Posts tagged ‘custom’
The essence of the reddest of red-heads … I am calling her Lucy.
Six months of collaborative creating which began with my bike fitter, Eddie at Cycology, to the actual fabrication of her bones by Natalie Ramsland at SweetPea … and finally home for the final build and “dressing up” by my most awesome local bike guy, Charles at Trailhead – who knew exactly what she needed to become the thing of my dreams. There was considerable tweaking along the way, a few hiccups, several re-do’s (some easy, and some not-so), but in the end I have to think she is my perfect bike. She fits me like a hand tailored Little Black Dress, for sure. And yeah – she loves me back as much as I love her.
I love that she is a perfect mixture of function and aesthetics. She rides like a dream, she is lovely to look at (and photograph, of course), she is a little sassy and a lot of serious; she will go the distance, yet has enough practicality for commuting and camera-toting adventures.
Each piece of her was thoughtfully and deliberately chosen, and I am very proud that most things were chosen from smaller and US-based independent designers – Chris King, Paul Components, White Industries, Bike Thomson, Velo Orange, Sugar Wheel Works, and of course SweetPea.
Drivetrain selection ended up being one of the biggest headaches, and the biggest challenge in trying to put together a bike from across the country without seeing it. Aesthetically, the Shimano group I originally had chosen ended up looking wrong. In the end, at home, we stripped the Ultegra group and dressed her up with some divine Campagnolo – which is exactly what she needed (and will always take me back to the bike I rode in Italy).
We topped things off a Brooks Ladies saddle, a set of Pitlock locking skewers, a Light and Motion pairing of lights, and a very sweet Tubus Titanium rack which will will hold my wonderful custom designed and hand-sewn North St. convertible pannier (thank-you Curtis), the perfect custom home for my camera gear and other “stuffs” I schlepp around. More about that bag to come; it’s amazing. Still doing some decision-making on fenders (or not) … we’ll see.
So these are some of the first of what I am sure will be many, many glamour shots of Lucy – some of her beautiful details, and her charming RED personality. She certainly won’t get lost in the landscape.
And speaking of Lucys … for any of you old enough to remember, did you know that there was an old episode of the original I Love Lucy (i.e., Lucille Ball), where she convinces Ricky, Ethel and Fred to ride bikes from Italy to France? I kid you not. Lol. The best part is the comedy of mishaps at the border crossing – and, of course, seeing Fred and Ethel on a tandem. If you’re up for a dose of 50’s sitcom humor, it’s worth a watch (heheh) – viewable for streaming online here, or this clip on YouTube.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent several hours working with a bike fitter – something I never would have envisioned myself doing. I am certainly no speed-racer type, I’m not an uber high-mileage junkie, nor did I ever feel like I was having problems (discomfort, pain, whatever) with any of my bikes. As I have written before, I’m probably considered by most as not being one of those serious cyclist types. Dedicated, enthusiastic … yes. “Serious“, skilled, fast … not so much.
So what was I doing? For one thing, I am a proponent of efficiency and ergonomics and, I suppose, conservation of energy. If I can find an easier way to do something, do it more efficiently and with less effort, you can bet I am signing on.
Several years ago I worked with a couple of swimming coaches for similar reasons. It’s not that I had any intention of competing, or swimming the English Channel, but I was interested in becoming more efficient in the water, more streamlined (or “slippery” in the water, as they liked to say), along with wanting to minimize wear-and-tear to my rotator cuffs. It was amazing what a few adjustments to body alignment, rotation and sweet-spot drills did for me; I cut my stroke count down by 8-10 strokes/50 yds, I am preserving my shoulders, I love the nearly “effortless” feeling, and I am faster. (OK, maybe just a little less slow.) For me it simply means I can swim farther in less time and with less wear-and-tear, which is about all I’m after.
Back to bikes – and the bike fitting. It was a pretty fascinating experience. My fitter, Eddie from Cycology Bicycles, was a really wonderful guy – very patient, extremely detail-oriented and knowledgeable, and great about explaining the significance of all of the measurements, angles and adjustments he was measuring and making changes to – not to mention he had a very impressive curriculum vitae (along with some amazing photos) of “serious” professional cyclists who come to him for fittings. (Yeah, next to them, I did feel like a bit of a doofus, I will admit.)
I was measured from top to bottom and sideways and back. Height, weight, femur length, inseam, wingspan, my level of flexibility, you name it. Eddie also had an interesting self-engineered set of electronic scales he could use to measure weight distribution while I was on my bike – it’s an interesting ratio to look at, as he adjusts saddle height and other positioning. He took a look (and more measurements) at my position on my Dolce, which ended up being a remarkably near-perfect fit for me with only a couple of areas that could be changed – handlebar width (narrower), possibly my crank length (shorter), and some tweaking to my cleats.
Finally, he moved me onto the Serotta fitting bike – an amazing little bike-like device enabling multiple adjustments with countless combinations for riding styles. Basically, he sets it up with his calculated settings for ultimate bike fit for the rider, and then can tweak it from there. It was really remarkable to feel the difference a slight adjustment of angle/height/length could make. But now I know what my ideal “numbers” are, because I was able to feel them.
So where is all of this leading? Well, for one thing, the adjustments made to my Dolce have made it even more comfortable and efficient for me to ride. After my experience, I fully endorse a bike fitting session by a qualified fitter – it’s not only an education, but you will be amazed by the changes that small adjustments will make, regardless of your riding style and level of cycling seriousness. Do it.
But there was another motive for my fitting, and you may have already guessed. After years of lusting after her Sweetpea bikes, and having some great phone conversations with Natalie Ramsland over the past few weeks, she is now building a custom bike for me. The frame geometry is custom, designed for my optimum set of measurements; she and Eddie have nailed down the perfect fit. And beyond the frame, this bike will be fabulous in every aspect … Natalie has an uncanny sense for knowing my aim, mechanically and aesthetically. The build list reads like a perfect dessert menu: Brooks, Chris King, Sugar Wheel Works…
Most of all, I love that my bike is being built by an incredibly inspiring and talented woman framebuilder – a rare thing in the predominantly male bicycle-building world . Watch her video, read her blog; her bicycles are stunning, and her thoughts are insightful and meaningful. I feel we are on the same page, in so many ways, philosophically.
Another bike? Do I need it? I am not sure … What I do know is that I will love this bike, it will fit me in every way, it will be beautiful, it will make me happy to ride it, and I will cherish it and everything that went into making it become uniquely and specially mine. The tentative plan is to make a trip to Portland to have Natalie do the final fit once the build is complete, and to hopefully have a chance to explore the amazing world of Portland bicycle culture for a few days. Fingers crossed.
And so, this is how it begins.