Sticky Situations

Having primed the legs on a rigid 26-inch bicycle last week, this past weekend it was time for an outing on my artisanal Engin singlespeed, which I hadn’t flogged properly since February:

For better or for worse (usually worse) I can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to bikes, and so before heading out I changed a few parts. First, I swapped the Brooks Swallow pictured above for the original WTB SST. I liked the Brooks for two reasons: 1) The tall profile and leather cover create sort of a suspension effect when riding offroad; B) It looks really good on the bike. (Or I think it looks really good anyway.) However, it’s also a bit narrow for me, which begins to bother me a bit on longer rides. So I figured I might as well revert to the old saddle, since I was quite happy with it, and I only swapped it for the Brooks in the first place because it happened to fall into my be-jorted lap.

The second change I made was the handlebars. I ordered my Engin complete with a custom titanium bar, because of course I did. Then I changed it to an aluminum bar I had laying around not too long ago, mostly out of boredom. But that morning it occurred to me it’s completely ridiculous to have a custom bike yet not use the matching custom bar, and so I decided to make things right by putting it back on again.

While I was messing with the cockpit, I also figured I’d clean things up a bit by removing the custom titanium BSNYC/AYHSMB WiseCracker Mike Ahrens gifted to me many years ago. However, when I went to remove the stainless steel spacer (custom, of course) I discovered I couldn’t because my disgusting sweat hat fused to to the steerer. (My perspiration wreaks havoc with stainless steel, to which the distressed state of my erstwhile Ritte can attest.)

First, I sprayed the steerer down with some Liquid Wrench. Then I went to the store for some milk. When I came back, I pounded the top of the steerer with a rubber mallet in hopes the solvent had worked and it would drop out of the frame. No dice. So then I took a screwdriver and tried to sort of lever the spacer off with the WiseCracker. But the WiseCracker merely bent while the spacer stayed resolutely in place:

So I gave up, put everything together, and headed out on the bike.

At this point I should mention I recently took delivery of some exquisite clothing from Vulpine, who I can only imagine are looking to do irrevocable damage to their brand. For this ride, I decided to try out the merino polo:

And the mid cotton-cashmere 3-dash socks:

Not only were they both supremely comfortable for the duration of the ride, but I also wore them off the bike for the entire duration of the day, and all indications are that this on-the-bike, off-the-bike functionality is going to allow me to take my jorts riding to a whole new level.

As for the bars, I’m tempted to say the titanium was noticeably smoother, but I could very easily be imagining that:

Oh, I also moved the Spurcycle compact bell over from the M-16:

And it wasn’t very long into the ride before I got to ring it at a nun:

I must say she shot me kind of a withering look, but the next time I happened to look down I noticed some flowers had miraculously appeared on my brake lever, so now I’m a believer:

After another 40-ish minutes of spinning I arrived at the mall behind which the Trails Behind The Mall lie, and while it may have been empty I wasn’t the only turkey there:

I followed it around while taking video of it, which I can’t be bothered to upload, but I did send it to my son.

As I mentioned, it’s been a couple months since I’ve been on the Engin, and as always happens I fell in love with it all over again:

[No mask, no helmet, no gears–no problem!]

It also felt faster, more comfortable, and more spry than the M-16 by a large margin, despite the latter bike’s seven-cog cassette and triple chainring. Of course, singlespeeding also rewards the fit rider, and while I certainly wouldn’t describe myself this way (I mean just look at that selfie of me in the shirt), the fact that I’d been on these same trails not two days before on the M-16 no doubt played a significant role in my enjoyment. If you haven’t been offroad in awhile and you hit the trails on a singlespeed it can be frustrating; the key is to do it after a ride on a much heavier geared ride, at which point you’re like, “Wow, this thing is like so much faster!” (In this sense a geared bike is basically just an accessory to a singlespeed.)

There was just one thing bugging me though, which was that damn spacer lurking beneath my cockpit:

I told myself to just ignore it. After all, there was no reason to worry about it; it’s not like I was ever going to replace the fork. (Even if I wanted a suspension one the frame’s not designed for it.) Still, the very idea of the spacer’s permanence bothered me. Despite the filthy, disheveled appearance of my bikes, it’s important to me that they function in all ways as they should, even if it’s a function of which I have no need of availing myself anytime soon.

So, on the way home, I decided I’d take one more crack at removing the spacer. Hoping that maybe the Liquid Wrench had had time to work during my ride, I grabbed the spacer with a Channellock, and I’m pleased to report I successfully twisted it off:

I then greased the hell out of everything and put it all together again with some less aesthetically pleasing but considerably more sweat-resistant plastic spacers.

I feel much better now.

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