I’ve Got a Jones…For Fat Tires

Among my many velocipedes, perhaps none of them has suffered as much from the current state of affairs than my Jones LWB:

This bicycle (as well as the Jones SWB that proceeded it) was a revelation to me in terms of comfort, versatility, and performance. While my lifestyle and aversion to “roughing it” meant I never realized its full potential by strapping a bunch of stuff to it and disappearing into the wilderness for three days, it was the bicycle I’d look to on Fridays when, with the kids in school and week’s chores squared away, I’d scamper off into the lands north of the city for a few hours and string together roads, trails, and bits of singletrack.

Things are different now. While I’m fortunate to be able to ride every day, those rides are, by necessity, short ones. Alas, the Jones is not the bike you turn to for short rides, in the same way you don’t put on Beethoven’s 9th if you’re taking a five minute drive*: in both cases you’re really just scratching the surface of where this thing’s capable of taking you.

Nevertheless, this past weekend I realized I’d been neglecting my beloved Jones for too long (“too long” = a few weeks), and so I put it into service for a mixed-terrain ramble of modest length:

It was also cool enough to finally try the merino long sleeve polo in classic navy I received from Vulpine:

Please accept my apologies for surrendering to the hair that has relentlessly attacked my face over the course of the past couple of months.

Anyway, the garment was perfect for the cool and slightly drizzly conditions, and as with all the other Vulpine stuff I kept it on for the rest of the day for the seamless on-the-bike off-the-bike lifestyle integration that’s so hot with the millennials nowadays. Here it is in context with the rest of my attire, as revealed in the mirrored windows of a diner in Yonkers:

I completed the ensemble by tying a bandana insouciantly around my neck. This is one of four (4) bandanas Grant Petersen included with the rapid rise derailleur he sent me awhile back, one for each member of the family (that’s bandanas, not rapid rise derailleurs, though I wouldn’t put that past him either), which was very thoughtful of him. My feelings about face coverings haven’t changed, but I have taken to wearing the schmatta around my neck while riding just in case I need to duck into a bike shop or any other establishment where service is contingent upon covering my ugly mug (its already extant coating of hair notwithstanding). This is because, while I don’t think putting a sweaty bandana over my sweaty bearded face has any positive impact on public health (and if anything it seems like it would have a negative impact on my own health), I’m also not one of those people looking to get into fights with employees in retail establishments and restaurants. The real pandemic right now appears to be public altercations, and it’s deeply tragic.

But let’s get back to the Jones–which is not wearing a mask, but is wearing a handlebar purse:

Some have asked me if the bag obviates the whole point of the handlebars, which is of course the many hand positions. The answer is, “Nah.” While obviously it reduces access to certain areas of the bar somewhat, you can still wrap your hands around the taped portion, or perch your palms on the forward portion if you want to get aero. Also, besides holding the grips themselves, the hand position above is the one I use most often, as it’s perfect for when you’re just cranking along on flat terrain.

The Jones also picks up exactly where my Rivendell leaves off. They do have a lot in common; for example, both put you in an upright position and derive performance from comfort, and both are designed by people who operate independently of prevailing bike industry trends. The fundamental difference is that Rivendell place a premium on both aesthetics and timeless components, whereas Jones couldn’t care less about aesthetics (I know this because Jeff Jones told me) and incorporates the latest technology to great effect. Also, the A. Homer Hilsen is best suited for pavement and the sort of non-technicall offroad riding we’re now calling “gravel,” whereas the Jones and it can swallow pretty much any type of terrain you feed it–and it’s best on rides that are a buffet of pretty much everything. (It’s not a mountain bike per se, but it’s 90% of a mountain bike, which is plenty; when I want a flat-bar bike for more focused offroad riding I’ve got the Engin.)

Of course, if you want Jones omnivorousness with the Rivendell sensibility they’ve got bikes for that:

2.8-inch tire clearance with rim brakes is nothing to sneeze at–and if you do make sure you put your bandana up first.

In any case, I posted about my first ride on the Jones LWB back on July 1st of last year, so while it hasn’t been a year yet it’s getting pretty close. “So how are the parts holding up”, you may or may not be wondering, and either way I’m going to tell you. Well, the gears and stuff have been perfect:

I love using the friction shifting and vintage derailleur on the Rivendell, but I’m also consistently blown away by how good “entry level” mountain bike shifting is. A single-ring wide-range drivetrain with a clutch derailleur is pretty much idiot-proof, which is a good thing because I am an idiot.

By the way, I mentioned tire clearance earlier in the context of the Rivendell; while 2.8 is arguably more than enough tire for anybody, here’s what the front end of the Jones looks like with 29-inch 3.0s:

And that’s fat bike spacing on the fork, so you could basically put the wheel of a Land Rover in there:

Oh, the rotor reminds me that the mechanical disc brakes have been excellent too, and I’m still on the original pads. (I never wore out the pads on the SWB either, despite riding it a lot, so that’s either a testament to their durability, or an indictment of my hardiness.) They’ve also got inboard and outboard pad adjustment. As I’ve said before, I really appreciate the boneheaded simplicity of mechanical disc brakes, and as far as I can tell the only thing you give up in using them instead of hydraulics is a bit of “feel.” This seems worth it to me to not have to worry about bleeding brakes, or stuck pistons, or accidentally squeezing the brake lever while the wheel is off, but I realize I have warped priorities.

Here’s a closer look at the seat cluster, because why not?

I’ve had absolutely no problem with the wheels whatsoever, though I admit I do sometimes fantasize about how this bike would feel with a much lighter wheelset:

As for the tires, tires this huge don’t need super aggressive tread; the knobs on these provide traction on absolutely everything while not being onerous for riding on pavement, and they’re holding up well both front:

And rear:

There is a bit of sealant seepage on the rear sidewall, but not enough for me to care. I was also sort of in uncharted waters as far as how much sealant to put into a 29×3.0 tire, so perhaps I erred on the side of too much.

Finally the cranks…well, cranks are cranks, but the bottom bracket remains both smooth and silent and that’s all you really care about:

As for the ride, it was highly enjoyable, and I fell in love with the bike all over again. However, as is the case everywhere nowadays, there were lots of signs. So…



On that last sign, it’s worth noting that this particular body of water is a reservoir, so with the exception of sunbathing none of that stuff is allowed there anyway. I also have no idea why Cuomo’s executive order specifically precludes sunbathing of all things, unless they’ve figured out that the virus will pounce on you if you stay in one place for too long. Whatever the reason, here’s my bike violating the order by sunbathing:

But you now who really don’t care about signs? Deer:

This particular deer wasn’t even remotely afraid of me. Ironically I think we’re more afraid of each other now than the deer are of us.

*Please note I am not endorsing five minute drives. Using motor vehicles to travel short distances is pure evil, and simply thinking about doing so means you’re destroying the ice caps and want polar bears to die. You should be ashamed of yourself. I mean yeah, I’ve been hitting up the Burger King drive-thu lately, but it’s different when I do it.

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