What would a cycling blog be without a description of the bicycle?
I had never bought a nice bicycle when in 2013 I decided it was time to get serious about cross the US. My friend Steve Reynolds, with whom (along with John Garman) I had gone on three long bike rides in high school as well as a few D2R2 races, is my “bicycle guru.” At any point he has 20-30 bicycles lying around his house, basement and garage in various stages of decomposition. It is a playground or junkyard depending on your perspective. He’s a consummate eBay trader — buying bikes and then selling the most valuable parts, or buying components to re-build a bicycle. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of components, frame makers, new technologies, etc.
He recommended an outfit in Boston called Firefly https://fireflybicycles.com/ I wanted a titanium frame with pannier brackets, as I didn’t know if I would do the crossing with panniers or without. What stood out for me on the web page was the quality of their welding (which was certainly the case for my Firefly) as well as the outstanding pedigree of the lead frame designer Kevin Wolfson: Dartmouth College.
The original bicycle is still on their website: http://fireflybicycles.tumblr.com/post/31011298755
It starts with the frame — titanium, hand-welded with no paint. It has a finish anybody who loves great design and craftsmanship will appreciate. In terms of components, I put the ones I changed in italics
|Brakes||Tektro Long Reach|
|Rear Der||Shimano 7900|
|Front Der (w/clamp)||Shimano 7900|
|Wheels||Hand built Mavic Open Pro with DA Hubs|
|Tires||Vittoria Rubino Pro 25mm|
|Saddle||Selle SMP Lite 209|
|Seatpost||Installed by Toby; not sure|
|Bars||Specialized Aero Carbon|
|Bottle Cages||Stainless Steel||King Cages|
|Pannier Bag||Bontrager Interchange|
A good carbon bicycle would probably weigh 1 kg less than this bicycle, which tips the scales at 9.6 kg (21.2 pounds) with the pannier rack but without the bag. However, I really like how solid this bicycle feels, and in an accident I am less likely to have a “catastrophic failure.”
The choice of pedals is a tricky one. I had historically used Shimano clips, but I found they wore out pretty quickly if you have to walk in them (and they are tough to walk in). The Look pedals are not that different. I’m impressed by Speedplay — you can clip in on either side (a big advantage in traffic), they are easier to adjust, and the cleats seem to last much longer. Their main disadvantage seems to be if they get clogged up in mud.
A big question is always how big the gears should be if you plan to go over the mountains. I run a 50-34 in the front and an 11-27 in the back. I’d probably be better off going up to 30 in the back, but this requires a different rear derailleur. So it is a risk.
I did not go with electronic shifting on this bike. I have it on my other bike, and I love it. It shifts fast, effortlessly and it makes tiny adjustments so that the gears always seem to be aligned (no clickety clack). On the other hand, you do have to charge it and they are harder to maintain. The technology is improving rapidly. When I get to Boston I may change it over to electronic shifting (Shimano has a new version)
Finally the pannier. I have not figured this one out, to be honest. This one is what I used to use commuting in Singapore. I figure I need to carry a windbreaker, suntan lotion, a spare tube, some basic tools, sunglasses and a snack. Maybe rain pants (it’s on the list, but I’ve never used them — I just let my legs get wet). I could get by with half this space. On the other hand, it’s all in one place, very easy to get on and off the bike, and sometimes I will want more space (say after a ride) to head to Walmart. The “frame bags” seem very small and they interfere with the water bottles. Thoughts?
Friday 11 May 2018 Training: Simple day — 65 minutes on the indoor bicycle pedaling pretty hard and reading The Economist. I’m still in shock at the change in government in Malaysia; I didn’t imagine this outcome. Tomorrow is a 5-hour ride.