Like I mentioned, when I have something to say, I'll say it and after this mornings road ride there were two things that became clearly evident. One is riders of the pavement still don't know how to ride in a paceline and 28s just flat out rule.
I had reason to hit the road this morning having just finished a new road project build (more details forthcoming). The basics are steel and clearance for fat tires and that's all I'm a gonna say. However, to say I was a little bit excited to hit the road this morning is an understatement. I only had two hours and wanted to avoid Highway 1 on what was a busy Labor Day weekend. This meant a counter-clockwise loop of Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd, Platform Bridge Rd., Cross Marin Trail, Sir Francis Drake, Nicasio Valley Rd., Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd and back home. Nice loop with some rare wide shoulders and a bit of dirt.
As somewhat meaningless as the old no-hands test is, it always shows just how stable a bike is riding no hands. At higher speed, a bike should be able to be ridden fairly easily with no hands on the bars because the wheels, acting like gyroscopes, will want to remain upright and moving in a straight direction - assuming that the combination of head angle and fork offset isn't too far out of a certain range.
What is that range? In my many years of bike design and talking to other folks, one person whom I respect greatly, Lennard Zinn, has told me that he likes to keep the trail at about 65mm for a road bike. My latest bike has a head angle of 72 degrees and a fork offset of 45mm. I think that puts the trail very near 65mm. Whatever it does, the bike tracks straight as an arrow at 15mph and 25mph. It tracks straight at between 15-20mph on a hard-packed dirt road no handed too. Basically, the bike rode so well, and simply disappeared underneath me that I was quite pleased with its maiden voyage.
So, here I was riding up Nicasio Valley Rd. from Sir Francis Drake and I hear riders coming up behind me. I don't really want them to pass me on the climb so I simply dropped a gear while maintaining the same calm appearance on the bike. Don't want to let it on that I'm suffering. Make it over the top, hit the big ring, dump the gears in back, and move to the drops. Pretty soon they overtake me, almost every one hunched over the bars in an aero tuck worthy of a Euro pro descending a mountain pass. I give a "howdy," but to a one, nothing comes back to me. Oh well, I simply find the wheel of the last rider past and sit in.
Sitting in a paceline, it always becomes painfully evident that so many riders simply don't know how to ride in a paceline and make it work for the group. Instead of keeping a steady pace and having the lead rider simply pull off and fall back allowing the new lead rider maintain the same pace, it always happens that as soon as the lead rider pulls off to fall back, the new lead rider always increases the pace only to fracture the paceline until it comes together and when he finally pulls off, the cycle is repeated. I may not be as fit as I once was, but dangit, I can ride a paceline.
Tired of yo-yoing, I drift back to resume my morning ride solo. I can see the group up ahead pull off at Rancho Nicasio right as another group comes past me. And as per the first group, my "howdy" is met with nothing but the sound of tires on pavement. Okay. I'll just sit in here. Again with the yo-yo paceline. My mind is telling me to just go off the front and pull them all behind, but my legs aren't what they used to be and they tell me to just sit in.
I recognize one rider (on a nice old Breezer steel road bike) as someone who's been in my shop in the past. The other riders were a crazy mix. There was one strong looking guy on a Steelman cross bike, another big guy on a carbon Cervelo, another newish looking rider on a carbon Bianchi, an average looking guy on a Cannondale, and one cat on a ti Moots riding with his jersey tucked into his shorts. These guys were as unpredictable as a hummingbird in a maze of hummingbird feeders. As these guys were rotating through their paceline, the guys coming off the front were trying to fit into the paceline somewhere in the middle. And when the road tilted slightly upwards, it was as if they all hit their brakes at once.
We finally hit the Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd. and the squirrels went right and the Breezer rider and I went left into Pt. Reyes and we actually had a nice chat as we rode with our handlebars about 6" away each other. Two old guys on two steel road bikes riding side-by-side because we both know that the other knows how to ride that close.
Alright, got the paceline thing covered, what about 28s? At the stop sign at the bottom of Pt. Reyes Petaluma Rd./Platform Bridge Rd., I picked up a roofing tack in my front tire and it went flat fast. Besides the fact that a 700c x 28 tire inflated to 90psi is a great riding tire, the other benefit from a 28 is that inflating with a hand pump (Zefal HPX-4, naturally) getting the tire to only 60psi will still give you a nice firm tire that will get you through a ride. Try that with a 23.
I got my flat (first one on the road in over 2 years - knock on wood), pulled out the tack, peeled the tire off the rim sans tools, flat tube out and in my jersey pocket, new tube from seat back out, puff of air in the tube, tube in tire, 50 or 60 strokes with my handy frame pump, pump back on frame, wheel back in fork, and back on the road in less than 5 minutes. My riding partner even commented that that was fast. I've had a lot of practice, I mention.
End result, my new bike is absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to ride again tomorrow morning.
(What's playing: Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited)