Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rattle, rattle, rattle

One of my favorite and least favorite bike accessories are fenders.  I think they make a bike look damn stylish, and when the water falls from the sky, you stay clean and dry.  The fenders are sort of integral to the look of my bike and I'd be absolutely loathe to remove them, but there's two things that annoy me no end.



One - since it never rains here, I sometimes feel like I'm carrying these things around for looks.  While aesthetics are important, the Surly ain't exactly a featherweight to begin with, and I have aluminum Velo Orange fenders, which are absolutely iconic in terms of their looks.  However, installing them was an absolute bitch (it involved a hacksaw, among other tools), so removing them usually feels pretty non-optional for situations where they aren't necessary (i.e. the Wurst Ride, all of August).  They do also create a bit of sideways wind resistance, which can be problematic in high-speed Texas winds.

The second problem is a bit more personal.  My front fender rattles to no end.  There's a bolt on my front fender which is the attachment point for the stay and the fender itself, and the place the fender slides through this bolt is a bit bigger in diameter than the stay itself.  So every single ride, I get to listen to this the entire time:

video

Tell me that doesn't make you kind of want to choke a bitch.  Now spend 4 hours tuning it out.

I spoke with Velo Orange this morning about this issue, and most of what they told me doesn't resolve the issue because as far as I can tell this isn't an installation issue, this is something caused by the hardware itself. I love how my fenders look, but this is driving me batty and I need either a solution, or a new set of fenders.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Early Morning Grind

I have a problem.  My job currently requires I be there and ready to rock by 6 a.m.  This means in order to ride a bike to work, I have to be out the door around 5:05 or so, and awake even earlier.  And there's my problem.  I have a lot of trouble motivating myself out of bed (at the LATEST) around 4:45 in the morning when there's an additional 30 minutes of sleep possible if I drive.

Once I'm out of bed it's less of an issue, but seriously - I CANNOT seem to get my ass out of bed to ride to work more than twice a month.  Once I'm up I'm a real morning person, too!  The tragedy of it all is that when I get out of work, it's usually a sunny, beautiful afternoon, the perfect time to get a bit of exercise and enjoy the city.  But I have my car and not my bike because when the room was dark and my bed was warm, I slapped the snooze and rolled over.

Is there anyone else with an insanely early-morning commute with any advice for me?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Downhill


The Bike Farm

I recently sold The Schwinn Le Tour which had been occupying space in my garage.  The fellow I sold it to worked at the Bike Farm, a "Shop" in central Austin and I agreed to meet him there for the exchange.  In the process, I discovered less of a bike shop and more of a treasure trove.  

The Bike Farm is a simple place to describe - a gravel lot out back of a hollowed out house that serves as a shop.  There's a few tents and the place is absolutely covered in bikes.  They are unique, however, in that this is ENTIRELY a used bike shop.  The bikes range from cheap mountain bikes, but far more common are vintage rides, new-old stock, half torn apart bikes, frames hanging from the fence.  


For a vintage bike enthusiast like myself this place was like candyland.  The sheer prevalence of upright bikes and lugged steel roadbikes overwhelmed me and I found myself walking in circles trying to take everything in.

Roadsters.


A vintage Hercules hidden in the vines.

Stepthroughs EVERYWHERE,


If you dig lugged bikes, used bikes, old bikes that never made it out of a warehouse, go walk around through this magical wonderland.  Their address is:

6516 Shirley Ave
Austin, TX 78752

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Wurst Ride 2012 - Victory is Mine!

As mentioned, I ride this year's Wurst Ride, in the hopes that this year would go better than last year's attempt (i.e. bonked out halfway through).  I hadn't remotely trained,but this year they offered a 24 and a 45 mile option, and the end was the same place as the beginning - in my humble opinion a great improvement over last year's point-to-point.  And I finished! And in great style, too.  Here it is:



At 6:00 a.m. my day started with the drive to New Braunfels.  As our caravan rolled down I-35, the mist that was clearing looked like smoke and I wondered if there was a fire or something that could ruin the air quality and thwart my Wurst Ride completion dreams.  But as the sun rose, the mist burned off and the sun rose on the field where we parked (if there's anything more Texan than parking in a field at a county fairground, you tell me).


There were rows and rows of cars, most of which had more than one bike - hundreds of bike dorks, all here to bike-dork together.




I picked up my packet, pinned on my number, and cruised around taking pictures, meeting people - politicking, one could say.  They lined up the ride to the tune of "Call Me Maybe," "Gangnam Style," and countless warnings to be careful crossing train tracks lest we kill ourselves and die.  And they're off!


Given I wasn't on a skinny-tire bike, I chose to roll out with the slower speeds and take the time to smell the roses.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day - sunny, passing through some of the most iconic places in Texas - Gruene not least among them.

This here is central Texas in a nutshell


It may not be mountains or oceans, but it's home.


As I warmed up, I felt a sensation I hadn't felt in a long time - the "thrum thrum" of my legs carrying me down the road, my bike floating effortlessly cruising.  It didn't hurt we had one hell of a tailwind and the first half of the ride was largely downhill.  I rode almost the entire ride with the same group of folks - I had a bit of pride that my bike was easily twice as heavy, but I had no trouble keeping up.  

We fairly soared through the first 12 miles and pulled up to the rest stop for pickle juice, cookies, peanut butter-jelly sandwiches, and fresh water.  A dear buddy of mine, Al, is one of the coordinators for Bicycle Sport Shop and always found haunting around the rest stops at their sponsored rides.  


Hello ladies!



I tend to be pretty quick with my stops - in and out, eat my snacks and no letting my legs cool off.  The rest stop also represented the halfway point and turnaround for the 24 mile ride (the 45 mile version continued on to the next rest stop, then turned around).  I drank my pickle juice, ate my PBJ, and hit the road.



The second half of the ride was not nearly the cupcake that the first half had been.  Two facts caught up with us - the first half had been all downhill with tailwind.  Ergo, the second half was all uphill with headwind.  We battled, and I mentally made new lyrics for the Song that Never Ends from Lamb Chops Play-Along.  Here they are:

This is the hill that never ends.
Yes it goes on and on my friend.
Some people started climbing it not knowing what it was.
And they'll continue singing it forever just because.
This is the hill that never ends.

Finally, after sitting and spinning, gearing down and gearing up, standing and cranking it out, we made it!  Back to where we started, to congratulations from the guy with the microphone and the cheers of the literally tens of people there to see us in.  Victory was mine!

This is what victory tastes like.

I ate my sausages, drank my beers, and enjoyed the bluegrass until Emily and Justin made it back (they did the 45 mile version of the ride).  We rested up, and made our way to Wurstfest (tack 2 miles there and 2 miles back to our daily totals).  

So, the Wurst Ride.  Did I learn anything?  Nah.  But I went for a really, really nice bike ride.



Friday, November 9, 2012

We meet again, Wurst Ride


Yep, that's my registration!  It's time for the annual running of "Annie hasn't done a single training ride for this, but who cares."  I'm only doing the 22 mile route, though - last year I made it 36 miles into a headwind before I gave up.  This year's ride starts and ends at the fairground, which will hopefully avoid last year's fiasco.  Also, I'm actually registered this time and won't have to lie my way onto a SAG wagon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The bicycle and the apocalypse

A few years back, I lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  While I was there, I personally stood witness to two breathtakingly powerful acts of nature - Hurricane Ivan, and later, Hurricane Katrina.  They bring home the power of nature and how much your life depends on the infrastructure around you.  Power.  Roads.  Traffic Reports.  Police.  We depend on them all, and you never notice them until they're gone.

With those memories, I have obsessively followed the situation on the east coast during and after "Frankenstorm" Sandy - the catastrophic power of this storm has crippled New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding areas.  With that comes the usual side-effects of hurricanes, but the population of the area amplifies these effects a thousand times.  The effects of no power, no gasoline, amplified effects of basic temperature fluctuations, and destroyed infrastructure.  Add to the destruction of vehicles, debris everywhere, and the basic cleanup that has to happen to make the word navigable and you have all the ingredients for a traffic nightmare.

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, declared a transportation emergency Wednesday night.  Between gridlock, a lack of available fuel, and damaged public transportation infrastructure, to quote the New York Times, "Only bicycles seemed to be rolling."  The bicycle is a beacon of freedom in the gnarled mess of commuting without a car or a train to get you from A to B.  It's independent of gasoline, and if it spends a day underwater you can pull it out, hose it off, dry it, lube it, and get where you're going.

In the aftermath of the storm, reports of life are largely coming by bicycle - the only viable way to get around.  The Wall Street Journal goes into the black zone.  Business Insider photographs Manhattan in the heart of darkness.  It seems like the one thing no one focuses on when the cars stop working is how well the bikes really do.

In the end, no one will be riding the Mad Max Interceptor or the pickup truck from the Walking Dead because when the gas stops, so do they.  All you need to ride a bike is yourself.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Old School Cool

Humphrey Bogart riding a bike has more cool in the hand in that pocket than I will in the rest of my life.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Rain Returneth

One year after the driest summer in Ever, we've had a particularly temperate year - August didn't always feel like living on the sun!   In the last few years we've had dry, sunny Autumns, but this one has started with a wet and rainy bang.  Over the last 6 weeks or so I've started taking Jeet Kune Do, and to keep my knees intact while still kickin' butt, I quite literally HAVE to bike back and forth to class.

In the summer, cycling is a very lightweight proposition - just throw on some flip flops and shorts, and come on down.  The equipment necessary is so simple!  But then the temperature starts to drop and the rain starts to fall - suddenly you and your stuff need protection!  But in the rain the world is quiet, the streets seem to roll a little faster, and the streets glow with reflections from the street lights.  Autumn rain is truly one of my favorite times to ride.

That in mind, I thought I'd go over my equipment for riding in the rain in the hopes that it will inspire others to give it a try.  For beginners, understand I've not only been cycling for years, but I also sold bikes for several of those years and have had time to acquire a lot of gear.  You don't need to rush out and get all this stuff at once (but having it sure helps).


Stuff for the Bike:

Lights

Everyone should have these anyways, but during the summer when the sun sets late and the visibility is good, it's less of a huge deal.  In autumn the sun sets earlier, and in the rain a driver's visibility is significantly lowered, as is their ability to control the vehicle in case of an emergency.  Good, bright lights with functioning batteries ensure you're seen.  I personally have used the Planet Bike Superflash and the Blaze 1-Watt for YEARS with fantastic success.  It's simple, extremely bright, and mine have lasted through multiple years of riding in the rain, on trails, and have still been there after accidentally leaving them on with the bike on the back of my car.

What's pictured there is the set - I bought mine individually, so my tail light is red instead of clear, but they both flash red.  However, in the state of Texas, a bicycle is legally required to have a red reflector on the back, and my red tail light qualifies.  I wouldn't recommend this headlight for people who consistently commute through truly dark areas - the Blaze 1-Watt is fantastic for getting seen from quite a difference but in pitch black I'd prefer to have more light with which to see.  My other criticism of these lights after extended use is that the bracket tends to slip ever-downward and in 4 sets of handlebars on 3 different bikes, I've never gotten the fit quite right.  Despite these criticisms, however, I'm still using the lights and don't want to get a different one, so there's a lot right about them as well.

Whatever your product choice, safety truly DEMANDS lights, so you may as well get some good ones.

Fenders

Fenders, known in Europe as "Mudguards" are those thingies that go over the wheels.  Basically their job is to keep the crap splashing up from the road and your wheels where it belongs - not on you.  Visually they have a very dominating aesthetic influence on the overall look of your bike, and there's a fender for almost every look out there.  I've even seen a set of old 29-er tires cut and turned into a set of fenders.

I'm rocking some Velo Orange aluminum fenders because I decided I was going with the Chrome look on my bike, but over the course of a couple years of heavy use, they've gained a lot of Beausage (the beauty of usage).  I've added some stickers, dented them chaning the bike to poles, and did something at some point that means my front fender literally always has a low-level rattle.  But I absolutely love my fenders because when the rain starts to fall, I am the dryest, happiest cyclist in just about any group.

Some sensible tires

I have mismatched tires on my bike, but they both fall into the "Sensible" category.  You want something with low rolling resistance, but enough tread to wick water away from the centerline of the tire (i.e. the contact point with the road).  Wide enough for stability.  Any bike shop can steer you in the right direction, but I personally have had phenomenal experience with Continental tires.  My front tire is  a Freedom Cruz 26x1.5, my back tire is a Continental Contact 26x1.5.  Honestly, they both work fine.  Work with your local bike shop to find something within your price range that will have you sitting pretty when you go for a corner in the wet.


Stuff for the Person

Waterproof bag

This can be just about anything, but my hands-down winner of over 3 years of ownership is the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Rear Panniers.  You've seen them before in pictures, but I never draw too much attention to them and there's a very good reason for that - they fade into the background of my universe.  A piece of equipment works flawlessly if you never think about it.  You just use it.  They're totally waterproof (I've taken an SLR camera in them in a rainstorm with no worries).  They're extremely adjustable.  They have reflective thingies pointing backwards, providing additional visibility to traffic.  I love them.

I complement them with my usual go-to everything bag, a black Timbuk2 Classic Messenger in the extra small size.  I've had one of these bags with me just about everywhere since 2008 - the only reason my old one was replaced is it needed a few repairs.  I emailed Timbuk2 about it, and rather than repairing the bag, they gave me a new one.  The old one is now in the possession of a friend, who still uses it.  Aside from the durability, the bag is totally waterproof as far as rain goes.  Cell phones, snacks, fancy designer items....they've all stayed dry.  I took a fall in a creek carrying it once and the only thing damaged was my pride.

A Jacket

As someone who used to work in the industry, I tend to own more technical fabric than anything else.  My jackets include the REI Taku and the Novara Verita.  The Taku is a heavier jacket, which is fitting as it was originally made for backpacking, ice-climbing, and hiking.  It's stretchy, but the stretchiness does make a compromise in the waterproofness.  As it's a heavier jacket, it's also way easier to overheat in if the weather isn't cold, even with the zippered vents open.  But on a day where it's drizzling and cold, or if I need the hood, this is it.

The Verita is made of a material called eVent, which is basically the latest and greatest in waterproof breathable technology (or at least it was when I was selling stuff as of a year ago).  It breathes to such an extent I've personally witnessed a jacket steam when a person ran out into the cold from sweating inside a hot building.  It's a cycling specific jacket, meaning the sleeves are cut longer, it has a drop-tail hem, and does not include a hood.  However, as far as I can tell, this jacket is completely waterproof, and breathes like a CHAMP.  With a layer underneath it, you can stay warm and dry down to some pretty decent temps.  It does look a bit funny off the bike, but most cycling-specific clothes only look natural in the position of riding.

A sense of humor

All these items aren't going to guarantee you get to your destination with perfect hair, or with nary a splash on you.  But you'll experience the freedom of the world when everyone else stays inside.  You'll smell the tang of ozone before a storm and not be worried.  Don't take things too seriously, and smile!  Life's not so bad.

So there you have it.  That's my setup, and it makes riding in the rain one of my favorite times to be on the bike.  Even though I have a lot of fancy gear, there are a lot of options out there that aren't as expensive - do some snooping to see what you can come up with!  Then go ride.

The way home glows in the rain.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Pushin' Pedals

In the project of building the Surly to my exact specs, the one piece that had never come together were the pedals.  As many of you know, a Surly doesn't come with pedals and when I built the bike, I'd just spent a whole bunch of money on clipless pedals for the Cannondale, a rack for the Surly, Brooks Saddle, and so on - there wasn't a lot of spare cash laying around for pedals.

So, I threw the original platform pedals that came with the Cannondale on the Surly and never looked back.  That is to say, a set of black plastic Wellgos I'd dented on a curb at some point or another.  And until a little while ago, that's what I'd had on the bike.

However (despite my recent lack of things to say), I never stop biking and questioning my setup, and have been getting a decent amount of numbness in my feet recently.  I was also tired of constantly scratching my legs and feet up while wearing sandals and shorts, the uniform for Austin in the summer. I snooped.  I browsed.  I eventually sat, trapped between the MKS Touring, the MKS Grip King, and the MKS RMX, also known as the "Sneaker Pedal."  All beautiful, all well-made.

The Sneaker Pedal caught my eye for a few reasons - the biggest being price.  At $28.00, they were similarly priced to many "cheapo" pedals that work fine, but didn't bring quite what I wanted.  They had a nice big platform in a BMX shape, and no sharp edges to destroy my shoes and scratch me up.  They had MKS quality, meaning they spin smoothly and work without issue.  And....cheap!  After much pondering, I ordered them and installed them while sitting on the floor of my living room as my boyfriend watched my enthusiasm with amusement.



I've had the pedals on about a month and feel I can finally comment on them.  The issues I was experiencing with numbness in my feet seems to have cleared up, which is great!  They seem to grip my shoes just fine, and I never have the sensation of being on "the wrong side", which can happen with some platform style pedals with no foot retention.

One thing I like about these pedals is they're very easy to find with my feet without looking.  This goes with the no-scratches thing - the majority of scratches I've gotten from pedals happened while I was trying to "find" the pedal with my foot and watch traffic at the same time.  My old pedals also had a side that was comfy, and a side that poked weirdly, even with shoes on.  These ones I can ride in barefoot!

The Wellgos from my Cannondale served me well for years, but I've already given them away to a coworker, because I'm never going back to the land of numb feet and weird nubby feelings in the soles of my shoes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bike Sports

One of the beautiful things about bikes is their versatility - ride 'em on the roads, the trails, the jumps.  Ride to work, ride for fun.  But one thing until recently that hadn't come onto my radar is sports based around bikes - this includes Bike Polo, Bike Jousting, Foot Down, and Bikejoring (a personal favorite).  What are these sports, you ask?  Glad you asked!

Bike Polo is basically exactly what it sounds like, only it's played on a basketball court, usually on fixies or BMX bikes.  In fact, with the exception of Bikejoring, just about all bike sports seem to best be played on those kinds of bikes, if only because you don't necessarily need your hands to brake.  While I don't have any photographs, bike polo reminds me of nothing so much as the street hockey scene from Wayne's World, complete with the sweet bike crash at the end:


Bike Jousting has got to be one of the most testosterone-fueled, hairbrained things I've ever had the privilege to witness in person.  You get yourself a gaggle of rowdy, drunk cyclists.  Add a basketball court (sensing a theme here?), and two decent-sized PVC pipes, hopefully with foam haphazardly strapped to the ends.  Ride at each other and try to knock each other off your bikes.  I've never seen ANYONE participating in Bike Jousting wear a helmet, but EVERYONE I've ever seen Bike Joust has promptly taken a bike-clanging, bell-ringing dive into the concrete not too long after.  As spectator sports go it's awesome, though you'll never catch me participating.

Foot Down is a "Game" that's also an exercise in bike handling and balance.  I've played, but never in any large group.  Basically with Foot Down, you and however many other cyclists enter a "ring", and attempt to knock each other off your bikes with your hands, while evading being knocked down.  Anyone who puts a foot down is eliminated.  In large groups, I've seen people take huge dives in this game, but for for me, this was a way to get comfortable avoiding obstacles when I was still a newbie cyclist with trouble evading targets like, yknow, poles.

That brings me to Bikejoring.  This sport is basically a branch of Skijoring, which is where you put on cross country skis, a belt, and attach a harnessed dog or two to that belt and BECOME THE SLED.  This has been adopted by those of us from warmer climates using implements like rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, and of course bikes.  People actually have races for this stuff.  It's most common among owners of breeds traditionally used for pulling - Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, and Malamutes, but it's also popular among owners of any high-energy working breed.  I personally regularly participate in a bastard version of this activity in which I run my big dog in-harness with my bike.  It's utter madness to run a dog with a bike, and I totally love it.

I thought I'd throw these out there - as opposed to racing, BMX and the other "mainstream" bike sports, these are interesting, creative ways to use the bike and they deserve more attention.  If you have any other suggestions for bike-sports I've omitted here, bring 'em on!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keeping Track

Back In The Day when I had the Cannondale and rode it ALL THE TIME, I had a cycling computer which tracked total distance, cadence, time, and all the other magical things a cycling computer tracks for you. Sadly, one day as I was headed out for a 40 mile ride, 964 miles on the odometer, the wires broke and that computer never did crack the 1000 mile barrier.

 In the meantime, I've always meant to, and never had the financial freedom to justify getting a Garmin cycling computer to keep track of my rides and tell me all the fancy data a nerd like me likes to know.  Least of all when I was working for a company I could get a discount on one (the cruel joke of my sporting goods life is now that I make enough money for spare spending, I no longer get an employee discount).  In the interminable interim though, I've downloaded Strava, an App that does a lot of the same stuff off the GPS function of my phone. Hurray! I've gots the data again!

There's the small hitch - if anyone's actually read back far enough in this blog, or been reading it that long, the Wurst Ride last year taught me something very, very important. Holy god is it mission-critical to have a functioning phone if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, unable to muster the urge to ride further. My memories of that ride are largely of gritting my teeth past a drab brown landscape, wanting to kill whoever invented headwind.  While my phone tracked most of the ride (at the time I was using Map My Ride), using the GPS for that long also ate my battery for lunch.  As a result, I was standing at an intersection of BFE and the Boondocks praying to borrow a cell phone with which to call for help.  As situations go, it wasn't the best place to find myself.

But my inner data nerd cannot rest.  So I'm back where I started - thinking about GPS bike computers that can do the tracking for me without risking the battery of my emergency-contact-system.  Dammit, those things are expensive.

Friday, September 7, 2012

BOOSH

I haven't had much to post about lately, so it's been a bit dead in the Yay Bikes! world.  That doesn't mean I've been off the bike, though!  Actually, I've been more active lately than I have in a long time.  As proof, I submit:



BOOSH!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The (Enormous, Super-'70s) Schwinn Le Tour III


I've mentioned it in passing, but I felt the Schwinn Le Tour III I've had laying around for the last while deserved it's own post, as I'm honestly not sure what to do with it.  For one thing....it's gigantic.  The roadbike of a Viking.  No getting around that.  It's from the 1970s, and weighs a ton.  But on the other hand, it's a steel, Japanese frame roadbike that hasn't seen a lot of obvious wear and tear, and has been stored inside for it's entire existence.  It also has all-original parts.  So, without further ado, here it is, The Schwinn:


The first thing you're saying, I'm sure is "GODDAMN that's a bigass bike!"  At least, that's the first thing I said.  The second thing is "But...it seems to be in pieces."  I admit it.  I've never put this bike together and ridden it, not only because I'm not sure if I know anyone tall enough to ride it.  So I have no idea if the bottom bracket squeaks, if it shifts or stops...also it doesn't have a back tire.

Front Derailleur

Rear Derailleur
 One truly unique thing about this bike (and this could possibly just be a feature of major brands from this era) is that all the components are branded with either Schwinn or Le Tour, meaning I have no idea who made them.  Given the bike's origin in Japan, I'd be willing to bet it's Shimano, but there is remarkably little information on this bike available on the internet.

 This bike is rocking a quill stem and stem-mounted shifters, and show no rust.  I did absolutely zero cleanup on this bike before taking these pictures, and it's been sitting in my garage for several months at this point - still shiny!


The crankset (another Schwinn/Le Tour branded component) has a double chainring, in the classic "ten speed" way.  It also has a dented pedal.


The frame is fully lugged (a bit point in this bike's favor), and the fork crown is blingin' shiny chrome.



More Schwinn-branded components in the cockpit.  Of particular interest to me are the handlebars on this bike - the slight rise in the flats, leading to a long ramp and a nice curved drop all strike me as very reminiscient of the Nitto Noodles.  


For the uninitiated, these are "centerpull" brakes.  They're an older brake style to the modern, more popular sidepull brakes, but some would argue are equally as effective, if not superior to the sidepull.  An interesting feature to this type of brake is that it apparently widens above the pivots as it compresses, avoiding pinching fenders (which, admittedly, this bike does not have).


The bike still has the sticker from the original bike shop it was purchased at, West End Cycle Co, of Galveston, TX.  I've tried giving them a call, but no one has answered - I have no idea if this shop still exists. The bike is proudly labeled as "Made in Japan" which does make me wonder what company was contracted for the manufacture of this bike - maybe Panasonic?


While I have no idea as to it's trueness, even the wheels seem to be free of rust, though the cassette could certainly use a trip through some degreaser to see what lies beneath.

So there you have it.  The (free, gigantic, late-1970s) Schwinn I've been trying to decide the fate of.  I'm having trouble figuring out what I have on my hands here.  Is this a beautiful, lugged Japanese frame worthy of restoration, or an old crappy ten speed I pulled out of a pile of bikes destined to be scrapped out for parts.  Does ANYONE have more information on these particular bikes, and would they be willing to share?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fairdale Flyer Stepthrough

I recently had the TARDIS in for some work at the South Lamar location of Bicycle Sport Shop, one of the (in my humble opinion) better shops in the area.  While I was there I had the opportunity to test ride the Fairdale Flyer Stepthrough, locally designed in Austin by Fairdale Bikes.  This bike got a lot of reactions out of me, not least, "THAT LOOKS TOTALLY BADASS!  Can I ride it?!"


Priced at an extraordinarily humble $439.99, this bike is a steel mixte with 26" wheels, but oh so much more than that.  Fairdale is run by three guys in south Austin, Seth Holton, Taj Mihelich, and Sandy Carson.  Their background is decidedly heavy on BMX, and that comes through in this bike like gangbusters.  The entire bike rides like you could jump it off a ramp while wearing a frilly sundress.  It's a tank.



The frame is made of TIG welded Cromoly, designed in Austin and built in Taiwan.  As for the components, words like "Simple" and "Bombproof" come to mind, even though there are beautiful little details everywhere.


The drivetrain is singlespeed, and geared for cruising, not flying (despite the name).  It comes with 26x1.9 tires, and when I ran it over potholes, I barely felt a thing.  The riding position is decidedly upright, but aggressive enough to feel like the gearing could be a tad higher.  There are a lot of weird little touches to this bike beyond the obvious - for instance, the brakes are a fairly unique looking, but a very simple design that minimizes moving parts. Despite their simplicity, I brought the bike to a screeching, skidding halt when I gave them a solid pull.


The dropouts are BMX-style, and fairly offset from the actual connection to the hub.


The connection of the twin stays is hard to describe, but "blocky" is my best word for it.


One thing that is worth mentioning is the bike comes as pictured, and has absolutely zero in the way of actual commuter accessories - no fenders, rack, clothing protection, or integrated lighting system is included (though I do recognize the inclusion of these accessories would drive up the price point).  The distinctive looks of the bike make me despair to think of it with a Topeak aluminum rack crookedly bolted to the back end of it, but with a bike like this, it's made to move things.  Here in the ATX there's not always a huge call for fenders, but the inclusion of a rack would be really nice.

Given the details, including the fatty tires, the orange pedals, chunky-ish contruction and BMX inspired everything, "elegant" isn't the word I'd choose for this bike, which makes the bike unique in itself!  Mixtes usually go for the refined aesthetic, while this bike is pure Austin.  It's funky, groovy, and a little bit weird.  It rides like a total tank, and will totally get you where you're going.  There are several other Fairdale models which are a bit better equipped in terms of accessories - one of them comes with a skateboard!  But for a groovy ride that gets you there for an INCREDIBLY reasonable cost for a bike of this build quality, this is a totally kickass bike.  Check out their website for local dealers, or if you're in Austin, it's on display at Bicycle Sport Shop.