Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the Road

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have,
but in my lack of control of them.”

- Jack Kerouac

Since I started cycling some 26 years ago, the road bike has always been an integral part of my fleet. Although I will always pledge my first allegiance to mountain biking, the truth is I have always tallied far more miles on the road than on dirt.

When I moved up to the hills six years ago, I had a nice Lemond. I had been road racing on a local team, so the bike was set up more for speed than comfort. When I look at it now my back hurts.

As I have mentioned before, the area around my house is characterized by narrow roads that are often pot-holed, chip-and-seal ribbons of punishment. Some are gravel and even dirt. One local road is absolutely horrendous because the locals want it that way. They discourage through traffic by keeping it rough, and it hasn't been paved in many years. Patch after patch after patch has been applied. It's so bad my spouse refuses to drive on it.

After spending many years riding a rather flat and boring bike trail in Sacramento, I was excited to move to the hills and enjoy epic road riding. It took about a month of flat tires and spine hammering before I tried to cram bigger tires on the road bike. I managed to get a 28mm in front and a 25mm in back. It helped a little, but not enough. Since I had quit road racing, the frame went on eBay.

After that my cyclocross bike became the primary ride.

It was closer to what I wanted, but being a racing bike the position was still pretty aggressive and the braking left something to be desired. Cantilevers can either be set up to work well (short straddle cable, pads close to the rim) or to give you the tire and rim clearance (long straddle cable) necessary for riding and racing in the dirt and mud. On more than one occasion lousy braking caused some close calls in traffic. Plus, quick adjustments in the middle of a ride are a hassle. I like caliper brakes much better for day-to-day riding.

In early 2005 I bought a Karate Monkey 29er.

It's original purpose was for mountain biking, but I quickly discovered it was a pretty good bike for my area. The tires were fat, it was comfortable, the brakes worked and it opened up more options around my house as far as terrain was concerned. It's been my primary ride ever since.

A couple years ago, I caught the road bike bug again (probably during the Tour) and bought a Surly Pacer. Touting that "Fatties Fit Fine," I thought it would be perfect. However, I was only able to successfully run 28mm tires. When I tried 32s, the front tire hit the brake return spring and the rear tire was just barely missing the front derailleur clamp. The frame went on eBay.

I went back to the Karate Monkey and things were swell. Still, sometimes I wanted something a bit faster than a porky 29er.

Perfection in my eyes has always been the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. There is nothing I dislike about the bike. Caliper brakes, big tire clearance, laid back geo and a quill stem. I have no doubt it would immediately end my quest. I mean, look at it (not mine).

But at two grand for the frameset, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

This spring I again decided I wanted a road bike. I researched and read, looked at pictures, pored over geometry tables, and came up with the Salsa Casseroll.

My intent was to buy the frame for $550 since I have all the necessary parts sitting in a box. But when Webcyclery put the complete single speed on sale for $735 and threw in a bunch of goodies, I pulled the trigger.

Here's what she looked like out of the box:

Relaxed geo, long head tube, and the ability to run huge tires (currently 37mm) with caliper brakes. Lots of clearance still:

I'm in the process of building it back up with gears, and the parts I don't need are going on eBay. I will easily make up the difference between the frameset price and complete bike, and get a lot of free stuff in the process. Pics to come when finished.


1 comment:

  1. She's no Homer Hilsen, but a nice-looking machine nonetheless. Nice score!