Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Ti Flies When You're Having Fun

This past Sunday was the Zach Koop Memorial Criterum at Orchard Beach, in my home borough of the Bronx.  This event features a whole day of racing, including kids' races, and while on the opposite side of the Bronx from me it's an easy and pleasant ride via the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway.  So in anticipation of this year's edition I registered for two (2) races and planned to bring the kids and make a day of it.

Alas, as the event drew closer the weather forecast became increasingly dire, and when I awoke in the early morning hours on the day of the event the rain was falling steadily with no sign of relenting.  And so I did something that could be construed as cowardly, but that I like to think is a sign of maturity:

I said "fuck it" and decided to bail.

Sure, I felt bad for all the people who would be working hard to put on a race in the rain, but I figured at least they'd get to keep my entry fee.  Also, I am supposed to be doing this for fun, and not only would the rain wash away the fun factor, but it would also increase the risk factor exponentially, and at this point in my life I have to be thrifty when it comes to risk-taking.  It's the same thought process I now have when I encounter a particularly tricky section of trail while riding my mountain bike: sure, I could try riding that, and I'd probably even make it.  But if I don't I'll probably bust my ass, and I'd hate to have to spend weeks of the bike just because my ego wouldn't let me walk three feet.  (And that's not even taking account what a physical job parenting young children is, and it's that much harder when you're physically compromised.)

In other words, all of the above is a roundabout way of saying I'm a total "woosie."

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the age of 40 has long since disappeared in my helmet mirror (no, I don't use a helmet mirror, it's just a metaphor), and while colonoscopies and mole removals may take up more of my time than I'd like, overall I'm rather enjoying pedaling down this particular stretch of road.  In fact, I like to think my latest velocipedal acquisition is a perfect encapsulation of where I'm at right now:


The bike arrived last Friday from Classic Cycles, and you can read all about it on their site here.  (Scroll down.)  Eagerly I lifted the lid of the travel case in which it arrived, and there it lay like Nosferatu in his coffin, dormant beneath its wheelbag shroud, its Ergopower™fangs pointing reproachfully at the heavens:


Wielding a hex key, I recited an ancient incantation:

Titanius Fredlius resurgemus et conteret et adiuva me vincere hostibus meis

There was a peal of thunder, the lights dimmed, and when the power came back on this is what stood before me:


I don't find myself coveting bikes much these days.  That's partially because I have a lot of bikes already, and partially because when you're in the throes of parenthood it's not the bikes themselves you covet, it's the time to ride them.  I certainly did covet bikes when I was younger though, and so a bike like this stirs many feelings in me.  When I was in my early 20s, in the heady '90s, a titanium Litespeed seemed to represent the very pinnacle of cycling attainment:


(Via here--PDF)

At that point in my life, because of the relationship I was in, I often found myself out in the Hamptons being taunted by success.  Riding out to Montauk or up to Sag Harbor on whatever aluminum bike I had at the time, or stopping into Rotations in Southampton for some tubes or an energy bar, I'd see older riders of means astride bikes like these, and it would evoke in me acute sense of just how far I had to go.  (A Litespeed with Helium wheels was practically standard issue for the well-to-do middle-aged cyclist at the time.)  It's not entirely accurate to say I envied the bikes, since as someone whose job consisted of taking verbal abuse in exchange for a small paycheck what I really longed for was the sense of pride, satisfaction and well-being I imagined must come from having achieved a certain level of success.  Still, as someone who loved cycling as much as I did, their bikes were perhaps the most potent symbol of that, much more than the cars and the houses and boats and all the other fancy stuff they play with out there.

All of this is to say that I'm now giving myself a trans-dimensional high five through space and time for finally getting that Litespeed.  Oh, sure, maybe I haven't attained the actual success in life of which I was so enamored, but hey, at least the only boss yelling at me is my 4 year-old, and at least I've got the bike.  Sure, it may be "obsolete" now, but this particular specimen is something of a turn-of-the-century dream bike, with components that represent sort of a "greatest hits" of the aughts, what with the Record 10 speed and the Ksyriums with the red spoke commemorating the Heliums that used to taunt me so.  And yet it's also got the new-style Chorus 11-speed crank to keep it current.  (Though I guess even Chorus has gone to 12-speed now, but whatever.)  It's an articulate summation of my past longings and my present needs, and I like to think that decades of Fredly longing on my part have willed it into existence.

Anyway, I was so caught up in the symbolism of all of this while assembling it that I was completely taken by surprise at just how nicely the bike rides.  I've only got a few rides on the bike so far, and its dangerous to draw conclusions when you're still in that new-bike buoyancy period and twiddling the knobs as it were, but to date every pedal stroke has been like "wow:"


We've all got our chronological frames of reference, but I happen to think that the time period from whence this bike hails represents a particularly idyllic period for the road bike.  It's got a threaded bottom bracket and a standard headset for simplicity (not to mention a level top tube, though I was still young enough when those Giant ONCE bikes came out to think sloping top tubes were cool), and yet with an 1 1/8th" head tube and threadless fork it's still readily compatible with what's out there today.  And while we're admittedly in the waning days of the rim brake and the quick release axle, they're still going to be around for a long time to come, and more importantly, they work.  Really, the only thing that dates this bike (decals and the ugly Ksyriums aside) is the tire clearance.  I haven't experimented, but it looks fairly tight, and I doubt 28s are going to happen.  (Though, as far as road riding goes, with a pair of 25s you're pretty much ready for anything.)

I'm also really enjoying having Campy again.  I had a Record 10-speed group when it was still new, and it came on this ungodly bicycle:


My friends at the shop gave me a great deal on it at the time, and I bought it entirely because of the Record stuff.  (The frame cracked in short order, but the components continued for many miles.)  At the time, Record 10 seemed impossibly exotic; now the metal-and-crabon aesthetic of the derailleurs looks almost quaint.  I loved it at the time, but Campy shifters (at least of this vintage) eventually need to be rebuilt, and since I had only one road bike and was putting lots of miles on it I reached that point fairly quickly.  So instead of rebuilding them I sold the group while it could still fetch a good price, and I went back to Shimano which is comparatively easier.  (People used to say "Campy wears in, Shimano wears out," but in my experience Shimano works consistently for as long as you need it to despite the fact you can't rebuild it.  I've still got the Ultegra group that replaced the Record and it works perfectly.)

Still, I did miss the tactile "ker-thunk!" shifting of the Record, and it's good to have it back.  Now that I spread my miles across many bikes I doubt I'll wear the internals out anytime soon, but if I do the downtime won't matter since I've always got something else to ride.  And while the Record on the Litespeed omits some of the prettiest parts of the Record 10 group (the hidden-arm square taper crank and the silver headset), I did get the Record titanium seatpost, which is something I didn't have the first time around, and which is as classy a bicycle component as you'll find anywhere.

As for the Ksyriums, I live in fear of the dreaded "Mavic death squeal," but with some proactive maintenance I should be able to keep that at bay, and in any case I'll ride them for as long as they hold up.  Sure, all things being equal I'd prefer some traditional wheels with Record 10-speed hubs (I used to have those too and wow were they nice), but the Ksyriums are in keeping with the overall early 21st Century Fred bike aesthetic.

And while everything about this bike may scream "Old guy who skips races when it rains," rest assured that it's rained pretty much every time I've ridden the bike so far, which seems fitting as it came from the Pacific Northwest.  In fact on Saturday I practically felt like I was there:


Speaking of the Pacific Northwest, Classic Cycles may have lost a Litespeed, but they're gaining a Renovo:


Indeed, it's in the coffin from which the Litespeed emerged, and it's making its way westward as I type this, crabon wheels and all.

I no longer have a wooden bike.  I feel so ordinary now...

27 comments:

bad boy of the south said...

Well,at least the renovo is headed back to the wilds of the pacific northwest,creaks and all.

SoonerNate said...

I’m so glad to hear that you are enjoying your titanium frame bike. I’m making the leap to titanium for my birthday this year. I wonder how many of your readers have a ti bike.

hellbelly said...

Podium or something like that. I moved to the Atlanta metro in the late 90's and always found it curious that some of the most coveted US bikes came out of Chattanooga. However, the riding there is excellent for both road and mountain (Raccoon Mtn is a blast). Litespeed's hardtails and road bikes were all over the place down here back then under the most discerning and well heeled of riders. Still, to this day my favorite oddball bike ever came from Litespeed in the form of the Kitzuma a "freeride" hardtail made naturally from titanium that virtually no hardcore mountain bike "freerider" could afford. Congrats on yr "new" ride.

Anonymous said...

it was very wet at the race and quite a few no-shows

Matt said...

If you made a "trade" (the Renovo for the Litspeed) then wow...good move (IMO)! I've always lusted after a Litespeed (or a Merlin)...but it has never happened. As to the Record 10 speed, I've got 2 sets of it on 2 diff bikes (love it!) However, that said, my crabon gravel bike came w/ 11 speed Ultegra disc, and holy smokes, I thought my Record was nice...the new Ultegra kills it! (so does the SRAM Eagle 12 spd X01 on my mt bike btw). As for the Mavic Ksyriums, had a set on both my Record bikes. I liked that the hubs were easily rebuildable by almost anybody. A 10mm and a 5mm allen and the freewheel-hub comes right off (don't even need to remove the cassette). You can clean/grease the pawls and inside of the hub...or if the pawls are wearing you can replace them and/or the hub. That all said, in these days of aero this and that, those enormous flat spokes are about the WORST. However the wheels are pretty bombproof and I never had to true one, even tho I have the special Mavic splined tool. Enjoy the ti ride...and hey, let it rain...the bike won't EVER rust! You're livin' the dream Snob!

huskerdont said...

Enjoyed that River-to-Seashore thing. As someone whose entire experience with the Bronx consists of sitting for an hour at 2 a.m. on a stopped Cross-Bronx Expressway while locals swarmed over the fencing and streamed down the incline onto the roadway, I had not formed the best impression of the area and had not felt a hankering to return. I think I'll make an effort to ride the greenway and prolly head up to the NY Botanical Garden.

mikeweb said...

I bailed on Orchard beach also.

Titanium belongs in bike frames, not in our hip joints.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Matt,

Yes, I preemptively lubed the freehub yesterday, it's incredibly easy. If doing that once or twice a season keeps the howl at bay I'll be happy. I had the first iteration of the Ksyrium when it first came out. One day when I was riding through Manhattan a kid ran out into the middle of the street and kicked my wheel, because why not? The wheel never stayed true after that.

(And yes, 11-speed Shimano is amazing.)

--Tan Tenovo

One Post Behind said...

Glad to see Outside finally decided to post your Cali Erotica piece. If was a Good One, Snob!

Was beginning to think the advertising department at Outside killed it because it discouraged people to but their advertiser's products.

Much to my wife's chigrin, I do not know how many Craig's List bikes I have in the basement, hole or in parts. But she never went down in the basement before I had all the bikes. And even though the total purchase price over the last 10 years likely exceeds the price of a single Peloton Trainer or the average bike that ran the Cali Erotica, I don't think i would trade.

Seattle lone wolf said...

TT, nice trade! Please let us know when the Revono goes on display at Classic so I can take the ferry out to Bainbridge and see the bike I've read so much about.

Anonymous said...

I picked up a Litespeed Solano (if I remember correctly the next model down from your Tuscany) many years ago and it's still in great shape. The Solano takes 28mm tires without a problem.

Pist Off said...

Nice! The wood bike was cool but (predictably) just an exotic oddity that should be in some display for bike nerds. Now you traded cracks and creaks for a frame that should last forever. What’s going on with the rest of the stable? Is there a redundant bike in there now? I count three Fred sleds now in crabon, not-so-stainless, and new titanium flavor.

Anonymous said...

I rode a Litespeed hard-tail mtb for a number of years - I loved it.

Grump said...

Doing a Crit in the rain when you are just "pack filler", enhances the term "Holy Shit" to a brand new level. It forces you to fly through turns at twice the speed you think is possible if it was dry. Every corner, you pray to the rider in front of you..."Sweet Jesus, please don't slide out". Besides watching the guy in front of you for gaps, you also look at every paint mark, and man hole cover to avoid the dreaded slide out. As pack filler, you begin to back off when you hear the bell.

leroy said...

I woke up at4:30 AM Sunday morning. I dreamed I had completed a long day in the cold rain and was back in bed. I drifted back to sleep contented.

Imagine my disappointment when my dog woke me up an hour later to tell me we had to get moving and he had finished the coffee.

I would have bailed on the Five Boro Bike Tour, but we had agreed to marshal again and Brooklyn wasn't going to welcome riders and fix flats by itself.

So we argued over who got to wear the good Gore-Tex and grabbed our bag with the spare socks, neck gaiter, gloves, and inner tubes and headed out.

It rained all day and was a little chilly at times. As of Tuesday morning, my SPDs were still damp.

Nonetheless, the BQE is lovely this time of year. Riding over the lower level of the Verrazzano was pleasant because it was covered and not too windy. The trek to the Ferry along the SI coastline, on the other hand, was a a bit of a slog due to the minor flooding and major wind gusts.

I'm still not sure I see the logic of handing out free Italian ices to the riders waiting for the ferry.

When we got home, my dog insisted I wasn't allowed on the couch becuase I was wet.

He had a point.

My gloves, wool hat, and helmet covers were still soaked as of Monday evening. But other than that, I seem to have survived his "who smells like a wet dog now" jokes.

Some guy from upstate said...

It's too bad you couldn't hold on to the Renovo and that Brand X bike a little while, you would have been able to conduct a steel/aluminum/carbon/titanium/stainless/wood road bike comparo. I suppose that is an excessive number of curvy-handlebar bicycles with gears. Ah well, missed opportunities.

I managed to kill my Shimano 105 shifters, but that was mostly from repeatedly slamming them into the mud while sucking at cyclocross.

Not doing it said...

As Masters' 45+ pack fodder in 2008, I managed to find myself towards the pointy end of a crit in Portsmouth NH with three (3!) laps to go. Was right up there with two (2!) laps to go and was feeling good. My dreams were shattered when on the second 90 degree right turn I heard the sound of alum/carbon/metal/titanium(?) (but no wood that I remember) breaking apart and then, WHAM, was taken out by another who must have been slightly ahead and to the inside. While I had some deep wounds, luckily only dreams and ego were shattered that day.

After weighing the risk versus reward proposition, I decided that was my last crit. I still feel like a wheenie but remind myself that I was never going to be any better anyway.

Anonymous said...

An overlooked feature: Renovos are great bikes for fire sales.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Tan Tenovo is not allowed to dispose of evidence in a traffic case unless the ruling has been settled.
And that bit about campy wearing in and shimano out was true way back when it was first formulated.

HDEB said...

Fun cycling on eastern Lung Guyland : )

wle said...

yeah i have a dream bike from the past, too - 2001 klein quantum pro - because it is the dreaded aluminum, it was like $475 all in.. in 2018.. great bike though..

Die free said...

Tell me about this "dreaded "Mavic death squeal,""

I have a set and have not experienced it

Steve Barner said...

I have a 2004 Klein Q-Pro that Trek gave me when my ancient Klein (one of the first) cracked at the chainstay. It's an exceptionally nice riding bike (and nicely decked out with Campy 10-speed Record Ti components). I've ridden double-centuries on it. I recently pulled the Ksyriums off it and now have it properly wearing sewups and the correct hubs. With a ti Brooks saddle, it's close to being the perfect road bike.

A much faster friend has the same frame, which he's been riding since it was new. He would upgrade it, but he says he really likes the ride and besides, his wife won't let him spend the money. She says she needs it for her horses.

I tell young men "If she says she's an equestrian, it doesn't matter what she looks like--run." I suppose there are many on the other side of the gender divide who would say the same about cyclists.

Mr Lobstermash said...

Other commentators have focused on the loss of Tan Tenovo wood, but the electronic groupset has also departed the stable...

A future 'upgrade' to the race bike perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Snobby! Better late than never you have finally reached FULL FRED though most of these bikes were built up with Dura Ace groupsets and Flite saddles back-in-the-day.

Unknown said...

With automatic stop-start engine features being deployed in more and more makes of cars, the argument of saving gas as a virtue of right-on-red rapidly diminishes.

useron said...

nice bike b"d