Wednesday, November 26, 2008

winter blues (and trying to beat them)


I am a southerner by birth and though my 9 years in Chicago have been VERY rewarding, I get a little bit more down with the onset of every winter here.

This winter is going to be my first of biking all the way through (at least the great majority of the time). In the past, I'd bike until it got down into the lower half of the 30s, but I've gone ahead and put together a significant winter "kit" for myself this year. Last year my business partner and friend Bob, who is a longtime winter biker, got my some nice gloves and a balaclava to try and get me going on some cold weather riding, but this year, I also procured a wool jersey, a nice light rain jacket/outer shell, some rainpants and some wool socks. After a week of riding in the first major cold snap we had last week (low 20s to mid 30s), I added a heavier full-face balaclava as well as a pair of neoprene shoe covers. The shoe covers are nice!! Toasty! I still have to figure something out for my hands, the gloves I have are nice and are good down to about 35 degrees or so, but when I went out in the lower 30s and 20s, they just can't quite cut the mustard. I'm hoping I can get some thin glove liners to go inside. More on that later.

Also, in an effort to beat back the blues and stay occupied, I have moved my little bike shop setup into my basement studio space. It has required the repurposing of a piano that hasn't seen a lot of use lately, I guess I could always stop and play a brief sonata! See picture:

I'm currently just finishing rebuilding a Trek 400 for a friend. It came with some nice old Campy stuff on it, which was quite a surprise as I bought it from a guy on craigslist who came by my work with it one evening after dark. I just sort of verified that the frame did not seem dented and that all the parts seemed more or less present. It was pretty dirty with some rust on numerous scrapes, but I stripped it down to the frame, cleaned it up, touched up the paint, rebuilt the wheels, BB and headset and have it all setup now. Here are some pics of that project:

I've been riding the Paramount quite a bit since I returned from tour. It is really fun. I have given up on riding a bike with a rack. I had one on this Centurion Accordo I've also been riding (mostly in wet weather), but it just felt like a Cadillac with that thing on it. It's weird, I know it's not that much weight (though I have this JandD rack, which is probably the heaviest rack around), but I guess 2-ish lbs. is an additional 10-ish percent, so that is pretty significant. I've just resigned myself to wearing a backpack almost all the time. Sometimes I know I'm going to straight to work and back home, then I can just ride sans anything else, but mostly it's backpack. Somehow, that doesn't feel as clunky. I guess it's like the apocryphal (though photographically speaking, apparently untrue) legend of 1960s French Tour rider Jacques Antequil always moving his bidon from it's holder to his jersey pocket when he started climbing, reasoning that the weight of the bike was more important than the weight of the rider. Untrue or otherwise, it feels true to me. I still feel quite zippy and free with a backpack of decent weight, but even with JUST the rack on, the bike feels like some kind of station wagon to me.

I'm actually going to unload this Centurion I've been riding part time. I have a friend in need and I am getting to the point where I am having a hard time riding "lesser" bikes (please note the quotation marks, it's a fine bike, I'm just going through changes!). I'm turning into a lightweight bike snob!! Crap! I am addicted to leaning on ergo levers, I am addicted to good brakes. I am turning into a bush league weight weenie.

Anyway, between the Trek and the Centurion I'm going to be selling, I am turning around and pouring that money into my latest and greatest project. I have been cruising Road Bike Review classifieds over the last few months and I came across a tantalizing used frame that I finally had to go for. It's this:

An Orbea aluminum frame made of some SHOCKINGLY light Columbus "Zonal" tubing. I have to do some research into this stuff, but it's insane! I have the Felt 85, which is also aluminum, but it feels/sounds more or less like steel in terms of being thick aluminum tubing. When you tap this Orbea, it literally sounds almost like a pop can. It's so thin I feel like I could bend it with my hands. I presume I could not actually do that, but we'll see! It seems as if it's going to weigh about 16-17 lbs, when finished. It is finished in the striking orange/yellow finish of the Spanish Basque region's Euskatel cycling team. This also happens to be the color (along with gray) of my studio/business (i.e. the decor/logo are all decked out in orange and gray), so I'm getting some gray tires and it's going to be the first TEAM CMS bike! Next up, the Grand Tour circuit!

It came with a handful of parts already (Campy Centaur brakes and seatpost, FSA carbon fork and Cane Creek headset, Selle Italia saddle), but I'm finishing it out from another RBR classified from a guy selling basically everything that wasn't already there. This includes Ultegra 10 speed/triple STI shifter/brake levers, rear and front derailleurs, cassette and chain. I also have a set of Ultegra 6600 crazy 14-spoke wheels to finish it off. I will be able to get the whole bike together for about probably $950 total, so it's not super cheap, but for what it is, it's cheap! I'm hoping to take it to some places I can do some serious climbing with the Triple crank. More on this bike soon.

Also, one silver lining of the economic downturn I've been noticing is that it's definitely becoming more of a buyer's market for late model high-ish end road bikes and parts. If you've got a little cash to spare and want to make some upgrades, now's the time!

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