Preface: As you can probably tell, I haven't been really good about getting in the habit of writing material for this blog, and in general my writing hasn't really been that active for the last few months. So, towards getting myself back in the habit of writing, I've decided to try to write everyday for the next forty days, and towards that end I've dusted off my dormant 750words account. As befits everyday writing, I'm trying to turn off my self-editing instincts, and just focus on the flow of writing. Think Jack Kerouac, on a bike. I'm gonna post some of the pieces up here. The writing won't be quite as technical or descriptive as some of my previous posts, and certainly will be less polished, but they will be a pretty close embodiment of the things I'm thinking about these days. Hope you enjoy, and any comments will be much appreciated!
This is what I'm saying: in truth, and financially, life-wise, I really only want one or two, three at the most bikes. I want a fixed gear. I want a bike that I take out for fun rides in the hills, probably pavement and dirt equally (this is the one that I'm focusing on right now). And, maybe I want a bike I can take on occasional week-long-ish tours with a good camping load, maybe even carry some stuff for my wife if she's coming with me.
But the second bike of this list--the one that I ride mostly for fun, taking it out in the mornings or evenings of days I work, or for longer rides on free weekend days, I feel like I want it to be a representation of me, something that emerges naturally out of a variety of bicycles, components, riding experiences. My riding activity doesn't fit well into the traditional genres of bicycle design, and in any case I'm too much of a contrarian to use the "traditional" type of bike for any given purpose. If it's going to be the bike that I ride mainly for fun, than it has to be something that I've found to be fun, on the types of ride that I've found to be fun. It has to emerge out of experience, from a variety of things.
I think what I'm trying to say about the Casseroll is this: I think that I've been a bit too focused on its genre and what it says about what my riding "should be," what the setup of the bike "should be." Somewhere a while back (2007?) I decided that a nice steel road bike with long reach brakes would be the ideal bike, that if I were going to start spending money beyond beater fixed gears and the Trek, that this is what I should spend money on. And so this is what, mentally, identity-wise, I invested in. Riding distance. Riding road bikes offroad. It has allowed me to keep one foot in mainstream roadie culture and one foot in the Rivendell aesthetic and sensibility, with curiousness towards Rando riding and style. And that's what I've pursued--road riding, with the occasional foray onto a dirt road. I trained and did a distance ride last year, and have been considering doing the same type of thing this year.
Part of the frame of reference that it's given me is more subconcious, it's the way that I judge my riding and the performance of my bicycles. Namely, the ability to cover distance comfortably. Rides were judged subconsciously by mileage, leading to many years of never really being satisfied by my riding because it was never "long enough." Bike performance was also judged by this metric, leading to my experiments in bike fit, which I feel like I'm finally really getting a handle on. But feeling like I'm getting close with the Casseroll in terms of these metrics (I could probably ride a century comfortably on it), I'm still left seeking something more....fun.
So I feel like it might be time not to focus too much on refining the Casseroll further or even replacing it with a more idealized bike of the same genre, but rather to broaden genres and think a bit more about where fun really comes from in bike riding for me, and to focus on that for a while. When I think about rides that have been really memorable over the past couple of years, certainly the long ones stick out, but the other fun ones include more rambling and exploring. Riding in Tilden during my summer of depression. Rambling around the Fullerton loop trail on the Takara, Christmas Eve of 2011. Exploring the Lomas Cantadas--El Toyonal--Wildcat connection. Climbing Hill 88 in the Marin Headlands at sunset and then bombing back down, during the STS retreat last june.
So broadening the genre, judging things on just having fun, making memories, seeing beautiful things. I think this is the next step in the "everyday riding" realization I had last year. Truthfully, doing the same road loops week after week, no matter where I was living--Sacramento or Berkeley--can get old quick. Riding everyday, what are the types of rides that I keep wanting to do? I don't feel like I have a good handle on this yet.
Finding out where that dirt trail actually leads. But it's not mountain biking, because I want to ride up to the road to get there. And keeping going when the road ends. There's probably a fair bit of hike-a-biking involved, so keeping the bike light is probably a good idea. Flat pedals too--i'm really liking that setup, with power grips, on the Quickbeam.
Not having a clear sense of where the fun lies, I'm not sure I want to spend a lot of money on any particular vision of riding right now. Instead, I think it's about creating variety in the bikes I have now, and seeing which ones naturally get ridden more, emerge as the thing I want to have fun on. So: I think the Quickbeam and Casseroll are pretty close to their ideals. I'll probably put fatter, but still light, tires (Jack Brown Greens?) on the Casseroll once spring instantiates itself around here and I can take the fenders off. I'll probably also put the 22t freewheel on the Quickbeam so I'll have a much lower gear for hilly rambling, something which the current setup doesn't really do that well.
I think there's a lot to be learned from the Trek in these new proceedings, as well. I think it would be good to re-create something with a Midge Bar setup, since I always like that setup and it seems like it would be good for rambling. But, I also have crazy ideas involving the Bullmoose bars that were originally on the Quickbeam and the Soma Quill-inator. It'll probably get flat pedals.
But of course, as I write this, there is a new, idealized bike forming itself in my brain. An A. Homer Hilsen with a fit pretty close to what the Quickbeam has now, including flat bars with some sweep--maybe Jitensha bars or the VO Postino bars, for whose moniker I am responsible. Built up light, with a fairly lighweight wheelset, and maybe just a Mark's Rack in front for the Trunk Sack. Triple crankset, flat pedals.
So my brain works as I work out these words on the page.
Matt Chester, "Isolation for Revelation," 5mod blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Jøtul's Quinetucket Traditions from Jamie Murrett on Vimeo.