Not only do most of us have a tale of our Cycling Sensei, but we also generally have a story for how we came into our current Bike Number 1. Those of us who were online last week probably noticed Jeff’s manic posts regarding a Look that he spotted at a big-box retailer, for a price that should have him constantly looking over his shoulder for fear of either the authorities or other Velominati who are plotting to steal it.
Look holds a special place in cycling history. Hinault, Lemond, Jalabert, and Hushovd have all won upon these machines while Look was experimenting with building bicycles out of composites. Looking over the frame Jeff now owns, it is a great pleasure to see that, while it obviously showcases the state of modern bicycle technology, it’s roots are still on plain view. With lugs so sexy they should be called luggs, this machine represents the fusion of cycling technology with cycling tradition. Beautiful.
Jeff’s article detailing his experience is so long I considered splitting it into several articles, but I figured everyone could use a good excuse to have a leisurely drink and a long read. So, grab a beer, and settle in.
Yours in cycling,
Many Velominati know some of the details regarding my very recent acquisition of a Look 595. I’ve shared a bit of the intrigue at “Frank vs. The Volcano”.
Before I go on, I must thank all of you for your kind words of encouragement. Velominati, you are my true Brothers of The Cog. I appreciate all of you and hope to meet you guys someday soon.
Steampunk, you have my condolences for purchasing non-refundable round-trip airfare to Houston. I’m sorry, but the well is dry. I got the last one. However, you’re still welcome here in the PetroMetro. As for me, I want a one-way ticket out.
Marcus, how fucking cool are we? Congrats. Is the 595 the new Velominati team issue? Maybe?
Our Excelsis Velominatus (Frank) wanted more than just a post from me. And not just a picture of Julian Dean’s resplendent 595, either. Did I mention I’m a full-on fanboy of Julian Dean now? Two straight years of layin’ down the V on all the other Kiwis. I liked his kit. Way better kit than the standard-issue argyle. Sorry, JV. That shit was ugly.
And yes, Nate, I need the Credit Agricole DECALS, not stickers–forgive me in all my excitement.
Here are the sordid details. The emotional highs, the crushing lows, a pic, and the ride review. So, pour yourself a glass or four of Chianti Superiore 2007 from Castello di Monastero, break out the Chimay red label, or make an espresso. I give you my humble prose.
Chapter 1: A Chance Encounter
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Right. Too cliché.
My eight-year-old daughter and I went to Memorial City Mall to see “Yogi Bear in 3D”. After the movie, we walked downstairs to a restaurant for dinner. Since both her birthday and our semi-annual camping trip were coming up, I suggested we take a quick detour into Sun & Ski Sports to look at a 24-inch mountain bike for her. (We take our bikes to camp, but she’s outgrown her current ride.) She picked out the one she wanted. Like any good father, I told her she wouldn’t get it anytime soon and I’d sell her into indentured servitude if she uttered one more word about it.
I went back the next day and bought it. Hee hee. By the way, my wife and I will surprise our daughter with her new bike in two weeks.
While at the store to make the purchase, I looked around the bike section with a little more leisure. There were lots of mid-range road and mountain bikes. Nothing awesome. And nothing marked down too much. Meh.
And then—I found a lonely stand with three very top-end steeds: a white 2007 Look 595; a carbon grey 2008 Look 585 Ultra; and some opulent time trial machine to which I paid little attention because I’m not a tri-wanker (Rule 42) and I’m not riding the State Time Trial Championships any time soon.
The 595 was originally priced at $7400—about right for full Dura Ace back in ’07. Its price was cut to $3200. Excellent, but still too much for this Velominatus Budgetatus. The 585 Ultra, also dressed in full Dura Ace, was originally $6900, reduced to $2500.
I soiled myself.
I went to the restroom, cleaned up, returned to the sales floor, and quietly inquired about the Looks. The young salesman who sold me my daughter’s bike said, “Yeah, they’ve been here for two or three years. I’m pretty sure I can knock 10% off the sale price of the cheaper one. Want me to take it down?”
Perceptive. And persuasive. He’ll go far.
I am nothing if not casually deliberate. Sometimes I’m deliberately casual. Regardless, I calmly said, “Sure.”
He handed me the 585 Ultra. I touched it. I caressed the 585’s carbon top tube. I ogled the Dura Ace everywhere on the frame (and I’m a Campagnolo guy). I picked it up. It made my Cervelo Soloist aluminum feel like a refrigerator. The 585 was electrifying. I had wicked carbone.
I think I said something about starting a new business and having a very tight budget and ooh this is amazing and how can you sell this for $2250 and I’m not worthy and my Mastercard…
…and then the room spun ‘round and ‘round.
When I came to, I told the salesman that I had to go, but that I would be back in a day or two.
“No rush. I’m sure it’ll still be here.”
Chapter 2: The Punishing Cost of Indecision
I spent the next two days reminding myself that I’d left behind my career in financial services, that I was committed to writing for a living which meant near-term poverty, and that I would have to rule my budget with iron-like discipline.
Then I ran the numbers. I could put it on my Mastercard at 9.9% APR and pay it off in two years at $111.55 per month. That included $100 for pedals and sales tax at 8.25%. I could sell everything I owned that I didn’t use. I could do without utilities and groceries and reasonable shelter. I could write enough to pay bills. And taxes. Oh, and still put aside savings. (I was a financial planner after all.)
I called at 9:58am on Monday. The store opened at 10am. A salesman named Trey answered.
“Hey, Trey. My name is Jeff. I saw the Look 585 Ultra a couple of days ago and wanted to make sure it was still there. I’ll be at the store in about 30 minutes to buy it. I’m really excited…”
“Sir, I don’t think we have it anymore. I think it sold.”
“Wha? Really. Wow. Okay. Hmmm.” I went numb. If I’d eaten breakfast, I’d have thrown it up. I reached for my blankie.
“Do you want me to call around and see if there is another one in another store?”
“YES, PLEASE, DAMMIT!!!!!! I mean yes, please.”
We hung up. Through my salty tears I asked, “Merckx, what am I gonna do?”
Trey called me back very quickly. “Nope. They’re all gone. But, you know, there’s the 595 here.”
“Yeah. But it’s out of my budget. I can’t do it.”
“Maybe my manager can discount the bike some more. I could give him a call. He’s not in today, but he’s good about calling us back.”
“Okay. Thanks. Bye.” I didn’t even wait for Trey to respond.
I’d blown it.
Then, I thought, “No, Jeff. Not this time. You are such a ‘Ready, Ready, Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire’ fucktard. Rule #5. HTFU. Grow a pair. Call Trey back. Ask for the biggest discount you can get and be ready to say YES.
You wanna climb Wannahockalugie next year? Wanna be a true Velominatus? Wanna shoot for a sub-4? Or are you gonna lie in bed and cry? My Merckx.”
Trey called back, much sooner than I expected. “My manager will sell the 595 for $3000.”
I uncurled from my fetal position, but hung on to my blankie.
I started to hedge. “Yeah. Ok. That’s really nice of him. That’s just super-duper. Yep. Ok. Well, can I call you back after I think about it?”
Chapter 3: Merckx, Have Mercy on My Soul
Suddenly startled, I dropped my blankie. There was Merckx, right in front of me, wearing a classic Molteni wool warm-up jacket with rainbow stripes on his cuffs and his collar. (Damn, I want a jacket like that, but without the rainbow stripes ‘cause I’ve never won a world championship—Rule 16.) He looked at me. He squinted. He smirked. He looked disappointed, even a little disgusted. I couldn’t let him down, even if he was a figment of my overly developed imagination.
I blurted into the phone, “No. Wait. I’m not calling you back. And I’m not thinking about it. I’m saying yes. YES. YES!!! I want the 595! Today! I’ll be there in 30 minutes.”
“Sure. Ok. See you then.”
What the fuck did I do? Oh shit.
Merckx grinned at me. He nodded, almost imperceptibly. It was life affirming. I did the right thing. And then he vanished. I was hoping he’d leave that wool Molteni warm-up behind as a talisman, a gift from, well, Merckx. No such luck. I couldn’t wear it anyway—the rainbow stripes. But he gave me something better. He gave me strength—The V. I seized this chance. Thanks, Eddy. You really are the greatest.
Before I could stop myself again, I pulled my riding gear together, stuffed it in a race bag, and walked out the door. The credit cards were burning. (It was gonna take two cards now.)
Chapter 4: It’s Mine
To make a long-ass story merely long, the Wrench didn’t get in for about an hour after I paid for the bike. The Wrench’s name was Chris. He did the cutting.
I knew I’d spend quite a bit of time on the trainer in the store getting the fit right. That’s why I brought all my riding stuff. I even brought the cold weather gear so I could head outside for a few laps and then come back for some more tweaking.
The guys were great. It was a very laid back atmosphere. They were happy to have a customer that knew what to do. I was happy I could work with guys who weren’t condescending bittermen. It was a very good experience. And the price still floors me.
So. As for the ride quality–I’ve only been out for a 1.5 hour shakedown cruise. The seatpost is not your dad’s Campy Record 27.2. I had Chris cut the integrated seatpost just a little lower than perfect so I had some wiggle room. Look designed the seatpost so you can use spacers for up to a 40 millimeter adjustment. I will add about 5 mils of spacer for my ride tomorrow. Today it felt a little low.
I’ve used every hair of the 1.5 cm setback. As I go up, I will bring the saddle forward a bit.
I have the stem slammed. I left the steerer tube tall enough for two 0.5 cm spacers, just in case I want to raise the stem later. To be Rule #45 compliant, I’d have to move one spacer down, but I’d rather leave the stem slammed. (Can I get a ruling? I’m comfy with it right now.)
By the way, the carbon fiber spacers are so cool. Each says LOOK. I could make pretty awesome key fobs out of the ones I didn’t leave on the bike.
I’d like to say I have barbone, but I’m not there yet. These bars scream 2007. They’re carbon, they’re ergo, they’re narrower than I’m used to, and they have that flat oval top. I rotated them down just a smidge, and now the flat part isn’t “aero”. If I rotate them back up, the levers look out of compliance (Rule 46). It’s a manufactured non-compliance problem.
I’ve never ridden a bike this light. I took it to a crit course that’s close to where I live. I rode at an easy to moderate pace, making sure all was tight. I did one hot lap—well it was half of a hot lap. (I’ve got a lot of speed work ahead of me.) The acceleration is other worldly.
I entered a left-hander hot enough not to pedal through it. I had visions of sticking a pedal on Day One and breaking something carbon. The bike is lightning quick. Twitchy in a very good way. I could have pedaled through the corner as I didn’t have to lay it over as much as I thought I would. The rest of the corners were just like buttah.
I have a little bit of toe overlap. I’ll be mindful when I trackstand at a light.
I feel amazingly lucky. Broke but lucky.
Total damage: $3355.75. At 10% over two years, that’s $147.22 per month, or $3533.31 when all is said and done.