What Lies Beneath

The Tour de France–well, the men’s one anyway–ended this past weekend, and for the first time in awhile I more or less followed it from start to finish, give or take a few stages. Cycling fans are incredibly pretentious when it comes to how they watch the Tour (“I can’t stand American commentary, I only watch the Flemish feed via a VPN and a pair of rabbit ears,” yadda yadda yadda) but I have no problem admitting I relied entirely on the NBC Sports extended highlights on YouTube. Sure, this is the Tour-watching equivalent of driving your bike to the ride, but whatever, I have nothing left to prove.

I mean is this the face of someone who hasn’t given up on life?

[Photo: Elliott Weiss]

I forfeited my ambition along with my razor long ago, and I haven’t so much as glanced over my shoulder since.

In other sporting news, I also attended the venerable Grant’s Tomb Criterium over the weekend, as I had a horse in the race, that horse being my elder son. There was a time when I’d have had a hard time being at a race without participating in it, but having given up on life [see above] I was exceedingly happy to have arrived there on a bicycle that precluded the indulgence any residual racing delusions under which I still may be laboring:

Of course, when I say I’ve “given up on life” I don’t really mean that; in fact, I’d even argue that you haven’t even started living your life until you’ve recovered from racing and obtained a proper bicycle such as a Platypus. Anyway, I haven’t even given up on my racing life so much as I’ve passed it onto my son, who has now assumed my Milwaukee. Incidentally, one of the other kids also had a Milwaukee, and what are the odds of that?

At this rate, given the early start, I’m hoping my elder son will be over racing and appropriating my Rivendae by the time he’s of legal voting age. As for my younger son, it’s still to early to tell what his relationship with bicycles will be, but he’s just about grown into the Islabikes that served his brother so well, and has been riding it home from summer camp:

That’s an old photo, by the way, from back when I was riding the Drysdale, which I do find myself missing from time to time:

Though I’m still greatly enjoying my current Classic ride, so much so that I even find myself contemplating taking it on vacation with me, despite the fact I’d forfeit any and all dirt riding:

Probably a bad idea.

I also admit that the more I ride it the more I find the Delta brakes beguiling. While totally indefensible insofar as they are pointlessly complex (the Shimano 105 single-pivot brakes on my Normcore Trek are way simpler and work way better), they’re certainly on par with the brakes on other old road bikes I’ve ridden (the horror stories seem totally unwarranted), and in fact I think they’re getting better as the pads wear. This could be because they’re slowly moving towards infinite mechanical advantage:

Or it could just be that I’m gaining hand strength, since compared to modern brakes the lever feel is reminiscent of these things:

Yet as much as I admire them, I have yet to pop the hood (or the cover) and actually fiddle around with them:

What mysteries await me once I do?

Are the stories about what a pain in the ass they are to maintain as overblown as the claims that they lack stopping power, or will they in fact melt my brain?

In the meantime I’ve studied up on them and watched videos and so forth, and while I’m reasonably confident I can handle them, I do imagine that oddly-sized 3.5mm screw struggling to retain the brake cables every time I come to a hard stop at the bottom of a steep hill, which is somewhat disconcerting:

I wonder if I’d ever trust them on a decent like this:

Then again, it doesn’t look like any braking was necessary there.

Regardless, like, say, a British motorcycle or a pair of heels, it seems to me the entire point of Delta brakes is waiting for people to notice them and pretending they’re not a pain in the ass.

Incidentally, while contemplating them, I noticed for the first time that the rear wheel seems a bit off-center:

Certainly it’s not the frame, because according to Bicycling magazine that would be impossible:

This apparent misalignment of…something…was very troubling to me, until I considered the fact that it’s completely unnoticeable while riding, and that I’d only become aware of it while staring right at it from like a foot away. Given this, I’ll be sure to get to the bottom of it exactly when I feel like it, and not a moment sooner. No doubt the bike is still in much better alignment than my creaking body.

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