04 August 2016

Happy To Ride Them Again

Today I luxuriated in riding another one of my own bikes.

Yesterday I took flight on Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  Today I spun the pedals on Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear bike.  

Tosca: My Fixed Gear/Single Speed Mercian

For over a week, I rode a relatively heavy hybrid/city bike with a geometry more relaxed than on any bike I own.  I understand why rental centers choose such bikes:  They stand up better than road racing or touring bikes to the rigors of city streets--which, in Paris, often include cobblestones.  Also, they are more responsive than mountain bikes.

The bike I rode in Paris this year, like the one I rode there last year, has a dropped-bar ("ladies'") frame made of oversized aluminum tubes.  The bike I rented in Montreal in October was also aluminum, but with a "diamond" ("men's") frame configuration.  Long-accepted wisdom (or dogma, depending on how you look at it) says that diamond frames are inherently more responsive than those with dropped bars because they are more rigid. My experience confirms that notion, at least for me.  I notice such differences on steel bikes, but they don't seem as pronounced as on the aluminum bikes I rode.  I wonder whether oversized aluminum tubes exaggerate the differences between these frame designs.

The Paris Bike Tour machine I rode this year.

Now, of course, my Mercians are lighter than those rental bikes, even though I made no effort to save weight in building my bikes.  And, even 700 X 28 tires--which both Arielle and Tosca sport--are narrower and much lighter than the rubber on the rentals.  So it's no surprise that my bikes would feel livelier.

But perhaps the most differences of all have to do with fit and my personal preferences.  Mercian custom-built the frames of both Arielle and Tosca for me, to fit the idiosyncracies of my body and riding preferences.  No amount of fiddling with the saddle and handlebar positions on rental bikes will make them fit me as well as my Mercians. 

Also, no matter how the handlebars are adjusted, the rental bikes all left me in a more upright riding position than even my most upright bike, the Schwinn LeTour that's become my beater/commuter.  Moreover, even that bike has a narrower and less-cushy saddle than any of the rentals had--and my saddles, all of which are leather (Gyes on the LeTour and Brooks on my Mercians) are broken in.

The Paris Bike Tour 

Then again, my riding in Paris did not have speed or even long distances as an objective.  I stopped frequently, whether to look at interesting things, shop or eat.  I suppose most people who rent bikes or use Velib (Paris' bike share program) are riding in similar ways.  

The bike I rented from Velo Urbain in Montreal

Don't get me wrong:  The bikes I rented this year and last from Paris Bike Tour were pleasant to ride and well-suited to their intended purposes.  So was the bike I rented from Velo Urbain in Montreal.  I would rent those bikes, from those places, again.  Still, I'm very happy to be riding my own bikes--especially Arielle and Tosca.

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