Monday, July 23, 2007

Sewn Back Together Wrong

The story of the human-machine connection is not an unfamiliar one; our relationships with bikes are forged over many miles in the saddle. As natural as this sounds, becoming connected with a bike and one's every day rides is an often overlooked aspect of riding. Occasionally, the connections are disrupted, and may take a considerable amount of effort to rekindle.

Long before I broke my collarbone, the Sekine was already having appendage-related issues. The original fork's steerer tube was bent from a winter of 700cmx. Its rehabilitation was arduous, but eventually resulted in a Craigslisted low-clearance fork paired with a nice Shimano 600 brake from Mark's stash. I was excited to ride the bike that took me so comfortably through my first winter of bike commuting, with a steepened head tube angle that I thought I wanted.

My high school shop teacher, Gord Gaudet, always used to say "Thought thought he farted but he shit his pants." Well, that statement couldn't be more true in the case of the Sekine. The new fork has favourably quickened the steering, but at the cost of a much more forward riding position that just isn't as comfortable as it used to be. The bike is still rideable, but it doesn't fill the ultra-comfortable fixed-touring niche that it used to live in.

Now that I've given you the context, let's go for a ride. This morning's commute was more eventful than average. I've been straight-shooting it lately: Victoria to Broadway to Fraser. When you regularly ride the same route through the river of conveyance, certain spots stand out - the rapids of the river, if you will. These spots may exist due to topography, infrastructure, or traffic patterns; the fun part is discovering the resistance - least or otherwise - of each path. All of these are interrelated, and weather comes into play as well.

For the topographic variable, the Vic-Bro-Fra route has three big climbs: Broadway from Clark, and two on Fraser from 20th to 25th and 28th to 33rd. A couple highlights of the infrastructure are the bike/bus only lane on Broadway and the deep dump truck tire grooves South of Fra-Kings. Car traffic is slow on Broadway and fast on Fraser. Today's weather: Overcast, 100% wet, but not raining at the moment.

After filtering through the usual backup at CommBro, I closely followed a car through the intersection at Woodland. As we had just passed through an intersection in a bus only lane, I felt at liberty to give him a hearty "What are you doing?" as I passed by his open window. Then, coming up to Clark, the right lane was too packed with buses to filter up. I took the left line and noticed Ryan, resident brace-face, trackstanding behind the buses on his newly assembled Goldilocks.

The frame is spray painted gold, and I can't decide whether it reminds me of a worn out pair of American Apparel lamé shorts, or a gaudy lawn ornament. The lime green fork and stem, topped with the season-appropriate riser bars, have me leaning toward the latter. After a well-executed moving handshake, we flowed up the hill on Broadway.

Ryan, standing up and hammering on his new bike, paced me up the hill as I stayed seated on the Sekine. Though he may have been mile 200 of a double century, I maintain that riser bars are terrible for hill climbing - this coming from a guy who did Mount Seymour on Nitto B123s. A hoonish left turn at Fraser left Ryan to continue to his orthodontist appointment.

I rolled up to 12th Avenue just as the light was changing. In front of me was a performance commuter, who was awkwardly half-standing as his full-suspension Infinity appeared to be absorbing the grooves in the intersection with the agility of a K-Car on blown stock shocks.

At Fra-Kings, there was a lineup of at least five vehicles in the right lane, and only one in the left. One of those five was a full-size garbage truck, which I was not particularly interested in being behind. I chose the left, and ended up riding the gnarliest section of Fraser - the one with the huge dump truck grooves - in the left lane beside a garbage truck. Then, the car ahead of me decided it was turning left. Into the draft of rank stench I went, as the lack of head wind sucked me even closer. I got out and around the truck again when it made a right turn.

Trackstanding at 25th was the first time I stopped on the ride. With a few moments to reflect on the preceding events, I had a relaxing final stretch before beginning my day at work. Seems like business as usual at Project-B.

Looking back, the Sekine was the first road bike that ever fit me perfectly. With a solid, yet forgiving ride, it was a great winter commuting-slash-adventuring bike. I now have the steep track bike that I wanted - which rides more comfortably than the Sekine in its pants-shitting current state. The now-clichéd phrase "stiff, yet compliant" is a feel the bike had, and has lost the latter part of since the fork swap. Conclusion: it needs to go in for a second surgery.

Also on the topic of disrupted connections, the Mielgeot is currently down with a broken rear axle. Ironic, considering the Miele frame's tall bike destiny was decided upon discovery of a broken rear axle. Without getting into the story of how perfectly that bike fits me, I will say that I'm very much looking forward to commuting on it again.

Dethklok's Toki expresses the uncertainty of our ongoing experimentation, saying "we such screwups that he would be sewn back together wrong." Fortunately, we're dealing with bikes, which can be taken apart and sewn back together right if things don't work out the first time.



nikcee said...

'performance commuter' is my phrase of the week... thanks!

Deltaentropy said...

It is a good song title.

Deltaentropy said...

Oh shit, it's Marlo, not Adam. Oops.