Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Phoenix Project - Weights And Measures

I must apologize to readers.  This installment of The Phoenix Project was intended to be about the frame.  Unfortunately, we've experienced some delays in our supply lines.  So I'd like to take this brief interregnum to remedy an omission in the project description.

As a backgrounder, The Phoenix Project is an attempt to find a way ahead for the "sensible cyclist", at least yours truly.  For years, the approach was simple - use old gear from the era before the cycle industry went all crazy carbon and full suspension on us.  Or, if your money to patience ratio warranted, just write a fat honking check to Grant Petersen and let him fix you up.

Those were simple days.

Both of these options have gradually lost their lustre in recent years.  The vintage cycle ecology has been unthinkingly despoiled by invasive craigslist/ebay vulture species, practices such as fixie clear-cutting, phony neo retro "tribute" gear of dubious quality, and assorted claim-jumpers, scalawags, and other varmints.  For its part, Riv has long since slipped the leash and wandered off the rez into studied obscurantism, what with double top tubes, fetishistic head badges, 650b evangelism, and other pointless cycling post-doc theses (although I still secretly pine for a Hilsen...).

The Phoenix Project is an effort to escape this claptrap and construct a bike with a minimum of pose, a maximum of utility and quality, and bucketloads of heart-throbbingly cool kit.  Like any demo project, there will be some excess, but it will be in search of a unifying theme.

Most of this was covered in the original project post.  However, this post failed to provide some terms and definitions by which candidate components can be assessed for acceptance or rejection.  So without further ado, here we go with grading criteria, all scales are 0 through 5, units of each scale discussed below.

Gizmo Lust measures the attractiveness of an item on its ingenious design, quality of execution and physical attraction.  A Rohloff Speedhub has a very high Gizmo Lust rating - while not without flaws, it is cleverly designed, produced with German neurosurgical preciseness, and is really shiny.  Gizmo Lust is measured in units of leathermans and, in my book, the Rohloff gets the maximum of 5 leathermans.

Street Cred measures the proven effectiveness and battle honors of both the item and the company which produces the item.  Sugino XD2 cranksets are an example of an item with a rating of five trench knives on the Street Cred scale.  The XD2 has proven its utility over and over, while Sugino has been duking it out for decades, through times thick and thin.

Tweed Factor indicates the likelihood of an item showing up on a Riv or on a bike with a Riv-curious owner.  It should be noted that this is no indication of the item's main constituency, the item may have a much broader user base and designers who are oblivious to its totemic worship in a parallel universe.  Shimano 105 hubs are a great example of an item with a perfect Tweed Factor score of 5 ponchos.

Phony Accent is a multivariate rating that roughly assesses the form over function ratio.  It awards extra points for the form being a tribute or outright copy of vintage items.  Further points are awarded if the vendor has no discernable connection to the original item and has just recently jumped on the retro bandwagon.  Rather unfairly, even the type of people who buy the item are fair game.

Though I'm a sucker for them, hammered fenders that Rene Herse couldn't tell from the originals rolling out of Taiwanese factories where the paint isn't even dry yet clearly score 5 berets on the Phony Accent scale.

Crimethink measures an item's departure from conventional sensible cycling dogma.  I don't want to give too much away about this project but I do know one thing we won't be doing.  So, bringing, say, carbon handlebars into consideration would clearly result in a Crimethink grade of 5 quislings.

Finally, Lily Gilding indicates the extent to which money is spent on ephemeral qualities of an item when a lesser amount on a similar item would clearly suffice.  I'm happy to report that, while we won't be striving for it, we will relish the occasional item that has a maximum Lily Gilding rating of 5 faberges.

This is enough common language to get us going.  I have to go obsessively check a tracking number, hopefully we'll be ready to go with the frame on the next installment of The Phoenix Project.

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