Ride here on RKP. As a special gift, we’ll not point out that, rather than logging on here for your Xmas time bike fix, you ought to be paying more attention to your kids/wife/husband/parents/girlfriend/boyfriend/dog/cat/goldfish. We’ll just get on with the business of expressing obscure opinions on obscure topics.
This week’s question:
What bicycle-related items did you find under your tree? And why are they there?