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Firefly 1288

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This is my pleasure reading.

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1992 Specialized Epic: My First Really High End Bike

I got this at the tail end of high school in 1992 having paid for it by working on the bike shop, the fabled (and now a Trek store) City Bicycle Works. Working there was a lot of fun and I rode this bike through college. It has seen me in better days. It is now retired and hanging as a frameset in my garage. The attachment is not so strong that I feel a need to rebuild it. I have nicer bikes that could use groups anyway.

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From the Wayback Machine: Apartment Living

I had an eat-in kitchen that was bike storage. This was ca. 2006-2007

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My Favorite Bike: Moots RSL Disc

I’ll write about this more, but so far this is my favorite bike of all time. Partly due to the disc brakes and maybe also to the rest of the bike, it feels more stable and like I’m more in control.

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Cannondale SuperSix

The story of this bike dates back to the early 1990s when I first became acquainted with Cannondale as a young cyclist. I remember being in awe starting at a bike built with 105 and a 3.0 frameset circa 1990 since that was around the pinnacle of technology and lightweight at the time. In spite of my early fascination, I never found myself particularly obsessed over Cannondales because they were aluminum while titanium was coming into fashion as a premium bike material beyond the traditional steel. At the time, carbon had not yet taken off as a popular building material.

Although I always followed Cannondale, including it is interesting alumni and carbon Six-13, I never really considered a Cannondale as a bike for myself. This was in part due to the fact that I didn’t have the means to have multiple bikes and already had one (maybe more than just one).

The story of this particular bike (a 2011) dates back to roughly 2005-2006 when, for the first time as an adult with stable employment, I started overdoing it a bit on bikes. Around that time I picked up a Calfee Dragonfly. It rode really well and was gorgeous. Eventually, Cannondale came out with the SuperSix, a hot new carbon bike. Better yet, Cannondale became a team (ok, really just a club but we like to pretend) sponsor and there was an opportunity to get an exciting new bike with a team paint job. As that was more exciting to me than the Calfee, I traded in (sold, but traded in sounds better) my Calfee to fund the Cannondale.

My first Cannondale was one of the last built in the U.S. Unfortunately, it cracked and I got a warranty replacement, however, it was just a standard paint job. Come the fall of 2010 there was another opportunity to get one with a team paint job. As before, I sold my old one and splurged to get the new SuperSix Hi-Mod with a SRAM Red group. The 2011 was the last year that Cannondale built the SuperSix with a BB30 bottom bracket before switching to PF30 when introducing the Evo.

Although I rode this bike less frequently with time, I did upgrade it to a 6800 group and it has become a fond memory of my years with Swami’s cycling and the many great rides I’ve had on it. For now, it joins the rotation as one of my coffee rides bikes and gets other occasional uses.

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The Coffee Rider Collection: Parlee Z1

This is the first installment of the Coffee Rider Collection, which is a series about bikes I own or have owned.

The first bike is this series is my Parlee Z1, which I’ve twice toyed with selling when something else was about to come in. 

The story of this bike starts in roughly 2003-2004 when I first learned of Parlee as the bike Tyler Hamilton was riding instead of his Team CSC Cervelo. I didn’t know much about Parlee at that time other than it was a small builder out of the Boston area.  Naturally, I became intrigued about this bike that was so special as to displace a perfectly good team bike. At that time, I just filed it under something interesting. In 2004 or 2005 my friend Albert (who dabbles around the bike industry and generally gets industry discounts as he did on this one) picked up a Parlee Z1 (level top tube) and had his name and red polka dots under the clear coat. He loved it and I lusted after it.  Since borrowing it wasn’t an option due to a roughly 6-inch height difference, the only way I could ride on was to get my own. Not only was there the cost involved, but there was also fit. The Z1 and “lesser” Z2 only came in sizes that were a bit too big for me, so a Parlee wasn’t an option anyway.

Fast forward a few months and Parlee introduced the Z3, which had a sloping top tube and would fit me. Acting irrationally and despite already owning a few bikes and having recently spent too much on bikes, I decided that I needed to get one, so I did. The Parlee Z3 was my favorite bike for a long time, and I ultimately had it reconfigured for electronic shifting and ultimately sold it. I became quite the Parlee fan ultimately owning a Z4 and then a Z5 (my first bike with a 9000) group until, one day, I saw this listed by John Hunt on the Velocipede Salon as something a friend of his was selling.

I clearly loved Parlees and had always coveted a Z1, but was this for real? A used Z1 (they were about $7500 new at the time) in a size that would fit me? I only wanted the frameset due to the cost of the complete bike and the fact that I was a tad bit of a retro grouch in terms of not being sold on electronic shifting. Nonetheless, I wanted this so badly that I decided to buy it complete even though I didn’t “need” the electronic shifting.  A wrinkle developed in the process. After I mailed the check, the seller had second thoughts about selling since he like it so much. Fortunately, he reconsidered, I got the bike, and he presumably got the Moots he was selling it to fund. 

After 7 years and several sets of wheels, I still adore this bike. It’s beautiful and rides well. A lot has changed since got my first Parlee and even since I got this bike. Indeed, Parlee is now considered one of the top carbon builders (it builds its top models in house) in the world. As with most other bikes of its era, it only takes 25mm tires, which are still plenty good for road riding.  I listed it for sale a year ago when a custom frameset showed up and almost sold it at one point, though the buyer blew the deal and I decided it meant too much to me to sell it. As such, I kept it and it fit even better once I adjusted my position after getting a new professional fit. I am again toying with selling it since I now have a disc Moots, which I like better, though the question I ask myself is what the Parlee is worth to me. Thus far, it’s still worth more to me than it is to anyone else. If I keep it indefinitely, so be it. It’s been amortized and will never be any less of a bike no matter what else I get.

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First Thoughts on 9200

The Shimano 9200 group was officially unveiled today and yet my life does not feel incomplete without having one or even one on order or even one finally decided for building up a specific frameset. Still, I look forward to having one for one of two possible builds that “accounting issues” seem to indicate should not be purchased until next year. I just hope the braking is almost as good as Campagnolo, which is way better than the 9170 shifters. I’ll occupy my mind with thoughts of this as opposed to the millions of people who stubbornly refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine and thereby expose the rest of us to the consequences of their unreasonable idiocy. It’s not just unreasonable and not just idiocy, but it is a truly equal marriage of the two.

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Musings from an Airplane in a Stream-of-Consciousness Format

This blog has been dormant for a while, largely because I started it to write about coffee rides and cycling equipment.

I started writing this entry on a delayed cross-country flight returning from a funeral that will leave me arriving home a day late. Also, I apparently lost my headphones, finished the book I’d been reading, and am not going to fall asleep anytime soon, so I figured I might as well do something productive.  My goal for this flight is to write whatever comes to mind and not edit or overthink it. I overthink my writing for work, so it’s going to feel liberating to write stream of consciousness and publish a first draft to see how it goes. At work this would never happen, but outside of work, I can be daring. In my writing. Of course, the level of daring is relative and laughable in the context of life and the book I just finished entitled “Agent Sonya” about a Soviet spy.

My reading is almost exclusively nonfiction and generally focused on history. I have a fascination with understanding the Cold War because I grew up in the tail end of it and history classes always seemed to include the postwar period as an etcetera. Whether it was a desire to keep things generally noncontroversial (we’re always the good guys) or they just ran out of time and didn’t want to edit are unclear to me. Regardless, I like learning about how what I thought I knew the way things were was not accurate.  The book humanized Ursula (her real name) and painted a complex picture of Soviet spies. The people featured in the book didn’t undertake their actions for personal gain, but rather conviction, even though the actual practice of Soviet communism turned out to be something very different from their principles.  When you look at things outside the prism the context of a patriotic child of the cold war, who thought we had an obligation to support the Nicaraguan Contras because they were against the communists, things get more interesting, especially when one comes to accept that we were on the wrong side of things at times. I know I’ve gone off on a tangent,  so I’m going to return my thoughts to cycling and bikes.

With Covid, the coffee rides went out the window and I only rode with one other person, and we rarely stopped for coffee.

In addition, there is also the lack of new things to write about and projects in queue are moving slowly.  For example, I really want to build up and write about the Cherubim, but alas I cannot get my hands on the parts needed to build it up as it is quite difficult to get ahold of Campagnolo (or most any for that matter) components these days and I can’t imagine building up the Cherubim with SRAM. For what it’s worth, I could see maybe doing it with the new Dura-Ace, which has not yet been released and most likely won’t be available to me at any price for quite some time. While Velonews, Cyclingnews and Cyclingtips will undoubtedly get loaners if they have not already, someone like me can only test and write about it by shelling out the cash for it and I don’t think I’ll be able to pull any strings to even get it at anything less than full price. Even then, just getting ahold of an aftermarket group in the near future will be quite a challenge. Therefore, I’m most likely going to stick with my original plan of building it with Super Record EPS DB and hopefully Bora WTO 45 wheels.  I realize they won’t make me faster and that the Shamal carbon wheels are a better value, but who really wants to see a frameset built by one of the best builders and adorned with the best components with a “value” set of wheels. Such is the world bike snobbery in which I live in which Campagnolo Shamal carbon wheels are just not quite enough to make the first choice for a build. Of course, by saying this it means I likely will end up having to go with something other than my first choice of wheels, but I know I’ll get no sympathy. Plus, wouldn’t you rather read about the halo parts on a halo bike?

I started riding in the fall of 1988 and have been riding ever since then save for a few breaks due to school, etc.  Part of the reason that I’m obsessed with top end bike stuff was because I started as a teenager and that was all out of reach, but now I can have some really nice stuff, though I’ve noticed my tastes have gotten more expensive (or refined I’d prefer to say) with time. At this point in  life and my cycling career, I’m no longer interested in mass market bikes, even though you can get the leading edge of technology that way. Although you get the latest in technology, you are just getting a mass-produced bike that will no longer be the latest and greatest once there is a newer version of it or newer model. Just think about how an F8 is now so much less cool now that there’s been an F10 and F12 without even considering the F12 has not been surpassed. Now, you likely cannot tell any real difference between these models if all else is the same, but if you are dropping that kind of coin, don’t you some cachet this will last a bit longer? I don’t think of it the same way as a car: a Ferrari will always be a Ferrari but an F8 is just bike that was carried a premium price when new.  I realize that bikes and cars aren’t the best comparison, but I get more enjoyment from my bikes than I would a Ferrari and I’ve come to accept that a Ferrari isn’t going to happen in this lifetime. I’m actually fine with that since, notwithstanding the issue of cost, they are too much of a grab for attention. Will I change my mind if I ever have enough money that I can comfortably afford one, inclusive of maintenance? Maybe, but I’ll worry about that if it ever happens. Plus, there are worse things than getting called out for than saying how don’t ever see yourself in a Ferrari and then changing your mind once you’re rich, because I’ll be rich if that happens, and I’ll get over your criticism by driving my Ferarri and contemplating my good fortune in having more money than sense, though I’ll be able to explain why a Ferrari is actually sensible in my particular situation. It’s still not as bad as a nice boat or airplane, both of which you need to be like a Bond villain.  Of course, you also need a ginormous house, elaborate schemes, and lots of henchmen.  By the way, one way of knowing you’re up to no good is that you have henchmen. Face it, if you’re on the level, you don’t need them. You might need security, but that’s purely defensive 

Now that you know I don’t have a Ferrari, don’t expect to ever get one, and am fine with that, I’ll return to my less expensive hobby of cycling.  Unlike expensive cars, a really nice bike isn’t screaming out for attention since so few people will know what it is anyway. While most cyclists know the big brands, only a small percentage know the boutique builders and even if they know a few, it’s just a sliver. For example, I think a reasonable percentage of people who are into nice bikes know Parlee, but very few know Crumpton. I’m not personally interested in mass market bikes since they are all pretty good, but pretty much the same.  When you get a mass market bike, you are paying a huge premium for the branding. From my perspective, the great differentiating factor between high-end mass-market bikes is generally going to be what you can get the best deal on, assuming fit is not an issue. While they have their differences, I don’t think one can really say that a Specialized is any better/less good than a Trek/Cannondale, etc. The more bikes advance, the more they seem to converge.  I suppose I’m the kind of snob who appreciates having something that’s made for me that most people won’t even know what it is. To me it’s kind of like having an exotic sports car that only I and a very rare subset of people even notice. Plus, all that really matters to me is that I appreciate it and enjoy it. I can ride something exotic yet under the radar at the same time. Perhaps it’s like having clothing by a designer so exclusive that almost no one can even recognize it. Even though most people don’t know what a Pagani is, if you see one you’ll know you are looking at some type of exotic sports car. Even if you’re into bikes, you see a Cherubim and most likely don’t know what it is. Of course, one cannot say it is inherently better than a bike made by another good builder, but I appreciate the work of people who are well-respected by their peers who are far more knowledgeable than I could ever be. 

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Ending the Year with a Clean Chain

I did my first ever Festive 500 this year and finished in 6 days. I did it all on one bike and gave it a good bath today. It’s important to keep your drivetrain clean. It stays quiet, lasts much longer, and looks nice. It’s important to figure out a system that works for you. I use Morgan Blue cleaner, which is no longer sold in the U.S. but which I now get from England. I spray it on the chain, run the chain and cassette through a brush and then let it sit for a bit. Afterwards, I hose it down and run it through a rag and let it dry before lubing the chain with NFS. It also helps if you wipe down the chain after every ride, which I don’t do often enough.

There was so much more I wanted to write about this year, but it has been a challenge. On the plus side, this year has been good in terms of getting my hands on some great bikes for articles and future articles. It’s hard to write about this stuff without actually having your hands on it and being able to ride it. If I don’t consider all the bad things from 2020, it was pretty good. The biggest things were that I was able to build up the Moots and have been a long–term run with Campagnolo Super Record EPS disc brake. It’s certainly expensive, but it just feels so good. Of course, it feels all the better since the Moots is so nice and, coincidentally, easy to keep clean.

I’ll hopefully be writing and riding more in 2021. In terms of gear, I’ll be more focused on long-term reviews and since I seem to have to buy the things I want to write about, I’m not planning on building up anything in 2021 since I see no point in writing about stuff that’s about to be replaced.