The sunflowery side of the street

OK, so Graham Watson I am not, but then this wasn’t the Tour, and I wasn’t getting paid, so there.

Politics be damned for the moment. It’s time to avert our gaze, if only to give the bloodshot eyes a chance to heal.

I’ve been riding the Soma Sagas lately, being fresh out of review bikes. I needed to bed in the TRP Spyres on the disc-brake model, and I just plain like riding its canti’ cousin for no particular reason atall atall.

Today I loaded that Saga with a basic bike-overnight package and went around and about, climbing hills, just because I could.

The old-school Soma Saga catches its breath up at La Cueva.

The Kool Kidz would probably sneer at it, with its rim brakes, nine-speed drivetrain (Deore rear derailleur, Ultegra front, triple crank, and Silver friction bar-cons), and tires with tubes. But it rolls right smart with a load on, and I hardly needed the 24×32.

Though I was down to a walking pace while climbing to La Cueva Picnic Site. That is one short, steep, beat-to-shit piece of road. And I ain’t as young as I used to be, if I ever was.

Speaking of gearing, my man Alex Strickland, honcho at Adventure Cyclist, has had a chance to sample Shimano’s GRX drivetrain. And he suggests its 400-level offering may serve quite a number of our fellow adventurous cyclists, with the possibility of mating a 30-tooth chainring to a 36-tooth cog. He also likes the GRX brake-shift levers, a lot.

Does that mean my beloved nine-speed triple has been planned into obsolescence? Nope. But Alex says that for riders who tour only rarely and can’t have a garage full of bikes outfitted for every eventuality, opportunity, or mood swing, “something sporting 40mm of rubber and a GRX 2x drivetrain offers a path to almost anywhere.”

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34 Responses to “The sunflowery side of the street”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    I think the sunflower pic is just spiffy. That frame pump on the rim brake Saga on the other hand is, well…. I know, you have a pump peg, and you just had to use it. Both bikes in my fleet sport Topeak Morph pumps, and I ain’t looking back. Those pumps without a hose are just too hard for me to use.

    What do you think of the TRP Spyres on the disc brake Saga?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That Zéfal is just the thing for swatting any GOP senators you happen to see begging for alms at roadside, Paddy me lad. Don’t gotta slow down or nothin’. Just unlimber and swing.

      Which Morph are you using? Topeak has a bazillion of the sonsabitches.

      I’ve always liked the Spyres on review bikes. I have all of 90 minutes on this set, but so far, so good.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        Good morning mi amigo! I have the Road Morph G mounted to the top tube on the Double Cross Disc, and a Turbo Morph G stashed in my Thule hydration pack for use with the Niner. If I put a rack and trunk on the Niner, I will mount the pump under a water bottle cage. I used to have a Mini Morph on the Double cross, but when I had a flat it took over 200 strokes to get a 700/35 tire to 50 psi. I gave the Mini to the Goodwill store.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    What’s the rear dropout width on that new Shimano stuff that Alex is raving about? I’ve still got two bikes that are 135mm spacing. These subcompact defined ratios sound nice, but the Trucker does fine with bar ends and a 3×9 and the Praxis Alba on the 9 spd cross bike would be as low as I am likely to need.

    If I ever get ambitious enough to want to do serious riding I guess these are good options.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Here’s all the deets, K. I don’t think GRX is for the likes of us. Or for the likes of me, anyway.

      Being such a poor mechanic I learned the hard way while living in Crusty County that you don’t want some overeager engineer’s arcane offspring going sideways on you 150 miles from a smart wrench.

      So I’m continuing my own personal March of Progress in reverse. Rim brakes, clincher tires with inner tubes, friction bar-cons, and a ceiling of nine-speed Ultegra, Deore or XT.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Everything listed in your last paragraph is the sweet spot save rim brakes. You know, we have had that discussion before.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Looks like 142 spacing; all my bikes are 130 or 135. Join you in that march to the history bin.

        I had a spare set of WH-R540 Shimano aero paired spoke wheels that were infrequently used since it is almost impossible to mount tires on them (and therefore, almost impossible to fix a flat on the road). But I had a spare set of semi-worn Vittoria Open Corsas that mount easily, so I moved the 11-32 cassette off of a ponderous set of Bontrager winter wheels (shown at the link below) and with the LX rear derailleur, the CAAD-5 presently sports a 34×32 low gear. The setup works great and it shifts well on a 12-28 cassette too, which is as small as I typically go in my decrepitude.

        I found some near vertical climbs in the foothills off of Gonzales and Sierra Pinon (if you remember where that is) and this rig now gets my fat ass up them without getting off and walking. All for the price of rooting around the garage.

      • Dale E. Brigham Says:

        Ixnay on the GRXnay for me. I know it is well-intentioned, designed, and executed, but Jeepers, how could Shimano, which used to make elegant, ingenious, subtly styled components, create such aesthetic atrocities? The humblest Sugino triple crank looks like a work of classical art compared to that GRX chain grinder. And don’t get me started on the rear derailleurs (right outa’ H.R. Giger’s fever dreams).

        And, who is going to carry a kit with hydraulic fluid and line bleeding tools along for that “epic adventure” ride, (for the chance that a brake line is severed) instead of just a coiled up brake cable needed for mechanical brakes?

        Did anyone catch the UCI World’s Jr. Men road race yesterday? (Yea for USA’s Gold and Bronze medal rides!) Wheel changes by “trained” mechanics could be timed with a sundial, the poor “wrench” twirling the great through-axle attachment device thingy (patent pending) for eons, during which a simple quick release could have been opened and closed a few dozen times. Disk brakes begat the necessity of perfect hub alignment begat through-axles.

        By the way, the GRX hub has 142 mm spacing, making all of my frames (and pretty much anyone’s touring frame) obsolete.

        Sorry for the rant! I will now wipe the froth off of my lips, take my meds, and watch the Men’s U-23 road race, praying that no one has a flat.

        Dale in Mid-MO

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Exactly. How many potential points of ride-ending failure can you ID in under 15 seconds? A shit-ton, that’s how many. I had to jog several miles home in a pair of Sidi mountain-bike shoes once after a mechanical I couldn’t address and I don’t ever want to do that again.

          Didn’t I read somewhere that pro wrenches were adapting battery-powered hand drills for quick removal of thru-axles? Maybe even that doesn’t help, especially when it comes to slamming the new wheel in.

          How does one yell “Fuck this shit!” in Phlegmish?

          And don’t get me started on aesthetics. Jeebus, components (and some framesets) have gotten uglier than Rudy Giuliani fighting a ketamine overdose. Remember the simple, elegant Suntour Cyclone crank?

          • Pat O'Brien Says:

            It’ll take a lot of beer to get that Rudy picture out of my head. And, in my experience disc brakes work just fine with quick releases. You just have to make sure they are fully inserted in drop outs and tight. People should do that more often anyway. Many only do it when they have a flat or change wheels. Disc alignment problems don’t happen with mechanical 2 piston calipers. With BB7 and other single piston calipers, they happen almost daily. This amateur will move to the back row and let the pros discuss this further.

  3. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Speaking of the pros, as you can see, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) has chosen to guard the disc-equipped Soma Saga rather than the rim-brake model.

    “A rim-brake bike can take care of itself,” he explains. “But these things are delicate, ill-tempered, and easily rendered helpless.”

    • JD Dallager Says:

      PO’G: I note, in the background, that some spotted ceramic kitty or porky has wandered successfully (and perhaps surreptitiously?) into The Turk’s radius of action/sphere of influence. And, too, it seems to have seized the high ground!

      I note also a wall behind said intruder. As someone said: “Why build a wall if the guards can be bought”.

      Looks like an inside job to me! 🙂

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        That would be a piggie, Herself’s spirit animal. There are dozens of oinkers scattered around and about the joint, the biggest of which runs this ’ere blog.

        The Turk looks like he’s fixin’ to sell that bike out the back door, the way crooked supply sergeants used to market M-16s at Fort Cartoon. His Excellency can’t be bought, but he is available for short-term rental.

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      OK, if it’s that bad I’ll give you $250 cash money for it right now. I’ll even come and pick it up. How about it Turk? That’s a lot of cap nip buddy.

      • Hurben Says:

        No Turk, no!

        To my trained eye, there’s a lot of furrin parts on that bike that’s trying to pass itself off as ‘Merican.

        The fact that it’s chosen to colour itself Orange is a dead giveaway.

        The only way to keep ‘Merica safe is to intern it offshore toot sweet & I happen to know of a remote, isolated island where it could ‘disappear’

        I’d ensure that it’s rubber never hits ‘Merican roads again.

        Y’all welcome.

        • JD Dallager Says:

          Hurben: Sandal tan status please? 🙂

          • Hurben Says:

            Hi JD,

            Sorry, got waylaid.

            It’s not doing so well, it’s been an extremely wet & cold Spring so far,

            Still, the remnants of last year are still there so once the weather settles I’ll be working on it with a vengeance

    • Herb from Michigan Says:

      It is a given Turk is a steel devotee. No stinking plastic frames for him.

  4. Herb from Michigan Says:

    No damn way I’d dick with 142 spacing or disc brakes since the family amalgamation of bikes allows free-sharing of wheels, cog sets, brake parts and for that matter tires. Sure a few frame sets are on the sidelines if one wants some 40 mil rubber underneath them since they ain’t got room for it. Tulio must be rolling in his grave over thru-axles. Sheesh…First day out on his new Marin road bike a few years back Number 1 son biffed and cabbaged the STI brake/shift lever. $$$ later and wiser, he spread the Gospel of Simple to the rest of the brethren. Round these parts we call those that fawn and swoon over every new pice of bike bling or obsess about ounces or grams Freds. We had tee shirts that read “Fred less-Ride more” with a naked hippie couple on a tandem. Loved it when I was scolded by no doubt English majors who tried to correct me with “it should read FRET less”. Well you knew they had never been bored to tears by some yammering Fred telling you his stem length and frame angles. Sadly, my shirt was stolen but I’m too big now for it anyway.

    • Hurben Says:

      But Herb, now you could get a tee shirt with a Triple tandem! or one with a Triple tandem towing a ride-along with a child or one with a Triple tandem towing a ride-along with a child towing a trailer with lots of beer, a BBQ & surfboards!

      I should probably stop now..

  5. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    The Fleet is mostly standard spacing, a habit I developed during those lean years when I was a baby freelancer with the income of a part-time Fryolator jockey. With a couple decent wheelsets (Shimano Ultegra hubs and Mavic Open Pro rims) and a couple-three cassettes I could do just about anything.

    Except win, of course. Some things are beyond the reach of engineers.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Seems to me that unless one is pinning on a number, having 12 cogs in 142 or so mm is a bit extravagant. I’m as guilty as anyone for having bike lust over the newest shiny objects but always default to “my existing bikes are all I really need”. The only reason to upgrade is if something actually detonates (and traditional bicycles are like traditional firearms: with a bit of care they last forever) or to keep folks like Dwan Shepard supplied with enough shekels to stay in business.

      I have a friend who actually wore out and broke one of those lately in vogue little plastic pistols. Had to laugh. He was putting thousands of rounds through it practicing for adversity after a home break in where his disabled kid was in the home at the same time as the crook. I told him that if he wanted longevity, go get something made of steel.

      • psobrien Says:

        Indeed. Hard to beat a good quality, 4 inch barrel, double action revolver in .38 Spl for home defense. When one is awakened by bad things that go bump in the night, simplicity and just enough power to do the job with a minimum of recoil and muzzle flash is the way to go. If you need more than six rounds, then you are already over your head. I prefer, due to living in a very low risk environment, a large Sabre Red pepper gel, 21 inch ASP baton, and a 4 D cell LED Maglight.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Those 4D Maglites are fearsome. Back when I was working my way through undergrad as a night watchman, the U of Rochester forbid us in the Security Dept.from carrying overt weapons like guns or billy clubs. So the flashlight was…err…a flashlight. Plus, in a pinch, it was a pretty damn good club.

  6. khal spencer Says:

  7. khal spencer Says:

    Speaking of sunflowers…

  8. Larry T. atCycleItalia Says:

    142 mm spacing? Just one more way to make whatever you have now obsolete, amitrite? Nine-speed triple? May it ever be so.
    And for me, ixnay on the imano-Shay unless it’s SPD road pedals.
    Meanwhile, we’re in our new digs, meeting neighbors and un-AirBnB-ing the place. Tons of duplicate stuff to clear out. Luckily for us the wife’s colleague’s here are creating some student-housing so all those extra dishes, beds, chairs, etc. will have a new home.

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