Going Deep

Ah yes, it’s good to be back…

I’m going to go ahead and assume the vehicle operator parked on the sidewalk because the charging port is on the driver’s side, and I’m also going to posit three possible explanations for this:

  • Years of gas station conditioning led him (or her, but we all know it’s a him) to assume the lead wouldn’t reach the other side of the car, even though it looks like it easily can
  • The lead actually can’t reach, and as I type this the city is installing a charging network that is useless if your car’s charging port happens to be opposite the curb
  • The driver is not very bright
  • The driver is an asshole

I’d say each of these scenarios is equally probable.

Fun fact! Back in the early days of telephones, New York City was a cable-strewn shitshow:

So I guess we can look forward to the same process as, like a certain Mr. Zimmerman, cars go electric.

Anyway, further to yesterday’s post, in addition to exploring my local environs while on vacation I also made a brief foray into a neighboring state:

Vermont is indeed famous for three things: green mountains; rusty Subarus; and gravel roads. Here’s a picture featuring two out of three:

Also, here’s a wedding I didn’t crash:

When you see a low-budget sign like that you figure, “Why bother?,” though in retrospect it was probably a cunning ploy designed to fool city-slickers such as myself. There I was scoffing at the spray-painted particleboard; meanwhile the wedding guests were probably all drunk on Dom Perignon and having a caviar food fight.

Gravel notwithstanding, much of the ride to Vermont was paved. This means over the course of my two weeks with the Jones I used it for everything from road riding to gravel to wilderness exploration (and by “wilderness exploration” I mean any ride where you’ve got no cell service and are more than five miles from a bodega):

In the two years since I first took delivery of the Jones Plus LWB complete, Jeff Jones has since introduced a “v2,” though it’s essentially the same bike in spirit. Here’s the Jones line on what these bikes are about:

What is a Jones?

A Jones bicycle is great for all kinds of riding, on-road and off, touring, commuting, bikepacking, technical trails, loaded or unloaded. The frames and forks are designed together (a frameset) so they work together to deliver a great handling bike. Jones Geometry. You are perfectly positioned (balanced) between the wheels. You sit back and upright, with less weight on your arms and your head up – the position is natural and very comfortable. They don’t ‘fit’ like ‘normal bikes’ – they really fit!

The Jones bike is a bike for riding fast, slow, the rough with the smooth; safely, aggressively, laid-back or raging; with a big load or stripped to the bare essentials; on road, dirt, mud, snow; in the mountains, on the flat lands, around town or across the county; around the world or your local loop; for getting rad or just getting away. The high performance bicycle that is efficient and comfortable.

While I’ve spent plenty of time on this bike I’d never quite put the above to the test, for the simple reason that I have a bike for pretty much every mood and whim. The Jones may ostensibly be good for road rides, but if I feel like a road ride, I get dressed up in Lycra and hop on a road bike, or else prance about on my Rivendell like the dandy that I am. Therefore, as much as I’ve always loved the Jones for all-terrain rambling, if I knew there wasn’t going to be any dirt involved, I’d always looked at it like this:

But now for the first time I was spending two solid weeks with the Jones, the whole Jones, and nothing but the Jones–road riding included:

Furthermore, here in my city abode my bikes all live in the basement, whereas when I’m on vacation my bike sits on the porch and I can futz with it idly while I’m lounging. All of this is to say that over my vacation I became intimately acquainted with this bike in a way I never had before–and no, I am not saying that I had sex with it, so you can save your clever comments. Therefore, this being a bike blog, here are some observations on this bicycle and its place in the velocipedal firmament:

The Tires

The Jones LWB takes what are generally called “29+” tires, meaning they’re fatter than “regular” 29er tires, but not as fat as fat bike tires. Also, plus-sized tires are like totally dead as of over a year ago:

Because, you know, they “dumb down” the trail:

According to mountain biker logic, somehow a tire that’s a quarter-inch fatter is “dumbing down” the trail, but a bike with front and rear suspension, a retractable seatpost, a single front chainring, and an electronic derailleur shifting across a 12-speed cassette with a “granny” the size of a Frisbee is not.

But the Jones isn’t a mountain bike; rather, it’s a bike that can do mountain-bikey stuff. Given this, the beauty of the plus-sized tire is you’ve got a rigid chassis for when you’re doing non-mountain bike stuff, yet you’ve got the traction and compliance of a high-volume tire when you’re on a rugged trail. I suppose maybe they are dead for the highly specialized and ever-changing contraptions the bike industry calls “mountain bikes,” but in the larger sense I suspect they’re merely dead in the way stuff like 26-inch and 27.5-inch wheels were once dead–that is to say temporarily out of fashion pending the rediscovery of their positive attributes.

Of course, three-inch knobby tires filled with audibly sloshing sealant may be great for picking your way along a forgotten 19th century wagon trail in the Adirondacks, and for inspiring confidence when you’re descending a twisty gravel road, but at times they can be a bit ponderous for road riding. The heavy knobbies were a worthwhile trade-off given that I wanted to be ready for anything and everything, but if I were using the Jones strictly for road, gravel, and “soft-roading” I’d try a lighter and smoother tire. There aren’t too many 29+ tires that fit that description, but Jeff Jones does have this to say about his crabon plus rim:

While the Jones C-Rim is designed to be the best Plus rim around, it also works great with tires down to about 2.3” wide, where it will spread the beads apart to maximize air volume and tire stability.

Therefore, given the preponderance of “regular” 29er tires, and gravel tires, and so on, it seems like there’s huge potential to optimize the Jones for pretty much any type of riding, and once I finally wear out these slabs I’ll have to do some experimenting.

The Gears

I haven’t really been keeping track of the Drivetrain Arms Race in recent years, so I spent some time catching up over my vacation. Basically, on the mountain bike front, SRAM and Shimano are in a figurative race to the bottom as they keep adding increasingly lower gears to their single-ring drivetrains. First SRAM came out with a 50-tooth cog, then Shimano indroduced a 51, now I guess SRAM’s down to 52. This silliness notwithstanding, I do think we may be in something of a golden age when it comes to offroad transmissions. For one thing, while it’s never good to believe what you read on the Internet, it sounds like you can probably get away with mixing and matching SRAM and Shimano in a way neither company would ever acknowledge. For another, you’ve also got companies like microSHIFT, who offer all sorts of cool stuff. For example, if I were building an off-roader from scratch, it’s hard to imagine not going with this:

Also, check out all these shifters! I am this close [indicates tiny distance with fingers] to updating my RockCombo with a 12-speed single-ring friction drivetrain:

As for the Jones, it came with SRAM NX Eagle, which at the time was the “entry level” Eagle group. (There’s now one below it called SX Eagle, which is what comes on the current Jones complete.) Apart from the fact that I secretly hope the shifter will die so I can replace it with one of these, I don’t have a single complaint. According to the sorts of people who think plus-sized tires are “dumbing down” the trails, NX is like total garbage, and the derailleurs blow up in a week. However, for the past two years I’ve found it boringly reliable, and barring concrete evidence to the contrary I’m going to assume it’ll keep working fine with proper attention–though if it doesn’t I’ll be happy for an excuse to experiment with some new drivetrain components, inasmuch as we’re living in the Golden Age of Mountain Bike Transmissions.

The Ride

I knew I’d appreciate the Jones’s omnivorousness with regard to terrain; what I also found I appreciated was how confidence-inspiring it was when descending. Of all the bikes I’ve taken up there, the Jones is the one on which I felt by far the most secure when coming off a mountain at speed. I don’t know if this is due to the geometry, the wide handlebars, the plump tires, or some combination thereof. (I also haven’t compared my top speeds with previous years’ rides; maybe I was just going slower–though that’s hard to imagine given the bike’s mass.) Regardless, if you’ll forgive the jargon, this bike is stable as fuck.

Some bikes are great because they do one thing extremely well (road bikes, track bikes); others aim to be versatile but can be boring in their competence (hybrids, probably plenty of gravel bikes). The Jones is something else–it’s a bike you can go deep with, both in terms of how you ride it and how you configure it. If you’re a weenie like me with too many bikes you can certainly relegate it to a specific use, but there’s absolutely no reason to do so, and spending some uninterrupted time with it made me realize how much I’d been missing out on as a result. Jones aside, I suppose that’s why having too many bikes is reprehensible in a certain way–even if you ride every day you’re still hoarding untapped resources. Then again, as I’ve learned, it’s almost impossible to go back to a one-bike lifestyle. So I guess choosing one bike for an annual romantic getaway is the next best thing.

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