Friday, June 4, 2010

Ryan's bike

It is almost a given that anyone working in a bike shop would be deeply passionate about bicycles and cycling. Why would one do it, otherwise? And yet this is not all there is to it, especially for the BikeNüt folks. Owning a bike, especially a racing bike, requires engaging in a never ending process of tinkering. We search for that perfect moment, that sweet spot of nearly frictionless, almost silent rolling, when body and machine are one. As a result, the bike evolves almost daily. Of course, that moment never quite materializes, or, if it does, never lasts more than a minute or two. And so the process continues.

Take Ryan, for example, who started riding seriously in 2006, when a roommate gave him a heavily used bike. He liked the physical exertion of riding it and the freedom that bicycles offered in ways car drivers couldn’t even imagine. Soon he was addicted to cycling and began thinking of ways he could make his newfound interest the center of his life. He worked as a bike messenger, what else?
Ryan expanded the scope of his cycling and began racing. His favorite type of racing is the criterion, a short, furious race, usually held on urban circuits, on typical streets with all the usual potholes, railway tracks, sidewalk curbs, and sudden corners, where good reflexes and killer instincts are just as important as athletic talent. For bike messengers, even former ones, these races are just another run through the city.
He became acquainted with BikeNüt through a fellow bike messenger and started working here. He had graduated to a Trek 5000 bike, but it couldn’t last—too much bike candy around the shop! In 2009, he upgraded to a brand new Giant TCR Advanced, a stiffer and lighter frame. The frame, however, was just the beginning of a process of transformation.

First, naturally came new wheels. Not all wheels are equal, we know that. Wheels are almost the mirror of the rider’s personality: they reflect the type of riding one does, the chosen line between lightness, stiffness, comfort, and reliability. The choices are almost endless. For Ryan, the perfect combination consisted of a set of DT Swiss R 520 alloy rims, 240s hubs, laced with DT Champion spokes. This is not the lightest combination available, but Ryan is a big man and likes to ride his bike hard.

Indeed he managed to crash, once, and cracked the top tube of the bike frame. He fixed it and now doesn’t worry about it.
Naturally, he also thinks about the brakes. For the past week, he has been testing a set of Revl carbon brakes, manufactured by The Hive, a Petaluma, California, based company. He likes the stopping power and the gradual control they offer. Will they become permanent part of the bike?

He has installed a SRAM Force gruppo. Ryan likes its lightness and the quick response of the shifters. He has made one change, however, a standard set of DuraAce chain rings instead of the SRAM ones.
What’s next? Perhaps, in a few months, he’ll get a new frame. For the moment, he has his eyes on a Giant TCR Advanced SL with an integrated seat post. The frame geometry would be different, more compact, lighter and stiffer than what he rides at the moment. Also the bottom bracket, a BB30, would be slightly different, further reducing the weight but adding to the stiffness and providing a better fit between rider and bicycle.

What are his other plans for the future? I asked him this question and had the distinct impression that he didn’t quite want to put all of his cards on the table. I’ve seen him in action. He is unfailingly polite with customers, knowledgeable, and quick to offer assistance to neophytes. He seems content: he likes what he does, the shop, the work, his colleagues, and the BikeNüt ethos—high standards, no stock answers, constant search for better ways. 


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