Two weeks ago (12/17/2011) I picked up my new RIH at the Westerstraat together with my dad. The store was busy, as mr. Van der Kaaij. Though, always prepared to have a little chat with my dad as they share almost the same age (Mr Van der Kaaij is 75 years old) and some memories. My father mentioned that this bike would propably be the best bike he ever had build, but mr. Van der Kaaij shrugged his shoulders and said, 'tomorrow I'll build again the best bike, but indeed we call this a delicious one (een lekkerbekkie)'.
The bike was posted in the showroom and mr Van der Kaaij assured me he could have sold the bike already several times mentioning the phrase of a man saying: 'this is a bike as it should be'. I hadn't seen the bike while it was being build up, so was positive suprised to see the stunning result! The bike looked even better than I expected, probably also due to some special adjustments: At my request mr. Van der Kaaij wrapped the handlebar tape only half while the cable was routed internally, thanks to the special 3TTT 'paris roubaix' handlebar. Also some days before I had a discussion about the crankset. I tried to save 200 euros by using a second hand campagnolo record road crankset with a special 50 tooth outer chainring from TA Specialites. Stupid idea ofcourse, as my bike was made with a track geometry. The result was that the outer chainring had to be installed on the inside of the crank to keep a straight chain line. I asked mr. Van der Kaaij whether he couldn't solve the problem by using a smaller axle.This was even a more stupid idea, since mr Van der Kaaij this already had done. So his response to me was something like: 'you think you understand some of building a bike, but you don't, like so many people who only search for information on the web'. Knowing he was right I kept my mouth shut and decided to buy a new campagnolo record track crankset ;-).
Mr. Van der Kaaij handed the bike to me, and three proud looking man in the store were suddenly quiet for a moment. I lifted my bike over the doorstep and received an impressive knock on my shoulder by mr. Van der Kaaij saying: 'come back for a service appointment after you reach the first 10K kilometers'. I felt myself a little bit ashamed as I knew this wouldn't happen for the first years but I didn't dare to say. So I grapped the bike and started to pedal homewards with my dad. Already during the first meters a guy shouted: 'hey, what a stunning bike, and it's a RIH!'. This was the best moment of the day, as I still keep in mind that nobody, except my bikefriends, ever made a remark on my new BMC Promachine with Campa record, a carbon dream weighting 2/3 of the RIH and with a 1/3 higher price.
During second Christmans day (26 dec) I made a short trip on the new RIH during a 'Rondehoep' (see 'cycling routes' on this site). Though mid Winter, it was a fantastic day to ride a bike. I was always afraid that my 50 x 18 gear was too heavy for solo biking - as I figured out to need a heavy gear in order to train together with my pals - , but it worked perfect. So even with wind coming from the front I was able to have a good rythm, able to pass all other cyclists. I also passed a BMC Promachine, which owner tried to stick to me during 15 minutes, after releasing my back wheel, NICE!
The nature of the RIH is a pure racemachine. It is built steep so you are continuously in the action mode. The handling in turns is perfect, it just turns and you don't need to work with your body. The old quill stem technique and thin handlebar results in a mild feeling which is quite nice compared to the rigidity nowadays of almost all bikes. Ofcourse, due to the higher weight and less stifness it isn't a bike for huge accelaration and camping sprints (specialty of Bart Man, see 'friends' on this site). But for biking for some hours, whether or not with high intensity this RIH is a dream on wheels. I am sure that my RIH and I will have a superb year, being active mostly in spring to train intervals and high power. I hope to see mr. Van der Kaaij from time to rime since I admire his craftmanship and typical Amsterdam communication. But most of all: people, get off your ass and get yourself a steel racer, a this racing tradition needs to be rediscovered!
The Bikemotion 2011 brought a lot of 29'ers, beautiful titanium frames, and E-bikes, but for Stok the most promising product was the Castelli Gabba jersey. A water resistant jersey of nanoflex and windstopper specially designed for rainy and cold days.
The problem of most rain jackets is that you blow up inside by your own heat. But the fact that this jersey was tested and used by the Cervelo test team pushed Stok over the line. Ofcourse we don't have to race in the rain, but if we do we better do it protected and warm. The Gabba seems to be the best thing to do this. It is slim, aerodynamic, it is longer in the back to keep your lower back dry, and with the short sleeves it's not too warm. Obtaining a Gabba was not easy. The production of Castelli seems limited and delivery amazingly slow, but Stok got one, including some nano flex water resistant arm- and kneewarmers.
The first test made clear that the Gabba is warm, but also breaths. One undershirt is most of the time sufficient, and with the knee and arm-warmers the parts that need cover stay warm and more or less dry. The sizes of Castelli are a bit on the small side so you probably need one size bigger than you are used to, or fit another Corsa Rosso shirt to measure your size.
The real test of the Gabba will be probably in spring in some Ardennen-cyclo. Let's see if it was really such a good investment.