Sunday, January 11, 2009


At the end of John Watters's Pecker, the title character says that what he's learned from Little Chrissy is that life isn't worth living unless you're obsessed with something. In one of the bonus features on the Royal Tenenbaums DVD, Wes Anderson says that what separates artists from other people is the ability to become obsessed with a project, and bring it to completion.

For better or worse, I have this ability in spades. Over the summer, my obsession was Niles. For the past several months, during which I have not posted here once, my obsession has been my dissertation, and reading. Having finished another chapter, and being about to start on another, I have given myself a brief chance to resume one bicycle-related obsession: my hatred of anodizing.

My Velo Orange Randonneur, which I ordered 15 months ago, is apparently going to be begun this month. I certainly hope this proves true, not only because I want to ride it when the snow melts, but also because waiting for a bike to arrive is the cruelest sort of torture one could inflict on someone like me. I have gone through at least three versions of every part for the Velo Orange, buying something that seems perfect on eBay, changing my mind, selling it or putting it on another bike, etc.

I settled on MAVIC stuff early on. I love most everything about the brand, from its nice aesthetic to its weirdness and Frencheyness and rareness. (The rebuildability, until now, never seemed like such a great thing, since they're not made anymore.) I will have MAVIC brake levers, derailleurs, and rims on my Velo Orange (code name: New York Bike.) If Mavic made a 94bcd crank, centrepulls brakes, and silver seatposts, I might get those too.

Rear derailleur-wise, I got a very nice 851 early on, a stunningly beautiful part: light, odd-looking, and ingenious in its sliding pulley cage. I have been second-guessing its practicality from the beginning, however, because of it's old-fashionedey single-pivot, non-slanting parallelogram geometry. Sure enough, on my Alan with a 14-24 freewheel, it shifts fairly well, but no so well on the 13-26 I want to use on NYB.

I happened to have bought an "NOS" 840 on eBay (along with some Mavic brake levers, which was what I was really after) extremely cheaply because someone listed it as a "dearailler." It's a much heavier derailleur than the 851, not as cool-looking, but better-working (not that I've actually mounted it—but it's essentially like all other modern derailleurs.) I didn't really think about using it until the 851's sub-optimal shifting was revealed, and until I saw this excellent post by Jeremy Rauch, who loves MAVIC even more than I.

Seeing an 840 all disassembled like that made me see what I had to do: disassemble my derailleur, sand of all the anodizing, and make it shiny. This I did over the last few days. It was extremely fun, and relatively easy as well. The results were nice, also. What seemed to me a somewhat soulless derailleur now has lots of personality, and having seen it "vulnerable" and disassembled, I feel we now have a special relationship. It will be going on NYB.

I have also included a photo of a sanded-and-polished Stronglight A9. Ugh, I just can't stand the look of anodizing. It's awful. I tried the Easy Off method for this, by the way, and it just turned everything black, and then I had to sand off all of the black crust. Just sanding off the anodizing is the way to go.