Selasa, 01 Maret 2011

My fantasy bike collection

I'm sure that, if I were to see a psychiatrist, he'd suggest that my case of bike envy could be tempered by putting it all down on paper. If space, money and sense were of no importance then I would go out and buy

1. A triathlon bike

When you've got a budget in the 10s of thousands (euros, dollars, pounds - who cares), its probably quite difficult to choose between the top of the range triathlon bikes, unless you are a pro and get "lumped" with the one made by your sponsors. Choosing a bike is a bit like trying to choose a single malt: why choose between them when you should have one for each and every mood? The differences must be so tiny between the top bikes that it becomes a question of which one fits you best and which one has the best adverts in your favourite Triathlon magazine. For completely subjective reasons that I can't put my finger on, I would probably go for the Specialized Shiv Triathlon bike with Shimano Di2 electronic gears and a disc wheel thrown in (why not?). At least I already have the same water bottles as this chap, that's a start.

2. A full suspension Mountain Bike

I've never ridden on a "full susser" so I don't even know whether I would like it. After laughing at the other competitors for rocking up with full suspension bikes to a Duathlon Cross I did last year, I quickly realized why as I had to dismount for the steepest descents (and ascents, for that matter). On the trails that I go on to work, I think that a full susser would skip along even faster although I would lose the workout I get from the vibration on my single susser... There are so many different suspension systems and styles of Mountain Bike that I get lost. In a way, the sheer variety puts me off altogether because I know that I would only start coveting another slightly different Mountain Bike even if I satisfied my current desire. As I am pretty tall, I'm quite tempted by the so-called 29ers, which have 29" wheels. I suppose that the suspension is a bit more limited by the size of the wheel but I'd probably go for something like this (it would look nice sitting next to my current road bike):

You wouldn't be able to do anything crazy on it, like loony descents or stupendous stunts but, at my age, I think its best for me to avoid those kind of things anyway.

3. A fixie

Madrid isn't the best city in the world for a "fixie". For those of you who haven't been swept up by this strange cult, a fixie is a bike that not only doesn't have gears, but doesn't allow you to coast or freewheel either. The best thing about these bikes is their simplicity: you don't even need brakes (although at least one has to be fitted by law if you are going to ride on the roads) because, to stop, you simply stop pedalling. A slightly less extreme variant of the fixie bike are the single speed bikes which allow you to freewheel at least, but don't have any gears. Whether it is a fixie or a single speed is just a question of the back wheel - there are even "flip flop wheels" that have a freewheel cog on one side and a fixed cog on the other, so you can choose. In principle, many bikes can be converted into single speed or fixie bikes, but the trick is whether you can get the right tension in the chain: without the sprung derailleur thingy, you need to be able to set the back wheel at exactly the right distance from the chainstay and this requires a special kind of "drop out" (notch for attaching the wheel). The other way of going about it is by adding a chain tensioner but this seems totally pointless to me: the whole idea of a fixie is its elegant simplicity - put another cog in there and the friction increases and there are more parts that can wear out, just as with a regular bike. I wish I had had a fixie in Cambridge, where I grew up. I only ever used two gears of the 10 that I had on my racer: the lowest one to get started and the highest one to belt around town. In fact, when I started looking to buy a bike a year and a half ago, I rang round asking for fixies and the shop attendants told me that they had never sold one before. Now I have ridden around Madrid a fair bit, I can see why. Also, the gear mechanisms are so much better than they used to be: I was blown away by the concept of indexed gears (you used to have to fiddle about with the gear lever - which was mounted on the frame - to get the precise position - although, if you only ever used the highest and lowest gears like me, that wasn't a problem). Even though they are much improved, they are still not perfect and I would love to have one of those retro styled fixie bikes for zipping around town on. The annoying thing is, that they are now so fashionable that they are about ten times more expensive than they were "back in the day". I recently saw a beautiful model with leather seat and titanium(!) frame and all in Asturias of all places (its even more mountainous than Madrid!). This one from the Spanish bike manufacturers, BH, would do me just fine thank you very much...

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