Consumer Affairs

Yesterday I mentioned my Jones, shown here before a beguiling backdrop of trash:

And a reader was kind enough to point out that I totally forgot to mention the Jones “Gnarwal” (available in aluminum or crabon), an aesthetically unrefined yet functional protruberance as pictured here:

I believe the reader’s motivation for reminding me of it was so that I’d make fun of it, and to be sure the Gnarwal looks like something you might want on your bike if you were to challenge a musky Van Cortlandt buck over a doe in heat:

But in fact even before the reader brought it up I had meant to mention it, since last week I received a marketing email from Jones informing me of some new products, and since I’m an unabashed fan of the brand I had intended to share its contents. But then I totally forgot. Anyway, here is the lowdown on this relative of the bar-end:

The new Jones Gnarwal, available in aluminum and carbon, is a simple single tube bonded to a beautifully machined two-piece clamp that attaches to the front of the Jones Loop H-Bar® with stainless steel hardware. It provides a place to hold your hands and to better control the bike while in the most aero position that the H-Bar offers…It’s an aero bar for the H-Bar!

Improvements over the original version:

  • Wider clamp is stiffer and has a more secure grip.
  • The one-piece face plate has more clamping surface. This design is also easier to install.
  • Overall lighter design with the tube bonded onto the hollow machined clamp (original design used a heavier bolt and wedge).
  • Now available in aluminum and also a lighter carbon fiber version.
  • The new aluminum Gnarwal is 17 g lighter and the carbon fiber version is 33 g lighter than the original Gnarwal.

I should point out that if you think the Gnarwal looks silly it’s highly unlikely Jeff Jones cares. Some time ago I interviewed him for Outside magazine (they have not yet run the interview, nor do I know when or even if they plan to do so), and one thing he made clear is that he couldn’t care less how stuff looks, all he cares about is how it works. In this sense he’s sort of the anti-Grant Petersen, since obviously Grant cares a lot about how stuff looks. But they are both alike in that they know exactly what they want their bikes to do and they operate independently of whatever the latest trends in the bicycle industry happen to be. All of this is to say that the Gnarwal no doubt succeeds admirably in its purpose, which is to serve as something to grab and to put stuff on–though it is kind of fun to imagine what the Rivendell equivalent of a Gnarwal would look like:

And no, I have no idea whether Nitto works with pewter, or if the metal has adequate tensile strength for this application.

In addition to the gnew Gnarwal, Jones also says they have a new lighter aluminum Loop bar:

As well as a new crabon one with a bigger clamping area or something:

Though of course if you don’t want to spend close to Specialized shoe money on a handlebar Jones offers a no-frills and no-butts version:

If you don’t mind the extra weight just order these and spend the extra money on grips, which come in different colors–and yes, you can buy also buy just one (1) grip for the Gnarwal:

Now you’re completely up to date–and, if you ordered a Gnarwal, possibly in the running for a Cockie:

Sharing new products in a quasi-entertaining fashion? Now that’s what I call semi-professional bike blogging!

Speaking of the trails nearest to my home (as I was in yesterday’s post), this morning I paid a brief visit to them once again, since I dropped THE CAR THE BANK NO LONGER OWNS BECAUSE I FINISHED PAYING THOSE DARLING FASCIST BULLY-BOYS BACK at the auto mechanic and then rode back:

The yellow nylon bottle cage is from my son’s “Eye Of The Tiger” bike–I traded with him since he found it too tenacious:

Every so often I make some mundane and hyper-local geographic discovery akin to that Monty Python bit about the Surbiton-Hounslow migration, and this morning I discovered that I could ride from my home, through the park, and emerge on the other side right around the corner from the garage! This means dropping off and picking up the car by bike is now fully-offroad breakfast machine-esque adventure:

Though this version is probably more accurate:

As part of this current round of motor-vehicular rehabilitation, I also recently visited a popular automotive retail chain–sort of an “Auto Zone,” if you will–which in turn got me thinking about bike shops. As a lover of bikes, I of course love bike shops, and wish them all prosperity and success. At the same time, as I’ve probably mentioned in the past, I’m always a little apprehensive about visiting them. This is mostly because I’m socially awkward, but it’s also a little bit because some of those stereotypes about bike shops are, well, kinda true. For example, as I’ve also probably mentioned somewhere (this blog is like 14 years old and bound to repeat itself), awhile back I stopped in a bike shop for some routine item and one of the employees–totally unbidden by me, I should add–inspected my tire pressure and informed me rather pedantically that it was too low. (It wasn’t.) It’s worth noting, by the way, that the employee was a woman, proving that when it comes to sheer pedantry the bike industry transcends mere “mansplaining” and knows no gender.

Anyway, between my own social anxiety and the propensity for people who work in bike shops to offer unsolicited advice, I have to admit I savored the automotive chain retail environment, where you’re mostly left to your own devices, and where if you do need help it becomes immediately obvious that the people offering it know even less than you and that you’re both kinda in it together. Also, while there are certain items you have to ask for in the auto store, if you need something simple like a bulb, or a wiper blade, or even a battery, it’s generally just sitting there on a shelf or hanging on a hook. Meanwhile, if you need, say, a chain, or a cassette, or even an inner tube for your bike, it’s often in a case or behind the counter, which means instead of quietly contemplating your choices and making your own decision you’re forced to engage in discourse with someone who’s deeply vested in the absurd notion that there’s a meaningful difference between Dura Ace and Ultegra. (One thing I like about the bike section at REI is they keep all that stuff out and you can peruse it at your leisure.)

I do realize that all this is highly subjective, and that some or all of the following may be at play:

  • My observations about bike shops is regional and does not necessarily reflect the way shops in other areas operate
  • The fact that I think I know everything about bikes but that I know I don’t know everything about cars may mean I walk into a bike shop with a chip on my shoulder (customers who think they know everything generally suck), whereas in an automotive shop I’m more willing to roll with it
  • This may be less about bike shops and automotive shops and more about independent businesses versus corporate chains, and the fact that I feel more comfortable in the latter just means I’m the sort of mindless consumer who’s directly responsible for the death of walkable downtowns and the rise of Walmart and that I should just shut up and enjoy my Olive Garden all-you-can-eat breadsticks already

Also, I should emphasize that these are all informal observations and musings worth about as much as the pixels they’re rendered in, and that while I may sometimes feel nervous about walking into bike shops they’ve also fostered me throughout my life. As a child I spent so much time fogging up the display cases in the local shop that I’m surprised they didn’t chase me out with a garden hose, and in my prime Fred years my entire life basically revolved around a bike shop whose owners introduced me to the local racing scene and went out of their way to include me and keep me outfitted–and that’s not even addressing the bike shops like Classic Cycle and Ben’s that make this blog possible. Ultimately the fact that I prefer to shop for my bike stuff in total anonymity like some guy in tan raincoat buying porn is no doubt entirely due to my own lack of character–or, at best, a reflection of the fact that cars have a more “comfortable” retail structure around them by virtue of the fact that they’re so mainstream.

Hopefully bikes become just as boringly mainstream one day.

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