Friday, October 17, 2008

What I'll Be Wearing This Winter

Remember last winter?

It'll be here again before you know it. I've been thinking about it for months. Last year, I quit riding in Jan and Feb. That bugs the hell out of me and this year I wanna do better. I'm motivated and for maybe the first time in my life, I've actually planned ahead.

Winter riding is a real challenge and not something that you can master in one season, IMO. Every year I have a new theory, complete with new gear. This year is no exception.

There was an epic local discussion about winter riding a while back on the Cycling Spokane Forum. I'm sure there are lots of hard-core winter riders around, but three that I am personally acquainted with that walk the walk - Mike, John and Joe - chimed in and I paid close attention to what they said. It reinforced a lot of what I have learned from my own experience and read elsewhere.

And so I set out to define the bike necessary to mount my assault on Spokane Winter 08-09. The list of wants and needs:
  • Mechanical disc brakes (non-negotiable)
  • Fat, floaty tire capability (non-negotiable)
  • Internal gear hub (negotiable, but not very)
  • 29er (negotiable)
  • Dyno hub (negotiable)
  • Steel frame (negotiable)
  • Bombproof and low-maintenance (fairly non-negotiable)
  • Some sense of style (non-negotiable)

I looked at what was available in stock bikes. Everything on my list was available, just not on the same bike. Stuck between the 29er MTB and city bike categories. Once again invoking the greatly over-used "you only live once . . ." justification, I decided to go ahead and build it. Or rather, let Scott at NDBS build it for me.

The frame choice was easy - local guys Joe and Jon both have Karate Monkeys and seem to really like 'em. The internet is plastered with happy KM campers. Definitely the frame for me.

A Rohloff 14-speed rear hub coupled with Schmidt dyno front would have been the bomb, but I'm not working with that kind of budget. I found out that Shimano makes a group called Alfine that, as far as I can tell, is very similar to the Nexus. The Alfine rear is an 8-speed and the front is a standard 6V/3W dyno. And it's available in black. Cool. More geared toward the commuting and cruiser markets than MTBers, but from what I could find out I think it's relatively robust. If I blow it up, I blow it up.

And I would need Avid BB7 brakes. I gave Scott my budget and let him fill in the rest of the blanks. The only other thing we spent a little time on together was the bars. I considered doing midge or moustache or something along those lines, but decided I really wanted to stay with a mountain-style bar for the time being. Something with sweep and some sense of ergonomics would be nice, though. We finally ran across the Titec H-bars. Perfect.

The build was plagued with pesky little problems. The forks fell out of the box in transit, lost forever. Had to order new ones. Rims that were no longer available. Parts coming in the wrong color. On and on. Scott began to refer to it as the bike that didn't want to be put together. But he kept at it. I've been super busy, so it was easy to be patient. That is, until he emailed me pictures on Thursday night. They got me badly jonesin'. All we were waiting for was the shifter. If it came in Friday, he could finish it up. It did and he did. Driving to the bike shop to pick up your new ride is a damn nice way to end the work week.

I wear the pants in my house and I proclaimed that this bike would spend it's first night in the living room. Luckily, Patty granted me permission.

Here it is, the way I picked it up. 28 lbs. Not bad for a tough steel bike with internal gear and dyno hubs. This is the last time it will look this way. The saddle, tires and pedals are temporary. Lights to wire, racks to install. Lots of fun tinkering ahead.

I would have preferred just about any color but black. So naturally, my choices were black and black. All the blue '08s are gone and the red '09s won't be ready until sometime in December.
Black it is then. And as long as I'm going there, I might as well go stealth.What about riding a pitch black bike in the dark doesn't make sense?Hey, it'll stand out against the snow, right?

Planet Bike Super Flash. Black body version. Sweet.

I love the new Cateye Strada Wireless. This is my third one. Super easy to set up, and even simpler to use. Even with gloves on. Just the basic data. They did this one right.

As I was tightening the last cable tie just before 11:00, I realized that we were out of sour cream and mozarella cheese. Holy krap! I don't hunt, but I take my gathering responsibility very seriously. No way I would feel right waking up tomorrow without these things in the house. I was gonna have to go out and get the job done. It was warm last night - perfect for flip-flops on the platform pedals that will soon be going away.

I extended my journey by (sub-consciously?) forgetting my wallet. Home again. Back again. Looks pretty good in my standard parking spot at Super 1. (The best bike rack that's not a bike rack.)

I would like to tell you that it was the best ride of my like, but it wasn't. Good, but not great. The gearing isn't right. The Paselas are wrong for this bike. All kinds of shakedown stuff that will be fun to sort through. But I already have mad love for two things about this bike - the frame geometry and the bars. Good times ahead.


John Speare said...

Pat: sounds like a bitchin bike. I knew you were brewing something special. you've been so coy lately. When the newness wears off, I'd love to take it for a spin. i'll be gentle!

Elijah said...

man! to have a steady income. I've been hunting through landfills and good wills trying to assemble myself a bike. Now i know why I'm going to college, to get a job someday so i can buy bike stuff.
P.S. Love the house blog as well!

Pat S said...

John, I'd be disappointed if you didn't take it for a ride.

Eli, a job to buy bike stuff is a noble aspiration! Just make sure that you reserve plenty of time to ride. Don't get sucked into the vortex!!! I hear you've been hangin' with some fixie dudes in Seattle. We need to talk. I'm trying to find a fun bike messenger culture book for you that I read a while back. We'll be in touch.

liza said...

yup, that's the rack i use at super 1 as well. i hate the old school bike rack they have there. i haven't asked them to get a new bike rack. have you? do you think it would make a difference if we did?

cool bike, btw

Pat S said...

Liza, I'm so happy with the cart corral that I haven't given that crappy rack a second thought for a long time, other than to always look and see what bikes are parked there. Now that you bring it up, it would be fun to ask . . . think I will.