Hello my name is Paul and I am a sinner - I have sinned against the pure principles of the CR brother/ sisterhood. I confess I ride an aluminum bike - an MTB at that - but I can explain! I also ride a 1990s cro-mo, tig-welded, Bianchi frankenbike - but that too can be explained! I also have clipless on two of my vintage bikes, I wear a helmet and I wear lycra bib-shorts.
For the better part of 25 years, I had but one bike - built around an 81 Ilkeston frameset which went with me everywhere and got used and even abused (in the pure sense of the intended purpose of such a rare frame): I knew nothing of its monetary value; I did not know anything much about GOD (the O'Donovan that is); I did not race and I attached a rack (through a little bit of engineering) and panniers and rode the hills of West Wales; it lived with me in tents on excavations and beside my bed in a number of grotty student bedsitting rooms; I stripped it down to the bearings a couple of times a month.; I wept when I saw the dent in the seat-tube as a result of poor packing on my part and the mishandling of a Heathrow baggage handler ....
That bike still hangs in my workshop - now kitted out in Campag SR instead of the eclectic mix of components which had given it a certain character and had worked so well for over twenty years. But it now also has clipless pedals. Next to it hangs an 82 Bob Jackson - beautiful and oh so English. And next to that is the new love in my cycling life the 49 Carpenter. Around the shop are other interesting projects in various states of build. Wheelsets hang from the ceiling as do handlebars and saddles. Cupboards are full of miscellaneous parts - including all the necessary parts to build a 1970 PX10 - the frame of which was too big for me and went to a fellow enthusiast a few years ago.
So why the aluminum MTB or the 90s Bianchi frankenbike? The reality is one of utility. Ottawa is a great cycling city, but it is also the second coldest capital in the world. Outside the window the snow lies in four and five foot drifts. We had 76cm of snow alone in January. The depths of winter are matched by hot and humid summers. Each season has its challenges and particularly so for the cyclist who chooses to or must cycle all year around. A seven week bus strike has seen many citizens, including me, have take to alternative transportation, including bikes. The MTB, which had hung unused for five years, is now a winter bike - studded tyres, lights, rack and panniers. I don't care if it is covered in road salt and general grime. It gets me where I need to go in sub-zero and snowy conditions. The Bianchi is my early Spring and Fall bike - fendered, with beefy wheels and cantis - meant for wet weather and ferrying kids around. At those times of the year my small collection of vintage bikes hangs in the shop. All the while I dream of Summer rides and curse the intense rolling resistance of fat knobby-studded 26 tyres on slushy, icy roads. Nevertheless, I have never felt more like a "real" cyclist than the last couple of months of winter commuting.
In the Spring - when the roads are once again dry and free of the detritus of Winter - I will once again put one of my vintage bikes on the road. I will take the Carpenter on my relatively short commute to the University where it will take pride of place in my office or will spin it out on a 5:00am ride along the banks of the Rideau Canal. The Bob Jackson will purr on the slightly more crisp days of Spring and won't mind a sprinkle or two - the quintessential English fast day-tourer with saddle-bag, mudguards and a Brooks saddle. The Raleigh, as with the Carpenter, will only come out on the driest of Summer days. I will be happy again to not be head down into Winter gales or fighting the tendency for th back wheel to slide out from under me, but will look back on the past seasons and realise that for the first time since living in Canada I have cycled the year around.
So if I have been remiss in seasonally turning to the dreaded off-topic machines which shall not be mentioned here, so be it - utility will sometimes lead us to do such things. But, most importantly, I feel that I have become, even in a little way, a more complete rider and not just a CR rider! ;^) AMEN!
Paul B. Williams, BAH (Laurier), MPhil (Cardiff, Wales), PhD (Queen's) Dept. of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org