Bob W. is one of the people who regularly organizes longer rides (centuries) up in the Baltimore area. I have not ridden with Bob (yet!), but regularly follow his travels through flickr. One of his randonneur bikes caught my eye, as he had recently put it through its paces on the well-known and challenging Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee. I asked him if he’d guest post about his bike, and he agreed. Thanks, Bob, for being part of Bikes to Like!
1. What kind of bike do you have?
A Kogswell P/R (porteur/randonneur). 2nd generation, 40mm offset fork, made for 650b wheels.
This was a fillet brazed steel production bike created by Matthew Grimm. The P/R was designed around a a low trail fork which gives the bike excellent handling with front loads. Originally produced for 650b wheels only, the later generations had options for 26″ and 700c wheels and forks available in 50mm, 40mm and 30mm offsets. Sadly, Kogswell is no longer making bikes.
2. Where do you ride it?
Mostly: between home and work
Frequently: long distance riding in and around Baltimore
Occasionally: grocery and liquor stores
Recently: dirt roads in York County, Pennsylvania
3. What do you like about your bike?
The Kogswell is such a steady, easy ride that it urges me to explore. The low trail fork design and the stability of 650b tires make it able to ride fast on good pavement, nice and comfy on dirt roads, like a train when loaded up with beer and groceries, energy efficient on the steepest climbs and like a toboggan on big downs.
4. If you had to describe your bike in one word, what would it be?
Glidey (did I just invent that?)
5. Fenders or no fenders?
The Kogs is meant to wear fenders and the P/R frameset came with a handsome pair. That said, I haven’t put the fenders back on him since a rebuild last year. I expect that some winter slush up my back will change that quickly enough.
6. What is one of your favorite memories with this bicycle?
The 2011 Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2). This ride scared me– and it should have with 14,000 feet of climbing on 115 miles of unpaved roads.
I trained myself hard before the ride with the goal of completing the ride while enjoying myself. I was not interested in suffering through it. I met many great people during the ride, but the Kogswell was the only familiar friend I had.
There were many many miles of steady, hard, seated climbing where I mentally thanked the Kogs for it’s climbing prowess. I loved “showing up” the roadies with their huge quads and over-geared bikes by slowly, steadily cruising past them on the hills.
The Kogswell was a handsome bike on that ride. I probably couldn’t have, nor wouldn’t have done that ride on any of my other bikes.
7. Does your bike have a name? If so, what is it?
The Kogs, the heavy bike, the grocery getter. Nothing that really sticks, though.
8. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?
The Dinotte 120L rear light, the brightest rear light I’ve ever seen. Peace of mind.
9. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?
My Kogswell setup is a bit different than most other bikes I ride with. The drivetrain has 44/28 chainrings and a 9-speed 11-34 cassette. For all but the very sharpest of grades, I’m using the 44 in front. This turns the bike into a 9-speed with a range of 33-104 gear inches using approximately 15% jumps. Shifts of less than 10% are just fiddling IMO.
When I climb, I like to suss out the grade early, make a shift- maybe two and then carry myself up the hill with whatever power is needed. I don’t like shifting mid-way on a hill and if I must, I certainly don’t want a little bitty shift.
I also prefer downtube shifters. They are lighter, less complicated and much easier to fix on the road. Their downside is shifting when climbing, which is no downside to me.
Aside: do we set up our bikes to function in a way that we like, or do we like to function according to the way in which our bikes are set up?
Last year I had a front rim blow-out from excessive rim wear. (rider is fine) I decided to have a new wheel built up around a Sturmey Archer generator/hub brake. It’s a very strange animal and one I’m still getting used to. It’s not the best at emergency stopping, but it allows for extremely consistent modulation during light braking. And, my rim should have a much longer life.
10. If your bike could talk, what is one thing it would say to you?
“Let’s see what’s up ahead.”
May I ask Bob a question? The term “40mm offset fork”, I’m not familiar with, may I ask for enlightenment? I’m thinking it means the curve in the fork that moves the contact patch forward of the vertical line that runs through the headset tube? Is that right?
Could I ask you to describe the benefits/implications of that? Thanks for the lesson, always eager to learn! (btw, beautiful bike!)
You got it right. Increasing offset moves the contact patch forward, thus lessening the trail. When you decrease the trail, you lessen the effect of steering by turning the front wheel. In other words you need to lean to steer or give more input to the bars than you might expect. Once you get into your line the bike wants to stay there. As many of us know, a racing bike with low offset fork and more vertical geometry gives much more trail and thus “twitchier” steering.
A low trail fork gives a very stable ride especially when front loaded. I’ve always preferred front panniers when grocery shopping or light touring and the handling of this bike just gets better with 5 or 10 pounds up front. Best. -Bob
Great interview and photos!
[…] Ramble, a monthly series of century rides led by Bob Wagner. Today, D.C. blog Chasing Mailboxes profiled Bob and his Kogswell randonneur bike. Check it out HERE and find out what to look for in a bike […]
Sweet ride, Bob. Sorry I missed you on D2R2. I definitely would have remembered that bike. I agree that the wider tires and a steel frame made that ride.