*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Prioritizing bike purchases

Almost a year ago I wrote that "road biking is boring".  Still largely agree with what I said on that post, especially:
I am getting sick of the godawful noise and stench of cars, and that my life relies upon the attention, IQ and goodwill of the common driver. Maybe I do not find the idea of going home to Ontario to 80km limit roads people drive 110km, which do not have paved shoulders.
I'm still well into commuting by bike...  I am well finished with any notion of distance road biking in Ontario:
- few paved shoulders
- fuckwit drivers
- straight paved roads
- safer 'rail trails' are dead straight and without hills
- uninteresting scenery
- 'roadies' are dicks
What I have written about the bikes I'll buy keeps changing, not least because the J-wife doesn't think three-thousand a year on a new bikes is reasonable...  Also because we're paying for a 'container' (actually a portion) to take all kinds of shit home in a year, so my road bike and fixed gear go back with me and won't be replaced as I'd planned.

So here's my totally biased opinion, and plan, about which bikes to have in Toronto or N.American cities.  Let's assume you are an aggressive cyclist, but not drinking all the kool-aid of any one camp.  All frames steel.  Don't even ask (see comments - someone did).  I am listing the bikes from most to least useful, for a confident rider.  You may not agree.  That's cool.

A fixed gear for commuting: nothing better for navigating busy traffic.  With brakes, fool.

A road bike, because you probably already have one, and sometimes you want a long ride on paved roads.

A 'gravel grinder', because sometimes the roads are rough, but not singletrack.  These bikes can be anything from a touring bike to a randonneuring bike to a CX bike, but have to take tires wider than 32mm, with slower steering than the twitchier cousin the 'road bike'.  You can use this on 'rail trails' to get away from cars; you can use it in the city on bad pavement; you can use it on gravel roads.  If your tires are semi-slick down the centre, and knobby on the sides, this is the single most versatile bike.
This is a project for me when I go home.  I have a six-speed cassette on a touring frame I'll be turning into 1x9 gearing with lighter wheels.  Southern Ontario's not hilly enough for me to bother with more gearing than that.

If you have a brood, or the need to haul groceries or other, there are plenty of 'cargo bikes', but only the
Kona Ute comes at a reasonable price, in more than one frame size (well, two) and is not so large so you may still have some hope in hell of transporting it by vehicle.
This one I am going to buy when we return.  Easy sell to the J-wife me schlepping the kids all summer on it.

If you're going to get a 'mountain bike', get a 29er so nothing can stop you.  And why not go for 'passive-suspension', so there're no hydraulics to maintain?  Maybe someday I will take a long off-road tour!  And why not get tires with a big footprint, to 'keep the rubber side down' and rides in anything from sand to mud to snow?  Seems like there's just one answer...
Fuck yeah!  Too bad it is two thousand...  Since I won't travel back to Japan summers when she takes the kids, I'll point out it's only the cost of my ass on that trip.

Most people could get by with any one to three of the first three bikes.  One or two of the others of the first three are bonus.  I already own all of the first three.  I'm only looking to get two more...  Will need to rent/buy a place with a garage I can secure...


  1. That last bike is beastly and brutishly awesome!!!

    1. No kidding. That Surly Krampus says:

      "Hey pretty boy, nice shocks you have there. Oh, your bike is lighter than mine, because it's made of plastic? Talk is cheap, bitch. I'll see you in hell."

  2. The second and third are spot on, road bike and a dirt basher too. Sorry, don't get fixies much, so couldn't be bothered really. I know people say they make your pedalling really clean and they are simple, but yeah, sorry.

    The luggage orientated ones seem to be a nifty design, but I would just use my car for that. Need one to put the bike in to go riding in far away places anyway.

    Good luck going back into a further car dominated environment than here. I used to jaunt with the traffic in Sydney as a young man and enjoy it, but I don't know about now. Give me a quiet mountain road anyday.

    Why steel?

    1. Hey, glad for your comment, and sorry you've set me off...

      You don't get fixies?!

      Harden up! Nothing good is easy: that's why we have to train and do foreplay. If you don't ride fixed, your cadence is square. "Coasting is a pernicious habit", and once you ride fixed you don't coast road bikes anymore, unless descending mountains. You don't know anything about gearing until you have only one you'd better get right. You don't know anything about efficiency until every hill and intersection is an equation to be solved in an ideal way. You don't know shit about traction, until you get feedback through all points of contact. You don't know anything about the machine, until you work on it yourself: sending a fixed gear in for servicing is like having someone cut your wood for you. Man up.

      Why steel?!

      It shows class. It's cheaper than plastic.* It looks better than aluminum or plastic. It rides better than either. All three can crack: plastic cracks and immediately drops your face into the road, aluminum cracks and gives an hour to notice, steel gives you a week. Steel weighs only a pound or two more than plastic, and most of us should shed that off our asses rather than out of our wallets. Plastic frames never have enough tire clearance, and aluminum rarely does. You can spread the rear-triangle for a longer axle (aluminum or plastic would fail); and if really ambitious change the bend of your fork or dent a tube for particular fittings. You can have a welder fix it, put in more braze-ons, or change the drop-outs. Most of all, the real reason to get steel is that titanium is too fucking expensive...

      *(carbon fibre reinforced) PLASTIC