“What makes a good allroad/gravel cycling bag/pack?”
That was the question @cycling.cub asked me when we set out to collaborate. It was raining that night; we were sitting on a café, talking about what each of us could bring to the table—and what we could offer to the market.
To me, the pack should offer distinct and clear value instead of just another pack of another brand, which competes only through low price and discount. It should be optimized to perform its core functions well, instead of being loaded with list of gimmicks. Based on my personal experience, I came up with five basic principles: practicality, versatility, durability, stability, and—of course—aesthetic.
There’s something about humble morning city strolls during Ramadan, that brought me back again and again.
I’ve tried riding on the afternoon, out of my parents’ concern that, with abstinence from food and (especially) drink, morning ride would put me to risk of dehydration. Yet afternoon traffic was a convoluted mess of reckless motorists and pollution-congested air that turned the ride into something more like a fight for survival—the opposite of the kind of experience I was seeking. Heading to nearby hills was an option, but the ride home afterward was the same peace-draining experience.
It was early morning in the middle of March—a month after my own birthday, and a day after Surely’s own first one. The sky was painted in thick, moody haze; I was riding across southern Bandung’s vast ricefield, and the road seemed to lead nowhere but empty white space. Yet, I knew exactly where I was going.
Chain stretched (wore) unevenly. At 4,750 km, most part of my chain has stretched to 0.5%; about 20% of the chain is still under 0.5% elongation, however, while few sections had gone as far as 0.75%. Checking just a section, therefore, is not enough; I ended up checking every pin, and I’m glad I did.
Such decision didn’t come just out of a whim; it came, instead, from regular inspection of the brake pad wear. As general rule of thumb, for disk brakes, the pad needs replacement once the thickness gets below 1 mm; or, to maximize usage, just when the pad sits flush with the spring.
Let’s admit it: 2020 didn’t go the way we had expected.
What started as a passing news from foreign land—pieces of story we quickly scrolled through without much attention—quickly spread across the globe and affected our life in a way we had never imagined. People fell ill, businesses dwindled, jobs lost—I was one among those affected financially, and was forced to slow down. It’s compelling to say 2020 was disastrous.
@asep_hadian’s words were as daunting as classic movie’s bad guy’s, when he passed me by on Pacet climb, km 56 of the ride. Held by @audaxrandonesia and @dirtxclouds, the 200k 2020 Bandung All Terrain Challenge started from @bikesystem.id and began with flattish, uneventful ride to Ciparay, the first checkpoint, at km 49. Starting at 5.00 a.m., I was one among the firsts to arrive. There was confusion among participants about the exact checkpoint location, until @storyonsaddle showed up carrying the barcode to scan. He reminded me not to stop too long, but I took my time regardless—snacking and drinking, while watching others passed me by.
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.