So in other words, in 1989, you could get an off-the-peg, knobby-tired, drop-bar bike with generous frame clearances and fender mounts–and you could make a commercial for it featuring a rider who’s not wearing a helmet.
Clearly we’ve taken several large steps backwards as a society.
Anyway, I got so fired up from watching that commercial this morning that I immediately grabbed my own RockCombo (that sounded kind of obscene), and before I knew it I’d ridden nearly 50 miles of mixed terrain featuring everything from singletrack to pavement–all in jeans, no less, as is my wont these days:
As you can see, this 31 year-old bicycle is in time capsule condition, which leads me to believe its original owner didn’t tinker with it too much. However, for some reason it has a Suntour XC Comp rear derailleur as opposed to the XCD 6000 touted in the commercial:
Also, the decal says it’s double butted, yet photos of other RockCombos across the World Wide Internet clearly show decals saying they’re triple-butted:
It seems odd to me that a bike that existed for such a brief yet glorious moment in time would have been butted differently from specimen to specimen. Here’s a theory that I just made up that is most assuredly wrong and also mind-numbingly boring. Excited yet? Okay, here goes. See the slight wrinkles in the decal? Well, perhaps Specialized messed up and labeled all the RockCombos as triple butted rather than double butted, and then some utter bike nerd went over his frame with a conductor rod and a stethoscope, tap-tap-tapping to count the butts, and wouldn’t you know it, he came up one butt short. (Is it one “t” or two when you’re talking about frame tubing but(t)s? Well, I’m using two, because it’s fun to type “butt.”) So the bike nerd sued Specialized, who were then forced to recall all the RockCombos and re-decal them accordingly. The owner of this particular RockCombo scrupulously brought his into the dealer, who then did a half-assed job of applying the decal, but the owners of all the other RockCombos that say “triple butted” didn’t bother.
Anyway, it was pretty cold when I left, but it warmed up considerably, and I know what you’re thinking:
When you need to shed some layers and aren’t riding a Rivendell equipped with exquisite baggage that looks like something you’d load onto an early 20th century ocean liner, can that Chrome handlebar bag accommodate a fancy vest and a pair of deerskin gloves that have been drawn upon by Barry Wicks?
Yes. Yes it can:
As for the bike itself, this was my second ride on the RockCombo that incorporated what I’d consider actual mountain bike trails. After my first such ride, I mentioned I was a bit underwhelmed by the braking performance, which prompted a lengthy discussion about straddle cable height in particular and the minutiae of cantilever brake adjustment in general–which, if you’re a normal person, is the sort of thing that makes you bored enough to gnaw your own foot off. (And you’ve only got one left now that you read my butting conspiracy theory.) Well, not to undermine the importance of the aforementioned canti considerations, but I will say that the anodizing on the rim is starting to wear off (the condition of the braking surface when I received the bike was positively virginal) and I’m already noticing an increase in stopping power, so maybe it’s as simple as that:
But while the wear on the braking surface may be advantageous, the visible wear on the tire sidewall is decidedly less so, especially when considered in conjunction with the visibly cracked tire tread:
No doubt it would be prudent of me to change these decaying relics, and assuming the RockCombo can accommodate the 2.1-inch mountain bike tires I’ve currently got sitting around doing nothing–and I suspect it can–I plan to slap them on at my earliest convenience. (Though you should note that with me “earliest convenience” could be anywhere from tomorrow to next spring.)
In that same post I mentioned how much more quickly and quietly the American M-16 shifts when compared to the RockCombo, even though both bikes are of the same vintage. This of course is due to the Shimano Hyperglide shifty parts on the aforementioned velocipede versus the Suntour stuff on the RockCombo. However, this time around I put the Suntour bar-end shifter on the RockCombo into friction mode, and the shifting immediately felt more refined:
I’m not sure if this is because indexed shifting on non-ramped cogs is inherently balky, or because going into friction mode was a quick-and-dirty way of compensating for imprecise cable tension adjustment, though I suspect it’s a combination of the two. In any case, once your wrist gets calibrated to whatever shifter you’re using, friction is delightfully smooth and silent, and it’s easy to see why certain people (AHEM GRANT PETERSEN) refuse to let it go.
Nuances aside, overall I love riding the RockCombo, which does succeed quite well at being a ride-to-the-ride, road/singletrack/whatever-type bicycle you just want to keep feeding with miles. It’s also endearingly ugly and retrogrouchy, which made me feel vastly superior to all the Freds and Gravel Goobers with their sleek plastic bikes and their disc brakes, even though I was riding the same brand of bike they were:
It really is crazy how many Specializeds you see on Route 9W, it could be time for an anti-trust suit. There are so many damn plastic Specializeds in New York that even I have a plastic Specialized, which is pretty amazing when you consider I don’t particularly like either plastic bikes or Specialized. At this point plastic Specialized bikes are what Performance catalogs used to be–something that just shows up at your house because you’re a cyclist, whether you wanted it or not.
Finally, before I let you go for the weekend, I’d just like to show you this new book I got from Taj Mihelich:
Taj illustrated my Outside columns for quite awhile and they were far better for it; in fact some weeks they were my column’s only saving grace. You can pick up a copy on his site, or at that website named after a large river, or Bookshop.org, or whatever your preferred retailer of books happens to be:
Ordered one? Good. Now get outta here.