Summer Idyll

I’ve been moderately busy with domestic chores and travel – and, of course, riding – over the past couple weeks. This pretty much describes my days during June and July when I’m relatively free from teaching duties. One day blends seamlessly into the next with frightening swiftness and I suddenly panic, as I did this morning, realizing that this idyllic existence comes to an end in a mere month!

The weather in Missouri has poked us all in the eye as Mother Nature hurls 100 degree days our way for the next week. Not for the last time, I’m happy to be a “morning” person, up and away and down the road as old Sol crests the eastern horizon.

We were in the Ozarks for a few days. The Boulder traveled with me so that I was able to log some early morning mileage. I have yet to do anything about lighting but if I get started any earlier I may need to do so soon.

Last week I was pleased to come across a pair of Dura Ace ten speed bar-end shifters locally on Craig’s List. They are in nearly new condition; the price was right – better than right, in fact – and included a pair of NOS Exage brake levers and hoods. Couldn’t pass this deal by, especially since I really needed the shift range for the Boulder. After removing the seven speed Shimano light action bar-ends that I had temporarily installed, I added the DA shifters and gave the bike a twenty-ish mile ride to ensure everything was operational. The next morning found us in southwestern Missouri, where the Ozark “Mountains” provided me with an opportunity to test the full shifting range.

As the sun began to peek over Arkansas hills, I found myself zipping downward at a pretty good clip. East of me, a small herd of cows were noticeably startled from their reverie. To my surprise they grouped up and began to run toward the road on a path to intercept me. I have no idea what they were thinking – Hey! Look at that cow on wheels! Maybe he’s got FOOD! – but they clearly were wanting to catch up with me. As I made the curve and began to climb the hill, they trotted alongside in an ungainly fashion. The pasture ended and turned into woods; the cows continued their pursuit, dodging trees and galloping at full tilt until the road curved away from them and we lost sight of one another.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to handlebars and pedals. I’m using Velo-Orange Gran Cru Rando Handlebars in 48cm width. I worried about going too wide when I ordered them, but took a chance – and I’m certainly not sorry I did. These are terrifically comfortable, and the rando “slope” of the hooks leaves the bars with an effective width – I’d guess, anyway – of around 44cm. At any rate, I find the various hand positions to meet my needs for longer riding very well. On this particular morning’s ride there is a long descent down to Table Rock Lake. Because my planned ride was “out and back,” this also meant I had a fairly long ascent as well. I will seldom rise from the saddle during a climb, but I will change my grip as the grade changes. Perhaps I should analyze this in greater and more definitive detail, but for the moment suffice to say that I continue to find these bars to be an asset to my style of climbing.

A few days later I was back home and riding some well trod routes this morning. The corn, I suddenly noticed, was well over seven feet in height. When, I wondered, did this happen? I leave town for a couple of days and there’s a growth spurt! In places, the rows of corn are nearly to the edge of the highway and it’s almost like riding through a tunnel. I’m riding my Paramount at the moment, currently outfitted with 700 x 28 Continental Gatorskin tires. I don’t really notice the difference in ride quality with the wider tires until I get back on a bike with skinny 700 x 23’s… it is only then that the difference becomes tangible to me.

The Paramount has a pair of SpeedPlay pedals installed. I’ve very much enjoyed riding on SpeedPlays since I first began to use them three or four years ago. I like that they are lightweight and I enjoy the simplicity of clipping in and unclipping that they provide. I used to think that they were the perfect pedals for my needs.

But needs and opinions tend to change over time. With use came new understanding, and I’m currently enjoying recessed SPD cleats on mountain bike shoes that allow me to get off the bike and walk around normally. My pedals have a clip on one side and a platform on the other, allowing me the flexibility to use either. The platform provides more stability for my foot over longer rides, so while the SpeedPlays perform well for shorter, faster riding, I’m leaning toward SPD for the bulk of my riding.

Of course I still use toe clips for most of my vintage bikes. I have Suntour Superbe Pro pedals on the Freschi at the moment and have come to the conclusion that these may be the smoothest and best pedals ever made… or at least the best I’ve ever ridden.

Sometime in the next week or so I’ll begin a new project. A hint: it’s sleek and fast and Dutch.

But more about this story later. Time to get back to domestic duty.

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4 thoughts on “Summer Idyll

  1. The corn is 7 feet tall… in June!? What ever happened to the ‘ole “knee high by the 4th of July” idiom? That’s what my family in Illinois used to tell me, at least. Maybe this new Monsanto corn is a little more aggressive 😉
    The addition of the Dura-Ace levers is a worthwhile upgrade. It’s funny you should mention bar end shifters as I was just introduced to Rivendells “Silvers” bar end shifters. I am not sure if you have seen them but they sure have some clean lines!

  2. It’s going to be an unbelievable crop… if it doesn’t burn itself up first. I remember working bean fields all of June when I was a kid, and then detasseling corn for a couple weeks in late July. I don’t know if this is seed corn or not, but it could be ready two or three weeks early this year. (Heck, everything else has been already!)

    I am familiar with Riv’s bar end shifters, and they are really quite beautiful. I’ve heard others bitch about the price, but they are no more expensive than the DA’s as I recall. The only thing keeping me from trying them is the fact that I’m cheap and refuse to pay “new” price for any brand of bar-con! I’ve got several pair of Suntours, two or three pair of Shimano…and I’ve never seen the Riv shifters come up on CL ever. If they ever did, I’d probably snap ’em up in a heartbeat just to satisfy my curiosity!

  3. I’m with you. Paying for New/Retail is for suckers. Ha! Besides, there is always something laying around my shop that I can substitute for until I can acquire what I really want (at the right price).

    • And that is precisely what I did with the Boulder. I used the seven speed shifters until a suitable set of DA’s came available. The guy at my LBS kept threatening to sell me a used pair but there was always a screw missing, or they were at his other shop – always something. When these came up for a third of the cost he was willing to part with his set for, I jumped!

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