Ye Olde Bike Shoppe

A quick aside, exploring action in Ye Olde Bike Shoppe. A brief nothing, if you will, interrupting the utter absence of anything else.

I am giving the Cloud Bike an extreme makeover. It’s a concession to old age – both mine and the machine’s. It’s a minor expansion of the variety of rides in the barn, adding a touring-outfitted bicycle with racks and wider gearing. It is the single-rider answer to the current setup of the tandem, with the added rear racks and spring makeover of its own.  

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Here’s the greatest thing about bicycles: These machines really extend the range of travel a person can achieve under her own power, opening broad horizons while maintaining an intimate connection to the passing landscape. This is especially so on the nation’s network of paved roads, the vast majority of which see very little motorized traffic. There are thousands of miles of paved roads in the United States that are the functional equivalent of bike paths. They are better than bike paths, because other motorists treat intersections with them as cause for attention and care, an approach not exhibited along bike trails. Nor are actual roads – the legal, moral, and common-sensical purview of the cyclist – as monotonous or fraught with two-legged peril as bike trails. It’s cool to be able to go so far so swiftly on nothing more than my legs.

I did this building up the Cannondale frame of the Cloud Bike 24 years ago and now I’m more deliberate, now I have a straight job, and now the quality of technology and manufacture is far beyond the state of the art a quarter century ago.

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Here’s the thing about the crankset of the new stuff: The graphics are atrocious. The typography is an abomination. The technobabble promotional tripe is beyond redemption. How else can you account for “Ultra Torque System” and “ESP Actuation System” nightmarishly etched into the alloy of the cranks mere inches apart. I mean, really. Individually, those phrases are without merit. Together, it’s a pattern of felony misuse of the language.

Then there’s this from the Campagnolo website, featuring a trademark and registered mark-rich paragraph of condescending nothingness masquerading as consumerist egalitarianism.

“Athena™ is the first 11 speed groupset with a silver finish, made for riders who expect state-of-the art performance from a Campagnolo® 11 speed groupset but without the high cost of the pro level groups. Technology, innovation, style and class are now available to all Campagnolo® enthusiasts.”

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Point being there are negative aspects to the design elements ancillary to the new componentry. Granted.

But, by golly, it sure is pretty. Of course it is.

And it is almost certainly going to ride better, more smoothly and efficiently – ultimately providing a more satisfying ride while extending the effective range of the pedal-er. This still needs full road testing, but initial returns show promise. The fit will be a bit different and improved, with a higher-set saddle atop a longer seatpost. The hand-me-down but decades younger wheelsets are both strength appropriate as well as a significant upgrade to lower rolling resistance.

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The aforesaid gearing lowers the chainring denominator to 39, a reduction from the 42 on the original iteration of the Cloud Bike. The top-end, which is to say the lowest gear ratio, of the cassette also makes the pedaling easier. The compact chainrings match with the new-fangled 11-cog cassette. This means a double chainring provides more gearing options – 22 versus 21 – than the old-school triple chainring setup, along with less gear-ratio duplication.

This means there is a better chance I’ll be able to pedal up inclines on a loaded bicycle.

The engineering of the chainrings and cogs and chain and Ergo levers and derailleurs and the cables all serve to make for smother rotation, shifting, and rolling. I believe it will run silent and solid, smooth and steady, silky and straight. All this makes it easier to forget about the bike, to zip along on a freewheeling downhill coast or to pedal effortfully, slowly, grindingly upward while focusing only on the wind or the sweat or the light or the ache or anything else besides the bicycle.

Which is ironic.