I pedaled down the road this morning, knowing before I’d even begun that this would be a long and leisurely ride. For one thing, it’s simply a beautiful day, bright and cool with a light breeze coming up out of the southwest.
For another, I needed to get my head re-adjusted to summer “time.” I’ve been off-contract and enjoying a break from teaching for the past two weeks. However I had to report back on Monday for two consecutive days of training: sitting with groups of educators, getting our minds assaulted by a bone-dry presenter and his arsenal of Powerpoint slides. I awoke this morning, feeling like it was a Saturday and slightly panicked about getting as much in as humanly possible before the weekend was over.
Clearly, I needed to reset. Hence, a long and leisurely ride into the country and I looked forward to the sort of cycling that my Boulder really excels at. This was the first time in nearly two weeks that I’ve been out on this, my favorite bike. I’d committed to riding last Sunday’s Tour de Cure on one of my vintage racing bikes and figured it would be prudent to spend time riding them in advance, to get used to the different geometry. The original plan had been to make that ride on my 1972 Peugeot PX-10. A tune up and swap out for 25 x 700 tires went for naught, however, when I wound up scratching my French bike over a stem concern. Instead I wound up riding one of my other faves, the 80’s era Freschi Supreme Super Cromo. The big concerns with the Freschi had to do with the much more aggressive geometry and the tighter, more race like gearing – with the lowest gear in the 40 gear inch range I worried about hills. And with the ride in Kansas, I worried about the seemingly perpetual wind. (I shouldn’t have worried because as it turned out, of course there were lots of long-ish climbs directly into a very stiff and unrelenting wind!) The ride itself was otherwise uneventful and went well. I logged a metric century, the last 30 miles or so of which was almost directly into the wind, and wound up with a (for me) very respectable average speed of twenty-three and a half kilometers per hour over the length of the course.
But back to today. My mind was abuzz with ideas and “to do” lists and sometimes it takes me a while to get out of the “action” mindset, to get beyond feeling guilty about not being at the drawing board and whipping myself into a creative fervor. Images flash through my mind at such times, idea followed by idea. For instance, I’ve been pondering the development of a new cartoon strip recently and I was suddenly picturing a cyclist astride a vintage loop frame, which allows him to travel through time and geographical space – but only to earth bound places within the last one hundred years. I ponder my immediate next steps with the series of photographs and collages I’ve been working on sporadically. And how about that book project that’s been on the back burner for months now? As I moved from town into country side, my pedaling began to normalize and reach a consistent cadence, and my thoughts grew more focused. Before long I realized I was reaching that cognitive state where my bike seems to just disappear beneath me. It occurred to me what a marvelous machine this really was, and how fortunate I’d been to select the components I did.
The wide, 48cm rando handlebars, for instance, fit me and my style of riding very well. They provide me with such a variety of hand positions and the rando curves are well suited for long rides. The stem length and angle is an excellent fit for my arms and torso and as I thought about these two things it struck me, not for the first time, that working out the fitting with Mike Kone at Boulder, has resulted in a bike that is totally mine. I cannot overstate how much difference it makes to ride a bike that is completely designed to fit oneself as compared to an off-the-peg bike that is “in one’s size.”
The bikes I’ve ridden the most over the last year include my Freschi, my 1989 Waterford-built Schwinn Paramount, the Boulder, and the bike I rode and wrote about most last year, the 1985 Shogun 2000 touring model.
I always marvel at my Paramount. Even before I switched the 23 x 700 tires over to 28’s, this bike handles crosswinds like no other. It feels fast and moderately light, is stable, and fits me quite well. In fact, once I get the short stem replaced with the 100mm quill stem I have in store, I am hoping that the Paramount will be very close to matching the Boulder for fit. I am, in fact, attempting to emulate as much of the dimensions as possible. It’s a great bike for light, long, fast rides; with the new wider tires it is also a very comfortable ride.
The Freschi, while comfortable, is really built for speed, and is the raciest of the bunch. I like to take this bike out for ten to fifteen mile rides in the flats and go just as fast as I can make the pedals spin. I wind up having to attain a very different riding position with this bike, and that often takes some adjustment on my part in order to feel confident about my ride stability.
Of these bikes, the Shogun is the “slowest.” But speed isn’t everything, and it’s really nothing at all for a touring bike. If I were, perhaps, two inches or so shorter, the Shogun would be an excellent bike for my needs, however. It has, in fact, been precisely that — but I’ve had to compromise my approach to riding in order to accommodate the to-small-for-me frame. It’s a hell of a bike but even taking into account the size differential, it’s a redundancy with the Boulder having joined the herd. Sadly, I decided a few months ago that the Shogun would soon need to find a new home.
All of which brings me back around to the bike I was riding this morning. Although it looks fine to do so, I don’t have to feel obligated to ride this bike all decked out in lycra. Today I’m riding in comfortable mountain biking shorts and a Livestrong pullover tee. Some days I ride with just a cycling cap. I can carry camera gear, tools, a sketchbook, watercolors, snacks, etc. in my front rando bag.
I don’t take myself too terribly seriously on this rig. I only passed two other cyclists this morning, one of whom was kitted out in gleaming white lycra (White? Really?) He was bent low, his arms perched on aero bars, looking very serious indeed. So serious that he couldn’t even bother to return the friendly wave I tossed in his direction. (Well, fuck him.) I don’t think the posers take me too seriously either. I’m intrigued by those fellows who pull up alongside me, their amusement quite apparent: My bike has fenders. Well, how quaint and practical! There’s a front bag and racks. Wide road tires. A bell! I know some of them see an anachronism.
Maybe there’s some truth to that. As I ride along, that particular thought doesn’t bother me one whit. What might bother me is if I looked up to see my reflection in a window and saw a cycling poser astride a five thousand dollar racing bike, fifty pounds overweight and dressed in skin tight lycra.
Gleaming white lycra.