Thursday, July 06, 2006


It is amazing how you change as you get older.

I never thought I would live in Hong Kong, seriously contemplate becoming a Chinese citizen, work as a teacher, have a wife that looks 25 years younger than me, have children in university, or travel the world like I have.

I also never thought I would willingly ride a Fred bike. For those who are unfamiliar with bicycle slang a Fred is either a guy who tries to race on a Huffy or rides a strange bike. It is generally a derogatory term though it can be used to describe an eccentric cyclist. As everyone knows calling someone eccentric is a polite way of calling them a “Dork.”

Well, I will be 46 next week which means that it has been at least 6 years since I have been able to train and race with any hope of ever being able to race and win at a professional level. Yet, as I would ride my rollers or make loops around Hong Kong Stadium I would still imagine I was in the Tour d’ France or the Hawaii Iron Man Triathlon . It helped to pass the time and gave me some motivation. Over the past several weeks I have been consciously giving up that dream. I replaced my deep drop bars and aero clip-on with flat mountain bike type bars and a set of bar-ends, converted to a set of NOS Campagnolo Record-OR thumb shifters and installed a Nitto Periscope stem that allows me to raise the handle bars to about an inch over the saddle height. I replaced the Look Clip-less pedals with old fashioned toe-clips so that I can ride in sneakers.

The nice Italian frame simply screams DORK. I do not know how one would say “Dork” in Italian but that is what this frame would say if it could speak.

All of this was done in an attempt to make the bike comfortable enough for a middle-aged guy with no pretensions of racing to ride for exercise. The changes have worked. The bike is insanely comfortable. Indeed, it is much more comfortable than many much more expensive suspended bikes. It is stable, I can see the traffic. It shifts well. I can really have no complaints about its performance. It still accelerates and handles like the fine Italian road bike it is but, holy cow, does it look weird.

If you look close you can still see the expensive Campagnolo derailleurs, shifters and crank. The beautiful titanium railed Brooks saddle is also a gem. I am still riding light weight tubular tires. But, that stem, it steals the visuals.

I still have to admitt that I feel just a little like a dork when I ride it public. However, one of the nice things about growing older is that you tend to worry less about what others think of you. Middle-aged men can sort of revel in their dorkiness. Middle-aged men can learn to internalize their dorkiness and turn it into something manly and cool. At least that is what we tell ourselves. The 20 something racer boys still laugh at us until they come to a job interview and we don’t hire them, then they curse us.

What is strange is that my average speeds have increased since I swapped these parts out. I was not really fast anyway and the comfort and view of traffic have allowed me to ride with more confidence I guess and that has translated into a higher average speed. I also have found my trainer sessions to be a lot less tiring because my back is not so stiff. My butt has been a bit sore because of the new position but that will sort itself out with a few more rides.

Maybe the frame is not saying "Dork!" in Italian but, "Bravo!"

I have a couple of pictures of this new setup

The first one shows the bike from the left side. Notice how high the Nitto Stem allows me to raise the bars. BTW, if anyone knows anything about this model frame then drop me an email. My guess is that it was made in the early 1990's but I really do not know. It has a Columbus SL tubing sticker on both the frame and the fork and says "ARN Racing" on the top tube.Here is a picture of the bars and stem from the front. Notice the Campagnolo thumb-shifters. The brake levers are actually quite cheap ones because I needed to make sure that they would work with side pull brakes and were not "V-Brake" or Cantilever specific. The cork grips are really nice but somewhat tricky to install because they have to be glued to the bar. That means you have to get the setup right the first time.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Dorky Blogger

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