Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Why some people hate cyclists

A city bus giving me my 3' of distance in Daytona 
Let me start bragging a bit. Since 2007, my line of work has been one way or another related to the transportation field. I've driven hundreds of thousands of miles, mainly in Miami Dade and Palm Beach counties. My driving record is perfect and I've never been at fault at an accident. I've got hit many times from behind at red lights and one time from the left side while waiting at a stop sign on Dixie Hwy in Lake Worth. 

In South Florida, someone like me is considered an idiot. Yes, I said that. Lots of people can't care less about the rest. It's the me-me syndrome of psyco-narcissism and selfishness so spread nowadays. I've felt that more while cycling though. 

As a cyclist, I've ridden thousands of miles all over the state. As the matter of fact, I've authored five books (and counting) about bike touring and history of Florida. I've covered 41 out 67 counties so far and close to 10,000 miles in 125 routes. Oh, why no one knows me? That's a story for another day. I just been a little ostracized, that's it. Outside that, I do hundreds of miles a month on the road, MTB (another Florida joke,) Gravel, BMX and everything you can imagine. I got hit once by a car while on the bike lane on A1A near Manalapan, FL! Many close calls... Maybe I'm somehow qualified to talk about it?

The first thing is obvious, I said it already. Lots of people think that the universe revolves around them. Entitlement, ignorance, the inability to foresee consequences, the superiority complex... you name it. For someone burnout of spending half of his life on the road, it's easy to detect. If you were oblivious to this, I'm really happy for you. 

Why the hate?

While a bicycle is considered a vehicle, not every cyclist follow the rules of the road. From the driver point of view, many are a hazard. Not to mention those who ride in between cars, in and out of traffic or expect the driver to have a million eyes and sensors protruding from their a$$. It's worst at night because unless you follow the Florida Law and carry lights or reflectors, it is impossible to see you. Most roads here don't have sidewalks and streetlights. Then you have the ones who ride against the flow of traffic. Nonetheless, 3' of passing distance is another sick joke. If you're on a bike lane, you're just a speed bump.

Critical Mass Rides

These rides happen in many cities once a month. The point is to raise awareness of the right of bikes to use the streets. Is it? These events are normally at night. In Miami the ride is huge, on the last Friday of the month? Here in Palm Beach County, I'm guessing it's like the 3rd Wednesday or something like that. The group consist of a bunch of kids mainly, without lights and popping wheelies between the cars. That's what I call being seen as something positive by the ones that already hate us.

When you combine all these factors together, it's not a coincidence that Florida ranks #1 in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities nationwide. You can sum it up simply with: "It's due to the lack of care for your own an others lives." Being a D-head is a fashionable hobby in the Sunshine State! Middle fingers to everyone else but me! MEEEEE! Yep, I'm sick and tired of this place and I'm too poor to go anywhere else. Last time I tried, I almost got murdered by a bunch of cultists in a ranch in Tennessee. True story.

The problems with mass produced bicycles

Next Powerclimber 24"
The main reason why many people buy bikes at big box stores is the price. You buy one of these for reasons like having fun, exercising or commuting. Not all of these bicycles are bad, since many are from reputed brands and can be maintained or upgraded easily. In that case, yeah, you'll spend more money but in the end, you'll have something more than good for years to come.

The problem comes with basic bikes either for kids of adults. They're not so cheap now though. These bikes are assembled by companies that cram 100 employees in a 300sq feet room and pay them a commission for every unit completed. There are some of those places here in Palm Beach County.

If you've ever built a bike, you'll know that it takes time to get everything right and it'll be safe to ride. You can't expect that when someone is getting paid $5 or less for the job. They'll do it in 10 or 15 minutes. 

The parts are already bad out of the box. We're talking about obsolete technology, phased out decades ago. If it was put together in a hurry, with no grease and mostly loosely... Its the proverbial recipe for disaster.

Why are these bikes bad?

Their frames are made mostly of high tensile steel which as it's names states, it's gonna bend easily. To counter this, some manufacturers use more material. The results are frames that weight sometimes 10 pounds or more. Now add the rest of the parts and you'll end up with a 45 pound bike. Even putting this on a car rack is a weightlifting experience. Imagine being 80 years old and having to do it constantly.

These units are not upgradeable for the most part. Besides the poor quality of the frame, your choice of better parts is limited. It just won't fit.

The worst of the pack are the "Full Suspension" or with a "Suspension Fork" ones. Many people call it Pogo sticks but they're really worse.

The forks are generally threaded with an 1 inch steerer tube. The manufacturer does NOT recommend their off-road use. It's on the stickers placed on the legs of the fork! Those legs are generally thin and will flex to the extreme. The rear suspension is just a coiled spring. Those are making a comeback now!

A few years ago I did an experiment with the cheapest bike I found at Walmart. It was a Next Powerclimber with 24" wheels. I paid $49 brand new. After spending some time making sure everything was secured and tightened, I went to Amelia Earhart in Hialeah. I survived that day. By the end of it, the bike needed a complete overhaul.

The brakes are normally a stamped sheet of metal molded into the desired shape. They're too flimsy and will bend. You'll see many people riding around without functional brakes. The levers are made of plastic. The spongy feeling and the almost impossibility of adjusting them is overwhelming.

Add to this the wheels. Who can build a wheelset in 10 minutes the right way? So these are out of true right out of the box. The hubs are often dry and they only take 6 or 7 speed freewheels. The spokes will rust before your eyes in real time. Faster than paint drying!

The drivetrains are almost always 3x6 or 3x7. They use loose bearings bottom brackets and one piece cranksets. The pedals are 1/2 inch in diameter vs the standard 9/16. The front derailleur is regularly the worst part. It's a cheap molded piece of steel that will rust real quick. It can also bend. The rear derailleur is generally the lowest, unlisted Shimano unit, with many plastic key elements. The shifters are the twist type, which sometimes just stop working. Plastic is not good for bike parts. Let alone when they're subject to friction or heavy use.

Not going much deeper into this topic, you can have an idea of why these things are not a good investment. The resale price is about 25% at best. They're not customizable whatsoever and if you break something, it may be the end of it. You'll be spending more than the bike's tag price on parts and service. As the matter of fact, sometimes you just have to do that after walking out of the store. Paying someone to make sure you'll survive your next stroll down the road.

It's totally understandable that better bikes are more expensive. However, in the long run, $200 for an used one will be better than a now $200 for a brand new big box store bicycle. 

Those cheap Chinese bikes that you can buy from eBay and Amazon? Honestly, pure garbage. On top of that, you have to assemble them. Do it wrong and either you'll get hurt or will be paying extra for parts and professional care.

I'm not going as far as others who call them BSOs or bike shaped objects but they really suck!

Customers usually come for a flat tire fix and end up having to adjust gears, brakes, stems, cranksets, pedals, truing wheels... So it's good for the shops. Not so much for your pocket!

Pros and cons of buying parts online

Bucklos variable listing & 7 pounder mag
Support your local bike shop, is the motto of many in this world of cycling. I agree with that, I love it! However, no shop is able to stock everything a client will eventually need. 

I admit it, during the height of the pandemic in 2020, I got rid of all of my stock on eBay. Not gouging, but everything was selling right away. Bicycle parts are a hot commodity.

I promptly became a Top Rated Seller, wow! I went above and beyond and everyone was happy. Almost. I had a problem with a Karen from Guam! Yeah, the USPS doesn't scan the items until they reach their destination sometimes. Damn, you're 13 timezones apart. On the other side of the planet! After a week of threats and messaging non stop, she finally got her freaking parts and I blocked her, just in case.

That's not the point of this post, nonetheless.

These online platforms are awesome most of the time, since you can make money and get rid of stuff easily. There are caveats.

Right now we're suffering a massive shortage and price gouging. Which is bad on itself.

Alibaba, AliExpress, Wish, Amazon and eBay, are the ones I'll mention here briefly. Manufacturers and other online stores are good but beware of the many fake ones 


Its said to be magnificent. You have a huge selection of items way cheaper than anywhere else. True. Is it? It is if you buy bulk. The shipping is often more expensive than the parts. Also, you need to negotiate and ask the seller/manufacturer before you buy. There are lots of scammers and fake parts. 


I've bought here sometimes. The problem is that nowadays their prices are basically the same as Amazon and eBay. Even worse, it takes longer. Still reasonable.


99% is fake and takes months to arrive. Pure garbage. Avoid at all costs. I closed my account years ago.


The selection is not the best. Prices are ok but a little higher than the rest. Super fast shipping with prime. The dark side is the vast amount of no name parts, which some are definitely good but it's a hit and miss. Another downside is their search engine. It sucks.


This one is my go-to for my own parts. You can find mostly everything you're looking for. Used or new, someone is selling it. However, I normally check the US Only box. No that I never buy from China, but right now is overpriced and the Wish-like waiting time overbearing.

eBay has its own set of problems. Their search engine is sloppy at best. There are scammers. Buying used parts is risky, like buying carbon knock offs. You may die!

Another thing I hate is that many sellers from China and Hong Kong misrepresent their location. Many times it says California but when you click their profile it says otherwise.

The worst practice for me are those listings with multiple options. They show you for instance a $1,000 wheelset for $5. Of course, no one would fall for that. The five bucks is for a tube or a bottle cage. At the same time, it creates clutter and BS results when you try to organize your results by price.

eBay is fake galore. There are also millions of copied items with names like LT Woo, Sunshine or the omnipresent Bucklos wheelsets. Be careful with carbon stuff, please!

Buying online is convenient and for the most part, cheaper. Regardless, take it with a grain of salt... 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Why you should upgrade or update your bike

2012 GT Aggressor 1.0

Bicycles and everything around them are a multi-billion dollar per year industry. No doubt about it. If you are hooked on the sport, you know what I'm talking about. If you are new to this, keep reading. 

Before getting too deep remember, cycling is fun! That's why we do it!

What is an upgrade/update?

Almost every year, the industry comes up with new bikes, new wheel sizes, new standards, more speeds, wider tires, bigger axles, less weight and higher prices. If you can afford dropping $4,000 to $15k every season for a new stud, congratulations! This post may not be for you. For the regular Joe, that's probably not the case.

You might buy a new bike with low specs or already have one for years. Some riders prefer to keep it "Era-Specific," which means they strive to keep and replace everything as when new. Even decals. That's totally fine. The only problem with this approach is availability.

Upgrading old or low tier bikes is said to be a waste of money but that's totally false. As parts start wearing out because of the use and abuse, you need to replace things like the chain. After a couple of chains comes the cassette and after a couple of cassettes comes the chainrings. By this time, you have also replaced about two sets of tires, cables, grips, a bottom bracket and probably the saddle. That if fair maintenance was done regularly and you didn't crash or broke other stuff.

Of course, it depends on the mileage, weather conditions, storage and the like. Most bikes never see enough miles to even change the original tires. However, for you addicts, in a few years, with everything you have replaced plus labor if you rely on someone to do the job, you still have practically the same bike, with the same components as when it was brand new. More importantly, you've probably spent the same or more as when you bought it. Cheap components do the job. Performance wise, not so much. Top of the line parts are awesome but they're expensive and their lifespan is slightly shorter. So what to do? You have limitless options. Go as far as you can! Some people throw lots of money on Honda Civics so why not on your hobby/commuter/love of your life?

2011 GT Series 5
Upgrade vs New Bike

Of course you can get a new bicycle for about the same price point as the old one. Others prefer to buy them used, but that's a new set of potential problems that I'm not getting into right now. That brand new bicycle can be shiny and from the current year. However, chances are that the groupset and components will be basically the same you already have on your old stud. So you are in the same situation. Instead of shedding more money, why don't you just update your old bike?

This can be done in many different ways. Nonetheless, if you like your frame, have some kind of brand loyalty or whatever your reasons, you can bring that old bike to life and make it even better than when new. This is true specially since you're not planning on becoming the next Tour de France winner. Isn't this about having fun after all? Also, don't give in to peer pressure. The other riders in your group or around you don't pay your bills. 

One word of caution is that not every frame can acomodate the ever changing new standards. Even so, getting a new wheelset can open the doors of going from a 7 speed freewheel to 10 or 11 speeds.

DO's and DON'Ts

Some bikes are just no worth it. I know many statements on this post may sound contradictory but there are limits. 99% of bicycles from Big-Box stores are not suited for updates because they are cheaply designed and the frames weight a ton. Those are mainly the steel 50 pounders. Also, they're extremely outdated right out of the box. Decades! Anything you can buy at your local bike shop or straight from the manufacturer will be lightyears ahead.

Know what you want. If you're like me, you'll want to keep every little detail under control. After all, it's your new old bike for years to come. Choose wisely. Some companies like Shimano trickle their technology down the gruppo hierarchy over time. The same groupset of ten years ago has now 1, 2 or 3 more speeds and better performance. Deore right now ranges from 10 to 12. 

Carbon Fiber:

Hello my friend! This is the number one weight saver. Do it right and you'll feel like floating on the air. Do it wrong and... well, you'll float a little before getting hurt. Carbon fiber is strong and light. However, not every part is made equal. Good quality ones are really expensive. Off brand and eBay knockoffs are a hit and miss. The primarily reason according to most people is quality control. In truth, some components are gonna be good but I don't like to gamble with my well being. Forks, handlebars, stems, frames, wheels or seatposts are things that you don't wanna see snapping while going at 25mph. 

Cantilever/V-Brake to Disc Conversions:

I personally don't recommend it unless the frame has the mounts for the calipers. Been there, done that. There are aftermarket solutions for this but your frame wasn't designed to do so. Chances are that you'll snap or bend the chainstays or seatstays. Also, why add more weight and other hardware? Soldering mounts weakens the frame too!

Threaded to Threadless Forks:

This update is way less problematic as long as the frame has the appropriate dimensions. Most threaded forks are 1 inch in diameter while threadless are 1 1/8. Some from the 1990s are also threaded and 1 1/8 in size, the ideal for swapping! There is a huge debate on fork travel and how much or less is too much of a difference. It all depends on the intended use. It may not be wise going from 40mm to 140mm if you're planning on jumping from the roof of your house. The frame and yourself might break really badly. For this conversion you'll also need to replace the headset, buy some spacers, a stem and handlebars. Other than that, I'm all for it. Air forks? Bring it on!

Bottom bracket/Crankset/Chainrings:

Some people swear by the old and trusted square taper. Some critics say that the new Hollowtech bearings go bad after a few hundred miles but those are the same who replace their chains after 500 miles because it wore out. Do you lubricate it with sandpaper and acid? Total nonsense. If you're gonna do it, go with Hollowtech II or similar. It's the present. Also, you'll save a ton of weight. Now, ditch the 3 chainrings for 2 or 1.


They come in many sizes and flavors such as steel, chromoly, aluminum, carbon or titanium. If it doesn't fit... don't try to modify, drill holes, solder things or force stuff on it. Some of these materials are more or less tolerant but the end result is almost always catastrophic. 


This is probably the one that'll be fundamental if you have 7 speeds or less in the rear. The only way to accommodate 8-11 cogs back there is by replacing at least the hubs. Why go through the hassle? Get new wheels. You can even go tubeless. Not my thing but hey, it's your bike.

Wheel Size:

This is another controversial topic. Bigger is better right? You are the engine of your bicycle. In the end, it doesn't matter the size of the wheels you use. If you're in good shape, you can be faster on a 20" than other people who aren't that fit on the fastest road bike. Fact! Most people just repeat what they read or try to convince themselves that 29 is the S.H.I.T. solely because they dropped a few grand on it. For generations, we have done the craziest stunts and trails on 26". So? 99% of bikes out there still 24" and 26" for years to come. Not quite dead. Now we are living the explosion of the electric era. Give it some time and you'll see 26" marketed as a new discovery. Mark my words! (Nothing against 29", 32", 36" or the Penny-farthing, just to be clear.)

2000 GT Palomar / Steel Triple Triangle

I've done some crazy conversions that are totally worth of note. 24" to 26"? Check. If it has disc brakes, anything is possible. No disc, no problem. V-Brakes can be extended with a little, invisible part called... extender! Tire clearance is a factor but remember, the difference in radius is only 1 inch. 26" to 27"/650b? Check. Especially if the intended use is Cross Country, with thinner tires. The same applies to 26" to 700c. That's the case of the example on the left. The only thing you'll usually need is a fork sized accordingly. Fun fact: a customer on the phone the other day was arguing that the 29" rims weren't gonna fit his 700c hybrid MTB. He has 29 rims with 700c tires and said that his rims were only about 25 inches in diameter. Indeed my friend, these measurements are confusing and archaic, from the time of tire brakes. The outside of the tire is what measures 29, 27.5, 26, 24, 22, 20 and so on. Do you know how many inches equals 700mm? 27.5! Blew your mind... Moreover, even when the rims are the same size, you can get into more trouble with the hubs. Traditionally, it was 130mm wide for road bikes and 135mm for MTB. Now? Good luck! 


Since now everything's bigger, this part is getting as wide as you can handle it. Anywhere from 740 to 800mm is the norm, compared to the low and mid 600 of a decade ago. I use between 740 and 760mm. It's true that you have more control in technical situations but hitting trees on narrow passages is not my thing either. 6cms are a hell of a difference. I even changed my road bike from 400 to 440mm! They've also gotten thicker. From 25,4mm to 31,8 and even 35. Think stems. Those are getting shorter for MTB.

1999 GT Saddleback / Steel Triple Triangle / Steel is Real
In conclusion:

Covid has brought new challenges to the industry. Mainly chain supply delays and price gouging. Right now everything is more expensive and scarce. You don't need to break the bank doing it. If you value your stuff or have some kind of attachment to it, it's the best and cheapest option. Not every rider is a pro or can send it down 10 feet drops. So why spend more on a potential "Garage Queen?"

Don't forget to wave at other riders and be kind when driving. Follow the rules of traffic. You know that Florida sucks because is full of psychopaths and me-me motherfu... don't be one of them!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Descubriendo la Florida 5

Pulsa la foto para ver en Amazon

[Rutas #100  a 125] Este es el quinto volumen de mi aventura de cicloturismo, fotografía e historia por la Florida. Todo comenzó en 2010. Desde entonces, he recorrido 8.848 millas por 41 condados, miles de puntos habitados, áreas naturales, reservas indias e infinidad de interesantes enclaves. En esta ocasión pedalearemos por los territorios de Alachua, Citrus, Dixie, Duval, Gilchrist, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, Sumter y St Johns. Serán 2.100 Millas por ciudades como Cedar Key, Bartow, Lakeland, Dade City, Zephyrhills, Crystal River, Bushnell, Apopka, Mount Dora, Tavares, Silver Springs, Leesburg, New Port Richey, Clermont, Weeki Wachee, Ponte Vedra Beach, Brooksville, Dunnellon, Baldwin, Micanopy o Palatka entre otras.

También pasaremos por los parques de Disney, las exquisitas playas de Jacksonville, sitios arqueológicos y antiguas misiones españolas en poblados indígenas.

Jefferson Aleman