Bike Stable Update

So, while we continue to work towards our larger goals of getting India through graduate school, keeping Vera from leaping out of our second-story window to chase the squirrels in the tree next door, and endeavoring to sample every beer offered by our friendly neighborhood beverage depot, we have also been putting a good deal of energy into the expansion and refinement of our bicycle stable. If you visit our apartment building on Fremont Street, you will doubtless locate our door quite easily even if you didn't know we lived in number ten. Ours is the door with the bikes stacked three and four deep against the walls outside, and the ranks just got one deeper. Before I reveal the identity of our newest two-wheeled steed, I'd like to review some of the other major changes to bikes in our lives, as they have been many and varied. However, I've been advised by our legal team to preface this post with a disclaimer, so here goes. I am a self-avowed bike nerd. The rest of this post is written for my fellow bike nerds. If you don't have at least a basic knowledge of bicycle jargon, styles and varieties of bikes for particular purposes, differences in components, gearing, and the associated numbers, sizes, and other bike nerd stuff, you'd might as well just look at the pictures. Feel no shame if you choose to ignore the words and numbers in between the photographs, as the photos tell most of the story anyway. So, let's get down to it.
We'll begin with the Steamroller, previously my city-riding fixed-gear beater with riser bars, wide tires and fenders. With track racing season approaching, the Steamroller will be called into service on the Alpenrose Velodrome here in Portland. She'll see a few key upgrades between now and the first races in early May, including a set of track-only tubular wheels with low-flange Dura-Ace hubs, Velocity Escape rims, 15 and 16-tooth cogs and a 49-tooth chainring for proper track gearing. I haven't settled on a tire choice yet. Currently, she is set up for training rides on the road, with a 46t ring, 15 and 17t cogs on the rear wheel, a front brake and cyclecomputer:
The biggest changes so far were in the cockpit. For a more aggressive, sprint-oriented position, I've bolted up a zero-offset Thomson seatpost in silver, a 40cm wide 3TTT Mod. Grand Prix road bar, and a 120mm Mutant knock-off stem from Origin-8:
Heinous, I know. The lack of new stems available with a 26mm clamp is painful. I'm all for standardization and component interchangeability, but do we all really need bulbous, grossly oversized 31.8mm stems and bars on all our bikes? So, the Steamroller is still in a transitional phase, and I will be sure to update when she's ready for racing on the banks.
Now, on to the bigger developments: Many of you will remember Milo, India's good old Peugeot that was purchased from Ben's Bikes in Athens for a whopping $120 with 27" steel rims, stem-mounted friction shifters, and 12-speed gearing with a Maillard Helicomatic rear hub. He/she (Milo's gender tends to change based on environment, much like a certain species of tree frog) has been constantly upgraded, seen two seasons of cyclocross racing and plenty of road miles to boot. However, after India and Milo's 2009 Cross Crusade campaign that resulted in an overall season win in the beginner ladies category, the time came for Milo to retire from racing. So, Milo has been sent out to pasture as a 3-speed internally geared city rider:
Variable gearing is provided by a new Sturmey-Archer AW wide-range 3-speed hub, laced with 36 14g DT spokes to an eyeleted, box-section Sun M13II rim, in polished silver:
The handlebars are a basic alloy three-speed bar that Origin-8 calls the CitiClassic. They're nice and wide with a comfy rise and bit of backsweep. The cockpit is finished off with a set of Shimano canti levers, purple Snafu BMX grips India won in a GoldSprint competition, and the classic "brrring-brrring" bell:
These sweet arabesque Shimano 600 cranks remain, but with a single 40-tooth chainring rather than a 40/48 for 'cross or 40/52 for the road. The chain is the same KMC 410HX that has seen two seasons of singlespeed cyclocross and countless city and road miles on ol' Rosie. Either my legs are weak or this chain is crazy strong, because it's barely showing any signs of wear or stretching. The pedals are Odyssey's super comfy Twisted plastic BMX pedals:
The cranks are seamlessly integrated into a super-beefy bottom bracket junction for maximum lateral stiffness and brutally efficient power transfer, while still retaining plenty of vertical compliance for comfort:
So, you may be wondering where all the road components that once adorned Milo have gone. No, they're not floating in the quagmire of my parts bin, nor have they been sold off via Craigslist or hustled on the street corner for beer money. The main beneficiary of Milo's city-bike conversion was none other than ol' Rosie. She's been riding as a singlespeed of one kind or another ever since the frame was resurrected from some Athenian dumpster, stripped, repainted, and rebuilt in several different configurations, from a fixed-gear path racer to pre-derailleur Tour de France road machine to one-speed cyclocrosser. Recently however, I've been feeling the lack of a go-fast road bike with a range of gears for tackling the climbs up in Portland's west hills. Multi-mile climbs and descents are not much fun on a fixed-gear setup like the Steamroller, and the trusty Long Haul Trucker is plenty comfortable for long rides (especially when carrying a load) but is a bit too bulky and upright for fast rides when I'm traveling light. So, please allow me to present the newly made-over and road-i-fied Rosie:
She sports the Shimano 600 8-speed STI group scraped together out of the parts bins at Sunshine Cycles, Ben's Bikes and the Bike Recycling Project in Athens and saw India and Milo through two seasons of 'cross racing and road riding. The shifters needed a bit of a soak in a bubbling jacuzzi of mineral spirits to reawaken their pawls and shake the old grime off their springs, but they emerged shiny and ready to click away the miles:
The rear derailleur has seen some tough times, but the linkage is still nice and tight with no slop or bends. It covers the 12-23 cassette with ease, though I find myself wishing for a bailout gear on some of the steeper climbs. But hey, if Pantani can win mountain stages with an 11-23 and 44-tooth ring, why should I seek the comforts of the 27-tooth cog? Maybe I should just shave my head and don a bandanna instead...
Compared to il Pirata, my crank sports a pretty wimpy set of 50 and 38-tooth chainrings. Note the new, gold-trimmed Crank Brothers Candy pedals. Very shiny:
To facilitate the swapover from fixed-gear/singlespeed duty to a derailleur setup, my old boss and I brazed on some new cable stops for the rear brake and rear derailleur. Of course, when I was setting Rosie up for the first time, I couldn't imagine ever wanting to put anything more than a front brake on, as that was all I needed in her first, fixed configuration. After fitting a coasty-type rear wheel (As Dr. Jones says: "Free the wheel, free the mind.") and spending a year or so with a rear brake cable zip-tied to the top tube, the need for a change was apparent. Here are the results. Not so attractive with the burnt paint and raw metal, but they get the job done nicely. Maybe one day the old girl will get a trip to the paint shop or powdercoater. But for now:
The saddle is a Selle Italia Flite that I found caked in mud in Weir's basement a couple of months back. It took a good deal of cleaning to get back down to the actual leather and kevlar cover, but like an archaeologist carefully unearthing a mummified Egyptian house cat, I was pleased to discover that the saddle had been preserved remarkably well inside its protective shell of Northwestern soil. There is also a distinct possibility that it once belonged to a certain Mr. Ira Ryan who built lovely bicycle frames out of the shop's downstairs before moving into a space of his own. Ira, if this is your saddle and you would like it returned to you, let me know and we'll strike a bargain:
Beneath the saddle sits one of two hand-me-down items passed to me in the matrilineal style from my bad-ass bike-riding mom: a trusty old Blackburn saddlebag stuffed with all the essentials. I seem to be afflicted with some disorder that causes me to destroy the zippers of all saddlebags I purchase, but this thing just keeps on going. It's probably nearly as old as I am:
The other heirloom bequeathed to me is this CatEye cyclecomputer, which keeps track of my mileage as well as counting my pedaling RPMs. I've really enjoyed having the cadence feature to remind me to quit mashing gears like I'm sometimes wont to do and get that spin going. The computer sits right next to the clamp of my 100mm Thomson stem, gifted to me by the one and only K. Sakai, the illustrious Duke of the Mallet and one of the famed and feared Zealots of the Winter Bike League. This little chunk of CNCed aluminum may be my favorite component on this bike, especially considering that Thomson doesn't even offer stems with 26.0mm clamps anymore, and certainly not in silver:
So, with no further ado, I'd like to present the newest inductee to our stable; India's brand new, fresh-out-the-box, 2010 Redline Conquest Pro cyclocross bike:
She (we're pretty sure this bike is feminine, but it is still yet unnamed) sports a set of Sram's Rival shifters and derailleurs, complete with saucy and oh-so-light 'crabon fibre' lever blades that caress the fingertips:
Avid's Shorty 6 cantilevers have proved to be effective slow-downers. I especially like the brake pads, which are a road-type pad and shoe mated to a mountain-style post with cup and cone washers for easy adjustment and less brake squeal compared to full-size mountain pads. Also, we've gone ahead and swapped the stock Hutchinson Bulldog tires for a set of S-Works All-Condition road skinnies:
The two-piece, outboard bearing FSA crank carries a 'cross-specific 36/46 double. Okay for now, but we'll want to add a 50 tooth big ring for road riding. The Rival front derailleur shifts reliably and with a firm 'ca-CHUNK' that really lets you know you've dropped into the little ring. Upshifts require a bit of hand strength to overpower the mighty return spring, but feel nearly as solid:
Sram's road derailleurs can cover reach up to a 28-tooth big cog, so Redline spec'd an 11-28 for the Conquest Pro. The rear derailler also incorporates stronger-than-average springs in the paralellogram and tension cage, resulting in strong, reliable shifting and a nice, tight chain:
The other immediate component changes (in addition to the tire swap) we made were in the seatpost and stem. The bike came out of the box with an absurd white-and-carbon FSA stem and matching seatpost, which are viewable here on Redline's website. Of all the silly places to put white components! Surely they'd have better judgement than to put a white seatpost on a cyclocross racer! I guess it is the Conquest "Pro," and we all know that nothing says "Pro" like the color white, especially in cycling events that involve a lot of mud. The bike also came with white handlebar tape, which was thankfully not yet installed and allowed us to wrap the bars with a more unassuming but decidedly less "pro" black. Well, there's no accounting for taste or good sense these days. Fortunately however, my good old singlespeed beater of a mountain bike happened to take the same size stem and seatpost, so we did a little trade. The bright, gleaming white stem and post make the dirty, beat-up white paint on my frame look pretty disgusting, but I think it's hilarious. Anyway, here's the setback Thomson on India's bike, topped off with the stock Selle Italia XO saddle:
And here's my old Race Face stem, bolted to the FSA compact drops to finish the cockpit. I made fun of these little 'dork drops' when I first saw them, but they are pretty darn comfy. The shallow drops certainly make descending rough, steep sections a little less sketchy and the Sram hoods make me feel like a fighter pilot. Me likey:
Yeah, so I'm a little jealous, but she's certainly earned the upgrade. This is the first brand-new bike India's had since she was a little kid, so it's been a long time coming. Hopefully it will carry her to some good results this fall in the Ladies' B category of the Cross Crusade. Oh, and lest I forget, her prized little yellow fishy valve caps swam upstream all the way from Georgia to chew on the ends of her presta valves:


New Posts on the Way!

Dear Readers,
So, I've been on an extended hiatus from the world of bloggery, but since the sun has finally re-emerged from its cloudy bedclothes here in Portland, I feel that the time has come for me to end my period of literary hibernation, wipe the dust from the keyboard and put a little of my upwelling spring of sarotonin-fueled energy into the flexion of my fingers to tap out the drum-beats of a new season of life. There has been a great deal happening here: friends and family in town to visit, major changes in the bicycle stable, the adoption of a new furry friend, developments in the school/work saga, and a change of seasons. I will endeavor to keep you, my reading public, abreast of all these changes and events with an electronic assault on several fronts. For the most in-depth coverage of specific life-altering events and realizations, including Vera's (the cat's) journey toward small, furry enlightenment, look no further than this very blog. This chunk of the Northwestern blogosphere will also be undergoing some aesthetic and structural renovations as we are no longer on our Transcontinental Odyssey, but have settled in North Portland for the foreseeable future, or at least until India or I get a job offer in Crested Butte. I will also offer regular news headlines and photographic coverage via Facebook and/or Flickr, which are so thoroughly intertwined that it is hard for me to distinguish them at times, like a pair of conjoined twins who are slowly melting into one another as they grow. Also, in a horrifying act of heresy and flagrant 'shark-jumping' that flies in the face of all of my recorded precendents and statements concerning internet-based life and communication, I may indeed be Twatting, Tweeting, Tweedle-dee-dumming, or whatever you want to call it. Follow if you must, but reader beware.