When last we met, I had absconded to the basement with the unwieldy package like a dog with a purloined comestible, and excitedly I opened it to reveal one (1) 1975 Teledyne Titan:
As well as some other items, as outlined in the accompanying note:
Which read thusly:
Wait, computer? I didn’t see any computer! I mean, there was this box:
But all it contained was a desk calculator:
I mean what else could that be, right?
As for the helmet, it was indeed state of the art:
And it also transformed me instantly into the Russian cyclist from “American Flyers:”
The bike, the helmet, the Pando beard…it’s as though some strange universal current has been carrying me towards this moment of synthesis.
Scarcely able to process this bounty, I set about assembling the bicycle. Here are the wheels:
Campagnolo hubs attached to Super Champion rims by means of 36–count ’em, thirty-six–spokes:
I was indeed relieved to find that not only were they wrapped in brand-new clinchers for ease of maintenance and peace of mind, but they were also Panaracer Pasela 28s, which is pretty much my favorite all-around tire:
Even better, the freewheel sported a 28-tooth cog, which is certainly atypical for a racing bike of this era:
In keeping with the “making life easy for myself” theme, I decided to set aside the clips and straps Paul had included for the time being:
And instead went with the Times for my inaugural ride:
Of course one benefit of the assembly process–especially when you’re dealing with a bike almost as old as you are–is that you get to give it a once-over for mechanical defects. For example, while mounting the derailleur, I noticed one of the pulleys was cracked:
This was hardly cause for concern. The non-driveside chainstay, however, was another story. As I installed the rear wheel (the bike has vertical dropouts, by the way!), I noticed this:
Was it a crack or simply a scratch? It did not catch my fingernail. However, in reading up on the Teledyne I’d also learned that they had a reputation for cracking. So I sent the photo to Paul, who shrugged it off, pointed out the irony that I was worried about a possible crack on a bicycle with drilled-out brakes, and reminded me that he’d sent me what he referred to as “the world’s safest helmet.”
It was then that I knew that Paul Johnson of Classic Cycles was trying to kill me.
But hey, as a semi-professional bike blogger this is exactly what I signed up for, isn’t it? And not only that, but I’m also up to date on my life insurance premiums, and according to The Media we’re all gonna die anyway. So once the bike was together I snugged everything up and stepped back to admire it:
Then I headed out for a ride.
It was a beautiful day, so I decided to do a long-ish ride, which is risky on a new-to-you bike of unknown provenance that was literally rescued from a scrap heap. (See the Classic Cycles entry on this bike.) Not only was it possible that some unforeseen defect for which I wasn’t carrying the proper tool could reveal itself while I was 20 miles from home, but I might also find out the hard way that some aspect of the bike was really uncomfortable. In particular, I was a bit apprehensive about the un-padded Unicanitor saddle, which I’d never tried before. Sure, it was essentially the same as the BMX saddles I’d ridden in my youth, but alas, mine is no longer the scranus of a young man.
In the interest of time I refrained from installing the desk calculator for now. I also skipped the vintage helmet, since it was rather tight, and I could easily see myself developing a splitting headache a half hour into my ride, at which point I’d have no place to stow the helmet. (I do promise to try it out at some point, though.) Instead, I wore a modern helmet, mostly because I’d be passing through parks and towns with helmet laws, but also a little bit because, you know, Paul is trying to kill me, and I figured I needed all the help I can get. (I may be a helmet skeptic, but there are no atheists in foxholes, are there?)
As for my attire, I went with a jersey that complemented the Teledyne’s color scheme:
Though no doubt by flying the colors of another bike shop while undertaking a Classic Cycle Thursday ride I’ve only strengthened Paul’s resolve to eliminate me from the face of the earth.
As for the Teledyne, it was immediately comfortable, and my first impression was, “Wow, this thing is smooth!” This feeling persisted until the first gentle rise, at which point I got out of the saddle and experienced a sensation similar to an underinflated tire or blacktop during a heatwave. We’ve all heard of certain bikes being described as “flexy” or “noodly,” and we’ve all experienced bikes and/or wheelsets that seem to yield more noticeably under effort than others. But this was a whole other level of squishy. If the tires had been tubulars I’d have immediately suspected they’d been applied with Vaseline. (Oops, I just gave Paul another idea for how to kill me!) In fact it was so noticeable I actually stopped to make sure I’d fastened the skewers properly.
But then I sat down again and marveled at the smoothness. It really is a decadently smooth bike–I’d even go so far as to call it sumptuous. It’s just when you get out of the saddle that it loses its composure. In this sense it’s like a waterbed: it feels great until you move around too much, at which point you lose yourself in unnerving undulations. The reason for this is that, this being essentially the first production titanium bike, it’s made from pure titanium as opposed to the titanium-alloyed-with-other stuff that they use now–and that includes the fork. (While they do exist, you’ve probably noticed titanium forks never really became a thing.) Obviously the sensations you feel when riding a bike can be misleading, but my perception was that a lot of the flex was coming from the fork, and I can’t help wondering if changing it to a steel one would transform the bike from a sublimely comfortable bike that flexes too much under effort into just a sublimely comfortable bike.
But let’s set all that aside for now and just look at the bike:
It is, as you can see, liberally drilled:
Hey, you’ve got to offset the weight of those 36 spokes:
I have no idea how much the thing actually weighs, but it does seem light, especially for a bike of this vintage:
I should have taken a better photo of the fork, which is really cool-looking. I have no idea how they actually made it, but it looks like it’s formed from a single piece of titanium:
Don’t point out that this bike is not a Paramount or Paul will put you on his hit list:
Oh, and that Unicanitor:
I must say it never gave me a moment of discomfort, go figure:
By the way, you’ll notice I took the above photos on an unpaved trail, and between the smooth ride and the 28mm tires the bicycle was both comfy and competent on a variety of terrain. In fact, by the time I got to the
Tappan Zee Mario Cuomo Bridge it was as though I’d been riding the Teledyne for years, so at ease was I upon it:
Yes, I really liked this thing:
And it really does want to be on gravel:
If this were an animated GIF instead of a still photo you’d be able to see the fork deflecting. I mean, yeah, you can see the fork deflecting on most bikes, but this one deflects so much it’s like the tire has a bulge in it.
In all, it was a lovely ride, and I even stopped for a healthy snack:
Certainly after 40 or so miles you know if there’s something about a bike that doesn’t agree with you (numb hands, sore scranus…) but arriving home on the Teledyne I felt as fresh as some type of flower, or that popular brand of Kitty Litter. Yes, the bike is quirky (because of the flex mostly) but riding it will be far from a chore–though it did also make me really want to ride my Litespeed, which I did this morning:
Though obviously it’s not made by the same people, the Litespeed is sort of the direct descendent of the Teledyne in that it’s a titanium road bike with Campagnolo components. They’re not dissimilar to ride, either, except that of course the Litespeed is vastly more composed when you’re sprinting pathetically up a gentle ride to preserve your “Local Legend” status on Strava.
Clearly Teledyne was onto something.