May the (SRAM) Force Be with You

It’s the simple things in life that keep us happy. For me, it was when my good friend Tyler was adjusting the shifting on the SRAM Force rear derailleur after that long San Diego ride. Like I said. It’s the simple things.

2014 Jake the Snake: Quick Review

Like I was saying earlier about cyclocross: the bikes that some companies are coming out with are just fantastic. If you are looking to get into cyclocross, Kona might be a good place to start. There are four bikes in the Jake series for 2014: from entry level to high end they are the Jake, Jake the Snake (pictured), Major Jake and Super Jake. The reason why the Jake the Snake is a better choice than the jake is mainly the price. For MSRP of $1,699 US, you get some pretty nice features. The main one that impressed me is the tapered headset. You get an FSA 57B internal with sealed cartridge bearings. The tapering is important: even though the frame is made of the same Racelight 7005 Aluminum and is stiff to begin with, the tapered headset gives much more stability and response. That’s important when you are barreling down a decline surfaced with a mix of mud, gravel and dry grass. Also, the biggest bang for your buck comes from the Shimano Ultegra group and tubeless-ready wheels. It’s a great platform to learn on and you can upgrade it with nicer parts after you beat the crap out of the stock parts. If you want a good sub-$2,000 do-it-all bike, this may be the one. Yes, I know I am always saying that Surly is the way to go on account of the steel awesomeness they create. But Kona is a great company that makes race-worthy bikes and their employees do a lot of personal R and D on the frames. The Snake is definitely not Fred-worthy, so they deserve a test ride at your local Kona dealer with a subsequent purchase. You will not be disappointed. Plus it looks great in pictures!

Tyler

Tyler and a 2014 Kona Jake Cyclocross Bike.

Tyler and a 2014 Kona Jake Cyclocross Bike.
Shot in an alley off Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA

Some of you may not know about cyclocross. It’s a sport that has been around for quite a while but has really blown up lately. It started out as a steeplechase format where you would ride your bike from one point to another across fields and fences, rivulets and hills in relatively straight line. Nowadays, it is done on a preset track loop with a certain amount of dirt, mud, inclines, etc. What it boils down to is you ride a road bike with knobby tires through the mud and gravel, getting dirty and rad the whole way. There are sections where you must dismount and carry your bike up steps or inclines. The bikes needed to race cyclocross used to be just modified steel road frames that used cantilever brakes and knobby 700 x 35mm tires. Now, there are special models available from a number of manufacturers made specifically with cyclocross in mind. The Kona Jake line is a good example of where cyclocross is heading. Disc brakes are becoming more common and aluminum frames are reserved for the lower end price ranges.

But due to the less-than-aggressive geometry of these bikes, they make fantastic commuters. I myself have a Surly Crosscheck that I built up with a SRAM Force road gruppo and a Brooks saddle. Although it has a steel frame, it is light enough to get the job done and I don’t have to worry about being delicate with it. Cyclocross bikes are sturdy, comfortable and fast. The 700c wheel size means you have tons of options for tires and a larger cassette ratio means you can tackle the hills on your commute or on the course. Whether you call them CX, cyclocross or if you’re a Fred, a ‘cross bike, they are truly an awesome fit for lots of uses.

Jimmy

Jimmy and his Specialized Crux Carbon Cyclocross bike.

Rides a Specialized Crux Carbon Cyclocross bike.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Just back from a 50-mile ride.

I tend not to like the Spandex Army. Personally, I think riding kit is a little silly. But that’s my $0.02 and I will never tell anyone else not to wear it. Some people (not me) look downright sexy in kit. We’re all cyclists. To quote Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde: “Exercise creates endorphins. Endorphins make people happy.” I think that is for the most part true: unless you are on PEDs then you are just a jerk, straight up. Unless you are in the camp that thinks that professional cyclists don’t have a choice but to turn to doping. Hey, all I have to say is, if doping has been the norm in professional cycling for so many years, the UCI should either legalize PEDs or the cyclists should just admit they use them and stop lying to everyone.

In any case, the people who ride bikes and love it, whether they wear the uniform of the Lycra Mafia or not, are the real athletes. It doesn’t even matter if you are competing or not. It only matters that you have two wheels on the ground at all times.

Bike Pron Vol. 7

Stem of a hand-built cyclocross bike by Gold Coast Cycles.

Stem of a hand-built cyclocross bike by Gold Coast Cycles.

So it has been a couple of weeks since I have been able to add a little bit of bike pron to tickle your funny parts. What gets in the way of this? Work. Designing stuff. Lynda.com (fascinating what you can learn there). But when I look back to see all the cool pictures I have, like close-ups of juicy bicycle parts, I feel lost. I feel like I could be giving you something more. I feel like all I see on the internets of the Google Machine nowadays are close-ups of juicy bicycle parts that I would never be able to afford. Which brings me to another dilemma I’ve been wrestling with lately. Grab a cold one and kick back for a second:

I have been wanting more photographic opportunities lately. Especially where bicycles are concerned. So I recently took it upon myself to research this year’s NAHBS. For those of you who don’t know NAHBS, it is less commonly known as the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. (Side note: is there a South American Handmade Bicycle Show?) Really, it is live bike pron. It is where thousands, nay, tens of thousands of cycling deviants go to look at hand-made bicycles and masturbate silently inside their own minds. It is a giant room filled with some of the most amazing bicycles you have ever seen. A lot of it can be called art. So my dilemma is this: do I buy a ticket to North Carolina and a hotel room? Or do I buy a new bike I’ve had my eye on for a while? Which would give me more pleasure? Taking pictures of polished lugs and hand-brazed frames? Or actually riding a brand new bike?

If you haven’t guessed already, the beautiful specimen of locally hand-crafted cycling specimen above was at last year’s NAHBS. In fact, just having a local connection, Rudy at Gold Coast Cycles, is kind of awesome. He built the geometrically awesome bike in the picture above. So I guess I could say that, with all the bike pron on the internets these days, I could just wait for someone else to take pictures whilst I ride my new bike. And out on my adventures, I can take my own pictures of other people and their bikes. There. It’s decided.

Happy Holidays!

HoldiayChainring1

The Holiday Chainring says “Merry/Happy [religious/cultural day of significance]!

Today is Christmas Day here in America and wherever else Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians celebrate around the world. I would like to say, however, that I think that “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is way more appropriate. Yes, if you look at a calendar or the front door of a bank or post office, today is indeed Christmas Day. However, it is also December 25 (or 25 December depending on if you think America has it backwards), and it has about as much religious significance to non-Christians as, well, a chainring. So I would like to adopt the chainring as the new 48-point star symbol of the end-of-year season. Sort of a universal symbol of hope that next year will be better than this year. And no, I will not be using the chainring as a ninja star in some imagined war on Christmas.

In any case, if you do celebrate Christmas and you are reading this on December 25 (or 25 December), I certainly hope you family (or yourself) regaled you with a nice new bicycle, bicycle part or bicycle-themed object of some sort. I also hope that you are out there right now, weather permitting, on your new road bike/cross bike/fat bike/mountain bike (26/27.5/29 – single speed/hardtail/dual-suspension)/touring bike/BMX bike/recumbent/tandem/hybrid/fixie/Dutch bike/mixte/cruiser/tall bike/folding bike/fitness bike/unicycle (yes, even they count) getting rad and enjoying the thing we all love: cycling.

Thank you all for sticking with me. Merry Christmas. Happy Festivus. Hang a chainring in your window and thank the Gods for your two-wheeled love of your life.

Rudy

Rudy

Rides a Gold Coast Cycles Cyclocross bike.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Cruising by to show off the bike.

I fist met Rudy at the bike shop. He rode in on some pastel-colored road bike he just scored for a ridiculous deal. We talked about the bike, punk rock, all sorts of other things. See, Rudy is a really cool guy. What I found out later is he builds bikes, too. Now, I build bikes. But I just gather parts and assemble them into what I think looks cool and rides well. Rudy actually builds the frames himself…brazing and welding and all that. His awesome skills make up Gold Coast Cycles. I remember the other day I ran into him in a FedEx Office and saw him producing the stencils for his head badges. Yep, he etches his own head badges on, get this, pieces of cut cymbals. How awesome is that? I really hope I get to photograph Rudy on some of his other creations.

Bike Pron Vol. 3

The Challenge Limus 33 700c Cyclocross Clincher tire.

The Challenge Limus 33 700c Cyclocross Clincher tire.

As promised, I am bringing you your weekly humpday fix of bike pron. Pictured  here is the Challenge Limus 33 Cyclocross tire. Like most people who follow cyclocross, I chose these tires both for their functionality and their looks. I have them installed on my grass racer to give it that old-school mountain bike look. They kind of remind me of the old Panaracer Fatrax tires from the 90s. Speaking of 80s, they retail for about $80.00 per tire. Boom!