First World Problems

Oooh, ShinySo, I was the lucky day 6 winner in Nashbar’s Holiday giveaway, and I’m now the proud owner of a pair of Vuelta Nine 29″ wheels. They’re dandy. I would have taken pictures last night, but was deeply engaged in preparations for our Festivus open house (tonight at my place; drop me a line if you want to crash).

Anyhoo, my troubles are simple: I don’t have a 29″ mountain bike.

My options are similarly simple:

  • Sell the things on eBay/Craigslist/wherever. This isn’t my preferred option, ’cause I’ll not get anywhere near what they’re worth. But, cash is cash.
  • Let them take up space in my basement
  • Keep them and build a bike. I haven’t ridden singletrack in almost a year (My hardtail keeps looking at me from the wall of the garage), so I probably wouldn’t build up a 29er MTB, but the thought of a drop bar disc brake commuter bike is really, really tempting to me. Anyone have frame suggestions? The downside on this option is that it might end my marriage.
  • Man, all this stress during Christmas…

    Road Hazard

    Road Hazard

    Georgeous day to ride in this morning, despite temps starting at about 30 F (-1 C). My only regret was not putting on a wind-proof layer on my torso – any speed over 15 mph was painful regardless of the amount of work I was putting into it. No sweat at all, though.

    December is shaping up to be a great month – four days commuting on the bike last week, two days this week (with Friday as a rotating day off on which I’ll get bonus ride), and a week of vacation at the end of the month.

    I think I’ve licked the cold weather thing. The toughest part of the challenge is in preventing sweating – nothing worse than putting on wet clothes for the ride home and not warming up at all. But wind-proof gloves and a balaclava seem to do well enough on keeping frostbite off the ears and fingertips. My feet, I think, will just be cold. For half an hour it’s survivable in coastal Connecticut.

    The rack is worth its weight in gold – so nice not to have to have weight on my back. Nicer is not having an excuse to drive just in case I need to stop by the store to pick up milk (or wine!) on my way home.

    Lights for my use aren’t a problem – I’ve got two NiteRider Minewt USB sets, one on the handlebars / stem, and one on my helmet.

    Visibility to drivers is still my main concern. I’ve got reflectors and a couple of LED blinky lights on my bike, but still feel relatively invisible. I’m adding a reflective vest, but would love suggestions. Vittoria Randonneur tires with the reflective stripes leap out at me, but I’m less than 500 miles into wearing out the tires that came on the bike, and am trying (really) to be cheap about the commuter bike. The good folks at Mystic Cycle Center sent me off to the hardware store for reflective tape to wrap around the frame. But it’s good to be thinking ahead.

    Snow hasn’t fallen yet – we’ll see how that changes my attitude.


    Days made for fenders

    Today’s a day when modern fabrics are worth their weight in dollar bills. Which is pretty much what they cost. It’s also a day when fenders make up for looking dorky on sunny days. I swear that, even when rain is falling, fenders keep the lower half of my body dry.

    Truth be told, I’m happier on the bike, regardless of the weather than I am on the treadmill.

    Actually, this picture’s deceptively dismal looking – this morning’s ride in was in the mid-50’s, and not really raining, just foggy. Road was slick from last night’s deluge, with more deluge coming down while I was at work. It’s supposed to go back to being foggy again for the ride home, but I’m starting to think that the ‘loom’ off of my lights is much more effective in the fog than on a clear night.

    But there’s 14 more days of fall before true winter commuting starts. I’m hoping that I get my first snowflakes on a commute on Friday afternoon.

    *Harden The Flab Up, of course. What did you think it meant?

    EDIT – Pouring all the way home. 30 minutes, and I looked like a drowned cat. Squeezed a pint out of my gloves alone.

    This one goes to 11. But I don’t think I will (anytime soon)

    BikeHugger has a good post up congratulating SRAM for not immediately jumping to 11 speeds on their road gear after Shimano went to 11. I’ve got to say I’m pretty much in agreement:

    Going from 7sp to 8sp was good, but 9sp to 10sp was marginal.

    My first road bike was a department store Huffy with 10 speeds (2×5) with friction shifters on the stem. Man, I thought that was the snot – flew on that one, including a drunken midnight 15 miler over to K. Chad Hauser’s (my boyhood friend and idol) house one weekend while my folks were out of town. But, much like learning to drive on a stick shift car, there was a lot of grinding gears on that one.

    After that, I picked up a mountain bike between my junior and senior years of college – a fully rigid Trek 930 with Shimano Exage? trigger shifters – magic, until I smashed the front shifter with my knee going over a rock wall about 5 years later. Parts everywhere. Limped back to the car in the big ring, learning all sorts of humility. Freaked out at the bike shop – $50 to replace with XT? Heck, no, give me an indestructible thumb lever. 2×7, I think, though I overhauled it with LX the better part of a decade ago. Cheaper to go to 9 speed than to source vintage parts. And with a steel frame, I could stretch the rear triangle without too much trouble. It’s my vacation bike – drag it up to Stowe each summer, and pull the kids or the picnic basket along the bike trail.

    My first ‘real’ road bike was a 10 year old Trek that I picked up while Lance was winning his first Tour de France – 7 speed down tube shifters, indexed. Loved that arrangement – there was no “can’t find it, grind it”, like with my high school 10 speed, but there were definitely gaps in the gearing. Indexing on the big ring was kind of iffy, too – probably I was just inept at tuning the drivetrain. But, man, you really had to avoid even the appearance of crossover.

    After about 3 years on the Trek, I bought what’s still my favorite bike in the stable – a Cannondale R700 with full 9-speed 105. Man, was this the stuff – didn’t have to pull the hands off of the bars to shift, plenty of continuity in gearing, and going from the small ring to the big ring didn’t have to be a huge commitment – I’ve found there’s a pretty consistent two-cog difference between the big and small rings, and if I’m iffy, I can always flick my right wrist, and fix stuff.

    This fall, I picked up a Nashbar ‘cross bike on which to commute, but mostly ’cause it was one of the cheapest ways to get a 10 speed 105 group. And, I’ll admit, I’m pretty much in love with the 5700 incarnation of Shimano 105. The couple of awkward gearings near the big cogs are gone (I’ll caveat here that I’m a wuss, and have been running a 12-27 or 28 rear cluster on my Cannondale since about 2004); having all the cables run under the bar tape is superb, and it’s been the easiest drivetrain to adjust that I’ve ever dealt with. Part of the joy may be in riding on new STI levers – the 9 speed right lever on the Cannondale is getting pretty sloppy. But I think, somewhere around 700 miles in, that I like it. A lot.

    Trouble is, I don’t see the push to go to 11. Frankly, I was skeptical about going to 10 from 9, but whatever. Parts availability is about the only thing that could will get me to move (see putting LX on the 930). But I’m already putting aside cash for the 5700 closeout sales – then I can be one of those annoying NOS guys on eBay.

    How do we balance the need to get good gear with business models that rely on a constant upgrade cycle? I love the integrated brake/shifter concept, but a test ride on MicroShift convinced me that relying on them for 9-speed backfill wouldn’t make me happy, and 9 speed 105 is more expensive than 10 speed 105 at this point. I’m sure that 11 speed whatever rides like a dream – but upgrading’s the better part of a new mid-range bike, plus cassettes for winter wheels, etc.

    So, I’m not excited. Or interested. Much like electronic shifting, I just don’t get it.

    A question that continues to gnaw on me, though – at what point can we go to 1×11, or 1×12?