I have been working 1.5 jobs since October 1st with just a handful of days off in that time so my posting has been non-existent. My Velo Brother the TPC has been even busier as a vampire carpenter, rebuilding steak houses by night and sleeping by day and pretending he doesn't blog anymore. He has had time, however, to get a sweet new ride and asked me to post it for him last month and I am finally getting to it, so I will let him take it away.
Woke Up This Morning and I Grabbed Myself A Beer
Hey Ryan! Man! Apparently (and much to my dismay) I seem to have been born into a life of hard labor and travail; it is inescapable, it seems, that I must toil mightily from time to time to keep my shelves stocked with chain lube and inner tubes and rum and raw peanuts in the shell (trailer park trail mix) and also kibble for Miss Daisy and her wacky sidekick, Toby the Trouble Puppy.
|we are innocent
How Long, O Lord?
I don’t get it. I turned sixty last July and then, as though on schedule, I had some kind of half-assed heart attack on Labor Day weekend and spent three days in hospital finding out that I wasn’t going to die anytime soon as long as I quit drinking rum and beer and eating pizza and barbeque ribs and buckets of fire-house chili. Right. Like that’s gonna happen.
But I will admit (cue humble voice) it got my attention. So I have moderated things a bit. No rum on work nights and no more than four tall boys a night. I read the nutrition labels of the food I buy to check sodium content. But when you live on the Road and seek sustenance mostly at 7-Eleven and saloons near the motel...well, you know.
Whatever the case, I jumped back out there and like I said, I am working my ass off. All this slavery has its rewards, though. One such reward is a new bicycle.
Too Many Choices
I searched and pondered and dreamed and it went on and on and finally the Blonde said “Get off yer ass and buy a bicycle. You deserve it.” Now, having studied the merits off all things Surly and Salsa (really the only two brands I considered) it dawned on me that, cheap bastard that I am, maybe something off-Broadway would suffice. I was already all too familiar with Bikes Direct and after putting together Cromwell’s hybrid I was suitably impressed with BD’s quality. But somehow I had stumbled across this single speed mountain bike over at Nashbar and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. No matter where my dreams roamed, (and they roamed mightily over at the Salsa Fargo) I kept returning to this Nashbar…
It Ain’t A Story Without A Back Story
It all started a few years ago when my erstwhile son Beau left my vintage Marin Redwood unlocked behind a saloon on Flagler Avenue, our local pub crawl street. Un-biked, I immediately went down to my friend Surfer Eddie’s pawn shop. There was a pretty likely-looking little ‘91 Mongoose Alta sitting there and after a brief haggle she was mine. In those days I still took my bicycles to the LBS for tire repair and I knew that the thing dangling off the rear wheel had something to do with changing gears, but my way was to find one comfortable gear and then leave it there. I didn’t trust that dangling thing and I was quite content to leave well enough alone. Then, later, thanks to the cacophony of all things internet, I started learning a little about bicycles and through some mischance found myself lost in a weird neighborhood of bicycles with no gears or brakes that you could ride backwards and forwards and become one with your bicycle, whatever THAT means.
|1996 Marin Redwood catalog shot
Simple Is As Simple Does
So I dove headfirst into all things single speed. Florida, as I have been known to mention, is flat. Who needs gears? The fixed gear thing seemed a little spooky, but I couldn’t take my eyes off those converted bicycles. They were sleek and clean and had chains that were different colors and every time I looked at my Mongoose I couldn’t help but notice that dangling thing, hanging there, dirty, greasy...the whole area around the rear, uh, sprockets(?) was dirty and greasy and I wanted it all to go away. But how?
I won’t burden you with the dreadful process of the early days of my education of All Things Cycling. It is a tale of woe and joy, wasted money and long, painful rides while I figured it out. It all took place during one of the most impoverished periods of my life and really, it seems like a lifetime ago. In fact, it WAS a lifetime ago. Because having emerged on the other side of all that ignorance was born a new old man who could ride like the wind and strip a bike blindfolded and put it back together so that it worked better than ever, most of the time. I have tools and a work stand and an inventory of new and used bicycle parts that takes up more space than I can afford.
What I did was take the little aluminum body Mongoose down to English Peter’s machine shop. I brought along a piece of ¼ inch aluminum plate I had been toting around for years and I talked him into cutting off the dropouts on the back of the ‘goose and replacing them with ¼ inch track mounts. He was absolutely reluctant to do the job and made me promise not to kill him if everything went wrong and we were to lose the patient during the operation. I did and he did and the bicycle lived. I rode that new-old-bike all over the place and the converted ‘goose became my fun bike, my slow beer fetcher, my curb-hopping, alley-blasting kid’s bike. I still have her.
So, following the Blonde’s advice, I broke down and bought a new bike. Not Surly and not Salsa, those dreams can wait for another day. I bought that Nashbar single speed that I could not stop looking at online. I craftily waited for a sale and got her for way under retail. I pushed a “Place Order” key and just a few days later, there she was. I put her together fast, not worrying about the re-lube process or any wheel truing issues. I was after quick first impressions to confirm my suspicions and the need for new parts that I already had on standby in my Amazon Wish-list and other parts, originally purchased for Little Miss Dangerous, that I had in my parts stash.
A quick ride to the river showed that I was in fact correct about some things I had already surmised. The (damned good) WTB knobbies had to go. They were replaced with a set of two-inch Rubena street tires. They look like Schwalbes and ride like Schwalbes (I guess) and cost a third of the price. I chose the gray color after a lot of vacillation and finally just said “what the hell” and bought the colored tires. I’m glad I did, although I think black would have looked pretty cool, too.
I don’t know why, but the steerer tube was pre-cut and pre-cut too short, at least for me. Why? I don’t know. When I put together Cromwell’s Bikes Direct Motobecane, the steerer tube was cut on it also. These bikes come almost fully assembled, and I suppose that the seller figures cutting a steerer tube is a little more mechanical than most casual riders are ready for. But they cut it too short. I could not get the handlebars level with the seat, needless to say my goal of slightly (one inch) above seat level. So I went to Amazon and transferred the Origin 8 six inch (5 ½) riser bars, black alloy, from the wish list to the cart. A pair of Ergon GP grips were the cherry on top.
I used a Ritchey stubby high-rise stem to get the bars a little higher; the stubby factor makes her a bit more nimble and quick in the handling department. It is noticeable.
|New Handlebars with Sweet Ergon grips
Feets, Get Me Oughta Here
I didn’t even consider the stock pedals. I never put them on. I had a pair of low-end Wellgo platform pedals I had purchased for who-knows-what project (probably to boost a purchase package up to the $100 free shipping deal) and they went on right away. I spend a lot of time standing on the pedals and this is a single speed, remember. Pedal pressure is real and strong. I’ll probably upgrade the pedals again...Velo Orange, for my birthday, maybe. The Wellgo’s go well but what the hell? A little bling is good for the soul, sometimes.
|A fella can dream
Speaking of Bling…
Brooks B-17. Again, the stock saddle never got mounted. I knew without looking that whatever was on the bike straight from the seller would be crap. Even if it wasn’t, there was never any doubt that the B-17 Imperial would go on the new bike. I have had this saddle for over a year, but due to work pressure and some damnable fear of trying to mount the NOS Sachs front derailleur and the NOS Shimano bar-end shifters onto Little Miss Dangerous (my famous ‘81 Schwinn SLT),
because of my unfathomable paranoia, Little Miss is entering her third (!) year of suspended animation and it is a source of nagging guilt made only worse by how much fun I have blasting around on the New Lady.
|Brooks B.17 Imperial with custom lacing
But listen: I recently did a Trailer Park Special lacing on the Brooks. I was noticing, along about 500 miles, that the saddle seemed to be breaking in. I looked into this, because I now have a coveted B-17 which makes me privy to the arcane and esoteric cabal that is all things Brooks, as in special ointments and weird practices involving mysterious methods of “getting it right” or expediting the “painful break-in period” which apparently takes anywhere from one to one-thousand miles to achieve.
Not me. Like I said, at about the five hundred mile mark I started thinking about whether my saddle was breaking in or not and decided that yeah, I could feel some difference. So I got off, mid-ride, and started pushing and prodding and flexing the sit-bones area and was mildly startled to see that strong pressure where the ischial tuberosities landed would cause the sides of the saddle to flare out considerably. I didn’t like this. It was my understanding that the leather seat would gradually soften and mold to fit the pointy parts of my ass, not that the saddle would deform and pancake and otherwise flatten into some amorphous shape that, while perhaps comfortable, would be cause for its early demise. I want this saddle to last forever
So, after a hundred hours perusing saddle lacing stories on the forums and finding a hundred different opinions (and surprisingly little info from Brooks) I decided to Figure It Out Myself.
I bought a pair of 72” leather boot laces from the Winn Dixie hardware aisle and cross laced the saddle. I was VERY careful not to pull the laces so tight that they deformed the original (unseated) shape of the saddle. It was a lot like wheel tuning: maintaining an even pressure across the lacing and leaving no slack. It is my thinking that the leather laces will cause the saddle to retain its original shape while it molds to fit my butt, while at the same time, being leather just like the seat, they will offer still further suspension and flex.
The Future and Dreams of the Future
While dreaming about this bike it was always my plan to install an internal gear hub. Which internal gear hub was not clear, but I knew that I wanted at least minimal gears while retaining the clean lines of the single speed. Florida is flat, too be sure, but the wind does blow, ya know, in directions not always in the best interest of the cyclist. As a spoiled American Male in the Land of Plenty I naturally took for granted that finding the wheel I wanted would be of little consequence. I figured the hard part would be deciding WHICH internal gear wheel I wanted.
|SA 3 speed hub cutaway courtesy of St. Sheldon the Brown
So imagine my surprise when, after getting all the other details dialed in, I went in search of a 29 inch disc-ready black internal gear wheel. Apparently, they don’t exist. Oh, there are HUBS aplenty, to be sure, but even these have questionable application and some come with shifters and some without shifters and some shifters work on this hub and some shifters work on that hub but it is, at least to me, something of a morass of doubt and fear. I already got all the doubt and fear I need in life so for now, the New Bike will be single speed. But those fat 29 inch tires (and the wind) cry out for at least one speed above the line and one speed below. There must be some way out of this conundrum and I am happy in my search; it is a source of joy to pursue the grail, to seek the One Bike and I will forever dedicate myself to the Riddle of the Wheels and the Holy Grail of the One Bicycle to Rule Them All.
|29er vs 26er
yer pal, tj
Whispering Pines Trailer Park