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.