Winter ridin’

I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to clothe myself for riding this winter. We’ve had some cold days, but there’ve been many unseasonably warm days as well. Mornings, like today, might begin in the twenties and then unaccountably rocket into the lower fifties by mid-afternoon. This is very unusual for the Midwest: normally we experience months of breath-stealing cold and wind, followed by a period of gray, wet muck before experiencing a day or so of beautiful spring temperatures. Summer, of course, immediately plunges us into stultifying heat and humidity.

Normally I would find myself wrapped in layers of thermal riding garb – always assuming, of course, that the weather even allowed me to crawl off the indoor trainer and hit the roads at all. I seldom shed many of those layers because the winds tend to chill one right to the bone during our winter climes. Here of late, though, I feel like an onion, peeling through one layer after another as the temperatures change for the better. I’ve even carried a technical t-shirt in my front bag, knowing that I may need to pull off the wool at some point in my ride.

Today’s ride started out as a short one. “Perhaps a quick ten miles,” I tell myself. But as I reached the planned turnaround point it occurred to me that, well hell, this barely justifies the time it took me to get all layered up! So I sent off a quick text to let those on the home front know I’d be out a bit longer than I’d originally indicated. Ten more miles down the road and I was beginning to get warm. The sun even peeked out for a pleasant five minutes, though the wind never abated for even a moment. For another eight or ten miles it was at my back, carrying me along with almost no effort. I’ll pay for this on the way back, I thought. But never once did I seriously consider cutting that part of the ride short.

For the briefest of moments, there were three of us out cycling on the crumbling pavement of country highway: two other riders waved in greeting as they passed me, coming from the opposite direction. Five minutes later another rider could be spotted, coming down an intersecting road; in my mirror I saw him turn onto my highway and head in the direction of town.

Town. Not my destination… not yet.

I’ve been able to ride many more days this winter than in the past, and I’m very enthusiastically taking advantage of road time every chance I get.

Today I chose to ride a 1984 Peugeot P8. I recently began to evaluate the bikes in my collections; it seems silly to hang on to more bicycles than I can regularly ride. I’ve also just purchased a Boulder Bicycle Randonneur and so I’ve played the mental game of “Which bikes should I sell to make room for the new one?” A couple, like the P8, hold a special place in my heart. My PX10 was a teenage dream. A pair of PF Flyers would guarantee I could run faster and jump higher than any other thirteen year old on the block; a Peugeot PX10 would similarly ensure that I could fly over the pavement.

But my first Peugeot was not, in fact, a PX10. It was this P8, made from the lowly Carbolite 103 tubing and found at the end of a fellow’s driveway, set out for the trash collectors to haul off. It was my first “restoration” of a bicycle and despite the horrific and tasteless 1980’s graphic styling, it was a French bike by God, and that made it sexy as hell!

You’ll hear vintage bicycle enthusiasts who will both condemn French bikes for their oh-so-French threading and sizings, and then turn around and sigh over their famous ride quality. The P8 is certainly not the lightest bike around, but it fits me so well and the ride is so sweet.

Aside from the frame, there’s not a lot that is French left on the P8. It is, in fact, a sort of “Frankenbike,” built up as it has been, from a variety of parts. Shimano rear derailleur coupled with a Suntour front. Tektro brake levers and calipers. A low-end Selle saddle and Sugino Maxi crankset. 44mm wide handlebars that (I think) are Performance Bike branded. Weinnman rims and I forget what hubs. A Groody Brothers powder coating in something called “Wet Black.” And a re-badging using some tastefully understated metallic silver Peugeot decals that I imagine were originally intended for one of their four-wheeled internal combustion models. Somehow, though, it all seems to work together. And for this reason – almost more than for the nostalgia I feel for it being my “first” – I think the P8 will probably stick around for quite some time.

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