Another Year Down The Drain

You know when your smartphone takes you on one of those nostalgic tours through your own photo archives? (Please send your “I don’t own a smartphone” comment to me via First-Class Mail® and I will publish it in 4-6 weeks.) Well, what normal people see is pictures of their friends and family. I, however, get pictures of bikes:

Yes, my phone tells me that it’s been about one (1) year since I took delivery of the American Bicycle Manufacturing M-16 from Classic Cycle:

When I first assembled this bike I did not foresee myself forging a long-lasting relationship with it, and my initial impression of this three decade-old mountain bike was basically, “What the hell were we thinking back then?”

Yet here we are one year later, and after making some simple yet effective changes it’s now become one of my most oft-ridden bikes, go figure:

Sure, some of those changes involve not really using the M-16 as a mountain bike, but it’s important to look past the label and deep into a bike’s soul in order to understand what it truly wants to be.

Or of course you can always force the bike into submission, whatever works for you:

Not only that, but in less than two months it will also be one year since I received my A. Homer Hilsen:

To paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff, sometimes you change a bike, but sometimes a bike changes you. This bike falls squarely in the latter category, and not since I bought my first “real” road bike has a bicycle changed me so completely. I mean it quite literally put a beard on my face!

[If you’re considering a Rivendell, you have been warned.]

Actually, maybe it hasn’t changed me so much as it basically undid all the changes I underwent after buying my first “real” road bike. In this sense I guess Rivendells have the ability to de-Freddify riders in the same way bivalves can remove contaminants from bodies of water.

As for changes to the bike, I’ve made relatively few. In addition to the fancy baggage, I of course installed the Rapid Rise derailleur Grant Petersen sent me not too long after I got the bike, and I’ve been using it ever since:

If you’d told me shortly before I started this blog that one day Grant Petersen would be sending me bike parts in the mail I’d have never believed you–though if you’d told me shortly after I started this blog that in 14 years all I’d have to show for it would be a Rapid Rise derailleur sent to me by Grant Petersen, I’d have told you, yeah, that sounds about right. Either way, together with the Silver friction shifter the derailleur really does Rise Rapidly up the cog when you downshift, and overall the drivetrain is in every way as refined in feel as the modern Dura Ace stuff on my plastic bike, though of course it’s refined in a completely different way. (The Silver/Rapid Rise feels like opening and closing a really high-end Venetian blind, whereas the Dura Ace is more like cooking in a newly-renovated kitchen with expensive drawer hardware.) Also, Rivendell is currently working on a Rapid Rise derailleur, and like every other old technology they bring back, you can expect everyone will laugh at it for it for 10 years, after which it will suddenly become standard equipment on gravel bikes.

Besides the derailleur, I’ve of course changed the tires, and I continue to be quite pleased with them:

Even if they do have a boringly practical reflective strip instead of an oh-so-fashionable tan sidewall:

Just as I believe acoustics play a disproportionately large role in informing our perception in bicycle ride quality, I also believe tire aesthetics inform how “supple” we think a tire is, and a tan sidewall automatically increases our perceived suppleness factor by at least 10%, even if there’s no actual basis for it.

Someone should do some kind of study.

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