Monday, May 12, 2014

Why my bicycle is better than yours: An article for Bicycle Annually by Ridethedell.

You may think you have a very nice bicycle; your bicycle may, in fact, be quite adequate - for you

But well-informed, historically knowledgeable, experienced and discerning riders would certainly agree that, when it comes to intrinsic value and inherent worth, my bike is better than yours.

Please allow me to educate you as to why.

In the time it took to press the shutter and capture the image, the bicycle sproinged ahead leaving only this shadow.

Frame Design -

The design of my frame has its origins in the crucible of world history. Through trial and error, this design arose from an inspired creation that European artisans refined over time based on real world testing on authentic cobbled streets, mountain ascents and multiple continent crossings. 

Modern American ingenuity then used the lessons from its 100 year history to re-imagine and re-boot the pure essence of the design and to fine tune its minimalist crystalline structure  that - not unlike a spider’s web - balances strength and utility

This frame design is capable of self-righting when in operation - with minimal energy input- it will compensate for lateral forces by re-positioning the front wheel to reestablish the forward movement of the bicycle. This frame design is so perfect that it has been given the name of the ultimate gem, the Diamond.

But a frame design is just an idea and one cannot ride an idea. That design must be given form and substance to complete the experience. My bike does so through its unique frame material and specially selected components:


Frame Material

Like a tree has a trunk, the frame of my bicycle gives it its shape and form. The material used for my frame literally changed the world. It was used to make samurai swords and to build skyscrapers. An age, in fact an epoch, was named for it. It is synonymous with strength and virtue. It the stuff of superheroes. It is steel! 

But this is not just pipe steel! This steel has been refined with the perfect mix of molybendium, unobtainium and other secret materials. The tubes have been drawn in thicknesses so perfect that they ring like an instrument when flicked with a finger. The tubes have been joined with precision craftsmanship honed by thousands of hours of love’s labor. The quality of the joinery is invisible to the naked eye yet sub-sensibly perceptible. What one can see are the sensuous lugs detailed in micrometers of precision that harken back to the architectural detail of the height of the era of accentual design.

The Ride

If you are a typical pedal masher who rides like a peasant stomping grapes, this quality may be lost on you but, when ridden by a cyclist well versed in the style, nay the art, of pedaling that the French call "souplesse," this bicycle’s frame design and metal subtly flex in a state of harmonic tension that concentrates the downward pedal stroke energy of the rider and returns it on the upswing with an increase of .001% in energy return. The bike actually works with the rider to create a forward energy unmatched by any other bicycle. I call this process of synergistic energy transfer "sproinging" or “splaining.” This bike does not disappear beneath the rider: it gives life!

Contact Points: 

One does not ride a frame alone, the contact points of a bicycle provide the interface of man and machine. The frame may provide the performance but the contact points provide the luxury. Let us now look at the luxurious details.


My bicycle seat is made from the leather of grass fed, pasture raised, humanely treated, un-castrated bulls who died peacefully surrounded by friends and with good views of preserved farmland. That leather was then steeped in a combination of locally sourced oils, exotic nature-based preservatives and medicinal teas and herbs, until it acquired a deep, glossy, water-resistant shine. 

The seat, when new and unbroken, had only a hint of its future magnificence. With use,  time and regular deep kneading massages with proprietary lubricants warmed to body temperature, the leather molded itself to custom fit the contours of my person. That process also created a finish so nuanced in appearance that when not in use, it is kept out of rain and direct sunlight so as to preserve its patina and its holistic healing properties.


My handlebars are wrapped in braided leather like the handle of a Spanish whip from the age of conquest. The heat tempered alloy is shaped into a bend mastered by ancient Japanese craftsmen from the house of Nitto. The ergonomic perfection of its shape not only prevents hand numbness, it improves your calligraphy.  


While we contact the bike through seat and handlebar, we touch the world through our tires. My tires provide a pneumatically adjustable cushion through a scientifically derived shape and circumference that maximizes the use of the air inside while reducing unnecessary weight. They resist punctures from all but the pointiest and sharpest of objects. The Kelvar shielded sidewalls may, or may not, be bulletproof. Plus, since the tires are two tone - Egyptian sandstone and Gabon ebony - they also possess a wonderful aesthetic quality that makes changing the occasional flat just another opportunity to marvel at their classic beauty in detail.


My Japanese crankset is so fancy, people argue about how to pronounce its name. Is the "G" hard or soft? Who knows? You just need to know it is very shiny and has a crown. It also has the perfect "Q" factor, which you must certainly know refers to the completely objective distance your feet have to be from each other in order to pedal with maximum efficiency. Any other distance and one risks unspeakable awkwardness and inexplicable contractions.

The chain is German and and the cassette is Japanese. This is a proven effective combination of mechanism and ability that history has shown takes a collective of nations and/or a nuclear bomb to stop its forward progress.  


The accessories are the finishing touch. Minimal and tasteful, they add value without sacrificing utility. They are the lipstick on the Mona Lisa, the crown on the Queen.   

I use semi-custom hand crafted bags made by a Portland Oregon cyclist in a green, community based, woman owned shop that pays fair wages and takes bike adventure vacations. The bags are her colorful take on a traditional French Randonneur design which allows one to use the bag while riding and which works with the wind to streamline the rider and bike thus almost offsetting any weight penalty caused by carrying items in the bag.

My fenders are made from German chromoplastic which sandwiches metal and plastic to create a light and graceful fender that protects the bike and rider from the elements in timelessly fashionable utility. These fenders are not only waterproof, they are water blocking.

My bell is made of polished Japanese copper and is tuned to ring like a bell from a Buddhist monastery. As a result, when I sound it to alert people of my presence, they are not only thankful for the opportunity to stand aside for my bicycle to pass, they are spiritually enlightened by the experience.

 As you now have been.  Ding ding.

Disclaimer: I may have a financial interest in the products that I described with great accuracy in this article.


  1. sounds like you're the proud owner of a motobecane gran turismo from bikesdirect.

  2. But you've described *my* bike....

    1. Leslie, then perhaps, you too may be a "connoisseur de la velo."

  3. Damn. I've got some soul-searching to do.

    1. Congratulations, that recognition is the first step. May I suggest that you start the rest of your search by ringing the copper bell?

  4. Why don't the French, Italian, Dutch, German et al no longer plod along on 1940's designs?

    If/whenyou line up next August in St Quentin, have a look around. There will be one rider in the 80H group riding that kind of machine. Lots in the 90h group, mostly Americans.

    It is a nice bike but then again, it is what is inside us that determines the quality of the ride.

  5. Thank you for the fun romp through your bike

    Re: anonymous (18:21), and perhaps feeding the troll: they do. The majority of riders at PBP 2011 rode modern racing bikes with stuff bodged onto their machines (or employed a follow car to meet them at checkpoints.)

    I know personally of five 80h riders who started in the third wave on modern integrated 650B randonneuring machines, and I (throwback that I am) rode an integrated 700C machine.

    There were others--those were just a few with whom I rode for a pleasant day or so. One finished in around 52h, and I pulled up the Lanterne Rouge in 78h. There were also a number of elderly French riders riding their integrated machines (not so modern machine or rider, but still pulling hard on the second and third day) at the 80h start. Their concession to modernity: lycra jerseys.

    I don't think any of us were slowed by our choice of machine. I sure was happy for the fenders, effective lights, and extra clothing on board in the aftermath of the big thundershower on the second night. I was still jealous of the three+ changes of clothing some of riders (on racing bikes, with support teams at the contrôles) got over the event....


    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

  6. It’s not the materials that the builder used to make your frame, but the memories captured by the rider in those tubes of that frame that make a bike special. And that is why my bike is the best in the world.

    That, and the leather saddle.
    Tom B
    Florence, SC

    1. Isn't that the truth. It is about the ride, the experience, the beauty, and at times the challenges Mother Nature thrusts upon us. IR has a beautiful bike and that bell is a dandy. Would anyone doing a longer Brevet pick a bad bike? I think I want me one of them bells, it is beautiful and if it sounds as nice in person as it does from the link, it is a have to have accoutrement although putting it on my ugly rig would be like bringing 1971 Palmer to a BBQ.

    2. The ride? The memories? The experience? The beauty? The challenges of Randonneuring? All good topics!
      (Hmmm, maybe I should write some posts about those subjects too.)

      As for the bell, it sounds even nicer in person.

  7. I have that same bell. One has to be careful with its usage, though, because it has on occasion caused actual instantaneous transcendence when rung in the presence of one who is Prepared but who has not actually Ascended.

    1. JRA,

      That may explain the sudden exultation that occasionally occur when I check my mirror after passing those few souls who seem preternaturally calm in demeanor.

  8. IR, you don't really have steel handlebars do you? 50,000 mile a year Freddie Hoffman uses them (Wald cruiser bar), but he is an exception (in multiple ways).

    Entertaining post.

    1. Mr. Bob,
      Nice catch. In fact, the handlebars are heat treated alloy. (I understand that for the heat treating process Nitto may use a flame that was ignited by the first torch of the modern Olympics.) I shall correct the post, after all, I do want to maintain its accuracy.


  9. Love your loyalty but I'll keep my ride thank you.See you in Paris.