Sunday, 29 September 2013

Digital bike, analogue rider

An overused aphorism of recent times is William Morris's "have nothing in your house that you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful". Despite his libertarian Marxism I happen to agree with him on that one, which is why my lovely new toy hasn't yet seen the inside of the garage, and why I'm seriously thinking of mounting it above the fireplace.  For in the words of another renowned wordsmith, "isn't she lovely?" (Though I doubt whether Stevie Wonder is a libertarian Marxist. Libertarian rastafarian perhaps, which, even if the concept doesn't exist, has a nice ring about it don't you think?).

Yes, this is my monochrome wonder, a vision in black and white. Ebony and ivory indeed.

But enough of the duff references to crap pop songs of the past, time for a more detailed analysis of what's been 12 months in the planning and waiting. I finally took delivery of my new bike yesterday (or more to the point, I ran the 2 miles to Macclesfield railway station, took the train to Stoke, and ran the 2.5 miles from Stoke railway station to the Brian Rourke temple in Burslem, all so that I could collect the new machine and ride it [him, her? Haven't decided yet] home).  

It is frankly, a work of art. A masterpiece. It's two months late because Jason and Gareth at Rourke's have done amazing things with it. There are no cables whatsoever in front of the handlebars. The new Ui2 electronic gear changing system is all buried in various parts of the frame and seat post. It's the first Rourke steel bike to feature electronic shifting. The brushed steel effect of the groupset matches the exposed Reynolds 953 steel tubing of the seat stay and chain stay.

I don't feel entirely comfortable calling it a digital bike, as per the title of the post, as the frame is handmade to the precise measurements of my body, and it's been put together by mastercraftsmen. But the facts that a) it's got a computer diagnostic system associated with it where you plug in the groupset electronics to a computer to see which bits of the system are functioning well and which need attention (just like a modern car), and b) it feels of a quality way beyond my riding ability, combine to make me feel just a tad inferior.

Before I get too boring in praise of the most lavish present I've ever given myself, I'll just say this - what really matters, i.e. how the thing feels when you ride it, is amazing. A combination of the steel frame and some decent wheels take away 80% of the 'buzz' you get riding on rough road surfaces. I came back from Stoke yesterday on a route through Wincle that included several 18% climbs and similarly priced descents, and bike and man felt as one. It was lovely.  I'll report more in due course after some more rides.

In the meantime, thanks to 1) Jason and Gareth at Rourke's for making something special, 2) Robert Penn, for his book that pushed me in the direction of steel, and 3) Mendip Rouleur for lending me his copy of said book.

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