Riding By The Seat Of My Pants

As you’re tired of hearing me mention by now, my last Outside column was a guide to Dirtbag Road Riding:

We’ve all got our favorite garments, but integral to this more-fun-with-fewer-fucks-given approach for me has been jeans and jorts, and in fact I’ve got another unpublished Outside column about riding in jeans which will hopefully be available for your delectation/critique/derision one day in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, however, I will share that ever since the warm weather locked in I’ve been wearing a pair of Osloh cut-offs basically every day:

[This is a still from a video I’ll be sharing soon. They made me wear the helment. All other fashion failures are mine and mine alone.]

I’d been a big fan of these jeans since Osloh first reached out to me a couple of years ago, and I think they’re at their best in jorts form:

The two attributes I appreciate most are: 1) Deep and easy-to-access pockets that seem to last (the left front pocket is generally the first thing to go on all my pants because it’s where I keep my keys; B) Crotchal padding that adds comfort and durability but isn’t bothersome off the bike. (Though I have experienced wear around the back pocket seams on a previous pair.) Yes, if I were calling the shots there are some things I’d change, but as the the pants that got me hooked on riding in jeans I heartily endorse them.

Anyway, I mention all this because Osloh is “Kickstarting” some new jeans:

They’re called the “Gravel 15,” because of course they are, even though the video focuses entirely on urban riding, go figure. They’re also made here in New York City, in the garment district, in a deal that may or may not have been brokered by iconic garmento Sid Farkus:

I don’t know what the Venn diagram of people in the market for expensive jeans and people who read this blog looks like, but I should note that if you do go in on the Kickstarter (or purchase Osloh stuff through this blog) I get a commission, which I promise to use irresponsibly:

I’ve been a semi-professional bike blogger for like 15 years now, and during that time there have always been people who have accused me of selling out. Well, here I am, still blogging away with almost nothing to show for it, so the joke’s on them.

Another product Osloh sells that I continue to use and recommend is the trigger bell:

This is not a fancy bell, and if you’re looking for something that will do justice to your lugged fop chariot there are obviously classier options out there. However, for sheer ergonomics this is maybe my favorite bell, and I find it works equally well on flat bars as well as on drops when placed on the bar tops adjacent to the stem. (Theoretically there’s a way to mount this next to your brake lever on drop bars but I don’t know why you’d bother.) Here’s how I like it on drop bars:

In that position you can thumb it with your hands on the tops, and if you angle it back a bit it’s nice and hidden and it doesn’t get muted by the cables.

I would note that the bell wants to be set up on the left side of the bar, probably because it’s English or something, so if that bothers you don’t buy it. However, it doesn’t bother me and I have one of these on like three or four bikes now and think it’s a great combination of being small and out of the way while simultaneously easy to ring and plenty loud enough for most bike path situations.

I also still really like the Tex-Lock, which I use often:

In fact it lives permanently in the saddle bag of my Platypus, since not only is it light enough that I don’t really notice it, but it’s also long enough to lock up several bikes, and if I’m riding with the family and have a bunch of bikes to secure it’s generally on the Platypus. Or if you want something shorter and more compact there’s the new Orbit:

So there you go, that’s hundreds of dollars of product plugging on the heels of an Outside column about how you can enjoy cycling while spending virtually nothing. And in the interest of fairness and integrity virtue-signalling, I’ll also throw in a plug for the Opus jeans from Vulpine, from which I receive no commission whatsoever:

These are just insanely comfortable, and as I’ve mentioned somewhere I basically wore them every day last fall and winter. Here is the state of the seat after five or six months of more or less constant wear:

They’ve held up well, though the pocket has finally failed:

I will probably stitch it up and jort them.

Now I will stop talking about pants and get back to bikes–specifically this one:

Originally I borrowed this bike from Classic Cycle in order to live out my Five Boro Bike Tour revenge fantasy, and I was planning to return it as soon as I was done. However, something strange happened, and I slowly began to fall for it–especially once I figured out what was wrong with the derailleur. Now it’s become my default bike for formally-attired road rides (which, admittedly, I’m not doing all that much of these days), and I even caught myself wondering, “Do I like this more than my Litespeed, which is the best road bike I’ve ever owned?”

To find out, over the past few days I’ve been alternating back and forth, and visiting some of my favorite roads:

When I found myself falling for the splatter-paint Davidson, I rode it back-to-back with the Litespeed, and I decided I still liked the latter bike better. However, this time (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I think maybe the Vengeance Bike feels a little nicer to me…? Feeling this way about a plastic bike–even a vintage one with C-Record parts–is deeply unsettling, like realizing maybe you’ve had your sexual orientation wrong your whole life. On my most recent ride on the Vengeance Bike, I tried to make sense of all this, and posited and/or concluded the following:

  • I haven’t closely compared how both bikes are set up (I spent virtually no time adjusting saddle position, bar height, etc. on the Vengeance Bike) but it may be that I accidentally dialed it in perfectly and I’m a little more comfortable on the plastic bike because the bars are higher or something like that. I did spend time fussing with the Litespeed when I first got it, and it could be as simple as my having been slightly younger and fitter when I did so and not having adjusted anything since.
  • I haven’t closely compared frame size and geometry; maybe the Vengeance Bike fits me a tiny bit better.
  • Every time I get on an older road bike it feels smoother and faster. No doubt it’s my imagination, but it’s almost like you can feel the difference between the loose-ball stuff on older bikes versus the sealed stuff on newer bikes. (Though both bikes have loose-ball hubs, and I can’t imagine any human could tell the difference between two reasonably smooth bottom brackets, so that really doesn’t make much sense here.)
  • I am currently obsessed with friction shifting and older bikes in general, so this could be informing my perceptions to a disproportionate degree. By and large, I find current garvel and rode bieks mind-numbingly boring, and this is only becoming more acute as I age.
  • Maybe the primitive crabon fame and non-oversized bar and quill stem are in fact a little more forgiving than a titanium frame and an oversized threadless cockerpit, and I’m being seduced by those, as well as the leather contact points.

Even the sculpted marshmallowy look of the Vengeance Bike has grown on me. I’ll always be partial to metal frames, but it looks vintage and modern at the same time, kind of like a Corvette Stingray:

Of course, the Litespeed is, objectively speaking, a much better bike. It’s titanium, not plastic, so you don’t look at it and wonder, “Is that crack just in the paint, or…?” There are more options for replacement parts. The cables aren’t routed through the frame at weird angles, and while it’s certainly no garvel biek you also don’t hear scraping sounds if you roll through a puddle or a dirt patch owing to the nonexistent frame clearances. Also, if my older son is still racing or riding sport bikes by the time he’s big enough for the Litespeed then he can have it, whereas I would not want him riding around on a 35 year-old crabon bike with Delta “brakes,” no siree.

Still, even though my surrender to jorts and sandals is more or less complete and my Platypus is probably my most-ridden bicycle these days, I suspect I’ll always enjoy a ceremonial Sunday morning trot on a racing bike, and in that capacity the Vengeance Bike is enormously satisfying.

I woudln’t want to ride it in jorts, though.

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