Does anybody else remember that episode of the X-Files where Scully and Mulder have to take on fake identities so that they can infiltrate a gated community to bust the magic H.O.A. leader who keeps summoning a trash monster to kill rule breakers? I just re-watched it and, I tell you what, it’s even better than the one where Mulder gets to have genie after two trailer park nimrods accidentally kill themselves with their stupid trailer park nimrod wishes, I swear to god, and that episode is a tough one to beat.
But enough about the golden age of television programming! Let’s talk about bikes.
First of all, the Giro is over, and the anti-tiny won. Ryder is 6’2″, rail thin, fair skinned, and blond – everything I am not – and thus it was difficult for me to relate to him. Would I have been happier with Scarponi, Cunego, or Pozzovivo taking center stage? Most certainly, but only because my following of sports is shallow enough that an athlete’s physical appearance is one of the most important factors in determining how I feel about them. It’s why I will pull for Pippo until the day he retires or dies in some sort of ecstasy fueled Lamborghini orgy, and it’s why Rigoberto Uran will remain just some weirdo in a hideous Sky kit no matter how fast he actually is. That said, if I try my best to think rationally and logically, it’s pretty sweet that Ryder is bringing the pink jersey back to my home continent.
Moving on! My shoulder has improved to the point that, despite my doctor’s wishes, I am riding outside again. Putting miles on the new rig has led to me constantly cleaning my new rig and dreaming about my new rig, and therefore I thought it would be appropriate for me to share some early thoughts and impressions about my new rig. I’m going to steer clear of actual ride quality and handling assessments for now, because I don’t think it’s fair to pretend to draw any conclusions when I’m riding with my weight split 80/20 between my two hands, and with just 65psi in my mushy tires (so that cracks and potholes don’t jolt my screws out). For now, I just want to touch on some of the little details about the bike that I like; things that can easily fly beneath the radar, but ultimately make a bike a joy built, maintain, and ride. Ready, set, bullet point list!
- I don’t know how many of you build your own bikes and how many of you prefer to receive bikes already built and ready to party, but I personally really love putting things together so I never pass up an opportunity to build a bike for myself, and I’ve done so countless times. Energy wasted on dumb little things like crumby threads full of metal flakes or stray paint is a real bummer. Getting a little powder coat crud onto your water bottle boss threads doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal, but when you’re on the tail end of 30 minutes with a pick trying to scrape a lead-in thread clean enough for one stupid screw (or even worse, a rear derailleur) to get started without cross-threading, the image of a properly masked or chased thread seems like a fantasy. The threads on my ‘vagen were so nice, I didn’t so much as need to wipe out the bottom bracket shell with a rag, and Vanilla boys, if you’re reading this, that set my heart all a flutter.
- Having perfectly faced bottom bracket shells and head tubes is awesome. It’s never been something I worried about too much, because campy bottom brackets have always spun just fine for me even in frames I know weren’t really faced right, and headsets… Well, contrary to how headset manufacturers probably feel, I just don’t think the need for a perfect headset install is all that pressing (see what I did there?). If it lets the front end of the bike turn, and it stays adjusted nice and tight, then it’s a headset success, right? Right. When you have a King headset installed on a perfectly faced frame, though, and you see that little gap between the top cup and the cover stay dead even all the way around, it feels pretty special. And when you thread in a bottom bracket cup, and it contacts the frame all the way around its circumference at the same exact time, with a nice tactile stop, things seem right in the world.
- Braze-on front derailleurs are the best. Clamp-on ones totally mess up the paint under the clamp, and when you need to move or adjust them, you end up sad. Also, as someone who spends boat loads of money on race entry fees, braze-on front derailleurs make it really easy to mount up a chain catcher, which helps assure I never have to watch a $30 fee go down the toilet while my chain dangles around my bottom bracket.
- Traditional external cable routing is fucking perfect. Build up a couple bikes with weird cable paths and blind holes and whatnot, and then build a bike with simple stops on the down tube and a guide under the bottom bracket and tell me it isn’t pretty much a perfected design. Sometimes a design is just exactly right as it is, with no need to ever be changed again, and normal-ass external cable routing is a great example. Also, I’d like to add that, while not really critical, cable adjusters at the down tube cable stops sure make life a little sweeter. I lament their almost complete absence on most new race bikes.
So many little adjustment headaches saved with just a few extra grams of steel.
- I love how it looks and how it works, but that ENVE seatpost head is smarter than me. It works slick as snot, but getting it put together around my Flite saddle proved too much of a task for me to handle intelligently. Eventually I had to resort to “push on things really hard and hope you don’t hear a crack” tactics. I know that when any install requires bending things farther than they look like they should bend, then I’m doing it wrong, but, you know, whatever. I felt like I was dealing with one of those clever little puzzles you could buy as a kid with points from selling school fundraiser crap, or for killing it with pledges for your third grade spelling bee. You know, the kind that have like 2 wooden squares and a metal ring, and you’re supposed to be able to do something really amazing with them, but I all I can ever manage to convince any onlookers that I’m touched in the head. That said, with the saddle in place, it was a joy to adjust and tighten, and it hasn’t budged a millimeter on me since.
8 Nm lies somewhere between “Candy-Ass” and “Ultra,” so I had to just go by feel, and so far it seems I torqued it correctly
- Steel, non-replaceable rear derailleur hangers are where it’s at. They are to break-away aluminum ones what The GZA is to Childish Gambino* ; both of those fellows technically succeed in rhyming words in the style of rap, but one is way better at it in almost every conceivable way. Steel hangers are super rigid, make shifts ultra snappy and consistent, and hold up well to all but the hardest of crashes, and if you’ve only used bikes with replaceable aluminum ones, your mind stands to be blown.
This hanger is so fancy. I swear to god though, even the plain jane solid steel hanger on my crappy 1980 Trek 400 felt better through shifts than any of my recent aluminum hangers.
And those are some of the little things I love! None of them alone are super critical, and they don’t make or break a bicycle, but when taken all together they really elevate the feeling of quality to me, and that, in turn, makes me enjoy a bicycle that much more. OK, now it’s time for me to go, because I can feel my implant site starting to throb, and not in a good way…
Until next time, XOXO!
The Tiniest Sprinter
*The joker who is hilarious in Community, but whose decision to embark on a rap career makes me feel embarrassed for him
PS: Is anybody doing the Swan Island crit this coming Saturday? Does anybody want to suicide attack with me right from the gun? I feel like I might be ready to pin a number on again, but I don’t feel like I’m ready to race too close to a bunch of other people just yet. Anyway, holla atcha boy if you feel like sharing some wind with a 128lb fitness-lacking sort-of-cripple. With a sales pitch like that, how could you say no?
PPS: More Azealia Banks!