Friday, June 13, 2008

opening salvo

It's my first blog. I'm in the blogosphere now! Yippee! I felt that I must start a blog to have a place to blather on about my somewhat out of control (re)obsession with bicycles. I'm particularly interested in older road bicycles and they way they are adapted to and used for urban transportation.

Over the last couple of decades I went through a couple of waves of internal-combustion engine fandom, having owned and tinkered with a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a 1966 Chevrolet El Camino, a 1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado and a 1979 Moto Guzzi SP1000. I originally learned to tinker on vehicles out of necessity, not being able to afford the totally outrageous prices mechanics were charging me (or so it seemed at the time!). So, I began to learn to enjoy the work, changing starters, brakes and alternators, later moving on to clutches, head gaskets, etc.

That all petered out by the time I moved to Chicago, land of garages-that-get-broken-into, mostly of natural causes, but the break-ins didn't help. Also, as our world descends into climate-change decrepitude, it became a lot harder to enjoy sitting around burning through gasoline. Things that are old and don't use any fuel beyond the food one eats are starting to seem a whole lot better over the last several years, particularly in these times of (finally) expensive gas for us guzzling citizens of this nation. At any rate, as far as tinkering, my first love was my old bmx bike. I used to take that thing apart once a week, all the way down to the bearings. Not because it was broken, but because I loved to commune with it, I felt as if it was a part of me. I kind of lost that over some years of indifferent mountain bike ownership, but recently it was reawakened.

I have been a pretty avid fair-weather biker in Chicago since moving here in 1999. I would usually ride from about May to October, maybe 3 days a week or so. I had until recently a pretty nice older Trek mountain bike with some city tires and a rack/pannier bag rig. But on an April trip to Austin, TX (where I spent many years and where my brother currently lives), my wife's cousin borrowed a couple of bikes for us to use for a day of riding around. The bike I was loaned was an old Bridgestone frame setup as a single speed (freewheel) with some decent used components, fast skinny wheels and one of those little handlebars that seem to be in vogue now (it's so small that plural seems a bit much, handlebar?!...).

I went about half a block before I realized I was having a major epiphany. SO EASY TO RIDE! Good lord! What had I been doing on all these mountain bikes for so long? I had once borrowed my then boss's Jamis for an emergency errand, but that thing could not have been more the wrong size or setup for me, so I just thought "Who needs these things!?" This bike was still a bit small for me, but GEEZ, it was like having a little invisible motor pushing me along. I could barely break a sweat riding it in humid 80+ degree weather. I immediately began telling the missus that I was going to have to get a new bike setup when I got home and as you'll find out shortly, I did that and how.

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