Hey, look, I don’t ask much of you people, but could one of you do me a favor and buy this bike?
As you know, at regular-ish intervals Paul Johnson of Classic Cycle sends me a “new” vintage bike on long-term loan for my delectation, and this Davidson (made in Seattle!) is the latest one. It also happens to be available for purchase. So why do I want you to buy it? Is it because Paul and I have some sort of commission arrangement? Hardly. No, the reason I want you to buy it is because if you don’t buy it I’m going to end up buying it myself.
See, before he sent the bike I had every reason to expect it would be a pleasure to ride, because why the hell wouldn’t it? At the same time, I figured the wildly dated paint job would be a novelty that would mostly just give me an excuse to buy those leggings I’ve always had my eye on, and I’d have more fun mocking it than I would riding it:
You know, what with Halloween coming and all.
And while obviously I did buy the leggings, what I wasn’t prepared for was just how charmed I’d be by the bike, Jackson Pollock’s ejaculate finish and all. I’ve got about 50 miles on the thing between yesterday and today, and I find it both comfy and snappy; I could ride it all day, but if I wasn’t retired I also wouldn’t hesitate to race the thing as is, and in fact it would probably make a better race bike than my Litespeed. On top of that, no thanks to Grant Petersen, I’ve become inordinately fond of both lugs and quill stems, both of which this bike boasts. So it’s a vintage bike that gives up nothing on modern Fred Sleds in terms of performance. All of this is to say he’s asking $1,999 for this thing, so if you’re looking for what certainly seems to be a flawlessly executed classic road bike with paint that will get you noticed (and it does get noticed, so far I’ve been complimented by riders and motorists alike), please save me from myself and buy it. If you’re within striking distance of New York you can even save on shipping by picking it up from me directly–and no, Paul did not put me up to any of this, I simply found myself scheming on how to get my hands on this bike and need someone to bail me out by taking it off the table.
Yeah, yeah, I know, you looky-loos don’t come here to buy bikes, you come here to read about them. Fair enough. So let’s dork out on it, shall we? Great. Well, in addition to the bike, Paul sent me some reading material:
Not only is every ride I take deathly serious, but as I was assembling the bike I decided that as soon as I was finished I would in fact take a short ride in New Jersey. As it turns out I had to change my plans at the last second, which I’ll explain shortly. Instead, I wound up taking a short ride in Westchester, where it’s finally feeling autumnal:
Is there anything better than a fall road ride? Obviously yes. But I’d say it’s pretty high on the list of delightful indulgences.
You often hear the phrase “full Dura Ace,” but this bike hearkens back to a time when it actually meant something. Not only are the drivetrain and hubs all branded thusly, but it’s also got a Dura Ace seatpost and a Dura Ace stem:
Which is quite elegant owing to its hidden bolts:
In fact, it’s this elegant stem that thwarted my plans for a short bike ride in New Jersey. See, I was heading from home to the George Washington Bridge when I noticed the bars were slipping. I attempted to tighten them, but the Allen key I was carrying was not quite long enough to access the hidden wedge. So I headed back to my basement workshop:
First, I removed the top cap:
At this point you can go down to access the expander wedge in the steerer, or you can go forward to get at the one that holds the bars:
So forward I went:
Obviously you can’t get much leverage on an Allen key when it’s oriented like that, so I used and old piece of crabon steerer tube I had been saving because it seemed like the kind of thing that might come in handy one day:
I then tightened it as much as I dared and so far it hasn’t budged. Then I headed to Westchester instead of Jersey since I had less time. By the way, later I tracked down the manual for the stem just because, and not only is this exactly how they say to do it, but they also have an official name for the little piece of scrap tubing I was using:
Between Auxiliary Pipe and Inanimate Carbon Rod I’d say humanity is in good hands:
Speaking of Dura Ace, this bike features one of the most significant components in recent cycling history:
Yep, this was it, the component that officially killed the downtube shifter. To be honest I never liked the looks of the first-generation Dura Ace STI levers–they look like the door handles on a car from the 1960s–but now that I have them in my hands the aesthetics are growing on me. They also work beautifully, although they feel positively tiny compared with the levers of today. In particular, the surface area of the upshift nubbin is quite small and sits pretty high up on the lever. The upshot of this is that you have to kind of reach up and poke it with your index finger–there’s not even enough room on it to push it with two fingers at once, which I tend to do on my other bikes. That aside, they function as well as their modern counterparts, and if your hands are on the smaller side I daresay you’d even prefer them.
Less transformative in terms of bike tech but still noteworthy are the handlebars:
This is about when handlebar design started entering into its “ergonomic” phase and companies started putting all kinds of extra bends in them. Of course the most extreme example is the Scott Drop-In, which I guess was more about speed than ergonomics:
And of course there were attachments like the Cinelli Spinaci:
Profile even used to sell some little insert that turned a traditional bend bar into an ergo bend, but I’ll be damned if I can find a picture of it:
In any case, lots was happening with bars at this point, some good and some bad, but I happen to like the funky bend on the tops of these. A reader yesterday did note they appear to be quite wide. I haven’t measured them, but whatever the width it feels good to me.
Gearing-wise, the cassette is a 12-26:
And it’s paired with a 39-53 in the front:
These matters are highly subjective, but that may be the second-most attractive crank ever made after the final iteration of the square taper Record:
From a purely practical standpoint I’m a big fan of Hollowtech II for the simple reason that installation and removal is ridiculously easy, but square taper is both durable and elegant, and it’s sort of laughable people are convinced you need giant spindles and bottom bracket shells on road bikes when you can stomp your way up anything on this:
As for tire clearance, this is clearly a traditional race bike, and I haven’t really checked to see how much room there is in that svelte unicrown fork. But that’s not the point. It’s a road bike, embrace the skinny life:
And there it is:
Oh, and yes, even the bottle cage is painted to match:
As I admired the bike’s slenderness:
I couldn’t help comparing it with my own lack thereof as I stuffed a chokingly dry gluten-free peanut butter and jelly sandwich into my face:
Note I was working in my official capacity as the Classic Cycle Old Crap Test Pilot:
And in a nod to traditional roadie style I was wearing my retro-themed Brancale shoes:
I realize the socks don’t really match with what I’m wearing, but you don’t worry about that when you’re riding a splatter-painted bike.
Finishing my sandwich, I noticed a police car had pulled up, and I worried it might be the fashion police:
However, when I emerged from my roadside repast and photo shoot he seemed wholly unconcerned with me, and so I continued on my way. Judging from the splatter pattern, the real crime scene was beneath me.