Monday, December 25, 2017

Tried and Liked 2017

It's tried-and-liked time again! You can find all previous editions here.


Bike blogging

Okay, I gotta say it: Ride or Pie?! has been around since 2009, and despite various threads decrying the "decline of the interesting bike blog," I still enjoy writing and reading about bike stuff in blogs. Instagram et al. are great for what they are, and many once great bike blogs have disappeared. But there are still lots of good ones out there and I have no intention of discontinuing my bloggage.

Collecting Tiles

I'm way too slow to chase KOMs on Strava. I do like bike-related challenges, though, and so I was very excited to discover Veloviewer's tile explorer. It's a little complicated to explain, but basically a map is divided into squares of a certain size, about 1.5 by 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles). Based on your Strava data, whenever you ride through one tile, it gets added to your collection. You can aim to maximize the overall number of tiles you have collected, or even better you can try to connect the little tiles into an ever larger square of contiguous tiles. Which, of course, gets exponentially more difficult.
Collecting tiles has been a great motivator to a) ride a lot and b) ride on roads that I had never ridden before. Once you have found a good route, it's easy to just keep doing it over and over again, instead of exploring new roads.
I'm currently up to 16x16 squares. Lakes are one big obstacle to expanding your square, and I'm waiting for some larger lakes in Madison to freeze over so that I close some important holes in my collection.

Solo bike touring California

Definitely the highlight of the year! I rode for seven days through Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Ride reports here:

Front-load-only touring

Related: I'm convinved now by the concept of only having a front load on a low-trail camping bike. For my California trip, almost all of my luggage was in my handlebar bags and two large panniers attached to a lowrider rack. Worked great!

Occasional single-track mountain biking

I bought my Pugsley fat bike last year first and foremost as a winter bike. But even in Wisconsin, winter only last so long. I've come to enjoy the occasional MTB outing on the local trails. Madison has several trail systems that are within riding distance from my home. I especially like hitting the trails as a short-but-intense riding option on days when I don't really feel like riding on the roads.

Carradice on the fat bike

One problem with my fat bike was that I needed to figure out how to carry things on it. On my regular bike I either have a rear rack for panniers or a randonneur-style handlebar bag. Instead of spending money on a frame bag or similar, I figured I may as well first try what I already had: A Carradice Nelson saddle bag with a Bagman support rack. I was a little skeptical how well the Bagman would hold up on a mountain bike -- even for on-road use, the rails would occasionally slide out of the mounting block. I modded that system a while ago, replacing the tiny grub screws with more meaty regular screws, as well as filing flats onto the rails to give the screw a larger point of contact. All in all this has proven to be strong enough for mountain bike use. The Carradice bag does not noticeably impact the handling of the bike. The only exception is that I can't drop behind the saddle for steep descents. I'm cool with that.

Carradice Nelson on my Pugsie


The cold season was the perfect time to give my Gunnar Roadie a facelift. The notorious quality of Waterford paint jobs of yesteryear had left me with a frame with a lot of spots where the paint had chipped or scratched. Waterford will repaint your bike (and from what I know, their paint quality is much better nowadays), but the price is steep. Based on multiple recommendations from the iBOB list, I decided to have the frame powdercoated by Groody Bros. in Kansas City. I can highly recommend them: Communication was great (all via email), you can choose from any powder color imaginable (you order the powder from any supplier you like and have it shipped to Groody), the price was right, and the quality was excellent. I also used the opportunity to get the chainstays dimpled to improve tire clearance. And having a matching frame, fork, and steam is great. Because I rode the bike so much, including a lot of gravel, I never had the opportunity for a glamour photo shoot. Hopefully next year.

Have I mentioned that I like pink?


My Gunnar wasn't the only bike that got a new color. In fall I used the Spray.Bike paint products to give it an awesome new paint job. Read the full report here.

Pari Moto and Compass tires

I have ridden enough on both 38mm Pari Motos as well as 42mm Compass tires. With some patience, you can pick up a Pari Moto for less than $30 shipped. That's less than half of what Compass tires with regular casing cost, and I don't think that Compass tires last twice as long as the Pari Motos. One day I'll spring for a Compass Extralights, but I just can't get myself to spend that much money on a tire when cheaper options as good as the Pari Moto are available.

Tubus Logo Classic stainless steel rear rack

To repaint my Cross-Check, I needed to strip down the frame. I already knew that the aluminum rear rack was badly rusted in place. But I had at least some hope that I may be able to salvage the rack. Not so much, and so I had the opportunity to upgrade from the unsightly Jandd rack to a Tubus. For a bike that gets ridden year-round, a stainless rack seemed ideal. I opted for the Tubus Logo Classic in stainless steel. Ordering directly from Germany, it wasn't too expensive, and I'm very happy with its looks and functionality. Having the second set of rails to hook up panniers is great.

Antritt podcast

If you understand German, I highly recommend the monthly Antritt podcast. It's the first and only bike podcast that has ever appealed to me. It's professionally produced and has a great mix of topics, ranging from history to policy and bike tech.


Velo Orange cranks

One of the lessons from my California tour was that I needed lower gearing for my SOMA Grand Randonneur. In my search for a cheap sub-compact crank, I was offered an early-generation Velo Orange set. Sadly, I have not been able to make that crank work: After several attempts of buying ever wider bottom brackets, I ended up with a set-up that works, kind of. With a 122mm bottom bracket, the cranks clear the chain stays, but with so little room to spare that they do rub on hard efforts. Filing the ends of the crank made it slightly better, but I can still make them rub. And with a 122mm bottom bracket, the chainline is less than ideal. I'm not sure if the design of my cranks is different from the current generation VO cranks or if it's a quirk of the Grand Randonneur, but I definitely need to come up with a different solution.
Not enough clearance

Brooks Cambium

Many people love their Cambium saddles; I do not. The saddle is okay-but-not-great in terms of comfort for a bike that rarely sees rides longer than 3 hours. But the saddle doesn't age well. In its current state, the top looks ratty. For a saddle with an MSRP of $160, that is not for me.

Panaracer Pasela

The unbelted version of the Pasela is generally well liked as an affordable tire with decent rolling resistance and comfort. A while back I had picked up a pair of NOS Paselas in 32mm width at a garage sale. After my Vittoria Randonneur Hyper had worn through, I finally put the Paselas on—and didn't like them. They felt stiffer than the Vittorias, and the sidewalls showed signs of disintegration quickly. After less than a year on the bike, one of the sidewalls failed. I'm done with Paselas.


Drop bar Bar Mitts

Last year I wrote that I really liked my drop-bar-specific Bar Mitts. Since then I have discovered that they do have one problem: By allowing for only hand position, my hands go numb after about 45 minutes of riding. It's a relatively small trade-off and my hands go back to normal with a brief stop. It's also possible that choosing a different size (I think when I bought mine they only came in one size) or a different handlebar shape would alleviate the issue.

Philips Saferide condensation issues

After singing the praises of the generator-hub-powered Philips Saferide front light last year, I have sad news to report: A few weeks ago I noticed that the light beam looked different. And then the standlight failed as well, with the light turning itself off whenever I stopped. On closer inspection I noticed that moisture has gotten into the light. For now I've replaced the Philips with a BUMM light from one of my other bikes. I'll see if maybe I can get the moisture out of the light, but I'm not very hopeful.

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