Finally

IMG_0703.JPGThe Jones frameset arrived… and was as quickly as possible unpacked and assembled. Jenni came over to help, bring gifts from her recent trip to Portland to do a fitting and talk with Natalie Ramsland.

Noah was naturally underfoot as he loves helping, building, tools and pretty much anything of mine, so a shiny new bike is premo. Jenni rapidly included “hammer prevention” to her list of tasks, as Noah believes that the hammer is the tool of choice for virtually any situation. We tried to get him to only hammer the rubber tires, but a few spokes and frame bits got tapped. Fortunately he’s already learned not to hammer with all his strength when he’s not sure he’s allowed to be hammering at all… he comes by all this honestly as I grew up seeing the results of my hammering the dining room table (tiny little half moon divots in one corner) and sawing through the wicker arm of the living room chair. Apparently, I had tools that were more “real” than Noah’s plastic hammer, or little wood puzzle piece hammer. There are some things you can’t outrun.

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The outcome of all this fun and assembly can be seen here, on top of my car. The picture is post facto as it was fairly dark when I set out. We had our own little “cranksgiving” festival as we said goodbye to Gerry, one of our favorite ride partners who’s headed south for a few months (to where he rides more miles than I do all year) while he participated in the Turkey Trot, a five mile race around the lake. We stood around talking, joking and generally goofing around, and still managed to mix 11 miles of riding in there. We even rode amongst the racers (race is relative term here), where we both realized some personal progress as riding up this one little steep behind walkers showed some strength and bike control. It wasn’t even hard… a few years ago I’m sure I couldn’t have done it at all.

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As for the bike? It’s a great ride. Riding on the road it quietly minds its own business. The ride is refined and gentle. No doubt in part because of the Schwalbe Big Apples Jeff recommended for this purpose. Those are some serious balloon tires, but the frame supports the concept as well. The balance and geometry of the bike come alive when you have the slightest bit of “trail”. Hop a curb, absorb a pothole, do anything that asks anything of the frame it responds. It has that “cry of delight” that best bikes all seem to have. They all scream “Let’s go!” as you begin to ask something of them. I’ve never hopped curbs, swooped up and down little rises or ridden such a responsive bike in those circumstances. It’s effortless. I can’t wait to put some knobbies on and hit a real trail…

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Jenni was on her road bike… and after negotiating the road apples left by the Clydsdales the mounted Sheriffs left behind (nothing like fresh, steaming, horse poop to remind one that the addition of cars to cities was driven by more than just advancing technology.) So we’re winding our way through the back of the race, and decide that this was one of our less ingenious ideas… and we bail through a back parking lot. The lots in this state park do not get a ton of care and so are very broken up. And while Jenni gingerly picked a line through the broken pavement I rolled with one hand on the bar, talking with her (all right, taunting would be more accurate) since the Jones, equipped as it with the fat tires, and Jeff’s build of the brakes with a combination of Nokon and stainless steel tube housing made for one finger/one hand control of the hill we were on.

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But it was really before and after the ride that I learned the most about what this might be capable of… even in my hands. I parked in a lot that has a short rise just as you leave the north corner. I was impressed by how easily the bike climbed it on the way out, considering the tires are essentially slicks and the icy morning dew, but on the way back I let the bike have the drop and it was smooth and controlled and in that effortless manner it displays. Sure, I rode a rigid mountain bike for a long, long time. On the road and off. So there is a certain amount of “home coming” riding this bike. But there is a controlled, facile, manner that was exactly missing from the dually I built 2 years ago. It’s early days, and I have lot of learning to do, but I’m impressed with Jeff’s design, and am looking forward to it becoming an old friend. Jenni asked me what the “point” of this bike is for me. My answer is “adventure bike”. The adventure has begun.

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In this picture we are already frozen, as we waited to take a picture of Gerry running by… the wind was blowing, there was no sun. Bah. Thus, my lame attempt at a smile.