Baltimore Bike Party July 2014 – A Visit From Georgia

Last Friday of pretty much every month I make the trek into Atlanta to participate in Critical Mass, which has been loads of fun.  This time around though, I was heading to Baltimore on vacation, and made sure to schedule my time off to include the last Friday of the month, so I could do Baltimore Bike Party.  This was my first time experiencing the end of month group ride anywhere else but Atlanta, so I was pretty excited to examine the differences.

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The ride started at St Mary’s Park and ended just a a short way away at the Maryland Historical Society, so this particular ride formed almost a perfect loop.  From what I have heard it does not always end so close to where it starts.  I was on the scene by 6:30 and by 6:45 there was already a pretty serious size crowd.

One of the things I dug about the start gathering was that there was repair station set up by Twenty20 Cycling.  There was definitely a lot of action at their table from people needing last minute adjustments and air.  Very good idea to have this included and certainly some great promo for the shop. BONUS LEVEL:  the organizers also posted info about bathrooms for use at the start point.  I like it.

Each BBP has a theme. This month was Boasting Baltimore and Maryland Mania. In addition to seeing a zillion tons of Ravens and Orioles gear, there was at least one person with a giant 3d steamed crab attached to his helmet, and one pink flamingo as a nod to John Waters. Best dressed won some gear from Hill Killer Apparel Co.

Pretty much right at 7pm the ride started.  How about this…the ride has a police escort as long as they do not get a call that supercedes leading the ride.  Yeah, I can support that to the fullness. The ride rolled out to a bunch of “Bike Partaaaaay” whoops and hollers, which would continue throughout the evening, the northern cousin of the “Happy Friday” heard along the way at CM ATL.

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Starting from such a dense traffic light area, the group got separated pretty quickly, and I tried to stay in the front group since I didn’t want to get lost.  We had only gone about a mile when I noticed that there were a LOT more 20″ BMX bikes than I am used to seeing, and you know I love that.

Then the craziest thing started happening. There were these kids riding all sorts of different bikes, most of which seemed to be department store mountain bikes in various states of disrepair, careening THROUGH the crowd at crazy speed, doing wheelies. I mean, looooong coaster wheelies, and then just when you thought the front wheels was going to drop, they would hit the gas and speed up even more. I’ve done wheelies…long wheelies, but never with the reckless abandon that these kids were doing.  But wreckless may not be the right word, because I never saw any of them wreck, never saw any of them have to hop off because they over pulled and came off the back of the bike. They were always teeter tottering on the brink of control, but never went over the line. It was pretty freakin sick.

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One very large contrast to the ATL CM is that about 80% of the riders at BBP did NOT wear helmets.  I don’t really have a point or agenda to state here,  just observing the difference.  Truthfully this ride was so much slower paced than our CM that I can see why people may leave the lid off.  I didn’t.  I really enjoyed how this ride was much more -party paced- and not the faster pace that ATL CM has sort of morphed into over time.  I have no trouble staying in the front group at CM, but I think it may have gotten a little fast  for the folks who come and bring kids in trailers, beach cruisers and such, wanting to support biking in Atlanta but getting dropped very early into the ride.  I feel so bad when that happens.

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The route was pretty cool and we definitely were well received by the folks hanging out outside, having card games, playing loud ass music, drinking booze and being hood. Fuck yeah man, I love my home city, and on this ride you saw things and heard things that you could never experience anywhere else.

Then all of a sudden, in the middle of a park along the way, the whole ride stopped to take a breather at the halfway point.  Wait, what? What a great idea!  There was shaved ice from Hula Honeys and people took the time to be social and conversate.  I even caught up with an old friend who spotted me in the crowd which was super rad.

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The rest stop was just long enough to not be -too long- and soon enough we were on the backside of the ride.  Somewhere not too long after we got going again, we were all stopped at an intersection when about 30 kids on dirt bikes came jamming down the street at a zillion mph, popping wheelies and in general owning that intersection until they were passed. I am not sure, but it could have been the 12 O’ Clock Boys.  The whole spectacle was pretty rad.

By this time it had started getting dark, and I noticed that what the Bmore crowd lacked in helmets they made up for in headlights. Everybody had one, and a lot of people had good ones, not some crappy toytown bizness.  I’m gonna chalk this up to the high number of insane potholes in the streets up here. You wouldn’t want one of them to sneak up on you after dark  for sure. It was a good choice to not bring my roadbike.

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The last part of the route was a long trek down St. Paul street which was a total blast, since it was mostly down hill and the whole group got going pretty fast. Stop lights were obeyed.  Fun was had.

Eventually we reached the end of the ride at the Maryland Historical Society.  The entire ride was less than 9 miles. Here is where the biggest difference between CM ATL and BBP happened…this was a full on after party scene!  

There was a parking lot with some security guards at the entrance.  Once inside there was an area specifically designated for bike parking, but it was a little weird, there was almost nothing to lock your bike to. So, people made the best use they could of the poles  and fence that was available, and there was definitely a lot of creative use of vertical space.  I kept thinking how rad it would have been to have the Atlanta Bike Coalition Bike Valet here.  Baltimore people, if someone isn’t doing a bike valet for big events around town, here is your opportunity to get in the game.

The rest of the lot was filled with food trucks, a dj, and they were selling beer!  Really?!  I love it.  The afterparty scene was super cool. so much so that I would be willing to bet that about 80% of the people who started the ride, finished the ride.  How awesome is that?

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Yeah man, it was packed. Packed enough that the smart money said to buy more than one beer from the beer line, which was a good strategy, but even when I did have to get back in line, it ran pretty fast.  I reaaaally should have tried some of the food from the food trucks. You Atlanta people know how the whole food truck thing has had it’s ups and downs, and they aren’t as ubiquitous in the A as they are in some cities which is too bad.

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As I had said earlier I was pretty stoked to see a lot of BMX representation at the ride, but there was one group who really killed it by bringing out the proper vintage gear.  They were running a Schwinn Apple Crate, two Hutch Trick Stars, a Skyway 26″ and a GT which I can’t recall as a 24″ or 26″ but it was definitely not 20″.  All of these rides were super clean and well done. I talked with the guy in the pic for a while but by this point I had had a few beers so I don’t remember his name. Great crew of people though.

The whole after party scene was just so good.  I was chit chatting bike talk with my buddy and his crew who I had met at the halfway point, and probably could have stayed til they kicked people out, but I had to bail to go meet some other friends. I am imagining that at some point maybe someone got on the mic and awarded the best dressed prizes or something, I dunno.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
When I set out to document my experience at BBP, I wanted to make sure that it did not come off as “Here is what we’re doing wrong in Atlanta”, because we aren’t doing it wrong.  We do it our way, and we love it.  I love it.  But I knew there would be a lot of exciting and fun differences I wanted to relay.  I had a pretty good idea of how it would be from following the BBP facebook page, and it was definitely what I thought it would be and more.  The ride here reminded me a bit more of  The Mobile Social back home. I guess the reason that I used so much comparison to CM is that since  BBP happens the last friday of the month, to me it came across as “Baltimore’s version of Critical Mass”.

 

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Flandersox

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I’m starting to get a little addicted to buying weird cycling socks. Here are some “Flanders” in bright yellow. Are they talking about the Tour of Flanders? I’m guessing they are. Mainly I bought them because the logo reminds me of the old progressive breakbeat dance music record label Rampant Records. They used a similar logo on the B-side labels of their 12″ vinyl releases.

Socks are def a little easier to collect than vintage bicycle water bottles.

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Water Bottle Cages vs Fancy Socks

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I finally broke down and bought some water bottle cages. People who have ridden with me know that I have a “thing” about keeping bottles on the bike. I don’t like them rattling and rumbling around. I don’t like the extra weight. I’m just not a fan of using my bike as a hydration transportation unit. The Camelback has been a great solution to this issue, HOWEVER, since I have recently started riding with a little more advanced group, I have noticed I am the only one running a hydration pack and baggy shorts. I’ll solve the shorts issue later, but for now the hydration pack issue is solved. Along with the cages and bottles, I’ll also be running a very small under seat bag, with a tube, tire lever, patch kit and 2 c02 cartidges. Even with two full bottles and all the repair gear, I’ll be carrying less weight than when I use the Camelback, since I carry a grip of tools and a pump in there. I’m going to be travelling lighter but definitely riskier if I flat. I’ll take the chance. BONUS LEVEL: cages were $4.79/ea…70% off list.

The cages look pretty rad, but I tossed an empty bottle in one and I already feel goofy riding with it. This is what my bike will feel like to me when I have both filled bottles in play:

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In other “new gear” news, I got some rad socks. I am assuming that Davis Bicycle Club is purely fictional, but I love the font they used. I really bought them for the “On Your Left” though…bikey people will get it. Get it?

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Gatorskins Finally

contiUltraThe Continental Ultra Sport tires that came with my road bike finally reached the point where I could legitimately justify replacing them.  One of the top rules of being a LOW BUDGET SOUL RIDER is that you don’t replace parts for sheer vanity.  You replace them when they wear out, or you break them. So Mote It Be. The rear tire actually had threads showing through, so I figured I was good to finally get some Gatorskins.  I’m not going to lie…I have always loved how they look, and I’ve wanted a set forever. All the reviews I read said that the Ultra 4000 was better, or at least more preferred by the high performance set.  But the Gatorskins still seem to have a zillion tons of hipster market penetration due to their supposed high anti puncture reputation. The final component that needed to come together for me to plunk down the dollars was a good deal.  REI happened to be having an anniversary sale, so I was able to find them for $37.99/ea! Not the super cool foldable ones, the steel bead ones, but that is fine with me, I don’t need an extra tire that I can stick in a pack or jersey pocket at the moment.  I opted to go with 25c instead of 23c…hoping to get a little more comfort without gaining too much rolling resistance.  I’m sticking to my polan of only riding the fixed gear during the week, so I won’t really know how they ride til this weekend.

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“Stealthbomb” Aventon Cordoba Test Report and Bar Reduction

I have had my Aventon Cordoba for about 3 weeks now, so it is time for a review. I cal it the Stealhbomb as a nod to the matte black paint and the awesome airplanes made by the Lockheed Skunk Works. I’ll keep it short.

Overall this bike ROCKS!

My previous fixed gear is an 84 (or 86?) Peugeot which I coverted top fixed and did a flop n chop on the bars, so the Aventon is a big jump to modern geometry. Love it.  Also it has a 44t chainring as opposed to the 39 on my older bike. I’m pretty sure that the rear is a 17, but I haven’t counted and it isn’t listed in the specs. Anyway, I thought the taller gear would be EXTREMELY difficult to get used to, but it hasn’t been at all. In fact I dreaded doing hills with this new larger gear, but the momentum I get on flats and downhills seems to actually be helping level out the hills a bit.

DOWNSIDES: I trashed the pedals on day one. Toss them straight away and get something proper. I switched to the same type of BMX pedals , but higher quality models…Anumal Hamiltons. Instantly the bike became a zillion levels quieter.

I also ended up replacing the seat which was a bit small and hard for my ass section, which is larger than the average hipster type who might buy this bike. It’ll work for a while though. Don’t put a Brooks on this bike it will look stupid.

So, my final word on the Aventon Cordoba: Money Well Spent. Make sure when you get yours you tighten up the chainring bolts, crank bolts, and lock ring just to be safe.  Oh one other thing…on the City Grounds description it says the brake lever will only work with the riser bars. This is not true, the brake lever will work with the bullhorn bars also if you mount it up by the stem. It just won’t mount in the end of the bar like some of the levers out there that you may have seen. You’;; most likely need to cut a few inches off the brake cable also. Great bike. Love it love it love it.

The bullhorns it comes with are fine, but they are BIG. For me, a little too big, so I cut about 3″s off of them, and now they are perfect. Here is a before and after pic:

fixeBarB&AMUCH BETTER!

 

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The Rules

Right on!

My New Aventon Has Arrived!

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My new Aventon arrived Thursday 4/17/2014.  Overall I am pretty stoked on the whole deal.  It came with riser bars and bullhorns, so I set it up with the bullies and some bar tape the color of tennis balls.  It was a bit late when I got home, so after assembly I was only able to take it for a short ride up my street. My street is a huge hill. I had thought that since it was geared taller than my current fixed gear, that I’d have trouble on the hill, but I made it to the top easier than I though. I think that I’m going to benefit from having more momentum from turning the larger gear.

I haven’t properly given it a name yet, but the matte black def reminds me of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and the Northrop Grumman Stealth Bomber.  Before a name sticks I’ve gotta put some miles on it.

 

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Aventon Cordoba Fixed Gear

aventonCordoba

I broke down and ordered this murdered out Aventon Cordoba fixed gear from City Grounds. I have been looking to get a new fixed gear for quite a while, and pretty much everything in my size in the under $500 has been sold out for months pretty much everywhere. When I got an HTML email from City Grounds advertising this new build, I jumped on it right away before they run out.

Of course I alreay have plans for it. The matte black offers the perfect canvas to constantly change op the look via accesorization. The most lajor plan though, is to replace the crankset with tubular chromoly BMX cranks. I finally found a mnaufacturer who makes 1/8″ BMX sprockets that are more than like 28 teeth, yet aren’t goofy looking saw blades. More on that later. I also found a suitable euro BB that will work for the mod. It’s gonna be freakin SICK. Also I won’t be scared to stomp on it once the tubies are installed. I am always afraid I am going to crush aluminum cranks.

My currentfixed is a 1984 Peugeot with a flop n chop on the bars and some Vuelta fixed wheels, which I have to say have been pretty rad condidering how low priced they were . My friend Katie iMac gave me the bike, so it kind of has a sentimental value, but I’m pretty sure it musy be sold. Gotta make some room, and I am thinking it just won’t get ridden once I have the new, currently unnamed bike.  I’df much rather have someone ride it often.

Yeah, this new bike needs a name, and I am sure one will present itself. Cordoba is a name I am just not that into. It reminds me of the Chrysler that Ricardo Montelban was hawking back in the 70’s. Welcome to Fixed Gear Fantasy Island.

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Seat Swapper

I’ve been wanting to swap the seat out on Scotty for a while, and last week I finally got around to finding a saddle that had the right price ($15) and also a ventalation oval for the taint. The new unit is actually a bit less “race” and bit bore “comfort” as evidenced by the slightly larger size, and higher squish factor.

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Of course I would love to have a Selle Italia, but let me tell you how that will work for me. As soon as I get a saddle with a price point higher than $100, I’ll end up crashing or worse, the bike will just fall over when I lean it against something, which will result in a giant gash on the rear corner. I dunno, maybe not…the orig saddle that came with the bike didn’t get torn and it’s been over a year.

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Overall it ended up looking pretty rad, but once I actually performed the install I kind of realized that I am more interested in how it performs than how it looks. Really hoping that the ventalator will help me go a few miles further each ride, because usually the taint is ready to stop before my legs are.

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The new saddle has a higher profile than the last so I had to lower the seat post a bit. Since I was going to be messing with the seat post I figured I would take it out and inspect the seat tube. While pulling out the seat post it felt like freaking sandpaper against sandpaper. I guess the shop I bought it from neglected to pull a very small film of grease on the post before installing it, which is something that I like to do to help prevent the post from getting locked into the tube. This isn’t a big problem with aluminum to aluminum, but I still think it is a good practice, si I sorted it out before the reinstall.

It’s gonna rain today so I won’t get to give it a proper test, but hopefully we’ll get some miles next week and see how it goes.

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Brake Upgrade

Got some new Clarks’s Brake Pads for my road bike. I decided I had to after riding my buddy Jay’s bike and realizing that his bralkes were a zillion tons better than mine. The pads that were on my bike were still the stock OEM jobbies, which I knew would be one of the first parts I’d replace. Ended up looking pretty rad. BONUS LEVEL: Since the spokes hadn’t been tightened, wheels trues since I got the bike about a year ago, I figured it was about time. Sorted them out…add a little stiffness.

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