For many people, 2022 represented something of a return to normalcy. However, for me it was perhaps the strangest year of my life, since it was the year in which I fell for this bike:
When I borrowed it from Classic Cycle solely for ironic purposes, I never expected to like it. After all, it has none of the qualities I’ve come to prize in a bike after many decades of cycling. It’s not made of metal. It’s not at home on anything besides paved roads. It doesn’t have climbing gears. It begs to be ridden in bike-specific clothing. It lacks the classical elegance of most vintage bikes. Indeed, it’s almost two-dimensional; it looks like it popped out of a cookie mold, or like some sort of white Gumby with wheels:
It does look pretty good from the five o’clock position, though:
But then again most bikes do.
Nevertheless, for reasons I don’t quite understand–maybe it happens to fit me really well, maybe there’s something about the geometry that suits me, maybe they just got something right–it’s become my favorite road bike. (That’s favorite road bike, not favorite bike.) While my preference for this bike has been hard to reconcile, I can finally admit it. Indeed, it’s proven itself in ways I have yet to share with you, but rest assured I will do so in due course.
Still, the had some glaring problems, chief among them being the ridiculous lack of tire clearance–which is not surprising, since this was not a bike designed with 25mm tires in mind:
So today, while giving the headset some needed attention (I also removed the fork to check its integrity because, you know, 35 year-old aluminum), I also decided to put on some narrower tires:
While 23s are super skinny by today’s standards, they’re still wider than the 19s or 21s a racer would have fitted this bike with back when it was new.
“Racer?!?” Nobody would have been racing this…sponsored pros excluded, of course:
No, this is a total Dentist Bike, perhaps maybe the most dentisty Dentist Bike of all time after the Serotta Ottrott:
When you’ve got lots of money but can’t decide between crabon and titanium, the obvious answer is to get both.
By the way, speaking of Serotta, it’s been twelve years now and I still think about this review:
I don’t think the original is even online anymore, but the reviewer was so wonderfully defensive about his ridiculously over-the-top Serotta that every line was a delight:
Anyway, as I say, it’s been twelve years now, and if he didn’t sell that bike eleven and a half years ago to fund some other overwrought flight of fancy I’ll eat my chamois.*
*[I am lying, I will absolutely not do this.]
Maybe one day it’ll find its way into the Classic Cycle museum, I’ll borrow it, and it’ll become my new favorite road bike.
Anyway, back to the Kestrel, and whaddya know, there’s plenty of clearance now:
I mean it’s practically a garvel bike!
While the reduction in tire volume results in slightly more chatter over rough pavement, it’s minor to the point of being meaningless, and the fact that I can now roll through pedals and dirt without hearing a grinding sound for the next few wheel rotations more than makes up for it. In fact, the bike actually feels faster, though I’m willing to bet that’s entirely psychological since the bike runs more quietly now and bike feel is attributable to acoustics to a large degree. Regardless, in constantly going back and forth between a Rivendell and a plastic road bike with giant gears and no tire clearance, I’ve clearly become trapped in a contrarian feedback loop, in that both bikes are antithetical to each other, and yet both bikes also exist in opposition to current marketing trends, and my constant attempts to do whatever the opposite of whatever everyone else is at any given moment are rapidly sending me into a fugue state.
So let this be a lesson to you: if you want more frame clearance, don’t buy a new frame, just get skinnier tires. Problem solved.