Thursday, January 17, 2013

Test ride

After adjusting the brakes and transferring the Edelux light from the Surly to the Homer, I stand back and look for what needs doing next. Then it dawns on me - the bike I assembled is ready for a test ride. Not done, but fully rideable.

Still dressed in my riding gear from my bike commute home, I pump up the tires, don my helmet and go back out into the night.

The bike leaps ahead when I pedal. I feel the liveliness of the frame. I extend the quick trip and time falls away . . .

In the early eighties I was a teenager, maybe 16, maybe 15. I lived in Brooklyn, NY. There was a 24 hour Ride in Central Park. Bike endurance legend John Howard was trying to set a new distance record. I went to the park with my blue Sears Free Spirit 10 speed. The park was closed to traffic. Bicyclists had the run of the place. I rode in the dark, with hundreds of cyclists. Getting lapped by John Howard and his rotating crew of assistants. I rode 75 miles straight - lap after lap. In the middle of the night. I went home to sleep before coming back. 

Coming into the house, the story of my 75 miles bubbled out of me in excited description. I really only came home so my mother wouldn't worry too much but I was going back. Definitely.

My uncle Frank was at the house. Frank introduced me to distance riding. Frank didn't own a car. He walked or rode everywhere. I rode my first century with him. We rode the Five Borough Bike tour back in the 80's when you could haul ass through all 5 boroughs on closed streets with a few hundred people who loved to ride and cherished the opportunity. Not like now, when its over crowded and under managed. 

Frank offered to lend me one of his bikes for the second part of the 24 hour ride. A Colnago - steel with cloverleaf cutouts in the lugwork. Drop dead beautiful. I was speechless.

I rode that bike on the second leg of the ride. The difference was stunning. The bike was alive. It raced with me, turning my efforts into speed. The bike disappeared beneath me. The memory never faded . . .

I come back to the present. I wheel my new ride into the house. I make mental notes on adjustments to dial in the fit but, 30? years later, I bubble with excitement once again.

Sitting down, I remember that Lance Armstrong is on TV confessing to his lies and cheating. 

I am even more glad I went for the ride.


  1. Assembling a new bike never gets old for me. It always remind me of when I was a kid I would take my bike apart to do some maintenance and couldn't wait to do a nice long test ride after I put it all together. I never had a chance to ride a real bike back then (70's) but my old Royce Union did allow me to go to far places, usually by myself and I still think back to those rides. I was the only kid/teenager to do long rides.

    Your new bikes looks great and I am sure you are going to enjoy many miles with it. Hope to see it in the near future.


    1. Thanks Bob. The bikes of my childhood, from the big wheel on, each made a lasting impression. I'm sure our paths will cross this season and I look forward to it.

  2. Nigel, Nice Hilsen! We should go for an all-Hilsen ride sometime. Jersey Devil permanent?

    Just one question: where are the fenders? You need at least one (in the rear) so I can stay dry!


  3. What a lovely looking bike. And I love the description of that feeling that the bike just disappears underneath you-- what a delight that is.