Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bruce Gordon Rock 'N Road 1993

She was Everything To Me

My Bruce Gordon Rock 'N Road Tour and I had a perfect relationship. Until I cheated on her.

By Roy M. Wallack, Editor, Bicycle Guide Magazine.
Originally published in Bicycle Guide, August 1993.

(To read what Bruce is up to in 2010, read my other blog report here.)

I'd been through so many relationships recently—and it really wasn't me. From way back, I was a one-bike man, dyed-in-the-lycra, committed to my beloved touring bike, "Black Beauty," as I affectionately called her. She loved it when I held her aerobars tight. We practically rode around the world together. Thousands upon thousands of miles. I thought I'd never gaze into another set of eyelets but hers, and that we'd ride into the sunset forever.

But then I got this job, and things changed. Younger bikes, faster bikes, yes, sexier bikes—they'd throw themselves at me. And you know what? I'm ashamed to say it, but I couldn't stop myself--and I didn't care. I'd go back and forth from road to mountain at will. Sometimes I'd ride both in one day.

Yes, it was exhilarating for a time--and then the novelty wore off and the recriminations began. Deep down, I was still a one-bike man. How often I'd wished for just one bike I could remain true to, that I could always keep my water bottles on. But Black Beauty wouldn't do now; we'd grown apart. I needed a bike to be with me through it all—dirt as well as road and touring.

My friends tried to fix me up with hybrids, but their personalities were so dull. They didn't seem real good at anything—dirt or pavement. I at least wanted a bike with spunk.

Then I was introduced to the Rock 'N Road Tour. The moment I first saw her, I knew that this was going to be no quickie First Ride. This was going to be a relationship.

She wasn't like the other hybrids. I first noticed her extra-strong, curvaceous $100 Bruce Gordon rear rack. On the front fork were a pair of beautiful eyelets. The 17 1/8-inch chainstays were long enought to accomodate bags. She tours! I wanted to drape my panniers over her right there on the spot.

And I couldn't take my eyes off her slightly oversized (11/4-inch downtube, 11/8 toptube) frame. High bottom bracket, sloping top tube, welded chrome-moly dropouts and low standover height—with unicrown fork and cowhorn handlebars! She mountain bikes, too! She even had suspension—an Alsop stem—which told me that she was a level-headed gal who could handle life's little bumps and bruises.

And just when I'd forgotten about the road, I noticed her bodacious 700C wheels. Yes—she'll fly, too! Finally, a multi-faceted personality, like mine. It was a perfect match. Could Rock 'N Road Tour be the bike I could ride out my life with, happily ever after?

For two months, me and Rocquel (the pet name I gave her) couldn't get enough of each other. Up the mountains to the Mulholland fireroad, 10 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain away, again and again and again. Half by road, half by dirt, her 700C wheels almost kept us up with the roadies, yet literally flung us past those tiny 26-inch wheeled mountain bikers like they were toys. I'd barely even notice the brands of the other bikes, although the other riders sure noticed us. Rocquel and I chuckled over the way they'd quizzically look at us together, unable to figure out what she was—an overgrown mountain bike, or what? And that would make me love her even more--such an individual, such a unique personality.

Of course, she got a little slippery on those descents with those 700x45 tires, rounder, narrower and less knobbier than an actual mountain bike's. But who's perfect? I considered it a skill-builder—and an endearing idiosyncrasy.

As our relationship strengthened, I found another thing to like about Rocquel: her adaptability. She didn't complain a bit when I asked her to wear Profile Air-Stryk aerobars and Club Roost CrossTerra tires for the 50-mile Rosarito-Ensenada ride in Mexico. You can bet her suspension stem smoothed out that potholed Baja highway. The roadies we passed were gawking at us (is that an overgrown mountain bike, and how many bagels are strapped to its rack?) as we cruised in at 2 hours, 40--just ten minutes slower than my best time down there before on Black Beauty.

Two days later, it was even more fun seeing the mountain bikers gawk at Rocquel's aerobars up on the dirt of Mulholland. For sure, I was in love. I thought I'd never need to look at another bike again. My quest was over.

Then a minor little problem arose. The Death Valley Double. Fifty road miles is one thing on Rocquel and her CrossTerras, but 200? So I told her I had to go out of town on business. And I took Black Beauty and her skinny tires for one last fling.

The next week, the Mountain Dogs asked me to climb up to Mt. Wilson with them—elevation 6000 feet. A lot of technical single-track each way. Oh...darn. I couldn't help but think of that front-suspended Specialized Team M2 Team in the office that had been flirting with me for months. So I told Rocquel I had to go on some all-day interviews.

When I got to the office Monday, I'd come to a decision. I dialed Rocquel's dad, Bruce Gordon, at his Petaluma, California factory. He'd been pressing me for a decision on Rock N Road Tour's future. "Either make her yours, send me a $2350 check (which includes a set of unique 3-minute QuickSwitch drop bars), or send her home," he demanded.

I had no choice. Rocquel might have been perfect for 90 percent of my riding, but I value that other 10 percent too much. There'd be more double centuries, which Gordon's optional second set of wheels ($295) would address, but what about single-track? The temptation was too great. I realized then that I no longer can be a one-bike man anymore. But I'm not ready to be a three-bike man, either.

Rocquel's chain-lube tears stained my carpet when I told her.

"Don't worry," I consoled her as I taped up her bike box and affixed the UPS label, "you're a great bike for most bike riders--and the bike industry should know that. Your dad has done a wonderful job raising you. You're a real bike, strong and multi-talented on dirt and pavement--not a wimpy compromise like all those other hybrids that never turned the consumers on. You're special.

"But I'm too far gone, baby. I'd never be able to share my greatest moments with you. It's for the best."

I think about Rock N Road Tour ever so often, especially when I imagine putting panniers on Black Beauty for that big tour of Canada I want to do. And I do wonder: Maybe, deep-down, I am a three-bike man, after all?

(To read what Bruce is up to in 2010, read my other blog report here.)

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