So I got another goddamn flat today:
Though I looked at it not as a pain in the ass, but as an opportunity to perform a thorough product test, because remember the resurrected Brancale? Who sent me these shoes?
Well along with the shoes they sent me this seat roll (made for them by Yanco):
Which I only just put on my bike, so this would be my first time unfurling it in order to access my flat repair materials.
Before I go on, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of saddle bags versus seat rolls, or tool rolls, or whatever the hell you want to call them.
The good thing about a saddle bag is that you can usually get your crap out of them without having to remove them from the bike. See how this one is wide open, like the nylon mouth of some titanium fish?
Whereas the bad thing about a saddle bag is they don’t fit as much stuff as a tool roll of a similar size, and if they’re stuffed full you wind up breaking a finger while trying to fish out a multitool or something. Meanwhile, with a tool roll, you just unfurl it like you’re about to do minor surgery and you’ve got everything you need in its own tidy little compartment:
But of course you’ve got to take it off the bike in order to do that, which is sometimes inconvenient.
Of course the capacity comparison doesn’t hold (get it?) when you start talking about large saddle bags:
I mean, you’re not going to put a flannel shirt in a tool roll. In fact, a tool roll large enough to fit a flannel shirt would basically be a garment bag:
Also, I actually have a tool roll full of tools inside that giant saddle bag. Now how’s that for mind-blowing?
But we’re talking about “racing”-type bikes here, and carrying as little as possible while still making sure you don’t get stuck, so for the moment let’s pretend those huge bags don’t exist.
To complicate matters further, despite tool rolls having more room for individual tools, once you start getting into larger inner tubes–your mountain bike tubes, for example–you start having trouble rolling them up inside the tool roll and need to go back to the bag:
Yes, I realize the conclusion I’m supposed to draw from this is, “You gotta go tubeless, braaah,” but then I wouldn’t be staying true to this particular bike’s ethos, now would I?
And what about security? Unless you’ve forgotten to fasten it, you’re not going to lose your saddle bag. (Of course you might lose the contents if you forget to close it; hands up if you’ve managed that one.) A tool roll, on the other hand, could conceivably come loose if it relies on a separate strap. With the EH Works ones I’ve touted on this site, I’ve found they work better with some saddles than with others, and I’ve also found that if you don’t take a few moments to position it snugly it can work its way free and ultimately jettison itself. I’ve lost tool rolls twice in this fashion, but both times I successfully backtracked and retrieved them. (One of those times I backtracked all the way from Inwood to Marble Hill in order to do so. When I finally found the tool roll, it had been run over by at least one car. I’m pretty sure I wrote a post about that, but I’ll be damned if I can find it in the pile of half-assed rants that is my literary output.)
Indeed, given how much mental energy one can squander on the simple question of how to carry a spare tube and some basic tools, I can’t blame people for deciding, “Fuck it, I’m buying a Hyundai.” But that’s not so simple either. There’s lots of ways to carry stuff in a Hyundai. You can get one with a trunk, or a hatchback, or a…
So right, the Brancale saddle roll. Because the strap is attached to it (unlike the EH Works roll, which is secured by a toe strap), you’re not going to lose it. However, the soft nylon strap and the plastic buckle require more futzing than the leather toe strap (it’s more work to thread a nylon strap into a plastic buckle than to fasten a toe strap–plus you can also remove the EH Works tool roll while leaving the toe strap on your saddle rails), and the little loop thingy on the Brancale that you tuck the end of the strap into isn’t attached to anything and falls off whenever you remove the saddle bag. You can see it in this photo immediately to the left of the roll:
Even so, it’s got good capacity for something so diminutive, and I really like the flap that you fold over it so your stuff doesn’t fall out:
So I guess what I’m saying is it’s much better to work with once it’s open, but it’s also more of a hassle to take on and off in order to do so.
The bottom line is, if you’re trying to decide between bag and roll, you should think about how often you plan to flat and then go from there.
Oh, as for the Brancale shoes, I still really like them, but since they’re all new and fancy I only ride them in good weather, so today I was wearing these:
Anyway, once I replaced the tube I inflated it with my mini pump and lamented the low pressure–until I remembered that I was near the South County Trailway, where I had recently noticed a work crew installing a new bicycle work station. I’ve never actually had occasion to use one of these things before (anytime I’ve encountered one I was blissfully free from mechanicals), so I decided to head over to the Trailway forthwith and avail myself of the pump. Here’s the new work station, which you’ll need a proper gravel bike to access:
I guess this amenity is supposed to be a part of Emperor Cu*mo’s “Empire State Trail:”
Which sounds really impressive:
But which is really just a name at this point, and is really no different than me putting a doormat in front of my apartment that says Bike Snob Manor. (Auspicious name, same crappy apartment.)
I mean yes, they’re doing stuff and all, but for now you can’t even get to Elmsford:
As for the pump, it boasted its compatibility with both popular valving systems:
But in practice I could not get it to stay on and ended up having to do that thing where you hold the head onto the valve with one hand and pump up the tire with the other. Fortunately I have tremendous upper body strength and was able to bring the tire up to full pressure, though sadly I did not have a precision digital tire gauge in order to verify that.
While I had access to a full complement of tools, I figured I might as well address another issue, so I put my bike on the stand:
Only after I did this did I realize I’d put it on there wrong, but whatever:
I then turned my attention to the problem, which was the leaf that had made its way in between my tire and fender:
An amateur might simply have pulled out the leaf, risking incalculable damage in the process, but I know better. First, I removed the brake caliper, and then the fender. Once I had access to the leaf, I removed it from the tire with a pair of needlenose pliers and examined it for wear:
Judging from the abrasions the surface of the leaf it may have accelerated tire wear and compromised the casing, so I will replace it preemptively–though before riding the new tire I will have it shaved down so it precisely measures the outer diameter of my front tire.
You can’t be too careful.