Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tucson Critical Mass

Looks like Critical Mass is stirring up the pot in my old stomping grounds. Here are some recent articles - (see my comment #15) (see my comment #143)

All of which I've been finding out about through this great little blog -

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fixed Gear Part 2 - Bianchi Pista

I picked up my new, and first ever "fixie" just over a week ago. The Bianchi Pista I posted about. Picked it up at Velo, up on Capitol hill. I had them put on a front brake and clipless pedals. The brake cost an extra 65 bucks and the pedals 35 but they didn't charge labor. The guy I talked to was real cool. We went over the whole bike, the differences in riding fixed verses "regular" bikes and what the best route would be for me to take back home, on it's virgin ride. I don't know if they do this for everyone but they gave me an Allen wrench (fitting most of the Allen nuts on the bike) and combo 15mm socket (for the wheel nuts)/pedal wrench. No quick release here. Halfway home I adjusted the tension on the clipless pedals. To tight for me.

When I got home I took off all the extra "junk". Reflectors, extra decals. There were eight decals on each wheel. I want to keep this bike as simple and minimalistic as safely possible. Bianchi placed a one of those protective chain stay decals on this bike. This makes no sense. It has no shifters and only one gear. The chain will never hit that chain stay. It's just more marketing.

I've since made some more minor adjustments -
Flipped over the stem. Not quite as cool looking but more comfortable giving the bars a little extra height.
Added some Mr. Tuffy tire liners, just in time as I'm already pulling glass out of the tires. I swear by those things.
Changed up the front chain ring from a 48 to a 44 to make it a little easier on the hills.
Changed the handle bar tape with a diamond weave of black and gray cloth tape and shellac.

I also picked up a Guppy head and tail light. I'm really impressed with these little lights. They clip on almost anywhere, weigh almost nothing, and are brighter then my Planet Bike Spot and cost 5 bucks less.

Compared to Musette (my 2003 Fuji Ace), the bike is super light. Weighing in at 21 pounds. Not bad for an all steel frame. Riding up the hills weren't as bad as I had thought, even with the 48 chain ring. After riding about 20+ miles on a fixed gear, switching back to a bike that coasts became odd in itself. Musette felt almost "broken". This last Friday I made the mistake of riding the new bike to work when I new the weather was going to be bad. 100% chance of rain but when I looked outside there was a break and the streets were dry. I thought I could make it. Thought wrong. Halfway to work I got thoroughly soaked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fixed Gear

It looks like I may be finally getting a fixed gear bike. I have been fascinated with fixed gear bike for some years now as it is just about the simplest form of the bicycle you can get. Here is a brief description for my friends who have no knowledge of a fixed gear, courtesy of Wikipedia -

A fixed-gear bicycle or fixed wheel bicycle, is any bicycle without a freewheel and usually only one gear ratio. The sprocket is screwed directly on to the hub without a freewheel mechanism. A reverse-thread lockring is usually fitted to prevent the sprocket from unscrewing.

Because there is no freewheel mechanism, fixed gear bicycles cannot coast. Whenever the rear wheel is turning, the pedals turn in the same direction. By resisting the forward motion of the pedals, a rider is able to slow the bike to a stop, with
out the aid of a brake. They can also be ridden in reverse, although the forward-oriented geometry of any bicycle makes this more of a stunt than a practical technique.

More can be read about fixed gear cycling on the Wikipedia web site here.

Fixed gear bikes have a bit of a cult status to them although they are becoming ever more popular lately. This is fortunate for me because more companies are producing fixed gear bikes and I don't have to go through the conversion process on my own. The bicycle I have settled on is a nice, shiny Bianchi 2007 Pista.

I gave one a test ride yesterday and, having never rode a fixed gear before, I can truly say it was wild. Having the pedals push back up on your feet gives the feeling that the bike is a living creature. You push down and the bike pushes back up. Also, extremely surprising to me is how light the bike is. Especially for a steel frame. I would have to guess it's somewhere around 18 - 20 pounds.

There are a few changes I will be making right from the get go. Although the bike is now in it's beautiful, true, simple form, without all the extra derailleurs, shifters, brakes and levers, I will be adding a front brake. The stem I will change to give a slightly more comfortable riding style. The handlebars will become bull horns or possibly the mustache style. Plans for the handle bar tape too but that I will reveal later. (Update - I'm keeping the bars as they are. With the larger frame it's easier for me to reach the drops which means I use them more. Plus they have beautiful curves.) The gear ratio will probably change so it's easier to get up the hills but this I will figure out after some experience riding it. The pedals will become clipless. And, one day the saddle will be a Brooks.

I'll be keeping my trusty 21 speed, commuter, road bike, "Musette". The fixie is mostly for fun, "Musette" is my utility bike.