The 2012 Jamis Aurora – For Bike Touring in France

August 7, 2012 at 2:37 am

A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t know a good touring bike if it ran me over in the street. After looking around a bit, and a totally fruitless Craigslist search, I wound up with a 2012 Jamis Aurora. A friend of mine was able to give me a deal on the bike if I bought it unbuilt, in a box. This is what I opted to do for three reasons:

  • It was cheaper.
  • Building the bike would teach me how to maintain the bike on the road (in theory).
  • I would have the box to repack the bike and put it on a plane.
The 2012 Jamis Aurora -- Almost

I have no idea what I’m doing.


Assembling the bike wasn’t terribly frustrating, except for the seat post–which I’ll get to in a bit. I went about learning each step of the building process just like any well-educated person does in 2012. I YouTube’d everything.1

I hadn’t set up derailleurs before, so that took the most time. To a single speed rider like myself, a touring bike looks like The Homer. But I was able to get past my cable-and-doohickey aversion and learn a whole lot in the process.

The 2012 Jamis Aurora comes with mostly decent components, with a few glaring exceptions. The pedals are absolute garbage. They’re plastic with plastic toe cages and nylon straps. Only the most casual of casual riders would be caught dead using these things. And then there’s the saddle assembly. The saddle is powerfully ugly. Why they couldn’t ship the bike with a basic black saddle is beyond me.

The Aurora ships with a seat post that is known to be faulty. I found several forum posts with disgruntled customers griping about how at maximum tightness, their seat still slid around freely. I adjusted my seatpost height, tightened the bolt as well as I could and the seat post still slid from side to side. Frustrated, I stripped the bolt trying to get it tighter and then ultimately trying to get it off.

Luckily, I have a Dremel tool. I cut off the bolt at the center, where there is a break in the frame to clinch the post. The built-up tension caused the bolt to soar across the room once it was finally split in half. It was doubly satisfying to cut the damned thing off. After that, I walked over to my LBS planning only to buy a seat post that actually fit. Instead, I walked out with a new saddle as well. I’ve never had the pleasure of owning a Brooks saddle, and this seemed like a fitting time to try one out.



The 2012 Jamis Aurora in San Francisco.

With a new saddle, it’s a nice looking bike.


Once I had the bike totally set up, I took it for a spin. At 5’9″, the 55cm frame is about as big as I would ever want it to be. It’s certainly at my upper-limit as far as comfort goes. But I’m satisfied, and ready to see what this thing can do.


I have a friend who went hunting every day for a whole season without finding a deer to shoot. This is a true story. He was driving home one day and found a dead deer on the side of the road. It was freshly killed, steam rising in the morning air. At any rate, he decides that this is his deer, regardless of how it wound up becoming an ex-deer. He tried at first to lift it away from his body so that he wouldn’t be covered in deer bits, but it was far too heavy for that strategy. Instead, he had to bear hug the thing in order to drop it into the trunk of his tiny Hyundai. I don’t remember if the trunk closed all the way, but either way it’s a pretty unique visual image. At any rate, he gets the carcass home and drags it into the back yard on a big blue tarpaulin. And then he walks inside and looks up a YouTube video on how to field dress a deer. Once outside, he performs the process. After that, he went back to the computer to learn how to harvest the meat. And then he repeated the process again to skin it. Mind you, I wouldn’t had believed this story if it had come from someone unreliable. YouTube is amazing.

My IRO Mark V – The Tardis

July 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm

This is my IRO Mark V in an image I took of it 5 years ago. Something about the image, perhaps the way that it is resting on the fountain, is reminiscent of a family vacation photo. Or the photograph of one’s child playing in the park. It feels very human, and that’s precisely how I feel about it. I’ve been riding this bike daily for years. Looking at this is like looking at a high school yearbook photo of someone who is still your friend.

The spoke card in the rear wheel is from an alleycat that I raced in Florida. The Key to Cortez race (which, oddly, there’s a map of here) was my first. My brother was living in Sarasota at the time and planned the route for the two of us. We placed 8th. Well, 8th and 9th if you want to get technical, but let’s just say we tied at 8th. I felt like I was cheating because I’d been riding in San Francisco. Training in SF and then racing in Sarasota is like weight-training on earth for a Strongman competition on the moon.

Also note the white bar tape in this photo. What an awful idea. Stays white for about 2 hours, unless you wash your hands before riding your bike.

My Mark V has been through a lot. When I worked in Menlo Park, I commuted to and from Caltrain on this thing. When I lived in Daly City, I climbed 18th Avenue countless times for band practice. It was a trek that was literally uphill both ways.

If I could find some Polaroid film, I’d love to go back to this fountain and lean my bike against it again for a coming-of-age photo. The paint has now suffered countless knicks from being locked to various things in the city. The bars have been flipped and chopped to become bullhorns. The chain is black, the wheels are dirty, and the rear tire is white and worn nearly-through.

My Mark V is like a hammer with a wooden grip that has worn grooves from the carpenter’s hand. Someone once tried to steal the seat with an Allen wrench that was a bit too small. In the process, they stripped the bolt into a smooth circle. Now impossible to adjust by traditional means, my bike is locked into a perfect fit with my body. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.