Time for a Country Bike ride!
[Bump from 10/07] Any time of year is great for a Country Bike ride, but autumn is especially fine. I love the colors, love the smells. (Fresh air combined with the harvest smell of decaying leaves: sad but sweet.)
Of course this is also a wonderful time for canoeing around here. Our local rivers aren't so hot. But that doesn't matter! Everything else is rockin': the air, colors and smells. And the water is crystalline as well. I can't hardly make myself sit down. So I mostly do poling. That way I see it all.
But back to bikes!
My bro and I went out for a romp a few days ago. Here's a couple pics that my bro took (well, I took one). We did part of a new Country Bike route that a friend and I have developed. My bro used a freshly salvaged found-bike (a classy but scratched-up Raleigh Super Course Mk2---with Jubilee rear derailler, oh yeah---he just hopped on and rode it untuned and ricketey--and fast!).
So, what's this Country Bike stuff?
Well, our local club rides are all pavement all the time. Most riders use hightech bikes, many carbon, in the racing style, with very tight tolerances and high tire pressures. We often end up on a few roughly paved roads. When I ride my race-bike with them I find that unless I'm going at max effort that the bumps just rattle my teeth. So I've been testing plumper tires that are safe to ride at lower pressures (without pinch-flatting). To fit such tires, you need a bike with more tolerance. Classicly-designed race bikes can have plenty of room, but I'm finding that I need an older sport-tour model to really get it. These are bikes that end up letting a rider enjoy a wider range of roads and effort levels. You can still install really light narrow wheels for the true go-fast days, too. But versatility on pavement is just part of the Country Bike world.
Then there's riding opportunity. Our club routes go about six ways from our parking lot rendezvous. To the north they swirl around the perimeter of an area about five miles square. What's inside there anyway? Dirt roads! These are smooth dirt roads. What's so good about that? They're quiet, narrow and have hardly any cars. You see animals and everything is prettier on a dirt road. So right near all our usual paved routes is a gardeny paradise of quiet roads. Country Bike country.
The idea of Country Bike is to show yet another way to ride that's somewhat distinct from Road, Mountain, Tour and City---but which could include them all.
Our full local CB route is about 25 miles and it's half paved, half dirt. The dirt is by far the best part. Oh, it also has a couple miles of nice foresty trail you can throw in if you like.
The key to CB is a sporty but comfy bike. It can be as light as anything but the angles wouldn't be crit-racey. But a true touring bike tends to be stouter and doggier than you need. A sport-tour bike with good clearances is dandy. You don't need superlow bars either, unless you're training for Roubaix. Riders are finding in general that higher bars let you use the drops more often and are overall easier on the bod---old fart riders are especially discovering this. (Trek acknowledged it with the new Pilot line last year.) Then you slap on some tires that are at least 28mm wide that let you ride 70 lbs or less without flatting. The scene is finding that 32-37mm is ideal. Good tires in such widths yet you ride as low as 50 lbs for pure bliss comfort on all surfaces---yet they also roll nice. They're fast on dirt, but even still good on pavement, at such low pressures. Go back up in pressure for smooth pavement. There aren't many high-quality plump 700c tires...yet...but brands known to be good on dirt are Pasela 35 and Vittoria Randonneur Pro 37.
Another important thing about CB action is to bring along goodies that might come in handy. This riding has more picnicking to it. A handlebar bag is nice, or a bigger saddlebag. You don't have to dress like a freak either. You don't even need shirt pockets if you have a decent bikebag. Bring a camera, bring snacks.
Oh, but they're only just now starting to make bikes for such fun kinds of riding again. You'll be seeing much more of them.
So that's the scoop. Enjoy!