Day Touring on a 1946 Hobbs

The plan was a weekend of cyclo-touring along Northwest Arkansas’ Razorback trail. Until very recently, I’d been entirely unaware of this miles-long multipurpose trail that connects various cities, including Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, and Bella Vista. Once discovered though, I was anxious to explore – and thrilled to discover an entrance to the trail only a few hundred feet from the apartment we use part-time in Rogers.

My initial rides left me with the impression that the trail was an octopus-like system, and without a map I found it difficult to navigate. Turns out that the signage along the trail provides excellent directions and navigational assistance; one should probably take time to read them. I know once I did it became appallingly clear how idiot-proof they’d made this trail system. Trust an idiot to put it to the test!

The other take away from my early explorations was that the trail seemed so flat that I could easily imagine how one could bike commute with abandon in these communities.  For my weekend of cyclo-touring, the plan was for slow, leisurely riding so that my wife could comfortably keep pace. Flat and slow seemed like a recipe for fixed gear touring, so I brought my 1946 Hobbs of Barbican Superbe along for the next visit.

Following the signage, we discovered a few miles down the trail where I’d been missing the turn to leave Rogers for Bentonville. (We also discovered that the entire trail isn’t flat!) My wife, who is spending more time in the area than I for her job, had already driven to the Bentonville square. I went with her on my previous visit, quickly decided I liked it there, and was anticipating an immediate return via bicycle.

The trail, which never seems to be far away from the main highways, is nevertheless quite sheltered and meanders through neighborhoods, parks, and a surprising number of wooded greenways. “Surprising,” because this area has exploded. My childhood memories of the place rely on words like “small” and “quaint.” While the “quaint” is still in evidence, what was once a few small towns every ten miles along US71 has become one single continuous and unnervingly (in a good way) cosmopolitan cityscape. The trail is a series of very well designed and thought out arteries that stitch together what was once discreetly different communities.

Yes, nearly every upper end restaurant, mercantile, fashion outlet, and bar can be found here – but travel a block or two and you find that at the core that “quaint,” hometown flavor is still evident in great abundance. The Bentonville Square, for instance, is a terrific destination for a cool mixture of throwback architecture, warm and friendly locals and gawking visitors, hip eateries and food trucks, and easy access to the Crystal Bridges art museum. In fact, the Razorback Trail has a spur that takes you right to the museum; we were able to ride through the forested museum grounds and park our rides right next to the main building.

As of this writing, there is an outdoor exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s glasswork. My bike seemed to appreciate taking in his work as much as I did!

This was by far the longest I’ve spent in the saddle on my ’46 Hobbs. Usually, I’ll get in a fast-paced 20 mile ride, so slow paced touring was a different sort of testing ground. How did this work out? Well, it’s important to share a few changes I’ve recently made.

First off, after pining for Lauterwasser bars I bought a pair of Soma reproduction bars a year and a half ago. I love the way they look but could never get myself comfortable for riding more than a few miles: Getting the stem/height/reach optimized never happened for me. I pulled them off and replaced them with drop bars and a different stem. If I’d had on hand another set of randonneur bars, I’d likely have used them but the new combination was immediately lightyears more comfortable. While I was at it, I replaced the Weinmann center pulls and levers with dual pivot side pull calipers and a much more modern set of levers. I think they look fine, stop even better, and feel good to my hands. I left the Campy pedals, but after five nearly continuous hours of touring I’ve decided to replace them with a pair of MKS Sylvan touring pedals. They look the part, and just work better for riding without toe cages.

Back to the point: How’d the Hobbs do? I was quite happy riding it on these paths. I did have to muscle my way up a couple of hills, but nothing I will complain about. I’ve come to enjoy pushing myself on fixed gear and look forward to riding a little faster on my own the next time I’m in Arkansas. But I will definitely be bringing this bike with me for my visits.

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10 thoughts on “Day Touring on a 1946 Hobbs

  1. Phillip Cowan says:

    I think singlespeed/fixed makes perfect sense for some trails. Me and a buddy rode the Katy trail last week between Dutzow and Sedalia. I did it on my Raleigh “dinglespeed”. I had two front bags and used the lower of the two ratios 46×19. When people find out you’re using a non shifter they are somewhat amazed as though it were some kind of stunt. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t suffering at all.

    I’m really going to miss those Lautereasser bars . They were the cats pajamas on your Hobbs!

    • I simply couldn’t find a position where I wasn’t putting too much pressure on my hands and shoulders. I felt like I needed MUCH taller stem, and boy would that have ever defeated the purpose!

      I like what you shared about your KATY Trail experience, and have encountered similar amazement myself. Fact is, I enjoy it enough that I ponder building a more modern frame up … you know, except for the part where I’m trying to decrease the number of bikes I own…oh, and the part where I’ve already got a great fixed gear rider…!

  2. Have enjoyed your many posts on bike fit and the very detailed study you have developed. I see on the Hobbs (and perhaps some of your other bikes) that the handlebars are rotated to produce a relatively steep angle on the drops to most conventional positions that are essentially horizontal. Is this adjustment to suit your fit to the top of the bars or the drop position?

    • You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. I position the bars for greatest comfort to my particular riding position. The “rule of thumb“, if you can trust in it, is to position the bars from – on one end of the spectrum – a position that is roughly parallel to the ground, to the other end of the spectrum, which has the bars pointed roughly towards the rear drop out. My personal fit leans more in this latter direction. I find horizontal positioning to be uncomfortable in the drops. And I ride in the drops so much that it’s important to optimize that position. Obviously, others’ experiences may vary!

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