The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Performance Trap and How I Escaped

The allure of more speed... No--let's say it like it needs to be said: The allure of more speeeeed.... This is how I justify many of my bicycle related purchases. The thought process looks something like this:

Self: "I have just received a paycheck from my employer. Time for an upgrade."
Bike: "You know, you'd be faster if you just rode more and ate less."
Self: "Hush your noise, you!"

So I look at my bike, the Gunnar Ruffian CX Hybrid (Don't tell Richard Schwinn I did this). It looks like this:

The trained eye of the Golden Wrench readership will quickly spot the glaring defect in this otherwise harmonious machine. No, I intentionally put 700c wheels on a 26" bike, I'm talking about the other defect.


Those particular grips had hit just about every tree on the Theo Wirth loop. Plus, they're ESI silicone, so they do wear out eventually (long after they stop smelling like Silly Putty). They were ripped, shriveled, stretched out, perma-stained, and frankly, a bit smelly. So it was time for a change.

I started by installing a narrower handlebar and a stiffer stem, which ended up taking about 70 grams off the front of the bike. Rather than bring the tired ESI grips out of the basement graveyard, I thought I'd go pro and wrap my bars with road tape.

Wrapping Flat Bars with Road Tape: Pros and Cons

1. Yeah! Awesomeness! I have seen other people do this, and they happened to be awesome!
2. Light! I will be high performance super-guy and probably beat people only because of my road tape grips!
3. Colorful! Children will learn my name and cheer for me at CX races!
4. Cheap! Leftovers!
5. Light! I will only with difficulty keep the front wheel on the ground!
6. See #2, #5 because they are the primary reasons, and really all I was concerned about!

1. Sends shooting pains up from hands to shoulders in rough terrain (which is everywhere, I soon discovered)! Yay, now I can easily detect rough terrain!
2. Tears easily! Yeah! I get to do maintenance on my GRIPS!
3. Colorful until dirty! The children actually began to cry because they thought I was a bum on a bum bike, but their parents gave me some money, so it wasn't all bad!
4. #1 is an awfully powerful consideration! My hands really hurted! I could not shop for groceries with a cart without fighting back tears!
5. Will not stay put, even with extreme measures, such as double-stick tape, electrical tape, arc welding, staples, threats, ocelots, mermaids, brown sugar, two eggs, a teaspoon of vanilla, a cup of whole-wheat flour, and a ripe banana. Bake for twelve minutes at 450 degrees, or until a nice crust appears.

In other words, it was the worst mistake of my adult life. Worse than paying full retail for books that are public domain on Google Books now.

Oh hands, I was wrong: will you forgive me?

Well, this relationship was going nowhere in a hurry. It was time to be done with it, but for some reason whenever I visit the grip rack at work in my own self-interest, the token pair of ESI grips that we stock (black of course) is always sold out. So then I have to make a decision: order some new ones in a ridiculous color that matches nothing, such as Kermit the Frog Green, or continue to damage my hands until they are non-functioning pork chops at the ends of my limbs. The first will make me wait a week, the second would render my hands useless because I don't like pork.


The above sounds were coming from around the corner, where Jason was installing a brand new set of Oury grips on his bike. His old Ourys, after two seasons, looked like new except for rips in the ends. Apparently, some other employees at Freewheel would put 1/4" bearings inside his handlebars through the little rips, and Jason's ride home to St. Paul would sound like *tinkitytinkitytinkitytinkity*. Jason's a rather manly dude, and would not have his bike go *tinkitytinkitytinkitytinkity* if he could help it, so he ordered up some crystal clear Oury grips to deck out his hypo-commuter. There are currently no rips in the ends of these grips for his evil coworkers to put bearings into (so we will have to take out his seatpost and put them in his top tube, I guess).

His old Ourys laid on the bench all sad-like saying "It's not our fault that your coworkers are evil! Look how well we've held up for all these years." They played the sympathy card really well, I must admit. I've always thought that Oury grips were ugly: they looked like something from a claymation motocross something or other. Plus, they seem to appeal to people with gorilla hands, where mine are more like rhinoceros hands (big with comparatively short fingers). I've also been told that they're for people with arthritis. But there they were, all sad and lonely. My hands still hurt from the ride in to work, all bunnyhopping curbs and catching air and stuff. I was ready for a change.

I asked Jason if I could borrow them and try them out on the Hybrid. He said "sure," or at least he loosed a well-crafted sentence at me that led me to believe that he meant "sure." Hopefully he meant "sure" because I don't want to go to jail. I installed them after work and rode home.

Now I have HAPPY HANDS! They just can't stop dancing! Anywhere I go, my hands start dancing like fools. I have to sit on them or put them in my pockets or bite them when I'm in public. Mostly because I'm of northern European descent and dancing just ain't our thing so much as pillaging and looting, but also because dancing hands often leads to institutionalization, and I have too much going on in life.

I was so excited to not have my hands turn into porkchops on the ride home that I checked out Oury's website! Wow, it sucks! But their grips make my hands dance! So I forgive them!