June 23 2011 Ride: Get a Grip!

Whenever I create a post for rideblog, I’m always hoping it will be “gripping.” This time, I may have literally created the perfect post. No one can gripe that there weren’t moments that absolutely “gripped” the reader…

Yesterday, my Portland Design Works Dapper Dan non-ergo grips arrived. That’s a mouthful, for a pair of bicycle grips. Those of my 12 regular readers who follow me with regard to such minutia, will recall that this is my fourth pair of grips since I purchased this bike, one year ago. It came with cheap black foam grips (ugly, hot to the touch), then I added hand-shellacked cork beauties (hard, sticky) which shattered when the bike was accidentally dropped. Next I tried cheap leather lace-ups (ugly, laced areas stuck up and rubbed my hands) and now, here I am on the Dapper Dan’s.

I have a pair of Dapper Dan’s already, on The Viva. They are the ergo variety.

These are quite comfy on The Viva, though it took some adjusting to get the “ergo” portion into the right spot for my hands. The Viva being so upright, I don’t generally shift around much while riding it. I can’t, for instance, stand up in the pedals.

But The Raleigh is a different story. I move around a lot in the saddle, pumping more, shifting my weight forward and back… I needed something, I felt, less ergo and more round. Ergo, I bought the plain Dapper Dans (see that pun? Wasn’t that awesome? I know!).

As soon as the new grips arrived yesterday, I rushed down to the see the boys at GHY, who, even more than Fritz, give me the “Oh no… here she is again…” look when I come in the door. GHY is a great little bike shop, and they have done very good work for me. I’m just a bit outside their usual clientele. GHY stands for Go Huck Yourself (don’t worry, I know this is a family blog). Hucking involves jumping off things, as I understand it, with large vertical drops. The Raleigh and I do not do this, but they’re nice about it anyway.

Jesse, who was the mechanic who put The Raleigh together for me in the first place, immediately stepped up to put on the new grips. There was just one problem: those dang short vintage North Roads! The grips were too long. No problem: “Mind if I alter these?” and out comes the hacksaw. When he was finished, I no longer had the second clamp ring, but the grips were on and working fine. Jesse paused for a moment before the completed Raleigh, then said: “If I had this bike, I would ride it all the time. It’s my favorite.”

I KNOW! ME TOO! “Why don’t you build yourself one?” I asked. “I know, I should,” he said, “but it wouldn’t be as clean as this one, as cool.” This is patently ridiculous, given the poor state of The Raleigh’s paint and the fender smashes and rust, and the fact that none of the components are unusual or unique. But I know what he means. I love The Viva, and Dream Bike will of course be awesome, but this Raleigh is special, and I’m not quite sure why. It just is. It has Mojo.

First Mojo stop: post office. The Raleigh and I were sending off The Panasonic’s beautiful Carradice Saddlebag and Bagman Support, neither of which were necessary for Dream Bike, so it was time for them to go. The Raleigh has become an old pro at waiting nicely while I run errands:

Apparently, it is still possible to take photographs that are out of focus with the new camera.

Anyway, errand finished, we headed off to the Cedar River Trail. I noticed immediately that the Dapper Dans were surprisingly… hard. The ergos are soft and cushy. I assumed that this meant the whole grip was soft and cushy, but no. It’s just the ergo part, apparently. The rest is hard as rock. What I now have on my bike feels exactly like a leather-wrapped road bar.

For many of you, this would be an advantage, I’m sure. For me… not so much. And because these have been altered with a hacksaw, I’m fairly sure Portland Design won’t want to take them back. So I’m going to ride them for a while and just see if they get softer. I’m not sure why they would, but I live in hope. If they don’t, I’ll gift them to a lucky reader with a three speed and move on. Again.

I ended up shifting my hands around a lot on this ride. I do mean a lot.

By the end of my ride, my hands were swollen from the muggy air, and quite annoyed by the hardness of the grips. That said, the Dapper Dans had some real advantages over previous Raleigh grips: they are soft at first touch (if not cushy) because the leather is wonderful. The laces are smooth and very unobtrusive. Without the end clamp, they just sort of end, which is actually nice because there’s nothing there to irritate my hand. But will they get softer? I’m thinking not. It’s just leather over plastic. These ain’t suspended, like a Brooks.

I thought I would order some reproduction Dare grips from Harris Cyclery. These are black rubber, and look like regular old Raleigh grips. But I see now they are out of stock with no note about them ever being back in.

Why, grips? WHY?

On to the rest of the ride. Yesterday (and today) have been odd, weather-wise. First it rained, then it was sunny, then it drizzled, then it was just muggy, then it rained again… When I started, it was overcast and very gray. I didn’t feel the weather held great promise, but The Raleigh and I are now confident in the rain, what with new brakes and all.

The rose hedges are doing nicely, though not nearly as impressive as last year. Note the threatening clouds.

The Raleigh and I are in training, as many of you know, for Ireland in August. Well, okay, The Raleigh isn’t coming, but I haven’t told it yet. I’m afraid I’ll break its heart. Anyway, a long ride was in order.

Gratuitous pretty blue flowers shot.

The more I ride this bike, the more convinced I am that it is not speed or distance that will determine my fitness level for Ireland: it’s time spent on a bike, and topography. Folks with super fast road bikes can ride much further than I can in two hours, but they aren’t really working any harder. In fact, I would argue that as long as you can tolerate the bent-over position, riding a road bike is generally easier than riding an old 3-speed like this. The Panasonic just clipped along when I pedaled it. Yes, hills were hard, but dude… hills are always hard. They don’t get any easier on a vintage Raleigh Sports!

Perhaps this is just me justifying, but I felt that in the two hours it took me to go 17 miles on this bike (with many photo stops, admittedly, and a few Snapple breaks), I worked pretty hard. Not Climbing-the-Alps hard, but as hard as doing 40 miles of similar terrain on my former road bike would have been (I should start referring to it as The Bike Formerly Known as The Panasonic).

Here The Raleigh hangs with its peeps, Buttercups, at the 8 mile mark, which is where we turned around.

The Raleigh insisted on posing by the giant rusty culvert things that were so impressive when The Panasonic was Bicycle of the Gods:

The Raleigh’s attempt at glory was decidedly more pedestrian and undignified.

I had intended to ride straight back. The Beloved and I were headed out for my birthday (which is actually tomorrow) to dinner at an Indian restaurant, and man, if there is one thing that will make me haul butt over eight miles on a vintage 3-speed, it’s fresh naan bread. But along the way, I remembered a sign I had spotted a few weeks before, for a pond. It had an intriguing air, so I thought… I’ll just take a peek.

The area is called Cavanaugh Pond Natural Area. Doesn’t that sound picturesque? The Raleigh and I accessed the Natural Area through the parking lot of a mobile home park, which is the only way to get there. We threaded our way around the car gate (tricky with a panier basket, let me tell you!) and headed down the trail. It is what the county euphemistically calls: “soft surface,” but what you and I non-governmental types would call “unpaved.” The Raleigh did surprisingly well on this surface. Not as well as The Viva’s Fat Franks, but okay.

We found the pond rather quickly, about a quarter mile in. Though the county’s website tells me the pond is 14 acres, I have trouble believing that. It was not a very impressive pond, which I guess is the nature of ponds, after all, as opposed to lakes. So perhaps for a pond, it was more impressive than I’m giving it credit for.

What it lacked in size, it made up for in pretty. The Raleigh and I continued on the trail, hoping it would meet back up with the Cedar River Trail, which we were paralleling, so I wouldn’t have to double back. Instead, we dead-ended at the Cedar River. The gravel in the last bit was about three inches deep, and The Raleigh did a series of dramatic fishtails, but as this is a Raleigh Sports, after all, I just slid off the seat, hit the handbrake, and put my feet down. Safe! Still, there will be no mountain biking in The Raleigh’s immediate future.

The river was glorious: green and gold, glittering as it passed beside a small pebbled beach. The Raleigh looked ravishing both in close up:

And from a distance:

It really was a beautiful spot. I will have to drag my kids the half-mile down the trail to see it, as long as we get them off their bikes before that three-inch deep patch of gravel. After a short break admiring the beauty of the river, with palak paneer on my mind, I turned around and headed back to the junction with the Cedar River Trail.

Though the last few miles were distinctly damp (okay, it was pouring), we soldiered on and made it home for some tandori chicken, palak paneer and tons of hot, buttery naan.

In final news Part 1: Dream Bike’s frame has arrived, and I have selected a color I hope to be able to paint it. It will be heading over to the painters soon, but I am withholding more until the Big Build Reveal, at which point, we will do frequent cut-aways until the giant semi rolls away and Ty Pennington lets me see my bike.

Part 2 (but no less surreal, I promise, than Part 1): After five years of continuous employment at my current school, I was given a gift. Part of this was a generous gift certificate to a local high-end salon (as everyone else reaching the five year point got restaurant certificates, I think they may have been trying to send me a message), and today I was cut-and-colored and blew the whole thing at once. I look fab, as you might imagine, at least for the few weeks when no one at my place of employment will actually see me. Also, we all received mugs, emblazoned with our names, the school name, our five year service, and a picture they felt best represented our private lives, I guess. Others got golf or nature pics. I got this:

The first thing I wanted to know was if this was a special “trick” mug, where the male cyclist would slowly be stripped of his clothing by the addition of hot liquids, but was assured it was not. Then I pondered what a strange and funny gift this was, and that I clearly talk about bikes too much at work. Note my Super Secret CIA Classified Document editing job on the label there. Pretty slick, huh? My internet identity remains safe.

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10 Responses to June 23 2011 Ride: Get a Grip!

  1. Amesja says:

    I am a huge fan of the shellacked cork grips. But I am almost always wearing gel-padded gloves when I ride. I am such a fan that i put the same cork grips on EVERY bike restore. Not only do I like them but every customer I’ve sold one to has gone gaga over them. I ride my restorations around the neighborhood a LOT and people are always asking me about the cork grips. The LBS where I buy them from says they can’t keep them on the shelves lately. But even so, since I have been buying a pair every couple of weeks, it isn’t just me. I think I have started a trend in Chicago.

    My opinion about your grip conundrum is that you get a set of really nice or repro Raleigh or even Schwinn grips. I’ve got a set of Schwinn double-layer black rubber cruiser grips that were take-offs from a friends build. She started with a Schwinn Le Tour III Mixte and proceeded to strip the derailley thingies and all the brakes and cables except for the front. She then added a kickback 2-speed coaster-brake hub and a front brake connected by one of those reverse bar-end brake levers. The bike came originally with steel Northroad bars wearing the cushy double-layered soft rubber grips which she promptly replaced with porteur bars wrapped with cushy foam -which was in, turn, covered with cloth tape and shellack. Her blog about that bike is here: http://onelessminivan.tumblr.com/post/6766136401/finishing-touches (I din’t know how to post proper HTML links in WordPress.)

    If you are interested in these grips I could try and take a picture of them or just send them to you gratis. They do say “Schwinn” on them but they are in good condition VERY soft black rubber and the top section has a big air space in them between the top and bottom layer. The reproduction Raleigh and even the original Raleigh are much harder plastic.

  2. Erin B says:

    I have the Masi cork wrapped grips on my Raleigh Superbe. They are the right amount of soft for me: http://www.velotique.com/grips.htm (Masi Cork Lock-on Grips Hand-friendly cork grips in flat-bar lock-on grip. $29.95) They aren’t pretty, but they aren’t hot or sticky and didn’t need to be altered to fit.

    Those Dapper Dans are much prettier. I occasionally wonder if I should have ordered those instead.

  3. Erin B says:

    PS Old Roads has those grips black rubber grips:
    http://oldroads.com/bikepart.html

  4. Auchen says:

    Don’t you love how some of these on-line retailers continually post pics of parts that they USED TO HAVE? – Do they take some sadistic pleasure in posting pictures of UNOBTAINIUM?
    Nevertheless I get the sense that another pair of grips may be in your future.

    Great riverside shots BTW – and Happy birthday!

  5. rideblog says:

    Hmmm… Amesja, I don’t know about the Schwinn grips, just ‘cuz they’re Schwinn :). No, I already have a pair of grips that were sent to me for free from someone, and they didn’t fit, so now I feel bad about those. I think this just needs to be my own pairs, so I can not feel bad when they don’t work. I appreciate the offer, however.

  6. rideblog says:

    Erin, are the Masi grips soft, though? Because the Dapper Dan’s would no doubt feel soft to some folks. I mean, they are literally like leather-wrapped bars. Very luxurious if there’s nothing wrong with your hands. Sigh. I can’t do any more $30 trials. I have to feel anything that costs that much!

  7. rideblog says:

    Thanks! I just saw this. I have one more thing to try, then I’m going with the Old Roads black grips. I can do a $7 trial.

  8. rideblog says:

    Thanks, Auchen. I was thinking of your gorgeous new Raleigh Sports this morning and picturing you toodling around upright, slightly embarassed yet completely proud, if that description makes sense. As I’ve never seen you, this is a bit of a crow-riding-a-bike issue. Though if you think about it… a crow would totally ride a black ’53 Sports.

    For those interested in Auchen’s Sports and his AMAZING story for it, here’s the link on BF:
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/746468-Finding-and-fixing-a-53-Raleigh-Sports.

    Moments like that, Auchen, are why I continue to drink the BF KoolAid.

  9. Amesja says:

    The Raleigh Northroad bars just don’t leave a lot of room for grips as the bar straights are quite short. One can only shove the brake levers so far forward before they start to slide around the corner on curved portion of the bars. This of course doesn’t work because the brake levers splay out and the clamp doesn’t fit very well.

    When I put on a pair of the Dimension-branded cork grips I need cut carefully cut off 3/8″ from the end. I’ve done it so many times it’s second nature to me now. A sanding block makes them just like new again and if one is careful it’s impossible to tell the grips have been altered to fit the shorter handgrip area of the Raleigh Northroads.

    Don’t feel bad that something needs to be altered. Every bike is different and something as pedestrian as grips and bars is a “universal fit” so on any particular brand or model a little bit of custom-fitting is not unusual. Just like a chain -they make them longer on purpose so you have enough for all situations. It’s always easier to cut a little off than put more on if needed.

  10. rideblog says:

    Well, Amesja, I solved the problem today by switching grips AGAIN. More on that when I get enough energy to type up today’s entry. I’m too exhausted from the actual ride! (intriguing, isn’t it?).

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