In November of 2020 I received the Specialized RockCombo from Classic Cycle:
Which I ended up liking so much that I replaced my plastic Specialized with it:
I think you’ll agree that it was a significant upgrade.
If you’re a bike weenie, at one point or another you’ve justified a bicycle on the basis that it’s a true “do-it-all” bike, which is ridiculous since if you’re a bike weenie you’ll almost always keep tinkering with the bike until it does one thing better than everything else, at which point it’s no longer a do-it-all bike, and then you wind up getting another do-it-all bike and repeat the process ad infinitum.
However, while I do thing the pursuit of a “do-it-all” bike is often folly, the RockCombo has been as close to one as I have come, and I’ve been using it for everything from wet winter road rides to woodsy trail rides:
Of course, being a bike weenie myself, I have been tinkering with it, but in doing so I’ve tried to hew as closely as possible to it’s do-it-all nature and Bush Senior-era character. So far the biggest change has been a new-to-me pair of wheels, which have improved the shifting tremendously and will allow me to continue feeding it new cassettes without having to scrounge for old Suntour stuff:
But another area in which I’ve felt the bike could use some improvement was in the brakes. In my time with the bike I’ve lowered the straddle cable yoke (probably not enough) and switched brake pads, which have helped:
However, braking could still be better, even by canti standards. Plus, recently the brakes have been shrieking consistently and blood-curdlingly, to the point where I’m horrifying pedestrians in crosswalks. The oft-repeated cure for shrieking cantilever brakes is to toe in the pads, but now that it’s 2022 and cantilevers are double-obsolete (thanks to the one-two punch of v-brakes and disc-brakes) I think we can all cut the crap and admit that never works. Anyway, even if it did work, I’d been thinking the RockCombo could use something a little classier. So I went into my bag of cantis, because who doesn’t have a bag of cantis?
As you can see, over the years I’ve taken absolutely no preventative measures to keep my various brakes from falling apart, which means I now just have a bag full of random arms, bolts, and springs. However, I knew I had a pair of XTRs in there somewhere, and after much scrounging I got them together and on the bike (and yes, of course I used the same cables; what am I, made of money?):
Then I went for a ride:
I’m sure the Brake Freds will tell me everything that’s wrong with how I set them up, and that the History Freds will tell me there was no such thing as XTR when this bike came out, but the “new” brakes still felt better in every respect. More importantly, they were mostly quiet, emitting only the occasional and brief seal-like bark at certain frequencies:
Having used cantis for many years I know this is liable to change at any moment, and that once the rims and the pads spend more time together the demon could awake. However, conditions were optimal for brake screeching–that is to say warm and humid–and the fact that I was able to brake in stealth mode most of the time is a promising sign.
I gotta say, it’s turning into a pretty nice bike…well nicer than this piece of crap, that’s for sure:
Boy they really lost the plot, didn’t they?