Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Letter to the editor of Adventure Cyclist magazine

I'd like to begin by saying how much I enjoy Adventure Cyclist magazine; the features are always interesting and well-written. It's particularly good to features by venerable cycling writers like John Schubert, who I always enjoyed reading during another bike magazine's hay day in the 1970s and early 80s.

I do believe, however, that Mr. Schubert may have missed a category of touring bike in his otherwise excellent article "What Kind of Bike Should You Buy?" in the February 2007 issue.

While there are situations that call for a fully-loaded mountain bike on tour, it seems to me that a serious off-road long-distance cycle tourist would be best suited with an "expedition bike". With a steel frame, 26-inch wheels, wide rims, and either dropped handlebars or straights, these bikes are designed for navigating rough terrain and carrying heavy loads with aplomb - there's really no need to use a mountain bike that's been expressly designed for another purpose. The expedition bike makers with which I'm familiar are all English: Thorn (a large selection from St. John Street Cycles; Roberts (the Rough Stuff); and Orbit (the Expedition).

I ride a Thorn Raven Adventure Tour, which is equally well-suited to road and unpaved surfaces (I especially appreciate it in the winter months as road conditions deteriorate). This is one of Thorn's many models designed around a Rohloff hub, another wonderful product that you might consider mentioning in future buying guides. They're growing in popularity, thanks in large part to Thorn's efforts, but mainly because more and more people are falling in love with their versatility, simplicity, ease of use, and low maintenance.

I believe that your readers would find some mention of the expedition bike category of interest, and I also think they could benefit from coverage of the Rohloff phenomenon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who needs cleats?

As I've been riding around so bundled up, I've also stopped worrying about my cleats, and have just worn my Gore Tex hiking boots with heavy socks instead. Not bad! For urban riding I've had no problems at all with regular shoes. Makes me glad I got the double-sided pedals!

A hardcore cycle commuter!

I've ridden in to the office in the Financial District several times. It can be a very nice ride from Arlington, taking in the Minuteman path to Davis Square, then to Inman Square, Kendall Square, and to Boston via the Longfellow Bridge, then on to the South Station area.

It somehow seems a more serious affair when braving sub-zero windchill temperatures, and taking a shower on arrival. That's something I've never really done because neither the facilities nor the need have existed for me before. But let's face it: I am in no kind of shape to see clients after a 12-mile ride, drenched in my own sweat under layers of fleece and Gore Tex.

So I worked on Sunday last weekend and tested out the facilities. The building is a new build out, and there is thankfully a little shower room on the second floor. For what it is, it's really quite nice: two showers and 12 or so lockers, with keys available from Security downstairs for the day.

I anticipate it'll mostly be lunchtime joggers who use it, though. The company does little to promote cycling. The bike rack accommodates maybe 16 bikes in a pinch, and it's located in an alley behind the building, adjacent to the smoking area and shuttle bus stop. Doesn't leave much question about how the company regards cyclists, does it?

But as far as I'm concerned, it suits me well. The ride is very pleasant, and just the right length to get a nice little workout. One of these days, I'll put my campaigning hat back on and see about getting these guys to encourage more cycling.