Friday, January 8, 2016

Coffee Brake: Pedal Power

It's Friday, so that means it is time for Coffee Brake: DT's weekly break from the mundane VW Eos and ElCamonda listings.  This week I want to discuss pedal pedal cars, but those two wheeled things called bicycles.  I've owned and ridden many over the decades, starting when I was about 4 years old on a little red bike whose make/model has been lost to failed neurotransmitters.  In my college years I rode a non-suspended Trek mountain bike for fun and commuting that is still somewhere in my garage.  Later I picked up a Kona cross country full suspension bike (used, of course) that I used for weekly mountain biking and then I had a 90's Battaglin road bike.

I recently sold the Battaglin, partly because I haven't had the chance/interest to ride it, but mostly because the roads in my neck of Southern California are so unfriendly to bicycles (more pot holes and crazy uber drivers per square foot than NYC).  I lost the regular mountain biking crew when the core group changed jobs, had kids, in truth I don't get on two weeks much anymore, which is a shame because it is good exercise and fun.

So that's my story, do you ride with pedals? Comments below.


  1. Working as a paper boy, riding heavy but durable bikes in the rain, snow, I was eager to get off bikes as quickly as I could and onto something with a motor. The last bicycle I owned was the (then) ultra-light Schwinn Paramount. You cannot imagine the 1,000ths of a second I saved by being able to shift at the end of my handlegrips :)

  2. Commuting in Los Angeles I bought a worn out GT Aggressor 3.0, stripped it completely and made a non-suspended fixed gear out of it. Not a single speed, but a fixed gear, no freewheel, one front Avid mechanical disk brake. Kenda cross tires, surly fixxer in the back and a surly solid front fork. Don't remember the handle bar, headset, or stem but they were all fairly inexpensive, yet lightweight. Weighed under 20lbs and was kind of a compromise. Zero rise bars and zero rise stem plus a 34" inseam = back problems, and I could never quite get the geometry right so that it would track straight without a slight lean when you're riding hands free.

    Sold it for $300 to some hipster in Echo Park before I moved to Santa Monica and picked up a Trek 7000 zx that I built into a moderate commuter / low end off-roader. Comfortable on the mandeville canyon fire road, comfortable on dirt Mulholland, comfortable dodging inattentive tourists on Lincoln and Ocean Park during my commutes.

    Now I live in the middle of BFE nowhere flyover country, where riding a bicycle on public roads is basically asking to get hit by some inattentive "local" in his brodozer. The Trek hangs on my wall in the garage next to the Jamis I built for the wife, a testament to when we were less lazy and lived in a much more awesomer environment.

    1. I have to agree with you about riding a bike on the road. It is much scarier than a motorcycle. At least with a motorcycle I can accelerate away from bad drivers, with a bicycle, I'm totally depending on the driver to do the right thing. Luckily a lot of the old railroad right of ways in the area have been paved over and turned into bicycle/walking trails.

  3. I went from a couple Sting-Rays (first one an off-brand that I bent running into a garage door when the chain came off and the coaster brake would coast but not brake, second one a real Schwinn that, truth be told, wasn't quite as nice to ride) to my brother's left-over three-speed bomber to a succession of medium-price road bikes (we just called them 'ten-speeds' back then).

    I lived in SF in those days and in my college days I used to go up and across the Gate bridge to Sausalito maybe three times a week, it must have been good exercise because I recall a girlfriend at the time telling me that I didn't have an ass.

    I keep meaning to go get myself another road bike, but mostly I've just been flogging a streetified hardtail Trek mountain bike for a long time, it does great up to 20-30 miles over the dystopian infrastructure that is so much of modern suburban California.

  4. Ever looked up "pulse jet powered bicycle" on youtube? It's a thing. Not terribly hard to create, either. I imagine riding one from one freeway on ramp to another at 75 mph. It would be illegal and dangerous, but you would definitely give you the story of a lifetime.

    1. Funny, I was looking at something similar yesterday: pulse jet powered RC aircraft. Found videos of them in Germany no less. Germany has an interesting history with pulse jets...

  5. I loved my BMX's as a little kid, riding around the neighbourhood with friends was a huge feeling of independence, but the idea of owning a sports car was the most appealing idea to me. So I got a paper route and bought a beaten up VW Scirocco. I loved driving so much I didn't ride a bike again for almost 10 years. But when I did - WOW - it re-kindled all the awesome feelings I had. Riding a bike, especially in the forest is an amazing feeling! Go rent one and try!

  6. I had a beautiful Columbus SLX Phillipe with chrome seatstays, chainstays, and fork. Lovely pantographing on the fork as well. Sadly, it was stolen during a home robbery.

    Though it lacks the character and beauty of the Phillipe, I am now riding a Lynskey R240 which is a wonderful bike in its own right.

    1. I used to run a bike shop so I can even remember all the bikes I've owned...that said, I love my mid 90's Fondriest made with Columbus EL-OS tubes. Despite the flamboyant colors only an Italian can pull off it gets way more use than my seriously built carbon fiber Lemond.

      I've always liked titanium bikes (and bone repairs) and still ride a 1994 Litespeed Obed. I've wanted to pop for a Lynskey for a long time. Would you recommend one to a bike snob?

    2. Ha...small world...I had an Obed also...never shoulda gotten rid of it.

    3. Yes, I would certainly recommend the Lynskey. Supple ride that is reminiscent of Columbus steel, yet very sharp and responsive. I find myself pushing descents much more than I would previously be comfortable with. Efficient power delivery on climbs is also notable. Nice aesthetic. If you take the plunge, the sales guys will deal. I was also considering Carrera/DeRosa Titanium, but the price was stratospheric.

  7. I've owned a BMW 323 Baur, and Alfa Romeo Milano, two Saabs, and a Contour SVT among others. But I live in a small town and I rarely drive in town, preferring to use my bike. Even when I lived in big towns like Portland and Tacoma I rode my bike to work, up to 27 miles each way. I would way rather ride than drive. And I currently have something like 22 bicycles to back that statement up.
    But sometimes you just need a car. My current stable includes a Sienna minivan (love it) and an '89 Saab 900T convertible that I hardly every drive (would help if it would start!) I'd love to have another Alfa some day, when I can afford to maintain it. And a Sportcross with a manual. And that 1991 300SL with the 5 speed. And a nice LS430.

    1. 22 is impressive. What is your favorite for regular street riding?

    2. My Townie bike gets the most use. Alfine 8 speed internal hub, disc beakes, mustache bars. I have a TI hardtail SS 29er that is my fave off road and a custom steel road bike with discs that is my fave of three road bikes. And plenty more!

    3. My Townie bike gets the most use. Alfine 8 speed internal hub, disc beakes, mustache bars. I have a TI hardtail SS 29er that is my fave off road and a custom steel road bike with discs that is my fave of three road bikes. And plenty more!

  8. It all depends on where you ride. I ride both trails and roads, and own a Fuji cyclocross bike with carbon frame. For those that may not know - cyclocross bikes are hybrids that can ride on crushed stone trails as well as paved roads. They can use larger tire widths (the super narrow road bike tires always made me uncomfortable even though they are faster), and you can change the tires to handle just about any terrain. The gearsets are designed for maximizing the middle range of biking, which is most of what you do. Meanwhile the carbon frame keeps the weight down so it's easy to ride. They're like the crossover SUV of the biking industry. Mine has no special suspension components, but I don't use it mountain biking. I biked the Florida keys from Key Largo to Key West with no problems. You get a direct experience of the area on a bike that you can't get in a car - even from a convertible. That's the best part - you drive your car cross country to where you want to go, visit all the fun places along the way, then bike for fun. The best of both worlds. And that beer tastes even better when you earn it.

  9. "The correct number of bike to own is n+1 , where n is the number of bikes currently owned..."

    I take this rule to an absurd extreme right now. In my stable currently:

    • Trek Equinox 9 (on the trainer)
    • Trek Speed Concept 9.9 (tri rig 1)
    • Trek Speed Concept 7.8 (tri rig 2 – currently for sale)
    • Quintana Roo CD0.1 (tri rig 3 – currently for sale)
    • Specialized Crux Comp Disc (cyclocross rig, currently for sale)

    Bikes were a passion when I was a kid, and they are slowly becoming a passion once again. Damn carbon fiber everything.... ;) Anyone interested in helping me thin the herd?

  10. I was thinking about building a Cyclocross bike. It's a discipline I've not yet tested.

    I fell in love with mountain biking around age 15 or so when I took a trip to the pacific NW. Between whatever those ski towns are in BC and Mount Ranier, there's some great places to ride. Unfortunately I came back to the flat side of Ohio, and promptly bought a (at the time) quite nice Giant OCR1. I've had that a little over a decade now, and while I gave it tons of attention when it was newer, the last 5 years haven't seen near as many miles as the first 5.

    I have full plans to rectify that once the weather clears up. I bought a fat bike this winter, the cheapest Framed Wolftrax available. Identical to the one in this picture. I really like it so far, and I can't wait to show it some real trails. I'm not a huge fan of spending money on expensive suspension when I could spend money on expensive tires for the same ride quality, but more grip.

    At some point between those two bikes, I bought a cheap Giant 26" mountain bike. The cheapest one that had disc brakes, which was still sort of a novelty at the time. I took the no-name fork off and replaced it with a much appreciated Rockshox xc32. Being able to pump up the air to compensate for my fat was a very nice touch.

  11. Missin' the Rockies.January 8, 2016 at 7:33 PM

    Didn't expect this many wrenchers would have had any interest in pedal power. My experiences of getting pushed off the road by macho Bronco's sitting high on offroad tires, or guys with a Cummins Diesel, exhaust pipe 6 inches in diameter sticking up behind the cabine, coming up next to you, and asking if you smoke... (you probably know where the story goes from there), left me with a bad taste, literally. But as a guy who rides about 7,000 miles a year, I have to say I miss my days living in Boulder , CO. Where what's on your roof rack typically is worth double of what you're driving. A good amount of folks just lives life to the max on a small budget, riding on those mile high country roads. Not a car in sight. Just maybe , once in a while, you'll see a guy in an Alfa or a Saab, rowing through the gears, making his way up a dusty gravel road.

  12. 1986 Lotus Unique, bought new in San Fran - only made for a couple of years, and apparently they have a cult following now - - lovely patina - i fully intend to give it a gentle refurb and start riding again, once i bring my center of gravity down a bit

  13. I think bikes and cars are both well in the gearhead family. (Motorcycles, too, for that matter). I've definitely owned more bikes than cars, and for the most part the bikes have been more interesting.

    1990 Nissan Pickup (5MT)- SOLD
    1988 Chevy Celebrity - SOLD
    1992 Subaru Legacy - WRECKED AND SOLD
    1997 Toyota T100 - SOLD
    2014 Golf TDI - Still breaking it in

    Trek 800 MTB - TRADED
    Specialized Stumpjumper - TRADED
    Fuji 80s Road Bike, Built as SS Commuter - TRADED
    GT 90s MTB, with internal hub and studded tires, built as Winter Commumter - TRADED
    Masi CX - Current Knocking Around with Kids / Commuter
    2005 Lemond Sarthe - STOLEN (and still bummed/ticked! one of the last steel+campy off-the-rack bikes you could find)
    2013 Waterford Vision OS2 - Current Road Bike (steel+campy, 'natch)

    1984 Honda Ascot VT500FT - SOLD
    2009 Honda Metropolitan - Sitting in my garage waiting for me to clean the carbs

  14. I find working on bikes so refreshing compared to cars. The parts are light, no electronics, most of the time simple and if you have a bike project going it doesn't scatter the garage.
    I have really gotten into Italian bikes recently making the hobby that much more expensive.
    De Rosa Dual with Campangolo Record and Super Record 11 speed
    De Rosa Marek with Campy Record
    Scott Genius
    Scott CX bike

    1. Love the comment on how refreshing it is to wrench on bicycles compared to cars. That certainly used to be true but now things have changed greatly in the past 6 years... Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano all offer electronic shifting and now a company called Rotor is about to introduce hydraulic shifting. With many of these systems you need to have specialty software from the manufacturer to configure the drivetrain setups not to mention the incredible additional cost of the drivetrains themselves... and it is only going to get more complex as more and more proprietary bicycle design elements affect what can and cannot be wrenched on at home by the shade tree mechanic. I do miss the days of cable actuated bicycles with steel frames that could be repaired...

    2. I'm not sure if I will graduate the the electronic component market ever. I am actually trying to add more analogue to my life.

    3. Totally hear you. Part of the charm of a bicycle IS its mechanical nature. The new techno drivetrains somehow take away from that in my opinion. In fact it reminds me of the modern automobile that has gotten so adept at everything that it no longer has a personality....

  15. I have three bikes, one sorta nice-ish Cannondale CAAD9 Road bike(Great Frame, wish I'd sprung for better components), a Fuji Touring bike (rode it across the US, now it's my commuter) and a beater 70's Japanese road bike with riser bars.

    I used to volunteer at the local Bike non-profit (Bikes Not Bombs), so keeping the heard down to 3 took some effort.

  16. Started with a Schwinn three wheeler graduating in 1953 toe a Raleigh Lenton Sports with celluloid fenders and a 4-speed Sturmey Archer hub trans (only SA equipped bike bike I've ever seen with a "B-low") then on the Mobylette Mobymatic, Vespa scooters (125, 200, Lambretta 175 then on to motorcycles. More recently (10-15 yrs ago) I too owned a Battaglin which I used on 5 Solvang Century rides - the rear triangle broke after about 20,000 miles. These days I'm back on an aluminum Raleigh Technium mountain bike for running the dog and a Cannondale CAD 3 with 'old school' Camapy Record including a set of Delta brakes - cars currently French(5), Brit (3), German (3) American (1) Greg Millard

  17. My first real road bike was a 1980 Bianchi Campione del Mondo with sew up tires with which I started my racing career. About 20 bikes and 35 years later I ride a carbon Velo Vie and a Kona 29er. The great thing about bikes is that you can get the best frames and components available without being rich, unlike the best, fastest cars available.
    Riding is surprisingly good here in the Phoenix Valley with smooth roads and lots of bike lanes.

    1. Smooth roads and lots of bike lanes -- just about the opposite of the LA area. There are some paths on the boardwalk at the beach, but most LA riding requires some suspension and a change of pants in your pack.

  18. DT Brass: Are you at all concerned that a bike feature is drawing exponentially more comments that the cars you have posted?

    My feedback on pedal bikes; they look very healthy, I used to love to ride mine, and yes, one can forget how to ride a bicycle.

    I now have doubts about the tree falling in the woods question.

    1. Concerned...nah...intrigued, yes! I've found that there is much crossover between the world of cars/bikes/bicycles/unicycles and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Maybe I could drop in a few bicycle features...?

      -Vince DT E-i-C.


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