Any punter of the peloton serious about crunching the cranks has a view to share on their preferred drivetrain. The act of efficiently converting human movement into torque and speed might well be considered a feat of modern engineering but in my bunch, The Old Cranks, science quickly gives way to emotion when the topic arises over a post-ride latté.
You see, our loyalty to a groupset is a little bit like V8 Supercars. You can open up the competition to other manufacturers but when push comes to shove, everyone knows there are only two contenders that punters care about: Campagnolo and Shimano.
My rival randonneur, Miguelito ‘El Dingo Loco’ de Pared, is a dyed-in-the-wool Campo fan. I doubt he’s been to Norton Street let alone Naples, but he appears to have a romantic attachment to his Italian components. Never mind that Miguelito once dropped a single bolt from his chainring that resulted in his Orbea being off the road for six months.
“No problem,” he exclaimed in response to the quote of 375 dollars plus labour. “Ad ogni pazzo piace il suon del suo sonaglio.” The Italian he picked-up from his high school language teacher was rusty, but loosely translated as ‘every fool is pleased with his own folly’.
My own position in this tribal conflict is unambiguous. I’m unashamedly ‘old school Shimano’. I say “old school” for the simple reason that I fundamentally reject any new-fangled electronic gadget that requires a laptop and the latest iPhone app just to get your bici out of the shed.
If you can’t fix it with an allen key, a screw driver or a pair of pliers, then it ain’t worth fixin’.
But I didn’t come to my Shimano decision easily. In the end, there were two deciding factors: the legacy of our former PM Paul Keating, and a deep love of fishing.
No other Australian has done more for cycling in the Asia-Pacific than our 24th Prime Minister, Paul John Keating. Crowned the “Lizard of Oz” by the British press for placing his hand against the small of the Queen’s back and informing her that our love affair with the Raleigh bicycle company was officially over, Keating was a velo-visionary who knew that the geopolitical future of Australian cycling was to be found in Asia.
As Treasurer, Keating sold off the airlines and banks to raise cash for the Australian Institute of Sport’s Road Cycling program which he launched in 1990. He also initiated the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to ensure that Australia could negotiate fair trade arrangements for Hillbrick bicycles in a global economy dominated by the Asian Tiger of Giant.
As our Prime Minister in ’93, the Lizard called the Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad a “recalcitrant” for opposing the proposed Tour de Langkawi, which eventually kicked off in 1996 and has since grown into a full-blown, top-notch tour of the Malaysian peninsula. During his final year in the Lodge, Keating even hired a young Stuart O’Grady as a staffer to start work on their shared dream of a ‘Tour Down Under’.
Sure, Paul loved the work of the late-Romantic Austrian composer Gustav Mahler and wore suits from the Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, but he was a Shimano man through and through who deep down wanted nothing more than a world class velodrome for the people of Bankstown.
The other influential factor in my decision making process came to me as I reeled in a mullet while fishing from the banks of the Nepean River at Penrith. I’m generally a secular kind of guy, but it is fair to say that the ratcheting sound of my Shimano spool triggered something akin to a religious experience. Never before had my love of two apparently disparate pastimes suddenly felt so divine.
I was genuinely lost for words until I discovered the English version of Shimano’s mission statement on their Japanese website: “People know the joy of contacting their hearts to the breathing of nature. We at Shimano have been providing attractive products with a focus on cycling and fishing, the most popular outdoor sports. Wind touching the skin, sunlight streaming through the trees and wave patterns covering the water excite the hearts of people. We are aiming to become a company to create excitements among people”.
It said everything I felt in that moment. It was like I suddenly understood Haiku and Zen, and manga comics.
Of course, the Schleck brothers long ago discovered the joy of combining bicycling and angling. As budding outdoorsman, once a year Andy and Frank make the 250-mile trek north from Luxembourg to fulfil their responsibilities as patrons of the Amsterdam Water Authority’s ‘Bicycle Fishing’ operations. The Authority has the year-round job of fishing out up to 15,000 abandoned bicycles from the city’s canals and waterways, no doubt discarded by Amsterdamians dead keen to purchase the next big thing in cycling or just ripped on chocolate chip cookies.
And when the demands of charity and pro-cycling become too much, their old man Johnny motor-paces the lads out to a hideaway beyond the Luxembourg City limits where they dust off their trusty rods, whack a worm on the hook and cast a line for carp. If you’re not one of the 48,000-plus punters to have watched the youtube clip ‘Schleck brothers fishing’, get onto it! Be inspired. At no time do Andy or Frank show the slightest inhibition about fishing in lycra.