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Letting Go, Connecting with the Past and Making Connections for the Future

I was planning on have more to say, but alas I do not. I was going to write a bit about letting go and Serottas, so this may be a brainstorming session.

I’ve now really readied myself to let go of what used to be my favorite bike. There’s nothing wrong with it and it may very well be the prettiest I have ever owned, but I’ve come to accept that while it is a great bike, the strong emotional connection isn’t there because I’m not the original owner and I’ve found others, even in the genre of rim brake carbon bikes that I prefer. Granted, it’s only two of those that I have and prefer, but that means this great bike to which I don’t have a strong emotional connection will not be getting used. Plus, it’s a Parlee Z1, and those still seem to have some value even as used bikes.

If getting a carbon bike today, it wouldn’t be a Parlee. It’s not that they are any less good than they were in the past; indeed, I’d gladly take a Z0. Instead, it’s just that it’s too big a company to be at the top of my list today. I don’t know how many people work there or who actually build a Z0, but I don’t know. That and they cost more means my next carbon bike, whenever that is (I’m looking at you 2022 since I need one to write about unless Nick will build one for me to borrow (as if)) will be a Crumpton disc since I know it will be built entirely by Nick Crumpton for the sheets of carbon themselves.

I’ve also been thinking a bit about Serotta: there are several of them that will be featured later. I do have a strong emotional connection there because when I started riding, they were the bikes that Team USA rode. I later learned that Serotta had built bikes for the 1984 Olympic Team, 7-Eleven (basically everything prior to Merckx), Coors Lite (sorry, that’s not really beer and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even drink beer) and later the stereotypical dentist with the Ottrott. Basically, these bikes cover a lot of big moments of U.S. Cycling History prior to and during most of my cycling era, all the way up to shutting the doors in 2013 after having been acquired by a private equity group. Outside of the racing heritage, Serotta made really nice bikes. Since there won’t be any more Serottas built by the original company and Ben Serotta won’t be personally building his current line of bikes, the brand is essentially “dead” from my perspective. That’s why I collect them. They are great bikes, part of my history, and no more are going to be made. As a result, letting go of them is tough and I have more than I would if the old Serotta workshop were still around.

Aside from the history of Serotta, I’ve also realized that if Serotta were around today, not only would I not be holding on so tightly, but I wouldn’t get a new one because I would consider Serotta too big. That’s right, Serotta as too big. As I’ve realized that no bike will really make me faster, I think about what makes a bike interesting to me. While the big bike makers can turn out some amazing work, it is not distinguished, and any performance advantages will not make any difference to me. What I crave is an emotional connection that I can only find when there’s a human connection to it. For example, the Mondonico is undoubtedly a nice bike, but what really distinguishes it for me is that I learned about it 30 years before I ever got my hands on one. I could only see myself getting another Serotta if it were personally built by Ben. Even then, what would have to distinguish it was that it would have had to been made for me. I already have one that Ben built himself that’s in the building queue for some point several years down the road and possibly 2027 when it will turn 50. It is important to find ways to think positively about the future, so it’s less crazy than you might think that I’m considering what frame gets a Campy group 7 years from now.

I have my next three bikes planned. I know who will be brazing and welding them. With the first one, I know whose father is and much of his family history in the bike industry. One the second one, I know about his poor performance in Hebrew school and how he went on to a career building bikes instead of journalism. I know what kind of candy he likes. I know that I need to roll with his plan about how to build a bike because he’s been doing this since before I was born and everybody who knows about build bikes respects the guy. The third guy is simply a bike artist to me. This is way more exciting to me than the latest and greatest. There will always be something new that’s better by whatever metric is used in that regard.

My bikes are not tools; they are an extension of who I am, and I want them to reflect that. Actually, the stories behind the bikes will be more interesting than I will be on my own so maybe I’m acquiring them to the people who built them in addition to just filling a niche in my stable: Shinichi, Richard and Tyler as well their colleagues.

I also know that I need to go back and made some revisions to my last post. Tonight is not, however, the night for that. I plan to be as unproductive as possible the rest of the evening.

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