Getting A Handle On It

Yesterday I remedied a problem with the Vengeance Bike by changing the tires:

With that bike now more or less dialed in, today I turned my attention to the Normcore Nostalgia Bike, seen here when I first took delivery of it back in April:

Since receiving the bike I’ve made some changes here and there, such as changing the tires and the saddle and replacing the shifters with a pair of Silver2s. Still, one glaring problem remained, that being the fact that the stem was simply too short. However, since stem swaps are a pain in the ass with non-open-faced stems, I tried to convince myself that it was not a pressing issue, and that I’d wait until whenever the bar tape needed replacing in order to do it.

Alas, today I could wait no longer, and so I finally did what I should have done months ago:

If you have multiple bikes you know that each bike gets treated differently. “This bike gets used when it’s sunny.” “This bike gets used in the rain.” “This bike gets locked up outside.” “This bike gets the best of everything and can never be left unattended.” And so forth. Well, my central tenet when it comes to the Normcore Nostalgia Bike is that I won’t spend any money on it. So I took inventory of what I had.

I did have a longer quill stem–with a removable “face” plate to boot. I also had fresh bar tape, though I was determined to reuse the tape that was already on there if at all possible. I also had brake housing should I need to replace that due to the longer stem, but I did not have any road brake cables, which meant I’d have to reuse those too if it came to that.

In deference to the twin gods Thrift and Laziness, I unwrapped only one side of the bars in the hope that I could leave the other side intact and save myself some time. However, as it turned out, the old bars had a 25.4 diameter clamp area, so in order to use the new stem now I’d also need a 26.0 bar–which of course I also had, because what kind of reformed Fred doesn’t have at least several 26.0 handlebars lying around? Still, it meant more bar wrapping and unwrapping. Fortunately, after fitting the new bar I was able to successfully reapply all of the old bar tape, and I even reused much of the electrical tape that had been holding everything together, which is a level of cheapness I never thought I’d be able to attain. Best of all, I didn’t need to replace the brake cables or the housing, even though the bars were wider and the stem was longer, and the only explanation I can come up with is that this was an act of divine largesse akin to the miracle of Hanukkah.

So in the end it all came together at a total cost of zero American Fun Tickets:

Then I went for a ride, stopping only briefly to take the requisite hind-quarter shot from which most bikes look best–at least when they’re not sporting old bloated normcore saddlebags:

As I mentioned yesterday, the Vengeance Bike is currently my favorite drop-bar skinny-tire racing-style bike:

However, fitted with its new cockpit, the Normcore Nostalgia Bike is significantly improved. It’s impossible not to compare both bikes as they’re more or less the same type of bike and hail from more or less the same era, and now that I’ve improved the fit the gap between them has narrowed considerably:

According to the charts I’ve been able to find, as well as my own measurements, the Vengeance Bike is a little longer in the top tube and sits a little higher off the ground.. It also has slightly steeper angles, slightly shorter chainstays, a marginally shorter wheelbase, and less fork rake. I’m not going to pretend to know how that stuff translates into comportment, but for whatever reason the Vengeance Bike works for me. On the other hand, the Normcore Nostalgia Bike does feel a little more “forgiving,” which is not just a function of the additional tire volume since that was the case even when I was riding it with the very same tires I’ve now got on the Vengeance Bike:

Of course, while the Vengeance Bike may quicken the pulse a bit more than this one does, it can’t accommodate a 28mm Pasela like the Normcore Nostalgia Bike can:

And while old Shimano 105 isn’t nearly as glorious to behold as Campy C-Record, it’s way more refined in operation (except for the lever body shape, which feels much better on the Campy), especially with the upgraded shifters, which make changing gears feel as smooth as stirring a pot full of thick soup:

No, this bike does not turn any heads (not towards it at least; it may turn a few away), but that’s precisely its charm:

It’s the sub you wish you were eating while you’re having some dainty entrée in a fancy restaurant.

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