French Clements

Bikes I have owned

Man, bikes. I love them! Ergo:

This here was my first “real” bike, which is a funny thing to say because are not all non-imaginary bikes real? Anyhoo, it came from ebay.com in 2007, and I was INSANELY PROUD OF IT, and it cost less than a year’s worth of pretty terrible toilet paper. The front hub cracked into pieces after about two months of light riding (“light” meaning I got tired/bored after a mile or two). I wouldn’t recommend you buy this kind of bike, a Motobecane, unless you like broken and poorly made things and mechanics yelling at your bike when you bring it in because it’s made in Taiwan and is really just a rebadged Fuji and thus represents the death of local enterprise. Or something. Anyway, it got stolen the first week I moved to Cambridge because I thought a cable lock would be impervious to any meth-head with a pair of gardening shears. A blessing, really.

This speed demon (joke!) started out life as a basic crappy ten-speed: a Schwinn World Sport. I bought it in late 2008, in some terrible suburb of Boston following the theft above. The bike had gears then. Then I failed to ride it for an entire Boston winter (meaning seven months), and it languished on the porch, rustifying. Spring sprang, I rode to work one April, and my chain just plumb fell off right at the same time the front derailleur just plumb fell off. They’d been steadily grinding away at each other, because I cared so little about adjustments. The internet told me how and why I should convert it to a single speed, so I did, as cheaply and brightly as I could. And it rode as best a crappy conversion might ride. Then I sold it to an MIT freshman. I kept that leather saddle, but sadly, it was stolen a few months ago too. People liked this bike. Basket!

There’s other clearer photos of this bike and its rider, but this photo at right is special to me because it shows me and Jesus, my Little Brother during the time I lived in Cambridge, at the beginning of the Rodman Ride for Kids, an annual charity event. Jesus, his brother, and I spent the night before greasing up that bike of his, fixing the brakes, adjusting adjustments. Jesus rode hard for the entire 25-mile trip, and got really sweaty and tired, but even though it was the hardest thing he’d ever done with his body, it was pretty obvious he was going to finish strong. Miss you, Sus! Anyhoo, Cannondale R500. Puro aluminio. It rode a little soulless. I sold the frame to a girl.

Wacky flexy bike on the right. You push hard on the right pedal, the left rear end goes all noodley, and vice versa. Lugs that are pinned and glued together and prone to falling apart at high speeds. Vitus is what these were called, as in St. Vitus, as in St. Vitus’ Dance, as in shaky and goofy and generally an archaic problem no one has any more. It was lighter than aluminum foil, though, and it had full Dura-Ace, and it put me on the path to getting a little more serious about performance than the bikes above. Nonetheless it reflects my continuing denial re: the benefits of modern componentry. Upon my move to San Francisco, this bike joined me, where its components were eventually cannibalized and the frame was turned into the weirdest single speed on the block. Then I sold the frame to a guy.

I had a steel Trek 420 that I was turning into a sick touring rig, but before leaving for SF, I sold the frame to a guy. I’ve got no photos but I can describe how I’d stripped off the paint and then clearcoated it, even though I’m no industrial painter and it looked terrible, like a hooker’s week-old nail polish, and easily turned rusty underneath even the slight dings. It was also too small, but I wasn’t willing to admit that.

More bikes! My mother bought this steel Bianchi Eros from her lady-friend who’d been steadily dropping the price over several months, and when neither of them could stand it any more, they exchanged 100 American fun-tickets, and bam. Recognize that seat? Of course you do. The photo at left was taken after my first “epic tour,” from San Francisco to Pescadero. I camped in Half Moon Bay the previous night, because I was slow and started really late the day before. I overpacked a mite. The wheels came way out of true and nearly collapsed under the weight of my bags, but to be fair, they were really crappy old wheels, the kind you get with a $100 bike.

At right, same bike, more recently, before a 24-hour ride (What? Seriously!) with the SF Randonneurs, a club I joined after I moved to the Bay Area. The seat is (A) awesome and (B) made by a Sacramento-based company called RivetCycle Works, led by randonneuse Deb Banks. The super-cute and moderately capacious front bag that you can’t really see is made by my buddy Ely Rodriguez, whose outfit Ruthworks will make you a sweet bag too, you just have to wait your turn.

Things get exciting around October 2010, when I purchased my first Fancy Bike. Funny story how I got it; when I found the listing on eBay, it was listed only as a “Serotta Concours,” with a few compelling photos, but no indication of frame material or even components, zilch. So I send the dude a message asking, “hey, isn’t this thing titanium?” ’cause some research suggested it was. The auction ended, bike unsold, with only a few low bids–I think people assumed it was a steel frame and naturally didn’t bid accordingly. Which was wrong of them! The seller called me the next day at 5am (“Well, yeah, it does say titanium right there on the sticker!”) and I told him I had $1300 and he threw some Sidis in for free. Turns out the poster/seller knew little of bike-y ways, and was selling it via his eBay account for his buddy, who did obviously know about bikes and had worked in the paint shop at GM for 40 years, and this was his retirement present to himself in 2000, whereupon he rode it a few times before selling it to me. You can’t tell the paint job so well here, but it’s a paint-shop-worker’s paint job, that’s for sure. Changes in the light, looks like a spaceship from the late 90s. Here’s two porny shots of how it looked after few months of improvements–new stem, new vanity-style seatpost, and shifters traded from Shimano 600 to Campagnolo Record–using the (in)famous Shimergo setup, which people will tell you works perfectly if they are maybe the sort of person who believes that the Beatles were a terrible band because they had terrible lyrics. You can’t live in The Nile, man, that’s just some river in Egypt that’s pretty hard to live in.

After a while, the shifting started to get on my nerves (90% of the time, it worked 90% of the time) and I moved over to a ten-speed setup throughout via a Record Ti rear derailleur, albeit with a JTek Shiftmate now because something in my life must always be janky and because I got this great 10-Shimanospeeds-only Dura-Ace wheelset from a guy for basically nothing and really haven’t felt like spending more than the $40 you need for a Shiftmate to iron out compatibility issues. (Moving to Egypt ever? Call me.) Got smart about the stupid seatpost too. It looks less like a bird of prey now, which disappoints only me. As always, it rides with a beguiling smoothness and a strange yet sexually compelling feeling akin to being on rails…while doing it. I intend to replace the stem/handlebar setup with something that doesn’t require such a long reach. Here’s where things are as of February 2012, in a strangely celestial photo that somehow focuses almost entirely on the (new) crankset and nothing else, a quirk I attribute to the heady atmosphere there on Bernal Hill:

And here we are: no more bikes. Ha! Forgot one. A Craigslist trip to get these incredible tires (they were so cool and rare that I spent all those moneys while even lacking the bike to ride them [there is a metaphor in here someplace]) led to the purchase of this cross frameset, which led to this evil-looking thing. Seriously, do not mess up around this bike! Play it cool! You may recognize the wheelset, which came with the above bike. Rides best off-road only. Sram Rival front derailleur is frustrating. Points if you can spot the In-N-Out milkshake drool here. The pedals are just temporary pedals. And I’ve determined that there is some kind of schmutz deep inside the lens of my phone.


Edit: I forgot about another bike. But it’s down in the basement, and dark outside besides.

  1. […] The person who hit me and drove off definitely didn’t read my “share the road” sticker. At least you can see the new wheel that was donated to me (thanks French)! […]

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