Thursday, June 2, 2011

Plan B

As you may know the Lovely Tournesol (see photo below) is away getting the bicycle equivalent of a front end rebuild, or a boob job, depending on your frame of reference. You may also have noticed that I’ve had a slight uptick in my bike mileage thank to the Bicycle Commuter Contest last month. Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to get going, often when it is something you should do and occasionally when it is something you like to do. At any rate since the commute challenge is over and the bike of choice is on hiatus it would be easy to dust off the barcalounger and resort to my favorite pastime of reading Kindle Singles on my little magic book. Imagine Thomas Jefferson, or Ben Franklin coming back for an afternoon and demo-ing this little device that resembles a book, but which has no pages and yet the text proceeds before your eyes. It would be great to be able to time travel 250 years into the future to see what’s new.
Back to the point at hand; Given that the weather is moderating (May came in like a petulant drama queen but went out like a puddle of melted vanilla ice cream) and that I really do have a hankering to bask in more of that two wheeled magic I need to come up with an alternative to the big horse. In years past it would have been as simple as reviewing the ranks of 5 or 6 bikes, airing up the tires and replenishing that bike’s on road tools and spare parts stash and then off we go.

But in the intervening years I have severely pared back my rolling stock. There’s the Tandem, a technological wonder (we have a DaVinci, with independent cranks). I am sure we will be putting miles on that thing this season, but as a solo bike it has some obvious shortcomings.  Next up is the Ibis. This bike is a little hard to describe or categorize. I think it is a snapshot in time, when the first wave of mtn bike madness had crashed on the beach and the early adopters were looking around, thinking that a bike which could bridge the gap between the old Puegeot hanging in the garage and the ond Speicialized Rock Hopper might be an interesting ‘concept’.

It is built for 26 inch wheels, so it could be a mountain bike. It is geared with a Suntour triple crank, sports drop bars ad old suntour bar end shifters, and is equipped with cantilever brakes. I got it third or fourth hand and rumor was that it had been owned and ridden at one time by Maynard Hershon.

I put many miles on this machine, I got it for a song in a time when I had not much more than song to my name. This bike could probably navigate the STP route with no inputs than power to the pedals. Good times and good memories on that machine, however, the geometry that was right for me back in the late 80’s/early 90’s seems not to be appropriate for the me in the new century. Hard to believe I was that flexible back then.

That leaves the Quickbeam: Bike enthusiasts’ know that the QB is a single speed, but as Grant Peterson likes to point out: 

"The Quickbeam is our silver single-speed that's actually a two-speed and is a quick change away from being a four-speed. That's because it comes with two count 'em chain rings (40t and 32t) and a flip-flop hub with an 18t freewheel on one side and room for another cog on the other. But there's more to it than that."   He goes on, but you get the idea.

Yes, I know, gape-mouthed-hard-to-believe that I don’t have other bikes lurking in the shop but as I said, when we moved to Rocky Acres I ‘simplified’. I have not regretted it but not until now have I faced a prolonged period of separation from the Big Horse. It's  no crisis, but this could easily be an excuse to add to the stable. Just two days ago I got an alert from Renovo that certain of their wooden bikes will be going on sale soon. Yes, I said wooden bikes. Believe me it would not take much of a nudge to get me to jump off that cliff. Of all the bikes available right now these call to me in a way no other does. They are just incredibly gorgeous:

and apparently they actually are functional as bikes. Good thing the check book is in the company vault with the time release lock.

Looking at this from a more practical perspective, it would probably be easy to pick up a decent back up bike on Ebay or Craig’s list. But The current economic climate has not been kind to Codfish Industries Limited, and while our holdings are all on solid footings, now is not the time for ‘irrational exuberance’, or buying more bikes either.

As mentioned earlier, this is not a crisis. There are bikes to ride and for now.  the Quickbeam gets the nod. This bike really is a gem:

If bicycles are the essence of mechanical elegance, the Quickbeam is the blue part of the flame.

A fixed gear bicycle is the perfection of simplicity, It’s what all bicycles were when bicycles first burst upon the scene. The QB, being a single speed incorporates several innovations that represent the early evolutionary steps in bicycle development. They add complexity while at the same time making the bicycle available to a much wider population. 

It coasts! If you have never ridden a fixed gear bike, you probably can’t fully appreciate this seemingly innocuous feature. I won’t go into the difference in any great detail but offer you this ‘ah ha’ mind pic: Say you just climbed a big hill, you are at the top and now face a lovely, long descent down the other side. Will you:

A.  Pedal furiously all the way to the bottom, or

B. Coast, gliding through the curves recovering from your recent big climb?

With a single speed you have that choice, with a fixed gear you don’t.
Hills are the biggest area of concern with a one speed bike. If you lived in Florida, or Kansas it might not be much of a concern, but where I live there are few routes that do not have me shifting through the gears on a ride of any length. As illustrated, the ‘up’ hills are not the only concern, but they are a big consideration for me.

For mortals, the ability to make way over hills is greatly influenced by any rider’s ‘power to weight ratio’. If you wanna go faster you simply increase your power or (simple in concept) reduce your weight. More than anything that’s why, whenever you are in the company of more than 2 and a half bike geeks you will eventually hear discussions of the weight of bikes, or some new, greatest, lightest, must have gadget. These O/C souls we refer to as gram counters.

Mrs C and I are scheduled to ride another 100K perm route on Saturday. Mrs C is a tentative go, however she has some church duties, yet to be confirmed that may keep her from it. If she’s in we’ll ride the tandem, if she’s not I’ll be riding the QB. The route has very little climbing, but it is not without hills. I expect if I’m on the QB I WILL, at a couple points be using my 24 inch gear (a clever way of saying I’ll be using my two feet, aka walking … pretty clever eh?)

Either way the ride will have some ‘firsts’: First brevet on the QB, first brevet in WA on the tandem, first time out on the bike this year in  BIKE SHORTS! (Looking forward to that!)

My pals at SIR will ride the Tahuya Hills 600K this weekend. For many this will be the final qualifier for PBP, I wish them luck. Funny, this ride starts on the waterfront in Seattle, rides out toward Mt Rainier, passes very near by Rocky Acres before they bed down for a few hours of rest in Elma, just a few miles west of here. Then some lovely riding on the lower Olympic peninsula before delivering the riders to Kays Corner, the entrance to the Tahuya Hills. In a 600Km ride the Tahuya hills amount to just over 48Km and yet the whole thing is referred to as the Tahuya Hills 600. Tells you something about those hills. For newbies to this route the really evil surprise comes when you leave Seabeck.  Having conquered (survived?) the Tahuya hills you begin to think the trouble is behind you, and then you find yourself making a slight right onto Anderson Hill road. If one were looking for an emblem that typifies the spirit of Seattle International Randonneurs this little stretch (From Kays Corner to the finish at Bainbridge) would make a decent candidate.  Finishing this ride will certainly give the riders every reason to feel qualified for PBP!

Definitely not prime real estate for a one speed bicycle.

Bon Courage my friends.

1 comment:

  1. I've been loving the updates lately, Dr. Keep it up.