Internal Detours
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
  Belle

My surgery was April 5. I wasn't allowed on a bike until August. Obviously, I was weak and in need of every advantage I could get. I needed a wide gear range, a comfortable position and stable but not stodgy handling. The obvious choice was my Rivendell.

Belle was my first custom bike. I'd been riding early 70s Peugeot PX-10s and Gitanes, then a modern Bianchi Alloro. None of those bikes quite hit the mark. Grant Petersen's writings in the Rivendell Reader struck a chord with me. After polling Rivendell owners on the iBOB list and getting rave reviews, I bit the bullet and ordered a frameset. I told Grant I wanted the bike that Jacques Anquetil would ride in his retirement if he were still alive and riding brevets. Since my teenage years, I've wanted to ride Paris-Brest-Paris, and this bike was designed for it. I pretty much wound up with what was then known as the LongLow, but with the modern short brake reach - the last is my only regret about this bike.

The down side - about two weeks after I placed the order and paid my deposit, half of Rivendell's building capacity evaporated when match bicycle works closed down. The wait for my new bike doubled, from August to December. While I waited, I acquired components. I originally planned to use Campagnolo 8-speed ergo parts, complete with a set of sewup wheels. I changed my mind, though, and went with SunTour bar end shifters and some vintage Dia-Compe sidepulls worked by aero Gran-Compe levers. The sewups went when Rivendell introduced the Roll-y Pol-y tires late that year and I discovered the joys of light, fat tires.

About a year later I realized it was time to set the bike up the way I originally envisioned it, so I acquired a Campagnolo Olympus mountain bike rear derailleur, a T.A. Zephyr triple crankset and T.A. sealed bearing pedals. The fenders soon followed, fastened with zip-ties in Riv-approved fashion to maximize tire clearance. I keep dancing back and forth on the issue of fitting a Berthoud rack and classical French-style handlebar bag.

I've got other bikes that are faster - but last year, when I decided to ride MS-150, this was the automatic choice. The first day's ride was 90 miles in 2005, rather than the usual 70 or so. Writing this, I realize that was my longest day in the saddle since I crashed my Bianchi Pista in 2000. The big blue bike cruised on in, fenders and all, and was comfortable and stable and perfect the next day, too.

One of my goals for 2006 is to ride a full English century again, at least one. I'm still pushing the limits outward, thinking about '07 and trying for a 200 km brevet - and maybe even a 300 km brevet. And this bike figures prominently in those plans.
 
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