Finally picked up a new mountain bike

So many good people have had their bikes stolen lately.  Recent victim Yelli in Berlin says she’s hoping I’ll post something on how to keep a bicycle safe.   I plan to do that over the next week, but in the meantime, a bit of fun:

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought myself a new mountain bike.

Fifteen minutes through the travel category here will show you I have no problem spending money, as long the only thing to lug home are memories.  But toys and gear don’t grab me.

I can’t even stand shopping for stuff that will add to the simple pleasures I get out of life, which is probably why I have a 15-year-old bicycle, 10-year-old skis, a 4-year-old computer and iPod, and why it took until only two years ago to finally pick up a digital camera.

But after convincing myself that getting a new bicycle would give me that extra kick in the butt to get out riding again for the simple joy of being on wheels for its own sake instead of merely a way of commuting, and having given up on Angela Merkel ever getting back to me with my idea about a bike-scrapping rebate, and reminding myself that in less than a year I’ll be turning 50 and officially a crotchety old geezer, so why not give myself an early birthday present to lessen the pain of it,  I went shopping for a new ride.


One stop at one shop was enough to convince me that I didn’t need to look any further to buy a decent bike.  It took a couple of weeks for the frame to arrive from the factory in Italy, but as soon as it did they called me over so I could watch them build it.

If it’s true that you should buy quality and moan only once, I was moaning like hell two hours later at the till, but only half-way through my first spin down the Elbe the sticker shock was far behind.

It felt like flight on wheels.  What a difference from the old one!  It feels so light and fun to ride I was thinking: why didn’t I do this a few years ago?

Actually, I’m glad I waited.  Bike technology has been flying ahead along with everything else, but since I’ve been out of the market for so long and not really paying attention, I’d missed all the new developments.

canada-whistler-mountain-bike-parkThe biggest change is in the brakes.  I’d first discovered the amazing quality of disk brakes while on a raging blast on a rental bike through the Whistler Mountain bike park during my trip to Canada two summers ago.

As long as you keep oil and grease away they grab no matter if you’re going through rain or mud, though they’re so responsive, you stop too abruptly if you apply the same force as with the older rim brakes.

I’ve been told they’re practically maintenance-free: no rubber brake pads any more, no more fiddly adjustments, no constant wear on the rims, which if you leave too long without checking can actually wear through.

And no cables to snap when you least expect it, either.

Instead of a metal wire, the cables are filled with a fluid that looks a lot like motor oil.

Most of my riding is on the city streets, but the mountain bike tires are too slow on pavement, so I also convinced myself to dig a little deeper and pick up an extra set of front and back wheels, onto which I installed some narrow and light road-racing tires bought in Canada on that last trip.  So you might say I bought a bike to fit the tires, instead of the other way around.

The thin tires make it look rather strange.  With the fat, nobby ones it’s just a regular mountain bike.  Slip on the skinnies and it’s as spindly as a spider web:


Fat tires or thin, it’s been a lot of fun so far.

I’ve even had fun junking things we’ll never use again to clear a spot for a safe place to park it overnight.  Yes, we’ve learned our lesson. A thief is going to have to break into our building past three locked doors just to get near it, and then he’s going to have to break through a damn good lock.  More on that later.

13 Responses to “Finally picked up a new mountain bike”

  1. May 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    That is a sweet-looking ride!

    I am not much into biking for the sport or sheer pleasure of it; my bike is my cheapest means of transport into work and the fastest means to the train station (I’m forever on those 6:22am IC/E departures toward Nürnberg). As such I’m pretty utilitarian about mine. But yours is definitely attractive. How much lighter is the new one versus the old one?

    Thanks for the disc brake descriptions — I haven’t tried those yet. Do you know if bike profis can retrofit my current set of rims and brakes (I’ve got pretty standard stuff) to disc-brakes? I think I’ve got slightly misshapen rim (particularly in the back) since a brake job only lasts about a month before the back brake shoes just don’t grip anymore at all on the rim.

  2. May 8, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I’m glad to hear you invested in a proper lock. I mentioned in a previous comment that a friend of mine recovered her stolen bike, but I think that’s a rare occurrence.

  3. May 8, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Hi Cliff,
    Changing to disk brakes would depend a lot on your forks and frame. If there are two posts on the forks and two threaded holes on the frame in the rear on which to mount the disk brake calipers, that’s good, but you would also need to get disc-compatible hubs, which would involve either re-building your wheels or starting from scratch with new. It actually sounds like you could do with a new rear wheel already. 🙂 I think as an exercise I’ll take a couple of close-up photos to see if I can insert them into a comment over the next day or so.

    I haven’t weighed them, but the new one is definitely lighter – between 10 and 11 Kg.

    @UB – about the lock – I’m going to get a second one of a different type, just in case.

  4. 4 G
    May 9, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Well, I guess your wife should consider this an opportunity to upgrade her bike? That should feel, mentally, better than having to replace a trusty steed. I’m glad to know that my paranoia about always locking my (cheap Fegros bike) to a solid object makes sense. Ever since I had my (unlocked) Cannondale stolen from my (locked) garage in upstate NY, I’ve felt that “immovable object” was pretty much a minimum.

    Loved looking at your photos. Thing1 is a real bike rider right now(!!!) and Thing2 looks close to graduating from her laufrad (needs a few more inches) so I’m thinking we may actually be able to do some riding this summer…

  5. May 11, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Always lock it around something. If you don’t, it can be carried away, and nobody will say a thing. I have to post some video I saw of a test made in NYC. A guy used bolt cutters, hacksaw, you name it, and nobody even bothered to approach him.

    @Cliff – I can’t figure out how to post a photo in a comment, so I’ll send you a photo by email.

  6. 6 G
    May 11, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    A friend of mine had his motorcycle parked outside his window on Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights. He went out for a pack of cigs and passed a guy swinging a huge pair of bolt cutters going toward his apartment. As he walked back, he saw ahead of him that guy nonchalantly attempting to cut through the two really large chains he had on his bike. When he started yelling and running, the guy didn’t even look up until he was almost on him!(He did start running before B reached him- B lifted weights at the time:).)

  7. 7 J
    May 12, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Great looking bike. Mine is 19 years old (and weighs as much as a boulder) and I’ve been thinking about replacing it, but I don’t have any place to store a new one inside – away from both prying eyes and out of the elements.

    • May 13, 2009 at 5:19 am

      J – how big is your apartment? You could always store it in there. One solution is to drill a hook into the ceiling of a closet or an out-of-the-way corner and hang it there by the front wheel.

  8. May 12, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Here’s a front page article in today’s New York Times about how Vauban is abandoning cars for bikes.

  9. May 12, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Hi UB – I had seen that article and was nodding already at the first quote: When I had a car I was so tense – I feel much better now.
    Not having a car means so many fewer worries, on top of having a lot more to spend on better things.

    (You might not notice the link in her comment, but hover the cursor over “abandoning cars for bikes” and it will light up.)

  10. May 13, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Well, I see I’m late to the party. 🙂 I just found the article about Vauban. Read from a 23-miles-from-central-Houston perspective, it’s especially interesting. And I had to laugh at the accompanying photo – that pile of bikes looks like a scene from my childhood.

    I don’t have a bike myself, but the day may come. There are more bike routes appearing where new roads are being built, and there is a lot more use of bicycles in Houston itself. As a matter of fact, flight to the suburbs is slowing, and a return to the inner city is taking place – people just don’t want those 90 minute commutes any more. Once they get inside the loop, bicycles are practical again.

  11. May 13, 2009 at 8:07 am

    If you decide to get one, you should check out the incredible advances being made in e-bikes. Bikes with a power boost! They’re no longer for the old and out-of-shape. For example:


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