Saturday, October 20, 2012

Surley Troll

Thinking, planning, scheming.  The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is on my horizon and as such a new bike was in the equation.  My LBS, Campus Wheel Works, kept me in their sights for almost a year, looking out for a bike that would perform well in a wide variety of settings.  The GDMBR is comprised of single track (one lane dirt trail), double track (old roads), dirt roads and pavement.  Trying to find a bike to cover all aspects of this trail and carry panniers or tow a trailer is a challenge.
In late August, Ethan pointed me towards the Surley Troll, a hybrid/road/mountain bike which is able to morph into many different things, due to the multitude (ooooh- I've used that word twice today) of dropouts and braze-ons.  This configuration allows Rohloff hubs, which contain internal gearing to take the place of a derailleur, disk brakes, cantilever brakes, fenders and racks. Ethan poked around until he found a front suspension fork which could accomodate a rack (something mountain bikers would generally frown upon). I will miss using the really cool OEM fork, which has braze-ons for water bottle cages on the outer edges, along with braze-ons for anything else you can think of. The price tag comes to under $2,000, which is still a whole heck of a lot of money to me.
There is now a Thudbuster seat post on it and pedals which will accomodate Power Straps.  It seems like the Power Straps will outperform cages and give some of the advantages of clipless pedals without the special shoes. Addtionaly, it has a King water bottle cage and a new fangled Camelback bottle, which doesn't leak when turned on its side.
Now the bike just needs a rear rack and better reflectors and/or lights.  Here is a wonderful resource on tail-lights.  So sweet when someone does my homework for me and does it well.
 Oh, and when I asked about the dreaded "chain slap" which occurs when the derailleur can't absorb the slack caused by going over big bumbs, Ethan suggested a Cycle Stuff Chain Stay Wrap, which will probably be more durable than a cut up tube. I think the handlebars are Multibar Butterfly bars.  They should offer up a nice variety of hand positions for all the washboard road along the GDMBR.
I will be aiming for the summer of 2013, unless Adventure Cycling calls me to lead a tour, in which case I will gladly shift gears.

This is the first mountain bike type bike I have ever owned that was sized properly.  It rides smoothly, with the Thudbuster taking some of the jarring out of the rear without the weight of a full suspension. The fork (Rockshox) seems to offer a nice balance of absorption and has the ability to lock the suspension.
The rack is an Old Man Mountain and came with several options for mounting, but is designed for a suspension fork.  The disk brakes on this bike will help with the brutal braking conditions the bike will be subjected to, carrying a full load of panniers, water and me. Mud and water have affected every touring bike I have used, but this bike will see more mud than on a road tour, though not necessarily the downhill speeds seen on a road tour. I thought the tires would be too much for roads and not enough for of road- wrong: pretty good all around.

Two irritating things- the front derailleur cable comes out diagonally, impeding my ability to grab the bike and carry it by the seat tube up/down stairs and that same derailleur's clamp is placed between the two water bottle mounting points on the seat tube, necessitating the use of spacers (which it didn't come with) to attach a cage.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Progress runs in jagged lines

So in September there was a big hoopla because the city planned something wonderful and forward-thinking, but totally failed to ask anyone for input, basically guaranteeing that an entire neighborhood would revolt. Two way bike lanes on a one way street- Linwood Avenue
Sharrows on Elmwood Avenue
First came the repaving of the street.  Then came the lights facing the wrong way down a one-way street.  Then came the uproar as the neighbors tried to discern what was going on. THEN came the city discussion with the neighbors.  A very jagged line indeed.  In defense of the city, the DPW did actually ask someone about bikes and bike lanes who had some education on the topic.  And that person DID send them to a very good source for information and they DID follow a best practice model.
Outcome?  A set of bike lanes supplanted one of the north bound car lanes on this one-way street. It's also had the effect of slowing traffic that was out of control. And this seems to have set off a plethora of bike related efforts.  It does seem that at least some has been in the works for a while.
And for that fool who asked, "Why a bike lane to nowhere?"; build it and they will come.  The day the city striped it, there were already cyclists riding it who would never have ridden the wrong way before.

Oooooh. Shhhh. You might scare it away before I can get a picture

Okay!  This one was on a Buffalo bus.  You have no idea how excited I get when I see the rare and exotic bike on a Buffalo bus bike rack.  I think the NFTA should put bikes on the racks, just to assure people that the bikes will be safe.
*note- on a revisit to this post, I realized that I made it seem as though cyclists are afraid to put their bikes on bus racks, when in fact the problem is that the NFTA fails to put a rack on every bus (only 50% have racks).  They are unresponsive to requests for action and can't even seem to promise to have all buses on a particular route have a rack.  As a result, you have a 50% chance of not having a rack on the bus which stops.  Most people find the odds too low, and thus the racks are rarely used.  I ride all over and the one time I actually needed a bus w/rack, the bus that showed up had no rack.  Good thing I have a folder.  Oh wait.  I tried to take my folder on a bus with a rack (folded) and the driver refused to let me on. Sorry.  Sarcasm is not usually my style.  BTW, the folder wouldn't have fit in the rack that day because I had a front rack on it. Call me furious.

Tour de Farms!

Organized by Massachusetts Avenue Project, which has an urban farm on Buffalo's West Side, this Tour de Farms event was run in conjunction with GO Bike Buffalo (formerly in part Buffalo Blue Bikes).  I know this is the fourth or so, but did not have the imagination to believe anyone else would be interested in riding 35 miles to visit urban and rural farms.  How wrong I was. About 200 people showed up to visit and learn about the trials and tribulations of farming, both medium and small scale. 
MAP and the 2 other urban farms are utilizing totally different methods of working the soil from their rural counterpart, but both the medium and small are working towards what would be called sustainable farming- companion crops and rotation to reduce or negate pesticide use and the disregard for the "organic" certification for which I hold such disdain after my travels through California.
We probably were a very odd sight moving through Buffalo's rough and tumble East and West sides on our bikes.  Not really a spandex crowd, it was a pleasant trip, which ended with a party.  My kind of a ride.

How other people do it.

NYC- in Buffalo, we are just starting to see bikes on the 50% of buses with racks. I really did try to be open minded about the potential of cycling in NYC, but the vast advantage Buffalo has over NYC is that you can afford an apartment large enough to bring in your bike.

Silo City

Always have to give praise when possible. Buffalo is inching its way up through the pack. In 2006, I was one of only a tiny handful of people doing a winter cycling commute and the vast majority of my compatriots only did so because they couldn't afford a car.
Now we have GO Green Buffalo, who help to carry out cool escapades which attempt to coordinate cycling and other events. One such event was Silo City, a fabulous art event celebrating Buffalo's grain elevators.  Indoor bike parking was a huge hit, and the event brought cyclists (and drivers as well) down into a slow section of the city and into businesses which might not otherwise see traffic on an weekday night. My partner and I watched cycling traffic heading back and forth through this area long after dark.

And now it's normal... use a drive up ATM. I saw this ad in a bank window. It was not directed at cyclists, which makes it all the more interesting.