Road Season

We’re getting into the good time of year around here:

The foliage hasn’t peaked yet but there’s already plenty of color to delight the eye, and of course the air is crisp and cool, which sends some Freds into a panic (the temperature has yet to dip below 50 American Freedom Degrees™ and I’ve already seen my first balaclava), but which if you’re me just means you can ride without perspiring. Also if you’re me the changing of the seasons evokes remembrances of bicycles past, and it was at exactly this time two years ago that I was falling deeply for the Davidson Impulse:

A wise reader who knows quality when he sees it (even when it’s covered in splatter paint) soon purchased it from Classic Cycle, and I miss it enough that I still have restrain myself from replacing it when items like this appear on popular Internet auction sites:

After the Davidson was no longer under my custodianship Paul of Classic Cycle sent me a consolation prize, seen here a few weeks hence when autumn’s palette is at its most exuberant:

The Colnago Bititan was quick-handling and great fun to ride, but while there was something viscerally thrilling about this airbrushed titanium hot rod though it seemed to sacrifice comfort for agility. And now I’m riding the Cervino:

Like the Davidson, the Cervino is also available for purchase from Classic Cycle, and if you’re interested feel free to drop me a line…though I secretly hope you won’t since I’m enjoying it so much.

Whether it’s the tubing or the tubular tires or the geometry or all those things together the Cervino has all those qualities they ascribe to classic steel road bicycles: smooth, supple, springy, forgiving, yadda yadda yadda. The drivetrain is highly unrefined by today’s standards, and yet the overall feel of the bicycle is so silky you don’t really care–like how if you visit a beautiful old house you don’t mind that the bathroom has a clawfoot tub and separate taps for the hot and cold. If anything it only enhances the charm. It also represents the swan song of the lugged steel road bike, since by the end of the decade new materials started taking over, and the Vengeance Bike–seen here also at pretty much exactly this time of year, only one year ago–was very much a harbinger of what was to come:

Also, setting aside the obvious differences between the frames, the C-Record component group on the Vengeance Bike succeeded the Super Record group on the Cervino. In some ways the difference are mostly cosmetic. Consider the shifters:

The C-Record shifters are much more modern-looking, but they work exactly* the same way:

*[Actually, strictly speaking they don’t work exactly the same way, since the right shifter on the Kestrel is a “retrofriction” shifter–though apparently the older Campagnolo shifters were also available in a retrofriction version, and other companies made them too, so there.]

There’s also no fundamental difference in how the crank attaches to the bicycle:

Though the C-Record crank features some noteworthy differences that go beyond its brilliant finish and sleek aesthetics:

For one thing there’s the self-extracting crank bolts, but much more importantly the BCD is reduced from 144 to 135, which means you can go all the way down to a 39-tooth chainring.

Then there are the brakes:

The Delta brake’s alleged lack of stopping power has become something of an urban myth, but I promise you it stops like a motherfucker compared to its predecessor–though at the expense of tire clearance, obviously:

I’m not saying those older sidepulls don’t work–indeed, they work just fine, and I’m sure they’d work even better with modern pads. But the Deltas are much smoother and more powerful, and they’re not really all that tricky to maintain once you steel yourself and confront their inner workings:

But yes, it’s scary to take that front plate off, and you kind of expect a bunch of bats to fly out.

As for the rear derailleurs, they look dramatically different:

But as Disraeli Gears notes, fundamentally the C-Record iteration brought nothing new in terms of functionality, and was heavy to boot:

It is probably the nicest-looking bike part I’ve ever handled though, which counts for something. And when you add all that up the C-Record group does feel noticeably more refined in operation.

Of course even with the ability to use a 39-tooth inner chainring, both are wildly “overgeared” by today’s standards, though like the aforementioned old-timey bathroom that’s part of the charm, and it’s really not a problem as long as you know how to use it. The truth is you can climb pretty much anything with a 42/21–the real secret is to never shift all the way down into the 21. Sure, that makes it even harder, but as long as you keep telling yourself you can always downshift that’ll give you all the psychological cushioning you need to get to the top. Also, low gears don’t make climbing any easier, they just make you do it slower.

There’s also another secret:

Which is to have another bike with lots of really low gears:

It’s easy to rough it when you don’t always have to.

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