Thursday, October 12, 2023

2023 Mega Bike Update

Looking back over my bike fund spreadsheet, there's a lot of action to cover in my usual bike churn. More than usual, even. I don't write here much anymore, but sometimes it's useful for me to track my history and collect my thoughts about what has passed through the garage. 

With the addition of the Rapide from my last post, I sold my Ragley Marley (cheap-ish) to my buddy Marc, trying to consolidate my moutain bike fleet down to boost wheeled 29ers. I had a lot of good rides on the Marley, and no real complaints with it, but the churn is relentless. I credit the Marley with opening up my eyes to the newer geo bikes, and how well they can work:

I mentioned in my previous post that I picked up a VO Neutrino, but there was both buyer's and seller's remorse here--it went back to the previous owner a few months later:

I really can't find the point of a small wheeled bike that doesn't fold. Maybe if I lived in a 600 square foot apartment, but I have a roomy garage.

The next month, I sold the Marin Nicasio I had built from the frame up. It was OK, but also nothing special. Henry rode this for a while, but once he had his driver's license, he was pretty much done with bikes:

In September (of 2022, mind you, my blog is that back loaded), I ordered up a custom color Handsome Devil. I was missing a 700c rim braked crossy frame than can be run as a fixed gear, and they were on sale:

It was a nice riding bike, but doomed because at 60cm, the largest size it came in, it was still a size or two too small for me. I should know better, but sometimes I try to will something to work when it clearly won't.

Keeping to my idea of a boost 29er fleet, I picked up this Ragley Big Wig frame from the Pinkbike classifieds. It should be like a steel, 29er version of my Ragley, right?

It handled fine, but based on the Marino and the Big Wig, I now have a theory of modern steel trail mountain bikes: they don't work. Too stiff. Too heavy. They don't have the flex of a good steel frame, so why not make it out of aluminum that's lighter and cheaper and rides at least as well?

I picked up this Titus Silk Road frame on a black Friday sale last year for ridiculously cheap:

Built up with a random collection of cheap parts, it was a great riding bike. At some point, though, I decided it wasn't right for my riding--too much for riding around town, not enough for mountain biking. I halfheartedly tried to sell it until I looked around one day and realized Sam had outgrown his old bike, and he could fit on this... so he inherited it. I'd like to say owning a titanium framed/carbon forked wonder bike has turned him into a dedicated rider bike, but that's not to be. He does ride it a bit more than his previous bike, though. That's something. And if he ever gets tired of it, I already kind of want it back.

I've had four or five Rivendells up to this point in my life. I grew up (bike wise) reading the classic Bridgestone catalogs in college, and I really appreciate Grant's philosophy for Rivendell. But a lot of his bikes have never clicked for me. Including this Rosco Platypus I bought new:

It was a wonderful color, a great looking, functional bike, but one of the slowest feeling bikes I've ever ridden. The kind of ride where you stop to make sure a brake pad wasn't dragging.

True story: I was riding the Rosco home from the library, trudging up a hill alongside Dublin road, when I got passed by an older guy on an old, squeaky mountain bike with one of those huge gel tractor seats. That it my enduring image of my time with the Rosco.

I don't learn lessons about Rivs, and I don't learn my lessons about fat bikes, either. I bought a Giant Yukon fat bike off the PB classifieds in time for last winter:

...which I can't even find a picture of. It was nice enough: big 27.5 wheels, hydro disc brakes, nice aluminum frame with a carbon fork. It fit well, but those fat tires are like boat anchors. Almost as slow as a Rosco Plat. It wouldn't even last through the winter.

That winter, I sold the Rosco, Big Wig, Yukon, the Vitus Rapide, and even the Bike Friday tandem:

To replace the mountain bikes, I picked up a nicely priced On One Scandal, brand new from England:

GX 12 speed, Sram brakes, Pike fork... it was a great spec, good geo, but another bike that didn't click with me, even with a dropper added. Too much new tech outside my comfort zone. It was sold by the spring, along with the Handsome Devil.

Still on the lookout for a hardtail to replace my Marley, I tried a used  Salsa Timberjack frame, built up very old school with cable brakes and friction shifting:

Turns out, friction shifting kind of stinks on a hard charging mountain bike, and despite my complaints about the too low bottom bracket on my Vitus Mythique, the Timberjack felt too high. The frame was originally designed for 27.5 wheels, but the generous clearance allow you to fit big 29er wheels like I did. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

I quickly flipped the TJ frame and impulse bought an NS Eccentric aluminum frame:

I've had the NS for several months now, and it's a nice bike. Nicely finished, handles well, no real vices at all. I'm sure I'll find some reason to dump it, but with the bike market so soft right now, I'm in no hurry. I might try it with a carbon fork this winter.

This summer, I also sold my Xootr Swift to loyal customer John (who has also purchased my Dahon, Ritchey, Raleigh Technium, Handsome Devil, and maybe something else I forgot).

The Xootr was a fun bike, but ultimately too small for me.

If you're a loyal reader/stalker, you will realize this leaves me with four bikes:

- NS Bikes Eccentric hardtail 29er, shown above.

- Vitus Mythique full suspension 29er, though this has been on loan to my brother all summer:

- Bike Friday Crusoe folder, though it's a pretty frustrating bike to fold to throw into the car for a casual ride. But it's such a nice riding bike, it keeps its spot. The less I fold it, the more I like it:

- 1984 Trek 610, converted to a 650b with a VO fork to give better braking:

The Trek is a nice riding bike, smooth and responsive, especially on the 38mm Pari Motos, and it has far and away my most ride time this season. I had it set up fixed initially, but the bottom bracket is just too low with the 650b conversion. So of course now I'm on the hunt for a 700c rim braked crossy frame than can be run as a fixed gear.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Churn Counter

It's been a while since my last post, so you might imagine that I have had some turnover in my bike fleet.

You would be correct. 

I sold my Marino, but it wasn't the only bike to pass through my garage:

Thinking that the success of conventional wisdom in my full suspension mountain bike would translate over to a hybrid style city bike, in December I impulse purchased this Kona Dew when I found an XL in stock:

It rode well enough and was comfortable, but the fat tires can feel a bit ponderous for my bike paths, and the cheap mechanical disc brakes didn't feel great. It was an interesting experiment, but I sold it off this spring. I just like my mix of odd steel bikes, fixed gears, and small wheeled bikes better.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Henry's Rat Rod

Henry and I spend all together too much time watching car shows on TV. These are the HGTV equivalent shows where they buy a beater and fix it up over the course of an hour. Some of the projects that really caught our attention were the rat rods, where they fix up the car underneath but leave the outside looking deliberately rough. I don't have the time/space/money/know-how for much car work, but a bicycle rat rod is something we can try together...

Our project started with an early 90s Schwinn High Plains off CL. The previous owner was abandoning his dreams of a fat tired drop bar bike with a 3 speed internally geared hub, so we picked up the pieces for just $50.

Once again, I failed in blogging by not taking a clean "before" picture. But we got to work stripping off the parts, and then stripping the powder coat from the frame and fork. Two coats from one can of paint stripper was enough to peal it down to bare metal:

We then applied a layer of clearcoat over the bare metal. My expectation is this will only slow down the rust. Henry is looking forward to the rust as it surely develops.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: Vitus Mythique

For the better part of the last two decades, I've been chasing my slightly offbeat image of what a mountain bike should be. 29ers when everyone was on 26ers, single speeds, rigid bikes, Jones bikes, plus tires, funny handlebars and suspension seatposts... I've had them all. In the meantime, the mainstream trail bike has been coalescing around a pretty stable image: a 29er full suspension bike, 130-140mm travel, with an aluminum or carbon frame, a dropper post, slack geo, and a mild rise handlebar. Which basically describes my latest bike, a Vitus Mythique:

You know what? Sometimes conventional wisdom is conventional because it just works.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

More Travels with Sam, S24O and backpacking

Sam and I have been getting out quite a bit this early fall. Driving, biking, or walking, Sam is ready to go.

One of early random road trips was up to Malabar Farm state park. Why? Because we threw a penny at the map of Ohio and it landed nearby.

We found a nice hiking trail to a small cave there:

And a cool blue butterfly:

Sam has a budding interest in geology, so our next trip was to Flint Ridge State Quarry:

Friday, August 27, 2021

New Custom Marino, and Various Other New Bikes

In the bike nerd corners of my internet, there is sometimes discussion about Marino bikes, an extremely affordable custom frame builder out of Peru. For less than the cost of a generic Taiwanese frame, you can have a custom frame delivered to your door. Finally, on a bit of a whim, I plunked down my $100 deposit last December. I wanted something like a steel version of my Marley, but not quite so slack, with more stack, more mounting points for stuff, and a little bit longer chainstays. And built for 29" wheels, since they have mostly taken over the mainstream mountain bike market. 

I never really appreciated the thought that goes into designing a hardtail's geo. The big question is, what length fork do you design around? If you plan to run a suspension fork (as I did), do you design around a fork length at 25% sag, no sag, or something else? In the end, I took a bit of a pass on this, and designed it around a 485mm rigid fork (eg, Krampus style fork), knowing that the sus fork would slacken the angles and raise the bottom bracket. My geo ended up like this:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

How to list a bike for sale (with special notes for Bike Fridays)

I look at a lot of used bike postings for sale. Some would say, "too many!", and they would be right. In any case, a lot of these postings are crap. A typical example has a photo like this:

and no size or useful detail pictures. For some reason, Bike Friday ads are the worst offenders. They usually don't mention the size, and will only have one or two lousy, off angle pictures. A good bike ad should have six elements:

1. The make AND model of the bike
2. The frame size
3. Useful pictures
4. Component details
5. The seller's location
6. The price

 Let's tackle these one by one:

2023 Mega Bike Update

Looking back over my bike fund spreadsheet, there's a lot of action to cover in my usual bike churn. More than usual, even. I don't ...