When I see bikes like this it makes me really look forward to getting my Winter bike in February at NAHBS this year. The uniform opinion is that once you commit the money and time into getting yourself a made-to-measure bike there is no coming back from that. My fear is that once I have it I’ll want to sell all my other bikes that I’ve worked so hard to build up and enjoy. But I think that’s a small price to pay for getting the bike of my dreams.
I love my commuter. I “curated” the frame and parts over the course of a few months when I decided I wanted to stop riding my ass-beating aluminum KHS frame to work every day or just around town. I’m a firm believer in having a bike to do what you want, not the other way around, so I set out to look for a new town bike. I found a mid-ninties Motobecane frame in Austin and had some 8-speed 105 parts laying around, with down-tube shifters and an old 8spd mountain cassette. That worked for a while until I got bored. Snagging a 9spd 105 group with STI shifters for super cheap let me finish out the build nicely. Stout Ultegra hubs (32h front and 36h rear) on Open Pros make bomb-proof wheels, so those went on. I had an urge to see the steel so I stripped it and sprayed an auto-grade clear coat over the raw frame. A fiz:ik Arione and Deda bar rounds it out. The perfect commuter.
The only problem is I don’t commute. Well not really. I live about 3 short blocks from my jobs. I live downtown and have a car that the wife uses to go grocery shopping, etc. I don’t live by bike like I used to. So this awesome commuter gets ridden about a mile a week, total, and never gets to stretch its legs. It’s still nice to know if it needed to take a tour or strap on a rack for a week it would fare well, though. And I’m glad I built it.
We’ll hit a nice 20 miler tonight. Just to give it some airtime. I’m sure it’ll be the most comfy 20 miler I’ve done in months.
So lately there has been a rash of bike thievery in San Antonio and the downtown area in particular. I’ve had bikes stolen before. It sucks donkey balls. There are two types of riders: those that have to ride and those that choose to ride. Those that have to ride for transportation NEED their bikes, so when it’s stolen it’s even a life changing event, not just a sad inconvenience. For those that CHOOSE to ride it’s just as devastating; most people that choose to ride love and cherish their bikes as tools of enjoyment and fitness that are irreplaceable. Getting a bike stolen is a profound and spiritual experience. There is denial: “I must have left it somewhere else”; “someone is playing a joke on me”. Then there is acceptance: looking around for it; telling everyone around that your bike is missing; maybe running down the street looking for it. Then anger: “IF I CATCH THE FUCKING DOUCHE-BAG THAT STOLE MY BIKE I’M GOING TO STICK MY FOOT SO FAR IN HIS ASS I’LL HAVE TO HOLD HIS NOSE SHUT TO TIE MY SHOES!” Then ultimately actualization: Damn. My bike’s gone. Need a new bike. Hope I find my bike. But I’m sure I won’t.
All this aside the main reason most bikes get stolen is simple: it’s a crime of opportunity. Like stealing hotel soaps. Or shoplifting. It’s usually easy and sometimes we make it even easier.
Let’s stop doing that.
First: Lock up your bike ALL THE TIME. If you can’t touch it; lock it up. If not, don’t be surprised if it’s not there when you come out of the Shell. The old “I was just running in for ONE thing” is a common lament among people who’ve had their grocery getter tossed into the back of a pick up truck. Another common one is leaving it unlocked next to a bunch of other unlocked bikes. The herd mentality of trusting that other people trust to leave their bikes unlocked in a group is weird. That’s ultimately you assuming that someone else’s bike will be taken if an opportunistic bike-yanker walks by. So you’re either screwing yourself or one of your friends. Or someone you don’t know. Invest in a GOOD bike lock. Not a trendy one. Or a pretty one. Or a cheap one. Don’t buy those colored tires you don’t need. Or that Chrome bag. Buy a fucking good lock instead.
Second: Don’t store your bike OUTSIDE. I don’t care how small your apartment is, do not store your bike outdoors. Not to mention it’s a shitty way to take care of your bike. Please store your bike inside. I’ve got a normal size apartment. I store a shit-ton of bikes in it. You can make room for one or two, I’m sure. This tip is geared more towards lazy people who don’t want to take the time to dedicate a spot in their house to bike storage or who think it’s easier to just lock up a bike next to your house and not have to deal with getting it through the door or getting the carpet dirty or some other silly rationalization for NOT bringing your bike inside.
Third: #2 applies to bike racks. If you aren’t in the car driving, lock the bike up. Lock the fork; lock it to the roof, hitch rack. If you only have a trunk rack or some other impermanent rack take your bike off and lock it up properly to a fixed object. I had a shitty car with a trunk rack once. I drilled two holes in my trunk lid and ran a U bolt through them to lock the bike to when it was on the trunk rack. Was it pretty? No. Did I care? No. The bike was worth more than the car.
Fourth: Make sure you have all your paper work on hand. Write down the serial numbers and dates of purchase and all that crap so that when your bike does get ripped you can have a much easier time with your insurance company or the police.
Fifth: If you see your stolen bike, take action. Call the cops. Follow the guy. Be smart about it. Lock up your bike with a U lock that can’t easily be compromised and then wait for the guy to show back up. Or just cut his lock and take it back. What’s he gonna do? Call the cops? (DISCLAIMER: sometimes people don’t like to give up stolen property. Just saying. Take care in your vigilante justice; people have been hurt or killed for less than a stolen bike. It happens.)
Having a bike stolen sucks. It’s happened to me. Some I could have avoided; some not. This article is definitely not intended to chastise anyone for not doing everything they can to prevent bike theft. I know I don’t follow these rules as law. I’m guilty of leaving the bike outside the Shell to run in and grab a Gatorade. Or piling it up next to a bunch of other bikes at Friendly Spot. But the idea isn’t to become a paranoid bike-locking freak. It’s just to remind us that a little time and effort can thwart an otherwise life affecting crime of opportunity.
Look, if someone wants your shit they’re going to get it. But let’s make it as hard as possible at least.
So Tito Bradshaw has been putting on the Tour de Toob in SA for past three years.
The first year I didn’t go. I don’t tube. I’m not a big “let’s go to the river” kind of guy. Never have been. But like 9 people did. And they said it was awesome. They rode 40 miles from San Antonio to New Braunfels and tubed the Comal for a few hours, barbecued and hitched a ride back in some trucks.
The second year (last year, see video courtesy of Danny Puckett) they had about 40 people and a trailer, to haul the bikes back, and a bus, to haul the riders back. I missed it because of work. Stupid work. But again, they said it was awesome. I vowed to not miss the next one.
This year I made it, barely. I pulled a muscle in my calf the night before at work, was having serious fitting issues with my shoes that precluded riding more than 25 miles at a time, and was generally down on riding for a little while. But waking up Sunday morning at 7am and NOT having to go to work inspired me. Plus I had drunkenly posted on the Facebook page for T de T that I would make it, even with a pulled muscle. And the riders around here are like elephants. Or the mob. They never forget. (Okay, maybe I’m the only one like an elephant. But let’s get back on track.) I roll in to the Blue Star parking lot and am greeted by the sight of over 100 people ready to ride (apparently he had about 140 people registered this year, amazing), two trucks with trailers and a huge warm feeling of knowing that Tito had pulled it off again. Pleasantries were exchanged; sarcastic and off-color remarks were made; some people were still a little drunk from the night before. But it was the general positive attitude that makes a thing like this possible, and it was palpable. The really humbling experience about a morning like this is just how much cycling or bike riding can bring people together. It really did feel like everyone knew each other. It was almost that way literally. But those that didn’t know each other knew of each other, via Facebook, or riding stories, or from a party 3 years ago, or whatever. You knew the guy that knew the other guy. You get the idea. The ride was a no-drop, so everyone that paid could make it to the river to tube and eat and drink, and both the trailered trucks, one driven by up and coming cycling bastion Jake Johnson, the other by Penny’s (Tito’s fiance, who ride with us) parents were following to make the traffic situation of 130 cyclists through traffic manageable. After some taco time and a quick safety briefing, Tito called role and we moved out.
We rolled up through downtown and east on Houston towards the AT&T Center, where we caught the newly opened Linear Creek tail system and proceeded northwards. The trail is really cool and well thought out. It was obviously not designed for a caravan of over 130 riders to use it as a super highway to McAllister park, and some people criticized the route. I have a different opinion. There is no way to safely get 130 cyclists from downtown to loop 1604. No way. I think the route through the Greenway was a clever way to avoid traffic, keep everyone together by limiting speed, and generally more fun that taking a main road straight north. The thing is you can’t control how people ride. You can’t watch everyone and offer advice. Some people might not know to ride on the right. Or to line up nicely when going around a sharp corner or bridge. There was an injury on the path, probably due to congestion, but she’s fine and we are lucky for that. I still think it was wise to have taken the path.
I had already decided before I left the house to ride nice and easy, probably sweeping up the back of the ride for stragglers or helping, as my leg wasn’t up to my normal “mash up to the front/hold traffic lights/let all riders pass/mash up the front” routine. But we got out of the city with few incidents and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. As we passed the loop 1604 headed towards New Braunfels it was nice to be on the open roads. I made me think of those videos I’ve seen of rides in Europe or California. Where people just ride into the openness for hours. It was fun. It was a struggle keeping everyone together and stressful as cars passed riders who were unfamiliar with the feeling. But everyone made it, and it was nice to see the look of satisfaction of the non-cyclists faces when we were only one mile away from our destination at the final regrouping point. We rolled into Landa Falls sometime around 1pm. The hottest part of the day, perfect for getting in that cool river water.
When we hit the parking lot the smell of meat grilling and beer flowing was truly the call of the gods. And we partook. The lines were long for food, but there was more than enough for everyone, both food and beer. (Note: This begs the question: if ONE GUY can put together a party like this that cost $25 bucks per person with an excess of fun, food and beer what is everyone else doing wrong in San Antonio? Why do other events suck so badly?) People changed into river gear from riding gear and ate and drank and talked and got ready to tube. Props to Tito for stepping up and offering tubes to people who didn’t get one initially. (We all need to send him some more money for putting this on.)
Now tubing is tubing. I’ve never much cared for it. I like to be in control of situations and floating down a river in a smelly old truck tube (not that we had those; Landa Falls is the nicest tube rental place I’ve ever seen or heard of) avoiding drunk assholes is not the way I like to recreate. But something about today had me into it. I think it was knowing that we were about to take over the river for the next 5 hours. Or that as we were floating we kept seeing friendly faces and groups the entire time. It might have also been the segment of the river that was, apparently, a tribute to the Jersey Shore; complete with over-tanned steroid-dripping dudes and fake boobed Snookies listening to Oontz-oontz music and fist pumping. (Note: We actually did a lot of fist pumping during that segment, official apology to follow) The bottom line is the float was legit fun. Also fun was watching everyone around me get schwasted, since I also do not like getting day-drunk-in-the-sun. I like to get drunk in a bar, like a reasonable person. All in all it was an awesome day. Floating down a river for over 5 hours is surprisingly exhausting and when the buses trucked us back to Landa Falls I was done for the day. Luckily the people I was with had parked their car (thanks, Jeff, Steph, and Bart; though I take credit for scoring a parking space in a full lot) at Landa Falls so we said goodbyes, helped load trucks up and then headed back to SA.
I got home, showered, changed, uploaded my Strava report, and put my bike away.
Can’t wait for Tour de Toob 2013.
Random, stolen Tour de Toob pics from Facebook. I don’t think anyone will mind.
(The last 21 pics are on film by Alex Garcia and are awesome, thanks, ATG)
So I love my Ti bike.
Like I really love it.
But something made me ride a bike I have hanging on the wall. It’s a 1997 Giant TCR Compact Expert frame (with race number mounting hole; it was probably raced) with a mash-up of older Dura Ace/Microshift drivetrain rolling on old style Open Pros with even older Ultegra hubs, rebuilt by me. I had it powdercoated Bengal Orange just for the fuck of it. I like orange, go figure.
I tell you all this because it’s become my secondary bike. The bike I ride when it’s nasty outside and the super-tight fork clearance on my Ti bike might get fouled with a little mud. Or when the Ti bike isn’t working exactly right and I haven’t had time to fiddle with it. Maybe it has a random wall-mounted flat tire one morning and I don’t have time to change it. You get the idea. It’s funny that the Giant is relegated to this status now. All the components were dressed on the Ti bike that I rode as my only road bike for almost a year until I ponied up and bought a new, numbers-matching drivetrain for the frame (with new wheels, new saddle, new fork, new headset, etc.) and picked up the Giant frame on C’list for 60 bucks whereupon I cast all the old stuff unto it. So there I sit with two top-shelf road bikes. What to do? You can only ride one at a time, right? So one gets hung up and one gets rode. The Ti bike is comfortable and stiff in the right places so it’s hard to remember there are other bikes to ride. I see the Giant every day; it sits in a place of honor above my couch, bright and orange and silver and awesome. And I tried to find a place for it in my ride schedule, but it’s SO easy to just grab the same bike every day and plug n’ play. So it stares at me like a taxidermied antelope head with those cold, dead eyes.
The stuffed head turned to me today and said “What the fuck, Asshole?”
I guess it was right. I take it down. I swap out the wheels for an older set, but in better condition. I tune up the rear. Check the brake pull. Air up the tires. And ride it.
In the annals of the cyclist’s mind there are a lot of dark corners. A lot of room for numbers and measurements and routes and fantasies. But none gets a rider going like that New Bike First Ride. It’s like a first date. Like getting a $1000 winning lotto ticket. It makes you ride faster, better, cleaner. Or at least that’s what it seems. So that’s what I attest this feeling to; the faux New Bike First Ride. But then I start to analyze it more clinically. Yes, the bike feels different, strange, new. But there are other things that are more tangible and literal. It’s made of aluminum so it’s stiffer. It’s a compact frame so it’s got better power transfer. It’s lighter, I think. The drivetrain is broken in and tuned to perfection; it is the smoothest running drivetrain I’ve ever ridden, including my brand new SRAM Force. The wheels are true. The fit is good. It has no weird creaks or clacks or clicks. It rides silent and deep like an Akuna-class submarine. In summation, it is a fucking awesome bike. And now I remember why.
So there it is, The Stranger. The bike you purposely ignore. The bike you built before you built the bike you ride to the club rides. The bike that is jealous of your race bike. The bike that will force you to remember that you built an awesome machine that deserves to be ridden. So ride it. Once in a while, at least. And don’t let it gather too much dust. It’s just as important as your race/club ride/Weekday World/Cat 6 bike.
And sometimes you get lucky and remember that just in time to have a kick-ass solo ride for no reason whatsoever.
So it’s been a minute since I’ve written or posted anything here. Not for lack of interest in bikes. Quite the opposite, actually. I spend time riding and working and working on family; blogging is the last thing to fit in the schedule. I’m going to try and post more, though. I have a lot to say, that’s for sure, and I will. Starting……NOW!
I really, really like this Condor. They’re semi-production bikes from the UK. That is to say the company is still privately owned and makes bikes one at a time by hand, but offer options in standard sizes and geometries as well to keep costs down. The Super Acciaio is their flagship steel bike and is actually being raced by the Rapha team in UCI continental races this year. It’s supposed to weigh 16-18lbs fully built. Not bad for steel. I particularly like the 1 1/8- 1 1/2 head tube and the super OS down tube. The thinner top tube and seat stays look comfortable, and the chain stays look they transfer very well. Important for big guys like me that make mega watts but don’t go really fast. Check out a couple reviews and the links to Condor’s product page about it. They have a lot of other offerings that are more reasonable on the wallet and conscience. All really swell.
I remember when SRAM’s Gripshift first came out back in the early 90’s. It was revolutionary but started to suck really quickly. Rubber parts wore out, cables we a bitch to change, and after a while the rotation was just too much to make it efficient. At least that was my experience. This new Gripshift is being offered in SRAM’s XO and XX groups so apparently it’s aimed at taking a share from the current domination of the two-paddle finger shift systems and is being spec’d on SRAM sponsored racers this season. Check it out by clicking through the title or HERE.
Caley Fretz is a “writer” at Velo News, a publication that has been steadily declining and recently tried to infuse life into it’s corpse by printing in a larger format and using glossy photos and more down-to-earth writing styles. It’s not working. He recently posted an editorial (why a tech writer/cat 1 racer is writing anything other than technical reviews is beyond me) about why he “has a problem with NAHBS”. You can read the article here to get some reference for the situation.
I had to comment on the post:
“The article is weird. It attempts to trash handmade wares but not really offer an alternative. He also explains the ideal of buying a bespoke bicycle: to work one on one to get the exact bike you want. Who cares if all carbon bikes are laid up by skilled hands? ( which is a lie, since different price points employ differently skilled laborers and quality carbon. And BMC’s Impec is more precisely and exactly built almost completely by machines.) I’m paying 2500$ to experience the person making the thing I love. I know a $6000 specialized Venge might be clinically more stiff or compliant or corner better. But nothin beats the feeling of shaking the hand that made the bike you love. I don’t have a custom bike. I have a frame made in Italy and have exchanged emails, in Italian, with the son of the man that built my frame. He remembered it as if it was yesterday, even though it was built in 1990. He told me why it was built and what it was made of. It’s an experience thy can’t be replicated just by knowing that human hands laid carbon sheets in a mold and then shoved it down some rollers I some other station in a factory with a thousand other nameless, faceless frames in production. Caley Fretz frequently misses the point and rambles in his “tech reviews” so I’m not surprised his pot-stirring picked NAHBS for a target.”
So did Don Walker (the founder and perpetuater of NAHBS)
Thanks for writing about NAHBS. I’d like to take a minute to explain why things are the way they are with NAHBS.
NAHBS started off with only 23 exhibitors, all of which were based here in the US. The initial concept was to celebrate the cottage industry and craft of bicycle framebuilding. Framebuilders are as independent as they get, and my thought was to get them all together and show our wares to the public and media. It was only in the second year of the show when we grew to 95 exhibitors did we really start a mission statement. Here’s a quote from the latest iteration of it;.
NAHBS showcases the talents of bicycle frame builders around the world whose functional art form is the bicycle. It aims to be a meeting point—both online and in person—for frame builders and consumers looking for custom-made bikes, for the sharing of ideas, and the promotion of a special industry…
If we invited all the companies that you listed, the show would lose its focus, which is the framebuilder. It would be on par with that other industry show in Las Vegas, and that’s not what I want the show to become. I want it to stay true to its roots and mission, promotion of the framebuilder.
For the record, a framebuilder is a guy who picks up the phone when it rings, takes an order and fills the order. He’s as hands on in the process as one could be; offering fit advice, tubing selection, geometry consultations, etc. A framebuilder is quite opposite to the companies you listed who employ teams of people to make many bikes, without a consumer who has even ordered said bike yet. Its quite a contrast, wouldn’t you say?
Thanks again for your article.
Some people just don’t get it.
Yeah, I know it’s from Canada. And everyone knows Canada doesn’t really exist. But it’s good advice for buying a bike and, even though most of it is pretty basic, the common sense rules always apply.
John Prolly’s bike from Chris Bishop is exactly what he wants in a bike. The culmination of a dozen bikes in his recent riding, it takes everything he wants and nothing he doesn’t and presents it in a package that will be a classic forever. I can’t wait to be in a position to order something from one of the many builders I’ve gotten to know over the past couple years. Soon. Hopefully very soon.
So this is weird. Leave it to my people to invent something absolutely useless in real life. Like High Tea at 6pm. Or Scotland. Regardless of sillitude, I’ll give it to this guy for bridging the gap between commuter cyclist and no-so-super hero.
Please enjoy The Bike Butterfly.