I’ve got a bug in my throat and I can’t breathe – figuratively and literally. Okay I’ve dealt with the literal one – would be awkward for all of us if I hadn’t. I was jamming along, minding my own business while attempting to induce cardiac arrest or a cyclist’s high – whichever came first – when I was attacked. I don’t know what else you might term it when a large, lumbering object is suddenly subject to lumber-interuppting interference by a small, quick object. Domestic terrorism maybe…
At any rate, while I was heaving and panting and sweating along, a large-enough flying insect of some sort thought it his (or her) duty to fly directly into my epiglotis and lodge itself there, thereby interuppting the heaving and panting. Maybe not interupputed all together but there was a sudden lack of airflow, a lot of choking and coughing and perhaps a bit of wretching. This – of course – took place in front of an audience of amused joggers. I blame them.
Figuratively…despite all the best intentions paving my road to hell, I haven’t written anywhere nearly as often as I’ve ridden. Having logged approximately 2350 kilometres this year outstripping last year, but somehow all of that time in the saddle has produced little at the fingertips. This is not limited to my own ranting-space either as, after a single article was solicited and published on another site, I turned down further requests. It’s like there’s a great big monkey-wrench jamming the noggin-works. Fuel in, fart jokes and blank stares out.
I’ve wanted to write about my not-yet-arrived new bike but have been waiting for something – perhaps the bike itself – but wait no more! After my somewhat unsuccessful attempt to give a local bike seller a large amount of money for a Stevens Vapor Disc cyclocross model, I conceeded defeat to their superior no-bike-for-you! tactics and looked elsewhere.
I spent a lot of time pondering a self-built bike. Components like seats, drive-trains and wheels are, like the automotive world, available any and everywhere and inexpensive full-carbon fibre frames from China are starting to take hold in the DIY market. Initially I had philosophical issues with buying a frame made in China. I prefer not to send my money out of the country, especially for what is ostensibly a
luxury item necessary transportation device however research quickly showed that bicycle parts are made in Taiwan and China, full stop. Really? Just China and about-to-be-China? That’s all? In a word, maybe. If you ignore the outrageously expensive hand-built, artisanal, bespoke creations available from a handful of builders, then the word is yes.
That carbon fiber Colnago that cost you 5 figures? Yep – frame is made in China. That Trek? Yup. Cannondale? Offshore. Specialzed? Oh yes. Giant? Well that’s actually an interesting story. Giant was an offshore supplier for the big OEMs and decided “wait a minute…we build the skeletons for everyone else and all they do is buy stuff made at our neighbours, bolt it to our skeleton, slap some decals on it and sell it for a fortune…we could do that!” and so Giant was born. Virtually every single bicycle in your local bike seller, and positively every bicycle in your local hardware, sporting goods or mega-retailer, has a Chinese-manufactured frame.
All of that is to say – I quickly dispatched the philosophical argument, for if I wanted a new bike, the frame was coming from the far east. I poured over the hundreds of pages on internet forums discussing the trials and tribulations of home-built bikes using Chinese no-name carbon fiber frames. Most of the stories were good, excellent even. People who had quality control issues had them resolved with no more hassle than dealing with any other manufacturer, deliveries were late but generally complete, the service was totally sporadic but the price was unbeatable. Full carbon frame, fork, seatpost, clamp and 2 water bottle cages shipped to Canada for under $800. With more than a couple of hand-built custom motorcycles under my belt, I figured this would be a walk in the park. How could I say no?
By finding exactly what you want, at a price you’re prepared to pay, from a fantastic local reseller. What do I want? Simple – cyclocross bike (think fatter-tired road bike), with disc brakes. That’s it. Disc brakes on a ‘cross bike. You’d think it would be easy, but no. Specialized makes
a line of them one model but frankly the bike was ugly. Stevens makes one – $2750 was the local quote – aluminium frame, carbon fork BB7 brakes, Ultegra drivetrain. Seemed like a very steep upgrade over the aluminium frame, carbon fork, no-brake brakes and 105 drivetrain for $1700. Plus there was that whole “we’re not going to order that for you” thing.
I kept my eyes open, looking at different models, watching for rumours – Raleigh is set to dump a gorgeous disc-equipped ‘cross bike this year, but I suspect it’s going to be priced somewhat higher than I can afford and at last look, there was nothing official on their site. Colnago introduced 2 new disc models – one road and one ‘cross, but the local seller is the same that wouldn’t sell me the Stevens and really, the price is beyond the purchase-without-divorce limit.
Enter the Belgians. Cyclocross is Belgium. We are Belgium. So is the proclamation on the inside of the chain stay of the Ridley X-Fire Disc. As it happens, Ridley Cycle is the local Ridley dealer. (Sounds obvious but Ridely Cycle was actually opened by Mr. Ridley in 1945 with no association to Ridely the bike manufacturer.) I headed to their shop in Kensington to get the story on the X-Fire.
I spied the 2012 X-Fire on the floor and headed straight for it. A beautiful piece of bicycle art, a shame the 2012 wasn’t available with discs – I’d likely have purchased it on the spot. I poked around for a moment before Jared offered to help. I quick inquiry as to price and expected delivery on the 2013 model brought mixed news. “Ridely tends to ship late in the year or even next year so we may not see the 2013 model until December, maybe January. I think the boss just arrived so I’ll check with him on the pricing and see if he’s got information on delivery“. December? NEXT YEAR?? Oh man, I want to ride it this year. I want to ride it now. I put my inside pout on while nodded in agreement.
Jared arrived back with much better news. “Ron expects them mid-September and the price is $2650″. Wahoo! In time to ride this fall, cheaper than the Stevens and…it’s full carbon. I jumped up and down with excitement (on the inside) while casually breaking into a face-splitting smile. Moments later the boss – Ron Uhlenberg – shook my hand, introduced himself and handed me the spec sheet for the 2013 model, followed by an invitation to fit for the right size and a test ride. “Give me a call when you’ve got some time, we’ll get you fit to make sure we order the right size and if you’ve got time after that, we’ll get you out on the 2012 model to see how you like the gearing”. I’d expressed some reservation about going away from the low gearing of the triple crank on the Rescue Bike – I’m fitter, but I still fight my way up the hills, slopes, grades and hummocks. He grabbed a business card, scribbled something down and handed it to me, “I wrote my cell number too – give me a call” and shook my hand again.
I’ve been back since but that’s for Part Two. Tomorrow. Maybe… At any rate, I can’t recommend Ridley Cycle enough – fantastic friendly staff, first-rate customer service and – go figure – a desire to put me on a bicycle that I want to buy. Credit to Dr. Larry for the nudge to find a new bike shop to deal with. This is his fault - Thanks Doc!