Sunday, March 30, 2008

Carbon Dreams 2: sometimes dreams come true

Se quel guerrier Io fossi!
se il mio sogno
Un esercito di prodi

Da me guidato... e la vittoria...
e il plauso
Di Menfi tutta!
E a te, mia dolce Aida,

Tornar di lauri cinto...
per te ho pugnato,
per to ho vinto!

When I bought my previous road bike, a few years back, I named it Non Sequitur to make sure it would be the last one I would ever spend money on. As it often happens in my life, I can once more shout “how wrong I was!” I could even sing it, over and over, perhaps to a Verdi tune.

A couple of weeks ago, in occasion of my birthday, my wife Laura made me an offer I could not refuse: I had to stop whining about my lack of a decent bike, forever and ever. In exchange, she’d match whatever I wanted or could spend: simply shutting my big mouth would basically double my purchasing power. There was a small catch: the bike and mostly anything on it had to be Italian. My purchase power suddenly took a dive as steep as the dollar in the last months. Besides, I argued, where we would ever find somebody who actually stocks Italian bikes in beautiful but commercially impaired Santa Barbara?

Well, we couldn’t. Ironically, we had to drive just a few miles South to Carpinteria, an even smaller dot on the Southern California map. I had talked to the shop owner on the phone a few minutes before, printed out the usual Google Map, and yet we completely missed the place. I did see a shop with a funny banner sign.
Not that, I thought, looking at a wooden shack of perhaps 300 square feet, with a bunch of bicycles outside. Those are probably rentals for tourists, I concluded. Looking better, revealed a Colnago C-50 with a $10k sticker shock price. We were in the right place: Bikesmiths!

There we met owner and meccanico eccellente Jim Hopperstad. Jim helped us first by giving us a good idea of what a bike could be like, where to save money and where to splurge. We learned how much it would cost to build a reasonable dream bike, and how long it would take. Plus, he invited us to assist to the bike building work, having a chance to check it part by part, take picture, and hang out in one of the nicest and friendliest bike shops on the West Coast. At the end of the discussion we had a list of parts, and prices. This was too good to be true, I thought, and once more I was wrong. Once home, we remembered that we live in the Google era. We checked the assembly of a comparable bike on the web by some anonymous sale-by-mail shop. Jim was coming in cheaper, and this without even counting the fit, clearly something quite difficult to obtain via web.

After a few days we were back at Bikesmiths', ready for the start, and pomptly parts came out of the box and started assembling themselves like magic after dancing in the air. Ok, just kidding on that part, but barely so. On Jim’s invitation we had provided the soundtrack, 100% Giuseppe Verdi, in the hope that the music would seep through the carbon fiber and enter the very soul of the bicycle. It was a 1974 recording that did it for us, Placido Domingo and Montserrat CaballĂ©, directed by Riccardo Muti. Hence the name of the red and black beauty that was taking shape under our very eyes: Aida.

Celeste Aida, forma divina.
Mistico serto di luce e fior,
Del mio pensiero tu sei regina,
Tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.
Il tuo bel cielo vorrei redarti,
Le dolci brezze del patrio suol;
Un regal serta sul crin posarti,
Ergerti un trono vicino al sol.
Celeste Aida, forma divina,
Mistico raggio di luce e fior

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