Once upon a time, way back in the heady, late-summer days of 2019, I joined my friend Alex from the bike shop and my friend Shire from ultimate frisbee stuff and his cousin and his cousin’s buddy for a second round of D2R2, which is easily one of the best events I’ve ever attended, and some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike. As usual for that crowd, we rolled out pretty late but had a lovely time doing it, but got to the lunch area late, too (long story), and so as we skimmed the dregs of what was left to eat and ate them by the little river and covered bridge, we got to talking about bikes, as one is wont to do.

You see, Alex had just gotten back from biking from Boston to Seattle, Atlantic to Pacific. I’d ridden out with him on Day 1 and was to take him home after the day’s ride, as he had gotten off the Amtrak train somewhere in Western Mass and rode up to Deerfield to meet us (he already had camping gear, after all). I was asking questions about his ride, this and that, and mentioning some thing I’d wanted to do to the Straggler, which I like to putz with (also: dear lord those posts are old), and Alex thought about it for a while and said,

You know, that’s the perfect bike for you. It’s a tinkerer’s bike.

(The subtext being: “you never leave well enough alone, do you?”)

And goddamnit, he was right. It’s not “the best” at anything. This is well documented re: Surlys, and the Straggler in particular (lol @ the folx who don’t like the weird dropouts – they just take a few minutes to get used to and then you never think about it.) That said, it’s the best if you have a semi-deep spare parts bin, get bored easily, and like to play. And me? I like to play.

And so I played. The short version:

  1. I swapped the 42T Wolftooth ring for the VO 48/34 drillium rings (the crankset was on sale… I wanted the chainrings, also the crank for if/when I finally get rid of the GXP BB).
  2. I swapped the Rival 1 rear derailleur for a Rival 22 RD that I bought on eBay for real cheap some years ago (but it’s short cage, womp-womp). I have a Shimano RD (also short cage, because I’m cheap and an idiot?) on the way also from eBay, and I’m thinking the cable-pull will be a little better. I also want more silver on the bike for if/when I ever spring for that nice VO 46/30 crank… which will make the 11-28 somewhat less of a bad idea.
  3. Finally put to rest the 11-42 SRAM cassette that I originally built the bike with; I got a lot of chains out of that thing, but yes, it was time. I fitted an 11-28 10 speed guy back there because >10 speed friction shifting gets dicey I hear, and I don’t think I could have pulled the rear derailleur far enough with my shifter plan… (see step 6).
  4. Fitted a Problem Solvers braze-on adapter (it’s silver. Will I get the black one which I think will look better? Probably), and put on the DURA ACE front derailleur that Bay City Cycles in Ashland WI sold me for way cheap because they’re the best, and because the original one on Schwinny was toast and they took pity on me. I did need to replace one of the (stripped) limit screws (thank you, donor R8 FD!)
  5. New chain, etc. etc. – all that. Swapped on the SRAM brake lever set I used for last year’s winter single-speeed.
  6. I’m trying cloth bar tape!
  7. Put on the left downtube shifter, flipped the switch to friction the right shifter, and fitted new shifting cables. FRICTION ALL DAY, BABY!

So before (from this summer):

Stragglepus, before

And after:

Stragglepus, after

Plus some detail (glamour) shots:

Stragglepus, details

Stragglepus, details

Stragglepus, details

Stragglepus, details

Stragglepus, details

You’ll notice, too, that the stem has been flipped, the rack and bag fitted (please don’t judge the stitching: I sewed that guy in a hurry; it is relatively waterproof though!). I’m not sold on the flipped stem, but it helps my nether-regions given all this bullshit “virtual” cycling I’ve been doing (tl;dr: I don’t trust drivers at night in the suburbs where I like to ride and it gets dark real early in New England), but the rack and bag in the winter is key for layers, extra water, and snacks. God bless snacks.

I finally got out and rode the new setup outdoors this afternoon (I’d done some “virtual rides” with it), and it was fucking blast. I really do love the downtube shifting; I know I’m not supposed to. And the lever gets pulled almost 90 degrees but it shifts across the cogs fine. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I do notice and appreciate the smaller jumps between gears, and I like having to think a little more about my shifting: it requires a little skill. I’m not as crazy as the Rivendell folks (OK, maybe it’s just Grant?), but they’re on to something… they really are.

It was too wet today to try it in the woods, but I’m looking forward to that. I really do think the 1x gearing makes sense in the woods, but I want to try this, see how it goes. The nice thing is that, at the end of the day, I’m working this bike out so that I can change the fixin’s relatively easily (see: mentioned but not explained move back to a square taper bottom bracket), because although I don’t have a “one true bike,” or room for a fleet of bikes, I do have a really excellent bike for me, a tinkerer, who thinks it’s fun to be constantly rebuilding my bike.

Anyway, I was worried this blog was getting too much “books” and “bullshit” (Alia pointed out today that my blog tries to do too much to ever actually have an audience: I am fine with this. This is for me.), and I don’t see my shop friends or my bike friends as often as I would like these days so I wanted to talk about my bike. Because bikes are awesome, didn’t you know?