somewhat daily mutterings

/Cycling Switching Gears, Part Deux

Sorry, this is a bit of a ramble, but I wanted to write something, rather than nothing.

I made veiled reference, in a previous post a while back, to a new bike I'd be receiving in the mail. I've waited way to long to post the follow-up to that reference. Now that the dramatic tension has been drained out of the scenario, I thought I'd go ahead and post about the new bike. I bought a Rivendell Quickbeam (I'd link to it, but their stupid new site's design doesn't allow direct links), and it is a thing of beauty. It is a purpose-built single speed bicycle. Pretty, lugged steel frame, track dropouts, etc., but also with a lot of practical goodies like a rideable geometry and rack/fender eyelets, etc.

Rivendell Quickbeam Glamour Shot

Yes, I sprung the big bux for the Nigel Smythe plaid wool tweed bags that really make the bike look as though it rolled up out of the British 50's. Since I took these photos, I converted the bike to SPD platform pedals that have one flat side so it can be ridden with "regular" shoes. The bike is also outfitted with a Brooks saddle. Classic, and actually really comfortable even though it's not really broken in. I've heard and read many horror stories about the lengthy break-in period with Brooks saddles, but I must be one of the lucky ones for whom "it just works". I like it so much that I put a black one on my Serotta commuter.

What I'm lightly hinting around at, is that I'm Switching Gears in the sense that I'm trying to change my relationship to riding. For most of my riding career it's been an "informally competitive" activity. I rode hard and called it training. I wasn't training for races, but just in order to be able to ride fast. I'm not so much into that any more. I had a over a year away from riding and didn't really miss it much. Now, looking back on it, maybe what I didn't miss was the struggle of it -- the idea that I had to ride hard and fast all the time. I'm hoping to ride more now for the fun of it, and to some degree for transportation (I'm commuting again, and hope to use my bikes as a way to get to sketching sites, for example).

Rivendell Quickbeam Glamour Shot

What I've done to my Serotta, and what I've done in ordering the Quickbeam is to try to further stimulate this change in my relationship to cycling. On a singlespeed (and similarly on a fixie), you have more constraints. You have to kind of give up a bit of control to the environment, rather than just switching gars. When the hill is steep, you stand. When you have a headwind, you tough it out. When going down a big hill you coast (on a single speed, anyway). I'm trying to keep the experience pure, so no bike computer on the Quickbeam (matter of fact I took the computer off my Serotta as well). Also, I no longer subscribe to Bicycling magazine (which has basically become a fashion catalog), but Bicycle Quarterly, instead. I'll be selling my Trek 5200, which is still in the shipping box from last year's ill-fated ride, and which I haven't missed.

I'm trying to reduce the overhead around riding. I put the half-flat pedals on my bikes to allow me to just hop on and ride when I want, without putting on special cycling shoes. I still think that cycling shoes give the best pedal interface, and I will always use them, but it's great to just be able to hop on the bike in sandals, regular shorts, and a t-shirt. I am still not attracted to riding significant distances in non-cycling clothes, however. Bicycle shorts are black and seamless for really good reasons. Jerseys wick sweat, have handy back pockets, and open wide for venting, all practical features. Still, I'm willing to try riding in non-specialized clothing.

Rivendell Quickbeam Glamour Shot

A few weeks ago, MB and I rode around Buena Vista and enjoyed ourselves a lot. We just tooled around the back streets (OK, they're all back streets there), and then rode the trails down by the Arkansas river. I did all this in regular shorts (with UnderArmour boxers underneath -- seamless), a t-shirt, hiking shoes, and with no helmet or gloves. It was like being a kid again. It was fun riding singletrack on a single speed -- having to keep my momentum just right, really grunting up hills, etc. I was basically comfortable the whole time, except for the climb back to the cabin. I actually felt that I'd have been more comfy in a helmet. It would have acted like a hat to keep the sun off my head, and would have caught the inevitable waterfall of sweat coming down my forehead, not to mention the safety aspect.

Wrapping up, I'm not sure where I stand on large organized rides. Not sure if I'm interested any more, or at least whether I'm interested in riding them so fast as I used to. For example, I may do TOSRV again, but I may approach it differently. I might do it on a single speed. I'll surely do it on a lugged-steel bicycle with an old-school comfy fit in a touring-oriented riding position on big fat tires, on a Brooks saddle.

Maybe I'm just getting old :-).

Posted: Wed Sep 19 20:47:02 -0700 2007

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