19 March 2011

A Grand Record And, How I Became Queen of the Road

I didn't post yesterday because I was a bad girl.  I stayed up well past my bedtime and partied.  At least I rode my bike to and from the bash.

Being the warmest day we've had since October, lots of people were riding for the first time this year.  One of them, I suspect, rode this bike:

It was parked in the same rack, at my second job, where I've seen a Pinarello.  I couldn't get a better photo of it because the bikes were parked so close together.  But I think you can see that it's a nice bike:  a Motobecane Grand Record, circa 1973.

The frame was made with Reynolds 531 double-butted tubing, those nice curly Nervex lugs and Campagnolo dropouts.  The bike was originally equipped with a mixture of high-quality French components and Campagnolo Nuovo Record shifters.

This specimen still has the shifters.  However, the crankset was replaced with what looks like a late-model Sugino AT triple.  It's a fine piece of kit, and allows for a small sprocket of 24 teeth.  I'm guessing that its owner wanted a triple, which wasn't possible with the original crankset.

This is the Specialites TA "Professional" crankset, which is what originally came on the Grand Record.  A number of European bikes, including a couple of models from Raleigh, sported this fine piece of machining and polishing.  Notice that the chainrings were attached to only three arms, as was common on cranksets (including Rene Herse's) until the 1970's.  Nearly all modern chainrings attach to either five or four arms.  The newer designs are supposed to be stiffer and more secure.  That may well be true, but plenty of really strong riders rode--and even raced--on three-arm cranks.

Anyway, these days replacement chainrings for those three-arm cranks aren't available from many other sources besides eBay.

After work, I went to the party I mentioned.  A colleague was celebrating a round-number birthday; the guests included some other colleagues as well as friends of hers I'd never met before.  They were all astounded that I rode there.  "But it only took me 45 minutes," I pointed out.  

The colleague offered to let me stay at her place.  I would've accepted, except that I remembered Charlie and Max.  Did I leave enough food for them?  And how full was their litter box?, I wondered.

So I assured my colleague that I had a good time.  I think she knew that, as I was one of the last people to leave.  But I fibbed about something else:  I said I would ride my bike to the Long Island Rail Road station, which was only two blocks away, and take the train home.  

You can guess what I did instead.  I rode home, about twenty-one miles.  It's not a great distance, certainly, and as I didn't drink any alcohol (I never do.), I could easily ride in a straight line.  As it turned out, even if I couldn't, it wouldn't have been much of a problem because the roads I took were almost completely free of traffic at that hour.  

Surprisingly, I didn't feel tired, even though I started to ride at about four in the morning.  The weather had gotten chillier, but I didn't put on the tights I'd brought with me.  So I rode with my legs bare below the hem of my skirt.  I didn't feel cold; I felt invigorated.  And the full moon was so bright that, had I stopped, I could have read Ulysses.  But I didn't stop, not even for a traffic signal.  Some of them were blinking their red lights, but--OK, I was a bad girl--I ran a couple of red lights.  OK, maybe more than a couple.  If a girl runs a red light and no one's there to see it....

And, I'll admit something else:  I took some main roads on which I wouldn't normally ride.  I'm not talking about the Long Island Expressway; I'm talking about main local thoroughfares like Jericho Turnpike, Hillside Avenue and Queens Boulevard (a.k.a. The Boulevard of Death).  

As I was riding those nearly empty streets, I thought for a moment about a Pinky and the Brain episode.  In it, Brain carries out his latest scheme for taking over the world:  He gets Pinky to help him create an alternative planet Earth.  He lures people to it by offering free T-shirts, which he correctly identified as an irresistible draw.  So, emptied of its former inhabitants, Brain finally "takes over" this world.

The difference was that I didn't suffer the empty feeling Brain had in the end.  Instead, by the time I got home, I was starting to feel tired.  And I fell into a very nice sleep--after I fed Charlie and Max.


  1. I had a three-arm TA crankset. Worse than the replacement chainrings was finding replacement attachment screws. I still have the TA removal tool if someone needs one...

  2. Riding late at night, or alternatively very early in the morning, is just the best! Its erie, cozy, peaceful and exciting, all at once.