Who’s Your Godfather?

Further to yesterday’s post, I was unable to return the pad to its carrier despite your helpful suggestions, and so I just stole the pads from this brake instead:

They’re a little narrower so the little arm thingies stick out a tiny bit, and I could probably fix it with an extra washer or something, but I’m not gonna bother because they work great as is:

In addition to being narrower, the new pads are also much longer than the stubby originals (“Stubby Originals” sounds like a bar band), which means they extend past the fork:

However, there’s still enough clearance for them to open all the way once they’re adjusted, and to get the wheel out, so it’s not a problem in practice:

In fact the Stubby Originals used to juuust graze the fork, which is why there’s a little patch of paint missing, and no doubt after several hundred million stops they would have worn the metal away completely and sent me crashing to my death. (I’m no metallurgist, but at my current mileage I estimate this would have happened somewhere around the year 2136.) Also, the longer pads and the fork essentially work together as a “third hand tool” when you’re adjusting the cable tension, which proved to be rather convenient. So in the end it worked out well, and all I need to do now is resist the urge to keep tinkering with this bike, because it’s finally in a very good place and anything else I do to it can only make it worse. I do reserve the right to keep trying to get that pad in the holder though, even though Paul from Classic Cycle now tells me it appears to be and older variant and you were supposed to replace both the pad and the holder. Anyway, it’s the kind of thing I can keep futzing with absent-mindedly with while I’m watching TV–sort of like a Rubik’s Cube for bike dorks.

In other Fred news, I’ve been wearing the Pearl Izumi Quest road shoes since October*:

*[For rides on road bikes, obviously. I haven’t been wearing them every day since October, that would be silly.]

I like everything about them, they’re holding up great so far, and if you want to ride a bike equipped with clipless road pedals I can’t see why you’d want or need anything more than this inexpensive “entry level” shoe.” And as you can see, they even accommodate my possum socks:

I’m done with shoe covers at this point in my life. If it’s cold I just wear really warm socks, and if it’s too cold for that I just ride in regular shoes. Bike-specific cold weather gear starts getting ridiculous after awhile, and at a certain point instead of having a bunch of different bike outfits for different temperatures you’re way better off just having a bunch of different bikes.

I mean road riding is easy in the summer when all you need is a jersey, a pair of shorts, and maybe a $100 pair of shoes. But for the price of an full Assos winter ensemble, why not just wear your regular clothes and build yourself a Rivendell with flat pedals for when it gets cold for like the same money?

It’s no wonder the Assos Guy is half naked:

By the way, the Quests are easy to walk in as road shoes go, and I even climbed a fence in them today:

The reason for this was that I spotted a heron, and of course I’m almost as good a nature photographer as I am a bicycle mechanic:

It’s here, in case you’re wondering:


Maybe one day I should get a proper camera.

Speaking of Delta brakes, they’ve beguiled me with their over-engineering, but Jobst Brandt didn’t like them:

It’s funny how you can want someone’s approval even though you’ve never met them, and Jobst Brandt has always been one of those people for me. Here’s what he had to say about Delta brakes:

There is of course no rational argument for using Deltas over a much simpler rim brake, but is what he’s describing really a problem? All rim brakes need periodic adjustment, but it’s easy to see and feel when you need to do it, and it amounts to little more than the turn of a barrel adjuster or the replacing of a pad. (My recent Delta brake escapade notwithstanding, though that’s less of a design problem and more of a “dead dodo” problem in that pads and stuff for these brakes are really hard to find.) I guess the Delta will perform differently depending on how worn the pad is, but in practice it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Meanwhile, as a fundamentally lazy person, a teeny little pad tucked away in a caliper that requires regular inspection and gives you no indication that it’s wearing until it’s gone kinda freaks me out. As for discs, interestingly Brandt didn’t think they’d catch on for road bikes:

Of course, nobody else really thought they’d catch on for road bikes either, since pretty much nobody was asking for them–certainly the racers weren’t, anyway. (Other people wanted discs because they eliminated the problem of sub-par braking on crabon rims, which was ironic since those people didn’t need to be using crabon wheels in the first place. And even that was probably less about poor braking and more about monied Freds not wanting to change brake pads when they switched from their “training” wheels to their “race” wheels.) And of course in the end the reason bike manufacturers were able to overcome the obstacles Brandt describes is that they could build more substantial forks and dropouts without an excessive weight penalty…by using crabon. And we know how he felt about that:

I think about the Kestrel disintegrating spookily pretty much every time I ride it. And yet I ride it anyway. Increasingly I think of road riding in general and the Kestrel in particular the same way I do about drinking: dangerous and stupid to build a lifestyle around it, but perfectly fine in moderation. Like anything else, it’s all about knowing when to quit.

As for Brandt, he’s been back in the cycling zeitgeist lately. There’s this upcoming book, which I posted about recently:

“Party Pace” Russ of Path Less Pedaled is painting him:

And he recently popped up on Prolly’s blog, the home of faux-thenticity in cycling:

The reason you hear about Brandt so much these days is not because people are tired of bullshit and marketing in cycling; if anything there’s more of it than ever. No, the reason is that there seems to be a notion he’s the prototypical gravel rider, and in fact the people making that book even call him the “godfather of gravel:”

Sort of like they were calling Neil Young the “Godfather of Grunge” for awhile:

If you think about it, “grunge” and “gravel “are quite similar, in that they’re both marketing terms for things that were in no way new. (Riding bikes on dirt roads and playing rock and roll without wearing make-up and hairspray respectively.) And if you think about it even more, Jobst Brandt is basically the opposite of gravel. I mean think about it:


Gravel: Wide tires, low pressure, tubeless, boutique companies that ascribe mystical qualities to their casing and tread patterns…

Jobst Brandt: Rode skinny Avocet clinchers with no tread at all times, though he did once seal his tires with milk.


Gravel: How low can you go? 12-speed Eagle electronic clutch derailleur blah-blah-blah, rear cogs bigger than your large chainring…

Jobst Brandt: Rode the Swiss Alps every year in like a 50-13.


Gravel: Party pace, no gatekeepeers, no barriers to entry, welcoming new riders, helping new riders, no attacking in the feed zone, yadda yadda…

Jobst Brandt: I know more about bikes than you, and if you’re a second late to the rollout then tough shit.

Really the only thing “gravel” about him is that his name has very few vowels. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jobst Brandt embodied everything today’s gravel-flavored tastemakers and influencers claim to oppose.

No wonder I’ve always liked him.

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