“F*** Yeah, This Thing is F***ing Sick!!”
Wow, that was an immature thing to say. To start an essay like that, my English professors would cringe and my mom just would be disappointed. I have been told that swearing is what dumb people do when they can’t articulate a vivid description; that it is the fool’s escape. I interject, however, that at times it can be an outflow of our primitive self; when something connects with you on an emotional level so firmly that it pings your cerebellum and triggers a reaction taking you back 70,000 years to the dawn of species. This word is not being used as a traditional adverb but rather to represent a feeling, a guttural response to a stimulus that could not be withheld. And for me, this is what matters when it comes to bikes.
I just can't get myself to care about bike tech. Anybody on my team can tell you that. Gear ratios, wheel size, power numbers, frame weight, it all means nothing to me. I just love to ride, to suffer, and perhaps more sadistically, to make other people suffer. I love the wind in my face and the g-force of slamming disc brakes. I listen to the emotional response to the bikes I ride and as much as the wind tunnel geeks at Specialized may detest my attitude towards bike tech, I expect that my view is a common one held by many bike enthusiasts.
For 2019, I have taken the role of the Mikes Bikes Elite Gravel Team Captain, and have relinquished my shiny Tarmac for a Diverge. As a seasoned (currently slow) bike racer, I need two hands to count all the Tarmacs I have owned, and I will dearly miss the SL6 from last year. When I found the Elite team was on the Venge Disc, I admit I had bike envy; this was the bike I have always wanted. This year they even increased the tire clearance which would have allowed me to run 28c tires for off-roading. Yes, I am that guy who off roads an aero road bike. This is a valid reason to void any credibility, and if you choose to stop reading here, I respect you more for doing so.
Today is bike pick up day. I go to Mike’s in Los Gatos, and to be honest, I don’t even know what color the thing is. I did request the Di2 version since I suck at tuning derailleurs and Di2 seems to hold a tune for years at a time. Yeah, I know if you are getting a $7000 toy, you should at least bother to go on the website and look at a picture, but if you think I did that, you don’t don’t me very well. Holy Fuck, this thing is Cameleon! Woa, there it happened again. (Sorry, Mom) The green to purple fade is striking and the colors track you as you circle it, like the Mona Lisa locking you in her gaze. Now, I’m not a bike tech guy but remember, I am seasoned. I have ridden a ton of bikes in my day and a few obvious things stand out. Funny little head shock thing, shock absorber seat post, toolbox at the bottom bracket, and some steezy splayed bars that look pretty cool. And Di2. Zzzzzzzt, zzzzzzzt :)
I got dropped off at the shop so the maiden ride will go over the hill into Santa Cruz. I choose the ‘rustic route’ that includes a little gravel and descending Mountain Charlie, well known for its drop-off descents littered with potholes. The forecast calls for an ‘Atmospheric River’ which sounds interesting, but if I didn’t bother to look at a picture of the Diverge, I definitely didn’t look at the weather. (Sam had mentioned the projected downpour). The first drops start to hit the sidewalk as I walk outside with my new bike, cassette sparkling its last sparkle.
Y’all have ridden a bike before, so I’ll spare you the tedium of describing what the ride was like. If you like boring ride descriptions, just read my race reports. As I charged up the first dirt segment it struck me that this was something different. That goofy HeadShock was not just a repurposed 90’s Cannondale add-on. I was floating over the bumps which had rattled my forearms days before. More importantly, a smile was spreading over my face rather than a grimace. A big crooked toothy smile. I might have even let out a “Braaaaaaap Braaaaaaap” (it's a mountain bike thing, doesn't really make sense, but you should try it. It's remarkably fun to holler before you send it) and this is when I thought up the name for my blog. And that thought just circled around my head for the next 2 hours. While the unique bars were sure to turn head of the SF bike messengers, they also gave me a whole new element of control and maneuverability I was accustomed to on a road bike. And it has a ton of fork rake which makes it feel locked over technical descents. Zzzzzzt Zzzzzzt and I was really moving, having an absolute blast on my new bike. My Venge envy was quickly evaporating and I now was fully embracing the gravel bike. I can’t tell you exactly why it is different than a road bike with knobby tires, and I sure as hell can’t tell you why it isn’t the same as a cross bike. But it’s not. It’s playful, its smooth, it’s got chameleon paint! It’s the kind of bike I could bring home to meet the parents, one that I might just want to spend the rest of my life with. And I dare you to get on one, or even just look at one without dropping an F-bomb or two.