no one line


The "If It Ain’t Fixed It’s Broken" Phase
September 30, 2008, 9:16 pm
Filed under: fixed gears, no one line

Occasionally I hit upon some witticism that I just can’t let go of. Two or three years ago, in conversations about my bike habits, it was correcting somebody: “Oh, I’m not a cyclist. I’m a biker.” “What’s the difference?” they’d ask, leading me perfectly. I’d pause. “I think it’s spandex.”

I was an avowed utilitarianist – my one bicycle was meant for all-purpose use, for getting me around, for going fast and being comfortable and wearing sneakers and not looking like a cyclist. Never mind that that one all-purpose bicycle was a fixed gear, frequently without a handbrake, with no accommodations for racks or fenders. And never mind that with rolled-up pants, a messenger-style shoulderbag, and lock wrapped around my waist, I did look like a cyclist. Just a certain sort of cyclist, and that was fine by me.

But, as I’ve found in a wide variety of ways, orthodoxy fades in favor of embracing complexity. I realized that clipless shoes are excellent innovations. I realized that I loved going fast, and that I could get even better at alleycat races – those messenger-inspired city races that take place between red lights and midtown taxicabs – if I embraced some more regular long rides. Which required a more suitable handlebar setup, and, eventually, gears. A regular browsing of craigslist and a trip to Westchester County with cash in hand brought home a used road bike. So much for the “if it ain’t fixed it’s broken” phase. And eyerolling about lycra-clad roadies struggling up the Central Park “hill” turned into, well, being one of them – sort of – on my way to work.

There are ways to stick to pride – riding a recreational-level steel racing bike with traditionally spoked wheels (but no downtube shifters – it came with Campy Veloce) and a midrange transmission. I was still wearing a mess bag, and, at first, riding mountain pedals (Time ATACS) on the road bike, on that lovely scrappy little Bianchi. I wasn’t one of those ostentatious spenders in the park loop riding their Latest Bike Fad (how quickly Ti has dropped from favor, replaced by carbon fiber!). I was still a rough-and-tumble bike kid.

Thank goodness for – and be careful of – the changing of original intentions. I love my road bike and I am starting to love road racing. But I have to smack myself when I start wondering how I can cheaply acquire some deep-dish carbon aero wheels.

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