Classic Cycle Thursdays: If You Love Something, Set It Free

A little over a year ago I asked Paul Johnson of Classic Cycle if I could borrow a Kestrel for the Five Boro Bike Tour. I did so mostly for irony’s sake. Here was the bike he sent:

I’d never been particularly interested in Kestrels. If anything, I had bad associations with them; besides the whole “Vengeance Bike” backstory, back when I was a Cat 5 there was also this guy who raced one and thought he was hot shit. Like so many other Cat 5s who thought they were hot shit, he eventually disappeared without ever upgrading as so many Cat 5s who think they are hot shit do. So yeah, I never really cared for them.

Unpacking the Kestrel, the shiny C-Record components as well as the sheer whiteness of the thing made it seem more exotic and even seductive than I expected. However, I still didn’t expect to actually like the thing. This started to change after the first few rides, as my preconceptions started to melt away:

The bike was both comfortable and fast, and I surrendered completely to its vintage poshness. Ultimately I hung onto it longer than any other road bike Classic Cycle has sent me so far, an august list that includes machines such as the Teledyne Titan:

The Davidson Impulse (now the property of a lucky reader, of course):

The Colnago Bititan:

And of course the granddaddy of them all, the 1950 Drysdale Special:

Note that I’m not including my Litespeed–oops, I mean my son’s Litespeed–in that list:

While that also came from Classic Cycle, I traded it for this, so it was never going back anyway:

[Photo: Classic Cycle]

I’m also not including the Normcore Bike, because I think if I sent it back Paul would refuse delivery:

Nor am I including various track, mountain, and miscellaneous bikes Paul has sent, including the one whose name we dare not utter lest it appea–ah, shit:

I realize I haven’t mentioned this bike much recently, but oh I will again soon enough, just you wait. Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, etc.

Anyway, while I’d originally planned to send the Kestrel back right after the Five Boro Bike Tour last year, I kept riding it and I grew to like it more and more–so much so that when I got a last-minute invitation at the very end of the summer to do a big ride in Switzerland, I wrapped it in bubble wrap and a foam mattress topper and stuck it in a $30 bike bag I got off an online retailer named after a large river:

The bike made it just fine:

I made it just fine too, 42×21 low gear and all:

Sadly I didn’t manage to keep up with this guy, though:

I also got a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction out of tinkering with the C-Record components, and I spent lots of time figuring out some slipping shifter issues and doing derailleur part transplants:

But it was for last year’s Five Boro Bike Tour I originally borrowed the bike:

[Photo: Elliott Weiss]

So it only seems fitting that after this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour it should fly away home:

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time with this bike there are still too many voids in my experience, too many bikes I haven’t tried, too many quirky components to which I can apply my mechanical ineptitude. And so I have packed the Kestrel and soon it will begin its great migration westward. Who knows? Perhaps one day, after I’ve ridden all the bikes there are to ride, my fondness for it will be undiminished and I will send for it yet again. Or, much more likely, I’ll fall for some other bike, possibly even one I already own.

Nevertheless, the Kestrel will always be the ancient plastic blog that carried me across Switzerland, and our time together will always be bookended by those two Bike Tours with my elder son. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that not all crabon bikes are evil.

I mean sure, all the other ones are. But not this one.

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