Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My [Bike's] Name Is Earl

You've heard the song by The Dixie Dicks. You've seen the TV show. Now meet the bike.

What is the Earl?

The Earl is a new offering from Trek. Without a doubt, the Earl is designed for city riding.

Here's why, in my opinion:
  • single speed or fixed gear for ultimate simplicity (stock configuration: 44T chainring, 17T freewheel)
  • chromoly steel construction, while heavy, soaks up the bumps on the road
  • double top tube that is designed to hold a U-lock while biking to work or running errands
  • 28mm tire with a good tread pattern can handle wet or sandy spots or the occasional gravel road
  • tall stem with riser bar to sit up high in traffic
  • flat handlebars make for lots of leverage when navigating city streets, sidewalks, and curbs
  • long wheel base means no toe clipping when track standing (or trying to) at stop lights
  • chain guard to keep pant legs from getting dirty or ripped, or having to wear a pant leg strap
  • bosses and eyelets for mounting a rack and fenders, plus two sets of bosses for bottle cages or other accessories
A Good Value

At $439, the Earl is a fairly inexpensive bike. The simplicity of the bike with its lack of shifters, cabling, and derailleurs probably keeps the cost down. The brakes, levers and tires, while adequate, aren't anything special.

Things I Really Like About Earl
  • the blue paint job, called "Earl Blue". Sure there's a "Gloss Black" version, but everyone sells a black city bike. The mix of blue with black accents makes for one pretty bike. Nice job, Trek.
  • frame graphics are a nice touch. The Earl has its own head badge, and a very regal Earl himself, with trucker hat and scruffy beard, makes an appearance on the down tube design. There are also also a few graphics placed here and there that you'll never see unless you're working on or cleaning the bike.
  • saddle designed just for the Earl features a custom logo impressed into the seat
  • relatively narrow handlebars go easily up and down my old apartment building's stairwell
  • cool bend in the frame where the double top tubes become the seat stays. Very interesting looking
  • fun to ride! The 44x17 makes for pretty quick starts from stop lights. The balance is solid, and the saddle is quite comfortable.
  • I can open beer bottles on the frame. How cool is that?
Things I Don't Like About Earl
  • scuffed up the top tubes after carrying a lock just two miles. I've since wrapped several layers of tape around the each end of the barrel of my U-lock, and I secure it tightly with a Velcro strap to keep it from bouncing around
  • the chain guard clangs against the crank arm when I hit bumps
  • ugh, it's heavy, but it's a real steel bike... what do I expect?
A Winter Commuter's Dream?

What has me most excited about this bike is the generous clearance between the seat stays and the fork blades. My plan is to use fenders and 35mm studded snow tires to make this one mean winter commuter. No more frozen derailleurs or stiff shifter cables.

Jake at the Trek Omaha store put on some really useful Bontrager quick release fenders. Unlike strap on fenders, these have nifty ball mounts that go into the frame eyelets on the rear dropouts and fork blades. The fender stays have a socket that snaps sturdily on to the balls. Also a clip/guide mounts to the rear brake bridge to hold the top of the rear fender, and a cam lever goes at the top of the fork to secure the top of the fender. Basically, these behave like permanently mounted fenders when they are on, but come off in about 30 seconds, leaving behind very minimal attaching hardware.

I'm pretty sure that the 44x17 gearing is too steep for me in the snow. Riding the bike up and down Leavenworth a couple of times this week actually has me wondering if it's too steep for me in general, but that's another story. I'm thinking that for pedaling through snow and fighting harsh winter winds, an 18, 20, or even 22 tooth cog might fit the bill.


How to open a bottle on the Earl's frame.


The chain guard makes riding in pants a little safer and more comfortable.

The head badge

The aftermarket add-on quick-release fender guide under the brake bridge.

The quick release fender stay ball-and-socket joint

This cam lever binds the fender to the quick release mount

The custom Earl saddle

Two views of the double top tube design

How to carry a U-lock

Single speed freewheel or track cog... take your pick

The custom logo and on the chainring is a nice touch

Two sets of bottle cage bosses

Open beer here

Retro "TREK" design

Earl sports a trucker cap and carries a wrench

The Earl design also hides in places not normally seen

So far, I think I've got the only Earl in town. Does that make me the "Duke of Earl?" I hope to see more of these on the road soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'll Take a Slow Bacon Ride Over No Bacon Ride

Today was the last day for a 2010 Bacon Ride. It was rainy all day Saturday, but the gravel roads seemed to recover quickly. The ride was hardly messy at all. Actually, the moist roads helped keep the gravel dust to a minimum. No crusty black boogies this time. :)

I met Pell at Midtown Crossing and together we rode to Aksarben Village to meet Chris. I'm guessing everyone else was too sleepy, assumed the roads were too wet, or were busy with the 35th Annual Omaha Marathon and various bike races.

I'm lazy, so I didn't mind planning on a longer ride that reduced some of the hills and simplified the through-town navigation (see routes here). We rode the Keystone Trail to the West Papio Trail where it terminated at 96th Street. By the time we started on the gravel just south of Walnut Creek, we had added about 5 extra miles on the trip. The extra miles were fun, as it helped keep the Slow Bacon Ride Slow.

At Louisville, we tried an alternate route that Google maps suggested, but I'm not sure of the lawfulness of the ride. There was a segment of the route that went through Lousiville State Park along "2 Gates Drive." Yes. There are two gates, and one of them is locked with "Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted" sign. According the Google, the road looked like a public road, but it was really hard to tell.

We hoisted the bikes over the gate and squeezed through. The road was great, but if I'd known it was private property beforehand, I wouldn't have suggested the route.

We saw only one other bike at the park. Breakfast was good, but no one ate bacon. I suggested that the Bacon Ride was a failure if no one ate any bacon. Pell saved the day by eating a single piece.

The ride back along Fishery Road and Pflug Road was great. Normally Fishery Road has some coarse gravel, but it was smooth. Parts of Pflug Road was so hard packed and smooth that it felt like cement.

We rode the Omaha trails back and saw dozens of people out enjoying what turned out to be one fine day.

Chris rode on home while Pell and I stopped at Blue Planet to help me finish off my last Groupon with a yummy vegan Thai pizza.

Doing an 80 miler with friends on a cool pre-Fall day was awesome, and really got me in the mood to do some more Fall gravel grinders. I'm also already thinking about Bacon Rides in 2011.


I could almost keep up with the guy on the Razor Scooter

Vegan Thai Pizza at Blue Planet

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's a Slow Bacon Ride

See the details for the Last Bacon Ride of 2010 at Pedal-Omaha. Sunday, September 26.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Miss This Blog

"I miss this blog," wrote Colin from San Diego, back on May 8, 2010.

Indeed, so do I. The last post was back on January 17, 2010. That was almost seven months ago.

The name of this blog is the Redd-Shift, and boy howdy, has there been some shift in the Redd world.

There are some personal issues that I need to address before I put it all out for the world to read, but those of you who know me personally have an idea of what's up. Those of you who don't know me will likely care less.

However, rest assured that I'm doing well, better than ever, in fact, and that Redd-Shift is still very focused on bike commuting issues, and there will be many more posts to come. With any luck, the post-shift blog posts will still be of interest to some of you out there.

So please, bear with me and keep checking back for a new and improved Redd-Shift. In the mean time, hit the streets and make your local bike commuting community proud.