Monday, February 13, 2023

Flat bars are the new drop bars

I knew exactly what I was doing taking apart my Raceface crankset on my singlespeed gravel bike, but in another very real sense, I had no idea what I was doing. I broke it, and I'm waiting on a new bolt. I swear I'm usually a good mechanic, so I don't know what happened there.

That meant instead of using my Salsa Stormchaser gravel bike with 38x19 gearing, I blasted pavement and gravel all weekend with my 31-pound Karate Monkey mountain bike with 32x16 gearing, and a 140mm fork. Stick calls it "enduro gravel". At least the gear ratio is the same, because maths. You'll see later on there was one road where I was glad I had a mountain bike, and I felt bad for my drop bar frands.

Everything above probably isn't very interesting, but if you keep reading, you can at least see some neat ride pictures and maybe another couple funny bits.

Picture by professional photographer Rob Cinderblochner

Anyways, I'll start from the beginning. I wanted to meet up with an old chemistry professor of mine at Penn State Beaver to talk about graduate school and recommendation letters, so I came home to Pittsburgh for a long weekend. Not exactly fun stuff about recommendation letters, but being in Pittsburgh meant I could plan some rides with Yinzer friends.

To add another layer to things, my family went skiing for the weekend, so I had the house to myself. That probably contributed to the whole "idle hands are the devil's workshop" thing, and is partly why I broke my crankset.

There are two problems here. On the left (or wherever it is on mobile view), there are the two bolts from my crankset. I stripped the one on the left, being a fool, and then stripped the one on the right trying to remove the one on the left. Also a fool. 

The other picture needs no introduction. The fridge wasn't keeping things too cold anymore, so I sent a picture to my mom (who was in New York skiing like the rest of my family) to show her how finger-able the ice cream was. Sawft like Dahn Pahrs buying a geared gravel bike.

On Saturday, I planned a big group ride on some gravel roads near Bavington. It was about 65 miles with around 8,000 feet of climbing, so a solid day. I was able to get a bunch of friends to come, including Thad, who despite just coming back from foot surgery and not riding for a couple months, was swinging just as hard and as often as ever. Seriously, Thad is an animal. More of the usual suspects were there, too... Rob, Simon, Stick, and Dave.

As promised, there was one road where a mountain bike really was the right choice. The famed "County Road 9/6" in West Virginia used to be a perfect jeep road type thingie with rocks, but unfortunately logging machinery turned it into a complete muddy mess. Although, the puddles at the start of the road have always been there.

As you can see, mud. Out of the six of us, three of us were on singlespeed mountain bikes (although only I was dumb/lazy enough to run a 140mm fork) and the other three were on shifty gravel bikes. On the mud climb, the three mountain bikes left the noodle bar brethren in the dust. Although, there wasn't really much dust. I guess it's hard to pedal when your 45mm clearance frame is trying to handle 40mm tires plus a metric shit ton (scientifically speaking) of mud.

Later on, we stopped at a Dollar General for some snacks. Stick wanted to hurt the big man corporation that is Dollar General, so he scraped off all his mud on the sidewalk outside the entrance. Upon learning that some innocent teenage employee would instead me tasked with cleaning it up, Stick swept the mud away himself.

It was a pretty hard ride, no doubt. When there's that many people, there's at least one person swinging on every climb. Being the big dummy I am, I try to match every attack, so I end up swinging on every climb.

Back at the parking lot, we chatted for a little bit and I started my foray into the modeling world with a cowboy hat I had in my car. We also found some panties hanging on the Bavington information plaque, which I guess is a sign, of sorts.

On Sunday, I met up with Rob and Rege for a road and gravel cruise. We started in Pittsburgh and rode up toward Hartwood Acres. As it turns out, Rege's route had us go right past Will's house, and we biked on a couple of the gravel roads right by his house as well. They're some of the few gravel roads in the entire area. It was a great ride; awesome weather and awesome company. I got to ride a few new roads, which is always nice, and I got to ride on a few roads I haven't been on in a couple years. Sort of like nostalgia, but with roads.

With that, I headed over to Will's house to watch the Super Bowl and contemplate life's many mysteries, like is my gravel bike crankset fixeable? Am I really as dumb as I look? Yeth but also no.

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