Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Duty Cycle

I went looking for and found the sales receipt for the Kestrel today. Only took a few minutes. I found it folded into the Kestrel owner's manual I got with the bike; a generic bike manual with a Kestrel cover and a Kestrel-specific 8.5x11 sheet of paper folded into it. The back lists Schwinn as the Kestrel distributor.

The date on the slip was August 15, 1992. Nearly 18 years ago. So I was 25. I thought it was later than that -- that I'd bought it in '93 or '94. The slip says I also bought a pair of lycra gloves (I believe they were the Paramount PDG-branded gloves I finally threw away 4-5 years ago), and a Clif bar. I must have been hungry from the ride over to Landry's Westborough store from Framingham.

That day, I'd first dropped my Golf off for an amp/speaker/subwoofer installation, then taken the Shogun off the roof rack and ridden to Landry's in their original downtown Framingham location. I'd probably ridden an MS ride not long before, giving the hardware envy a good stir in the process. The Kestrel that caught my eye in that storefront was sexy, but too small for me to test-ride. Even so, it was enough to get me to ride out to Westborough to try one in the same size as my Shogun. I had no business chasing a car audio install with an extravagant bike purchase that day, but there really was no resisting after the test-ride. I haven't regretted the purchase for even a moment, since.

I've said all of this before, I know.

The bike cost me $1299.00, plus tax -- three times the cost of the Shogun just 2-3 years prior, and still a fair chunk of change, though no longer an unusual sum for a bicycle purchase. I'd talked them down from the mid-$1400's I think. The Bicycling Magazine sitting on the dining room table downstairs says you can buy a carbon fiber Jamis with Shimano's fancy new electronic shifting for $11000. That's nearly the price of a Honda Interceptor motorcycle, and with deference to Jamis and Shimano, that number just makes no sense at all to me.

I've probably spent more than that $1300 on components and accessories for it, since. A carbon fork, new wheelset, new derailleurs, new crankset, new bottom bracket, headset, a couple of saddles, a couple of sets of bottle cages, a couple of pumps, a couple of seat bags, bar tape, chains, cassettes, brake pads, tires, tubes and the like. Most of those dollars spent weren't strictly necessary, but they ultimately allowed me to build-up or upgrade other bikes in a fleet that grew and grew in recent years. Cross-pollination.

It's been an enormously satisfying ride, and I've enjoyed it, to say the least. But 18 years(!) is plenty of duty for a carbon frame. So today, I took the first small steps in decommissioning my baby, as has been my plan for sometime this summer. The blinky came off the seatpost mount. The under-seat wedge bag came off the saddle rails and now hangs under the Brooks on the Schwinn, carrying a spare tube and tools. I took the picture above, to record its final state of build.

At some point in the next few weeks, I'll break it down, clean and overhaul each of the components, and box them all up for someday. The parts that make it a Kestrel -- the frameset -- will be thoroughly washed and waxed, then wrapped and boxed. It may emerge to hang on a wall once I find my next home (it wouldn't look right in the house, here), but will otherwise stay retired. When someday arrives, I'll build up a new frameset using many of the components the Kestrel has worn.

But not today. Today, a steel-framed Motobecane nearly twice the Kestrel's age is officially my duty bike. Since its last ride, it's been fitted with a newer 7-speed wheelset (with virtually no miles since I had the Shogun's original 105 hubs laced to Velocity rims, years ago) and an early-'90's Shimano 600 rear derailleur. Le Mongre, as I call it, doesn't have the magical mix of stiffness, efficiency and comfort the Kestrel does, but it's an honest bike with honest handling, and I love to ride it, too.

It's obvious that the Motobecane isn't far from the end of its own rational duty cycle. But I'm in no rush to retire it, and will take my time to find the right bike to serve as my primary ride for my next 18/whatever-year stint. As in other parts of my life, now is a time to enjoy what I have, explore what I want and what I need, and look forward to the day it all comes together.

All for now,


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