Riding the Hooligan to NAHBS

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The Cannodale Hooligan continues to prove itself as a very versatile bike.  The afternoon before flying to Denver, I raced around town on the little-wheeled bike in search of a suitable bag to pack it in.  In the end, I decided that a pair of durable black plastic trash bags would be best, with the aid of a roll of duct tape.  Total cost: about $6.  

Twenty five miles pavement riding, fast– check

Pack my bags with camera socks and a sleeping bag the night before, around midnight.

I awoke at 3:30AM to ride to the airport by 4:30, to check the bike by 5:00 to board the plane by 5:30 to arrive in Denver by 7:30.

Cross-town ride in the dark to the ABQ International Sunport.  Pack the bike in about 15-20 minutes– check

At the last moment I noticed my multi-tool in my pocket, which would be confiscated at security.  I tore open a hole in the plastic bag, packed the tool away, and taped the hole closed.  I did not realize that the bag was not fully sealed elsewhere, as I had used two bags in opposite directions. I arrived in Denver without a tool to re-assemble the bike.  After some digging around with various airlines, I finally found 4 and 5 mm hex wrenches and an adjustable crescent wrench.  Roll out.  RTD bus to downtown Denver, $11.  Bike the last mile or two to NAHBS in the sun.   

Ride to NAHBS, with the help of a bus and an airplane– check.

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What’s in the bag?  A kinetic sculpture.  Mobility device.  Materials for a trade show.  A new wheelchair for my mom, aunt, great uncle…most definitely not a bike.

Activity in the city– to the hills

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New Year’s Day.  Ride to the hills, 15 miles uphill.  Hike, run, bike.  Back to Old Town by 4PM for work.  Another 15 or so, downhill.  New Years’s Day in Albuquerque.

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Lael needs to run, only twenty minutes to spare.  No running shoes, no running clothes.

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Drop bars, touring tires, trails.

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Running shoes?  Running clothes?  Any bike, anywhere.  Any shoe, anywhere.

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Down hill.  Hometown.  Albuquerque.

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A couple of Hooligans

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This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I ordered a pair of 20×2.20″ Maxxis Holy Rollers for Lael’s Hooligan.  She insisted that she wear out the current tires, 1.5″ Kenda Kwest slicks, but once the tires arrived I couldn’t resist.  I admire her resolve to wear through tires, but these Lil’ Rollers are tons of fun.  They add to the diverse absurdity of the Hooligan.  The current build incorporates comfortable stylish parts from Velo Orange, some lightweight Revelate Designs bags for daily commute-packing, and these little Maxxis beefcakes.  Anymore, Lael loves Maxxis tires.  She likes upright handlebars, lightweight camping loads, and chunky rubber.

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Some fun LED lights light up the night.  Thanks to Linda and Lanny for these fun holiday gifts.

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Velo Orange Tourist handlebars offer a classic look in a practical dimension.  For a round town bike, the rise and sweep on these bars is perfect.  Also, VO cork grips.

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The tire rolls well, although it is marketed as a BMX/Dirt Jump/Urban Assualt tire.  For Lael, it’s a versatile commuting tire that can hit the trails in a pinch.

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Some comfortable Clarks and large platform pedals make for happy feet.  These new Velo Orange Sabot pedals are buttery smooth as they use a series of sealed cartridge bearings.  Rounded pins improve traction.

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Neo-retro– a Velo Orange Model 3 saddle and a Revelate Viscacha seatbag.

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Of course, every practical bike must have a bell.  This is my favorite way to mount one.

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Some cheap Bell sunglasses and a Giro Reverb helmet round out the Lael’s specialized commuting kit.

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A couple of Hooligans.

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Ride one bike

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The greatest asset that any cyclist can bring to a ride, except fitness, is familiarity with the machine– with the exact moment that the tire loses traction in a turn, the precise action to avoid pedal strike through rocks, and the best way to hide from the wind when the Cateye reads more than 20.  Riding one bike will foster a connection with the machine that is lost when multiple bikes are in play.  I’ve heard of riders with as many as five different mountain bikes who must know which trail the group is planning to ride to be able to select the appropriate machine.  There are such things as training bikes and racing bikes, and road bikes for paved roads and different road bikes for gravel roads.  There are true cyclocross bikes and cross-type bikes that are marketed as light-touring bikes and commuting bikes and hybrid bikes.   Yesterday’s downhill bikes are today’s all-mountain bikes, while yesterday’s cross-country bikes aren’t really even mountain bikes anymore.  Snow bikes have stable geometry at slow speed while trail-capable modern fatbikes are faster handling and feature higher bottom brackets.   This week, both a carbon fatbike and a titanium full-suspension fatbike have been released.  Every year, there are more bikes for more disciplines of riding.  Pick one.

Hybrid has become a dirty word, spoiled by uninspired comfort bikes with low-quality suspension and remarkably upright riding positions.  However, the concept of a hybrid bike signals a versatile machine that can find its way through a variety of conditions.  Historical hybrids such as the Trek Multitrack and Specialized Crossroads give credit to the genre, although few people realize the value of these older models.  The same bike with a drop bar would compete with a Surly CrossCheck or any off-the-peg touring bike, for a fraction of the price.  But nobody wants a bike that doesn’t claim to be great at anything. Fortunately, I demand a bike that is good enough at everything.

The ideal everything bike does not exist.  For some, knobby tires and suspension are essential tools.  Despite the admonishment of purists, riding around town on a mountain bike isn’t a real problem.  Others may require to keep up with an aggressive paceline on Saturday or to break away from the peloton, and a race bike can certainly ride to work on Monday.  I get passed by Cervelos and backpacks all the time on the bike path, and I’m a little jealous as I bump along on a fresh Nate tire on my Pugsley.  But the Pugsley can do things the Cervelo never dreamed– our needs are obviously different.  Many riders are well served by bikes disguised for touring or cross or comfort.  These are the workhorse hybrid bikes of our time and can participate in road rides with friends as well as long-distance travel on dirt roads, and sometimes even singletrack.  A highly specialized machine has long been the standard of an optimized bike, but it is easy to see how a specialized bike is quickly compromised in changing, real world conditions.  Optimization through generalization will ensure you are never on the wrong bike, even if it’s not the right one for the job.

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Hybrid is not a dirty word.  Neither is comfort.  Ride one bike.

Bikepacking on a budget; a bike for Lael

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She likes a nice pair of boots and a shiny brass bell, but she’s not all that fancy– she’ll sleep in barns and dugouts, atop mountains and aside rivers and is content eating a raw beet, seeds and some lettuce for dinner.  We’re both gypsies, connecting the dots by bicycle.  Another reason to reach Colorado, aside form the availability of water and shade, is that I’m still charged with the task of buying or building a bike for Lael.

To recap her bike situation:

Her Surly Long Haul Trucker is much loved and well used, but the limits of the bike have been reached considering the “real” mountain biking we’ve got planned.  With a 2.0-2.1″ tire the LHT is a very capable dirt road tourer and a light-duty trail bike, and still fits a fender.   It remains in Anchorage and is in daily use by a friend in need of some wheels.  My Schwinn High Sierra is providing the same service in Tacoma, WA.  I like to give bikes out for permanent loan when possible.  The potential to recover a few hundred dollars from a bike with considerably more utility seems wasteful when I can be assured the bike will be ridden daily.  If she needs the LHT again it’ll be waiting in Anchorage, free of dust.

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Her Surly Pugsley was great fun and a great tool though the winter, allowing her to commute to work every day and to explore the local terrain.  The elementary school she worked at was five miles away, and many mornings she was on the bike by 7:30.  At this time of morning in Anchorage winters, you’ll encounter neither rain nor shine– it’s cold, dark and snowy.  Leaving for Europe, she liquidated her assets and sold the bike.  Mainly, the sale of the bike was a financial and logistical decision as shipping or flying with the bike was unreasonable, but her main complaint about the ride was that the wheels were heavy.  I can attest to that, and my Marge Lite rims improve the ride and allow me to open up my riding style, especially with as much climbing as I’ve been doing.

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The week before flying to Europe, I bought Lael a Cannondale Hooligan on closeout sale at The Bicycle Shop.  She’d been joking about it all winter (much truth…), and always hopped on for the “indoor criterium” circuit around the showroom floor.  With the handlebars and fork removed, the bike packs to the shape of a cello and avoids airline surcharges.  In spite of small wheels, the rigid frame and disc brakes are assuring and feel mostly like a normal bike.  Unlike the “normal” bike she is used to, the small wheels and an overall weight of 24 lbs allow the bike to climb and accelerate easily, perfect for city riding and the steep pitches encountered in Corsica.  Of course, it’s also easy to carry up stairs or onto the train, and is a fun conversation piece while in traveling.  On different sides of the globe, we’re both peppered with inane questioning about wheels and tires– Surely, small wheels must be slower?  And you must pedal two, or three times as fast to cover the same terrain?  We’d like to keep the bike for future experimentation, but it is most definitely not the bike for the Colorado Trail and beyond.  For that, we seek something more conventionally appropriate for the mountains.  After years of commuting, cycletouring, and ATB-ing, this will be real mountain biking.  Lael arrives in Denver on the 23rd with lightweight bike luggage and camping equipment, but without a proper mountain bike.

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I’m looking for a new or used, steel or aluminum, rigid or hardtail, 26″ of 29″ wheeled mountain bike.  I’d dreamed that we could both ride fatbikes with lightweight wheels, but finances are steering me towards sourcing a used bike from the Denver-area Craigslist.  I’ve actually wanted to do this for quite a while– find a used bike en route, prepare it for travel, and ride away.  Denver is a great place for this experiment and the Colorado Trail will be a worthy proving ground.  Bikepacking on a budget!

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Several days before traveling to Europe, Lael raced the Skinny Raven Twilight 12K in Anchorage in a time of 47:40 (6:24/mi), and placed third in her division amongst a field of almost 1200 runners.  She enters one race annually, and generally falls into a comfortable third place.  Not bad for an occasional racer!

The Hooligan

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Coming and going and going and coming.  I hitched from Denali back to Anchorage to buy a new laptop, a mighty MacBook Air.  I spent the week in town outfitting Lael for her European travels and sent her flying over the pole to Frankfurt and London this morning.  Accompanying her was a new bike, a sprightly 20 inch wheeled bike–a Cannondale Hooligan 8.  The 20 inch wheeled bike in question is not a folding bike, but it is super fun and features disc brakes and huge tire clearances and a 1 x 8 drivetrain.  It packs small if properly disassembled and will be able to handle country lanes, canal trails, and some light single track.  For the price, it is a fun, practical bike that ensures reliable transport.  The plan is to remove the front wheel and the fork, and avoid airline surcharges.  It’s not a folding bike, and as a result it sports a rugged, rigid aluminum frame and a steel fork.  There are no moving frame parts to be concerned about, such as on a folder.  Upscale folding bikes such as those from Bike Friday are rugged, but inexpensive folders won’t stand up to the riding that Lael will be able to do on the Hooligan.  Hopefully, as planned, it’s a fun solution for getting around Europe this summer.   With Revelate bags and the Inertia Designs frame bag she’ll have an ultralight Continental tourer, ready within a few minutes after deboarding.  If you haven’t ridden a bike with small wheels, try it.  It’s fun, and it’s not that weird.  Mostly, it rides like a bike.

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We’d like to fit Schwalbe 20 x 2.15″ Big Apple tires and a handlebar with a mild sweep, such as the On-One Mary that she has enjoyed so much on her Surly LHT.  For now, some Ergon grips make things more familiar.  I packed the Hooligan into a large cotton drawstring sack sold by an outdoor outfitter, designed to carry moose and elk quarters out of the backcountry.  It fit the Hooligan and a light load of camping gear quite nicely, and cost $8.95.  Add some duct tape for extra security and some Alaskan flair.  Hopefully, the airline believes that it’s a cello or a large backpack or a “mobility aid”.