walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

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Bicycle Reveries

Roland is a bike geek, or at any rate, he bicycles a lot and owns a truing (sp?) stand, which for my purposes constitutes bike geekdom. Often, geeks are up on the latest and greatest in their domain (don't get me started on the recent publishing boom in books-about-books), but not always. In Roland's case, only when he's shopping, and being a True New Englander, that's only when the previous version is worn down to a nub. Or whatever the relevant part would be.

A True New Englander, of course, doesn't turn down a good deal when it trips one up and thumps one on the head, so he has a Lightspeed frame (translation for people like me: titanium, or, really, really, really light, but not actually carbon fiber) that he got for obscenely cheap a while back. But had he changed out the wheels to match his new fly frame? Nuh uh.

Meanwhile, while I am very much a geek, bicycles and I have a limited shared history. Specifically, as a Genuwine Child of White Suburbia, once I got my Wheels, I quit using two-wheelers. And since that happened (more or less) at the tender age of 16, I had not spent any significant amount of time on a bicycle in almost 20 years, or the mid 80s for those of you doing some math. The most advanced bicycle I owned and used with any frequency was a 3-speed.

To be fair, I had purchased (and never used) a used 10 speed, some time in the early 1990s. And then I had purchased (and used maybe a half dozen times, if that) a Trek road bike in 1999. Here's the problem: derailleurs confuse me (see Rebecca's Personal Experience of Bicycles above, and it will become clear why: I just met them). Furthermore, the maintenance and user interface offend me (way too complicated and I have a Very Short Attention Span, particularly while thinking about traffic). Anything harder than dealing with a manual in a car strikes me as ludicrous. I was grumpily refusing to cycle, until my recent trip to the Netherlands, where I discovered they have the old style of gears (planetary or epicyclic or whatever, but all self-contained, requiring no particular maintenance and dead easy for even a wilful ignoramus like myself to use. Specifically, you can shift almost any time you want with no major consequences).

Sure, it's a flat country, but come on. This should be available elsewhere, right? Sure enough, Shimano, Rohloff and Sturmey-Archer have all been making this kind of gear and various manufacturers have been designing bikes using it, generally aiming for the Market of Me: more or less upright riding position (note to bent-over purists I've offended: it's more efficient than not riding at all) and available in step-through models (girly bikes for the unreconstructed machismos out there). How 'bout that. New for 2004 from Shimano is an 8-speed with a 300%+ gear ratio. Nice. I may make it up some of the hills here in New England after all. Wearing a dress. If they ever install enough cell towers, I could even, in true nederlandische stijl, cycle while yakking on a cell.

I wanted to get a way cool Electra Townie with Flat Foot Technology (so upright you're practically recumbent, with an amazing front shock), but RHI they're backordered for months on the 8-speed. It looks like I'll be getting the Bianchi Milano. While all the cycling jocks in their colorful lycra get-up are attacking the hills of southern New Hampshire, sweating as they circle around back home, I'll be running errands at a walking-rather-than-running pace on my virtuous human-powered-transport, breaking as little sweat as humanly possible, and probably putting on a comparable number of miles, albeit much more slowly throughout the week.

It's a sandbaggers dream. I'll let you know how it turns out in reality.
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