The Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh

Globecanvas here.  New bike day!

Sure, it’s not artisanal, bespoke, fashioned by crafty dwarves, or worth the GDP of a small island nation. On the contrary, it’s a mass produced gas pipe chariot that weighs almost twice as much as my race bike.

But it’s a superfun ride, and most importantly, it’s something I can beat the crap out of without having to do much more than hose it off and lube the chain. I expect to put a lot of miles on it this winter.

reservoir

reservoir 2

It’s a Surly Straggler frameset, Hayes CX-5 brakes, 32-spoke 30mm DT Swiss wheels. Every component is heavy and practically indestructible. I especially like the brakes, which significantly outperform the Avid BB7s on my cross bike, admittedly with a significant weight penalty. The only non-bulletproof concession is Grand Prix 4 Seasons 28c tires. I personally can’t bear the ride of hard commuter tires, and I can’t afford handmade rubber. I find the 4 Seasons to be a great in-betweener tire. I do wish they made them in a 32 or bigger size though.

I got the frameset from Billy at Overlook Mountain Bikes in Woodstock, who really went the extra mile to get my size, which wasn’t technically in stock anywhere in the world. (I’m a 54 in every bike ever, but the Straggler geometry is extra long, so I needed a 52.) The Bicycle Depot in New Paltz came through, as always, with excellent component advice and everything else.

I set the bike up single speed, but with two chainrings and two cogs, to give me a couple of gear options, 42×16 (70 gear inches) and 40×18 (60 gear inches). 42×16 will get the most use, but I’ve been doing big hill repeats a couple of times a week for training, so I also wanted a small enough gear to haul this hunk of iron up Mohonk 5 or 6 times in a row.

I had to take the bike out for an inaugural ride on day one, even though it was 40 degrees, foggy and raining.

bridge

Visibility was not great in the low-lying areas, so I headed up toward the Catskills. I was also curious how 42×16 would work on some of the more significant hills up toward Woodstock. It turned out to be mostly fine, up to maybe 10% grade; I could manage a cadence of somewhere around 20 and still keep the bike moving forward without either weaving like a drunken mailman or hauling hard enough on the pedals/bars to rupture my spleen.

Riding single speed is a great experience. The drive train is quiet and smooth, and the only way to adjust effort for grade is to make your legs go faster or slower. It’s a more connected, dare I say holistic experience than riding a geared bike. On the down side, you just can’t get where you’re going as fast.

Here’s the Ashokan Spillway, always an impressive sight.  I know it’s a recurring theme for me, but I wonder how many New York City residents realize what a scenic journey their tap water has taken before arriving in their bathroom.

spillway

I did unintentionally end up on Yerry Hill in Woodstock, which has 1/2 mile of 12% and a final kicker of over 20%. (I was aiming for Ohayo Mountain, which is a real climb but not a gutbuster, but I missed the turn.) Yerry Hill is especially mean in that there’s a really steep section that looks for all the world like it tops out, and then you come around a little bend and see the stupidly steep section in front of you. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t quite make it up the kicker in 42×16, but it wasn’t completely out of the question, and I think I could have managed in 40×18.

All in all, a great first ride on a fun bike. By the time I got home, my right hand was completely numb and my shoes were full of freezing water. What more could you ask for?

Capture

 

— John S, aka globecanvas

9 thoughts on “The Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh

  1. Ugaitz Etxebarria

    How do you find climbing that sort of steep hills with those bars? I have a Surly Steamroller FG with really wide bars, I think they are useful for climbs (more leverage), but i’m always thinking about how it would feel to ride it with drop bars. I used to use it as a commuter, but i’ve installed some spd’s on it and now it feels like a torpedo!

    Reply
    1. globecanvas Post author

      I prefer narrowish (40cm) drop bars, and even so, the leverage side to side is never an issue. As long as you have something to grab onto and haul up on, it works. There are people who say that climbing with drop bars requires brake hoods (which your fixed gear bike might not have), but some people have had success climbing in the drops:

      Reply
      1. Ugaitz Etxebarria

        Thanks for the reply. I gave it a spin and finally decided to install drop bars. I used to run both brakes in the wide bars, so I kept them when I installed the drops. I definitely climb a lot better in the hoods than I did on my wide bars.

  2. Michael

    For tires you should try Vittoria Randonneur Hyper 32 X 622. The side walls are more flexible than the conti so give a smoother ride at the same pressure. I run the 37 X 622 version on gravel roads at 35 psi and like them.

    Reply
  3. exmaschine

    There is something almost elegant about a bike with a full rear fender, complimented by a front fender. They just look like they belong there. Nice ride indeed.

    Geo

    Reply
  4. Pingback: A Single Speed Odyssey | Riding the Catskills

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