Embracing the new without throwing out the old.

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade trying to fend off the onslaught of technology that has bombarded the bike industry.  Constant “improvements” that add varying degrees of enjoyment for the end user.  Sometimes, like in any other industry, we see change merely for the sake of change.  It makes me crazy.  However, with a recent bike build I employed some features that, while not brand new, I had previously eschewed.  I’m warming to the idea that all new things are not necessarily bad.  Radical, huh?

We’re at an interesting point with regards to bicycle technology.  Like with any tech, things happen pretty quickly, but not all  “improvements” lend themselves to a better overall riding experience.  My biggest complaint is that this new tech makes the bicycle, which by it’s very nature is a very uncomplicated machine, much more difficult to work on.  When professional mechanics struggle what hope does the home mechanic have?  I think if what “we” (as an industry) really want is more people using bikes, shouldn’t those bikes be a simple and straightforward as reasonably possible?

Now, you have to understand I’m not talking about recreational “bike path” bikes.  Those bikes are straight forward, easy to ride and easy to maintain.  I’m talking about bikes ridden by more……enthusiastic riders (I refuse to use the word “serious”.  Why would anyone-save for someone making their living on a bike-be serious about something that should be so enjoyable and care free?).

The touring bikes that I ride, and sell have historically been the epitome of a bicycle that is functional, durable and straight forward with regards to design.  What I started to notice a year or so ago was “newfangled” tech creeping into my precious touring bikes!  The horror.

As I started to build a new bike this year I started to think about adding some of these new features.  Things like a 1x drivetrain have allowed me to ditch my front derailleur.  Tubeless tires make the big tires I ride, ride even better.   Finally, disc brakes allow me not only better stopping power, but more flexibility in tire selection.  There were challenges here and there, but I shouldn’t have been surprised that everything worked just the way I expected.  Have no fear, there are plenty of old things on this bike (least of which is the rider!).  It is, to me, the ideal mix of old and new tech.  It employs classic touring gear while borrowing from current mountain bike, and bike packing gear.

Keep one foot firmly planted in the past, while exploring whats new and embracing what works for you.  I like it.  I’m sure there are more aspects of life where this strategy can be employed.  I look forward to further epiphanies.

Below is a picture of said bike.

Thanks for reading.

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Roads were meant for bikes (no really).

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Using your bike for transportation is a great idea.  It’s also an idea that can be somewhat daunting.  I thought I would jot down my tips for, what I think makes for a successful commute (or trip to the store etc…).

  • Choose your route wisely.  The biggest mistake I see is people thinking they’re going to ride the same route that they drive every day.  It may work in rare instances, but more often it ends a commuting career before it even begins.  Google maps/Earth is going to be your best friend.  Linked neighborhoods, and side streets can keep you off of busy roads.  It’s a must.

 

  • Pick the right tool for the job.  I’m talking about bikes people.  The right bike can make things so much easier.  Wider tires, racks and fenders are must haves IMO.  That means skipping the go-fast bike (unless that’s the only one you’ve got).  You don’t have to spend a fortune.  A fitness hybrid with some accessories can do it all.  It may be the only bike you need.  The FX line from Trek is a great place to start.  Want to spend a little more?  How about a Long Haul Trucker from Surly?  Or a Sam Hillborne from Rivendell.  Those are lifetime bikes.

 

  • Get the weight off of your back.  Backpacks are for noobs.  Unless you’re carrying nothing more than a T-shirt and handkerchief, get it in a bag somewhere on the bike.  You’ll thank me later.

 

  • Light it up!   It’s not any kind of news flash; drivers are more distracted than ever.  I run lights day and night.  I’ve got bits of reflective tape on my rear fender.  I’m interested in being seen.

 

  • Wear regular clothes.  By that I mean something loose-fitting and comfortable.  Technical fabrics?  sure, but something that will move around a bit when there’s a little breeze will feel good.  It also changes the way drivers treat you.  Sad but true.  Save the lycra for the Tuesday night World Championships…..if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

  • Take the lane (when appropriate).  This one may seem like a contradiction.  I want to use up a good 2 feet inside the white line.  Many riders want to squeeze themselves over as far as they can.  The thinking is that if drivers see how courteous they are, they will give them safe passage.  Wrong.  What they do is try to squeeze by you, running you off the in the process.  They may honk, and they may swear but they are going to have to go around me.  If you’ve followed the first suggestion,  this should only be necessary from time to time.

 

  • Do wear a helmet.  It’s still a free country (at least at the time of this writing), but it just makes good sense.  It may not save you, but if you’re going to play in traffic-helmets today are so light and so comfortable……..just wear one.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything?  Do you have additonal tips?

Why you should ride your bike to work (if you can)

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I didn’t ride to work once last year.  Not.  Once.  Not because I didn’t want to.  The weather this Spring has been a bit crap, so today was my first commute in a good long while.  I’ve missed it.

 

When you ride your bike to work you arrive energized and ready to tackle the day.  The trip home can all but erase any work related drama.

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People seem to have gotten shittier in my years absence.  I don’t understand…….well I guess I do understand.  It’s easy to be an ass when you’re surrounded by a metal box.  Still, I wouldn’t trade it.  I love riding my bike to work.

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Sometimes you even “get” to crawl under a train that’s blocked your one way home and hasn’t moved in……….. that’s a story for another time.