Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why Do Certain Bikes Float Your Boat?

Ever since I posted my minor online obsession with the Kona Dew Drop, I've been wondering what it is about certain bikes that I find irresistible.

Here's my theory: Bikers get their buttons pushed by whatever style was IT when they first started riding seriously. I've heard that car people are the same way, lusting after the rides that they wanted when they got a license for the first time. So, for instance, if you started turning cranks with regularity in the 1970s, maybe the classic road machines of that era trip your trigger: squiggly lugs, lots of chrome, Nuovo Record kit, non-aero brake cables flapping in the breeze, etc. I can appreciate that look (and even have a squiggly-lugged Raleigh in the garage), but being a bit young to have experienced it firsthand, I don't go all irrational ga-ga for it.

See, I came of cycling age in the mid-80s, right when the mountain bike absolutely exploded. The bikes I wanted in those days looked more like something out of the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology than something out of a sepia-toned photo of Eddy Merckx (I know, they had color photography in Eddy's day, but sepia just sounds right in this context.)

Give me the polished, toothpaste-welded triple triangle of a GT Zaskar. The funky front end and bizarrely cantilevered rear dropouts of a Cannondale Killer V. That undeniably Gary Fisher yellow-to-red fade paintjob. Or the eye-searing neon green/white/pink of a fat-tubed Klein with matching chubby aluminum fork blades. Or the yellow elastomer stacks of a Proflex. Or -- be still my beating heart -- the low-slung bad-assedness of an early-90s steel Stumpjumper (WHY didn't I buy one when I could've gotten it cheap on employee purchase?!?) Even the hideously ineffective Trek 9000 "stack of little chocolate donuts" rear suspension has a place in my heart, if only because it was new and exciting "in the day." Kit any of them out with an M900 XTR drivetrain (has there ever been a better or prettier parts kit? I think not) or some Suntour XC Pro, maybe a Rock Shox Judy up front, and I'll be reduced to a gelatinous puddle of irrational desire.

Of course, I don't mountain bike any more. Too many blown shoulders and broken bones. So I like the
feel of a good, long-wheelbase road ride, that flywheel effect when a fat, slick road tire comes up to speed on good pavement -- something you just won't get from the dirt bikes of my youth. But my id still goes goofy over that 80s/90s mountain bike look. So, I wind up with these bizarre hybrids. No, scratch that. The term's been killed by the industry. Call them "remix bikes" -- the utilitarian, take-no-prisoners look of an old mountain bike paired up with the road feel of a good tourer. Upjutting stems. Thumbshifters. Fat (albeit smooth) rubber. Wide canti brakes. TIG welds -- yes, my iBOB bretheren, the heretic just said WELDS. Something like my Bruce Gordon tourer. Or, if you want off-the-shelf, maybe a Rawland Sogn. Or even a Kogswell PR, if you kit it up right. Slap on some 36-spoke wheels, and let's party like it's 1989!

Crap, I think this might be a midlife crisis! Ah well, there are worse ones...


Steve Fuller said...

I started riding a lot in the late 80s as well, but my tastes tend to run all over the place.

Pashley Guvnor - yum
Fancy Lugged Steel - yum (OK 80s influence here)
Orbea Ordu - yum

Pete said...

There *are* worse ones. Because I believe we have the same "float your boat" reaction to women from the era we came of age. Big hair and legwarmers for us 80s lads...

Anonymous said...

I distinctly recall seeing those Treks with the "stack o' donuts" shock, and the subsequent salivating! mmmmm... little chocolate donuts!

The only other bikes to make me salivate that much were the mid-70's Raleighs. How much time did I waste as a youth staring at the pics in the Raleigh catalogs?? As a result, I own a Raleigh Team bike, complete with 753 tubes and Campy Super Record bits, as well as a very shiny '74 International. The Team bike is a great ride, and my lightest bike. The lust was justified! :-)

Steve Kurt
(Does this explain my Hetchins, the Olmo, and the two custom frames?)

Anonymous said...

Went from a 1950s 20" fendered, chain gaurded, brush painted, fat-tired, diamond frame bicycle, through Western Flyers with 'ram-horn' handlebars, Sting-rays, Varsitys, Peugots Europas Raleighs; but growing up made me leave those behind.

1979 on was totally recumbent thankfully; leading to a 2003 Velomobile (enclosed) which is where I am now.

Never EVER will I go backwards! Nice memories and quite interesting to see that 1950 diamond frame department store design on most bicycles nowadays!

Anonymous said...

You do wax poetic. I love it :-)