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This Cacophony of Pulsing Data

– I mothballed my SRM awhile ago. Even though I still race and even though I know a powermeter’s telemetry would sharpen my training -- likely making me better on race day -- I chucked it nonetheless. There’s so much joy brought by a bike: The seen beauty of a landscape; the occasional glorious fusion of man and machine where pedaling is a pure expression of selfhood; the meditative silence overwhelming one’s mind.

Life off the bike is circumscribed by reminders and tickers and the struggle to manage time. Riding is evermore a refuge from this cacophony of pulsing data. I’ll no longer spoil it with every glance down at my bars. I’ve gone primitive with my training. Rate of perceived exertion + a wristwatch I wear on interval days.

The few glimpses of deliverance I’ve had -- they’ve always come on a bike. When it happens it’s fleeting, it’s rare, and it’s brief. Digital distraction won’t ever interfere again.

Instructions On How To Wind A Watch

‘Death stands there in the background, but don’t be afraid. Hold the watch down with one hand, take the stem in two fingers, and rotate it smoothly. Now another installment of time opens, trees spread their leaves, boats run races, like a fan time continues filling with itself, and from that burgeon the air, the breezes of earth, the shadow of a woman, the sweet smell of bread.’

‘What did you expect, what more do you want? Quickly, strap it to your wrist, let it tick away in freedom, imitate it greedily. Fear will rust all the rubies, everything that could happen to it and was forgotten is about to corrode the watch’s veins, cankering the cold blood and its tiny rubies. And death is there in the background, we must run to arrive beforehand and understand it’s already unimportant.’

– Julio Cortázar, from Cronopios and Famas

– We get excited about bike shops. A good one is a treasure. That’s why we checked out Adeline Adeline this week. Our mission: Find out what there was behind the buzz generated by the New York Times Style section and GQ.

This boutique shop goes in a direction you rarely see in the United States. One that caters to the aesthetic commuter community, the people who sort of ride to get around, but need to look good doing so. It’s a market that barely exists and in its few manifestations up to now it’s seemed more an extension of the fashion industry, and less an effort to establish the bike as an authentic means for urban transportation. Companies like Civia have tried mainstreaming it a bit, but we’ve seen few visible indicators of the brand’s success. Likewise, microbrewed efforts to co-opt the old-school randonneuring concept of the almighty-practical constructeur go a bit too far down the road of gorgeous madness at the expense of accessibility or affordability.

There are few places that could support the aesthetic commuter movement in our nation, but one of those places is exactly where Adeline Adeline is situated, the TriBeCa neighborhood of Manhattan. On a quiet block of Reade Street, sharing the street with other boutiques and away from the masses cramming Chambers, Hudson, and Greenwich, but still only two blocks from the city’s West Side bike path, it is both close to the bustle, and yet not part of it.

The store shares a mood with its location. Small and spare, yet with high ceilings, good light, and uncluttered presentation. Everything they sell can be seen. We’re not sure who at the shop or among the customers is going to use the selection of Phil Wood products they’re displaying, but we love that they’re putting it out there. Maybe its there as a conversation starter.

The bikes are traditional commuter rigs, which is to write that steel tubing, fenders, enamel paint, and sprung-leather saddles are the acme of style in this shop. Wooden ‘like-a-bikes’ are also on display. The gear can be too precious for those who spent years riding low-end bikes as their everything-steeds before upgrading. We put ourselves in this crowd and suspect you’re likely a part of it, too. But for those who are put off by ‘racing’ bikes and ‘moto’ mtbs, the old-fashion’ upright charm, fat saddle, and slack geometry could just be the cherry-flavored medicine needed to get them off the sidewalks and onto bicycles.

These bikes are great in places like Belgium and the Netherlands, where hundreds of thousands of bikes like these are ridden every day, locked up on the street overnight, and kept in service for a generation. While NYC is flat enough for single-speed riding and a long wheelbase can soak up potholes, the weight can be problematic for those carrying them up stairs, and the slack steering is not great for maneuvering around slow-moving car traffic. The bikes at Adeline Adeline are no Flying Pigeons, but they are closer to them than they are to that old bike you downgraded and turned into a commuter. The question that will take several years to answer is whether people will actually see a place for such bikes in their lives or if they’ll become like in-line skates, or like those rusting bike-like carcasses disintegrating in millions of garages across the United States.

It’s impossible not to comment on the founder of Adeline Adeline. Julie Hirschfeld has her bio prominently featured on the shop’s site. She’s an outsider to bikeland, which is fine; we were all outsiders at one time. Fresh blood and the enthusiasm and insights outsiders bring are welcomed. That she’s a graphic designer fits in with the location as well as the aesthetic of the site and shop and the vision she shares. There’s a swankiness to the operation, a lush look, beautiful without ostenation, bare wood, white walls, that is of a piece with the goods offered for sale, a fine thing, but that might not be enough to sustain a business; plenty of ‘cool’ restaurants open big, get buzz and shut down within six months. Gotham Bikes is less than two blocks east and a successful full service shop. Cadence was once located several blocks north, but their boutique catering to a known demographic of high-spending fast riders failed. Maybe Adeline Adeline has a cushion to take a few years to develop their niche. Maybe their vision is so powerful, the siren call so strong, that people will not only flock, but buy in great numbers. At the same time, we’ve all seen that the market doesn’t often allow bricks-and-mortar businesses much time to prove themselves, especially when they’re in a hot location.

While the goods we sell here have a wholly different purpose, we’d like to see them succeed. More bikes on the road are good for everybody; increasing the volume of cyclists has been demonstrated to increase safety for all cyclists.

– There are probably 50 ways to post-mortem Quick Step’s woeful Spring Classics campaign. Most of the tropes are, by now, well-known. Patrick Lefevre played Billy Martin-meets-Michael Ball by ham-handedly using the media to pressure his team. Tom Boonen never got the high-profile win he needed to live up to the Belgian worship of him, or to live down last summer’s Snortgate. Stijn Devolder rode utterly devoid of form, making him tactically irrelevant as a counterpunch threat.

A lesser appreciated consequence is the impact Quick Step’s spring had on their new bike sponsor, the all-new, post-Eddy Eddy Merckx. It was bad enough that the paint and decals on the team bikes camouflaged the Merckx name more than what was probably advisable for a brand’s rebirth (nor were things helped by the fresh-for-2010 semi-abstract X logo on the headtube.) On top of that was the infrequency with which Quick Step riders (other than a frustrated & scowling Boonen) made themselves sufficiently prominent for good camera time.

A lack of results is a well-known risk to bike manufacturers in sponsoring a pro team. The risk here, though, had a much steeper downside due to the cost of entry. Given the sketchy 2010 exposure earned by Quick Step, and given what it surely took fir Eddy Merckx to outbid the previous sponsor -- the cash-laden Specialized -- the sponsoring expense as a function of global revenue was likely greater for Merckx than any other bike brand in the ProTour peloton.

To soften the blow of the miseries of Merckx’s Spring 2010, I hereby present some free editorial space to their handiwork. The pictures below are of a special bike: I worked weekends and nights a long, long time ago building price-point mountain bikes -- July 4, 1997 is a day that will live in infamy as the day I built 19 Giant Sedonas (rigid, full STX-RC, a beautiful metallic blue…and only $599!) With the $7-per-build I was paid I bought this Merckx frame for my somewhat-newlywed wife and to this day I’m sentimental about the sweet, young love inherent to the act and I feel the same about the PRO Team Faema paint scheme. To this day she still rides this bike, and it makes me happy every time she does so. So, Eddy Merckx, there you go. Some happy press for 2010 --