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.

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