Back in January I announced Classic Cycles Thursdays!, which is basically a thing where Classic Cycles sends me a really cool bike from their museum, I ride around on it for awhile, then I return it eventually and they send me another one.
In other words, I’ve hornswaggled them into becoming my own personal exotic bike lending library. It’s genius!
The bike I’m currently riding under this program is the American Bicycle Manufacturing M-16, and I don’t think I’ve written anything about it since taking it for a longish ride not too long after I received it. The reasons I’ve been so remiss in doing so are many, including but not limited to:
- Late winter/early spring in these parts is wet and sloppy and generally not conducive to all-terrain cycling;
- I got caught up in my new Rivendell
- This whole stupid pandemic thing happened, which has REALLY EATEN INTO MY RIDING TIME GODDAMMIT
Recently however I realized it was time to get back on the vintage horse in earnest. I’d been meaning to take the M-16 to Stillwell Woods out on Long Island, since its smooth, sandy, flowing trails are the ideal environment for this bicycle. But while my son and I did duck in there for a bit awhile back:
I have not been able to justify the round-trip since then, and so this past weekend I said “Fuck it” and used it for my usual mixed-terrain jaunt to the forbidding Trails Behind The Mall:
My last longish ride on this bicycle left me feeling a little bit beat up, so this time around I raised the bars a centimeter or two–a straightforward operation thanks to the quill stem, complicated slightly by having to re-align the cantilever straddle cable. Well, guess what? That slight adjustment made a world of difference, and not only was I more comfortable, but I felt a lot less like the bike was going to throw me over the bars. So hey, look at that, taking a little extra time to mess around with your bike fit is pretty important, go figure.
I do happen to admire the shiny, purposeful, weaponlike aesthetics of the frame (chrome tubing reminds me of the bicycles I most coveted in my youth) but as far as actually riding the thing I derive the most pleasure from the drivetrain:
Yes, the modern stuff on my Jones is objectively “better” in that a clutch derailleur, a wide-range cassette, and a single chainring up front make for virtually trouble-free offroad riding. Meanwhile, it didn’t take too long for the triple crank on this bike to remind me that chainsuck was a thing:
Even so, road and mountain drivetrains hadn’t yet diverged all that much when this stuff was made, and it’s kind of fun to have to think about your shifting. Of course this attitude is a direct consequence of my having been brainwashed by the Cult of Rivendell, and I’m so far gone I even flipped the thumb shifter into friction mode:
Speaking of friction, while I manage to bungle a few shifts every time I ride my Rivendell, I don’t think I missed a single shift on this ride, and I wonder if the fact that the XT drivetrain has two fewer cogs has anything to do with it. Or it could be the position of the thumb shifter affords a little more control versus the bar end shifter. Maybe when it’s time to change the cassette on the Rivendell I’ll use one with fewer cogs; thanks to the friction that should require little more than futzing with the derailleur limit screws, if that.
It suits the bike perfectly, though when the bike returns to Bainbridge Island I will transplant it to the Jones.
But yes, thanks mostly to that small change in cockpit positioning I enjoyed the bike much more this time around. In fact, while I’d been preparing to exchange it, I may have to squeeze in a few more rides on it first. Really, my only complaint now is the old-fashioned handlebars:
A little more width and sweep and this thing would be dreamy. I mean how nice would this bike be with these?
That’s a rhetorical question, it would be very nice indeed.
But yes, even with handlebars that look like they came out of the plumbing section at Home Depot the bike was both fun and capable on the roots and rocks that lie behind the dormant temple of commerce:
Hopefully I can sneak out to Stillwell before the bike has to go home.