It’s Not Driving To The Ride If You Had To Drive Anyway

Circumstances conspired to put me behind the wheel of a large automobile today:

So cunningly I conspired to squeeze in a ride by putting a large bicycle on the rear of my large automobile and then hitting the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall:

There are two deer in the background of that photo. Can you find them? Here’s one:

I gotta say, I doubt I have the stomach for it, but I’m really starting to understand how it would be lots of fun to shoot at them.

Less capable of disappearing into the scenery is the Jones LWB:

Here it is at the check station after I bagged it:

It had been awhile since I’d ridden the Jones, partially since it’s been very rainy, partially since I’ve been preoccupied with stuff like friction shifter curation and Normcore Bikes and Vengeance Bikes recently, and partially since my son kind of stole it from me:

What little “mountain biking” I’ve been doing recently has been on my Artisanal Singlespeed, and as much as I adore that bike, getting back on the Jones with its sumptuous high-volume tires and absurdly wide gear range feels positively decadent. (If the Artisanal Singlespeed is like lying on the forest floor while gazing at the stars, the Jones is like lying in a king-sized bed on high thread count sheets after a couple glasses of wine.) The bottom bracket of the Jones is a bit low for the rocky, rooty trails in this part of the world. Also, on the steepest, most rugged climbs I sometimes want for a straighter bar, though a lot of that second thing has to do with the fact that I bring my singlespeed climbing style to the Jones and it takes me awhile to remember that I should take advantage of the bike’s gearing, traction, and stability by downshifting and sitting:

In all other ways the bike is ideal, especially on flowing sections of trail, where you slide your hands down to the ends of the bars, shift your weight back, and sort of get behind the front end of the bike, which makes you feel like a tailgunner:

Despite its considerable heft and enormous wheels the bike is also quite maneuverable and even playful, and I have no trouble lifting the rear wheel while riding, even as a relative flat-pedal noob:

Having been deeply immersed in friction shifting, I did spend a lot of time musing over how it compares to indexed shifting:

Despite my affinity for traditional bikes and components I not only acknowledge but celebrate just how far the mountain bike drivetrain has come:

On difficult off-road terrain, clutch derailleurs and wide-range, single-ring drivetrains are wonderfully idiot-proof, and I appreciated switching off my brain for a bit. At the same time, while these systems do let you downshift a few cogs at once, having to upshift your way across a 12-speed wide range cassette when you want to go from a very low gear to a very high one can at times be annoying and even ridiculous: anyone who rides such a setup is familiar with the dikka-dikka-dikka-dikka-dikka-dikka-dikka you have to do as you crest a climb and prepare to descend the other side of it. (Maybe Shimano lets you do multiple upshifts, but I’m not sure.) Friction on the other hand is elegantly seamless, and it underscores the more comical aspects of sequential shifting, so I’m increasingly tempted to fit the Jones with something like this:

Or even to try installing one of the friction shifters I already have, because even though I know it won’t work due to SRAM’s 1-1 cable pull ratio or whatever, you don’t know exactly how something doesn’t work until you try it, and sometimes undertaking a futile enterprise can be both necessary and edifying. (Hey, I’ve been maintaining a bicycle blog since 2007, I think I know a think or two about futile enterprises.)

But yes, the microSHIFT thingy is probably the way to go, since even if you leave it in index mode you should be able to crank yourself across the entire cassette in either direction without jabbing at it repeatedly like the volume control on an airplane armrest.

Apart from that, I’d really have to go out of my way to find things to change on such an utterly competent bike, which is why it’s almost exactly how I received it–apart from the kickstand, of course:

Without that it wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

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