This Summer on the Bike

It has been very quiet here on Ancient Noise, as I am currently in the final push to get my thesis submitted by the end of the month. Instead of giving an academic rundown of all the things that have (or have not) happened over the summer, I wrote a short bio piece about one of my non-academic interests and its relationship to my writing process (plus, it involves some summer updates). So, here we go… this summer on the (new) bike:


Somewhere in my second year of university I realised that I would always ride a steel bike frame. Part of this realisation was the fact that I loved 1970s and 80s Italian bikes and another part was an acceptance of the way I ride. In the words of Rudy, ‘You’re five foot nothing; a hundred and nothing pounds’. Naturally, and thankfully I enjoy them, I am a climber. I like the long days in the saddle and the gruelling challenge of hills. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fast sprint and racing the clock, but in that year I realised that I loved riding on my terms and those terms were classic steel.


As a result, I purchased one of my all time favourite bikes: a 1984 Ciöcc Performance. The bike was made the same year I was born (in fact, it left Italy the month I was born). It had full Campagnolo Super Record groupset and the Italian colours engraved on the stem, seatpost, and chainring. It was beautiful! I would spend hours riding in the hills above Chico, CA and looked forward to the Chico Wildflower Century in April.


The Ciöcc got me through my undergrad years and came back home with me for my first master’s degree. It was in those years that I settled into my writing and riding routine. I learned early in my MA that I could not just research and write all the time. I needed a space to mull over everything that I was taking in. The Ciöcc was that space. As I started to write my MA dissertation, I would go to class and work in the library in the morning. After lunch, I would go for a ride and spend a couple of hours on the bike.


At the time, I lived in the East Bay Area and I had to climb a hill or mountain in the first 10 miles of any ride. I would push myself on that first climb, getting my body warmed up. Then, I would settle into the rest of the ride, letting my mind wander as I took in the scenery. It was in this mind wandering that I would go over the steps in my argument, as I wound my way up the Berkeley hills or I would reflect on my current writing as I raced out to Mt Diablo. The physical movement and matching mental movement went together. I found that riding would clear my thoughts and draw out important points I had not fully realised. Once I was back, a cold beer (as it was summer in CA) and notebook brought the mental cycling to life on the page.


Fast forward 6 years, I am in the final stages of my PhD, which entails a lot of writing… 100,000 words kind-of a lot. I had bought a aluminium bike, as it was cheap and had good components, but it was starting to strain under the number of miles I was riding it. I had got into the routine of around 100 miles a week and, while still in good condition, my bike was showing the signs of these miles. In the back of my mind, I wanted the Ciöcc back. I had sold it after moving to the UK to cover some unexpected short finances and missed the feel and response of the bike. Plus, my current writing routine had lost some of the hours on the bike that had supported it in those earlier years.


That’s when I saw the Road Logic. I have always been a fan of Tom Ritchey and many of the other Bay Area cycling legends. (I met Gary Fisher by accident when I was invited to a bicycle garage sale at his house) Classic steel frame reinvented for today, that’s what I was after and that’s what Ritchey does. I found a Road Logic at the AlwaysRiding site that was in my budget (helps that the Ultegra/carbon fork version was £1 more than the comp) and went for it. The folks at AlwaysRiding were great and got me some matching bar tape to my Brooks saddle to make the Road Logic just that bit more classy. Now there are some striking similarities in the aesthetics of the Ciöcc and Ritchey, which I quite like. But more than this, the Road Logic has the feel (although it is considerably lighter than the Ciöcc) of riding that I love. As the saying goes, ‘Steel is real’.


Today, as I wound my way through Hertfordshire, I was struck by what I was doing. I was stressed about finishing a PhD in Roman archaeology, riding (possibly) my all-time favourite bike through the English countryside. When did I ever think I would do any of that? I revelled in the thrill of rolling along the country roads and the quick decent into north London. I find myself, once again, back in the routine of mentally cycling through the final edits and arguments of my thesis. And once again, grateful for a bike that makes those rides so enjoyable.


It’s been about a month since I got the Road Logic and I will pass the 500 mile mark this week. It is also about two weeks until I submit my PhD. So, you can guess what is ahead…