Opened my bike case today.
Got my heart broken.
Opened my bike case today.
Got my heart broken.
In high school, one of my favorite teachers looked around the room and announced:
“Well, according to US statistics, at least half of you will be divorced at some point in your life.”
I remember laughing nervously as young, romantic ideas of diamonds and forever...died. In the awkward minute that followed, we all either stared at our desks or snuck sidelong looks at each other, trying to pick out which of us were mostly likely to fail at happily ever after. I attempted to compile a list of half my class based on fickle dating practices, counting from the bottom up, trying to place myself higher on the marital success curve. The problem was that I had no idea where I stood on this supposed forced cuve; I was 17, had barely kissed a boy, and naively believed that love was a deliberate choice. That it wasn’t - as it would turn out - a result of hormones mixed with alcohol or just poor decision-making.
Perhaps because of this history of questionable judgment, I hesitated for about four months when deciding on a road bike to fall in love with. I didn’t want to feel any hint of doubt once I had tied that knot. I wanted something that would’t fall prey to the “seven year itch” or your typical mid-life crisis. So I chose an IF. And since I’ve had it in my possession, divorce statistics haven’t bothered me. Because I believe I genuinely love my IF. I trust it. I rely on it. I spend more time with my bike than with any other human being. I think it’s adorable every time I look at it. I love it, I really do.
But there’s one problem: it’s an IF. Which means I may never need another bike.
This realization tore through my adulterous heart as I stood in the middle of the Seven workshop last week. Actually, it started before that. As a professional [coffee] barfly at RSC, I have been in constant proximity to Sevens. There is actually enough glittering ti in that shop to armour a Humvee. But it wasn’t until I saw the Berlin Seven bike in the Seven lounge that a small hitch appeared in my mental chant of “STEEL IS REAL.”
Because, oh hi, there is a front light integrated into custom handlebars and a back light integrated into the seatpost on this bike. Ti and carbon seat stays. Swoon.
Not that Seven doesn’t do steel [they do], but they also happen to be the second largest buyer of ti tubing in the nation. We got to see the tubes [ti and carbon] in their full length glory as Joe explained how the tubes are cut, where chainstays are bent, and how the frame is carefully assembled. There’s a general sense of obsessive attention to detail at Seven, which manifests itself in constant measuring and checking, making for rare mistakes and amazing bicycles.
Although each frame is handmade, the bottom bracket threads [for steel and ti frames] are cut by a machine. Seven even figured out how to rig the thing so it could cut out the threads without having to flip the frame itself. Very cool, but not as awesome as the fact that Rob apparently used to cut the threads by hand back in the day until he got sidelined by a rotator cuff injury [kidding, kidding].
Rob also show us the inspiration for Ride.Studio.Cafe.
By the time we got to finishing and painting, I was mentally picking out which Seven I’d want first, wearing that scarlet letter like a badge of pride. But as Kanye once put it, “how he stay faithful in a room full of hoes?”
And if you had any question as to the creativity of Seven employees, well, they are also capable of putting together tall bikes, complete with disco ball, speakers, an iPod holder, and a few amps.
By the time I picked up my bike from the Seven office, I was beginning to acknowledge the possible truth of my high school teacher’s comment. Not that I have plans or funds to purchase another bike or divorce the one I have, but that doesn't mean I wasn’t lusting after a Seven. My adorable IF took the crappy roads on the way home in stride and I was glad I had chosen plushy, great steel.
But in seven years, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be feeling an itch for ti, too.
[More pictures here.]
There are times when the days blend together. Whether it occurs because of a great winning streak in a game of Beirut or because of late night ramblings over a midnight snack with a friend at a 24 hour diner that eventually turns into breakfast, anyone with even a hint of a social life will understand this. Even with a couple hours of sleep thrown in, one day can turn into another, the reminder that you mentally crammed 48 hours into 24 only hitting you full force when the headache of sleep deprivation sears through your temples. Too bad when the overpowering desire to curl up on the floor and doze saturates your brain, you’re usually already a drink or two into your next blurred-together day.
Of course, the last time my days blended together, it was due to back to back to back episodes of “To Catch a Predator.” Me, pedophiles, and Chris Hansen. Until 3 a.m. Oh yeah.
And though Chris Hansen’s magnetic creepiness was woefully absent, the past few weeks have blended together, too. Sleeping in until almost noon, trudging through the slushy streets of New York, going to too many bookstores...and before I knew it, 2010 had flowed seamlessly and somewhat unmemorably into 2011.
It wasn't until last Sunday night that it occurred to me that it really was 2011. That night, in a slightly chilly bike shop, with some Victory beer, the help of another Chris [Harris, not Hansen], and some oddly shaped tools, I slowly assembled my very first road bike.
It started with a bottom bracket tapping and facing set; a gigantic metal contrapction that does the frame-prepping equivalent of douching and brazilian bikini waxing. Each tap got inserted so as not to cut through the BB threads, “chasing” them, before the facing cutter was fitted onto the outside edge of the BB, shaving off most of the paint. It hurt a little to do [doesn't waxing anything?], but I managed not to screw it [or my frame] up.
With a hammer, I pressed my first fork crown race, clanging away at the crown race installer. Then, feeling very pro mechanic, pressed my first ever headset into place, perfect and pretty. Okay, that’s not accurate. I only really installed the bottom half of the headset while Chris did the hardest part of aligning the top half. After spacers, bars, and brakes were attached, Chris made me figure out how to install the derailleurs myself [which was totally cool because those are only the exact parts that don't come on a single-speed bike]. I got it, eventually, only to be laughed at when I tried to put on my wheels, tightening them down like they had track nuts on them. Chris had to fix the wheels before helping me wipe down and measure out the chain, installing the brakes, and insisting I wrap one side of my bars. And he took pictures, documenting my embarrasment.
A la "To Catch a Predator," the bike build was a team effort. I was the equivalent of the Internet pedophile that stupidly walks into a TV set [“well...I thought it would make sense to put that...there...is that...wrong?”], while Chris [Harris] pretty much played the part of my other favorite Chris [Hansen] by attempting to reason with me [“do you really think that’s a good idea? You're building your own bike...What did you think was going to happen here tonight?”]. All very much like one of the greatest shows on television, with the exception that when I left the store, I wasn’t tackled by some burly cop screaming at me to get down on the ground.
And at the end of it all, I had a road bike. All I really got to do that night on the bike, was to pedal the length of the store. The saddle was a little lower than it should have been but once I cruised past the display of Chrome bags, that cliched realization, the prefix for those "I told you so"s [or more accurately "I TOLD you--Jesus CHRIST! WHY don't you ever LISTEN?!"s], that this bike was made to measure, hit me. It felt perfect. Not in the pre-fabricated, psychological way born of expectations, but in the physical sensations of a just-right reach, a standover that didn’t feel dangerously questionable, and the tangible fact of how the hoods fit into my hands.
And that’s when I knew. When I ceased to have any question in my mind about this simple fact:
Y’all are going to have a hard time catching this predator.
I know there are pictures of the complete and painted frame floating around already, but for those needing some bike porn, want to stalk IF vicariously, or have simply never seen braze ons being, well, brazed on:
Okay, I admit, with the cold, the cough, and the cost of buying even more layers to layer over the layers I already wear when I ride in the winter, I haven't been riding much at all lately. I felt guilty enough about it a few weeks ago to haul all of my winter bike gear to NYC, in hopes of getting in a few rides over the weekend, but I ended up at the doctor’s instead. And while I think lethargy suits me more than I’d be comfortable admitting, it’s also fueled some scary mental scenarios.
Because with a pretty IF on the way, and legs turning into mush with lack of exercise, my panic has me visualizing scenarios where I get to the base of the GW bridge on my new bike's maiden voyage, only to turn around in humiliation as my legs shake from the exertion. In other imagined scenarios, friends drop me within seconds and fail to notice and I'm left to either fight the wind and cold myself or limp back home. Worst of all, there's the one where I fall over halfway up River Road because I'm too weak to climb the rest of the way, scratching the entire length of my new IF frame [except for the part where my legs might be] as I tumble down the hill, still half clipped in, destroying derailleurs and denting my frame on the way.
That's right. They don't call me a drama queen for nothing.
Which is why I figured a ride was in order yesterday. It wasn’t planned or expected, but the rain was supposed to hold off until 1pm. And it wasn’t freezing cold. Perfect. I cut short my gchat convo with Rich Bravo [that’s right ladies, I have Rich Bravo’s gmail address], got dressed and headed out.
Can I say something? 20 days off the bike + head wind + pms + almost no carbs since yesterday afternoon = the most pathetically sad ride, ever.
It was great for like the ten minutes after my thighs stopped screaming and I warmed up, i.e., I stopped feeling like I was going to have a heart attack. I kept up this mental chatter like, “this is totally fun! You’re outside and riding! Yay!” as my legs went on autopilot and stayed that way for the remaining two plus hours. There was some bad pop pounding into one ear but try as I might, I couldn’t accelerate. Climbing hills that usually only required a little pushing near the top turned into the kind of slow agony that’s somewhat like the feeling you might get when you end up trying to teach your clueless parents how to use the Internet. Worse, my attempted snot rocket turned into a gross snail trail all over my right thigh and leg [sorry Rapha bib shorts].
This was all exacerbated by the fact that I’ve been PMS-ing hardcore. Like “all cookies within a 5 miles radius need to watch out,” hardcore. In desperation, to keep myself from eating the entire bakery a block away, I self-medicated last night with protein instead of carbs and sugar...who knew that would make me feel like a washed up jellyfish as I attempted a simple 30-miler? Probably everyone. But in my defense, I don’t really think my rides are very hard or challenging. They’re usually quick sub two-hour rides that don’t even necessitate on-bike eating. Except this time I was kicking myself for neglecting to bring anything edible on my ride other than a bottle of water. Not even a cough drop. I was hurting. I almost tumbled down a few small hills a la my feared scenarios.
At times crawling at probably 5mph [no joke], I limped back home with a loose right cleat, a busted IT band, and shattered ego. Sure, the extreme front yard Christmas decorations I saw made for both an excuse to stop and snap pictures and ensured that my [possibly] last [for the year, at least] outdoor ride on a single speed was pretty memorable. But I couldn’t help feeling bloated, useless, and unworthy of that IF that’s on the way.
And then Clint tweeted a picture of it. And I had some chocolate.
And you know what? Weak legs aside, I’m feeling good about this coming weekend. Like really good.
I got the flu about ten days ago, which meant that I got to both amass an arsenal of over-the-counter cough suppressants and other flu medication, and have the honor of being possibly the only person in America losing, rather than gaining, weight on Thanksgiving. And while both some weight and the fever have since been kept at bay, I’ve had a dry, hacking cough that’s lingered. The kind that will wake you up at night like an insatiable significant other, persistent and somewhat predictable, resulting in groggy workdays. The kind that results in somewhat sore abs and a tight back from those nighttime acrobatics. Except, you know, without satisfying happy endings that are implicit in anything involving insatiable significant others.
All of which led me to run to a walk-in clinic where a doctor listened to my heart every which way and then informed me that I just may have a heart murmur.
“Have you experienced any shortness of breath or difficulty breathing during exercise?” The doctor asked.
Images of attempting to climb River Road without “shortness of breath or difficulty breathing” came to mind. The inability to suck enough air into my lungs as I got pulled, dragged, then dropped up and down 9W presented itself.
“Uh, no, not really,” I answered.
Because images of a frame also emerged as I envisioned how I must look, riding up River Road. It was small and cute and welded together by a friend. I had visited the workshop to watch it being put together and even met the guy who was going to do my braze-ons [that sounds so dirty, I know]. And there was no fricking way some goddamn heart murmur was going to keep me off this almost-complete beauty.
Because, like I mentioned before, it’s an IF. The day before I got so pathetically sick that I was living off Tom Yum soup, I had ridden up to Somerville, MA to the IF workshop, with a quick stop by Clear Flour Bread to pick up some treats [their morning buns are pretty phenom]. Bundled up in every bike gear layer I own, it was a quick trip north to a warm workshop where my already-tacked frame sat, being TIG-welded into existence. I got to watch as Tyler worked his magic, explaining the process of using a giant electrical circuit to weld, and the use of air without oxygen in it.
Then I got the grand tour. I got to see the collection of tubes, the jig where tubes become frames, and the chain stay cutting machine [it was really cool]. There was the paint section where the newest green Ti Featherweight sat, waiting for its stripes of black matte paint, as well as an assorted collection of frames waiting for their respective powdercoats. I even got to see the big machine that provides extra pure air to the paint department, as well as IF’s sand and glass blasters.
Along the way, I saw and learned about how braze-ons are brazed on, leaving a glass-like residue, and how Corvids are assembled and the super power glue that holds them together. The IF carbon lugs for the Corvids are made specifically to measure, and not bent or stretched to fit like steel lugs. Even in its raw form, the carbon fiber frame was awesomely impressive. I think my heart murmured when I got to touch it; it didn’t hurt that it felt like air when I lifted it up, either.
There’s actually so much cool stuff and people at the IF workshop that it’s hard to actually delve in and describe everything in one visit [especially when your own custom frame is sitting in the welding department, nearing completion]. I left feeling more excited than when I arrived, and even in the midst of a feverish flu a few days later, I did a mental little dance when Tyler sent me even more pictures.
Yeah, that’s right. Pictures of my brazed and welded IF Crown Jewel. [Potential] Heart murmurs be damned. Ain’t nothin’ gonna keep me off that bike.