Change Of Scenery

    For the last however-many months now I’ve been commuting to and from Brooklyn twice a week, mostly by bicycle, and mostly on the Homer, which I outfitted for the task:

    The main commute-specific changes were fenders, a rack, and a plastic saddle that I didn’t have to worry about keeping dry in the rain. It was the perfect bicycle for this task: comfortable yet sporty, stable when loaded, plenty of eyelets for the aforementioned accessories, a headlamp, and most importantly something I looked forward to riding every morning and evening.

    In recent weeks however I’ve been commuting by subway. This isn’t because of the cold or anything like that; if anything I’d much rather commute by bike when it’s cold than when it’s warm, due to the fact that I run hot and have a bicycle-eating perspiration problem:

    No, the reason I’ve been commuting by subway lately is simply that it’s a lot faster. “What, the bike faster than the subway?!?,” you may ask incredulously. Indeed. While over shorter distances the bike will always win, when you’re talking about round-trip of just under 40 miles the subway nets you a good hour in time saved–or it nets me a good hour, anyway, you may ride much faster than I do. In any case, it’s not like I’m giving up the bike commute entirely, but at a time of year when there’s all sorts of stuff going on with school and work and family and holidays and all the rest of it I could sure use those two hours a week. (Of course what I use them for is riding, so it’s probably a wash, but at least I’m getting some reading in on the train.)

    But while taking the train means I don’t get to commute on the Homer, what it does mean is I can resume my previous relationship with the Homer, when I leaned it against trees instead of bike racks:

    In fact today I went for a purely recreational ride on the Homer for the first time in months and it was a sheer delight to ride it unladen and in an environment where I wasn’t beset by e-bikes and motor scooters. I also found myself in the very spot where I introduced you to it almost four years ago:

    It’s changed quite a bit since then, and I should note that with the exception of the tires I think every change I’ve made to it has come either from my parts bin or another one of my bicycles:

    It began life with the Choco bars:

    But over time I came to terms with the fact that, for me anyway, the Homer really wanted to be a drop-bar bike:

    Which in turn necessitated a shorter stem:

    I did love the generous sweep of the Chocos:

    But with the drops I’ve got more hand positions (well, not necessarily more, but I can place my hands on different planes) and more room to move around on the bike, and I especially appreciate them when I’m climbing and descending:

    While I’m still using the same pedals:

    And the same crank:

    The drop-barification did warrant a wider gear range, so I added a big ring:

    The triple-ization of the crank also called for a new front derailleur, which now that I think about it was not from my parts bin or one of my other bikes, it was from Classic Cycle and part of the world-renowned Simplex Fun Bike group:

    The letters are crooked, which is how you know it’s fun.

    Also not from my own collection was the rear derailleur, a Rapid Rise XTR that low-normal shifting apologist Grant Petersen sent me:

    Though he sent me it shortly after I got the bike, so it might as well have come with it in the first place.

    The Gravel King tires, though light and…wait for it…SUPPLE, were a bit too flat-prone for these parts:

    So I in search of a light yet durable all-around tire I took a flyer on the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme:

    They’ve been fantastic, and I was distressed to learn than they’re now discontinued, but at the rate they’re wearing I should wind up leaving them to my kids.

    The rack and fenders I added for the commute, and the fender installation almost broke me so I doubt I’ll ever remove them again:

    Speaking of fenders, you know what’s even better than medium-reach brakes?

    Long-reach brakes:

    As for the saddle, the plastic one was fine, but it’s a Rivendell for chrissakes, it needs leather. The original saddle is currently on the cheap singlespeed, so I went with the Swift:

    As you can see, the rails are made from titanium, and so I might as well be riding a titanium bicycle.

    Oh, and when I first got the Homer I wasn’t using a kickstand if you can believe it:

    I’ve since taken care of that:

    And while we’re in that area, let’s take a moment to appreciate those chainstays:

    If you read what people say on the Internet, which you really, really shouldn’t, you’ll sometimes see people complaining that the chainstays on the newer Rivendells are too long. These complaints are entirely based on aesthetics, and yes, the tucked-in look of a classic road bike is indeed visually pleasing. However, having owned everything from track bikes to a Surly Big Dummy, if you can get past (gasp) seeing a little air between the rear tire and the frame, long chainstays are really nothing but upside. Not only do they make the bike more stable, but they also get the wheel out from under your ass, which can enhance comfort, and a long wheelbase is a good thing to have on surfaces like this:

    And no, they don’t make the bike sluggish or anything like that–a lot of that comes from the front end. For example, the Big Dummy wasn’t sluggish, even with the rear wheel in another ZIP code. The Milwaukee also has longer-than-a-typical-road-bike chainstays (maybe to make room for the medium-reach brakes, I dunno, I’m not a frame designer), but it still feels like a race bike:

    But don’t believe me, believe this guy:

    Some things never change.

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