Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Little fixes, big changes
Riding my Mercier mixte, Blaise, often left me feeling slightly unfulfilled and a little crazy. Here's why:
I've been struggling to achieve a more upright position on all of my bikes, convinced that this was the secret to riding comfort and fun -- and to recapturing the joy I felt at riding bikes in Flanders a year ago this month. Blaise, then, should have been my favorite bike to ride. It afforded an almost fully upright riding position, allowing me to move through streets in the same profile as a pedestrian. No need to elevate my chin even an inch to see the road before me. My hands were in a comfortable, palms-in position on the north road handlebars.
And yet, it wasn't perfect. There was a tiny voice whispering in one ear, saying the ride was "too upright." In the other ear, there was a voice telling the first one to shut up and stop finding problems where none existed.
But there was no denying the idiosyncrasies of a bike on which all of the rider's weight rested on the saddle. Even the smallest pavement bump would shake the fillings in your teeth. And steering the bike sometimes felt more like a suggestion than a command.
Finally, I took the plunge and adjusted the stem a bit. But it was clear this was not solution. On a whim, I made one more change and adjusted the bars to point just a touch downward.
What a difference! I moved the bars maybe a half-inch in all. But the new angle means my weight is distributed differently, with a just bit more on my hands. Still, my hands remain in a palms-in, natural position and there hasn't been a comfort price.
But ordinary road imperfections are no longer kidney-jarring events. Better still, I feel much more in synch with the bike's responsive handling... I just have to think left and it goes left, it seems. This subtle change seems to have brought my bike into line with how it was built to be ridden.
I'll keep you posted as I learn whether there are long-term tradeoffs to be identified. In the meantime, Blaise has gone from seldom-ridden sentimental favorite to the most fun bike in the stable.