Back in 2007, which is roughly a million years ago in Internet Time, I prophesied the Seven Signs of the Fixed-Gear Apocalypse. Well, it turns out I left out a sign, because a reader alerts me that an eight trumpet hath rung out, and upon its sound a subway posted did rent itself and reveal the final Harbinger of Doom:
All that’s left is for it to start raining cogs which will bludgeon and puncture and lacerate the wicked and the free of hub.
Not coincidentally, in an attempt to find salvation, I did spend all day Saturday at the Kissena Velodrome:
Where my son participated in the Star Track session in the morning and then the open racing in the afternoon:
Star track is a phenomenal program, so instead of buying something stupid you don’t need for your bike, consider making a donation, and if you live in the area and own a human child I highly recommend enrolling them. When I was around my son’s age, or maybe a year or two older, I raced BMX at a track on Long Island:
That track is long gone, and as far as I know there’s nothing like that in the New York City metropolitan area today. However, while BMX and track racing are obviously quite different, they’re both ideal entrees into the sport since they both consist of short races on a closed circuit–as opposed to, say, road or mountain racing, which involves disappearing into the landscape for hours on end, or even cyclocross, which isn’t generally centered around a “home track” and which happens mostly when it’s cold and shitty. Track-based racing on the other hand (be it BMX or velodrome), involves more hanging out and mingling in between activities, and in the case of Star Track the bike-handling fundamentals they teach are invaluable even if you’re not pressuring your kid to become an Olympian. All of this is to say I’m grateful for the opportunity to both let my kid experience something similar to what I did, and to vicariously relive my own childhood.
So why this particular bicycle? Well, I’ve only done the Five Boro Bike Tour once before, many years ago, on the crappy citified hybrid I had at the time. I had not yet become a bike messenger, or a racer; my BMX background notwithstanding I was not steeped in “bike culture;” and (funny how some things never change) I had no money, so I was probably wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and a fanny pack or something while riding a bike wrapped in duct tape which was somehow meant to protect the paint. (What was I even thinking?) Anyway, at some point these guys who seemed like experts to me because of their fancy equipment but in retrospect were probably complete Fredly doofuses made some crack about my bike, which filled me with shame.
I don’t remember much about the Fredly doofuses, but I do remember they (or at least one of them) were riding Kestrels, which was an exotic and drool-worthy bike at the time. Of course in the ensuing years I’ve become a New York City bike messenger who managed to get his bike stolen, a Cat 3 racer who’s been dropped and/or lapped in road, mountain, cyclocross, and track races all over the mid-Atlantic region, and finally a once world-famous and now totally washed-up semi-professional bike blogger who Lance Armstrong befriended during his (first) retirement in a pathetic attempt to seem relevant:
He sure did a lot of pandering during that period:
By the way, I always completely disassemble my headset when I travel with my bike:
Head-y days indeed.
More importantly, during that same time I became acutely aware of how pathetic it is to do stuff like “flex” on people while riding the Five Boro Bike Tour (!) on a Kestrel or it’s modern equivalent. (Obviously Kestrel is now another ASI brand and doesn’t have remotely the cachet it once did.) So when I look back on this traumatic event it’s all quite laughable now–and ironic, too, when you consider that by modern “bike culture” standards riding a hybrid wrapped in duct tape while wearing a cut-off t-shirt and a fanny pack is way cooler than riding a crabon Fred bike since if you take away the duct tape and throw on a flannel you’re basically a gravelista.
But does that mean I’ve forgiven them for their transgression? IT DOES NOT! And that is why this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour will be my own personal TOUR OF VENGEANCE [dripping blood letters], and why I will not only smash the
race ride while my firstborn son proudly looks on, but do so on a virtually pristine Kestrel 4000 complete with mirror-polished Record components. And when I find these aging dentists, their weak and brittle knees creaking as they attempt to push their stupid C68s or whatever they’re riding now over the Varazzano Verrazzanno bridge that goes to Staten Island, I will point and laugh and beat my chest and pound out a military tattoo upon the monstrous seatstay/seat tube/top tube junction of the Kestrel:
You get the idea.
In the meantime, today I rode the Kestrel (or indeed any Kestrel) for the first time. Some years ago, while in Austin with Bicycling for their Editor’s Choice bike testing orgy (they never invited me back, go figure), I rode a Litespeed Archon:
I don’t remember much about it, except that I hated it and thought it sucked balls. So, looking at the Kestrel, I kind of figured it might ride the same way (i.e. like a brick), being similarly chunky and all. However, I didn’t think the Kestrel sucked balls at all; in fact, I found it pretty comfortable. Granted, that could have to do with the fact that, as far as road bikes go, my scranus is currently calibrated for a 33 year-old bonded aluminum Trek. Or it could have been my G.O.A.T gloves:
And the manner in which they complemented the vintage cockpit:
Especialy the leather-wrapped bars:
Or maybe it was just the sumptuous 25mm tires, which just about clear the Delta brakes, though if you ride through a puddle you will hear a scraping sound for the next few wheel revolutions:
Speaking of the Delta brakes, this was also my first time using that storied component, which is derided as much for its lack of stopping power as it is admired for its aesthetic elegance. However, so far I’ve found the derision to be unfounded, because they seem to stop just fine, at least compared to other older road brakes. Then again, as the Classic Cycle Old Crap Test Pilot, I have become accustomed to brakes are more dignified than their modern counterparts, in that they don’t order the bike to stop so much as they merely suggest it. Also, I’m slow as cold honey, so perhaps I’m lacking in objectivity.
Between the smooth contours of the frame and the components the overall visual effect is one of preternatural smoothness–except for the pedals, which are chunky as fuck:
The Record components feel almost 75% as precise as the 105 components on the ’89 bonded aluminum Trek I’ve been riding while looking 1000% better:
And the bike inspires you to attack the climbs, for the simple reason that the gearing leaves you with no choice:
Between the frame and the “aero” wheels my drag coefficient will be lower than the president’s approval rating:
And there’s no tailwind like the morale boost you get from valve caps that match your frame:
…though I wonder if they’ll ever get that patent:
The suspense is kiling me.
Regardless, if you’re the Kestrel Freds who insulted me, try not to wet yourself when you see this in your helmet mirror:
At your age it’s tough to stay dry when you’re laughing that hard.