Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter 4.0

Mixte Snow Ride
In the final weeks of 2012 my thoughts were full of everything that's happened over the past year and my dominant emotion was depletion. Two days ago I finally finished making a bicycle frame, and the experience took its toll: Getting so completely absorbed in something at which I am so completely mediocre led me to question my sanity. This train of thought then spread from framebuilding to cycling itself. My progress on the bike has not been impressive by any standard, making it both funny and ridiculous that I am so utterly into it. I also could not help but question what would happen if and when I finally move beyond the constant struggle to both understand the bicycle and master riding it. Will it no longer be absorbing? Will the excitement and wonder eventually fade?

In the midst of all this brooding, it began to snow. It snowed and snowed all through the night, and the next morning I ventured outside. On a Sunday the plowing had been minimal. Side streets crunched with hard-packed snow. Grassy lots offered vast, undisturbed snowscapes. Modest city parks turned into enchanted forests. I wandered around by bike through the preternaturally white landscape. As my face began to tingle from the frost, my head cleared. Slip-sliding my way through the at once familiar and unfamiliar streets, everything began to make sense. I abandoned my attempts to take stock and draw conclusions. I stopped thinking about the past year and started looking forward to the year ahead. This is my fourth winter cycling, and yet everything feels utterly new, utterly exciting.

Happy New Year, everyone. Thank you, as always, for reading.

---
In keeping with the New Year's Eve cocktail tradition, I offer you: 

The First Snow Ride
Ethereal gin
St Germain liqueur
Lindt white chocolate
eggwhite
ice

In a cocktail shaker, mix 2 parts gin and 1 part St. Germaine over ice. Pour (hold the ice) into a cold cocktail glass. Whip 1 eggwhite until super-frothy. Finely shred white chocolate and sprinkle the flakes into the froth. Add mixture to the drink's surface. Serve and enjoy the ride!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pets at Work

Feline Friendship, Circle A Cycles
Every time I visit Circle A Cycles, I sift through my pictures of the shop afterward only to discover that they are mostly cat portraits. But who can blame me, when they have such a fabulous shop cat. BT's job is mainly reception, customer service and PR. When it comes to being petted, she is an equal-opportunity practitioner - diligently making her way from one visitor to another, ensuring that everyone gets their fair share of stroking her silky fur and scratching her velvety ears. When this task is done, she slinks around delicately amidst the machinery, inspecting the quality of her colleagues' work. 

I've tried to invite my own cats into my workspace. There was that one time I attempted to have them in the same room while I painted. Minutes later, they'd already managed to dip their little paws into some paint, and were now proceeding to spread it around the entire room while swatting brushes off of shelves and batting at jars of turpentine playfully. Oh how I paid for their visit with hours of cleanup. Oh how they squirmed and squealed as I quarantined them in the bathtub and scrubbed their paws with soap.  

On another occasion, I tried to scan negatives around my whiskered friends. Their curiosity in this task made the scanning process unnecessary, since the strip of negatives was quickly rendered unusable. 

Working on bikes in the same room is excitingly risky. They are intensely interested and make a show out of being very good, so that I allow them to be there. And they are good, up to a point. Until a particularly attractive part catches their eye and they challenge each other to a soccer match. The speed and elegance with which they can cause damage are admittedly impressive.

I can work from home on my laptop, but just barely. The cats like to stealthily make their way onto the table and slowly wrap themselves around the keyboard, until both my wrists are resting on some part of cat and my typing is constricted. "At least help me type if you're going to do that," I try to reason with them. They ignore me, purring triumphantly. Later a friend explained that this really is their way of helping me write: The purring functions as a metronome of sorts that helps me keep rhythm and type faster. Shop cats they are not, but perhaps I underestimate their value as office cats. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Festive Fun with Flats

Holiday Flat Repair
One of my plans for the holidays had been to get in some practice changing tires. Problem is, I very rarely get flats. And let's face it: Taking a tire on and off for no reason just isn't the same as the real deal. So naturally I was delighted when, on my way home last night, my front tire went flat for real. It was a dark and stormy night, with heavy traffic and freezing rain, affording the perfect opportunity to practice road-side repairs. Alas, it happened just a block from my house. Weak of character, I opted for the comforts of home. 

"Darling, guess what?" I shouted as I rolled the bike into our living-room. "I have a flat tire!"

"Oh my!" said my husband. "And it's a 650B with fenders no less. Are you going to fix it yourself?"

"Of course! This is the moment I've been waiting for."

Nodding eagerly, he opened a bottle of wine and made himself comfortable on our finest kitchen chair, in anticipation of the evening's entertainment.

Holiday Flat Repair
Now I know you're wondering what wine goes best with this sort of thing. This is really a matter of personal taste. But generally speaking, if the tires are 650B I recommend red. It just so happened that we picked up a lovely Truro Zinfandel during our recent stay on Cape Cod. Not the pink one in the bottle shaped like a lighthouse, but the darker one in a regular bottle. Its smooth deliciousness makes the already relaxing process of fixing flats even sweeter. 

Aside from the wine and a keen spectator prepared to critique your every movement, in a tire-changing situation it might also be helpful to have a floor pump and a spare inner tube handy, as well as some tools. If you have a fun bike with a bolt-on front wheel like I do, you will need something to unbolt it. A tire lever may also be useful. 

Holiday Flat Repair
But most importantly, if your bike has fenders, you will need a couch. After removing a wheel, you should not stand the bike on the floor, as this may bend the fender. And if you think bikes enjoy being hoisted up on a workstand, you are mistaken. Most bikes are afraid of heights, and getting them up there for reasons as small as fixing a flat is downright insensitive. Laying your bicycle down on the sofa will make it much more comfortable. It will also delight your spouse by showing them what a free-spirited, outside the box thinker you are.  

Finally, you may want to have a copy of an appropriately inspirational poster or publication in sight as you work. This will remind you of why these bicycles are so darn charming, as you gingerly handle the delicate aluminum fenders and deflate your 650Bx42mm tire in order to fit it through the centerpull brake caliper. 

Holiday Flat Repair
Of course the most fascinating part of flat repair is finding its cause. Having never gotten a flat with Grand Bois Hetres previously, I was especially interested. Turned out the cause was a failed inner tube. This one had split right at the seam. It happens, even with the nicest tubes.

"It happens just often enough to remind us that we are never fully in control of our destinies," I sighed wistfully as I tested the front brake after re-connecting it. 

My husband nodded, moving the wine away from me gently. "Well, looks like you did it."

"And it only took me a half hour this time!"

"Oh, hardly that!"

And isn't that what working on our bikes is all about? Struggling for self-reliance in a world of chaos and uncertainty. Using it as metaphor for life. Entertaining our loved ones. Look out world, soon I'll be able to fix a flat in 20 minutes!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Tis the Off-Season

Seaside Bicycles
The holiday rush of the city really got to us this year, and we wanted to be some place quiet. So for the days leading up to Christmas, we stayed on Cape Cod. 

And quiet it was. Turns out Provincetown has chosen this winter to repave its roads and fix its sidewalks, so basically the whole town was dug up and closed to motorised traffic. 

But despite the roadwork, many of the businesses remained open, catering to locals and to the occasional visitor. The result was the sort of insular pedestrian small-town atmosphere that has long ceased to exist under normal circumstances. People said hello to each other on the streets. The phrase "How are you?" was interpreted as a question, rather than a greeting, and detailed answers were given. Merely seeing each other walking, or cycling around the town center had created a sense of relaxed familiarity among everyone present, however temporary. 

Men on Bikes
Even in the busiest, most hectic part of summer, what I like about Provincetown is how relaxed and unaggressive it is. Bikes, pedestrians, cars. Tourists, summer people, locals. Gay, straight, undefined. Somehow, all of these categories are simply combined, without being pitted against each other. They are separated by "and" and not "versus." It's a microcosm that does not reflect the reality of life elsewhere. But at least it shows that, in theory, it's possible for people to function like this. And in the off season, with everyone squeezed into the same couple of bars and coffee shops after hours, this became all the more apparent. 

Provincetown Off-Season
Last year I mentioned noticing more incidents of aggressive and inattentive drivers over the winter holidays in Boston, and this time around it seems even worse. First it was the rush of last minute Christmas shopping. Now I guess it's the post-Christmas sales. Soon it will be New Year parties. Whatever it is, drivers on the roads just seem so impatient and angry right now. Sure, they might arrive to their holiday parties smiling, saying all the requisite niceties and exchanging beautifully wrapped gifts. But what's the point, if for entire weeks leading up to this they are filled with such stress, that rage is boiling just beneath the surface? I couldn't even feel annoyed at the woman who laid on her horn and shouted when I took too long making a left turn the other day. Obviously something other than me on my bike must have been the real cause of her anger. So I try to be extra cautious on the roads. And I try to not fall into the stress trap myself. No big plans. No pressure. No stress. That's my plan into the New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Variations on Red and Green

Early Production Mercian
Growing up, red was my mother's favourite colour. And my mother was a tirelessly creative woman back then. She sewed, she knitted, she made things. Consequently I was dressed in red sweaters and coats. I slept under a red patchwork quilt. You get the idea. I did not know how to communicate my dislike for this colour. When I was 3 years old, I was gifted a red tricycle and stunned my parents by breaking into tears at the sight of it. I loved riding that trike. But when no one was looking, little by little I began trying to scrape the paint off. My parents grew concerned and eventually got rid of it. They must have thought I was eating the paint. 

As a teenager, I gravitated toward all things drab. This was the '90s grunge era, so that was easy enough. Army-navy stores, denim, plaid, combat boots. I rode a matte black bicycle then, and even peeled off its bright decals. When asked what my favourite colour was, I did not have an answer. In college I wore black. I made large charcoal drawings. I took black and white photos. 

Sometime in my twenties I saw a weathered old bicycle locked up to a farm gate by the river. It was a lady's bike in the signature English shade of bottle green, and the weak East Anglia sunlight was hitting it just so. The enamel paint had a special quality to it that made it resemble an aged candy wrapper. I saw it and I knew right away that I liked it. As an adult, it was a thrill to learn that I had a favourite colour after all. I began to experiment, to chase after the perfect green. Somewhere between sage, chartreuse and olive, this ideal shade existed and was waiting for me. 

After that I relaxed about colour. Blues and lilacs began to sneak their way into my surroundings, mingling nicely with the greens. Accents of pinks and reds appeared.

A couple of summers ago, I was staying in Vienna and looking to buy a vintage racing bike to bring home. A friend found me the perfect one and took me to see it. It was a bright red Moser. I remembered the trike of my childhood and laughed. "I love the bike, but I hate red." I got the Moser anyway and rode it for two years. It wasn't just red, but an unusual shade of strawberry with a subtle golden sheen to it. Everyone complimented the colour, protesting when I revealed my plan to eventually repaint the frame. "But the red is great, and it's so you!" Soon I began to receive red articles of clothing as gifts. I remembered how, as a child, I hated being known as the girl in the red coat, the girl on the red trike. But now it just struck me as funny. I still dislike red, but I guess I no longer think that's important.

I talk to lots of people about their fantasy bikes, or bikes they are nostalgic for, or bikes that simply stick in their memory for some reason. Red bikes and green bikes are mentioned more than any other kind. The colours play an important role in the story, but for reasons the story teller cannot clearly express. They will just keep repeating that it was a red bike, or a green bike, stressing the colour as if this information is pertinent to how special the bike was. It's not always a straightforward, cohesive story, just like mine is not. I suspect a lot is left out, possibly the most relevant parts. Of course we could break it down to the basics. Colour, motion, emotion. Excitement, tranquility. Stop, go. Red bikes, green bikes. But who wants to see it like that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Alenax: the Ultimate Vintage Freak Bike?

Alenax Transbar Power
Looking for the perfect bike for that End of the World themed ride? I think I found it. Having seen so many crazy two-wheeled contraptions in the basements and garages of collectors over the years, I sometimes think that I've seen it all and that no bike can really surprise me anymore. And that's usually when I'll stumble upon something like this. Notice anything out of the ordinary?

Alenax Transbar Power
How about now?

Alenax Transbar Power
Meet the Alenax TRB 2400, the original Transbar Power bicycle. It was designed to be pedaled using up-and-down motions instead of circular motions. Presumably this was done to approximate the feel of walking, thereby making cycling feel more "natural." Here is a video of this in action. 

Alenax Transbar Power
In leu of a crankset, the Alenax sports two pivoted "transbars." I won't pretend to understand how exactly the system works, but see this article by Jobst Brandt and the Alenax blog for additional descriptions. 

Alenax Transbar Power
A stem-mounted shifter controls the gears

Alenax Transbar Power
- on Alenax's own internally geared hub.

Alenax Transbar Power
Abundance of cables and chains along the drivetrain.

Alenax Transbar Power
But aside from the pedaling system, the Alenax looks disconcertingly normal. Lugs, skinny tubes, shimmery paint, tan wall tires. It's basically just a typical '80s roadbike, retrofitted to accommodate the Transbar Power system. It is also a good 5lb heavier that a standard roadbike from that era.

Alenax Transbar Power
When Alenax came out with these bikes in 1983, they marketed aggressively, intending to revolutionise bicycle design. They attended all the bike shows, made promotional videos, courted distributors. But amazingly, the concept failed to catch on. By 1993 they threw in the towel, and all that's left today are the (apparently highly collectible) traces of their efforts. At some point more recently, it looks like there was an attempt to modernise and rebrand, but that too does not seem to have worked out. 

Alenax Transbar Power
I am doing some freelance work for Harris Cyclery, and one of the perks is getting to see things like this. Jon Harris dragged the Alenax out of the shop's basement one day, then proceeded to ride it jauntily up and down the block. "It feels a little strange until you get it up to speed," he explained, "but after that it's fine!" The bike is too big for me to ride, so I cannot confirm that. But they do have a partially assembled step-through version in the basement...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Big Bike, Tiny Tree

On a rare day off for us both we decided to catch up on some errands, including getting a tree. So we pedaled over to a local tree place. Now that I have this big cargo bike on loan, I toyed with the idea of a real, full sized pine. I imagined the fun of lugging it home. Also, in my crazy little fantasy world, I pictured everyone arriving to the tree place by bike - a procession of longtails, bakfietsen and porteurs transporting all manner of prickly greenery, the length of Somerville Avenue filled with the scent of pine. Naturally a brass band played in the background. 

Then we got to the tree place. And gosh, I don't know, it was so sad. Our lonely bikes surrounded by SUVs in the parking lot. All the cut-down trees stacked up against a rusty fence. There was no way they would all get bought in time for the holidays.  

We hung out for a bit. The place was like a small, dead miniature pine forest amidst an urban landscape. 

Xtra Holiday Errands
Finally, we did the same thing we did last year: bought a small potted pine. It doesn't look very impressive, but on the plus side it will live... maybe.

Xtra Holiday Errands
Which brings me to a dark confession: You see, last year I killed one of these little trees. I didn't mean to! My plan was to remove the decorations after the holidays and keep the tree in the house year-round, to be decorated again the following year. But the tree failed to thrive in our apartment and eventually dried up. This time I will read up on replanting, and hopefully this one will survive. A bicycle ride to the forest is in this little tree's future...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Rewards of a Closer Look

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
There are bicycles that strike you as unique from the first glance, and then there are those that sneak up on you. When Ed showed me the rando bike he'd put together from a refurbished Miyata frameset, it seemed like a nice enough classic build. Fenders, racks, leather, twine. But on closer inspection, all sorts of curious features emerged.

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
First I noticed the unusual front rack mount. A small DIY bracket at the front curled under and bolted onto the fender. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
Initially I assumed this was to add extra stability to the rack. But then I realised the real function of this bracket - in addition to another one extending from the fork crown - was to hold up the fender. Or, more accurately, the front part of the fender. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
I had seen split fenders before, but what struck me about these was how subtle they were, how utterly integrated into the overall design of the bike. The split was something I noticed only after my eye led me to it as it moved from one end of the rack to the other. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
The tires are 700Cx28mm Gran Compe ENE Ciclo (brown, with tan sidewalls) and Ed was determined to make them fit along with the fenders. The split accomplishes this despite the lack of sufficient clearances under the brake bridge and fork crown. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
Both the front and rear racks were recycled from older bikes, and I noticed that the rear one was stamped "Jim Blackburn." This prompted me to look into the history of Blackburn Racks, and indeed they were once called by the name of the founder. The vintage racks - now quite sought after - used a single bracket design to connect to the brake bridge, whereas the Blackburns in current production use a two bracket design to connect to seat stay braze-ons. I also found an interesting article describing Jim Blackburn's contributions to research in weight distribution for loaded touring.

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
The components seemed like a random mix, until Ed explained that he was going for a Suntour-inspired build: mostly vintage Japanese (but no Shimano), with some modern VO and Dia Compe sprinkled in. While such a thing would never have occurred to me, gathering components that made sense within this paradigm had been an important part of putting the bike together, a game he'd enjoyed playing.

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
The more we talked about the bike, the more of these things I discovered. Subtle details, hidden meanings. What looked like "just" a nice bicycle at first glance became fascinatingly personal. And that's the thing about bikes. We don't really know what they mean, or represent to the owner. We don't know what the story behind each one is, until we ask. Maybe that's why I still can't seem to walk past a bicycle without a closer look, or at least a second glance. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frameset or Complete Bike?

In the comments of the previous post, a reader pointed out that the comparatively low MSRP of the frameset I described was not such a bargain, considering the likely cost of the complete build. Depending on the context, I both agree and disagree. So I'll take this opportunity to discuss the benefits, as I see them, of buying a frameset and building it up yourself vs buying a complete bicycle.

Purchasing a complete bike

When a manufacturer releases a bicycle model as a complete build, the price of the bike bundles together a number of things: the frame and fork, the components and accessories, and the labor involved in assembly. The price of the bike will be significantly lower than if you were to pay for all of these things individually. Assuming that you are happy with the components included in the stock build, this makes the bike a great deal compared to buying a frameset only and starting from scratch. You save money on components, you save money on labor, and on top of that you get the immediate gratification of having a ready to ride bicycle straight away.

But keep in mind that the more changes you make, the less of a great deal it will be - especially if you cannot do the work yourself and will need to pay extra for labor. Give particular consideration to whether you are happy with the stock drivetrain and shifting system. Changing this on a stock build can be costly. If the stock bike comes with 700C wheels and you want 650B, a conversion could be pricey. If you want dynamo lighting and the bike does not already have it, you will need to rebuild the front wheel with a dynamo hub, or replace it. If the stem length and handlebar width are wrong for you, you will need new ones. At some point, it might be more cost-effective to start from scratch.

Purchasing a frameset

When a bicycle model is available as a frameset only, it is an opportunity to assemble the bike according to your needs from the start. You can choose the exact gearing you want, your preferred model of levers and brakes, the correct stem length and handlebar width, and a comfortable saddle. You can integrate dynamo lighting into the build from the get-go. In the event the frame is compatible with more than one wheel size, you can choose the wheel size that suits you, instead of executing an aftermarket conversion. Going the frameset-only route is an especially great deal for those who are DIY tinkerers (or live with one) and can do the work without the help of a bike shop, and for those who already have a bunch of components lying around waiting for a frame.

But before buying a frameset, it is a good idea to make sure the bike you want really is different from an available stock build. Oftentimes novice buyers cannot distinguish between what's a big deal to change and what isn't. For example, if a bike is missing fenders and racks, you can add them without making changes to the existing build, thereby still enjoying the savings of starting with a complete bike. Also, if it's a matter of stem length and seat post setback, some bike shops are willing to swap those at no extra cost. Finally, the stock models are usually set up generically - with plain handlebar tape, plastic pedals and unsightly reflectors. While this does not look as nice as a custom build, you can easily and inexpensively personalise the bike without needing to start from scratch.

One thing to add, is that a direct cost comparison between framesets and complete builds is not always possible. While some manufacturers offer both options, others offer only one or the other. The make and model you choose in the first place might depend on which you prefer. For heavy-duty city bikes, there are now plenty of complete stock models available that require few if any aftermarket alterations. Ditto for standard roadbikes. As for 650B mixtes, and other non-mainstream specimens, not so much.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Soma Buena Vista Redux

Soma Buena Vista 650B
Over a year ago, I wrote about a 650B Soma Buena Vista mixte that a friend built up for his wife. It was a large (58cm) frame that I was able to ride after lowering the saddle. This time I tried another 650B Buena Vista, and the smaller (50cm) frame was built up very differently. The difference between these two bikes makes me appreciate the role that sizing, fit and component selection play in the "personality" of a complete bicycle. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
When velo-celebrity Bekka (aka bikeyface) began pining for a mixte, I suggested the Soma Buena Vista because of its reputation for versatility. B wanted a "non-girly" mixte that was aggressive yet comfortable, upright yet not too upright, classic yet modern, and to top it off, easy on the budget. I believed the Buena Vista could deliver these properties and volunteered to help "curate" the build, which was undertaken by Jim at Harris Cyclery

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The charcoal frame is the same as on the bike I reviewed previously. It is a nice looking gunmetal silver. The decision to go with 650B wheels was made in order to fit wide tires. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The gumwall tires are Panaracer Col de la Vie 650B x 38mm. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The wheels were built up with a dynamo hub in the front, the cables for the lighting routed using this method

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The rear wheel was built around a Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub. The Buena Vista's horizontal dropouts allow it to be set up either with a derailleur, internally geared hub, or single speed drivetrain. B shares my dislike of many-geared hubs, but did not want a derailleur on a mostly-urban bike that would spend much of its life outdoors. She considered single speed initially, but eventually settled on 3 speeds. I think this was a good choice, considering how she intends to use the bike. In my experience, 3-speed hubs are efficient and keep the weight down, while still offering some gearing versatility.

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The Sturmey Archer pulley is hidden above the bottom bracket and adds a touch of the archaic to the bike.

Soma Buena Vista 650B
B wanted to try the trigger shifter, and I am curious what her verdict will be (I love them, but they are not for everyone). The Rivendell cork grips and the classic lines of the Tektro FL750 levers complete the old-school charm.

Soma Buena Vista 650B
But charming need not mean docile. We set up the North Road handlebars aggressively, upside down and with a 10cm stem. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The Nitto North Roads have a dramatic drop, so flipping them over makes the bike très vroom-vroom. Not sure what the owner would think of this position, we left enough steerer to move the bars either up or down. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
For fenders, B specifically did not want fancy-looking hammered things. As a more modern and less costly solution, we went with SKS. The ones designed for 700C work fine with 650B wheels. We chose the Longboard version, with mudflaps. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
If I don't say so myself, I think the complete bike came together nicely. It suits the owner's preferences, both functionally and aesthetically. In the near future, she plans to install a rear rack and a small chainguard, but otherwise this is the finished state. Being now in posession of the bike, B really likes it so far. But I will wait some time before reporting her impressions. 

As far as my impressions, the ride exceeded my expectations. Basically: vroom. Super-responsive, quick to accelerate, fast rolling. On flat terrain, the bike moved with me, almost effortlessly. And I'd almost forgotten how much I love upside down North Roads. Mount them low enough and with a long stem, and you can attain a forward lean similar to that of drop bars, but with the gripping style of upright bars. I love this position for riding in the city. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
With the Buena Vista's sporty setup, the 3-speed drivetrain might really be enough for the owner's needs, especially considering that she is great at climbing out of the saddle. The gearing we chose worked well for me, with a significant hill easy to tackle in first gear seated. But it was really educated guesswork on our part, and if B wants to change the rear cog or chainring in future, this can easily be done. 

As far as toe overlap with the 50cm Vista frame, this will depend on your shoe size and on whether you have fenders. I experienced a bit of it, but not much. If you build up the frame as a roadbike, fenderless, and ride in clipless pedals, there is a good chance of no TCO. In any event, the owner is not bothered by it. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
Depending on whose fit philosophy she follows, a woman of my height could end up on either the 50cm, 54cm, or 58cm Soma Buena Vista. Having tried the extremes of this spectrum, I believe that either size can work, depending on what qualities you are looking for in the bike. When I tried the 58cm Buena Vista last year, its long virtual top tube and high, wide, swept-back handlebars made it feel like a lightweight, faster version of a Dutch bike. By contrast, the 50cm Vista with its low, narrow, upside down North Roads felt like the lovechild or a modern roadbike and a pathracer. Go large for more tame, upright. Go small for more aggressive, roadish. In each case, the bike felt stable and the ride quality was pleasant. At $499 MSRP for the frameset, this fun and versatile machine is a good value. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Feel Like Crying

Ride Studio Cafe, Sunday Ride
A road ride on a cold day. Wind in my face. Gasping for air. 

Descending as the sun begins to set, there is nothing but speed, forest, and a faint golden glow on my face. This golden glow loves me, and it loves all the other riders on the road.

A feeling comes over me and it's the feeling of knowing infinity. At this moment, I could fade into the forest or ride off into the sun. My physical sense of self and bike grows weak. We are too light to be real; we dissipate.

I am high on endorphins. I know this. This is not a special moment. This is not meaningful. I must get ahold of myself. 

But my chest is full. And the tears come. 

It doesn't feel like crying. More like an emotional mix up. I laugh at myself as the chill hits my wet face. I need to cut this out. It's not that serious. It's not that beautiful. I am not pedaling that hard.

Could it be fear, rather than the pain of physical effort that I am converting into these intense waves of emotion? Am I too proud to experience fear, so I sublimate it into ...what exactly? 

No no no. Thinking won't help here. Just go with it. Let it happen. People will understand. Or they will think the tears are from the wind. 

This is what roadcycling does to me. No, I don't get it either.