Goddamn Right I’m Still Riding!

Go ahead and try to stop me:

“If you go out cycling and have an accident your health care will have a very negative impact on a healthcare system that is on the verge of collapse,” states Spanish government advice.

Those caught flouting the ban in Spain face fines starting at €100, and leisure cyclists risk a year in prison should they “resist or seriously disobey the authorities or officers when they are carrying out their functions.”

If they’re going to ban any activity that can potentially lead to injury I hope that showering is next on the list. (Though I imagine shower-related injuries are less of an issue in Europe due to their more pragmatic approach to bathing.) Regardless, it seems easy to exploit the “cycling for transport” loophole by skipping the Lycra, and I’m more than ready because I’ve been in stealth mode ever since I took delivery of this:

I remain stupidly happy with this bicycle, and while I’ll no doubt be bringing my others back into the rotation soon it’s pretty much been all lugs, all the time for me for the last week. I think I’ve also got the bar height and angle all sorted out, too, so if you’re not into dorking out over Rivendell cockpits I suggest you go watch some hand-washing videos.

As I mentioned, I went for the Nitto Choco bar because Rivendell describe it as a good drop-bar alternative, and I’m ready to declare that I made the right choice. They offer hand positions behind and ahead of the brake lever clamp, and when you need to pop the back wheel up you get good leverage if you get out of the saddle, lean forward, and position your thumbs thusly:

A great thing about clipless pedals is that they make it really easy to lift your rear wheel, but a bad thing about clipless pedals is that they make you forget how to lift your rear wheel.

The other crucial component of the cockpit is the Silver2 friction shifter, and here’s Rivendell’s rundown of the whole friction ethos. Also, as per the product description:

You get more than a widget. Buying these means buying into an approach to gear that is curiously freakish these days, and has been for 35 years. It’s the idea that a mechanism or tool can be mechanically perfect and virtually unimprovable, while at the same time allowing its user to flub up a shift.

This pretty much nails it. They’re ridiculously smooth and work beautifully, and yet if you don’t lock in the shift perfectly you can stand up to crest a hill and find out the hard way when the chain starts jumping around. I suspect this is complicated by the modern drivetrain components. My theory is that older chains and cogs would give more auditory feedback if you didn’t shift perfectly, while the new stuff with all the ramps or whatever shifts so willingly the chain will quietly move to the next cog even if you’re a little off with your lever throw, and you don’t find out until you really apply pressure to the drivetrain.

I don’t mind that at all, however. For one thing, while I’d never argue with someone who thinks it’s ridiculous, I totally buy into the whole “perfectly imperfect” case Rivendell makes for friction shifting. Not to make a hackneyed automotive comparison, but I also like manual transmissions in cars despite the fact that every so often you slip up and grind the gears. (That said, I currently do not own a manual transmission car, because it would have been really hard to find the car we wanted with a manual, and it’s not the sort of car that needs a manual anyway. It would have been like going out of your way to get downtube shifters on a Dutch bike.) And for another thing, I have about eleventy million bicycles with indexed shifting, so it’s not exactly like I was making a big commitment.

As for shift lever positioning, I am quite happy with them as bar-end shifters, though now that I’m riding the bike I do see how they’d be great positioned by the brake levers, as in this picture:

See, the Choco bars extend pretty far back, so what happens is I end up kind of reaching back for the right shifter. On my last bar-end shifter bike I’d shift down the cog with my palm and up the cog with my fingers, but on this bike I sort of toggle it with my middle and index fingers like I’m ashing a cigarette:

Or do sort of a reverse-grip thumb-actuation thing like I’m doing some kind of flashy guitar solo:

You can see it better here when I’m actually doing it while riding instead of modeling it while stationary:

And here’s the ashing thing:

None of this is to say it’s awkward to use the shifters by any stretch; it all comes quite naturally, especially with the light action of the lever. But who knows, maybe when it comes time to change the cables and bar tape I’ll think about relocating them for experimentation’s sake. Then again, keeping the area around the brake lever uncluttered is nice, because there’s also a good hand position above the brake lever clamp with the base of the lever sort of in between your fingers.

Anyway, this is more about somebody’s handlebar setup than you ever wanted to know. But it beats reading the news.

In the meantime, it’s just me and the deer out there:

They’re quite adept at social distancing.

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