12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 4

Stoned again: From the April 2019 edition of BRAIN.

The bike business sometimes reminds me of Henri the painter in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.”

Regularly he revolted against outworn techniques and materials. One season he threw out perspective. Another year he abandoned red, even as the mother of purple. Finally he gave up paint entirely. It is not known whether Henri was a good painter or not for he threw himself so violently into movements that he had very little time left for painting of any kind.

Think about it. Movements, and violently. The road bike. The mountain bike. The suspension fork. Full suspension. Steel, aluminum, carbon, bamboo. The cyclocross bike. The cruiser. The fixie. The townie. The fat bike. 1x drivetrains. 8-, 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-cog cassettes. STI, ErgoPower and DoubleTap. Internally geared hubs. Belt drive. Disc brakes. Hydraulic disc brakes. Electronic shifting. Tubeless tires. The e-bike. The cargo bike. The gravel bike.

We can argue about whether all (or any) of these movements improve upon the basic bicycle. But I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I just want to ride the damn things. And if I have to be a quantum mechanic to work on it, I don’t need it.

Told I could have just one bicycle, I would choose a chromoly frame and fork with rack and fender mounts plus clearance for 42mm tires, a nine-speed, 11-34T cassette with a 46/30T crank, a short-reach, shallow-drop handlebar, bar-end shifters, aero levers, rim brakes, external cable routing, and 32-spoke clincher wheels (pre-tubeless “standards”).

Of course, that’s just me. One old white guy does not an industry make. But still.

In the meantime, I make fun of fads. Keep making those superhero movies, fellas. I’ll be over here, reading a fucking book.

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36 Responses to “12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 4”

  1. katholoch Says:

    You just reminded me that I need to reread Cannery Row!

    • Dale Says:

      You should try Tortilla Flat, Travels With Charley, and Log From the Sea of Cortez. Three totally different styles from Steinbeck.

      • Russell Williams Says:

        I used to ask who the characters in Steinbeck’s locally based stories were. Except for Doc Ricketts and Flora Wood, the real-life name of the madam of the Bear Flag establishment, dad’s response was always the same. “Rusty, you don’t need to know that. They’ve gone respectable since then”.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “Cannery Row” is a fave, as is “Tortilla Flat.” “Sweet Thursday,” eh, not so much. Read like a screenplay. And I think “Blue Highways” was the book he was trying to do when he wrote “Travels with Charley.”

      Boy, “Cannery Row” was the real deal, though. What a great collection of characters.

  2. Russell Williams Says:

    My uncle, Red Williams, was one of 2 people in Cannery Row who had his real name. The other being Doc Ricketts. My Dad said, at the time, he …”thought Steinbeck was an interesting Bohemian, but wasn’t sure he would amount to anything”.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      All of us journos were supposed to worship Hemingway, and I read a lot of that dude, but I always preferred Steinbeck. He seemed to be having a lot more fun with the language, and didn’t seem quite so wrapped up in image-management.

      • Russell Williams Says:

        Now there is a Steinbeck Society that meets in Pacific Grove. They used to have Dad speak, but Day would talk about what Steinbeck was like and his world in that area. The “Society” wanted to hear about St John and that wasn’t him.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Yep. A bike with moderate angles that is good for centuries, tours, commuting, or just riding on a Sunday morning. It will take 42 mm tires in a pinch and have a wide range but simple drivetrain. Plenty of little threaded holes to hang stuff on.

    Starting to sound a lot like my Long Haul Trucker. Or a decent cross bike.But with more folks like us, the bike biz would crater.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m supposed to be getting the new LHT to review here directly. Haven’t heard just when, but I’m looking forward to it. That’s one I haven’t tried yet.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Looking forward to the review. Patrick. Maybe we should do a ride with both bikes.

        I bought the LHT frameset from Mellow Velo in Fanta Se and built it up out of the Los Alamos Garage Parts Gruppo, so would be interesting to compare to what they ship from the factory as a complete bike.

        The wheelset was a spare set I kept from an old Trek mountainbike that I gave to a former friend. Triple crank was one I bought from Sheldon “Capt. Bike” Brown. Bar ends from Nashbar, other bits (derailleur, brakes, aero brake levers, God knows what else) from a decommissioned Trek T200 tandem. All worked out pretty darn well.

        Original story here.

  4. Larry T. atCycleItalia Says:

    Yep, the industry demands we have a quiver of bicycles even though like arrows they’re more alike than different. I think gravel’s already peaked so the industry’s pushing hard on things like the Pinarello Nytro – to me a bicycle for those who don’t really want a bicycle.
    I saw the same things happen in the moto biz back-in-the-day. These folks just don’t believe a market can be saturated – there must always be someone they haven’t convinced to buy…yet…and if “We just tweak this or that, we’ll get their money!” they think. It rarely ends well but the bike biz remains unconvinced.

    • khal spencer Says:

      I’ve got duplicate road bikes. Mainly for sentimental reasons. The CAAD5 was made in USA back when Cannondale made their bikes stateside. But having a spare road bike means I can fiddle with it (mountain bike cassettes, etc) and keep the other one, a Six Thirteen, stock Campy Chorus.

      Speaking of moto. I noticed that BMW tweaked the R1200RS last year. It is now an R1250RS with some sort of variable cam lobe wizardry. In return for having more stuff to break or calibrate and 50 more cc’s you go from 125 HP to 135 HP. Why??? To sell new motorcycles, I guess.

      I’ve yet to wring the whole 125 HP out of mine and likely never will. I like my bones intact, thank you and unlike Lorenzo, I don’t fancy myself as ever having been talented enough on a moto to be calibrating lean angle vs footpeg touchdown at speeds high enough to need the extra ten ponies. I tried that stuff as a twenty something, fortunately on a less powerful motorcycle, and I think it was the St. Christopher medal my mom gave me that kept me alive rather than anything I was doing.

    • SAO’ Says:

      On the other hand, 140 years later, they’re still selling the damn things, so maybe they’re doing something right?

  5. John A Levy Says:

    Still riding 32 spoke dt swiss hubs, spokes and rs 1 wheels still light and strong for a 230 lb ox. My wifen is still lpissed about the 450.00 bucks. nut my old steel lemond frame fits and works better than the trek 5500. who knew?

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Like the ‘toon, and I my one bike is close to your description of one bike to rule them all. Mine is a ten speed and has disc brakes, but other than that meets your criteria. I have the Niner mountain bike on consignment at my LBS, but no bites on it yet. If your still have your SOMA Double Cross, it is probably close to your “one bike” ideal. I would pay cash money to see the Mad Dog garage with only one bike in it. Herself would walk in and faint straight away figuring you had lost what was left of your mind. Or, you had gone on walkabout, as in walking across the country.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m close on a bunch of bikes. One Soma Saga has the drivetrain, but not the brakes. The other Saga has the brakes but not the drivetrain. The Nobilette won’t take fat rubber, and the Steelman Eurocrosses likewise, plus no fender/rack mounts.

      The Voodoo Nakisi covers almost all the bases, but it’s a triple crankset.

      I must need another bike. …

  7. Larry T. atCycleItalia Says:

    At some point you end up figuring you have enough stuff but not enough time. That’s when marketing-mavens pretty much forget about you unless it’s OTC drugs, adult diapers or hearing aids. The bike biz is tryin’ though: I read a comment somewhere from a dolt who wrote he can’t wait to get old so he can get hisself one o’ them E-Treks roadracers that looks just like a non-E Trek roadracer. Ya can even take the battery and motor out so it weighs just 10 kgs!
    Do these people think they’re gonna fool anyone when they zoom past not breaking a sweat? Otherwise, why is all the E-stuff so cleverly hidden?

    • David Rees Says:

      Larry I agree that buying an e-bike so you can rocket by your riding partners – and/or strangers – undetected is sad, and stupid. But, there is a legitimate market for them, in albeit small numbers I think. I will be touching 70 next year and am thinking of getting one. I’ve had type 2 diabetes for 12 years and am now battling rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia which is killing my stamina and strength. An e-bike will keep me outside, cycling and moving. And I ain’t foolin’ anyone.

      • SAO’ Says:

        Like we said here a billion times, the bottom line with e-bikes is that they are inevitable. There’s zero cost to innovate. When we’re smoking electric cigarettes, i would think it’s obvious that if one can stick a battery on something, we will stick a battery on something. So the question isn’t whether. It’s just how and when. And even if they only sell three of them, that’s fine — it’s three more than they would have sold otherwise.

        So e-bikes … done deal. The next question is simply implementation. And again, zero barriers to entry. So why not sell the urban commuter to this guy, the grocery hauler to the next guy, and the fitness assistant to the next?

        It’s a serious waste of time to worry about motives. Maybe it’s greed. Or maybe it’s survival. Or maybe just lazy innovating. But usually, it’s just the market’s inevitable grasp as low hanging fruit.

        And if one person rides one extra mile because of some new fangled (or old fangled ) gizmo, then I’m all for it. Sign me up.

        • Larry T. atCycleItalia Says:

          David might be the exception but I fear for my personal safety (but am comforted by the idea these https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/domane-plus/ and similar contraptions will go the way of the fat bike) when nitwits get out there not only without the legs to go a sustained 28 mph (higher than the average speed in LeTour) but without the other skills needed. If someone rides up next to me on an internal-combustion powered 2-wheeler I want to get away from them ASAP for the same reasons. I don’t think motorized 2-wheelers are a good mix with the ones that depend solely on you to make ’em go unless you know the riders are highly skilled.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          SAO speaks the truth: E-bikes are here, and like most of the rest of the e-stuff, they will not be going away. But knowing that won’t stop me from yearning for the days when we had dumber products and smarter people.

          ’Scuse me, I gotta go swap out the AAA bat’ry in my ChapStick. I can’t watch “Mr. Robot” on it anymore.

          • Larry T. atCycleItalia Says:

            As I suggested to someone else: Get back to me in 5 years or so and let’s see how many of these Pinarello Nytro-type things are still in the bike makers catalogs.
            E-bikes that provide transportation and sub for automobiles (especially the internal combustion kind) I hope are here to stay, but these $6500+ toys will go the way of the fat bike….spider condo!

          • SAO' Says:

            $6500? That’s a steal. Trek wants $14,000 for their downhiller.

          • SAO' Says:

            Can I charge my book on your phone?

            No, sorry, I’m charging my cigarette right now.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I see the value of e-bikes and cargo bikes for a subset of the cycling population — cyclists who need an assist, and the committed types who want to shed a car and do their business on the bike.

      But I think that these will be passing fancies for a lot of buyers.

      And gravel bikes? Seems like the cyclocross bike of the moment. Remember when everybody and his granny was doing a cyclocross bike, when the rest of us had been getting along just fine for years by buying a frameset and bulding it up with whatever?

      The market got flooded real fast, and God only knows how many mass-produced ’cross bikes wound up as spider condos in garages.

      David, I hear that rheumatoid arthritis is a real bitch. How are you getting along?

      • David Rees Says:

        The meds I’m on have got the crippling pain under control now, but I just hurt, all over, all day. Wine, dope and the very occasional Tramadol get me through it. Cycling, which is all I’ve ever done for exercise the last 50 some odd years, keeps me at least somewhat sane. I have friends that would dispute that claim…

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        It’s true what they say: Getting older is not for sissies. At least you have the really bad pain at arm’s length. And you can still ride. Keep getting out there, whether fully self-powered or battery-assisted. Whatever it takes.

        A friend with cancer just got out for his first walk since beginning treatment. He covered a block. The meds are helping him, too, but one of them is messing with his appetite, which he doesn’t need, having lost 35 pounds.

        I’ve been fortunate so far. All of my ailments are minor — asthma, allergies, bad back, bum vision — and they’ve been around so long they feel like family.

      • Larry T. atCycleItalia Says:

        “Spider condos”? I love that!!! A “feature” of this E-Trek is you can yank out the battery and motor – and then pedal around on a $6500 10+ kg carbon bicycle…..or….have a really expensive spider condo in your garage – next door to the fat bike you don’t ride anymore.

  8. ryansubike Says:

    That is why I love old steel, so simple even a hack like me can maintain it no electronic shifting, hydraulics or discs for this guy heck I just started fiddling with SIS indexed shifting lol

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m regressing. As the STI fails I drift back to bar-cons, either indexed or friction. Still using Shimano 600 deraileurs, brakes, and hubs on a few bikes, too.

      Shimano 600 brake caliper

      • khal spencer Says:

        600’s were good brakes. I have a set of 105’s on the CAAD5 that I bought at least a dozen years ago and they stop as well as I can imagine any brake would stop.

        I have no earthly idea what a “gravel bike” is except a cross bike where they fudged the frame angles slightly to claim it is different from a cross bike. My guess it is 90% marketing hype.

        For me, that Salsa LaCruz is likely more bike than I need for something resembling a cross or gravel bike. Doubt I would know the difference and it rides just fine with 700-32 Richey folding lightweight cross tires or those fat Donnelly 700-40 MSO’s. Guess I am not a discriminating buyer.

  9. silas Little Says:

    I am with figuratively. On the ride off the back.

  10. Herb from Michigan Says:

    POG nailed my favorite ride-my Rivendell Joe Appaloosa. Cept I have a triple up front and upright style bars. Go anywhere-do anything. Yup it’s a tad porky and not easy to carry up and down stairs, and I would try riding it down them, but there’s a wicked turn I don’t think I could clean. My second fav ride is an old Breezer Uptown 8 with internal gears, dynamo lights, fenders the works. It got pressed into service for 20 miler yesterday since it hit 50 degrees here! Still patches of snow and ice on the bike path but who could resist? I will say the aluminum frame on the Uptown is far from the compliant ride of the Riv. Of course the wheelbase of the Riv is a lot longer and those looong chainstays make for some cushy cruisin. ALL bikes are good IMO except the ones that never get ridden.

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