Thursday, April 2, 2009

Soul Food

Here at the blog, we like to think that we perform a public service. We know that we don't, but we like to pretend. In the interests of that public service which we don't actually provide, we like to give time to other voices than my own. Today we have a guest blog provided by cipospalmares. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for you, he's a better writer than I am.

Some inanimate objects have soul, some don't. For example, I feel a strong bond to my coffee cup from the Fatherland, whereas the blender from GE goes without. Ol' Lunicycle pretty much hit the nail on the head when he opined that bicycles and musical instruments fall into the former lot. (To those pondering theft of my cittern, I shall warn you about your eternal afterlife being filled with the sound of an out-of-tune hurdy gurdy accompanied by long-nailed fingers continuously scratching an old fashioned chalk board. For bicycle thieves, we'll just remove the saddle and throw away the 5mm...

Why the harsh punishment? Why wouldn't I just buy a new bike? It's not like they're special! What? - they have a soul or something?

At this point, my ParkTool shop quality pedal wrench usually meets the ignoramus's forehead.
After he wakes up, I can proceed to explain why bikes (and especially MY bikes) do have a soul (...and why MY bikes have so much more soul than all the others.)

It's simple: They're mine. I most carefully chose the frame (steel, ti, aluminum - in that order), picked the components (Italian, of course – Shimano for the rain bike and the occasional fixed Keirin frame only. And then, definitely nothing newer than the 600 stuff). I fretted over bar tape color(white - obviously and always), bought the tires (skinwall - naturally), built the wheels (first with Randall's help, then under his watchful eye, but never with anything Mavic) and finally even chose the jersey and bibs (definitely nothing Postaldiscoveryastana or, even worse (yikes!), the yellow jersey version). Not to mention the thousands of miles of pain before you find the right saddle, ransack ebay for spares and have a few of them re-upholstered by some guy in Georgia, just to fit your color scheme.

Choosing the parts for your bike is a sacred undertaking and must never consist of some guy in Taiwan slapping a groupset bought in bulk onto a frame built up with a black house brand bar/stem/post combo. Plus, your calipers have to be part of the gruppo and your rear derailleur cannot be a step up from the rest. Slapping an upscale rear mech on an otherwise low end frame is false advertising. A mean gimmick, as in:

"No, that's not an Ultegra bike - just the rear derailleur is...".

Plus, it's like a riding buddy, let's call him "Dana" said: "Dude, your sh*t HAS to match!"

For example, a mid-90s Colnago steel frame must have non-carbon Campagnolo components
and wheels, silver (silver was once the new black) Shamals or, even better, Atlanta'96 tubular rims laced to 9 speed Record or Chorus hubs. A silver Cinelli theme dominating the finishing kit is mandatory. Combine the white tape with a white Rolls or Flite saddle and you are looking at a work of art.

But why not just hang the newest and latest from your carbon frame, isn't that better?

No. That would mean that

a. you can buy a soul


b. everyone in the world would understand this post

The bike's soul reflects the rider's love for the sport. You have to want to know all things cycling. You already know all about the Greats. You know who Merckx and Indurain are. On some long, hot and humid hammerfests, you can feel their same pain. Although miles of talent, but not so many years part, you are kin. You know why Coppi, Bartali and Pantani are icons of the sport. You how many switchbacks the Alpe has and where the Dutch hang out. You know what the Roubaix Velodrome is and you know most Bergs in the 'Ronde'. You like the climbers, but secretly admire Cipollini's panache. You like O'Grady and despise of all the other Australians, especially McEwen. And, while you sing his praises to the non-cycling public, you secretly understand why the Euros haven't cared much for Armstrong since after the second one. Plus, you have your doubts, too. (Which, of course, is the reason you will never buy a Madone.) You know your derailleurs and brakes, your bars, stem and saddle, your pedals, your cranks, your cassettes and everything attached to your frame. Everything down to the proper orientation of your tires, headset spacers and cable housings. You know your bike. And its soul.


  1. Why would so many people fall in love with and even name their bikes if they didn't have soul?!

  2. Exactly! All you have to do is ride a bit to know the truth, right?