Saturday, December 22, 2007

My favorite bike

The more you ride a bicycle, the more your realize that you need more than one bicycle. Forget what those silly randonnistas say, if you ride all year in every condition on every terrain weather notwithstanding, you need more than one bike. Riding with your friends in the Summer requires a fancy and fast bike, to more easily humiliate them (of course they are operating under the same pretense, you must remember-this can quickly escalate into a sort of arms race), riding at night requires a sturdy bike so you can bump over things that you don't see, riding with a load requires racks, which aren't probably on your fast bike but may be on your sturdy bike, riding Apex generally requires a mountain bike, riding in the rain requires fenders, and for contemplative rides nothing beats a fixed gear. If you want to have a contemplative ride in the rain, well, that takes a fixxie with fenders, and if you want to go on a fast summer ride at night in the rain with your friends at Apex..... And now that you have a good excuse for your spouse when she/he asks, "Honey, how come you have to have seven bicycles," what's so hard about having just one more? She/he may not even notice! (this has not been my experience, however-while my wife never really noticed how MANY bikes I have, she did notice that my bike space got bigger every year-"honey, why can't I get my car into the garage any more?" up until the point that I opened a bike she doesn't notice so much any more!)

Winter riding also requires a special bicycle. I have been waiting since March to pull out my winter bike. It has been hanging in my garage resting patiently since then, ready at a moment's notice to spring into service. Smashing through crusty snow, blasting through snowplow drifts, swimming through champagne slush, chewing up ice: these are the things a good winter bike lives for. Here's my winter bike:

I got this frameset from my therapist, who has a knack of finding interesting bicycles in thrift shops. $20. I think it is a Mercier-what was left of the original components were mostly French, and the lugs and fork are extremely similar to at least one other Mercier that I have recently worked on. It had been repainted black, with new dropouts installed. As I often do with such wrecks, I stripped it of all the parts, checked and (where possible) corrected frame and fork alignment, and then rebuilt it.

Generally my favorite bike is the one that I'm riding, especially if it is well-suited to the task at hand. I didn't have a particular vision for this bike at first, so I just turned it into a fixxie and started riding it back and forth to work. But it filled a need that I didn't have-how many resurrected fixxies can I need to ride back and forth to work, anyway? And I didn't think it really handled that well with skinny tires-too floppy, too much oversteer. I have better junk fixxies that I'd rather ride. At some point it dawned on me that there was enough clearance for big tires AND fenders, so that's the direction I went. Now it has studded tires which really, really work on ice, a huge mudflap on the front fender to protect my chain and my feet, and a light set because it gets dark at 5:00. And a rack trunk for extra clothing and lunch (sorry randonnistas, no handlebar pack for me-I like to see AND control where my front wheel is going). Snow and ice make short work of derailleurs, so the fixed rear wheel is just right. And since it snowed last night, this is my favorite bike today.

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