Flying By The Seat Of My Pants

Having received two (2) track bikes recently, yesterday I performed an about-face and headed off on the Jones LWB to the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall:

The Jones is pretty much the antithesis of the Fiorelli in every way:

Fore example:

–The Fiorelli has 19mm tubulars, the Jones has 3″ tubeless tires

–The Fiorelli has a tallish single fixed gear, the Jones as a 1×12 drivetrain with a teeny-weeny low gear

–The Fiorelli has no brakes, the Jones has front and rear disc brakes

–The Fiorelli is designed to be ridden in the drops with a flat back, the Jones is designed to be ridden upright and affords the rider multiple hand positions

—The Fiorelli is designed to be ridden in circles on a velodrome, the Jones is designed to be loaded with bags and ridden deep in the wilderness where you’re liable to get chased by a blunderbuss-wielding moonshiner after inadvertently discovering his still

–And so forth

In keeping with the rough-and-tumble nature of the Jones, I attired myself in my favorite pair of jorts. These jorts were a a bit threadbare in the posterior region, but I figured they still had some life left, and in any case, blunderbuss-wielding moonshiners aside I didn’t expect to encounter anybody who might care about my appearance. Indeed, once I was on my way the integrity of my jorts couldn’t have been further from my mind–until at one point I was remounting my bicycle and, with a mighty tearing sound, the nose of my saddle opened a sizable hole:

I briefly considered retreating to The Mall behind which the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall lie and purchasing some new shorts, but instead I decided to press on, savoring the abundant traction and wide gear range of the Jones:

After spending a lot of time on a mountain bike (if you can call the RockCombo a mountain bike) with 26-inch wheels, a triple chainring, and friction shifting–all of which require a little more thought and attention than modern mountain bike setups when riding offroad–I’d be lying if I said the Jones didn’t feel positively decadent:

The sheer number of clicks required to shift up and down a 12-speed cassette with a single ring is borderline ridiculous, however. Also, it’s got nothing on Jan Heine’s setup:

See, no existing drivetrain is fast enough for him:

There’s another aspect that’s at least as important for me: shift times. Modern derailleurs are optimized for shifting under load. That can be useful when you climb out of the saddle and want to shift, but it has a downside: To ensure smooth shifts, the derailleurs are designed to delay the shift until the ramps and pins of the cassette cogs and chainrings are aligned perfectly. How long that takes depends on the initial position of the cogs, so the lag between when I push the button and when the derailleur shifts isn’t consistent.

Yet he’s using a rod-operated front shifter, go figure:

What about the front derailleur? It’s a replica of a 1940s Rene Herse derailleur. (When we photographed the bike at the start of Paris-Brest-Paris, the derailleur wasn’t chrome-plated yet.) This derailleur doesn’t use a cable at all – you push the lever and the chain moves to the next chainring. Some people call them ‘suicide’ derailleurs, but shifting with a lever-operated front derailleur isn’t any more difficult than retrieving a water bottle from the cage on the seat tube. Nobody talks about ‘suicide bottle cages.’

Yeah, but you can wait until after the descent to take a drink. Shifting into the big ring on the other hand…

Of course, I’d never dare question any of this, as Jan Heine operates on a higher level than the rest of us feeble-minded pedal-pushers. He is what happens when extreme retrogrouchery and extreme Fredness collide inside a giant particle accelerator–the resulting hadronic shower actually coalesces and takes wool-clad human form:

This is in no way a criticism, by the way–the cycling world is a better place for this living physics phenomenon. If, like me, you’re the sort of person who can barely be bothered to top off your tires on a regular basis much less fret about their rolling resistance, be thankful there are people like him fussing endlessly over the sorts of details that give the rest of us headaches.

And if any of you physics phreds are inclined to critique my particle accelerator metaphor, please register your complaints here.

Anyway, hole notwithstanding, I was feeling as contented as this rock…

…until I remounted again and opened up my jorts even more:

At this point I was relying entirely on the integrity of my Ortovox merino underwear–which I recommend wholeheartedly, by the way. Thanks to them, I remained quite comfortable (not to mention covered) for the duration of the ride, and I must confess that the added crotchal ventilation afforded by the hole in my jorts was rather delightful.

Even so, one cannot help reflecting on one’s station in life when one is moving through the world with a gaping hole in one’s pants. When I had set out that morning I felt like the sort of privileged dandy who can simply hop on one of his many bikes in the middle of the weekday and prance about the countryside. However, on the way home, I contemplated not only the state of my jorts, but the condition of my sweater:

20-plus years ago that was a fancy cashmere pullover. Since then the moths have descended upon it like schnorrers at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and now I use it mostly for brisk jorts rides:

Until today I had been deluding myself that it was fashionably distressed, but now that my ass was hanging out as well I realized I was basically riding around in rags:

But you can’t really take the measure of a man without considering his shoes, and in my case those too were in a sorry state:

And as if all that weren’t bad enough, here’s what I was wearing on my hands:

It was all too clear to me at that moment that I had crossed a line:

Speaking of those gloves, you can laugh all you want, but they do work with a touchscreen:

In the end, I decided that being self-conscious was for suckers and roadies, and as I rolled along towards home I curated a message for anyone who might take issue with the state of my wardrobe:

Come to think of it, it’s a message that’s applicable across a much broader range of situations as well…

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