Dream Bike - Part 3: Ti Comes Home
Part Three: Home Alone Waiting for the Call (aka Ravin works while I get busy in the garden)
Today is the exact opposite of what it was like the day I came to Ravin’s garage to deliver the frame: cloudless, blue skied and so hot I have to peel layers of my work clothes off as soon as I get home and can barely stand the sudden intensity of ultraviolet radiation bouncing off my follicularly challenged skull.
I am tired, but keenly aware that tomorrow, roughly around the same time as today as I fell heavily into my Muskoka chair and faced the sun, a significant event in my life will have occurred: a dream fulfilled. The bike will be home, sitting gently cradled in a Feedback Sports rear tire stand, gleaming proud and ready to fly out of the garage as soon as I can clip in. A decade plus of dreaming and simultaneously being haunted, reading and researching magazines, blogs, web sites, and bike stores both modern and vintage will have to come to an end.
It will cease. Or will it?
There is a well known adage in the cycling community that the correct number of bikes one should own is represented by the following mathematical equation: n + 1. n is the number of bikes one owns, + 1 is well, self explanatory. Apparently, and this concerns my partner far more than it concerns me; one can never own enough bikes. Therein lies the addictive problem of bicycles, especially now that there are so many different types of bicycles that match riding styles or environments: road bikes (race, endurance, cyclocross, gravel), hybrid or city bikes, cruiser bikes, electric-bikes, mountain bikes (here my knowledge stops out of self preservation as I have recognized that given my predilection for speed and risk - anything that has me untrammelled screaming down a sheer cliffside hill with rocks and trees will predictably result in more than a few trips to the ER and is also why I am hesitant to explore gravel biking. I think it is quite literally a slippery slope from the road to the gravel trail to the mountain to the ER).
Dream Bike Comes Home
Early this morning, after spending an evening of a decent sleep (until the neighbourhood Robin started its pre-dawn screams), I awoke in a panic thinking I have neglected to remember all the things I need to head over to Ravin’s (rack, strap to keep the front wheel solid and straight, beers of thanks/gratitude). After breakfast, and before I head to work, I load up the car, double check everything and try to think about what I need to do for the day and not about the day’s end to get Dream Bike.
As one can imagine, the day is predictably far too long and time moves like Maple tree sap in a deep sub-zero January: which is to say it doesn’t. As my day ends and the clock ticks like the bell in all those 80’s films of the last day of school, I take my pre-packed bag and amble down the multitude of flights of steps I also climb daily. It’s off to battle Friday rush hour traffic and I can feel my excitement turn to tension in my hands as I pull out on to the street and see rows upon rows of red tail lights in front of me as far as I can see. I breathe and accept that I can only get to my destination as quickly as traffic will allow, turn on the car stereo to my most recent favourite new CD at full volume and allow the sound of Fontaines DC’s “Televised Mind” blare at those walking past me on the curb.
The trip passes more quickly than I’d imagined, and right on cue, as I pull up out front of Ravin’s, the garage door opens to my friend with a large Cheshire cat grin indicating the same kind of excitement I am feeling. I pop out of the car, carefully start installing my bike rack refusing to look at the garage, trying to engage in the idea of gratification delay. I walk down the driveway and there it is in all its glistening shiny glory. Everything is in its place and there is a faint stir in the air like the bike is whispering to me “Ready to ride? Ready to have the time of your life? I hope you like me.” Ravin and I bump elbows as per the new greeting protocols, and he goes over a list of things for me to be aware of and to expect: don’t cross chain, the gears will be a bit noisy as they settle and the cables stretch, present tire pressure, the need to fix present sealant issue and get to tubeless later, saddle height adjustment advice, brake modulation and settings…as he’s talking my eyes continually grace the curves and sheen of the titanium, the lines and angles of the frame, the pops of blue from the headset and hubs and I actually forget Ravin is talking to me, giving me more much needed advice.
“Hey mate. Gotta go. Need to get to the Burnaby velodrome for my girl’s lesson.” he chimes.
I snap to from my waking dream and with deeply felt emotions and a quiver in my voice declare to Ravin “I don’t know how to thank you. I really don’t.” I smudge my teared up eyes with the back of my hands, slip them around the bars and release the bike from the stand
and hear the beginning whir of the Chris King hubs stirring as I pull the bike towards my car, Ravin following close behind. I lift the frame up and gently, like I am placing my new born son into the car seat for the first time, nuzzle the frame into the rubber rack and strap it in making sure its centred, and the front wheel won’t be bounding off the bumper en route. I say a quick good bye and pull away to home.
The First Ride (What is that?)
“Wait until I tuck in my gut.” I vainly say to my partner hoping she knows how important I am to the overall quality of the shot of the first ride.
As you can see, either she didn’t wait, or the pandemic has far more negatively affected my girth than I’d realized. To be frank, immediately before this shot I was scared and nervous.
I was afraid that I’d forgotten how to ride, and that the moment I clipped in, somehow I’d make a mistake, slip, lose my balance and fall horizontally with the pristine Dream Bike pinned to me, crashing to the ground and permanently damaged. As it turns out, the old cliche is true: once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget.
And so off I went into a beautiful warm spring Saturday afternoon and as I put my hands to the bars and to the edges of the hoods, I noticed how utterly seamless the placement of my hands felt, how smooth the gears moved up and down the cogs as I began (as I always say) - “a gentle spin”, which is where the first ride dream became a first ride reality marred with doubt, fear and . . . what . . . is . . . that?
One of my regular routes is along smooth recently paved tarmac. As I started getting comfortable, finding my rhythm, looking down at my feet, listening to the new whirs and tings of the frame and checking various components as I pedalled, I could sense a slight vibration, an unfamiliar undulation. What is that? On top of the undulation and very much to my dismay and surprise, I was feeling every single ripple, bump, jarring edge and micro pebble my bike hit. 5km into my ride, I thought: Oh Jesus. Really? Is this what a titanium frame rides like? This is the legendary “plush” feeling of titanium plus 28mm tires and carbon rims? Christ this is harsh. Really harsh. Another kilometre in and I was beginning to get an overwhelming sense of dread and a certifiably genuine feeling of buyer’s remorse. What have I done? Why didn’t I just go with my other dream and buy that celeste green carbon bike I’ve been looking at for a decade? How is this going to be the bike I ride until I can’t ride anymore? I turned up a country road trying to ignore all the doubt filled negative feelings and the ever increasing pain wedging its way between my thighs and hips as the new saddle worked its sadistic charm into my sitting bones as I started up a little bridge over the highway. Thankfully, the new group set worked, and my weak ribbon strength legs made it up the hill. As I crested and began descending, I stopped pedalling and there it was, clear obvious and present: the undulating rear wobble I’d perceived a few kms back. So it wasn’t the frame. It wasn’t the difference in my legs (I have strength differences as a result of previous surgeries). What is that? Seeing nothing coming loose or tearing apart, I pedalled on. For the most part, I felt super happy up front. My hands rarely needed shifting around the cockpit and the reach was perfect. And it was fun. Snappy. Agile and it handled so clean and sharp. Instead of steering the to where I wanted to go, I merely looked at my line and there I was, rounding the corner and out. The corner was surprising brilliance. I rode harder than I’d predicted and not surprisingly, faster than expected. After all, in shape or not (two years off of a bike and one year on a couch in a pandemic does not a fit person make), who doesn’t ride a new bike or new set of wheels or tires with more zing and gusto? I got home safely, dismounted and called on my partner to help me have a look over the bike. While I lifted the rear wheel off the ground, I had her spin it and there it was…a discernible variation in the tire, almost as if it was warped in one section. I took a video of the spinning wheel and could see that in one section of the tire there was less sidewall than the rest of the tire. No wonder I was shimmying about in the rear.
In all my years of riding bikes I had never seen anything like it. I tried deflating the tire. Tried resetting the bead into the rim. Pulled and pushed and prodded. Re-inflated it several times. Nothing. Sigh. It was time to call Ravin…
The Bike…It Hangs
Part of the challenge of being disinclined mechanically is that bikes require maintenance. I am not totally inept, well at least not with things like guitars and amplifiers and audio systems and pens and paper and words, but taking on the latest technology in a bike, something so well crafted and precise means that in order to get things right, one has to learn by trial and error, wait for friends to find the time to fix that which is not their problem out of the generosity of their hearts, or pay a professional. That was not an option for Ravin. Despite my awkward jokes about being able to retire from his hectic day job and open his garage to rebrand himself as a LBS, I think he felt partly responsible for the issue I was experiencing (which in no way was he). He took the rim and tire and told me he’d get on it as soon as he could. And so I wait while the bike hangs in the garage like a distorted post-modern art piece.
The lessons in all of this are many. There are numerous cliches that could be applied to the situation about well laid plans, hell and good intentions, some guy named Murphy and his luck, patience and saints and a bunch of others I can’t presently recall. I could be disappointed and disheartened and shaking my fist at the skies, thinking I am simply one unlucky person who is doomed to experience setbacks upon setbacks. But I am not disheartened. I am not angrily shaking my fists. I realize that this moment is simply part of the growing process, part of the learning curve that comes with new experiences. Now is the time to utilize an applicable cliche: nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am not worried nor am I fretting. Knowing that there is a future with a new tire that will be installed soon, that eventually I will be running the bike tubeless and plush, I am confident that after all is said and done, I will be out riding like I did in my youth in my old neighbourhood. Only this time I will not be laying rear tire skid marks at my sister’s feet, but I will still be smiling and feeling free on two wheels.
Technical Details Anyone?
For the technically curious and gear minded, this is of what my dream bike, now happily named “Titan Fahrrad” (German for titanium bicycle) is comprised:
Frame: Walty Titanium custom road frame size 55 - $1400
Group Set: Shimano Ultegra Mechanical Hydraulic Disc 160mm, Front Cog 52/36, Rear Cog 11/34, 170mm cranks - $1250
Fork: Whiskey No. 9 RD 12mm Thru-Axel 1-1/4” tapered carbon - $730
Head Set: Chris King InSet 8 Tapered 1-1/4” - $305
Stem: Whiskey No. 7 HP 110mm 6+/- $65
Bars: EC90 Carbon 440mm - $60
Tape: Supacaz Super Sticky Kush Galaxy - $70
Rims: Lite Bicycle Falcon AR46 carbon - $425
Hubs: Chris King R45D CL 28 hole Front/Rear - $370/$675
Spokes: Sapim Laser $100
Tires: Schwalbe One Race Guard Performance 700 x 28 - $120
BB: Shimano Ultegra BSA 68mm - $50
Pedals: Look Keo 2 Max Carbon - $230
Seatpost: Thomson Masterpiece No Setback 27.2mm - $ 230
Saddle: Selle SMP VT30C (presently) - $250
Bottle Cages: SILCA titanium - $150
Estimated Total: $6480 (over budget - I’ve never been good at budgets)
As this story ends, I must again start where I began, but this time not about the dream, but about the friend. If I didn’t have a friend like Ravin, whose passion for bicycles is immeasurable, and his generosity equally so, this story would likely not to have happened. I can’t imagine taking on a task like this on my own, without his knowledge, patience and encouragement. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t thank him and extend my thanks for his friendship. I say this in recognition during a time when so many have experienced hardships and loss, significant challenges that have negatively impacted their overall health, I have been blessed with family and friends around me.
Which leaves me to end with this…
Most importantly, this story would never have happened if just over a half a year ago during a stiflingly hot summer afternoon on our deck my beloved hadn’t knowingly smiled at me as I sipped on a recently shaken 40 Creek Whiskey Sour after I’d received my ICBC settlement cheque in the mail and said, “So. When are you going to get that bike you’ve been dreaming about for so long?”
Sangita. Thank you for allowing me my obsessions and supporting my dreams. Thank you for your patience and support, as I prattled on about things you pretended to care about. You who has watched me incessant and fixated, slowly gravitating closer to the final fruition of my cycling dreams. Without you, none of this was possible. For you, my gratitude is immeasurable.