Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Here's LOOKing At You!

I realize I've posted a lot about my Surly LHT, but there is another ... one that hasn't received nearly enough of my attention lately ... so here is a look at my Look:

Back in 2007, I was inspired to start riding again after several years of focusing more on other less important life factors ... work, housing, work, etc.  At that time, I knew little about bicycle technology, and even less about what my "perfect" bike would look (no pun intended) like.  Virtually all of the media, magazines, websites, and so on really pointed me to the conclusion that if I was "serious" about cycling, I seriously needed to get a good road bike.  I now know that "road bike" really should be called "race bike".  In any event, I did lots of research and talked with the guys at the local shops ... and then did a few test rides ... and settled on a Look 555 carbon frame road bike.  Here's what it "look"ed like back then:

I began to ride ... SLOWLY at first ... then picking up speed and greater distance.  It took a little while, since I hadn't been riding for a long time ... plus I had a lot of learning to do about those fancy clip-in pedal thingies.  Yes, I had to get the stiff shoes and proper wardrobe, too.  Hey, all the people riding road bikes in the magazines were wearing that stuff, and I wasn't about to break protocol!  After I got more familiar with the basic riding procedures, I started to go for the longer distances ... you know, "training".  That was when I began to notice that my body and drop handlebars don't get along well together, and the battle was waged with painful neck and hands that increased proportionally with my distance, and no amount of stretching really helped much.  I also noticed that my feet didn't care too much for being locked into one position for so long.  What to do ... what to do ...

It was about that time that I began to read articles from "alternative" sources on the subject of bike fitting.  One of them was a series of articles by Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works.  His philosophies on parts and fit really hit home with me, and I felt it was worth a shot to make a few changes to my ride ... in hopes that the long ride would become within my reach without the discomfort I was experiencing.

I changed out the drop bars for some that were more upright, and with a bit of rearward sweep.  That made a huge difference for my neck and hands ... so I continued with ditching the clip-in (also known, oddly, as "clipless") pedals for some MKS "Grip King" platform pedals.  Wow ... that was an eye opener!  How cool it was to be able to shift my feet around when they got tingly!!  And the large platform just felt good to my feet.  I also changed out the ultra-skinny race saddle for one that's a bit wider to compensate for the higher handlebars ... and it was then that I became a life-long fan of classic leather saddles.  Somehow, they just work ... and isn't that how things should be, Mr. Dyson?

 In any case ... many modifications were made over time, including better/stronger wheels, different shift controls, better tires, and so on ... all to better fit the kind of riding I do.  It has been a great learning experience, resulting in a bike I love to ride ... not for racing, but for fast and fun recreational rides.

 Here's what it "look"s like now:

There were several component modifications made over time to get to the final state you see here.  Here's the list, not in any particular project or photographic accompaniment order:

Shimano Dura-Ace Bar End Shifters mounted on Paul Thumbies.  They're set to friction mode, my personal preference.

Shimano LX rear derailleur to accomodate a larger 11-32 cogset for a better gear range.

Shimano Compact Crankset with 50/34 tooth chainrings.  The bike originally came with 53/39, too high for my riding needs.

Civia Colfax Handlebars with 50-degree sweep ... upright and comfortable, yet "aggressive" enough for those rare occasions when speed is desired.

Brooks Team Pro Saddle.  Slim enough for fast riding and wide enough for comfort on long cruises.  I'd ride it even if it wasn't so gorgeous ... but I'm glad it is!

Custom wheelset with Velocity Fusion rims and Shimano 105 hubs.  They're laced with 36 heavy-duty straight gauge spokes in a 3-cross pattern.  I'm told that makes for a very strong wheel that still has some "give" for smooth rolling ... and it sounds right on the money.  The hubs are virtually silent and very smooth rolling.  Huge difference over the stock Mavic Aksium wheels that came with the bike ... HUGE!!

Acorn Small Front and rear Roll bags.  A great tiny company that makes great bags ... hard to get, but affordable and worth waiting for.  The front bag is just big enough for my cell phone, wallet, keys, gloves, and Click-Stand.  The rear bag holds the essential tools for minor road repairs and a spare tube, and it unrolls for easy access when needed.

Velo Orange Seatpost.  It has better setback to help with the short Brooks rails and steep seatpost angle of the race bike geometry.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x25 tires.  These are the best skinny tires I've used.  Granted, I'm not a racer-type guy, but for durability, puncture-proof-edness, and smooth ride, they just can't be beat.

Ergon GP-1 grips.  This cool design is pure comfort for flat bars.  There's a wider area that sits under the heel of my hands and gives a great support.  Plus, the end plugs have Yin-Yang symbols ... a little Zen for my Look!

I have learned a lot from all the modifications ... enough that when I decided to get the Surly, I felt confident in building it up myself.  It's nice to know that I can fix almost anything on my bikes now ... it adds to the "relationship" with riding.  I have also been fortunate to have the support of my fiance to let me do all of this ... otherwise, I'd probably never have gotten back into cycling in the first place!  Thank you, T!!!!

What began as a pre-packaged race-oriented bike has ended with a fast and fun road bike that is custom trimmed to my personal needs.  I encourage you all to experiment ... you'll learn a ton and become better equipped to perform your own maintenance and repairs ... and you may just end up with a one-of-a-kind piece of art, which is what I consider this unique bike.

I love the end result ... the Look of love!

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