|A wonderful riding companion.|
And then there were other bikes that also needed attention -- bikes that were a little more "important" and more demanding -- like the commuter that gets me and all my essentials to work most mornings. That bike would need a new tire, and it didn't feel like something I could put off, so I'd get that bike on the stand to replace a worn tire without delay, while the green Mercian hung lonely on the hook. Sorry, old friend. Next time, OK? Of course, "next time" came and went. I'd think about taking the green bike for a ride, but remembering that I still needed to change the tire and touch-up the back wheel, I'd end up grabbing a different bike -- one that that didn't need anything before hitting the road. I suppose as far as that goes, having roughly a dozen bikes to choose from is both a blessing and a curse.
|The green Mercian was built in 2003, but has a full set|
of Campagnolo Super Record components from the early '80s.
|Rare as hens teeth (what exactly are hens teeth?) Super Record|
retrofriction shift levers. These feel a lot like the well-known
Simplex levers -- the touch is light and makes for positive shifts.
Newly determined, I decided it was time to finally get the bike put right. I ordered some new tires from Compass Bicycles -- the Grand Bois Cerf green label tires in 28mm width. The old tires were 25mm (a "true" 25mm -- not the kind that were labeled 25 but actually measured 22) which seemed plenty comfy enough back when I'd first installed them, but my preferences run a little wider nowadays. The Grand Bois tires have such a perfect look for a bike like this -- and though it wasn't intentional, I couldn't help but smile when I saw that the tires' green labels so nicely matched the green frame. While I had the wheels off the frame, I put the back wheel into my truing stand and touched up the little spot that was out of true. I checked the hubs while I was at it and put in some fresh grease. Then I cleaned the chain and gave it some fresh lube, and lubed the derailleur and brake pivots as well.
|I splurged when I bought that bottle cage -- a Nitto race cage.|
I have no regrets about that.
Although many people (including myself, sometimes) are often critical of old Campagnolo derailleurs for not shifting as well as modern units, I found myself re-evaluating that criticism. The Super Record rear derailleur (in this case, upgraded with C-Record ball-bearing pulleys, as opposed to the more typical brass sleeve bushing ones) shifts smoothly and silently, finding the right gear quickly and without much fiddling. The retrofriction shift levers probably help with that as well, with their light, smooth touch. The levers have such nice feedback that one can almost feel the derailleur and chain find the right cog. The only place the shifting proves to be finicky is when making the shift to the last cog on the outside of the freewheel. It's a function of the traditional parallelogram that the chain gap widens as the derailleur moves outward, making those last high-gear shifts a bit balky. For me, it's that last one, to the 13-t cog, that sometimes just doesn't want to happen. Occasionally, when it just refuses to make that last shift, I'll make a quick front gear change, down to the smaller chainring (yes, that's the No-No small-ring-to-small-cog combination -- but I don't actually ride it like this) which alters the chain tension just enough that usually the chain will drop right down to the smallest cog, and then I immediately shift back up to the big ring. With the light-touch downtube levers, it can all be done easily with one hand. Riders raised on SIS and STI, or Ergo, or whatever, would probably screw up their faces wondering why anybody would put up with this and still manage to find it acceptable (or charming, even). Perhaps, but then, I don't race, and I don't really find myself riding in 53 x 13 gear very often anyhow.
|That little oval decal signifies the full-Campy build. The bottom|
bracket on this bike, the Professional model, has long tangs on the
down tube, seat tube, and chain stays. It seems to stiffen up the BB
without negatively affecting the ride.
Speaking of silence, I had completely forgotten just how quiet this bike is. The shifts are smooth and silent, both front and rear. Even when coasting, the bike is barely audible. A lot of that silence should probably be credited to the SunTour freewheel -- an ultra 7 (narrow-spaced) New Winner. I know that Regina is probably the "traditional" choice with vintage Campy, but SunTour freewheels are hard to beat. I don't feel awkward about mixing nationalities -- there is no language barrier here.
Overall, my ride on the green Mercian was a revelation and a pleasure. Getting on it after such a long hiatus, I was immediately struck by the way everything just seemed to fit into place, and the way the bike responded to my input. It was great to get reacquainted -- to rediscover the bike's many virtues. Hello again, old friend.