Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New steed in the stable

In the next few days, I'll take possession of a "like new" Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycle.  I'm pretty excited to make a return to traditional steel.  (I've been mostly riding aluminum bicycles for 25 years or so.)

I intend for the Trucker to be my "retirement bike."  Although the target date for retirement is still more than a year off, I can start fine-tuning my Old Man Wheels.  There's really not a lot to do... it has a Brooks saddle (which will come off and be my "spare" - I'm devoted to the Anatomica).  I've got some pedals to swap out; I'll put a computer on it to tally the miles.

The main thing I hope to get just right is the handlebars.  I've had "drops" for pretty much forever... but the reality is, I use the drop position maybe 3% of the time, so if it went away I wouldn't be devastated.  I'm eyeing some "moustache" type bars... or maybe some "off-road drops" (with a much smaller drop, and kinda flared out).  There are a couple outfits - Soma and Velo Orange - that make dozens of different-shaped bars.  I'm also considering the "Jones" handlebar, which is very popular among bicycle tourists and such.  (The Trucker comes with 2 sets of bars - the factory drops, and some traditional upright bars, with brake levers and shifters - that the current owner added.)

I'll post photos and reports on the Trucker.  I don't intend for it to become my "go-to bike" until I part ways with my employer.  But, I'll no doubt take it out for some "Sunday drives" on really nice days, to get everything dialed in nicely.

I gave some consideration to another bicycle - a Priority Continuum.  It's a commuter-style bicycle, that would probably mesh nicely with my riding habits.  The main feature that caught my eye is the NuVinci constantly-variable rear hub, combined with a carbon-fiber belt in place of a chain.  And the price is an astoundingly-low $999.

I actually bought an (REI) Novara Gotham bike a couple years back, with the NuVinci/Gates combo.  I only had it for a month and returned it for a refund... not on account of anything mechanical, but because it was woefully small for me.  (To this day, I wonder if maybe they mis-labeled a medium size with a large tag or something; it always just felt way too small, even with an extra-long seat post that I sprung for.)

I really liked the NuVinci hub and belt... the shifting and operation was ghostly silent! However, I'm not totally sold on the long-term reliability of the NuVinci hub. It's filled with some sort of special oil that provides just enough but not too much friction... and my experience has been that: 1) oil tends to break down and lose viscosity over time, and 2) oil-filled mechanical devices that have moving parts and seals tend to start leaking. A bicycle hub would accumulate a lot of revolutions under less-than ideal conditions. I hope that ten years from now, NuVinci owner/operators continue to sing their praises... meaningful innovation is a good thing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What a difference a year makes!

Last winter we had what us long-time locals would describe as a "20-year weather event."  It snowed... and it snowed and snowed!  Enough to collapse roofs of houses and businesses in nearby communities.  Enough to cause meaningful flooding as the snows began to melt.

Some photos from last winter and early spring:

This winter has given us a significant turnaround.  Below-average precipitation, and at least for the past week or so, unseasonably warm temperatures.  In fact, we're not even halfway through the month and I've already bicycled more miles than all of last January.

Here's what I'm talkin' about:

(The last photo in each group above was taken in almost the exact same place.)

Winter isn't over yet.  Some folks - the ones who haven't been around long enough to know better - will be disappointed when we get more nasty weather.  And, since we live in the desert, we appreciate how meaningful that snowpack in the mountains is - it's our staff of life!  But just the same, it's always a blessing to bicycle on non-slippery pavement!

Several stretches of the Greenbelt are still closed, as damage from last year's flooding is repaired.  Below are photos of the Greenbelt near Veteran's Parkway, in April '17 and today.  It looks like they want it to stay put this time... that concrete must be 2 feet thick!  (As compared with a thin asphalt slab, previously.)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

When is a bike not a bike?

Happy new year!

I've posted a couple times recently, about the arrival and acceptance of "E-bikes" on the "no motor vehicles" Greenbelt and other bicycle infrastructure, and sidewalks, in our community.  I continue to have serious reservations about how it's all going to mesh, or not, during the busy summer months.  Time will tell.

We've had some interesting developments at the office "bike room" as well, over the past year or so.  (By "we," I really mean the people who manage the facility.  But most of them are friends of mine... and the majority are bike commuters as well.)

First it was the guy who rode his low-slung "tadpole trike."  You know... one of those contraptions with two wheels in the front, one in the back, and not quite as high as the hood of a passenger car.  (I worry about the safety of those things, in places where they share pavement with cars... but that's a different subject.)  The tadpole trike takes up three or more bicycle spaces, in the bike parking facility.  (NOT a problem in January... but six months from now?  That room gets pretty crowded on a nice day!)

Then a guy started riding this big "fat bike" with the pedal-assist motor.  The tires are too wide to fit in the bike racks... and I guess it's too heavy for him to lift up onto wall hooks.  (The bike room has some very nice custom features - a horizontal bike rack along one wall, that accepts tires of various widths - but it was built "BFB" - before fat bikes.  On the other walls, there are sturdy rails that bikes can be locked to, and hooks that accept a front wheel for vertical parking.  But you need adequate upper-body strength to hoist your bike onto the hook.)

And then... starting in the past week or so, some guy has been riding one of the biggest bikes I've ever seen, and parking it in the room.  At least I think it's a bike, in the same sense that a Hummer or Ford Excursion is a "car" - it sorta looks like a bike.  But - it occupies more space than either of my motorcycles.  Check it out!

Actually, it is a bike - a Surly Big Fat Dummy - and it has been customized with some interesting features - the big bike-mounted mitten thingies for the rider's hands.  Bags on the back.  Some sort of passenger accommodations... a seat maybe?  I can't tell because it's covered by some sort of thing that's apparently attached to the bike... it looks like a silver rain poncho with a hole for a neck.  But is it a child's neck that goes through there, or a dog's neck, or what?  Maybe at some point I'll get to see it, rolling down the pavement and loaded in all its glory... and I'll understand.

I'm sorta hoping this is just a "winter thing."  IMO, you don't need 4 1/2 inch wide tires to traverse what little snow we've had so far; I've been doing it mostly on 1 1/4 inch tires.  This thing would probably be better suited to Fairbanks, or maybe Minneapolis or Steamboat.  And there won't be room for it in our bike room that already gets very crowded in the summer.

On snowy days, my poor friend Dave rides a "fat bike" that looks pretty tiny by comparison.  You can see it - and the "tadpole"- in the second photo.  But it's pretty awkward for him to lift his fat bike down off the rack, when trying to maneuver around the "morbidly obese bike" (by comparison).