Last modified: Monday, June 16th, 2014
I remember a conversation I had with a friend on a ride once where he said, “A good steel road bike just makes sense.” Those words were echoing in my mind when I rode my Pacer today. I have a pretty nice Pacer. It’s actually nice enough that I get comments from time to time about how nice it is. The weird thing about it is when you own a Nice Pacer the kind of comments/compliments you get are along the head-tilted lines of ‘hey bro, those are pretty nice parts to put on a Pacer frame.’ To wit I reply ‘hey bro, you got a stupid face!’ Ok, not really, but I always feel like I then have to start extolling the virtues of this bike, which I do at work all day so it’s the last thing I want to do on my own time, so I’m just going to write a blog about how kick ass the Pacer is right now and move on.
I think bike fit is important. I used to have a job dealing with people who rode bikes for a living and they put in the kind of miles that would burn the average person out to a point where they never even wanted to look at a bike again in no time at all, so fit was important. Arguably, everything else was secondary to the bike ‘fitting’ them.
The parts I have on my Pacer all have a story behind them for one reason or another. When I built it I said to myself, “this is going to be the last road bike I buy. (it probably won’t be the last road bike I buy).” My original plan was to get all the parts I wanted, put them on some sort of place holding frame so I at least had a bike to ride, then order a custom frame from a TBD custom frame builder. I wanted to make sure that I had as much Dura-Ace 7800 stuff as I could possibly get on this bike because in my opinion, 7800 Dura Ace was, for all intents and purposes, the shit. The rest would just be leftover whatever from the parts cave. I built some nice wheels with tubular rims/tires which are no doubt a huge pain in the ass but it’s hard to explain the magic of tubular tires. You have to experience them to understand.
A whole lotta this:
I’ve had the bike for probably about 4 years at this point. It still rides the same as it did on day one and I recently just got a set of 10spd Dura-Ace downtube shifters installed on it. It’s pretty classy and all but the point I’ve been trying to make with all of this is that I’ve kept the frame for 4 years. The whole idea I had behind this bike was to just throw a bunch of nice parts on some ok steel frame then get a custom frame on order ASAP. At the time I wasn’t working for Surly but I had owned several and figured the Pacer was the perfect “ok steel frame,” so that’s what I got. The thing I have realized as I've put more and more miles on the frame is that there’s no reason for the whole custom frame plan because all I’d have the frame builder do is make an exact copy of a 54cm Pacer frame, in some fancy steel of course, and I feel like that would be terribly gauche. For me, the bike just fits, and it’s hard to find that.
An added feature: It's also hard to find in the forest.
We write a lot in our literature about how we don’t make racing bikes and how the Pacer isn’t flashy and is bedecked with nary a bell nor whistle (unless you physically add those later) and all of that jazz but this frame is still a very competent road frame. Ok, it’s not tight criterium geometry, it’s not feather-light, it’s not stiff the way something that’s made out of enormous plastic tubes is stiff, but it’s pretty classic stuff and it won't break if you knock it over in the garage, not to mention that I always feel a lot better after 100 miles on this bike than any other fancy bike I’ve owned. There are production bicycles of the racing variety out there even today that share incredibly similar geometry. Is the Pacer a racer? No, certainly not, although I’d bet my life that it has seen the podium in some backwater Cat5 parking lot race somewhere in the US. I just know it has. And to that person, whose Pacer has led them to such glorious times, I give you an F’n A. F’n A indeed.