Posts Tagged ‘merlin’

So I’ve bought a new bicycle…

March 22, 2013

…and it’s green. Like a laser beam.

Merlin Excalibur seatstay

It has a computer brain.

Merlin Excalibur brain

And it’s adorned with a reference to the director of Blade Runner.

Merlin Excalibur top tube

So basically it’s a robot bicycle from the future. A Tron bike. A carbon fibre Terminator. An X-Wing on wheels. The Ridley brand is steeped in the heritage of Belgian cycling, but this looks like the sort of bicycle Kraftwerk’s robotic doppelgangers would ride (if they didn’t have aluminium poles for legs).

Merlin Excalibur profile

I’ve been interested in this particular Ridley Excalibur since Pearson Cycles tweeted a photo a couple of months ago. There are a few reasons why I decided to buy one: the price tag is quite attractive; I wanted to reward myself for being a very good boy money-wise throughout this financial year; and I wanted to try a carbon bike, especially one crafted in the traditional way – by anonymous factory workers in the Far East. More importantly, The Green Machine looks like it couldn’t give an anodised nipple what I or anyone else thinks of it, and that appeals to the obstinate side of my nature.

As a new owner in the first flush of joy, you’re not going to get anything remotely objective out of me at this stage. You may recall that bit in the Alan Partridge Christmas special, where he repeatedly presses the eject button on a CD player in a branch of Tandy (overseas readers: Tandy is, or was, Radioshack) and marvels: “Nice action… very nice action… that is a very nice action.”

Well, that’s basically me dicking around with Shimano Ultegra Di2 during the past couple of days. Changing gears electronically has its own peculiar fun, mainly because it’s so… soft. Light. Gentle. I’m enjoying it immensely, although it will probably be only a matter of time before I yearn for the manly clunk of the 2006 Chorus groupset on my Merlin Cyrene.

I rode up the small climb in Richmond Park against a headwind, and it feels noticeably zippier and more responsive than the Merlin. My emotionless android bicycle does not fear bad weather – but sadly, being human, I do. So I won’t be taking the Excalibur out if it snows or pisses down this weekend. You’ll just have to wait until next week to see it.

Lots of different places

February 14, 2013

merlin cyrene

I found her when I wasn’t looking. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Lots of different places,” she replied. She was mimicking Christopher Lambert’s response, and indeterminately European accent, from the film Highlander. I didn’t get the joke, but I somehow managed to get her number that night.

A few months after we met, we moved in together. One evening, as we walked home from a curry house, slightly drunk, I found the perfect pair of spectacle frames – black, square and narrow – looking up at me from the pavement with its arms folded back. I had my prescription fitted and wore those glasses until the sweat of successive summers turned the plastic a whitish grey. By that time we’d moved to a nicer part of town and I’d got a better job, through which I received an invitation to visit Belgium; a place called Zolder was on the itinerary. I accepted on a whim and saw Mario Cipollini become world champion. I never asked to be skinny or fit, but that’s what happened not long after.

These incidents that have shaped and defined parts of my identity happened by accident. So by the time I decided to find a bike that would last me many years, I knew the sensible procedure of establishing performance criteria and comparing the aesthetics of various components wasn’t going to happen. To put it simply, I never chose my bike; I gave in to chance and let the bike choose me.

The first time I saw it was on a deluged club run in the spring of 2003. The owner, one of only five members who had braved the downpour, was taking the bike out for its debut ride. He disappeared up the first hill and that was the last we saw of him that day. Three years later, I bought that bike in its essence: frame (Merlin Cyrene), fork (Reynolds Ouzo Pro) and a Royce bottom bracket. I had no idea how I wanted to complete the bike. Why did I end up choosing Ksyrium SLs? Because I knew someone who had inadvertently tested their durability by crashing into a tree (the front wheel, and the rider, survived more or less intact). Chorus for the groupset, because Record felt like an extravagance. I left it to a mechanic friend to decide the rest and build up the bike for me.

If you want to know whether or not your bike is truly suited to you, then sleep with it by your bed. Go to sleep late, wake up too early, and look at it as soon as you get up. Does it make you want to ride, even if your body is telling you not to bother? Then congratulations, you have chosen a great bicycle. For years I kept the Merlin next to our bed (yes, our bed – I managed to keep the girl) alongside an aluminium Merckx and a stickerless steel Glider, and it still inspires me to ride more than its two companions. Gleaming, naked titanium, white bar tape and white Fizik Aliante saddle: it looks indomitable, enduring, immortal, even though I’m no Christopher Lambert. The chunkier and more functional Campag gets, the more elegant my 2006 cranks look. And the Ksyriums, originally chosen out of practicality, please me with the simplicity of their thick spokes; when a child draws a pair of bicycle wheels, they draw SLs or something like them.

Performance-wise, it rides smoothly with just enough bite to get me over the sharpest bits of the Monte Grappa, the Barbotto or the Bwlch. But above all, what I like most about it is its arbitrary nature: an American frame, an Italian groupset, conjured into being through serendipity and indecision, via a workshop in Surrey. A bike from lots of different places.

Coming up with a new nickname for José Rujano

May 31, 2012

During the Giro, I learned that José Rujano’s nickname is “El Condor” – which, if I am to trust the services of Google Translate, is apparently Spanish for “The Condor”. Like the soaring bird of prey, the Venezuelan climbing specialist displays his magnificence at high altitudes. In that sense, the name is apt.

But condors are enormous, heavy birds, while Rujano is a light, relatively compact fella. More pertinently, lanky Dutchman Robert Gesink is known as “The Condor of Varsseveld”, and we really can’t have two condors in professional cycling. That would be like having two Cannibals or two Pistoleros or two Tyler Hamiltons, one of whom somehow vanished while in the womb. Utter madness.

So we need a new name for José. Littlejen suggested “The Dassie”, which is a small creature that dwells in mountainous regions. But dassies are found in Africa, not South America, which is a shame because I can’t help noticing that the cute little critters bear a slight resemblance to little José.

Instead, I suggest cyclepeople should use the name of another bird of prey when referring to the Androni team’s upwardly-bound sensation. Like a condor, it is found in Venezuela (and, in a pleasing co-incidence, it too shares its name with an independent bicycle brand). But unlike a condor, this feathery killer is small yet robust, similar to the man himself. And the moniker I’ve come up with also incorporates Rujano’s home state, as well as gifting many wordplay opportunities to sports commentators who seek to praise the multiple Giro stage-winner’s magical climbing ability and wizard skills.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby dub José Rujano… The Merlin Of Merida.

I hope this one will fly.

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