So I love my Ti bike.
Like I really love it.
But something made me ride a bike I have hanging on the wall. It’s a 1997 Giant TCR Compact Expert frame (with race number mounting hole; it was probably raced) with a mash-up of older Dura Ace/Microshift drivetrain rolling on old style Open Pros with even older Ultegra hubs, rebuilt by me. I had it powdercoated Bengal Orange just for the fuck of it. I like orange, go figure.
I tell you all this because it’s become my secondary bike. The bike I ride when it’s nasty outside and the super-tight fork clearance on my Ti bike might get fouled with a little mud. Or when the Ti bike isn’t working exactly right and I haven’t had time to fiddle with it. Maybe it has a random wall-mounted flat tire one morning and I don’t have time to change it. You get the idea. It’s funny that the Giant is relegated to this status now. All the components were dressed on the Ti bike that I rode as my only road bike for almost a year until I ponied up and bought a new, numbers-matching drivetrain for the frame (with new wheels, new saddle, new fork, new headset, etc.) and picked up the Giant frame on C’list for 60 bucks whereupon I cast all the old stuff unto it. So there I sit with two top-shelf road bikes. What to do? You can only ride one at a time, right? So one gets hung up and one gets rode. The Ti bike is comfortable and stiff in the right places so it’s hard to remember there are other bikes to ride. I see the Giant every day; it sits in a place of honor above my couch, bright and orange and silver and awesome. And I tried to find a place for it in my ride schedule, but it’s SO easy to just grab the same bike every day and plug n’ play. So it stares at me like a taxidermied antelope head with those cold, dead eyes.
The stuffed head turned to me today and said “What the fuck, Asshole?”
I guess it was right. I take it down. I swap out the wheels for an older set, but in better condition. I tune up the rear. Check the brake pull. Air up the tires. And ride it.
In the annals of the cyclist’s mind there are a lot of dark corners. A lot of room for numbers and measurements and routes and fantasies. But none gets a rider going like that New Bike First Ride. It’s like a first date. Like getting a $1000 winning lotto ticket. It makes you ride faster, better, cleaner. Or at least that’s what it seems. So that’s what I attest this feeling to; the faux New Bike First Ride. But then I start to analyze it more clinically. Yes, the bike feels different, strange, new. But there are other things that are more tangible and literal. It’s made of aluminum so it’s stiffer. It’s a compact frame so it’s got better power transfer. It’s lighter, I think. The drivetrain is broken in and tuned to perfection; it is the smoothest running drivetrain I’ve ever ridden, including my brand new SRAM Force. The wheels are true. The fit is good. It has no weird creaks or clacks or clicks. It rides silent and deep like an Akuna-class submarine. In summation, it is a fucking awesome bike. And now I remember why.
So there it is, The Stranger. The bike you purposely ignore. The bike you built before you built the bike you ride to the club rides. The bike that is jealous of your race bike. The bike that will force you to remember that you built an awesome machine that deserves to be ridden. So ride it. Once in a while, at least. And don’t let it gather too much dust. It’s just as important as your race/club ride/Weekday World/Cat 6 bike.
And sometimes you get lucky and remember that just in time to have a kick-ass solo ride for no reason whatsoever.