Monday, January 31, 2011


first day
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
On December 9th (2010), I took delivery on a new handmade bicycle, one made by Joseph Ahearne here in Portland. I had been on a wait list for a couple of years. It could have been longer, except that I wanted it by the beginning of 2011 in order to prepare for Paris-Brest-Paris (which happens in August). Joseph was interested enough in having one of his bikes in PBP that he agreed.

Joseph actually started the build in September, after I was fitted by the well-known Michael Sylvester. Joseph didn’t cut the tubes until Michael sent him dimensions. This bike was to be built for comfort, made entirely of steel, with randonneuring in mind. I wanted the bike to be durable and stable (not twitchy), carry a front bag, but also be as light and fast as all those other long-distance considerations would allow.

The bike acquired a name (and gender, I suppose) during the build. I chose the name “Clara,” after pianist Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann, and friend of Johannes Brahms. Clara Schumann, besides basically being the breadwinner of her family (though her concertizing), also mothered eight children. She also championed Robert’s music after he passed away, which probably contributed to his eventual and long term fame.

Ironically, my relatively spontaneous hernia repair surgery was scheduled during the month Clara was finished. That made the actual delivery (nine days after surgery) oddly surreal, anticlimactic, and ultimately frustrating. Recovery took longer than I was hoping, so that while the bike was pleasant to look at, I was only able to ride it about 24 miles during the first month.

video drop-off
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
After a follow-up fitting with Michael Sylvester, I returned the bike for a new shorter handlebar stem. (Evidently, the Campy levers pushed my hand position out farther than calculated.) My first “real” ride on the bike was 25 days after initial delivery, when I rode from Joseph’s shop in close-in North Portland out to Movie Madness (on SE Belmont…returning a holiday video), then all the way back home.

Clara is my first bike with Campagnolo shifters. So while they feel great, they still take getting used to. But I love the little thumb levers for shifting to smaller gears, plus the absence of cables sticking out perpendicularly from the shifters.

I anticipate that Clara will take some growing into. I trust she’ll be comfortable in the long term (as I’m not particularly confident of my body’s ability to know that based on here-and-now comfort).

I rode Clara about 280 miles in January, the most significant day being a 58-miler, part of which included a 47-minute time trial ‘round Sauvie Island. (Yes, I removed the Acorn front bag for that part.) I’m still not up-to-speed after so much time away from cycling. But hopefully that will change.

My Ahearne photo set is here on Flickr.
Joseph's pictures of the bike are here on Flickr