In Memoriam: Gleaming Metal Bits

In Memoriam: Gleaming Metal Bits

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I posted this picture as a joke in yesterday’s Anatomy of a Photo piece, but I find myself going back to it over and over, captivated by the way the light gleams off the peloton as they race by. Gleaming metal bits – hubs, cranks, spokes, handlebars, stems, frames, toe clips, all reflecting light from a thousand discrete points as the bunch rolls by, is a thing of the past.

Something of the romanticism of our sport has been crushed under the inevitable advancement of technology, as little by little each handmade alloy component on our bicycles has been displaced by a machine-built carbon replacement. It started with the clipless pedal’s succession of the toe clip; robbing us of the shimmering vision of sunlight reflecting off the metal clips from 200 riders’ feet as they approached from the distance. Today, even the metal shifting cables on the modern bike have been replaced in some cases by the rubberized cables of electronic drivetrains.

I look at my cherished R3 and, while I fully embrace the advantages and conveniences provided me by it’s modern technology, there is hardly a silver component in the lot.  Even most of the alloy components like the stem and bars have been anodized black.  Just the hubs and spokes, and little bits of the front and rear mechs are silver, but even those pieces don’t have the polished luster of the machines I see in the photo here.  I wish I knew who took this picture because I’d love to offer him a beer. It’s a work of art: the long shadows, the bikes leaning in unison into the corner, the looks of determination on the riders’ faces, but most of all, the way the light is exploding out of Greg LeMan‘s bike.

So, next time you find an old bicycle leaning against a tired wall, it’s aluminium components glistening in the sunlight, take a moment to linger and contemplate the beauty of it’s componentry.  You will be standing before a relic of a bygone era when the grace and elegance of our great sport was enhanced by the glistening light radiating from the machines that carried our great heroes.

// Folklore // In Memoriam // Nostalgia // Racing // The Rules

  1. The gleam is something to be revered and to mourn, but really only in the sense that we don’t get to see it anymore. The image of the glistening bunch rolling along was magical.

    But with everything that passes, something new takes it’s place. These days, we get to hear the hum of the carbon wheels, which I think is one of the coolest sounds around – not that the sound of 200 tubs on metal box rims was anything to scoff at, but the growling hum of a carbone wheel…ohmeohmi. Sometimes I look for a climb with a concrete wall next to it and climb out of the saddle, just to hear my wheels…

    I love my steel bike, and am going to build it a pair of 3-cross tubs, put all alloy Campag 10-spd Chorus on it, and polish it fortnightly, just to do it. But it will remain Bike #2, never Bike #1. That’s for a simple reason, too: Carbon is stiff, light, fast, and low maintenance.

    I ride the steel regularly, and every time I do I start to wonder why I even bother with the R3 – the ride of the steel is so pure and so nice. And then I swing my leg over the R3, stand on the pedals, and think to myself, “Oh, yeah. That’s why I bother with the R3.”

    I put an alu seatpost in the steel recently because I had it laying around and it would get my position to within 1mm of what I have on the R3. Man, I gotta say…I love how that thing looks on there…

  2. @frank
    You really need a matching stem on there now, maybe even the headset.

  3. @frank
    Yeah, that looks sweet mate; I love that bike.

    My carbon post is growing on me, but when the Bozzie gets rebuilt with older Campy, it will go back to a shiny post.

  4. @Brett

    It’s amazing that you managed to match your bike to that spot of grass the the nice blue water behind that.

  5. Cool bikes guys. I certainly love the look of a polished warbird. On last weekend’s group ride my old MBK was leaving bright infinity symbol reflections on the road from the mirror-polished rims and crank. That put a smile on my face.

  6. That is seriously hot, Brett. Good work mate.

  7. @mcsqueak
    I love how the visually-level seat bisects the shoreline in the distance too.

  8. Tip for polishing hubs – gleaming silver or otherwise: for one ride tie a small strip of rag (say 1-2cm wide) into a small but loose loop around each hub. As the hubs spin the rag ties stay relatively stable just moving from side to side and effectively buffing the hubs. Looks silly for that one ride but at the end of it you will be surprised at how much shinier your hubs are. Unfortunately doesn’t work as well on convex hubs.

  9. @Brett
    I just opened that picture of your bike in a new window and stared at it in full size for like 10 minutes. That is a real beauty. Your cranks are at the wrong angle, though. Are those your new bars, or still the older ones from the original build?

    Loving the crown on that fork, too.

    Thats a great tip. Giani sent me his old Super Record front shifter and I polished that baby up. Amazing how aluminum gleams after several hours of rubbing it with a cloth.

    Sweet new avatar, dude.

  10. @James
    WOW. That is one tight looking bike! WOW! I love it! I love the DT shifter, and the converted SRAM levers. What a beauty!

    And it’s hard-wired to the big ring! Please tell me you live in a really hilly region.

    Here it is in-line, for those of you who missed @James’ post due to it being in the spam queue for some reason.

  11. Not to hijack the thread, but how does one obtain an avatar?

    Isn’t it great how everyone who starts a sentence out like that, does exactly the opposite. Not to be a jerk but…

  12. @frank
    geez, I went to the troble of getting the valve stems at the bottom, the chain in the dog, the fucking grass, water and horizon perfect, and you pick me up on a +\- 5 degree crank infraction? Tough marker…

    The bars are the originals still, I have a set of Ritchey Classic bends coming next week, $30 off TradeMe! They will be teamed with the ITM 130mm stem, and fi'zi:k tape. Also have a San Marco Regal saddle on its way, then we’re done (except for a front Campy skewer).

  13. @michael
    Oh yeah, try

  14. @michael, @Brett
    Yeah, we use gravatard like most other sites. It’s one of those technologies that’s so genius it was inevitable. When I was studying Computer Science, one of the hot topics was the best approach for finding a globally unique identifier, which is logically a challenge because you have to come up with an approach for picking a value that no one else will ever pick ever again in the history of time. Gravatar is genius because an email is necessarily unique globally. It’s not a GUID because every time you pick the email address it’s the same as the time it was before, but it’s a good place to start. Anyway, I digress, and I’m already afraid I’ve opened up the nerd can here and am going to shut up.

    Synopsis, go get a Gravatar at and you’ll have a sweet avatar.

  15. Not sure if it’s been posted elsewhere, but here is the link for entries for 2011 Tour of Flanders

  16. @frank

    No fair. I had to figure it out on my own by searching for information about avatars in the WordPress technical documents. I figured it was some sort of obscure right of passage.


    That is pretty sweet! When I someday (hopefully) have the cash to vacation in bicycling-specific destinations, that type of thing would be super fun.

    I was actually thinking of the Tour of Flanders today, as I was riding around in the West Hills of Portland and I kept spotting yellow “Lion of Flanders” stencils on the pavement. Once a year there is a Ronde PDX ride, covering 76 km and 1406 m of elevation gain. I’ve never done it because I’m perpetually two months from peaking, but it seems pretty damn brutal.

  17. Well let me tell you about my gravatar experience, I had apparently registered there years ago with a long dead email address that was forwarding to another long dead email address and eventually I got logged in after about an hour of dinking around.

  18. I watched the Aspen Circuit race that year…your photo brought back lots of good memories. thanks.

  19. I love the performance of my modern carbon bike, but the looks of it, and the components, don’t do much for me. Eh…it’s nice looking, but I never find myself staring at it.

    On the other hand, checking out my Tommasini with C-Record, silver everything, now that gives me serious carbone

    This love of shiny metal bikes and bits actually isn’t that bad, it just gives us all a reason to own one modern carbon bike and at least one classic steel bike.

    I absolutely hate black hubs, spokes and rims. Eck. Give me silver all the way!

  20. Has anyone tested the new electronic shifting? I’m curious.

  21. Just read this. Brilliant. Want more shiny bits! At least on one bike of the n+1!

  22. Having just found this set of photos I’m going to bounce this thread. I’m not even Italian and I want to ride this bike.

  23. I fully support the weakness for gleaming metal bits polished with great care.  I may never again see the likes of my 1970 Cinelli fully bedecked with the period’s best Campy and Cinelli components.  Modern carbon-based bike forms have moved in the wrong direction, but””then again””I’m old.

    I do have one minor objection to the excellent photo…  Surly with appropriate digital accessories it is possible to eliminate the, ahem, Coors sign?  Such a weak brew is unseemly among such saintly relics…

  24. Coors === tasteless

  25. @RobsMuir

    Coors may make crap beer, but they did put money into cycling. Hell, the race was big enough for Hinault to schlep himself overseas for it.

    That said, here’s a bit of revisionist fantasy:

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