Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Small changes, big impacts

It's funny how seemingly small changes can have a significant impact on your bike and/or the way you ride.

Last Friday night I made some tweaks to the Motobecane in advance of a ride. I lashed the Hupe down with some tie wraps (in a stylish faded fluorescent pink, just because), wrapped the bars with some black "cork" wrap, put the Cane Creek hoods I'd bought for the Superbe levers on, and... I think that's it. Oh, wait -- I installed the Tange Passage aluminum headset, too, in place of whatever that was that had been on it before.

The headset worked out OK, but the threading seems a little different. Maybe Italian pitch to the threads or something. Anyway, it felt like the steel steerer was cutting slightly different threads into the top nuts, but they secured just fine, and it feels good. The crown race is slightly smaller than 26.4, and wouldn't hold the new race, which is odd, and I ended up just reusing the old crown race, since it fit the crown snugly. I didn't see anything on Sheldon Brown's headset page that showed a smaller crown race seat diameter, so not sure what's up. Maybe someone swapped the race in the box, and that's a 27? Or maybe it's an odd size -- dunno. The steerer is still too short to use my Velo-Orange decaleur mount, though. Bummer.

The bar tape worked out OK too. Feels fine, giving me more to hold onto and some shock damping. But the lack of coordination in the bike's color scheme is really highlighting the mongrel effect. Tan and blue and black and brown and red and chrome and maroon and dark anodized and silver anodized and I think unanodized and stainless. Plus the faded fluorescent pink and gray plastic dip of the Hupe. There's a lot of visual noise on the bike right now. Doesn't look nearly as good as it did when I first rebuilt it. But it rides well.

Except for the brakes -- putting the hoods on totally messed up the brakes. Two things: They make getting the cables on and off much harder, and they interfere with the levers' travel. As I said last time, getting the cables on and off quickly was one of the things I really liked about the brake levers. That ability went out the window with those hoods. And the levers are much stiffer with the hoods on. I'm going to try trimming them down, I think, to see if that helps. Trim off the part where the cables enter, so they're free again. And trim them back away from the levers at the bottom, so they don't add, in essence, a rubber spring to the lever. Then we'll see how the next ride goes. I don't care how they end up looking, so much -- the bike is already a mongrel, remember.

The ride on Sunday was good. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the air was cool -- perfect for riding.

I rode over to the conservation land, met up with a friend and took a ride from there. We did probably 8 or 10 miles together, and I added another maybe two miles at each end. The loop I took us around is through familiar territory -- my childhood neighborhood, in a sense. We cut from Southborough into Ashland (which is very close-by at that part of town), skirted the edge of Hopkinton State Park (most of which is actually in Ashland proper), stopped at the Bay Path Humane Society to check out the dogs. I'm still a ways off from a dog, and I need a new car before I can transport one. But as with many things, it's always nice to look. Then we cut into the state park for a bit before cruising back to the conservation land. Made one more quick refreshment stop along the way, too, where I shot the photo above.

My riding partner on Sunday is still a relative newbie to riding, and I spent some time coaching -- emphasizing the importance of spining, rather than grunting up hills, recommending gears, listening to the drivetrain and calling attention to a front derailleur in need of trimming, etc. I enjoyed the role, and tried to share and to help without making an ass of myself.

Reflecting on that attempt at coaching now, I can point at specific moments where something has changed the way I ride or the depth of effort I put into my bikes and cycling. Getting the Shogun. Adding Look pedals. Getting the Kestrel. Having my friend Dan point out that I don't spin enough. Having Dan chide me for not trimming my front derailleur cage (same timeframe, and possibly the same ride). Rebuilding the Paramount as a commuter bike. All great examples of where a simple piece of feedback or a new experience or experiment deepened my relationship with and my passion for cycling. I'm not sure that bikes have ever really just been an appliance for me, as they are for so many riders (nothing wrong with that, btw). But through the sum of all such events, my perspective on cycling is very different than it once was.

It'll be interesting to see if and how that same enthusiasm takes root in my friend. Or in my daughters for that matter. In each case it's up to them, not up to me, and I'm not trying to force anything on anyone. But I like to share.

Next weekend Dan will be in town from Calgary and he's carved out Sunday morning for a visit before heading to the airport. I won't have the girls, so we're hoping to get a ride in. I'll let him use whichever bike he wants, and I've got some other gear he can borrow. No helmet though, I'm just now realizing. Anyway, assuming he doesn't pick the Schwinn, my goal is to get some time with the new derailleurs I installed.

All for now,


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