The shortest, closest mountainpass loop to home—Palintang Pass has become one among cycling routes I ride most frequently. Starting from Alun-alun Ujungberung on East Bandung, the pass featured 10 km climb with 900 m of elevation gain to the peak, beautiful view of Mt. Manglayang and Mt. Palasari, rough gravel descent across cinchona plantation, as well as another 1.4 km climb with 130 m of elevation gain as finale punch. With total elevation gain of around 1,200 m for the full loop, it was a torturous rite of passage for me as a newbie, 7 years ago; even after all these years, riding the route is still quite demanding.
Here’s a little known fact: few bike upgrades—if any—comes close to the value of great tires. That ultralight aero wheelset your fellow cyclists have been raving about? Will perhaps improve 2-3% of total performance. That overpriced, oversized ceramic derailleur pulley? Good luck ekeing more than 1% of performance gain out of it. A pair of supple performance rubbers, on the other hand, is a potential game-changing gem; it can easily gain as much as 5% of performance increase compared to stiff, touring model—equal to the performance gain of dropping 7 kg off the bike. Supple tires, especially the wider ones, also improve comfort in a way carbon handlebar and/or seatpost can never match.
Tires, therefore, should occupy the top of bike upgrade/improvement list.
How would new normal approach affect group cycling?
The question was hovering over my head when @isnain2142 invited me for a group ride. It’s been almost 3 months since the country confirmed its first cases of Covid-19 and implemented mass social distancing policies; it’s been almost 3 months, the spread of the virus hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down, the vaccine availability is still months away, and people has grown weary, financially, psychologically—so much, that the government declared “new normal” as new approach to cope with the pandemic.
If you can only have one bike, how would you build it?
Against widespread adoption of N+1 principle among cyclists, I have long been a believer of “one bike to rule them all” approach. For me, it made much more sense. On a multi-terrain cycling adventure, changing bikes to suit specific terrain condition isn’t an option; not even changing wheelsets. Combining long stretch of paved road, long climbs, rocky gravel road, steep twisty descents, even singletracks, such adventure demands one bike capable to tackle them all. Granted, such a bike will not excel at any particular task; it will, however, do well on almost any challenge a cycling adventure throw at it.
Getting the perfect tire pressure is, arguably, the cheapest way to improve the ride of a bicycle. It is, unfortunately, also the trickiest one to get right. Depending on who you ask, the answer can be conflicting. Ask road bike comrades, and they’ll most likely tell you to pump the tire as hard as a rock; ask mountain bikers and they’ll tell you to put low pressure that you better ditch the inner tube and convert to tubeless. Even worse, they’ll tell you vastly different numbers, all without any solid argument and calculation to back it up. Is there a way to determine the optimum tire pressure without resorting to rumors and wild guesses?
What size should my bicycle wheel be? If you’ve been following the trend in mountainbiking world, you would surely have heard the relentless, exhaustive mantra spelled by journos and brand spokepersons: “bigger is better”. They’re referring to 29 inches mountain bike tyres, which they claimed to be faster than smaller wheels. If it’s true that bigger is better, however, why don’t we all ride 36-inches monstrous wheels? And why don’t automobile and motorcycle industry adopt the same philosophy? They were quick to point out the strengths of bigger wheels… is there something they didn’t tell us?
Back when I was a newbie and decided to upgrade my drivetrain, another customer in the bike garage laughed at me. Why blew away so much cash for the new shiny drivetrain while keeping the shabby stock tyres? Honestly, I had no clue. I thought that the derailleur would improve the quality of a bike. He told me then, empathetically, that tyres are a lot cheaper, and will improve the ride quality better. It took me months until I swapped to kevlar-beaded aftermarket XC tyres, and I realized, he was spot on.
Back when I was new to cycling, I thought of available speed as a gauge of bike’s quality. My first bike had 3×8 drivetrain, and soon after a family cycling trip in Pekalongan, I upgraded the drivetrain to 3×10 speed Shimano SLX. I believed it wholeheartedly that I was baffled when I saw Scott’s top range XC bike was sold with 2×10 drivetrain. Why 20 speed, if you can have 30? For the past 2 years, however, I rode 1×10, and didn’t ever think of going back.
There was a moment in my cycling history when I spent my days reading Bikeradar’s Mountain Bike Reviews and was sold to the idea that longer, slacker means better. That was the moment I traded my 100 mm cheap coil suspension fork with an adjustable air one and set the travel to 120 mm. Later, as the longer & slacker mantra sank deeper on my mind, I set the fork’s travel to 140 mm and slackened my hardtail’s headtube angle further. That moment, however, has come to and end.