Cheap dates

If you had seen this sky yesterday, your first thought would not have been, “Bet it’s gonna rain tomorrow.”

I was lazing in the bed this morning, contemplating the day ahead.

“Maybe I’ll ride the Jones down south, check out the trails below Menaul,” I mused. “Or I could take the New Albion Privateer out east past Tijeras. Haven’t ridden the Voodoo Nakisi in a while — I wonder how crowded it’ll be around Elena Gallegos.”

Then, I stretched, got up, and headed for the reading room, where I heard the pitter-patter of … raindrops on the skylight?

Raindrops? Who ordered the raindrops?

Well. Shit. What a delightful gift. Maybe the skeeters will all catch pneumonia, or drown. Sonsabitches made an amuse-bouche of my ankles last evening as I chatted with a neighbor. Go bite a Republican, you disease-spreading bloodsuckers. Wouldn’t you be happier dining on your own kind?

No, not you, neighbor. The skeeters.

In other news, friend and colleague Nick Legan blazed through town on Monday. He was motoring down from Colorado to oversee a video shoot for Shimano, and hollered at me from the road, so we had him over to the rancheroo for some medium-heavy refreshments before he had to get down to business supervising the artistes.

Afterward Nick asked for a tour of the garage, where he complimented me on The Fleet, observing cannily that clearly I favored the “affordable bike.” Which is true.

The Soma Double Cross, back to its dirty roots.

It’s possible to spend a great deal of money on bicycles, or even a bicycle, or at least look as though you have (cough, cough, bro’ deal, cough). But it’s not necessary. So there’s a lot of old steel in my armory, where modernity has to make do with representation by nine-speed Ultegra STI.

Lately I’ve been riding bikes from Merry Sales — either a Soma Saga (now discontinued) or the New Albion Privateer — and if I had to drastically thin my herd these two would probably make the cut.

For sure the Privateer would. It’s a versatile, affordable, eye-catching beastie and up for just about anything, from cross-town to cross-country.

All told we have five Merry Sales machines in The Fleet — two Soma Sagas, two Soma Double Crosses, and the New Albion Privateer. It all started with me buying a Double Cross for Herself. I was so impressed that I bought another for myself. Over the years it’s been a cyclocross bike, a light-touring bike, and a townie-slash-grocery bike.

It’s been the latter for a while now, and I found I was rarely riding it, in part because I’ve been making fewer and heavier grocery trips during the Plague Years, and in part because I never really warmed up to that configuration (swept-back bar, bolt-upright position, flat pedals).

So the other day I turned it back into a cyclocross bike, kinda-sorta, with eight-speed Shimano bar-end shifters, a vintage XT FC-M730 triple and newer XT/Ultegra derailleurs, PD-M540 SPDs, battered Shimano 600 brake levers and IRD Cafam cantis, 700×42 Soma Cazadero tires, Deda Elementi 215 handlebar, and a Ritchey WCS stem that’s just a hair too long and too low.

I even resurrected a beat-to-shit Selle Italia Flite saddle and some Off the Front handlebar tape for the project. Remember Off the Front? Bruce and Jodie Ruana? Started out cutting up shower curtains in SoCal, then set up a small home factory in Nevada, and finally fled the bike biz altogether for straight jobs so they could live to tell the tale.

Anyway, all of a sudden I’ve been riding the shit out of my Double Cross. And what fun it is, too. I did a three-day credit-card tour on it back in 2012 and had a delightful time. Lately I’m just pooting around town, on and off pavement as the spirit moves.

Your modern Double Cross has taken a distinctly gravelish turn, with disc brakes, more bottom-bracket drop, and more mounts for this and that. Different strokes, as the fella says. I bet it’s just swell, for those of you who demand all them consarned newfangled whizbangs, whatchamacallits, and comosellamas.

Me, I’ll stick to my old-school DC, thanks all the same. But that Soma Pescadero sure looks interesting. …

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19 Responses to “Cheap dates”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    I rode the CAAD5 yesterday and might again today unless I do the Rail Trail down to Eldorado. Bought the CAAD5 frame in 2003 after we moved to Bombtown. I eventually moved its Campy Chorus getup to my “new” Cannondale, a 2006 Six-13.

    CAAD5 is now set up with Shimano 9 speed brifters that I got half price from Nashbar a while back, a Shimano paired spoke wheelset I got used up in Boulder after one of my own wheelsets blew its rear hub, oldish 105 brakes, Nashbar bars, an old XT rear derailleur so I can run 12-32 cogs, and the prize, since my ass matters, a Sella Italia Flite saddle. I’m constantly amazed at how happy I am with that old bike.

    Since I’m a League member, I get Buycycling. I was aghast at all the crap they are marketing. It used to be about riding a bicycle, not being wired up for a trip to Mars and back on the bicycle technological equivalent of the Space Shuttle.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Newer is not always betterer. You ever read Rivendell’s Grant P. on this topic? He is very much into the notion that a cyclist should be an active participant and not merely a meat-based and largely superfluous appendage to the technology.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Not too often, but I suspect I would agree with him on this stuff. My usual reaction to the new shiny bits is “who is gonna fix it when the LED says TILT?”. I can still wrench most stuff and have most of the tools to do it. I’ll stay retro.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Hal told me about a pop-up e-bike “store” that appeared in Weirdcliffe the other day. It was apparently the doing of a shop with locations in Buena Vista and Leadville. My first thought was how amusing it will be for Weirdcliffians to truck their balky e-bikes over to Bee-yoo-nee or Deadville for service.

      • Herb from Michigan Says:

        I was rolling along with all the new bike tech for a number of years thinking bikes were simply getting better and better and lighter too. Then (ominous music chords) STI and other integrated brake/shift creations hit the market. Things got overly complicated and damn right cost crazy. It was then that I joined the Retro-Grouches of the world and there I will remain until they pry the last old school quick release lever from my cold dead hands. And yes Grant P is the High Priest of Retro Grouches and has and will extract money from me when I need “stuff”.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I loved STI … until I realized that when it failed, which it did, it could not be repaired. Not by the average José, anyway.

        Thus, as the STI fails, which it does, I replace it with bar-end shifters and reg’lar ol’ aero brake levers. Eight bikes are now so equipped, while only two retain the STI.

        I have one set of Shimano 600 downtube shift levers I have to put on something one of these days.¡Que suave!

        Meanwhile, when I’m not doing bidness with one of my local IBDs I buy bits from Rivendell and Merry Sales. Good peoples and they know how to help me keep my dinosaurs out of the tar pits.

        • Herb from Michigan Says:

          Yeah aero brake levers were a good thing if’n you can get the cable length and bend to cooperate with the calipers. And unlike GP I appreciate well tuned index shifting but by gummit 9 speed is all the farther a fella needs to go. Sealed bottom brackets by Phil were/are Aces High. However I’ve recently repacked vintage Campy and Shimano hubs for pals and man, they still run so smooth even after 40 years in some cases. I do NOT miss Huret or Simplex derailleurs, even the oft vaunted Jubilee .
          I also don’t miss Fiamme rims

        • SAO' Says:

          Told this story a thousand times, but I’ll never forget looking at cars with my dad, and someone said something about fuel injectors, and my dad said, “I know how to rebuild a carburetor … tell me how you rebuild a fuel injector.”

          • Shawn Says:

            If it’s a Bosch injector from an old 1978 VW Rabbit, you pull it and replace it with a new one. The cost is about the same as rebuilding the Holley and takes a lot less time. More time to be out riding.

  2. si little Says:

    so…is there an age where further bike purchases make no sense, social or economic? asking for a friend, who is 76…

    • khal spencer Says:

      My friend Bill Meyers retired from racing in his eighties after several national championships in his age group. Now he rides for fun, but I think he still has his quiver intact.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s a tough call, innit? Almost everything has to come from way far away. Frames from Taiwan, bits from Malaysia, tires from Japan, etc. I often wonder what the actual environmental tab is for our “green” pasatiempo.

      I also wonder how strong the used market is these days, with bikes and bits so hard to come by. That might be the way to go for a “new” bike. My original Double Cross build used (mostly) parts that I already had on hand, and for this reconfiguration I went straight to the parts shelves in the garage. Ain’t a single new item on that bike.

      • khal spencer Says:

        NM Bike N Sport was doing a brisk business in used bikes during the pandemic. Not sure what has happened recently since the store is now festooned with new stuff again. And e-bikes are all over the place.

        Adventure Cycling wrote up The Pro’s Closet a while back. Or did Bicycling do that? They seem to be making a business out of fixing up used bikes and reselling them. If I were in the market, I’ll look there before buying new. As you say, if a bike has to be shipped from the Far East, it has quite a carbon footprint rolling out the door of the LBS. And if its just a toy bike rather than something replacing infernal combustion trips, you never get that carbon back.

  3. Shawn Says:

    Oh, it’s never a time to stop looking for those good bike deals. Even when you really don’t need it. As long as you have room in the garage.

    With that said; please forgive me but I have imbibed in the relish of mega-marketed factory carbon. As part of my potato and lettuce budget, I sometimes dabble in the purchase and resale of bicycles. In a recent instance I arranged a visit with a local seller of a modest Specialized road bike. It was a pretty red and white thing with enough splash to make Miley Cyris excited. I felt with a little polish here, some toothbrush cleaning there and a click or two of adjustment over there, that I could make enough money to pay for my time packing the bike for shipment. I checked out the bike, scrutinized the seller and negotiated the price down to the price that the seller was asking. It’s a Specialized Tarmac (yes, I hear the groans) Expert (more groans) with a triple front crankset (cheers in the background). It’s enamored with Ultegra 10-speed (10-speed! What will I do with 2 more gears?). What was cool was that when I was looking the bike over to buy it, I was so overwhelmed with the bling, that I never saw the DA rear derailleur until I got home (Ooooo!). Although the gear train was a bit over lubricated, the bike is immaculate. I might just have to keep it. At least for a while. Who knows, Miley might drive through town while I’m riding it and buy me an ice cream.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Dura-Ace. Oof. That and XTR. Woof.

      I went downmarket pretty early on, to Ultegra and 105 on the road, and to XT to LX to plain ol’ Deore elsewhere.

      But I still have two road wheelsets with D-A hubs, and one with XTR hubs. And I have some D-A bar-cons, too.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Too bad my DC Disc (105 of course with a 12-34 cassette and compact crank) didn’t fit you or Khal. I would have made you a great deal and even delivered for free beer and a dinner.

        It was my favorite bike, and the last to leave. Got to pay for those Taylors somehow.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        The Merry Sales boyos do nice work. Never had a bump in the road while dealing with them, even during the Plague Years, when parts have been hard to find. Their frames are attractive, affordable, and functional. What more do yis want, amirite?

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