Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Difference a Year Makes

Neither of these are ideal photos, but they show the changes I've made to the Peugeot. The photo on the left was taken last May after I bought the bike (a steal at $70), and the photo on the right was taken last weekend. The major changes are a Brooks B-17 saddle, Velo-Orange Belleville handlebars, Tektro inverse brake levers, Velo-Orange hammered 45mm fenders, 28mm Panaracer Pasela tires, and a ViVa saddle bag support and Zimbale 11-liter saddle bag.

And of course, the incidentals: water bottle cage, lights, a bell, and a bit of leftover bar tape and twine on the top tube to protect against the brake levers banging it if the front wheel swings around. I also took the large chainring and front derailleur off, since there are a lot of hills in San Diego and I don't have any need or inclination to ride fast or hard. I may yet change out the pedals for something better suited to urban riding, but these are serving me well enough for now.

I am so, so, so happy with this bike. It gives me good versatility for the diverse San Diego topography, while still being suitable as a town bike. When I'm all the way forward on the bars, I'm in a good position for climbing, and when I'm all the way back, I'm upright and comfortable (that's why I have the bars wrapped well forward, as you can see here). The saddle bag holds a surprising amount, including odd-sized items, so it works very well for running errands. The ride is smooth and steady, not at all twitchy or squirrelly. In fact, this is the first bike I've owned that I can ride comfortably with no hands and not feel like the front wheel is going to wobble out from under me.

In my thinking about what I wanted this bike to be, I had two things in mind: aesthetics and functionality, in balance. I'm a firm believer that a person should love to look at their bike as much as they love to ride it. I was also guided strongly by what I wanted to be able to do on a bike. My old three-speed bikes were excellent for riding as town bikes, but they weren't well suited to San Diego's steeper hills (or perhaps I wasn't). I felt geographically limited by their weight and limited gearing options. I wanted a bike that could take me anywhere I wanted to go around town and beyond, and I just didn't feel like the three-speeds were doing it for me.

As much as I love this bike, both for its aesthetics and its functionality, if I lived somewhere else, or if I had a different set of requirements, I probably would have built up a different bike. The idea that a bike is created in dialogue with both the rider and the geography (both human and non-human) in which (s)he/it functions seems to make abundant sense, but it wasn't really something I considered in any overt way until after the bike was finished.

Anyway, words, words, words. I like this bike. That is all.