Great Shifters Of The Past Who Are Now Deceased

Everybody knows the famous like from “Casablanca” that goes, “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in:”

Wait, no, that wasn’t from “Casablanca.” I think it was from “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult:”

Either way, I always think of that line whenever I ride a road bike. Basically I’ll spend a bunch of time riding around in jorts and sneakers, during which I’ll convince myself I’ll never ride a road bike again. But just when I think I’m out, I stuff myself back in…to a jersey made out of recycled water bottles:

I should probably admit to myself I need both a larger jersey and a haircut, but for the time being I prefer to bathe in the soothing schmaltz of denial.

Not only are road bikes relatively impractical, but there are few sights more pathetic than that of a middle-aged man astride one. Nevertheless, if your priority is bagging a bunch of miles efficiently, you can’t do much better than a road bike. In this sense, road bikes can be extremely liberating, like going to a Chinese restaurant and announcing to the table, “You know what? Fuck it, I’m just gonna use a fork.”

Also, I just really, really like this bike:

Now that we’re on the cusp of the demise of the high-performance mechanical road transmission, I find myself looking back at the groups of yore, and when it comes to integrated bike/shifter levers this one might be my favorite:

10-speed is about where I stop being able to notice the addition of any more cogs in a drivetrain. Moreover, you can shift a whole bunch of gears at once both up and down, theyclickety-clackety ker-THUNK of the action reminds you that you’re actually doing something, and somehow they manage to seem both modern and classic at the same time, thanks to the crabon and the aforementioned ker-THUNK-iness.

I will say that I’ve always found Shimano’s levers to be objectively better (both smoother and more tolerant of drivetrain wear and grime, which is important when you’re a slob like me), but few things are more satisfying than getting into the drops on a descent and dumping a bunch of cogs at once with your thumb, and the Record lever is the only one I want to look at when I’m not using it. In fact, if I ever retire this one, I’ll probably keep it on the coffee table and fondle it absent-mindedly while I watch TV. I wanted this iteration of Record very badly when it came out, then I got it–only to eventually sell it–so I’m glad to have had a second chance.

I also bloviated about brakes the other day, and I’ve always been similarly enchanted with these:

Also not quite as good as the Shimano equivalents (that quick-release lever on the Shimanos sure comes in handy, and it’s much easier to change the brake pads), but still excellent, and that single–pivot rear is a knowing wink that says, “Fuck safety and fuck clearance, it’s nine grams lighter:”

Never trust anyone with a clean rear brake.

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