Sunday, March 8, 2009

Don's Other Bike

Sunday was perfect cycling weather, and I planned to have a day on a bike. The bike I selected was my c.1986 Raleigh USA Grand Prix This Taiwan-made bike, unlike the more familiar Nottingham Grand Prix, is a lightweight club racer made with 531 butted tubing. I bought it used in 1997, had it overhauled, and rode it pretty much as it was. Last year I decided it was time for some upgrades--wider bars for a start, and perhaps set higher as well. It got a Brooks B17 saddle, Nitto Technomic stem, Nitto Noodle (177) bars, and a set of Suntour Barcons salvaged from a wrecked bike I bought. For a while I intended to make it into more of a tourer, with fenders, but I have now dropped that idea. The only touring amenity I have added is one of the original Jim Blackburn rear racks that I found last fall, which weighs very little, and gives me the option of carrying bags. 
I had not ridden this bike since last summer when completed these upgrades, and I had some concern about whether it was ready to ride. However, I had a great time on it and I remember now why I liked it enough to upgrade it. 
I made the longest ride that I have in some time, downriver through Alexandria as far as Belle View Boulevard. Actually with all the detours and back and forth, I rode perhaps three times that far. I stopped in three bike shops along the way, the final one being the current occupant of the one my brother worked in back around 1980. They had two Surly Long Haul Truckers in stock, a bike I have been considering, but these were 58cm (borderline too large) and 60cm (undoubtedly too large). However, in my consideration of bike fit, especially after riding the enormous Roadster, 58cm seemed worth a try. Indeed, I could stand over it, and even lift it up a little--perhaps my 32-inch PBH measurement was inaccurate, as the standover height of this bike is 32.7 inches. It would certainly be about as big as I would want, and quite possibly a 56cm will fit better. However, length is a more important dimension than height. The only real importance of height is whether you can stand over it, simply for starting and stopping. 
The other consideration is whether I need another bike at all. I probably don't. 
I had been looking all along for a place I could stop and get refreshments while keeping the bike or its load safe from predators. Most places I could lock it up, I would have to be away from it for too long. But in Belle View I could lock it in the doorway of Dunkin' Donuts and get myself a bagel and a small coffee, which I ate outside with the bike leaning against a spare chair. At the next table, a small girl and boy, perhaps two years old--walking and talking--were having a lesson in the laws of physics, namely that if you invert an ice cream cone, gravity takes over. The lesson after that was in psychology: if you make too much fuss over it, Mommy will not replace it but will instead take you home. 
I started back for home at 5:39 by my phone's clock. Sunset was going to be at 7, and I knew I had some hills to climb to get over the Arlington ridge between the river and my neighborhood. My legs were starting to cramp and I debated riding to a Metro station, taking the Metro to Clarendon, and riding downhill all the way home. But in the end I decided I could handle the grades if I went through Pentagon City and up to Columbia Pike--although by the time I got there, I was tired enough that they felt like twice what they were. All this indicative of my state of training at this time, not of the mileage or grades in themselves. And this bike has no really low gears. I got back to the garage about dark and into my home at 7:45. I no doubt will feel the effects tomorrow, but indeed this is the price of conditioning. 

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