Well, this morning I replaced the chain with a new one, upon which I declared the bike to be officially trailworthy.
Check out the actual useful information on the derailleur cage, by the way:
With the bike now shifting more crisply than a canister of Pringles, and a gusty wind both ushering away the morning’s rain clouds and air-drying the singletrack, I headed back up to the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall:
My hands clad in deerskin for the occasion:
I’d just been to these very same trails the day before on my Jones, and obviously, apart from the fact that they’re both unfettered by suspension, the two bikes could not be more different. Furthermore, it’s almost ridiculous to bother mentioning that these differences are pretty much all in the Jones’s favor. However, there are certain elements that stand the test of time, such as the XT thumb shifters, which are fucking awesome:
I want them on all my bikes now.
Also, I’m a sucker for those welds, which look like they came out of a toothpaste tube, and which remind me that when I was a kid and I accidentally broke a thermometer I used to play with the mercury:
In retrospect, this probably accounts for my poor grades, my irritable disposition, my poor bike-handling skills, and my general aversion to achievement.
Something I also remembered as soon as I hit the first climb was that “narrow” 26-inch tires don’t have nearly as much traction as what most of us favor today:
I do recall putting my first 29er together sometime in the aughts and being blown away by how much more traction I had on climbs–and those were probably still two-inch wide tires with tubes. The Jones, what with its three-inch tubeless tires at ridiculously low air pressure, is like Velcro on fleece in comparison.
But of course the most glaring difference was the low and narrow cockpit. On the way up to the trail I was digging the almost road bike-like position, but as soon as I hit that first rocky section I was like, “What the fuck were we thinking?!?” I do seem to recall that not clipping trees on twisty singletrack was at least part of the rationale, but obviously we’ve learned a lot since then. Certainly on smooth terrain it wasn’t an issue, but as soon as the going got rocky it was like leaning on a cane.
Then there was the Hite-Rite:
Remembering Paul’s admonition about the Hite-Rite “slapping the saddle into your groin,” I was extra careful, and made sure to try it out while riding slowly on smooth terrain. First I undid the seatpost skewer, and then I put my weight on the saddle, which sank slowly…very slowly. Then I closed the skewer again. Next, I stood up, making sure to keep my “pants yabbies” well out of range, and opened the skewer again. The saddle didn’t move. Well, not really. It seemed to be creeping upwards, very slowly. So I stopped and raised the seat manually.
I’m not sure if the Hite-Rite doesn’t work, or the seatpost needs to be greased, or I had the preload on the skewer a little too high, or I attached the washers in the wrong orientation:
Whatever the case, I’m not too concerned, since I don’t even use a dropper post now and can’t envision any non-novelty situation in which I’d want to bother with the Hite-Rite. Having said that, if you’re a Hite-Rite expert do feel free to let me know what I’m doing wrong.
Either way I do plan to leave it on there as a conversation piece, though I did briefly consider converting it into a hand exerciser:
In any case, reading this, you might get the impression that I don’t like this bicycle. You couldn’t be more wrong:
Is a modern bike “better” than this one? Yes, in almost every way. But a great bike then is still a great bike now, and while it may be somewhat less capable and require a lot more engagement, that’s part of the fun. The 1×12 drivetrain on the Jones is a vastly superior system, but there’s also something fulfilling about having to dial in those front and rear derailleurs like an old-timey switchboard operator well in advance of the climb because there’s no way any of that stuff is shifting under load. It’s also still excellent for doing what it was built to do, which is riding really fast on dirt. Bikes have changed, and so have the trails. Stick to the older ones and you’ll be fine.
Oh, I should also mention the Biopace:
Years ago I had almost exactly this bike, which I had bought secondhand through the Pennysaver or something:
The bike had Biopace rings, which by then had already gone out of style. I do remember feeling like maybe my pedaling was more efficient or something. However, I ended up changing them because I was acutely aware that they were dorky, and such things still mattered to me at the time.
Anyway, today, when pushing the American M-16 in the big ring on the road, I once again got that feeling that just maybe there was something to the whole Biopace concept. Granted, this is most likely a figment of my imagination. Then again, Sheldon Brown was into them, so maybe I really am onto something. Either way, maybe I should convert all my bikes to Biopace now, if only because it’s the sort of affectation that would make me seem different and interesting.
Well, different, anyway.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to more adventures on this rolling piece of Mountain Fred history.