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Archive for the 'Working on bikes' Category

5,000 miles on the Trucker

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Last week, I crossed the 5,000 mile threshold on my Surly Long Haul Trucker, which I bought back in August of 2008. It’s staggering to think of all the places this bicycle has taken me in the last two years or so. In fact, it has opened up new riding possibilities for me, in terms of mixed terrain (which I’ve done a lot) and loaded riding (which I still haven’t done much). It has also been my commuting bike for most of this year.

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I am still very happy with the Trucker. It’s versatile, and a joy to ride. My only real complaint is that it’s not fast; particularly, it can be a real dog when climbing. I haven’t done a lot of rides with a full load, but it’s nice that the capability is there. Frankly though this bicycle is overkill for how I use it. A cyclocross bike would work just as well, or better. Then again I’m not exactly fretting over having a bike that’s sturdier than I need.

Perhaps somewhat enigmatically, even though the Trucker is slower and requires more effort on hills, the extra carrying capacity and smooth ride/forgiving geometry make it a great bike for all-day rides, especially in remote areas with no services. Since this is a situation I find myself in often, it comes in handy.

After 5,000 miles, the bike is getting to a point where it needs some work, and there are some improvements I would like to make. Money is tight right now, so most of that will have to wait. But, at the very least, I need to get the bike ready for winter. I intend to commute on it this winter as much as possible. That will mean buying some studded tires that will fit (I have some, but they’re 26″ and I have a 700c Trucker). I’ll also likely need better lights, since my commute is longer than before and I’ll be riding more of it in the dark.

Part of me is looking forward to winter riding, and part of me is dreading it. It can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot harder, and dealing with layers can get complicated, and it’s  just an entirely different kind of riding. But, every year I seem to get a little better at winter riding; hopefully that will hold true this year as well. I think the Trucker will make an excellent winter commuter. We’ll see!

Fun fact: I’m still using one of the original Continental Contact tires that came with the bike!

Rethinking the Brooks

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

For a long time, I loved my Brooks B17 leather saddle. Lately, it’s becoming less comfortable, and less practical.

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Here are the problems I’m having.

  • The leather is sagging. I’ve tried tensioning. I’ve tried lacing up the sides. I can make some improvements, but it’s not enough. The saddle simply isn’t as comfortable as it was when I got it. I will probably try tensioning it more, but at this point I am resigned to the possibility that the saddle may never be as comfortable as it once was.
  • The dye has started to stain my clothes. I wouldn’t care if I only wore bike shorts on the Long Haul Trucker, where the Brooks resides. But I commute on that bicycle. I have to be able to wear normal clothes on it without staining. I have been riding with the saddle cover on, but this scuffs up the surface of the saddle, and it’s not as comfortable.
  • If it rains, I have to worry about whether the saddle is covered, or make sure the bike is indoors. For a commuting bicycle, this isn’t very practical.
  • I can’t seem to get the saddle angle set correctly. The angle I need changes as the leather stretches. I realize this could be rectified with a better seatpost, but given all the other problems I’m having, I can’t justify spending money on a new seatpost. It’d be money much better spent on a new saddle.

Maybe I’m asking too much. I’ve put somewhere around 8,000 miles on this saddle. But, I have read stories of people who use their Brooks saddles for decades. I can’t understand how that can possibly work, given the issues I am having. Am I doing something wrong? Or, maybe I’m just too heavy to expect more than this? Would a “normal” saddle last longer?

Meanwhile, the synthetic saddle on the Bianchi is working great. I had only minimal discomfort during a couple of century rides, and the Ride Across Indiana. I don’t have to worry about getting it wet, or staining anything. Maybe it’s time to get another saddle like that one. It doesn’t look nearly as good, and doesn’t have the same appeal, but I’m starting to think it’s more practical.

For what it’s worth, that saddle is a Selle Italia X2.

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I should point out that the Brooks normally gets ridden in normal clothes, whereas the I usually have bike shorts on when I ride the Selle Italia.

Despite its recent problems, I seem to have a certain, irrational attachment to the Brooks. It’s served me very well until recently, and I’ve been very reluctant to give it up. When I bought it, I felt like I was buying much more than just a comfortable saddle. I loved the idea behind the leather saddles, the entire aesthetic, the workmanship, etc. I like the way the bag goes with the saddle, and it all goes with the bike. I like the way the saddle ages, as if it has stories to tell.

The Selle Italia is just a fairly comfortable saddle, nothing more.

What should I do?

New bicycle!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

So, after a little teaser, it’s time to reveal the new ride. Barturtle guessed correctly — it’s a Bianchi Imola.

My dad had a Bianchi when I was a kid, and they have always held a certain mystique to me.  This bicycle, while still steel, is a much more modern build.

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Highlights include full Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and brakes, and a Reynolds 631 steel frame. The ride is incredibly smooth, but also very responsive. Exactly what I was hoping for.

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Based on a shakedown ride today, there are some things I don’t like. First of all, the “compact” handlebars, which are narrow and have shallow drops, are just awful. I don’t really mind the shallow drops, but I need a wide handlebar. I tried adjusting the angle, and that helped a little, but these bars will have to go.

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The stock saddle could have been worse, but I didn’t care for it.

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My wife snapped this shot of me riding the bike.

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A few nitpicks aside, I love it so far, but I’m still getting everything dialed in. I made a few adjustments on my ride today, but I will have to make some more later. I already swapped out the saddle for the Selle Italia that was on my mountain bike. We’ll see how this saddle works on the road. I’ll probably eventually get a leather saddle for it.

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More details to follow. We”ll be hitting the road again tomorrow.

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