Classic Cycle Thursdays: Look Ma, No Clips!

Yesterday while on the South County Trailway I encountered a large group ride coming in the other direction:

The ride was bunching, as large rides tend to do, and every so often I’d find myself on what felt like a collusion course with the participants as they swelled to the point that they were taking up the entire path. I found this irritating, especially since I wasn’t riding an Industry Approved Gravel Bike™ and could not legally ride on the grass. Many of them did yell “Rider up!” when they saw me in order to warn the riders behind, but it didn’t always help, and on one or two occasions when riders came particularly close I did audibly indicate that I was indignant in a benign yet self-important way:

However, after awhile, it occurred to me to wonder what the ride actually was, so I studied their jerseys and then looked it up on my phone. (And yes, I did look it up while I was riding, I am an inveterate on-the-bike phone user. Deal with it.) As it turned out, it was a 9/11 memorial ride. This made me feel bad for getting annoyed, so by the time I got to the end of the ride I was waving to them instead. (Though it helped that their numbers had thinned considerably by then so they were no longer coming right at me.)

“You hypocrite!,” you’re probably thinking. “Why do you feel bad about getting annoyed at the 9/11 memorial ride, but not about getting annoyed at the group ride you got stuck in a few weeks ago?” Well, for one thing the ride leader on that group ride was a real asshole to me, but still, I fully admit to being as hypocritical as they come. Indeed, much of what we wrongly call “community” is just a bunch of people who happen to share the same hypocrisy. (It also explains most religions and political parties.) Ultimately, all of this stuff is subjective, and in the interest of full disclosure here’s how I feel about the various types of group rides:

Critical Mass Rides

Don’t like ’em.

Big Amorphous Urban Group Rides

Mostly, I don’t like them. However, as a hypocrite, sometimes I like them if I’m invited and I can use them to sell books:

Though even under those circumstances I did not like the San Jose Bike Party, even if I tried to smile like I did:

[Photo via here.]

Here’s what I didn’t like about it:

In other words, I don’t like seeing people have fun. UNLESS…

Those Big “Ride-Out” Things

I respect those, mostly because it’s a bunch of kids having fun. Kids are supposed to have fun and be irreverent in public spaces. Meanwhile, our society is far too tolerant of adults who continue to have fun publicly and act like children well into their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“But surely you occasionally ride with other people, and you must have fun while doing it,” you’re tempted to comment. Well yes, but I have fun in a subdued fashion, and it’s not clear to onlookers that I’m having fun. If anything bystander would conclude I’m engaged in a serious enterprise that brings me no pleasure whatsoever. That’s the whole point of riding road bikes, duh.

Pacelines, Training Rides, Etc.

I respect it on the open road, but if you do it in a crowded park or on a busy bike path they should shoot you. (And yes, I’ve ridden in a paceline in a public park. Because I’m a hypocrite. Whatever, go ahead and shoot me.)

Roadie Group Rides/Pickup Rides

These are distinct from urban party-type rides, and generally occur in more suburban areas, but they are similar in that there’s lots of light-running and assumptions on the part of the riders that everyone else should indulge them while they do so. How I feel about these depends on the age of the ride itself. If the ride only started recently I’m inclined to find it annoying. If, however, it’s one of these rides that’s been going on for generations, then I respect it, as some of these rides are older than the traffic lights themselves. In that case, getting annoyed at a group is like getting annoyed at the migratory pattern of some flock of birds that’s been flying over the same route for millennia. Maybe you’re in the way and not them, ever think of that?

Very Large Organized Non-Competitive Group Rides That Close Like Half The City

Annoying–unless I’m engaged to promote it, and/or I’m riding it with my son, in which case it’s WONDERFUL, obviously:

Since that photo was taken, the Vengeance Bike went back to Classic Cycle, my son grew like 15 feet, and the Milwaukee he’s riding turned red. How things change…

Small Groups Of European Tourists In New York City On Rental Bikes

Annoying. You can feel their smugness and contempt for our inferior bike lanes. Good for you, go back to Copenhagendam.

Legions of Knife-Juggling Unicyclists


Gran Fondos Organized By Former Dopers


Charity Rides and Memorial Rides

I respect those…once I figure out what they are, anyway.

And yes, of course I realize those old rides I don’t find annoying all started out as new rides I would have found annoying, and I’m sure 130 years ago I would have been riding around on a pennyfarthing shaking my fists at packs of safety bicyclists. But remember, I didn’t say I’m against any of these rides, I just said I find them annoying. If you wanna join Critical Mass that’s your business. Anyway, hopefully the people I encountered on the South County had a good ride, though it’s not like any of them will recognize me, it’s not like I was wearing a distinctive jersey or anything:


Speaking of vintage rim decals, I hadn’t ridden the Cervino since before my vacation, and so I finally got back on it yesterday:

While I take my role as the Classic Cycle Old Crap Test Pilot seriously, I also invariably cop out on some piece of equipment in order to make my life easier, and in this case I’m ashamed to admit I’ve switched the pedals:

The Cervino of course came with Super Record pedals with toe clips, and in the spirit of the endeavor I obtained both a pair of Avocet shoes as well as a pair of slotted cleats so I could ride the bike the way God and Tullio (indeed some people seem to think they’re one and the same) intended:

Sorry, that’s Fred Mertz. Here’s Tullio:

I liked the slotted cleats with the Pearl Izumi shoes, and I was all set to continue in this vein–until I simply could not get the cleat seated the second time I tried them. To be sure, slotted cleats require more finesse than clipless, but even if I stopped and manually placed my foot in exactly the right place I simply couldn’t get them onto the pedal. So I took a closer look and realized the tiny amount of walking I’d done in them had deformed the slot just enough that it wouldn’t engage the pedal plate:

At some point I’ll widen it with a file or something like that. I also plan to continue my toeclip experiments using the Normcore Bike and a different set of pedals. But in the meantime the Cervino’s simply too nice a bike not to enjoy in the fullest, so I rationalized that using the very first clipless pedal (at least for practical purposes, yes I know about the Cinelli M71) was not too wild a variation on the vintage road bike theme:

Yes, besides that Nishiki decal (and arguably the rider, although I am one-quarter Italian), they’re the only non-Italian thing about the bike. Nevertheless, I believe this model of Look pedal was introduced just a couple years after this bike was made, so at least it’s not too much of an anachronism. Incidentally, the Vengeance Bike also had these pedals, which is how I slowly reverted to Delta cleats. As it turns out, the best thing about Delta cleats is that used used Delta-compatible pedals often cost less than the cleats themselves. (I got these on eBay for under $20 including the shipping.) Also, it’s worth noting that Look really nailed the clipless pedal thing from the very beginning; sure, they’re pretty chunky-looking, but functionally there’s really no difference between these and the pedals most roadies use today. (No, I don’t want to hear about your Speedplays.)

Shifters on the other hand have changed a lot:

And speaking of hands, I think I may have finally figured out why they’re so close together. At first I assumed it was for aerodynamics, but I now suspect it was to facilitate one-handed shifting:

As someone who never raced with downtube shifters this would not have occurred to me, but I was watching some YouTube video the algorithm fed me and noticed the following comment:

Maybe that’s the reason for it and maybe it’s not, but it’s kind of like the bicycle equivalent of heel-toe shifting.

After a week of riding modern Record parts (assuming you consider 20 years old “modern”), I admit getting back on this bike felt jarring at first. The thin and curvy lever hoods, the stiff shifter stalks, the chattery gear changes, the paucity of gears… This lasted maybe 10 minutes, at which point I got completely used to it again and couldn’t get over how comfortable and lithe the bike felt:

Yes, it’s got fewer gears, and it’s more work to engage them:

But this stuff was great then, and it’s just as great now, as long as you appreciate it for what it is instead of comparing it to what it became. It’s fun not to be shifting all the time–kind of like riding a six-speed singlespeed:

[Yes, technically it’s a 12-speed, but you really only use six gear combinations.]

Climb coming? Well, you’ve got one low gear to work with and that’s it. Drop it in there, get out of the saddle, and stomp your way up. Hey, I rode all across Switzerland like that, and I’d totally do it again.

Is there any machine so simultaneously spare and capable as a classic racing bike? Probably yes, but still. I bet you could fit 32s in there, and it doesn’t even have disc brakes!

Just a metal frame with some cables and pulleys–it’s like looking down the mast of a sailboat:

I still can’t decide if I like the Cervino as much as the Vengeance Bike, but I plan to keep riding it until I figure it out:

Unfortunately for Classic Cycle, it could take several years.

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