Flipping Out – Bike Snob NYC

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by Eben Weiss

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09.20.2022


Way back in 1967 I started this blog to make fun of people who posted pictures of their their fixies on the Fixedgeargallery. Now it’s 2020-something (I don’t even bother counting anymore), and here I am posting a picture of my own son’s fixie on the blog I started to make fun of fixies:

If you’d have told me back then that not only would I one day have a son who rides a fixie, but that I’d also have another son who keeps purposely jumping in front of the camera every time I attempt to take a picture of said fixie, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Actually, that’s not true. I’d probably have said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

I must say I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this bike since Bicycling sent it to me back in 2019 so I could write this. For awhile I used it as my urban runabout, then when my older son was big enough he used it at Star Track. But now I’ve given him my Soma, so over the weekend I put it in “street mode” and he’s now riding it to school:

Had I actually paid for this, I’d certainly have gotten many times my money’s worth out of it by now:

And if my younger son gets into Star Track then he’ll get it next.

Apart from putting together sweet fixies, I’ve also been tweaking cockpits. (That doesn’t sound good.) Last week I took care of the Normcore Nostalgia Bike, and today I turned my attention to the A. Homer Hilsen:

This bike is more or less as I received it from Rivendell back in the early spring of 2020, and I’ve changed very little since they got it so right. However, during my vacation, I gave a lot of thought to the handlebars. While supremely comfortable, on longer rides, hillier rides, I’ve been thinking the Homer might benefit from traditional drop bars, though I’ve never been fully convinced, and anyway I have several bikes with drops already.

Another thought I had during my vacation is that maybe I should keep the bars and just flip them. See, the Choco bar can be set up either way, and while I did specify a Choco bar with Rivendell, I didn’t specify whether I wanted it flipped “up” or “down.” As it happened, Rivendell flipped it “up:”

When climbing or riding “fast,” I generally grip the bars on curved portion ahead of the brake levers, and what I’ve gradually come to realize is that this little bit of “rise” might be better as a little bit of “drop.” The thing is, in order to flip them I’d have to undo all that exquisitely wrapped cloth and twine:

Oh well, I would have had to do it eventually anyway.

While I was at it, I also figured I might as well experiment with a new shifter position. I’m a big fan of bar ends and love using my palms to shift. However, I’ve also been quite pleased with the new shifter position on my Platypus, and I thought maybe the Homer might benefit from some knee clearance. And in the spirit of experimentation, I decided to try these, which I’d received in a care package not too long ago:

So I set about removing the bar tape, which seemed like a shame:

Though I got lucky and the tape in front of the bar levers just barely made it through the stem, so I was able to salvage it:

Next I trimmed the housing a bit and installed the new shifters (you’re damn right I re-used the old cables), and finally I cut down a pair of grips and used them to replace the tape I’d removed:

Then I went for a ride:

The new bar position was an immediate improvement:

My only minor complaint was that the hand clearance between the bars and the shifter cable was just a little bit tight. But then I watched this video and learned that I could change the angle of the housing:

So that’s what I did:

It’s dangerous to draw conclusions after just one ride, but so far all indications are that the new configuration is a success:

Moving the shifters off the ends of the bars does indeed make it much easier to rock the bike back and forth when accelerating and climbing. The tiny bit of drop I’ve gained with the new bar position is very natural and better suited to “spirited” riding. I also really like the shifters themselves, which are friction but do “click,” as Rivendell explains:

They click but don’t index. Out of the package and not on a bike, they click about 18 times. In the span of shifting over a 9-sp cassette, they click about 13 times. This sounds trick or confusing, but it isn’t at all. Like a with a pure friction shifter, you move the lever til the shift is made.

So far I still think the Silver2s are more refined in both in shape and feel, but not enough that I’d take the time to switch back to them, at least not yet. Plus, apart from the Homer, I’ve got four other bikes with at least one Silver2 shifter on them, so if nothing else I could stand to have a little variety in my shifting. I do like the clicking, if only because sometimes it’s nice to get a little tactile feedback from a shifter, and while Silver2s sometimes need a little snugging up over time, it seems like these may be a little more “set and forget,” though of course I’ve only ridden them for about two hours so far, so who knows.

So yes, perhaps a bit of an aesthetic downgrade if only due to the grips (though it’s nice to have something really soft and grippy at the ends of the bars), but overall this may be just the tweak the Homer needed:

Maybe I’ll throw a large chainring on there one of these days.



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