Sunday, 11 December 2011

Fred Quiver Essentials: The Mountain Bike

Since a Fred like me largely considers themselves a "Roadie" - we would not condescend to actually paying good money for a mountain bike. This serves the dual purpose of having a convenient excuse for our poor performances (see, the frame cost me $7 at the tip!) but allowing us to participate in building something new.

Mountain bikes are completely wrong. For starters, that boingy suspension thing up the front can potentially be so expensive it threatens to be the most expensive thing in your fred shed. Also, the astonishing wonder that is hydraulic disk brakes make the pathetic calipers on your "good" roadie seem like they have all the power of a newborn squeezing your finger.

Building a mountain bike for a Fred is a world of horrible compromise. Mountain bike wheels need to be tough, not light, so that goes against every fibre of the fred's body. Stuff has to work together - you have to be mindful of things like brake disk sizes, adapters, post mounts, enormous seat post sizes and having to buy a new cassette tool because the hallowed Campagnolo company don't do mountain bikes.

The last point was the toughest for this particular fred. Since all the SunTour stuff is too old, and Campagnolo don't make mountain bike gear, you have to suffer the indignity of running Shimano or SRAM. Shimano in particular is irksome because the same company makes fishing gear and it's bicycle components adorn every broken Huffy on the planet. It's not cool, you can't fetishize it like you can the wondrous Campagnolo Ergo lever. You can't geek out over the history of the company like you can the beautiful losers of the industry like SunTour. Nobody is going to write "Sunset for Shimano" like this guy or start a "Shimano Only" website like these guys.

Which is a shame because the front derailleur on a mountain bike works so much better than a typical roadie front derailleur it's embarrassing, and hydraulic disk brakes you can operate with a single digit are so damn good they ought to be banned. The places one of these things will go still astonish me (nothing seems too steep) and the tricks you can pull will make you feel like you're 10 years old and just learned how to ride. So, the mountain bike should be used only sparingly and for ironic purposes only.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Fred Quiver Essentials: The Rain Roadie

You just shelled out north of two thousand dollars for an entry level carbon road bike of reasonable brand that will extract knowing nods from the other Freds in your cycling club - but can't bring yourself to ride it in the rain? You need a rain roadie.

Well...not really for riding in the rain. Mostly it's for those races where your pathetic level of fitness and/or motivation is so low that you need some kind of external excuse for your failure. Hence, the "rain roadie" will be born.

There are rules about rain roadies. Most importantly, you can't admit how much they cost. Your rain roadie will be either your last "good" bike or the culmination of 6 months of hoarding stuff you bought online but didn't really need. That includes your "training wheels", those brifters that were a complete bargain, those tyres you got on free shipping day from Chain Reaction or Wiggle and parts that are no longer cosmetically up to snuff for your "good" road bike. That blue bike there, that was my first proper attempt at a rain roadie but I screwed it up. For starters, the frame didn't really fit me and I spent far too much money on a nice looking Dedaccai carbon fibre fork that I didn't want to ride it in the rain.


See, that's much better! Yep, those Fulcrum Racing 7's got too tatty for the "good bike" so here they are. Yep, that's a carbon crank that isn't nice enough for the race bike, the frame came from the tip and the forks came from so I could convince myself that the bike cost nothing (where it's actual cost is probably north of $700 if I was honest with myself).

Sure, it's actually nice to ride (it's a Shogun and they are terrific if you can find one) and since the frame is the same size as my "good" bike I don't feel all monkey-hunched over the bars like the blue failure. Also, it's brilliant for excuse making because it weighs at least 1kg (i.e. a wee-wee, a dump, and a bidon full of water) less than the good bike, so if (when) I get dropped in a race I can just shrug and point at it. Perfect!

As for riding it in the rain...well, it's much too nice for that!

Cycling Advocacy Fail

The good people down at Bicycling Victoria run this every year: Ride2Work.

They mean well, they are sincere. I have no problem with that stuff. If you sign up to host a Ride2Work day, they send you bucketloads of posters and stickers, lots of happy and encouraging advice and the kind of carefree earnestness that you would think wouldn't scare people off.

So, meaning well myself and being a proper Fred, I figured why not get involved? Well, I can tell you why not: nobody who isn't currently cycling really wants to do it for transport.

If you're a Fred like me, you wonder how others put up with being locked in their cage-cars every day, being tied to their local petrol pump via the umbilical that is their credit card, regularly shaken down for insurance costs and registration. Cars kinda suck, really. So if offered a cheaper alternative, it follows in this Fred's mind that people would be gagging to throw off the shackles of their automotive prisons and get cycling.


Cars are seductive. They're warm inside - they're large, tangible and seemingly safe. They project our social status and carry loads of stuff. Getting a license and signing that loan form for a car is a rite of passage in Australia as deeply ingrained as losing your virginity at high school and vomiting the first time you get drunk (two events that are usually pretty close together).

Convincing somebody that riding a bicycle for purposes other than leisure, excitement or entertainment is so beyond our lived experience that you might as well propose they perform a family skit instead of watching the television. Transportation cycling is reserved for those who have lost their drivers license or who can't afford a car: neither of which projects any kind of social status whatsoever. Riding a road bike for leisure or fitness? That's status. Riding to work? You're poverty stricken or drunk or possibly both.

The Ride2Work crew: they want you to stress "saving the planet", saving money, reducing traffic congestion, getting fitter, feeling good about yourself. None of that matters a damn when the downsides are so apparent: it might rain, people will think I'm in trouble with the cops and/or the bank, I already saved the planet buying all those expensive flourescent globes! How many times has the goddamn thing got to be saved? should have been no surprise to me that I failed to sign up a single participant for Ride2Work day other than one other Fred (who probably just wanted to show off his latest junk shop find, suitably over-capitalised with a fresh saddle, bar tape and tyres that far outweigh it's value).

Next year, I'm not going to get involved - it's just too soul destroying to contemplate that my own fredulinity is in fact colouring others perceptions of me. Screw you Ride2Work - you made me feel bad about being a Fred, so I choose to no longer participate. If they concentrated much more on how much fun cycling is they might get some more involvement.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Embracing your inner fred

I could probably finish painting that wall but I preferred working on this bike - just for riding the 7km to work. SunTour ARX gears, lovely SunTour bar end shifters and a Laprade seatpost. It's probably a "Centurion" that's been rebadged and the paintwork is tatty.

Then again, it's a total Fredmobile, because in the quiver of bikes in the shed, this is the particular one I choose when I want to carry a load or ride in the rain. Simply having a particular riding niche that needs filling like that makes it so.