Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Bottom-Feeder Strikes Again!


He followed me home, so I'm keeping him!


Yes, another midrange mountain bike from the days before my hairline became a peninsula, then a snow-dusted island. Yawn if you must, but old mountain bikes are a crazy value on the secondhand market these days. I've now scored two quality examples of these super-versatile bikes at less-than-department-store-crap prices.

I'm a softie for old Cannondales. My late-dad was obsessed with the brand, and that obsession imprinted on me early. When I later worked in a shop just down the road from their Bedford factory and got the opportunity to take a tour, it was like a pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca. How I came out of that tour without ordering a bike (or several bikes) is beyond me.

These days, that soft spot has manifested itself in a couple Cannondale tandems (probably the best tandem frame ever made by a non-tandem-specialist), a 90s-era hybrid piloted by the tandem's stoker when she's tired of looking at the back of my homely head, and now Big Red shown above.

I'm undecided as to what role Red will fill in the fleet (alongside my similar-vintage Rockhopper) as of yet. For now, I'm just going to tune it up and ride it as-is. I suspect that whichever frame offers a nicer fit/feel will get the nicer parts kit and drop-bar conversion currently on the Rocky, while the leftover parts will turn the less-preferred frame into a beater/townie/cruiser/backup/winter bike.

Friday, March 25, 2016

519s In The 515: Weirdest Compliment Ever?

Continuing my critically-unknown series on the bikes of Des Moines sporting 26" wheels (the One True Size), an anecdote:

Went out for an evening ride last week, hoping to convince Spring that yes, it's time to arrive. I wend my way through downtown Des Moines, headed east, and find myself stopped at a light. I think I can sense another rider behind me, but I'm giving car-based traffic the stink-eye, so I don't want to look back (and I haven't rocked a mirror in years -- there are even limits to MY nerdliness).

Rider behind me announces himself with the following compliment: "Nice bar-ends!"

Huh? For a minute, I think he's jerking my chain (metaphorically speaking), since my default mode is sarcasm. But I say "thanks" as the light changes and ride on.

Within the next block, he puts the drop on my laughably slow and corpulent self, and I see the reason for the compliment: He's on a 90s-era Trek mountain bike, rocking (of course) 26" wheels, converted to drop bars, shifted with some gloriously old-school Suntour retrofriction bar-ends. Even had a vintage suspension fork and what appeared to be original 747 SPDs. This was clearly one of my people!

I didn't get a chance to chat or grab a photo, but clearly, 559 is a THING in the 515. You saw it here first.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Snow Commute Follies

Just a bit of photographic evidence that I'm not normal, like you need a picture to know that.

If I knew anything about photography, I could do something artsy with this "tracks in the snow" shot:


You can see near the top where things got deep and sketchy. Guessing I swore there.

That little jaunt led to one of my favorite effects of winter riding: Rim fairings!


Gear nerds: Those are 26x1.95 Nokian Mount and Grounds. Not much to say about them other than they work. Haven't been on my tuchus yet this winter, knock wood.

Here's something I'd never seen before:


This happened during a morning commute when fresh powder was falling. As near as I can tell, snow hit the front of my seatpost as I was riding, melted, and then refroze. Of course, it probably re-melted, ran down my seat tube, and is rusting out my bottom bracket shell as we speak. Circle of life.

More fun with precipitation: Here's proof that my latest bag purchase (yet to be reviewed, but give it a few more months of abuse) is waterproof as advertised...


That's melted snow beading up on the outside of an Arkel Signature D backpack. Neat effect that -- again -- could be documented better by someone with more photographic talent than an orangutan.

Spring's coming, I hope. In the meantime, keep the rubber side between you and the slippery stuff, dear reader.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

559s In The 515

In case that's a bit too cryptic for you, here's a guide to the geek-speak of this blog. 559 refers to the bead seat diameter (a.k.a. BSD) of a 26" wheel (or at least one of the flavors of 26" wheel) expressed in millimeters. If this flummoxes you (and it should), your homework assignment is from the late, great Sheldon Brown, Patron Saint of Confused Bike Mechanics. 

515 is (of course) the area code for the Greatest City in the World, Des Moines (French for "The Moines"), Iowa. So a series on 559s in the 515 is (logically enough) devoted to bikes wearing the traditional mountain bike 26" wheel here in the Capitol City. Given my own odd proclivities, I also give bonus points for 26" MTBs rocking drop bars, but let's face it -- I'm a sucker for just about any classic mountain bike.

The first entry in the series ticks all the boxes:


This fine steed is sometimes found in the parking cage where I work. It's a Gary Fisher Cronus, which my research tells me is from 1995, in the early-Trek-buyout era (thank you, Vintage Trek website). The owner's used a threaded-to-threadless adapter to plug in a drop-bar cockpit, added some clip-on fenders and a rack, and voila -- instant super-commuter/all-surfaces fun machine.

Laugh if you will at the seemingly dated tricolor fade paint job, but that look was a signature Fisher finish back in the day, one that I still kinda like in spite of my usual distaste for all things Fisher. I'm also usually not a fan of tricolor splash handlebar tape, but here, it works. So, good on ya, Cronus owner. I give this bike my Seal of Approval.