Goodbye Nashbar Touring Hello Jake the Snake

IMG_3118It’s been an exciting week here in Barn Door land.  Monday a new (to me) frame showed up at my doorstep.  A 2005ish Kona, Jake the Snake cyclocross frame and fork.  I bid on this on ebay kind of low really not expecting to get it and was very surprised to see no one else interested.  Now I’m one step closer to ‘cross’n.

So why ditch the Nashbar?

The Nashbar's last ride a few weeks ago.

The Nashbar’s last ride a few weeks ago.

The Nashbar Touring Bike frame and fork set me back 150 dollars two years ago when I bought them new and built it up from my back up road bike.  It’s been an excellent bike and a great value but there were some things that have been bothering me about that bike like a thorn in the back of my mind.

The Nashbar has some weird geometry, and I’m not sure if it’s because its a touring bike or because the guys who designed it were drunk.  My size 58cm had a 59cm top tube, and yet only a 145mm headtube.  To compare Surly’s Long haul trucker touring frame in a 58cm has a 58cm top tube and a 171cm top tube.  What that means is the Nashbar is a very long frame with a very short headtube.

Since I built up the Nashbar I’ve been trying to shorten the reach, I eventually put a zero setback seatpost and a stem that went nearly straight up on it.  I rode this setup for over a year, but the bike just never felt right.  Besides the strange geometry was just the realization that it was a touring bike and I wasn’t riding it for touring.

When I bought the Nashbar my wife was really getting into cycling, we had done an overnight ride in Wisconsin, and I was hoping that she was going to become a cycling nut like me.  Her preference was easy paced touring riding that incorporated bike trails so I built up a bike to accommodate that.  I myself had big plans of going on a self supported tour and wanted a bike I could load down with bags.  Three years later I’ve taken it on loaded overnight ride and lost interest in a loaded tour.

Oh one more problem with the bike, and I really wish I could say that this doesn’t bother me because it really shouldn’t, but the Nashbar Touring Bike weighed about 32.5 pounds.

Here Comes Jake the Snake

IMG_3122The Nashbar has been my gravel road bike and saw some use in that area last year when I was tagging along with Luke as he trained for Tour Divide.  I’ve been more interested in cyclocross this winter and decided that I wanted a bike that was more geared to sport riding then the Nashbar.

Kona has been making Jake the Snake for 15 years, its probably the most well known ‘cross bike ever.  I’ve grown to believe that for most of my life I’ve been riding bikes that are too big, the more I ride my 56cm Cannondale that more I like it so I went with a 56cm Jake.  It’s measurements are pretty consistent with normal road bike geometry, long chainstays to fit bigger tires and a slightly more laid back with slacker angles, but that’s about it.

My crown race installation tool.

My crown race installation tool.

The frame came with a square taper bottom bracket which I don’t really have a use for, but was surprised to see it was a high end model with a carbon shell.  Wow, I may have to find a square taper crank so I can use this.  But then again, what point is having carbon on your bike if no one can see it?

The frame also came with a Chris King Headset which I’m embarrassed to say is one of the reasons I went with it.  I’ve always thought Chris King parts are kind of silly, why does one need a 150 dollar headset?  But when you’re getting a 150 dollar headset along with a frame and fork for free why ask why?  It’s a pretty impressive piece of engineering and I can see why it costs so much, but still?

The bike went together easily, much more so then the Nashbar since I didn’t have to search everywhere for some kind of bolt on cable stop for the rear brake.  While I’m still not an expert in cantilever brakes it was much easier to get them installed and working.  I went with a longer stem but don’t have a setback seatpost yet.  The cockpit is just a bit shorter then I would like.

I could tell an immediate difference in handling from the first moment riding it.  The very long Nashbar was sort of like driving a long pickup truck.  Jake the Snake is more like a Rally Car.  It weighs 22 pounds but I wouldn’t say that the weight difference was that noticeable, but then again I didn’t climb any hills on it.

The maiden voyage last night was on the rail tral, temperatures actually got above freezing yesterday, a balmy 40ish degrees.   The rail trail was unfortunately a mess.  It was so wet from the freeze and thaw of snow that it was akin to riding on a giant wet sponge.  Stop pedaling and you almost immediately came to a halt.  Large sections of the trail were covered with snow which was thin enough to actually ride on.

Near Carrier Mills a man was walking his dog on the trail, he was giving me a long look and I was worried, then he yelled, “BARN DOOR,” and I was like.  Oh wow, I’ve been spotted!  Turns out his name is Tim and he’s a reader of the blog and of Miles Stoneman’s old blog.

My hanger straightener tool.

My hanger straightener tool.

I ran into an old riding pal out there and we rode together and talked.  I used to ride the rail trail regularly with this guy, but poor health stopped his riding for awhile.  Now he’s back at it.  It turned out riding with my companion was very lucky.  I think I may have forgot to adjust the limit screws of my rear derailleur and a stick knocked it into the spokes.  The hanger became bent but didn’t break.  My pal had a crescent wrench and we were able to bend it back saving me a walk home in the dark.

I had my camera in my back pocket and planned on taking some pictures of the new bike, but I got so caught up in talking with my old pal, and then praying I could make it home that I forgot all about taking pictures.  Maybe next time.

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About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Cyclocross, Rides, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Goodbye Nashbar Touring Hello Jake the Snake

  1. Steve says:

    Farewell, Nashbar Bike. I remember your excitement when that came in the mail and your stories as you built it. Good times. Here’s hoping Jake The Snake gives you even more.

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