Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Evil Seductress

How does the saying go? I saw it once as a sticker on a friend's bike - "Lord, protect me from the things that I want."

I honestly thought I was pretty much over the wink and sashay of another new bike. Like an aging pimp in Las Vegas, I have been around the two wheeled beauties for so long, I tend to yawn when "that next new piece of biking bling" comes over the horizon. It's a bike. It has pedals. It conveys one from point A to Point B in the most civilized way possible outside of walking. Yes, I was sure I would never get wood from another bicycle.

I was wrong. Proof that even jaded old bike shop rats like me can still perk up and pay attention if the right combination of materials blend with the latest mechanical advantages offered by tech geeks hunched over computer CAD programs designing that next "perfect ride".

In the 1980's I became smitten with these new fangled "Mountain Bikes". I bought one. I bought another. I bought part of a bike shop. Mountain bikes rode high into the mid 1990s. I hung ten on that wave. I bought, sold, and owned about every new innovation that came at me. Each one promising to be the revolutionary improvement that would turn me into another cycling god. I figured out pretty quick though, the flashy new gadgets were not going to turn me into a cycling god. Not even a pretend god. I was nothing but a lay preacher in the movement to get people off their butts and out of their cars and into the street and forests on bicycles.

I watched the wave crest and then fall. Mainstream America, temporarily infatuated with bicycles, soon lost their interest as most figured out that to develop any skill sets or fitness, they actually had to ride them. No matter what spiffy hi tech stuff was hung on them. Bikes by the millions were hung up in garages coast to coast. And America moved onto the next new fad. Scooters, wake boards, fishing, rock climbing, whatever.

A funny thing happened. Rather than fade into the background and fall back on the bread butter part of the industry, kids bikes, cruisers, basic mountain and road bikes, the surge of the late 1980s and early 1990s had created a top heavy industrial and R&D base that figured it only needed to keep innovating and the riders would come back. Improvements slowed during the late 1990s, but the ones that came down the pike later were not empty and useless like so many before. Shock tech has reached a point now that dependable suspension for cheap is the rule, not the exception. Components have become more elaborate in their function and now a high end bike of any kind is more functional jewelry a rider can pound on day after day. Yes, the prices have gone through the roof. But what product out there has not become more expensive?

One innovation I thought a total waste of time and energy was a new wheel size for mountain bikes. 29" wheels rather than 26" started to catch the attention of the die hard woods riders. Combine the earlier movement to single speed mountain bikes and what I was being forced to learn about drove me batty. 26" wheels rolled just fine. Having a variety pack of gears to use made any terrain my bitch. Larger wheels would just fold easy under hard hits I thought. And Single Speed just seemed some hellish idea thought up by sadomasochists. Talk about self flagellating. Stupid ideas, both of them.

So the new movements passed by my shop. As a confirmed retro grouch, I watched them from the sidelines and decided I was right. Neither would ever really catch on. There was not enough industry support to make it happen. Not enough variety in frames, forks, rims, tires to even get the new born fads off the ground.

That was 6 or 7 years ago. I was wrong 6 or 7 years ago. That's okay though. I am used to being wrong. It goes with my retro grouch persona. At least now I am right. Or should I say I am not wrong anymore. 29er bikes and Single Speed bikes have managed to become mainstream in the industry.

Okay, so I have admitted my mistake. But I still did not feel any compulsion to jump on the bandwagon as a consuming cyclist. I have more bikes in my quiver than any one man should have. Adding yet one more ride to my barn full seemed silly. And then I stumbled on the "Zaka".

29 inch wheels mated to a titanium frame is what it took to make me gaga again over a bike. I own a titanium bike and it rides like no other I own. But it is pre-new tech and I have moved onto newer rides that offer better handling and more gears. The "Zaka" is also a changeling. It can manifest itself as a multi-geared bike or be set up as a Single Speed. High Tech, please meet Simplicity.

As I write this I am conspiring to find a way to put my fat butt on one of these. They are not cheap. The frame by itself retails in the $1400 range. My cost would be less, but even finding $100 to spare right now is tough. In the meantime I can lust and fantasize about how another new bike will turn me into that cycling god I secretly want to be.


(935 / 5511)


Randal Graves said...

$1400+? Yikes. I need a new bike, but I'm not willing to part with a kidney just yet.

Dawn on MDI said...

Damn! I'm with Graves. I haven't paid that much for any of my last four vehicles! Damn. It is wicked sexy, though.

BBC said...

Aren't you getting a little old for that stuff? I still ride the old three speed I bought many years ago, it has taken me many miles.

I'm not into mountain bikes but whatever. About seven years ago I made an interesting three wheel recumbent with 35 speeds, it was interesting.

If I make another bike it won't have a chain and gears, but a sprag clutch system that provides as much as infinite gears that change smoothly with just one lever.

But maybe I spend too much time camping to ever get around to that. Besides, at my age I'm more interested in a small motor on one, and that I've also done, and posted about.

I dare say that the biggest segment of bikes sold in this country is bought for kids, at discount stores, correct me if I'm wrong though.

BBC said...

My cheap ass old three speed is still with me while all your expensive high tech crap seems to have gone by the wayside, he he he.

MRMacrum said...

To all - it is not a case of need. I have more bikes than a sane man should have. I just want it. That I know I probably cannot have it, makes me want it more.

At some point, hobbies and interests often become obsessions as one steps from sanity into insanity. I thought I had outgrew my bicycle obsession. Apparently I was wrong.

I am actually considering selling a couple of my older steeds to cover the cost of this one. Nah. Couldn't do it. Maybe my dog will be worth a couple of bucks.

I will though be building up a new 29er bike for myself. A much much cheaper one. If I am going to sell them, I really need to know them not just as a mechanic but as a rider also. See? Rationalizing anything comes naturally.

BBC said...

By the wayside I mean, collecting dust. :-)

So I dug out three of my old fishing poles being as I'm getting interested in fishing again and as far as I can tell they are just fine for still fishing with.

I met a man last week that makes very nice custom poles but hey, get right down to it, there just poles you use to fish with.

I had a heck of a time getting that old really good reel back together after taking it apart to lube it though.

When small parts fall out it takes some time figuring out how to fit things back together again.

Demeur said...

I'd go for an old three speed with no derailer but then who am I kidding it would just collect dust like me too.
Does that bike come with somebody to peddle for you?

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.