Today was the day that I rode on a Brooks saddle for the first time. What bliss. Perhaps much of it was in my mind, of course. I am not beyond accepting that, but it simply felt brilliant to be riding on the quintessential saddle, period.
I’ve been dreaming about the Brooks for quite some time, but I never had the right bike for it, at least not in my mind. My VR2 is all carbon and a leather saddle, vintage look, would not suite the dramatic steel grey lines and carbon gleam. The Kona was always going to be different though. It’s a bike that I knew I could take retro without it looking odd or out of place. Steel frame helps, of course, as does the lovely simplicity of the single gear. But the overall look was going to suit the throwback to yesteryear nicely, and so it was proved today.
Even buying the saddle was exciting. I had emailed my friend Jean-Michel at C&L Cycle earlier in the week to check on stock and was delighted when the reply was “We got one!” A visit to C&L is always an adventure and you feel like you’re spending time with friends. Dad and I were there a good half hour for a transaction that could have been completed in 3 minutes. But what’s the rush? Exactly!
I spent the better part of 90 minutes converting the Paddy Wagon from its winter state. By winter ‘state’ I simply mean filthy dirty. The riding I did during the past couple of months has been through snow, slush and yes, a little ice. The slush is chock full of grit and salt, both enemies of the bicycle. Cleaning the bike during the winter is not an option for me though, so the dirt has permanent residence from mid-December through to the beginning of March. I should clarify that it is not laziness that prevents me from keeping the Kona clean. I don’t have a garage and the outdoor hose is turned off during the winter as it would freeze and possibly damage the plumbing coming out of the house, so short of bringing the bike into the house, which is not going to happen, the bike stays dirty.
I love a clean bike. My thousands of bike pics during the year are proof of that. Following the removal of all the dirt and salt, I set about changing the winter bear-trap pedals and the original Kona seat. I am fortunate to have the help of my Dad during this phase of the operation, (he was mysteriously nowhere to be found when the cleaning was being done), and I must say he was a master of handing over the right tool at the right time. For a brief second I felt as important as a surgeon performing some life and death operation on a very important person (are we not all VIPs?), but reality returned with a snap as a blast of icy air hit me in the face and it was back to work.
Pedals on, seat installed, last job was to remove my giant knobbly winter tyres and get on the slightly sleeker 28mm rubber. Once again my very capable assistant was on hand to hold the wheel while I levered the rubber off, then on. Then it was time for adjusting the rear wheel so that the tension on the chain was ‘just right’, and a ride was only a short while away.
Let me tell you, tyres make a difference. I’ve been riding on dry tarmac on the knobbly tyres for the past few weeks and there was always this feeling of huge resistance. You just could not go as fast as your legs were telling you you were going. Maddening! Now all of a sudden I was freed from the friction inducing and energy sapping treads of winter and it felt like I was racing along. I did not have any device with which to actually confirm my speed, but let me just say that everything around me was a blur, something I assumed was happening due to the incredible speed at which I was propelling my machine through the air.
It was only when I stopped to take a couple of photos and wiped a few tears from my eyes that I of course realized that leaving my sunglasses on the bench at home was the cause of my burred vision. The icy air was taunting my tear ducts non-stop and my nose had also fallen victim to its effect. None of this, however, could wipe the grin off my face.
Spring has arrived, let the new season begin. John H, I expect to see you somewhere between NDG and Verdun one morning next week!