There is, perhaps, nothing quite so ubiquitous in the lore of cycling tradition as the romantic notion of racing along a narrow pathway on an English bicycle. A blustery morning, blue skies peak through a canopy of orange, yellow, and gold, the autumn drapery hanging low across the road. Over hill and zooming through dale, rounding the many tight twists and turns, one is struck by the blanket of bullion; tires crunch through these piles of leaves which are tossed back into the air, floating gently back to rest in the wake. On such a day, mileage means little; the more the better to enjoy the ride – who wants it to end?
This road, less traveled, is busier than usual today. I ride a hand built Bob Jackson today. Rolling down country lanes on this British classic somehow just feels right; as I near the roads and paths that circumnavigate Smithville Lake there are other riders, leisurely enjoying the morning astride hybrids, roadsters, and modern Dutch-style bicycles. I’m not pedaling at race speed, but there is purpose in my pace.
I’ve taken this bike on a couple of shakedown rides and the rides have been good. Although I originally thought the frame was too small and would probably wind up being trade bait, it feels like a good fit; it’s a keeper. And thus, a British racing bike will join the ranks of my other hand built bikes – a Freschi and a Paramount. At the risk of sounding elitist, I must confess that these bikes are my favorites. There’s something special about the way they ride, the way I feel when I ride them.
For me, these bikes are in rarified air. So it was time to put the shakedown rides behind me and give the Bob Jackson a real ride. I’ve begun to clean up the bike and touch up the paint chips. I found a finger nail polish that not only perfectly matches the paint but also matches the shimmery metallic finish. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the black bar wrap, but I replaced it with yellow to complement the gold lettering in the Bob Jackson logotype. Although the 53/42 chainrings and the 12-21 eight speed cog make climbing a tough slog – and with one knee badly bruised from a collision with my weight bench – I could not ignore the siren call of the road. And this bike was ready for a metric century.