What seems to matter to us about bikes.

Of course this will seem biased toward our bikes—with the black magic power of the subconscious and all, that’s inevitable—but it’s not like our bikes show up however and then we figure out how to sell what we’re stuck with, how to make the best of a bad situation. We make sure the bikes have what matters. That way, we sell what we LIKE. It’s so much better that way.

First thing that matters: Safety

Feeding yourself and walking, even if with a walker, is more important than riding your bike, and safer. Riding bikes is fun, but it should only minimally put your way of life at risk, so safety is paramount. A huge part of that is you. Anytime you crash on a bike and you aren’t totally blindsided, it’s probably your fault, and at at least isn’t the bike’s. The bike should be reasonably easy to control, strong enough to hold up, and be made of a material that if it fails, fails slowly. “Slow” is key. It doesn’t mean it will cry out to you in loud English that it’s about to go. You have to look, listen, and feel your bike. Just don’t be oblivious to things that aren’t loudly obvious.

Second thing that matters: Design that allows fit and feel

The bad things are:

1.    Too low, too faraway bars.

2.    Too short chainstays that position you too much on top of the rear axle.

3.     Fork blades too short and brake bridges too low, so there’s no room for the tires you’d like to ride, and fenders.

There are others, but if your bars are high enough, your chainstays are long enough, and you can ride the tires and fenders you want, you’ve got a huge headstart on bicycle happiness.

Third thing: Good tube proportions

Tubing should resist buckling to a certain extent. Don’t be go making bike frames like Coke cans.

Third and a half: Nice looking proportions

This is more subjective, but to me nothing looks worse than fat tubes or blunderbusses with skinny tires that nearly skim ‘em, and low bars. Nothing looks better than skinny tubes and fat tires with lots of air around ‘em and high bars. You may be somewhere in the middle on that  one. You don’t need to be anywhere near the middle. It’s just a guess.

Fourth thing that matters: Good frame design

Short frames get too-steep seat tube angles, almost always. I’ve tried to imagine the thinking behind it, and it’s all well-intended but either weak or flawed. Either the designer didn’t know, or preferred to go with the flow rather than having to explain a 72-deg seat tube on a 48cm frame. So they get 75-deg seat tubes that shift your weight too forward-like and put more weight on your hands.

Big frames have too-short chainstays, because they build to maximum wheelbase, maybe so the big bikes fit in standard boxes, or maybe it’s tradition based on short racing frames, and big manufacturers not demanding longer raw chainstays, because their customers (the frame-makers and bike makers) are good businesspeople but bad frame designers.

Fifth thing that matters: Good looks/graphics

There’s a trend to lower the down tube decal and put it on a fatter tube and curl it around the tube toward the underside and make the letters huge so the brand shows up on a race photo. I’d say the decal belongs on the upper part of the tube and should be rolled slightly toward the top centerline. It should be legible as a word, not just a look. Of course, whatever you like, but still, can the bike be proud without shouting? What’s wrong with that?

Sixth thing that matters: Rebuildability

A bike that gets wrecked should be fixable. Steel still wins because there are more people who CAN fix it, all over the world. If you break your carbon frame, it’s Craig Calfee—who probably makes them stronger than new, but there aren’t a lot of Craig Calfees around.

Seventh thing that matters: The afterlife

If your frame dies, wouldn’t recycling it feel kind of good? You needn’t be the Buddha to like that. Most frame materials is recyclable, even carbon, but steel and aluminum are the most recyclable—more places take them and they can be made into new things more easily than titanium, and way more easily than carbon. Steel wins the greeny war if there is one.

What Doesn’t Matter

Making your bike visually symmetrical. Putting the rarest acceptable part on it, or the newest ancient functional piece. Inappropriate showy materials for unshowy jobs.  Picking every part just so. The past in the present when it’s not as good. The present when it’s not as good. Delaying because you’re waiting for the future (well, it depends). Overkill here and there. Any bike that wins any award is weird in some way, because when the selection is vast, voters tend to like extremes. Bikes that harken to or pay homage to. Era-inappropriate bikes, and yet also bad moderns. Total cohesiveness, the bike as the child you never had or an an extension of a part of you that doesn’t really exist, or as a manifestation of anything less important that seems important.

Also, this

Don’t overly attend to cosmetics, but start with a foundation that you find pleasing, and let it age and get worn and improve over the years. Don’t falsify, fertilize, cultivate, take pride in it or get weird the beausage (beauty thru usage), just let it happen. Repair stuff before replacing it, except tires. Patch your tubes.

There’s never a fantastic reason to undo handlebar tape—just wrap over it unless it’s getting too fat. The closest to a good reason to not overwrap cloth is to avoid, fifteen years down the road, having to unwrap several old layers of tape and taking thirty minutes to do that, but you know, won’t that bring back some decent memories? It seems like it might. Nothing specific, but just a whiff of the old times and maybe a brief visual image of something.

Pedal without thinking about your cadence. It’s OK to shift too late. It’s normal to intend to attend to a quirk on your bike or to something on something that’s on your bike, but never get around to it. On my everyday bike I have a bell that I can’t ring because the hammer’s gone. Don’t weigh your bike without first weighing yourself. Here’s a secret: It’s hard to make a useful bike weigh less than 32 pounds. That’s not a challenge; I know it can be done and how to do it, but a bike that weighs 25 pounds and is useful is some combination of stripped down/obsessed over/too close to a dysfunctional edge. Pick rims by weight, but not the way you’ve been told to. It’s OK to clean your bike and OK not to. Let’s not make fun of the neat-nicks, for they shall inherit the earth, but be OK with a dirty boot-of-a-bike. It’s OK to ride your good bike slow and close, and it’s no better to ride it far and fast. Ride it some every day it’s possible to without making it a chore. As you ride it, imagine the effort it would take to run or jog that fast while carrying the load your bike carries for you. Your bike is just supposed to make your life easier and better, to bring convenience to it, not glory. Everyday convenience and fun matter so much more, and are their own gloriousness. This is not philosophical or even anything, but run your thoughts on bikes thru this filter just once and see if it works for you, or make up your own filter, or ignore all filters. You is here, the bike is there, the macho of shopping is everywhere, but ignore it.

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Dave’s bike looks fine, despite its begging for a cosmetic makeover.

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Who can look at this and not have an urge to start all over with new tape? Dave, is who. I’m at my limits here.

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A couple of weeks ago Dave and did an S240 (bike campout) on an island in SF Bay. The bell was shiny to start. Now it’s just getting good. Will the tarnishment eventually wear thru? Only with loads of time and good luck. Imagine having a bell with a nature-born hole in it. Would you sell such a bell for $65? Would you say, “I could get three brand new ones for that?” and think it a no brainer? I bet you wouldn’t, and I know I wouldn’t. That would be insane. (Apologies to lunatics; apologies to the moon.)

Grant

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