Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If bikes had a memory...

oh the stories they could tell. Today continued our outstanding weather - it feels like San Diego or something. With the day job starting late on Tuesdays, I scooted out for a quick ride on what is now called the Death Bike, which has some stories of its own.

Death Bike is a track bike, originally designed for one of our local racers. He, however, found a good deal on a used BH carbon frame and canceled right after the tubes were mitered. What the heck, the frame was only a little small for me, and I didn't have much time on a pure track bike design, so the build moved forward as my bike. Naturally, its set up as a fixed gear, but not like the path racer. The wheels are clincher, with 23mm open tubs from Deda - nice rolling tires. It has track forks with thick walled blades and limited rake making them stiff stiff stiff. The rest of the frame isn't much different being of 2 x oversize tubing (a 35mm steel downtube is a serious piece of pipe) - which combined with its black paint presents a very serious look.

Death Bike has relatively long trail given its steep head tube, because of the short fork rake. At slower speeds, trail quickly begins to stabilize the bike, but the steep head tube and short wheel base allow it to turn quickly and in a small space. Frankly, I think the geo is nailed for track riding. But it is a bit jarring on the streets, and there isn't room for cushier tires.

Death Bike had an old Campy mid-level (Athena?) brake on the front to keep me safe on the road. Yep, I drill the fork crown. But recently, a friend borrowed it to see if he liked fixed gear riding. For this, I swapped in a SRAM Force brake. That puppy offers right . . . NOW! stopping power - ideal for someone not used to only one brake. To simplify the brake change, I swapped in a new bar with a Cane Creek lever (leaving the old brake and bar connected to each other).

Anyhow, my rider has lots of time on fixed-gear training cycles, so I guessed he could make the step up to a fixed gear bike pretty easily. Whoops, I was wrong. Should have been there to give him pointers. Anyhow, he quickly got launched, twice, and decided fixed was not for him. Hence the name Death Bike.

The new handlebar is a Nitto Rando. I don't have much experience with these, so I was pleased to find that the shape was more comfortable than I expected. The Rando has a great bend behind the brake lever which supports the hand without leaning on the lever. This makes it ideal for a bike with only one brake lever, as both hands get support.

Today's ride pointed out that this is really a pretty stiff handlebar. Some folks take think of flex as a bad thing, but a softer bar offers more comfort than a stiff one. My ulnar nerve sometimes gives me trouble, making my hands/fingers numb. There are many factors related to this, but for me the primary ones are: fitness; & stiffness of the the bike's front end. At this point in the season, most bikes don't bother my ulnar: my weight is going into the pedals, not the bars. But, even on a short 1.5 hr ride, I experienced numb hands with the Rando on the Death Bike. Don't get me wrong, many other bars would do the same thing. But don't buy the Rando expecting it to enhance your bike's ride.

Both the roads & trails had light traffic this morning. Blue sky and temperatures in the mid-70's made for ideal conditions. I beat out a pretty good pace: both the frame and the wheels like to scoot. Meanwhile, my mind was liberated from serious thoughts. When I chose to consider it, I could tell that I was breathing hard and pushing the pace. But mostly, I just didn't notice. Other than the Ulnar thing, I could gone for hours at this level. Sort of a Zen thing - my mind and body all doing its thing in a very coordinated fashion, but without conscious thought driving any of it. I don't know if this makes sense to you, but its a cool thing when it happens.

That's it for today. Enjoy your rides. Pix of something soon.

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