Classic Cycles Thursday! [Welcome To The Velodrome Edition]

If nothing else, I am someone who embraces multimodal transport:

So it was in that spirit that, yesterday, I transported my two children and myself, as well as our three bicycles (the smallest one’s in the trunk–that’s bike, not child), via automobile to Kissena Velodrome for some Star Track action:

Granted, driving to a 400-meter oval, riding around it, then driving home probably doesn’t count as “multimodal,” but whatever.

That’s the Saris SuperClamp EX rack, by the way, and it worked without a hitch (pun intended)–excluding the fact that one of the “Super Clamps” could not quite grab the diminutive rear wheel of the Frejus, but I was able to easily remedy that via judicious application of a toe strap.

Unless you have one of those ‘lectrical cars, driving requires gasoline, and as I dumped some into the Wagon Queen Family Truckster for the slog to Queens I watched with anxiety as the numbers crept ever upward:

Fortunately there was some in-flight entertainment to distract me:

Though as the numbers on the pump continued to climb I felt itchier and itchier, prompting me to conclude I was now suffering from a financial anxiety-induced skin rash.

While automobile travel in New York City has never quite lived up to its billing:

Our internal combustion engine and Robert Moses’s network of parkways and expressways did eventually carry us to Kissena Velodrome:

As I mentioned, the reason for this trip was so that my older son could ride, and while he’s attended a few Star Track sessions so far this was his first time riding in a race-type format. He loved it, I loved watching all the kids, and if you’re the type who likes to throw money at stuff I strongly suggest you consider donating to the program. Not only is Star Track totally free, but they also supply all the kids with equipment, including bikes. (Yes, my son is riding his “own” bike, but the program maintains a fleet of loaners so that there are no barriers to entry for anyone who wants to participate.) I’ve been deeply impressed with and moved by the program so far, and if watching these kids bond over riding bikes doesn’t tug at your heart cables then clearly you’re some kind of cold-blooded reptile and/or terminal roadie.

Anyway, the day was all about the kids, but this blog is all about me. Also, tangentially, it’s about bikes–and let’s not forget my official capacity as the official Classic Cycle Old Crap Test Pilot!

All of this is to say that immediately following the Star Track programming was the Kissena Twilight Series. While I officially retired from racing over a year ago, when I’m at a race I feel like the hotel manager in “White Lotus” with a backpack full of pills, and the temptation to backslide is powerful. Plus, what better way to experience that sweet Fiorelli in its proper context? So, five minutes before registration closed, I signed up:

[Photo: Elliott Weiss]

Please note I’m still wearing the same clothes from that morning’s ride, which are also the same clothes I wore on the previous morning’s ride. (Did somebody say “skin rash?”) And yes, that includes the jorts. See, I didn’t bring any Lycra with me on purpose, specifically to discourage myself from doing exactly what I was now doing. But now here I was, flagrantly ignoring my own risk/reward calculations.

While I have considerable experience in sucking at various bicycle racing disciplines, I’ve only sucked at racing track once or twice, and that was quite a number of years ago. Furthermore, I’m slow even in peak race form, so you can only imagine my condition after a summer spent riding Rivendells in sandals. And then there was the bike:

As I prepared, it occurred to me that my only experience with this 69 year-old bike was a few leisurely turns around the track, and I had no idea how it would respond under power. (Or in my case, “power.”) In my time with the bike I’d also never bothered to figure out what size gear it had, though as I undertook a few warm-up laps and checked out other riders’ bikes I concluded I was probably way undergeared. (Not that it mattered, it’s not like I had any inch-pitch track components lying around.) In a final pre-race check, I also inspected the crank for play, of which there was at least several millimeters.

The first event was a scratch race, and while I’d love to blame the bike, I was already on the verge of getting lapped when I noticed that the saddle was wobbling disconcertingly beneath me as I desperately spun my little gear:

So I snugged those bolts up before the next event, which was a points race. I got lapped almost immediately again, and when I was finished I found that the play in the crank had gone from “noticeable” to “disconcerting.” Here’s me pushing the crank by the left arm towards the drive side:

And here’s me pulling it by the left arm towards the non-drive side:

If you look at the spindle you can see it’s sliding from side to side, and if you look at the right cup you can see it’s retreated from the shell, leading me to believe this could be the “precession” phenomenon written about by Jobst Brandt exerting itself upon the Italian-threaded (I assume) bottom bracket, but I could easily (and, for that matter, probably) be wrong.

(Oh, and if you look at the downtube, you can also see where, in my anaerobic state, I dropped my adjustable wrench on it while tightening the seat clamp and nicked the paint. Sorry, Paul!)

It was at this point that for the other riders’ safety, my own safety, and the last remaining shreds of my dignity (in that order) I wisely opted to pull the plug I arguably never should have inserted in the first place. However, I do reserve the right to give it another shot with a taller gear and more comfortable shorts–though unfortunately they would be the same old legs, so no doubt the result would be much the same. As for my son, he’ll definitely be back, and no small amount of credit is due to Paul of Classic Cycle for supplying us with the two-wheeled inspiration.

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