Monday, April 2, 2012

Drop bar mountain bike redux: A vintage find, the Specialized Rock Combo, circa 1989

A couple of weeks ago, to my excitement I found a Specialized Rock Combo in my size, with mostly original parts. For normal people, whose lives revolve around more significant factors than "how do 1 degree differences in head tube angles and 1 inch differences in bottom bracket drop affect how bicycles handle offroad," this is a non-event of the first order. But for me, it's a cause for great excitement.

The Rock Combo was Specialized's answer to Grant Petersen's Bridgestone MB-1 of 1987, in its steep angled, drop bar glory. Specialized had Ibis, Scot Nicol's quirky boutique brand from far Norcal build one prototype which various Specialized staffers rode and approved. The specs were then sent to whatever Taiwanese frame shop was then churning out tig welded Rockhoppers, with a production run of 500. Supposedly, the Taiwanese factory failed to follow the specs, made the bottom bracket drop too great, and used too heavy tubing on the bike as well.

By now, you're thinking "Wow, so he gets excited by a badly executed tigged clone of the 1987 Bstone MB-1." Yeah, I do; my interests really are that pitiful, and I suffer from some kind of strange obsessive compulsive disorder about bicycles in general and allrounder types in particular.  The Rock Combo was cool because it was an attempt to make an allrounder bike that with just a tire change could go from fast road rides to fire roads and single track. It reminds me of my first gen Merlin MTB that sported drop bars and three wheelsets with different tires and cassettes: 26x1 with 12x21; 26x1.25, with 12x23; and 26x2.0 with 12x28, plus 50-38-24 rings. I still own that Merlin; it still sports drop bars, though it's moved back and forth over the years maybe about 5 or 6 times; in fact it had a Allsop Softride stem, my only use of suspension, for a year or so.

Speialized Rock Combo with non stock tires, paint, and saddle.

Of course I had to find this after spending significant time and money on the Diamond Back Apex Allrounder in December and January; but that's the way scrounging and urban hunter gathering goes: feast or famine. I'll post ride impressions, road and offroad, at some later date when I've gotten up to 3 figures in mileage on this new and unneeded addition to my bike stable.

29er Redux: Spring comes to Crownpoint, and Wow, those Big Wheels Really Soak Up Bumps

I went on a ride last week to the top of the bluff just south of Crownpoint. This begins just behind the Crownpoint Christian Church, diagonally across from the post office, and at first looks pretty dull: a jeep road that's very rutted, with a lot of exposed rock: not boulders or baby heads or gravel, mind you, but jutting sheets, sandstone forms resemble miniature icebergs in a sea of tannish red dirt.

But as you move on, the riding gets more interesting: there's double track and single track, and enough rock that picking a line becomes a technical puzzle, especially when headed back down and trying to go fast. The 29er wheels really allow you to aim carefully and just keep pedaling on ruts and ridges that would toss a non-suspended 26er. I know, no-one but me and a few other ignorable freaks still rides 26 non boing; but that's my frame of reference here.

To give you a sense of what Crownpoint, NM is like, here are a couple of photographs:

To the southeast of Crownpoint

To the west, and further south on the bluff

As these photos indicate, this is very much a high desert landscape of small to medium junipers competing for water; and remember, this is after at least some snowfall ( about a week before I took these, we had heavy snowfall and icy, unpassable-to-non-4wd roads from Interstate 40). But in the crevices and nooks, there are subtle forms of beauty too.

On some sections of the bluff, these small cacti seem to have won out over the junipers.  

And even more beautiful (because, I suppose, most human sensibilities are not formed by continued encounters with high altitude aridity and the need for life there to protect itself, these yellow flowers.

A friend from Los Angeles told me, "I don't think I could live there; it's too forbidding. But it grows on me, and has been for quite a long time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Continental Divide Multi Surface Riding

Continental Divide riding: Northern New Mexico dirt roads, wind, and late winter

I went for a brief utility/errand ride yesterday afternoon, which put me on stretches of dirt road at 7,000 feet above sea level. I rode the new-to-me Econo Allrounder with 26x1.5 inch Continental Top Touring tires, a kind of worn set of the old German ones, not the new Indian ones that are just too damn heavy.

For multi terrain rides, all tire choices are a compromise. I had been running small knob, 1.7 inch width knobbies on this bike that weighed about the same as the Contis; but they were amazingly slow rolling on pavement despite their continuous center strip; I pulled them off last weekend. The Contis roll a lot better on pavement, but are a little sketchy on the edge of cambered dirt roads where gravel has gathered towards the outer edges.

Multiple terrain rides are, as always, a blast. I look forward to northern NM touring on some forest service dirt roads this summer, if all goes as planned.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bad Eurotrashy late 1980s bike picture of the month

The colors! The lycra! The sunglasses! The overall look, complete with big hair! This image, appropriately enough, is from an early 1990s German book on mountain biking. This reminds me of my multicolor Sidi shoes (with pink, purple, and neon green) from the same period.

Gus at the Bikerowave, this one's for you and your parents! John Dorsey, formerly of the Bikerowave and now of West Virginia, this one's for you too.

Click on the photo if you want to see it uncropped.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Drop bar mountain bikes! Love 'em!

Yesterday evening, I finally finished--except for bar tape and final form pedals-- the latest iteration of one of my cycling obsessions: drop bar mountain bikes. This one's in the form of a first generation Litespeed ti frame, 1 inch headset, courtesy of my friend and one time coworker, Jorge. It's really too small for me; but I've set it up with WTB Specialized Dirt Drops from long, long ago, with which I have a love-hate relationship (do like the drops; don't like the flare that puts the brake hoods in an awkward position); built up with 1980s and early 1990s parts: first gen XTR rear derailleur with XT 7 speed era front; Shimano indexed bar end shifters run in friction; DX 7 speed wheelset; Specialized ST-1 crankset with 24 36 50 rings (dual purpose: road, offroad); super high rise stem off of a GT mtb from the early 1990s; Dia Compe 982 brakes with original pads all crispy and red but still skidding the rear as long as the front goes on at the same time, non aero brake levers for that Jacquie Phelan look, and Tioga BMX pedals with steel clips. Fun; took my blue heeler mix for a 30 minute ride run this morning, partly in dirt; then rode it another hour on pavement (cooking obligations means no offroad today); it's a nice bike. FWIW, the 14 to 15 mile commute on pavement took me 59 minutes with Hutchinson knobbies, clock running during all stop lights and traffic delays; this wearing USAF fatigue pants and Converse All Stars. Photos of the monstrosity to follow.

Anyone else run drops? People look at you like you're a freak when you show up on the Santa Monica mountain trails with such a setup, except for the state champion jersey wearing cyclocross rider who overtook me two weeks ago on his cx double, who admired the build before he dropped me like a lead weight over a cliff. In my experience, they actually handle all but highly technical stuff and big dropoffs better, because there's more weight on the front wheel: downhills on fire roads are just a blast!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Riding in Los Angeles: the negatives

I've been riding a lot lately in Los Angeles traffic, and I've had a number of negative experiences in the past few weeks, after quite a while with "nothing to report." The worst of these have been the actively hostile acts. Last night, riding with my dog in a Venice alley, a driver in a pickup truck came along and, just after passing me--I was facing him--made a point of spinning his wheels and accelerating aggressively, apparently in an attempt to startle. And two weeks before, I had someone in a large silver Lexus 470 SUV with a Harvard Westlake sticker on the rear window proceed to buzz me as I rode in the bike path down Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica, then verbally harangue me. Very unpleasant; I hope all reverts to the more staid pattern of the previous year or so.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2 Wheel Fetish: testblog entry

Testing, testing, 1 . . . . 2 . . . 3 . .

This is my first and only test post of blogspot dot com. Blogging is a weird phenomenon, one I'm ambivalent about, primarily because blogging seems self-centered in a silly way, and seems to contribute to the idea (one that perhaps started with inexpensive cameras and film) that unless you document events in your life they do not really exist. On the other hand, blogging helps me personally naviage immense amounts of information that I would other
wise be overwhelmed by (an information overload that is itself a product of the internet). But for good or ill, here I am, blogging.

This blog is an extension of 2 Wheel Fetish, a website from a while ago with a moderately strong commentary on modernity using bicycles as a lens through which to view urban America. I anticipate this blog will have some of the same goals: writing, sometimes about bikes, sometimes only peripherally related to bikes, that ultimately tries to make sense out of the messy and complicated world we inhabit.