Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bike Obsession Confessional, Part 1

When the weather turns ugly (and dang, is it ugly here now), I have a bad habit of casting a covetous eye on bicycles that are not my own. Weather's great and I'm getting lots of saddle time? I love my fleet. But when I'm not getting that saddle time, I look at those same bikes and think, "This is your fault." It's irrational, I know. I yam what I yam.

In an attempt to purge my bike-dulterous thoughts, I'm going to share them here. Today's unrequited love? The Xootr Swift folding bike, which looks a little something like this:
Why, pray tell, would someone with a yen for vintage mountain bikes with drop bars fall for this homely little mutt? Especially when that someone has never ridden one of these things or even seen one in person? Honestly, I do not know. Here are a few things that sort of justify my wandering eye:
  • Aluminum frame. I ride in a lot of crud that is doing ugly things to my steel frames. Beer can bikes don't have these issues.
  • Low standover. My bum leg has issues getting over a conventional frame, especially in the cold.
  • Short top tube. I'm all leg, so it's a real challenge to set up a conventional bike with the bars close enough for my T-Rex arms.
  • Simplicity. It already has the 1x8 drivetrain I favor, and if that isn't simple enough, the horizontal dropouts will accommodate a singlespeed/fixed conversion.
  • Lots of standard components. I like to futz with my bikes. Weird proprietary parts make that impractical to impossible.
  • Tire selection. You think there are a gaggle of 26" or 700c tires out there to choose from? Look at a BMX-centric site sometime (I shop at Dan's Comp for my rare "mad skillz, yo" BMX needs -- but be warned, once they have your address, you'll be buried in catalogs.) There are a LOT of 406 bead-seat tires out there, from gnarly gnobbies to street smoothies. And in a desperate moment on tour, you can probably find something passable in any old dash-mart (Wal, K, whatever) or hardware store.
  • Folding is just cool. Reports say that the Swift doesn't fold as small or as easy as some, but still, a bike you can stuff in a duffle? That's just crazy-fun.
  • It's just different. Yeah, I'm that guy, the one who just can't stand to be riding the same bike as the next guy up the road. It's like seeing someone at a party wearing the same dress -- and if I had a nickel for every time THAT happened to me...
(WARNING: I'm about to pepper the following paragraph with links to illustrate the stuff I'm talking about, and they're gonna go to Amazon, and if you follow them and buy stuff, I get a measly percentage of your purchase price kicked back to me. So if you're the sort of person who says, "Gosh, I'll follow the link of this random blogger and impulse-buy a $700 bike despite the fact that he admits he's never ridden one," you've been warned.)

So what would my Swift look like? First things first, those flat bars would be replaced with the drops from my tourer (including the 8-speed bar-end shifter on a Paul's Thumbies mount). My brake levers wouldn't cut it for the V-brakes, so I'd need some Tektro RL520s instead. And the el-cheapo V-brakes would go bye-bye in favor of el-cheapo Shimano V-brakes (no link here, since pretty much ANYTHING Shimano will outperform the no-namers, as the bottom-rung Shimano Vs on my tandem will attest). I'd hang some baggage on that bad boy, maybe tack on a second stem for lights and accessories like Alex Wetmore did, and away we'd go. A second set of singlespeed wheels from the LBS would be a cheap security blanket, and come winter, those would probably wear some 20" studded tires (yes, they exist -- I told you this was a common size!) And lookee there, it's a pocket-sized do-it-all bike!

Oh, shoot. I was supposed to be talking myself out of this plan, but I think I'm on the slippery slope toward talking myself into it. I hate when that happens...

1 comment:

Iowagriz said...

I can see you on a
Tan with woody fenders (came up on the home page for me)