Friday, October 10, 2008


Or even millimeters. They can make a difference.

For example, I ride in sneakers. I used to ride in a sweet ass pair of Sidi road shoes, but I got tired of schlepping extra shoes around all the time. When I switched over to single-speed it was part of an overall simplification of my whole way of riding. And so I began riding in sneakers. The sneakers I normally wear are Vans' Old Skools, a classic skate shoe with a toe cap that pushes the side of the shoe out about a millimeter- and-a-half. Just that little bit at the inside of my pedal stroke often brushes the crank and squeaks. Not only does it make an annoying sound, it also slows me down.

When I switch to sneakers without a toe cap (like slip ons or Vans' Eras) there's no squeak, and no drag. A millimeter-and-a-half.

Similarly, I recently switched out my handlebars. I went from the bullhorns I've been riding for about two years to a chopped down straight bar. My wife remarked on how narrow the bars looked, but they're actually an inch-and-a-half wider than the bullhorns, and the result is a little more stability in low speed turning and any time I've got my front wheel off the ground.

Try raising your seat to its optimal height, then pushing it up a further centimeter. Ride that way for a week and tell me you don't have saddle sores.

I used to crap on bicycle fussiness, that obsession with getting everything exactly right, and to some degree I still do. I mean, ride your fucking bike. Ride it. There comes a time when you're spending more time tweaking than actually riding. And that's just nuts.

On the other hand, the bicycle can be a deceptively complicated machine, a carefully balanced gyroscope with wide but not infinite tolerances. I am now coming to understand the ways small adjustments effect that balance. It has only taken me about thirty years of riding to begin to understand.

And that boggles my mind.

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