What’s wrong with this bike?

Image from Competitivecyclist.com

How about this one? Maybe a closeup will help.

Image from Competitivecyclist.com

If you said “nothing”, you’re right. There is nothing wrong with these bikes…as long as you have about $6000 to spend.

On our FAQ page, we asked and answered the question “Is it cheating to ride an e-bike?” The world of e-bikes is changing. Some are 75 pound behemoths that drive themselves – until the battery dies. The two pictured above weigh around 26 pounds – about the same as my Bruce Gordon touring bike. Even when the battery dies, pedaling these bikes is no big deal. Where is the motor? you ask. Nearly invisible, in the rear hub, I answer. A close look between the cogset and the brake rotor and you might see the hub diameter looks a bit large – sort of like the 3 speed hub on my Spot Brand bike – but small enough to be virtually invisible.

the Bruce Gordon

E-bikes are now a lot like other bikes – available as commuters, cruisers, mountain, gravel, and road bikes. They can be pedal-assist, or can have a throttle like a motorcycle. Top speed is governed in multiple classes – you get to pick. With the motor not assisting, you can go as fast as you want (or can). Possibly the ultimate niche for them is the cargo bike. I was going to include some images, but there are too many variants – just search the term.

Would I ride an e-bike? No. It might be like a jet ski or a snowmobile or crack cocaine. Once you try it, you don’t want to give it up. Or so I’ve heard; never having tried any of them. Though the e-bike doesn’t have the societal costs of the others. A half-fast friend recently went bike shopping. His partner wanted an e-bike and bought one. He tried one and almost did it – but the Colnago won out and he couldn’t afford both. (But, as you see below, it was a false dichotomy – don’t tell him.)

This might qualify as bike porn – pictures of $5000+ bikes that most readers can’t afford and maybe have no business riding even if they can. We’ve all seen the stereotypical e-bike. Today, we just wanted to say the market has expanded. There are lots of choices. Just get out and ride; or do whatever it is that you love and will get you off the couch. (And no, I don’t have links for you to click to buy these and get me a commission. If you want to buy a bike, you’re on your own.)

As we said in the FAQ – if e-bikes get people riding who wouldn’t otherwise, we’re all for them. If they’ll get you out more, more power to you. If it’s just another expensive toy, don’t you have enough already?

Shorts!

Today was the first day warm enough to ride in shorts. Wednesday was the first Wednesday Night Bike ride of the season. In 26 miles I saw 12 other riders – 6 going the other way on the road I was on (scattered over the 26 miles) and 6 seen in the distance on other roads. Social distancing seemed to work here. There were those who chastised the organization for not canceling its rides. Being a rather anarchic organization, they decided to trust us to do what is right. I think we did pretty well.

On Thursday I rode with two friends. They made me ride behind them, 10 feet downwind at all times. Since I work in a hospital and they are sheltering in place, they figured they had a better chance of catching it from me than vice-versa. A reasonable thought, even if I wear a mask and face shield at work, wear scrubs that get carried home in a sealed bag and washed separately from all other clothes, and wipe down door handles, Purell dispensers, the time clock, keyboards, refrigerator and microwave doors, stair railings, flush levers on toilets…several times per day at work. A housekeeper told me we ran out of the Purell that comes in bags to go into wall dispensers. The homemade stuff from the hospital pharmacy is too thin to go in there. I suggested we thicken it with cornstarch. He was amused but didn’t think it would work. I suggested a wine reduction sauce. He didn’t think that would work, either. The trouble with alcohol without aloe or other moisturizers is that it dries your skin, leading to cracking and openings for icky stuff (that’s the broad scientific term for bacteria, viruses, molds, and fungi) to enter the body; in other words, an opportunity to make things worse instead of better.

I spent the afternoon in a recorded webinar about therapy with COVID-19 patients. It helped to convince me not to volunteer, being a frail old man with asthma and therefore susceptible to unfavorable outcomes like death. A major focus was on seeing the non-COVID patients more often than we usually would, to help them recover faster and discharge home instead of to a rehab center where they are once again at risk. Each morning I pass through a gantlet of nursing staff to show my ID and assure them that I have been self-monitoring and I have no new symptoms.

This will be my first 100+ mile week since before surgery. The coots and loons are in town, a brief stopover on their semi-annual commute. I saw an egret today. The robins and redwing blackbirds are back in large numbers. I saw 11 hammocks hanging over the lawns behind the Lakeshore Dorms this afternoon – I thought the dorms were closed and the students all gone – but this must be where they are housing the students who have nowhere else to go.

Bike by Bill Davidson, photo and 30 years of miles by Half-fast Cycling Club

In honor of my bikes turning 30 this year, I’ve been riding the old and trusty steel steeds and the carbon fiber bike has remained hanging in the basement. The Bruce Gordon is seeing heavy commuting duty and a couple of rides in the countryside. The Davidson came off the trainer and has accompanied me for the past two days and 60 or so miles.

Ode to Bruce Gordon

I saw a kid riding a 29er today. It reminded me of a toddler on a big wheel. It also reminded me of Bruce Gordon, framebuilder extraordinaire and visionary.

Bruce retired recently. He built bike frames in a small shop in Petaluma CA (the chicken capital of the world). He built racing bikes but was especially sought out for his touring bikes.

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the Bruce Gordon – my bike, my photo

I’ve been riding one of his bikes for 28 years. It was an experiment in “mass” marketing. Bruce had always built bikes by hand but, in the mid-late 80s, designed a bike that he had built for him in Japan. This was the “Hikari“, and it came in one color. It was named after the Japanese “bullet” train. I put mass in quotation marks, as it was mass marketing on a very small scale, but bigger than one man could build.

After a short time, he tried another pre-built bike, the “Rock ‘n’ Road”. (The apostrophe in Rock n Road seems to move. Since it is a contraction of “and”, it seems to me there should be one on each end. Bruce sometimes puts one before, sometimes after.) They were built in Petaluma.  Bruce hired a welder from the aerospace industry. He hand-brazed his custom frames but told me that TIG welding is environmentally friendlier. Not being a welder himself, he hired one. He also told me that powder coating was better for the air than painting, so he powder coated his frames.

The big deal with the Rock ‘n’ Road is that he designed an all-purpose bike. He figured that some folks want to do some riding on the road, and maybe a little off-road. Rather than own a stable of bikes, he figured you could get by with one with a few changes.

Common wisdom at the time was that mountain bikes had to have 26 inch wheels, while road bikes had 700c wheels. Bruce explained why the bigger 700c wheel was suited to off-road travel. The industry made fun of him. Ten years later,  the 29er was born (an even bigger wheel). A few years later, another wheel size came out, pretty close to a 700c. Gosh, I guess Bruce was on to something.

How do you switch from pavement to trails? He invented something called the QS2. This

QS2jpeg
Photo from BGCycles.com – QS2s

made it easy to swap drop bars for flat bars and quickly re-connect cables without adjustment. He found some tires and had them adapted to his design. He wanted a tire that could be used on or off-road. If I remember right, the first iteration had lugs that were sunken to provide a smoother running surface but still some off-road traction. The current model has raised lugs, which shed mud better.

Blackwalltire
Photo from BGCycles. com – Rock n’ Road tire

He later designed and built some beautiful cantilever brakes.

Since he had someone else to build his standard bike, he could devote time to designing new products and building one-off bikes. He won myriad prizes at frame builder’s shows. He designed another bike, the BLT (Basic Loaded Tourer). to keep a reasonable price for a great bike. He designed racks and panniers for touring. (OK, the racks have been around for a long time, still among the best.)

BG cockpithead joint

seat cluster
Details of Bruce Gordon bikes

Bruce
Bruce Gordon

Bruce+Gordon+shop+and+products+2014+m.+woolsey-55
BG cantilever brake

Bruce has retired, but his bikes ride on. I’m riding one today. See you on the road.