Saturday, January 3, 2009

Equipment Changes for 2009

I always know that winter is getting to me when I start eyeing the bikes greedily, thinking about how I want to tweak them before the snow melts and the real riding begins. True to form, I'm starting out the new year with malice in my heart and a wrench in my hand.

After a lot of fiddling in 2008, the fixed gear will get off pretty easy in '09. Right now, it's sporting 38x17 gearing (60" for anyone astride a penny-farthing), studded tires, clip-on fenders, and more lights than an airport runway. This is my typical snowbike setup -- the 38x17 fixed seems ridiculously low on paper, but it's great for speed control on slippery surfaces, making the front brake almost redundant. And who am I kidding? When it's cold, I'm not moving fast enough to spin out anyway. Once we get a permanent thaw, I'll need to de-gunk the whole thing, then I'll pop off the fenders, divide the lights between the rest of the fleet, put slick tires back on, switch the 38 to a 42 (for a 67" gear), and I'll have my quasi-urban messenger poseur ride again. I know 67" probably seems low too, but since I rarely ride in fixie groups (where there seems to be an implied correlation between the size of one's gear and the bulge in one's Lycra) and I'm kind of fond of my knees, 42x17 is plenty.

The tourer didn't see a lot of changes last year, but I think it's due. After singing the praises of Wald, I decided to put a little money where my blog is and order up some inexpensive shiny chrome fenders to replace my battered Planet Bikes. Wald doesn't make a version specifically for 700c wheels, but this photo I found on Flickr seems to show that the 89-26 "lightweight" model works just fine. (Aside: I have no idea who the owner of the photo is, but he seems like my kinda rider just based on his photostream.) For $20, I figure it's worth a try -- I'll post the success or failure of the experiment once they arrive. The rear rack will come off when the fenders change, since last year's swap to platform pedals has resulted in a little pannier interference and I'm partial to my messenger bag anyway. I'm also massaging the gearing on the tourer ever so slightly, changing the 34-42 double to 36-44 and sawing off the vestigial granny-ring mounting studs to improve clearance and fight the dreaded chainsuck. The swap is really just to a) free up the 42 for the fixie, and b) provide an excuse to use the gorgeous old Shimano 44 that's littered my parts box for years. The gearing combo sounds odd, but chart it out with an 11-28 Shimano 8-speed cassette and the nonstandard 8-tooth gap makes perfect sense. It's odd to shift in sequence (with lots of double shifts), but I never do that anyway. Most of the time, I can do a whole ride as a two-speed, slap-shifting the front derailleur between whatever that day's preferred high and low combination is.

Tandem, you're off the hook (figuratively and literally, since I don't like lifting that sucker off the floor to hang it). The big black beast reached perfection two seasons ago, so it's strictly maintenance from here on out.

Now, if it weren't so dang cold in the garage...


Steve Fuller said...

Sno-bike has been my almost free Specialized Single cross in 39x17 flavor, with SKS fenders and studs until this recent thaw, when the stock tires/rims went back on.

The LHT is going to get the interrupter levers removed, some cable housing replaced, and the Brooks leather rewrapped and finished off with hemp twine and some shellac. (Yes I've been spending time at the Rivendell site).

Karate Monkey is getting some On One Midge bars, new brake levers, bar ends, and a new stem in preparation for TransIowa. Might try and maiden voyage that on Brrr if things go to plan.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Steve -- are you going with the Midged Monkey instead of getting a Fargo? I kinda wondered if you could drop-convert the KM and get the same sort of monster-touring setup that a Fargo would provide.

I'm currently obsessed with one of these, even though I can't afford a new bike right now: Of course, the new wheel size would be a nuisance since everything I have (except the tandem) is 700c.