Monday, May 25, 2009

a forever bike?


I know to any of the very few people who read this blog I may seem like a deranged, addicted bike swapper, but really I'm just curious! I have probably moved through about 7 bikes in the last couple of years and I just enjoy building them up and learning about things. However, this trend has been veering dangerously into the lower echelons of expensive bike habit and I've just taken another little baby step in this direction. I sold off my Orbea last month. I was actually doing it in pursuit of a Serotta titanium bike that a guy was selling but he literally sold it off to someone else the day I made my sale (I am smart enough to sell first, buy later nowadays at this level of spendiness). So, I was casting about for another build candidate when this beautiful Look KG381i popped up.

Having built up a Look KG171 for my wife last year, I was really impressed by the weight and elegance of it and how much the missus enjoyed it immediately, so I figured I'd give this thing a try. I also decided it'd be fun to check out a Campy group to learn / ride on something new. I haggled around and came up with a price for the frame and fork and then put out a feeler on the Serotta forums (a great, great place to buy things from) for someone selling off Campy stuff and found a guy who had sold off an Eddy Merckx Leader frame and fork but still had the whole Campy Centaur group including wheels that was perhaps 3 years old and barely used. So this basically equaled a whole bike. Once I got everything in, I had to end up replacing the BB cups since the Merckx was Italian threading, but other than that, it was a pretty much complete bike in a few boxes.

Here are some pics of the build:

It came together pretty quick. I went over to Chicago's own Get A Grip cycles to have the cups put on (I later realized I already had the tool for them, they use the same style tool as Shimano external BB cups, a surprising moment of sanity in the non-interchangeable bike parts war), but it was good to have it done there as I got some needed instruction on putting the Ultra-Torque style cranks together. Thanks Get A Grip! They also have the greatest shop dog there who was the official greeter of the shop it seemed.

I rode the bike the following day and what a dreamboat!!! The Look frame is comfy but super responsive, and the Campy group was a strange but pretty neat departure from Shimano shifting. The "ergo power" (I believe it is) style shifters have the unique ability to shift across up to 3 gears in either direction (Shimano can only shift across multiples on the upstroke but releases one at a time). They have a real clunky feel compared to Shimano, but some find this a more perhaps "reassuring" shift. It was a blast to ride anyway, I just did a quick 12 miles over to the lake and back, but I just felt as if I could go 20 mph all day long on this thing and on a quiet section of Marine Drive, I even sprinted up to 30 a couple of times. NICE BIKE!!! I think I'll keep it!

The frame is a Laurent Jalabert signature model. More info on "Jaja" can be found here. His nickname is slang for a glass of wine in French, a beverage he apparently continued to enjoy regularly during his pro career. Less than a year older than myself, he retired as a pro in 2001 and began competing in triathlons placing very respectably in the 2007 Ironman competitions in both Switzerland and Hawaii. This frame was the team frame of Team CSC in 2003/2004 and it's really the first time I know what it feels like to ride a bike of ProTour quality. I'll say this, it doesn't make things harder!

My total investment was just a hair over $1600 for this gorgeous machine, a bike that would cost about $4000-$5000 to reproduce in current model/group pricing. Other peoples' castoffs rule (sorry to not be supporting the new product economy enough, but my dollars are circulating)!!

In other news, WAY TO GO Carlos Sastre! What a raging Stage 16 performance he put in today at the Giro. Methinks I'm pulling for him! The Giro is streaming online in the morning live and then (I just found out) is rebroadcast on one of the NBC sub-channels if you have a digital tuner (it's 5-3) for Chicago. Watch it!

Finally, I'd like to give another big shout out to my trusty Surly Pacer on which I rode approximately 250 miles in about 10 cities around the country and shipped 3 times. It's rather a beast at about 29 pounds with lock, frame pump, spares etc. strapped on, but it rides more like a gazelle and did not let me down on crappy pavement, 7% grade climbs, crushed gravel paths, light mud or steep descent. Thanks buddy!

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