Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Fat Cyclist linked to my blog from his blog and I have noticed many more visitors. Welcome to you all. I have been "banjo heavy" on my entries so I thought I should toss out another bike blog entry for all you visitors from Fatty's site. Ergo, here is another Serotta picture to ponder. Fatty even made covetous noises about it when he emailed me about linking to my blog. I admit it is a seriously cool bike and a total pleasure to ride. I would also hasten to add that the reason I have such an over the top velo is that I had accumulated three other high end bikes over the years and when Jim and Scott Flanders teamed up on me to get an Ottrott, I was able to sell the other bikes which made the cash difference to the price of this bike acheivable.

I have always purchased the gear that Jim and Scott tell me to purchase. They both rode on the national road team in the early days (before Greg LeMond even) and they own and operate a pro quality shop. I have been buddies with them since 1981 and I have enjoyed many hours of their company and thousands of miles of pain on rides with them. Oh, Scott won the Minnesota State Road Championship (again) this past summer. That would be the open Cat 2 race. At age 44. Scott is fit and always has been.

I was completely intimidated by the "Bros" when I first saw them because I always saw them as they crossed the finish line one-two at every road race and criterium I watched. I eventually started visiting their shop (I wondered if I needed a special pass to shop there or something but they didn't seem to mind) and one of their mechanics recognized me as a local musician. Once I learned they knew of my musical background I was much more at ease with them, because I had some coolness equity myself. One day Scott asked me if I would like to join the Sunday ride with the team. I had heard stories about the feared Flanders Brothers and how they would take guys out into the deep country side and drop them and leave them for dead. I asked Scott if they were going to go fast and Jim wandered by and said "The pace won't kill you but the distance might"-they were going to ride eighty miles. I had not ever ridden that distance before but I felt I had been riding enough to know the roads and figured I would be able to find my way back to town after I was left behind on the ride, so I said I was in.

It was a blustery March day and the pace was reasonable I thought. It was interesting to meet some of the characters on the ride and one in particular (Juan Creo, a Spaniard with a colorful past) kept goading me out in front of the group to race up hills and such. Eventually Jim came along side and told me Juan was simply trying to burn me out so I would be dropped. I guess the scales were starting to fall from my eyes. I became more conservative about my pace and stayed in the bunch. We were probably forty miles out when I started peeling off the back of the bunch on a long climb. I figured that the ride was over and I knew where I was so I could make my way home. But just then I noticed another rider coming off the back; it was Scott. He came back to me, asked if I had food, and gave me some grapes when I told him no (I really didn't know much about how to do long rides), made me drink some water and then told me to get on his wheel. He then pulled me back to the group. I was stunned when I realized what was happening because this was contrary to everything I had heard about riding with these guys. I peeled off the next long climb and the same scenario repeated itself. We then stopped in a small town for a break and food at a convenience store. Five or six guys actually laid down during the stop, which I knew would be a big mistake for me. I kept upright and walked in circles until it was time to go. Soon after we got back on the road the route changed and it became much easier to hang with the group. Jim made the comment that I had gotten my second wind-it was a tail wind. I finished the ride with the team and spent the rest of the day in a bath tub adding hot water and making small whimpering noises. I was hooked though. I rode quite a few times with the boys and made friends with them and others through the years.

I never raced because I always felt I was too large (6'4" and over 200 pounds at my lightest) to be effective and I also wanted to preserve the enjoyment of the sport and avoid becoming compulsive about training to the point where it became work or lost its fun quotient. As it happened, this was probably a good strategy as I have enjoyed cycling at exactly the level I ride at ever since learning the ropes of elite cycling. I go really fast for a tourist, enjoy the high end equipment, but don't have to suffer unless I want to. One of the biggest benefits has been the comradeship with the other cyclists. I have always been drawn to eccentric types and the bike world is full of them. Its a great sport, fun to watch, fun to do, and healthy as long as you stay on top of the bike and avoid getting too close to objects such as cars, deer, pedestrians, curbs, etc.

18 Comments:

Blogger Al Maviva said...

Jim, heckuva an interesting story there. Serottas sure are sweet rides, I can totally appreciate why you are so into them. I didn't know about your personal relationship with the craftsmen behind them tho - that makes it different and even better. I do some woodworking and sometimes make stuff for friends. I'm still pretty amateurish, but can craft some really nice stuff. So I've done toy boxes for the children of friends, with hand carved dovetails and pretty trim molding. They (the parents) seem unduly attached to my handiwork, even though I can look at the work others have done and find greater technical excellence. To be friends with the Flanderseses and to be riding one of their masterworks, you must have a special bond with that bike.

I only feel real affection for one bike right now, this fixie I'm building up out of an old Fuji 12 speed. I've been doing some longer slow rides on it now we're into cold weather here in D.C., and it's really special how you get to feeling about something that is built *for you*. When I finish grinding off the cable stays, getting it painted, etc., maybe I'll experience a bit of that obsession you have.

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