I know I’ve said it before, but I really love this bike. There’s very little I would change about it – and those tiny little things that I would change are all details that I’ve overlooked in the course of the build. For instance, I really thought I wanted bar-end shifters and went through two different pairs before finally admitting that down tube shifters were a more elegant solution. I swapped out the bar-ends that I took me so long to score without a backward glance. The lighting solution works without a hitch, but over the winter I will re-route the wire so that the routing isn’t so… ugly-ific.
My Boulder works in just about every situation, and especially now that the seasons have changed I value the wider tires, the comfortable geometry, the lighting, the fenders.
Today was pretty nice for the middle of November, but the wind was a bit chilly and tough to ride into. I took the ’66 and ’72 Paramounts out to the river bottom flats to run ten mile laps and check the fit and gearing. The ’72 flatted within a mile and the only insight that came to me with regard to the bike is that 58cm frames really are just slightly too small for me.
After returning to the van with a tire barely floating on fumes, I took the 1966 Paramount out for a round trip ride. The fit is so much better. I need to do a little closer comparison, but even after giving due consideration to the difference between a 58 cm frame and the 60 cm size of the ’66, it seems to be a bit plusher ride.
I say “plush,” but not luxurious. That description best fits the 1971 Raleigh International, the newest addition to the fleet. Riding this bike is a whole lot like riding around in a Cadillac or perhaps even a limo. Plenty of power in reserve for when it is needed, but otherwise it feels as though one is riding on a cloud, sinking slightly into the vintage comfort of the Brooks Pro saddle as I gently glide into acceleration mode. I wonder to myself how much nicer the ride quality would be on a wider, more supple tire. The odd three-pulley Suntour LePree rear derailleur functions flawlessly and the MAFAC 2000 brakes grab as one imagines they ought to do.
But here’s the thing: as nice as each bike is, I still mentally compare each to my Boulder, and at this point the Boulder comes out on top in every category.
I ride the Boulder everywhere, to the extent that my other bikes are not seeing road time nearly at all. I’m not a racer and this is not a race bike, but it’s quick and allows me to descend as fast as I’m comfortable going, without feeling unsafe. I can ride for many hours and even after I begin to get stretched out, the fit is still spot on. It’s a perfect bike – and I love it for this reason – for my style of “JRA*” riding.
*I saw “JRA” used on a randonneuring list serve recently and liked the definition so much (“JRA” = Just Ridin’ Around) that I’ve mercilessly stolen the acronym. It’s mine now!