August 3, 2007

Making things right

You know, I think I read it in an article once by Grant of Rivendell fame -- specifically, it would have been Rivendell Reader 37 or something -- I paused writing this to do a quick search of the forums and such, and that opened a huge can of worms, so I gave up. Ack! I couldn't find the exact issue, but some that have read it will know of what I speak.

Anyways, Grant was going on about how much seatpost should be showing, how much stem should be showing, stem angle, color of materials, "beausage"; a term I really agree with, to a point; and logos, advertising, etc. It's a decidedly American thing, perhaps a decidedly WORLD CULTURE thing. In the UK, there is a certain way a phone box should look, for example. In Chicago, there is a certain way a hot dog should look. There is a certain way shoes should look in Italy. There is a certain way hats should look in Belgium, ad nauseum. For bicycles, there are many arguments in this vein, steming from modern materials, gaudy paintjobs, advertising logos on everything, flashy graphics and stickers, and minimalist, blacked-out motiffs. Bikes that are SO engineered to have a certain purpose and look that the wrong seat-pack can potentially "ruin the lines" of it all.

Then there are the old-school arguements, which I don't think a so much "old-school" as they are "pre-marketing". Back when bicycles were legitimately considered viable transportation options, bicycles were simply engineered for the intended use, and the FORM seems to have followed. RAcing bikes existed, but they were the ones that were hard to obtain! The norm were the smooth lines of a Huret, with chrome fenders, matched racks, smoothed headlight bezels and trademark items like a Brooks saddle, cork grips, and baggage. these things are seen as retro nowadays, but "back then", only 50 years ago - maybe less - that was just the way it was done. Brooks wasn't the first choice because it was a certain look, or because it was "retro" -- it was the first choice because it was the best item for the job, period. This goes to the entire "we had it right the first time" argument. The only things that have changed are mass-marketing, racing culture, and weight weenies. No matter how timeless, and comfortable a Brooks is, it is NOT flashy, light, or aggressively marketable. So, they fade in lieu of rubber and plastic and emblazoned grahpics - only to enjoy a resurgence by those that refused to let them die (thank you, or I'd never have known about them in the first place!)

Still, modern bikes have a certain look that is "right", for what THEY are. But, for the same reasons you wouldn't have wanted to commute to work on a 1970 Pinnarello racing frame back in that day, you wouldn't want to commute to work on a Cervelo R3SL today - they are both specific machines, simply not built for the hard riding that IS commuting. The thing that has changed for today is that there are seemingly no alternative bicycles to offset the racing bikes in many shops. Back in 1970, you could actually buy a racked and fendered tourer to get the commuting job done. Today, you have to start with something of a compromise, and add your own gear to it - assuming you have the outlets to get that gear, like fenders, smoother tires, and bags. The very fact that I am not the only one making these arguments is reflected in more places recently, as more appropriate bicycles are becoming available and shops are no longer ashamed to stock them. The "Lance-Era", like it or not, IS over - and some of that heavy-handed marketing towards completely inappropriate bikes is ending, too. This is a good thing. Being thrust into the everyday of it all, the bicycle retail business, has given me an opportunity to have some of this re-inforced by the fact that - yes - we see a fair amount of racers come in for service with their high-zoot gear, but we are also seeing more and more people coming in for adjustments and new tires on bikes that they use EVERY day for transportation. It's refreshing!

So, back to the whole "how a bicycle should look" discussion, last night in the garage I sat down with a bottle of mineral spirits, turned on some music, and began the arduous task of de-logo-ing my wheelset on the Kogswell. A tire swap was in order, for training and the upcoming MS-150 - I switched the Gommitalias out for the 28c Paselas - and while I was in there I decided it was a perfect time to get this latest step in the Kogswell evolution completed while the rims were tire-free.

Carefully, the Mavic logos were peeled from the rims and the leftover adhesive buffed off with the mineral spirits solution. After at least an hour, only shiny silver rims remained. The optical illusion was staggering, as the wheels themselves looks physically smaller than before. Instead of broken circles with weird spokes, the wheels now look whole, clean, simple. I mounted the Paselas, aired them up, and put the wheels back into the frame. Stepping back from it, I smiled - nearly shuddered - at it. Without those stickers on the rims the entire bike looked GOOD. Appropriate. The silver rims contrasted next to the tan sidewalls and black tread of the Panaracer tires, against the dark green paint of the frame - and all of it coming in concert with the silver stem, pedals, derailluers, seatpost; a modern classic, indeed. Still light enough, but not TOO light. With all the technology of the last decade, but none of it LOOKING like a blacked-out carbon-fiber nightmare. I again thanked myself silently for not selling this frameset. (Pictures are probably coming soon, I'm so proud)

So, how does this contrast to what other riders at Tejas will be riding? Who really cares - right? I'm sure I will get a few looks, but they probably will be looks of jealousy. After all, with the task of 500 miles ahead it's going to be a hard call as to who will be more fatigued than whom -- but I'd like to think that a couple extra pounds and a couple extra millimeters of tire width will be my friend after it's all said and done, while others may well be cursing their 20c tires and stiff, aero frames. I can nearly guarantee that I'll be the only one riding a bicycle that LOOKS as appropriate as mine does now. There will be carbon fiber, aluminum, disc wheels, low-low handlebars, and skinny tires. And then there will be me. Will they finish faster than me? Oh, probably. Am I there to win? No. I'm there to finish. I will get labeled -- "retro", "old-school", the "run-what-you-brung" class, maybe even "randonnuer" HORRORS!!! Uh, that's what I *AM*!

I'll just smile and pedal, because I can't think of a stronger addition to the mental tool-kit than simply being on a bike that *I* am comfortable with. Whether or not it's totally appropriate for the task at hand can be discussed at length after the awards ceremony - where I'm pretty sure everyone that finishes gets the same trophy. I may never learn to leave things alone - but I think now I'm at a great stopping place. No matter the trials the last month has wrought, I feel like I finally got this one right.

On to the healing of the leg, finally this morning I awoke, stretched, and got out of bed without wincing. I finally walked downstairs without clutching the bannister for dear life. I think I'm finally healing! I'm still going to play it safe and wait a couple more days, until Sunday as orignally planned, where I will rise early and head out for a quiet, slow (I mean it this time) paced coffee run, down to Spring Hill and back, most likely. If all goes well, I'll start up the training spreadsheet again, work the math backwards from Tejas, and pack the bags for Monday's return to commuting!

Be sure to check out the main webpage -- we're (ok, *I*) am starting this little thingy where I'll be adding the C'Dude logo to ride photos I get that I deem worthy of the front page. I call it, the front page photo. Catchy title.
This latest edition is CommuterDude Ort, down Tejas-way, leading the entire contingent of 600K riders up the first of about 1000 climbs in Texas hill country. In the rain. He gets the Dude-O-the-Month slot for August, based on this heroic finish of his first ever 600K, and gets the additional distinction of earning the MacGyver award for completing a catastrophic flat repair with a toothpick, duct tape, electrical tape, baling wire, a postage stamp, a Busch Light can, and a piece of dryer lint. He's also in the process of completing his R-12 award for RUSA, which is riding at least one 200K brevet or permanent ride for every month of the year.

If you are even remotely interested in getting your mug, or a photo from one of your rides, on the main page of the website for a month, then this is your casting call. I'm looking to grow the comradeship - so if you have even ridden to work once in your life, you enjoy cycling, and have an eye for photography from the saddle, then send your submissions to me, including a full bio for the CommuterDude Comrades page. That's right, you have to be a member to get a shot at it, but membership is cheap -- free -- and doesn't commit you to anything other than being generally cool to your neighbor and occasionally riding a bicycle. Check the webpage, and email me your stuff! I don't care who you are, where you live, whether or not you've ridden to work 600 times, or 6. Photos subject to severe cropping, editing, and style will be judged solely by me and my vast expertise of skiing technique.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

fan-freakin-fantastic! i'm a commrade!

i MUST send you pics of my commute.