Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Block and Tackle

Shimano just would not cut it on that bus

Pulleys are fantastic things. My old abode used them to wonderful effect. Tall ceilings provided ample void space to dry clothes and hang bikes. The mechanical advantage also came in very useful when ‘finger tip’ hauling of the bike into the rafters was required after a long day in the saddle. Experience also proves that a muddy bike is also easier to store in the air. After a day or two, lovely dry chunks of mud would find their way onto wooden floors just in time for the dust pan and shovel. This little ritual was a well worn path. The bikes where stored in a small room off the hall. That room also contained the combi-boiler and every other item of house hold paraphernalia that required storing; paint tins –check, light bulbs - check, ladders – check; ancient string and odd fasteners – double check. Ah, the joys of a store and a chance to indulge in my minor obsession of order. The pulley ropes where even tethered to numbered hooks. Why look up and have your eye put at risk by an errant mud bomb? Select bike of choice by number, unleash and off you go.

The contents of that store now make up for almost half of the garage/man cave at my house. More space in my experience equals less effective order and more opportunities to cover surfaces. I should attempt to apply an area/volume parallel principle of Cyril Parkinson’s Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion to garage planning. It was during one of those ‘where the hell is it moments’ and frequent rummages through the various boxes of bike parts I came across a blast from the past. Fellow guffers may be surprised to find out about my secret past. You see, I was a Campagista. The little gems shown above have been kept for a variety of reasons, the most important one – memories – there it is again, what is going on with all this reminiscing? These are from the early 90's, no indexing, just plain and simple friction levers. The aesthetics are exquisite, the sensory overload of just holding them had me back in the bunch racing my 2nd hand Cougar Columbus SL, (Terry Dolan built) full of teenage dreams and ambition. These levers now fetch a handsome sum, but I feel all the better for them being in my possession.

Parent Logic - He will grow into it. 23inch frame for a 16 year old
These levers fell out of favour when the Cougar was moved on (due to a massive crash) and a Ciocc Columbus SL was the replacement. The Campag Athena rear mech was also totaled and this is when Shimano moved into my life. Probably the best Christmas present for a young cyclist was kit. The price of dream kit, in fact, almost any kit was out of reach. The neatly wrapped piece of dream kit waiting patiently under the tree was a Dura Ace Shimano Total Integration rear mech. You would think that the marriage of a rear mech with a friction lever would be a painless experience, not for me. I tried everything and called upon various sources of wisdom. There was never an answer or solution to my shifting woes of matching Shimano and Campag - the Ciocc was not to be a polyglot of shifting languages. I couldn’t afford matching Dura Ace shifters, so 105 had to do. The result was breathtaking. No more missed shifts, never an ounce of concern that the gears would skip went you went for it on the hill or sprinting for the line. This was a harmony that I had never experienced with bicycle gearing and I was hooked.
The collar does not match the cuffs

We just have to look at bikes and components today to see the developments and manipulations of materials and technology. There are a few fabrication techniques that have even provided bicycle designers with a new aesthetic. Hydroforming is possibly the most successful development in frame design where metal is still used. As for composites, the successful collaborations between aerospace, motorsport and composite manufacturers has resulted in some awe inspiring off the shelf, ready to race kit. The most heavily publicised has to be the McLaren-Specialized Venge. Having Cavendish at the controls obviously helped with the aura that surrounds that bike. We have fly by wire controls, wireless sensors, braking tech from the motor industry even nano tech cleaning agents. This is all fine and dandy, the real paradigm shift (sorry for the pun) has to be indexed gears, surely one of the best tech developments in bicycle history. OK, My first experience of index shifting was the muscle car shifter on the Raleigh Chopper and that was just too cool for school. The Chopper was unashamedly a marketing exercise and a very successful one at that. I can’t help but think that so much other stuff that fills the mags and pixels on our screens is just that; a filler, padding, fluff and future land fill.

In retrospect, I was too young and naive to realise that it was more than friction that had lost out to indexing. The company that openly states ‘history allows no discounts’ was in trouble. As for those Campagnolo Shifters, it is quite unlikely that they will ever grace another bike. Is this how they should be treated? Should they not be allowed to adorn some loved period piece of exotica? Nope, they should be sitting on my desk, ready for a fondle when the mood suits me and to serve as a reminder of ambitions yet unfulfilled.

Will EPS offer as much soul?

 Stay upright

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