Another year has passed and it’s been an interesting one to say the least. While there are few parts of my life that don’t involve bikes, I seem to enjoy them more and more as the years roll on. This year started off with hosting a slumber party with 9 girls… solo, taking a last minute trip across the globe to ride bikes and do other cool stuff, taking my 7-year-old to urgent care to get her first ever (face) stitches after her first “real” bike crash, to getting to build the “World’s Funnest Bike”.
Regardless, the above pics is from one of my favorite past times of cruising the bazaar street markets in foreign countries… and it sorta had some Christmas-y colors in it. Now go check out my holiday loot list after explaining to your boss what the heck you’re looking at…
Last year I mentioned my greatest experience was getting to ride the trails with my daughters among other outdoorsy things. While that still holds true, a last minute invite From Fuji to a bike launch fell in my lap and took me to Taipei, Taiwan. Zach was already going to the Taipei show but his existing travel plans wouldn’t have allowed him to attend the launch. I’ve experienced some pretty tight scheduling when traveling to (extremely) different time zones, but this one took the
cake soul. After a sleepless 16 hour flight, I was to be saddled up ready to ride within about 2 hours of landing. While the ride on Fuji’s new Gran Fondo through the seaside mountain range was as incredible, it ended on a pretty grueling 10-mile climb that offered some amazing views. The hardest part of the last 30 hours of being awake was sitting down afterward to consume massive amounts of freshly caught seafood & beer while the sun set in the background during Fuji’s presentation in a dimly lit room. I have never had to dig deeper to stay awake in my life, but I’d it all over again in a heartbeat.
Taipei show is more about closing deals so there isn’t as much new product being revealed like at Eurobike & Interbike. Since we had double the people there to cover the show, Zach and I found ourselves in a situation where we had practically a whole day to do whatever we want. We immediately went into full-on tourist mode and headed for the sky. Rather than bore you with the 500 pictures we took, it pretty much went exactly like this. Prior to our bromantic daycation, we got to spend a good amount of time with head honchos, Tim & Odia Kruger of Advocate Cycles. My last trip to Taipei, on top of being a completely hilarious disaster, involved being led around by corporate folk so we didn’t have time for sightseeing (excluding getting really lost till 4am on
stolen borrowed hotel bicycles and mistakingly getting somewhat “trapped” in what ended up NOT being an actual karaoke bar). Tim and Odia knew their way around town so we met up with some other cronies including Eric from CycleOps to eat dumplings at a Michelin rated (and Anthony Bourdain fav) restaurant. We then hit some rad street markets including the infamous Snake Alley which (I found out after the fact) is famous for consuming snake and deer penis wine. The best part was getting a painful, yet best ever, foot massage for a mere $9. Despite Zach gifting me with what would be the flu (hey, I got it from someone at Frostbike! – Zach), the combination of riding in an environment I had never experienced before, seeing friends old & new, and getting to freely enjoy a place I’ve been, but have barely seen was an experience I’ll always cherish.
I’ve gotten to ride a lot of bikes over the last couple of years and while they’re all usually pretty nice, Dean Titanium’s Antero cross bike was a nice, updated titanium version of my familiar Salsa La Cruz that recently had its first bath in some time. Sure, this is a pretty dialed snappy & stable cross bike made to be railed, shouldered, & hopped, but this is the kind of setup I consider “my” personal favorite for “off the beaten path” kinda bike. Yeah yeah, it’s not a “Gravel Bike”, but when it comes to pounding the rough urban streets & gutters and blazing paths privy only to those who are more familiar with what’s behind buildings & beneath bridges than roads and freeways, the Antero’s whippy geometry simply owns it.
The Antero ($1,250) is one of their new stock offerings that is skillfully made abroad under Dean’s strict supervision. Some bonus items include… well, it’s titanium making it light and still having “that feel”. What stood out for me were the well-placed rack & fender mounts and the fact that you can still add on SEVERAL of their custom options like S&S couplers, Paragon sliders to run it single speed or with a belt drive, etc.
Looking back at the bikes I rode 20 years ago, my road bike back then doesn’t differ all that much from today’s choices aside from frame materials and a few gears. Geometry, handlebar width… WHEEL SIZE. When looking at my 1991 Serotta T’max & 1996 Factory Homegrown then at my more modern slack endurbro sled that has tires with a size that end with a “.5” and five individual components that involve hydraulics it’s obvious “mountain bikes” haven’t neared their technological plateau like road bikes did since the introduction of the derailleur. Still, there is nothing like jumping on a bicycle that is designed to be as efficiently fast as possible.
The new Fuji SL ripped its way into a new level of efficiency with a frame that weighs only 695 grams. Despite it being just what a die hard climber would appreciate, the SL is designed to be a pure road race bike with no compromise in stiffness. Despite it being a little on the twitchy side… in that “awesome, but pay attention” way, it rode great.
If you caught my 3 part build of the “World’s Funnest Bike”, here(1), here(2), & here(3), it should be no surprise this bike made it to my wish list… again. My wishlist last year highlighted the carbon Canfield EPO frame, but I had yet to build it up. I’ll confess, it was no easy feat as once I started accumulating parts I really (really) liked, I was suddenly on a mission to go all out! The Canfield EPO became a sort of
perfect colorful Frankenstein of bikes since I decided to get a little crazy with the colors. Check out part 3 for the details, but the low stance, super short chainstay, and slack headtube angle made for a super fun handling bike. Although it was designed to be a 29er, I had some wheels I thought might fit and be interesting to try. The carbon, “foam core” Atomik Chubbys came wrapped around Profile’s fast engaging (but crazy loud) hubs. I initially started off with some 3.0 inch tires, but under hard railing, I was burning the rubber off the sidewalls. Maxxis sent me their new Ikon & Rekon 2.8s, and all was good to go. I really feel that the new “plus” sizes are perfect for a fun hardtail offering up gobs of traction and natural small bump compliance.
Okay, before jumping my britches, let me explain something. First, I hate “fake” things. Hood scoops, calf implants, and grocery baskets that are made to look like cars, (seriously, have you ever tried to pilot one of those things). So I’m not a fan of a battery compartment that is made to look like a motor. However, having riden motorcycles only a year or two less than I’ve ridden bicycles, the lines on Vintage Electric’s Tracker appeal to me. As far as wanting an ever so debated
moped e-bike, I really don’t owe anyone but myself an explanation to justify this decision. Oh wait… that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do here. Okay, fine. Originally I wanted an e-cargo bike for running errands to the grocery & hardware store since they just built a greenway just outside my neighborhood that offers some great access. Then I thought of having an excuse to have that retro beast above and just adding a trailer to it might be a little more practical and less “fred”. While even this may not appeal to the “flatlanders” out there, the hills are alive with the sound of grunts where I live. The fact that the top of my driveway is approximately 35 feet straight up with grades ranging from 15-20% is a “non-motorized” deal breaker by itself for hauling 50 to 100lbs of anything home. If you’re still wanting to give me a hard time, it would probably be more worth your time to destroy my affinity to wearing bike socks with sandals first.
Being that I got to build the “World’s Funnest Bike” above the way I wanted, not listing these two items would be a disservice. Sure, the DVO Diamond suspension fork was butter and the Atomik wheels, Maxxis Tires, and everything else was dialed, however the two big standouts were Absolute Black’s jewel-like oval ring and HT Components’ T1 pedals. Read more about the benefits of the oval ring in my review, but in short, it made my ride better. As far as HT’s T1 pedals goes, while they do the same function as any other clipless pedal on the market, this was the first SPD style pedal I’ve liked more than the Shimanos that I’ve been loyal to since the first day they were available. As I mentioned in more detail here, the T1 pedals have a much wider tensioning range than Shimano’s and left me feeling more “clipped in” during the more aggressive moments.
Good lord. First an e-bike and now a smart helmet? I feel I may have over-geeked myself this year. (if you keep reading my list… it just gets worse). The Coros Linx smart helmet, though not my typical style or need, it wasn’t terrible looking by any means and feature wise, it offered some things that even I thought had a place. You can read more about what I liked about it, but in short the ability to listen to music and navigational directions through the “bone conduction” speakers while still being able to hear your surroundings was a happy medium.
For the past several years, I took to trainers like a cat to water. I’d ride up-hill both ways in the rain before subjecting myself to the rigors of indoor riding. However, single dad life with kids puts a damper on that rebellious attitude and a trainer suddenly becomes a viable option. This past Spring I got to attend a press launch to see CycleOps’ first direct drive trainer. While some may see them being late to the gate with a direct drive setup, after looking at and experiencing it, it’s more like they spent more time doing their homework. You can check out the video in my coverage, but this thing was quiet compared to others I’ve tried. Another great feature is the easily interchangeable axle adapters. They sent me one to review and I can put my road bike with a QR, my girlfriend’s mountain bike with a 12×142 rear, or one of my test bikes with boost on it since all three are running 11 speeds out back.
While Cyclops comes with their own training program, they were very clear that they wanted their smart trainers to work with as many 3rd-party apps on the market. I am planning on giving Zwift a try as they were at the CycleOps launch showing off the latest and greatest and it really is some next level stuff as far as virtual reality goes. Plus, I apparently already have a few friends doing rides on Zwift and talking virtual smack(?).
Ornot’s Thermal Jacket and Bibshorts were a welcome item to review given we had some pretty cold weather make its way in this past winter. If there is one thing I recommend as far as clothing goes, “buy really good winter clothing”. In many cases, it doesn’t get used as often and will last you years if not decades. Ornot makes everything in the USA and uses top notch materials. They also come with a great warranty and crash replacement which offers you a discount on items you wish to replace after a crash. Check out my coverage for more details.
The Snek Wool Winter Cap is the nicest cap I’ve worn, (and I’ve worn a lot of caps). It has a polyester wool blend that breathes well, keeps your head warm, and is light & simple. It even looks pretty dapper and when the flaps are tucked in, it really doesn’t show. It fits under a helmet and kept my ears nice and toasty. The hide-able flaps have a trim piece around the edge which help them sort of hug even my big ears rather than just lay against them like a similar cap I have. It has a microfiber sweatband and a flexible brim making it easy to wad up and toss in a jersey pocket. My only somewhat meaningless gripe is that you have to put a little effort into making sure the inner band stays in place when putting it on since the cap doesn’t have a lot of “structure”… which makes it super comfy, but a little tricky to put on.
I never had a foot fetish till I snagged a few sets of Wigwam socks. I never got why my dad always asked for those creepy old guy “Gold Toe” socks for Christmas, but if they possess a fraction of the foot cuddles these babies provide, I may have a little better understanding. Each panel on the socks is made up of a particular gauge and thickness of material depending on the individual model’s function making for a magical fit. Though ranging from a not so thrifty $14 to $25 a pair, the construction and longevity of these should warrant spending a little extra.
Three Small Things
I just can’t put the technology down this year! This was one of those items where I thought, “cool!”… but in that trendy sort of way. After a few trial runs being pretty much 100% accurate, I don’t feel as safe without it. Garmin’s Varia Radar coupled with either the Varia standalone display or one of their compatible Edge devices, (the Edge Explorer with “Emergency Detection” in my case), lets you know if a vehicle is coming up behind you indicating it’s movement on your display. I posted some videos of it in action in my review, but it is hands down something I highly recommend to anyone riding out on the road.
I have become addicted to cast iron cooking. Lodge, located in Chatanooga, TN has been at it for 120 years and has a pretty incredible lineup. While I have a couple of skillets (including my grandmothers almost 100 year old one) and even a pizza tray & cast iron wok, I have set my sights on starting a small collection of Dutch Ovens (who knew that was something besides what you do to your significant other in bed). I dare anyone to look up some recipes and not get hooked. They’re not expensive or as hard to clean & care for as you would think. We’re taking camping and backyard fire pit cooking to the next level with this stuff.
Crowdfunding has become a “thing” and it is no stranger to the cycling industry. While some have created some really innovative items, there are some that provide pure chuckles. Stirring the pot with the ridiculous is fun and we like a good laugh as much as anyone. Dropper stem anyone?
While I enjoy dreaming of all the things I want, my family & “friends” (like the ones that photochopped that gem above and sent it all over the world from my computer during lunch one day) mean the most to me and none of the things above would mean a thing without them. Cheers to you and yours this holiday season. Shitter’s full.