What Is The Sound Of One Hand Shifting?

It’s getting colder, and as the trees shed their layers and bare their limbs we cyclists add more layers and cover ours:

The coming of the cold would generally drive me deeper into said trees, but owing mostly to rain and time (specifically a surfeit of the former and a deficit of the latter) I have been riding road racing-style bikes recently, as they generally allow you to cover the most ground with the least amount of mud and in the least amount of time:

That’s not to reduce the noble act of cycling to simply scarfing down miles, but it is to say that cycling is a form of escape, and if you want to feel like you’ve escaped it helps to put some distance between yourself and your home.

As much as I love the bicycle in all its forms (well, most of its forms, I can’t say I love the bicycle in recumbent form) there is something about the traditional road bicycle in particular that resonates with me: I don’t think there’s any other bicycle that lets you go so fast and so far with so little. There’s an idea that drop bars and skinny tires are uncomfortable, and of course that can be true, especially if you’re not used to them or you’re using the bike for a purpose that’s completely at odds with its design, like riding to work in the summer in a dress suit. But if you’re dressed right and you’ve got the bike set up right and you understand how they’re supposed to work they are in fact quite comfortable–not sweatpants comfortable, but well-worn jeans comfortable.

There was a time when all I had was just a single road bike, and like most spoiled old people I sometimes find myself pining for that erstwhile simplicity, so much so that I even tried to limit myself to riding one bike for a year–with predictable results. Still, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to have only one road bike, and at the moment I have…four? In addition to the Milwaukee there’s the Viner Nishiki:

And the Litespeed:

And the Normcore Trek:

Though the Cervino isn’t really mine, it belongs to Classic Cycle. Also, my older son has sort of appropriated the Normcore Trek, which he’s been riding to school, and which is only fair since I sort of reappropriated the Litespeed from him. But if I had to choose only one of these bikes it would be pretty tough. I mean obviously if you had to cut one loose first it’d be the Normcore Trek–no offense to the poor Trek, but it’s like the fat guy on the life raft, and everyone knows who’s getting eaten first. Meanwhile the Cervino is like the Platonic ideal of a classic road bike, whereas the Litespeed has all the creature comforts and is the realization of my Fredly dreams in that it’s a bike I always used to covet back when I did only have the one road bike. Given that maybe I’d have to go with the Milwaukee, since it’s classic and modern at the same time, but also has medium-reach brakes and can take fat tires and fenders and stuff. But I have other bikes for when I want fat tires and fenders, so ultimately I guess I’d just take the Normcore Trek, throw it at whoever’s trying to make me choose just one road bike, and then run away.

Speaking of the Cervino, I mentioned recently that I’ve come to appreciate its shifter placement for one-handed shifting:

Certainly you don’t need top-mounted shifters to do this, but not all shifters are as conducive to it. For example, in addition to being further apart, the shifters on the Milwaukee are also closer to the head tube:

This means not only do you have to really spread your fingers:

In addition to the shifters being further up the downtube, the headtube is shorter and the top tube slopes a bit too, which reduces the room you’ve got to work with even further:

Then again the Silver shifters with the modern drivetrain components are so profoundly smooth and accurate you’ve barely got to touch them, whereas the old Campagnolo friction shifters are more like opening and closing the flue on a fireplace, so in a way it all cancels out.

Meanwhile, five hundred years ago when I started this blog, Portland was the model American bike city. Now, Portlanders are practically lying down in front of the trucks that are removing their bike lanes:

Ah, Portland and this blog: two things that have really gone downhill over the years…

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