Monday, January 20, 2014

Why I’m looking For A New Ride: American Roads Suck.

Raleigh RX 2.0 Cyclocross Bike.

There is an old proverb which states, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  And, while many throughout history have taken that eloquence to heart, I will make an addendum to this pillar of societal wisdom: All else being equal, “Skinny tires and rough roads do not mix.”  

See, the roads in my part of the world are so bad (Southern California), that a skinny-wheeled bike just does not make much practical sense, anymore.  This has led me to believe the ultimate urban weapon for the all-around cyclist is a large tired bicycle.  Now, before any Roadies howl “Blasphemy,” allow me to expound on the reasons I have arrived at this conclusion.

From a very young age we were all taught that a “Real” road bike had skinny tires.  While there was some truth to that notion, one major manifestation has transformed this piece of urban dogma into a true myth: The total degradation, and criminal neglect, of our road systems.  In a country with the level of wealth, such as the United States, plus the ever-growing amount of taxes extracted to supposedly maintain infrastructure, i.e. Roads, there are ZERO excuses for the condition of our road systems.  This, therefore, led to me ask myself, “Why the heck am I out here on battlefield grade road surfaces on skinny, 23mm tires?”  So, I tried out some 25mm tires, and while their performance was much better than 23’s, it was still not the definitive answer for trouble free riding.

Another kick to the backside of my thought process was how damn good I have become at changing out flat tubes and ripped tire carcasses.  Sure, it feels good to be quick and efficient at roadside, but I became good at it purely out of necessity, and in addition to time, I was spending a crap load of money on tubes and tires, too!  I was spending so much money that I was in fact prepared to present my local city a bill for the costs they had foisted upon me via neglect of the roads – Which is their job to maintain!  I mean, my tax dollars are supposed to go towards making sure the pavement is not a joke, and that street sweepers run regularly to take care of the crumbled asphalt and the host of metal hazards dropped by numerous motor vehicles.  I had to find a way to go on offense, since defensive measures, like “Puncture-Proof” (an oxymoron) tubes and tires were not working too well and getting quite expensive.

So, I began to rethink not just the tires but also my equipment.  This then got me to thinking about my old, motorcycle roadracing days, whereby we all lusted after having a pure race bike for the street.  I mean, how cool it would be to have had a real Grand Prix bike (they call ‘em MotoGP bikes today) for everyday street use, we thought.  Well, as sexy as it would have been, it was not a wholly practical concept for a host of reasons.  The same is also true for a skinny-tire road bike, especially a carbon frame with carbon wheels.  In both cases, the use of said type of bikes is rather limited to racing, due to their lack of durability and high maintenance needs of the exotic, light weight components (and, in the motorcycle’s case, the horsepower, and power delivery, A.K.A., the torque curves).  In short, the idea of a race bike on city streets sure sounds good, and looks sexy, but in all-in-all scoring, they just do not do so well on the practicality scale.

The Town Bike and Mountain Bike riders are all well aware of what I just described.  However, being I really like dropped road bars, the Cyclocross bike has what I want in a ride, namely, a road frame, the afore mentioned dropped bars, components I can swap between all of my road bikes, plus the blissful, usefulness of wide, fat, more puncture resistant tires.  And the best part, Cyclocross has totally embraced disc brakes, so I can kiss the dreaded rim brake goodbye!  What’s not to like about that?  I mean, these are things that commuter riders (and the previously mentioned Townies and Mountain Bikers) already know: Wider tires and disc brakes are the way to go on the mean streets of America. 

So, while I still love my 25mm shod road bike, which will always hold a place in my stable of rides, the mean-streets of America require something 28mm or larger if I plan to actually enjoy daily riding without instantly flatting.  Thus, the search for a more useful, practical, so-called “Everyday” bicycle, and, that bicycle for me is indeed the Cyclocross bike.   

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