Straight Block


Every Roadie remembers their first club ride. We didn’t know how to ride in a pack, we wore the wrong clothes, we said the wrong things, we rode the wrong gear. We were nervous, even dangerous. But something about riding kept us coming back for more.

I remember my indoctrination into the Roadie Tribe. I show up at the Wednesday Night Club Ride on my Sears Free Spirit. A tank of a bike. Mike was there with his Windsor Pro, Ty on his Raleigh Team Pro and George was showing off his new Klein. They all had tubular tires, Campagnolo components and Cinelli stems. In my eyes it was all beautiful jewelry. What amazed me the most were their tiny freewheels. They were all running 13x17s and 14x18s. They HAD to be strong. My 14×28 tooth was gearing for wimps.

We do the 25-mile loop and ride it hard. I’m nervous as all heck but they gave me some pointers that day. Somehow I managed not to get dropped on the hills. I was hooked.

A year later when I had saved up enough money I put together my first real road bike. It was a Fuji Finest frame with mostly Sun Tour components. I built the wheels, installed the components, glued on the Hutchinson Super Sprints onto the Fiamme Red Label rims, and wrapped the bars with Tressostar cloth tape. I screwed on a 14×18 tooth Sun Tour Pro Compe freewheel. I was proud of my new bike.

On the next ride, after showing my new ride to the others, one of them quipped “I have a 13×17 tooth on the back. It’s bigger gearing than yours”. Being one-upped on gearing was an affront to my pride, my masculinity. I had to get even. But how? I could’ve dropped this bozo anytime I liked. He was too lazy to put the training miles in. That wasn’t the point. My new bike didn’t pass muster by the tribe. I wanted to be accepted. I couldn’t afford Campy. What was I to do?

I’m back at the shop building a custom freewheel for a customer when an epiphany hits me. I’ll build a true straight-block. After a little experimentation I cobble together a Dura Ace freewheel with 16-16-16-16-16 tooth gearing. I thread it on for the next Wednesday Night ride. It wasn’t until we’re climbing the Rose Garden Hill when someone notices my new freewheel. Being that I don’t have an option to shift down I throw everything I got into an attack. I drop all and arrive at the top with a huge gap.

I took the Dura Ace freewheel off that day. No one ever again fucked with me on a club ride. I was now a badass, bona-fida member of the tribe.