I recommend you do, too, because it's a very exciting time here in New York City and I talk about it all. Mainly, drivers have been killing cyclist at an alarming rate, and in response the NYPD has announced they'll be cracking down on the most dangerous driver infractions. In practice, this basically means they've been running Citi Bikers off the road "for [their] safety:"
So yeah, as you can see, things are going just great on this end.
Secondly, speaking of my radio show, it means that for the first time in awhile I have to commute again just like the rest of you schmucks. Granted, it's only once a week, but in my defense I've grown weak and soft and could not possibly be expected to commute five days a week at this point in my life. Indeed, as the World's Greatest Living Cycling Writer (And Broadcaster) I need to be incubated as much as possible with my brain soaking in Palmolive and the comforts of home at arm's length at all times.
Still, my one (1) commuting day does involve riding the nearly 20 miles each way between the Bronx and Brooklyn, and so when a marketing person reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to try some bikey bags I readily accepted. See, now that I'm a broadcaster, I have to travel with my laptop and a voice recorder just in case and of course my horns and whoopee cushions and other assorted novelty noisemakers so I can make wacky sounds while I'm on the air.
Anyway, the bikey bags in question are from a Canadian company called "Two Wheel Gear." And the bags I got are this one:
At this point in my life I'm just too old and dorky to care about how...well, dorky I may look riding a circa-2007 Fixed Gear Gallery entry come to life. Anyway, it's a fun bike, it's got eyelets for a rear rack, and sometimes you just need a no-frills bike you can ride in sneakers. Also, I have to admit that if I see yet another fucking earth tone gravel bike I'm going to puke, so in a way riding a mail-order fixie with white rims is my own personal act of rebellion.
In any case, yesterday I finally got around putting a rack on the State, which was a straightforward affair other than the fact that I had to file down the very bottoms of the rack stays a few millimeters to clear the great big integrated washers on the rear axle nuts. After mounting both bags on the bike I decided I liked the profile of the briefcase better, and so that's what I used.
Oh, and naturally it was raining this morning, which meant I got to use the rain cover that comes with the bag:
Here's the bag without the cover:
Now I should say that a bike like this--short wheelbase, lots of toe overlap, etc.--isn't ideal for using with panniers. If you're going to load a bike up you want some stability. (I was once ejected from the Ironic Orange Julius Bike after I ran over a plastic water bottle and an overloaded pannier flipped me over onto my side like a runner coming into home plate, and that's a much more stable bike than the State.) Even so, the State did handle the weight just fine (though I wouldn't attempt to carry much more than I did), and I experienced absolutely no heel strike. If you're wondering, here's what I had in my bag:
Bike repair essentials (tube, patches, tire levers, mini pump, multi tool)
Laptop and power cable (I've gone from a MacBook to a Chromebook and I haven't looked back)
Voice recorder just in case
Windbreaker just in case
Extra t-shirt just in case
And I think that about covers it.
Oh, and the clip system was indeed highly convenient, and disengaging the bag was (don't type snap don't type snap) ...a snap:
And, most importantly, it rained pretty much the whole way there and about half the ride back home, and my cheap Chromebook and everything else stayed perfectly dry.
So there you go.
Durability and so forth remains to be seen, and I haven't tried the backpack, but so far the briefcase is promising.
I hadn't worn them years, but this morning I mended a tear in the crotch seam and put them back into service, and I kind of feel like a schmuck for waiting this long because they're pretty comfy. And they still had sand in the pockets!
And when I say exact I really mean it. Not only did I leave at the same time as yesterday, but I also wore the same jorts!
So what did these two rides reveal? Well, the SWB is indeed a more nimble and playful bike, whereas the LWB is smoother and more stable. Going up steep climbs, taking tight turns, and riding smooth, undulating sections of trail is a bit more fun on the SWB, whereas riding over logs and rough patches is a bit easier on the LWB. At the same time, it's not like one does a certain thing that much better than the other, so while it all comes down to preference it's also not like you can really go wrong.
Or, if you prefer overblown bike review metaphors, look at it this way:
The LWB is like galloping through the woods on a horse, while the SWB is like ripping through the woods on a wild boar. On one you're sitting higher up and stepping over everything with grace, while on the other you're closer to the ground and being led by your snout--and I mean that in the best possible way, except that you will occasionally thwack your pendulous boar testis on a root or rock, since as we established yesterday the SWB is more prone to pedal strike.
All of the above is a bit unfair however, because as I mentioned the differences between them are ultimately not that stark, and the two bikes overlap way more than they don't.
So which would I choose? After all, Jones isn't going to let me hang onto two bikes forever. Well, yesterday I thought it would be the LWB, but after today I'm less certain, though I am very slightly still leaning that way since I do like the more generous proportions of the LWB and I also value my testis. But it ain't over 'til the wild boar squeals.
Unlike my last foray on this bike, this route is one I've ridden on the SWB many, many times, and so I was able to make a more direct comparison between the two bicycles. While I still plan to undertake some back-to-back rides, my first impression was that the SWB is a slightly "rowdier" bicycle in that it sort of encourages you to lift the wheels up and throw it around, despite its heft. The LWB on the other hand feels smoother and more genteel, and while I was less inclined to throw it around I also didn't really need to since it rolls over rocks and logs so easily.
But while I would not characterize any of the aforementioned differences as earth-shattering, there is one other area in which they do seem to differ fairly significantly, and that is ground clearance. As I've mentioned, my only complaint about the SWB in a mountain bike capacity is that it is prone to pedal strike--I mean I can totally deal with it, but it is a factor here in the land of roots and rocks. Alas, I only had time to ride a portion of Sprain Ridge Park this morning, but it does seem that the LWB is better in this regard. Furthermore, when I got back home I performed a highly scientific test by placing the bikes next to each other with the cranks in the vertical position:
Were the cranks perfectly vertical? Were the bikes even standing perfectly upright? I have no idea. However, based on this cursory comparison it looks like the LWB was almost a pedal's thickness more clearance than the SWB.
The chainring also appears to be quite a bit higher, which would stand to reason because even disregarding the geometry differences the SWB has a 32-tooth chainring and the LWB has a 30-tooth:
Again, standing the bikes next to each other for two seconds is not really the basis for drawing conclusions, and more trail time will reveal just how much of a factor any increased ground clearance is, but so far I do prefer the LWB in that department.
As for smooth dirt and pavement riding where clearance is not a factor, the LWB also feels a bit more road bike-like, most likely due to its proportions. Regardless, what both bikes have in common is that they totally negate any desire I may have felt in the past for a "gravel" bike. The fact is that between a regular road bike for full-on road riding and a Jones for everything else you're totally covered without sacrificing anything. Oh sure, I suppose if you're an ultra-competitive Gravel Fred you might want a crabon pebble chariot with drop bars and a flat-back positioning and all that stuff, but barring that a bike like this is ideal for everything from a mellow mixed-terrain ramble to full-on trail riding. (Plus you can carry all your worldly possessions on it, which quite frankly I'll probably never, ever do.)
Anyway, having typed all that, I reserve the right to flip-flop pending the completion of back-to-back identical rides on both bicycles. So far the only thing I'm completely sure of is you can't go wrong with either.
Still, I'd argue that even I can appreciate the sheer versatility of the Jones, inasmuch as I'm (mostly) a ride-to-the-ride person as opposed to a spend-20-minutes-futzing-with-an-air-compressor-next-to-my-pickup-truck-before-heading-into-the-park-for-a-45-minute-"session" person. See, for me this is the real beauty of the Jones: not only do you enjoy it on the singletrack, but you also enjoy it on the 10 or 15 miles of road you need to ride in order to get there and back. The SWB has been a revelation to me in that department, and I was eager to see how the LWB compared.
My first outing on the LWB was into the wilds of Yonkers this past Friday with my elder son, and all signs pointed to "promising:"
My appetite for fat-tire riding having been whetted, I was eager to undertake a longer adult-sized excursion over the weekend. However, owing to my wife's demanding career I was parenting solo. So how to meet the bike-testing requirements of my own not-at-all-demanding "career?" Well, I popped the Jones LWB on the trusty Saris SuperClamp EX (which accommodated the substantial dimensions of the bicycle with nary a complaint):
Then we headed to my mother's place in Queens where the kids disembarked, and from there I hopped on the Jones and rode to to Cunningham Park, undoubtedly the finest mountain bike trail system within New York City limits. It's a good 10 miles or so from where my mother lives straight through the heart of the city's largest borough, and the ride takes you past storied landmarks such as the Unisphere:
...and, well, that's pretty much the only storied landmark, unless you count the LIE.
Anyway, Queens is a brilliant patchwork of cultures, and undoubtedly one of the most interesting places in the United States if not the entire world. At the same time...well, let's just say it's not exactly the first place you'd choose for a long ride. I mention this because a trans-Queens ride on a hot day (on a bike with 3-inch wide knobby tires no less) has all the makings of a slog, but in this case it didn't feel like a slog at all, and I credit the Jones for this. This is largely due to the comfortable upright position and the multiple hand positions afforded by the bars, but I also wonder if maybe the bigger wheels and longer wheelbase made it feel a bit more "cruisy" and gave it better road manners. Granted, it could have just been new bike excitement, but either way I arrived at Cunningham feeling much fresher than I should have given the high temperatures and the roughly 450,000 traffic lights between the start of my ride and the trailhead:
So how was the Jones on the trail? Well, awhile back one commenter postulated that "I'd imagine the turning radius is ridiculous, making that bike unsuitable for silly-tight singletrack."
Well, it doesn't get more silly-tight than six miles of trail crammed into a park in Queens:
And I'm here to tell you that the LWB carved it up like a tofurkey on a vegan Thanksgiving. Having only ridden Cunningham once on the SWB I'm loath to make any sweeping pronouncements about the differences between the two bikes, but the LBW sidled through even the tightest turns, and it went over those logpiles as gracefully as Fred Astaire. (Fred Astaire was an avid mountain biker, by the way, everyone knows that.) It does feel "bigger" than the SWB of course, but in a good way--it's smooth and stable, whereas the SWB is nimble in a way that makes you want to throw it around despite its substantial heft. Still, to really know the differences between the two bikes I need to take the LWB on my usual SWB routes. Also, my only complaint about the SWB as a full-on mountain bike has been the fact that it's somewhat prone to pedal strike, and I'm very eager to see if the LWB does better in that regard. (Pedal strike certainly wasn't an issue on my Cunningham outing, but it's not particularly rocky there compared to the trails north of the city.)
On top of that, if you're also a moderate drinker, you're basically going through life totally drunk.
Not that I follow my own advice, mind you. Last weekend I loaded up The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back and did a mountain bike race in New Jersey. On top of the registration fee I also spent money for fossil fuels and tolls, not to mention the amount of time I spent sitting on my ass in the car--at least an hour of which involved waiting to cross the George Washington Bridge back into New York City.
In the end, I probably spent like $100 and six hours just to ride my bicycle for an hour and 20 minutes, when in the same amount of time I could have woken up early, hopped on the Jones, and done an "epic" ride up to Blue Mountain and back.
Not that I regret the race, mind you--it's a fun course, and sometimes you've got to put a number on your bike and quantify just how badly you suck--but it's also important to quantify the resources you've squandered in order to do so.
And keep in mind I didn't even address the period of time during which I owned a Saab. Had I sidestepped that pitfall my net worth would probably be at least 50% greater than it is now. (My current net worth is two (2) Jones bicycle and the hatchet Grant Petersen sent me.) I really should build a bike around that hatchet...
In fact this morning as the sun was just peeking over the horizon I headed over the George Washington Bridge and once again encountered a "pesticide"-related road closure:
It's not unusual to find the so-called "River Road" barricaded, and it's common practice among cyclists to disregard them. However, I've been riding on River Road for over 20 years, yet only now do I seem to be encountering closures due specifically to spraying. Maybe it's just bad timing on my part, or maybe it's a vast conspiracy. Either way, this time I said "Fuck it" and kept going--right past the pesticide truck as it was in mid-spritz, by the way, and I'm pleased to report I feel totally fine with no adverse affects whatsoeaeeiarEOEPWOIAR....U9HE.
In other news that you'll no doubt find far more interesting than my Fredly endeavors, I finally received my package from Jones Bikes, and here's what I got!
So what's the difference between the SWB and the LWB? Well, here goes:
"SWB" stands for "Short Wheel Base," "LWB" stands for "Long Wheel Base." So the LWB has...a longer wheelbase!
The SWB comes stock with 27.5+ wheels; the LWB comes stock with 29+ wheels
When ordering the LWB you can opt for a smooth tire setup or a knobby tire setup (I went with the latter)
The SWB comes in black; the LWB comes in black or red! (But I got black)
The SWB sells for $1,799, and the LWB sells for $2,050
With regard to that last bullet point, first I'll say that I've had absolutely no issues with any of the components on the SWB. However, the LWB does feature some upgrades. For example it's got a SRAM Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, whereas the SWB has a Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain. It's also got a cartridge bearing headset versus the SWB's caged ball headset. The tires on the LWB (whether smooth or knobby) are also tubeless ready, whereas the tires on the SWB are not. (Though in a flagrant disregard for my own safety I've been running mine tubeless for many months now, and apart from some pesticide-related delirium I'm doing just fine.) And oh yeah, the rims on the LWB have eyelets. I may be missing other parts differences, but these are the ones that were most obvious to me while assembling the bike yesterday.
"So relatively minor component differences aside, what's really the difference? Which one do I buy?" Well, I haven't actually ridden the bike yet! Also my kids are out of school and my wife has a business trip coming up so this thing may be taunting me for the next few days. But rest assured once I've got some time on it I'll report back and do my best to articulate the differences.
In the meantime, here's a photo of the two bikes side-by-side:
(Photo: Elliott Weiss)
Please note I've preemptively replaced the saddle, but other than that (and the pedals) the bike is as I received it.
Anyway, until I've actually ridden the thing for awhile it's all speculation, but I am extremely excited to see what this thing can do. There are lots of roots and rocks around here and on paper this looks like it should handle that sort of terrain with aplomb--maybe even two plombs!
I raced in the singlespeed category, and as you can see they staged the fat bike category before us. (They like to keep the novelty bike doofuses together, you see.) An aborted Central Park race the weekend before notwithstanding, it had been quite a few weeks since I'd raced a bicycle; moreover, it had been a good two years since I'd raced a mountain bike. (I believe my last competitive outing was the so-called "Singlespeedapalooza" race in 2017.) And on top of all that, this particular race starts with a lot of climbing, which meant that within minutes my face was bright purple and my heart was trying to eject itself from my throat.
Despite my distress, I was able to move up a bit, though as you might expect it's really hard to pass fat bikes on rooty climbs, especially when you're on a singlespeed bicycle. See, the fat bike is all about taking advantage of a low gear and lots of traction, whereas the singlespeed is all about getting up that climb as fast as you possibly can so you don't lose momentum and fall over. Basically, it's like trying to sprint up the subway steps at rush hour.
Anyway, despite moving up I never really recovered from the effort, and by about halfway through the first lap the rest of the singlespeeds passed me and that was pretty much that. Ultimately I did manage to finish in the top five, but I should probably disclose that the singlespeed field consisted of exactly five riders. (Singlespeeds are totally out of style, remember?) Even so, the race was well worth it, because signing up for a race ahead of time and paying a bunch of money is pretty much the only way I'll ever ride someplace different for a change.
Also there was beer after:
Also also, in addition to riding someplace different, racing is also pretty much the only situation in which I'll actually hose my bike down afterwards:
The politically incorrect plastic shopping bag is to protect the Brooks.
I'm sure my mention of flip-flops will enrage those of you who have overtorqued sphincters.
Meanwhile, it continues to rain incessantly here in New York, and so lately I've found myself spending a lot of time on my Milwaukee:
While I may run a multi-media empire (Internet, print, radio, interpretive dance...), I also manage to do so without a single employee. Incredible, right? However, to a large extent it's my bicycles that are my work force, and occasionally I assign them to different departments in order to maximize workplace efficiency. Such is the case with the Milwaukee, which currently plays the role of long-haul commuter-cum-rain bike.
Of course, when putting the Milwaukee in its new position I had to explain to it that this was in no way a demotion. Indeed, this is a role that requires strength and fortitude, and in many ways entrusting a bicycle to it is the ultimate vote of confidence. Predictably, the Milwaukee, then replied, "Oh yeah? Then where's my raise?" I then explained that there would be no raise, but I would equip it with these theft-proof skewers so at least its wheels wouldn't get stolen:
Though arguably the filthy state of my wheels is theft deterrent enough:
In fact this past Monday I had to change a tube and by the time I was done I looked like the Wile E. Coyote after a TNT mishap.
But yes, few bikes lead harder lives than this one does, and I even wake it up early for dawn rides when it's raining:
The Milwaukee handles it all with nary a complaint.
[Pssst: if you want to listen to my radio show from this past Monday it's here. Or, if you want to listen to Carcass, you can do so here.]
Hey, everybody! I've got some great news!
Yes, that's right, my new Jones bike has shipped! Unfortunately I don't know if I'm allowed to tell you what it is yet, but that doesn't make me any less excited. So in the meantime here's a picture of my current one as a placeholder:
In anticipation of this I had also dubbed this week as "Dirt Week," and had planned to set aside the road riding for a bit and spend as much time as possible on a bicycle with knobby tires instead. However, it's been raining heavily pretty much every day so far, and so I've been forced to stick to the road instead:
Fortunately I don't mind so much, since I'm still all agog over my new-to-me titanium Forever Bike and relish any opportunity to ride it, even if I'm just making circles in the park:
In addition to the Jones I've also got some new-to-me wheels for this bike headed this way, which will nudge the bike more firmly into the "classic" column and further increase the Campy factor. Hopefully they'll also help reign in my Fredness just a bit, otherwise before I know it I could find myself getting busted for doping at a Gran Fondo:
Regardless of how you feel about Gran Fondos, you've got to admit they're doing the cycling world a great service by keeping the zany, madcap spirit of doping alive. In the pro ranks they're all using TUEs, which is like totally boring, but down in the Fondo ranks they're hatching sitcom-quality schemes:
I'll also be talking to Henry Cutler of WorkCycles, makers of my personal Smugness Flotilla:
Henry was my guide on my trip to Amsterdam, which I wrote about in my third book, and we'll compare our school drop-off routines as well as marvel over the fact that in the Netherlands kids can ride on their own by the time the're like 10, whereas in America you've basically got to lease a Hyundai just to cross the street.
The Ritte and I had a good run, but once my new-to-me titanium road bike entered the stable the trusty Rust Bucket could sense it was now the old nag destined for the glue factory:
Not only is the bike pictured above refreshingly bereft of rust and sweat stains, but it also rides beautifully, and having now logged a few hundred miles on it I've come to the conclusion that all that crap I've been hearing over the years about the marvels of titanium is totally true. In fact, I like this bike so much it may very well have ruined me for my other road bikes, because my brand-new plastic Fred Sled now feels harsh and jittery in comparison.
Anyway, given the Ritte's storied and dignified history, it only seemed fitting to re-home it with the museum. There, it joins the Renovo, and just as soon as I earn my first billion I'll endow that esteemed cultural institution with an entire wing in which to house them.
Speaking of my plastic bike, I headed out to race it yesterday in the predawn hours. It was raining when I rolled out at like ass-thirty or whatever it was, and as I seem to do at least once a year I found myself slipping off the back almost immediately, like an elephant seal slathered in Vaseline and trying to climb a water slide. This was mostly because, you know, everyone else out there was much stronger than me. But another factor was that, as I hit the first descent, gritty wheelspray hitting me in the face, all I could think about was Phil Gaimon's recent tweets and how I really didn't want to spend Fathers Day on a gurney. You know, you can work with not being strong enough, and you can work with bad weather conditions, but combine the two and you're asking for trouble.
After all these years you'd think I'd have learned the most important lesson of park racing by now:
If you wake up and there's any rain at all, go the fuck back to bed.