Sunday, January 22, 2012


So the 2012 Chicago Winter Bike Swap came and went. While not in the market for anything in particular this year, I went mainly to help my shop-owner friend unload his trailer and to once again experience this prime example of bicycle geekdom. Think: Giant indoor garage sale on a big college basketball court.

So lovely...
I had decided at the last-minute to bring my 1983 Specialized Allez 'restoration' along to see if I could sell it, and also ended up scoring a few bargains along the way. As far as selling my bike was concerned, it seemed that while there were plenty of admiring eyes and inquiring minds about the build and technical specs of the machine, people were a little hesitant to put their admiration in the form of cash money. No worries... this bike is among the few (bike) items I own that I would be "ok" with selling someday, but am always only too happy to see return to its comfortable spot in the laundry room. This was, after all, one of my "dream bikes" while I was in high school many many years ago. One guy went as far as taking my phone number and email on a business card. We'll see if he follows up.

Yes, I lifted this photo
from Mavic's website!
The other nice find (along with a few discounted Clif Bars) was the really clean Mavic 'Helium' wheelset I acquired for $100, to include the like-new, already mounted high-end Continental Grand Prix Force/Attack tires! The tires alone usually go for an easy Benjamin, while the Helium wheelset pretty much started (for better or worse) the trend toward 'boutique' high-end wheels at the tail-end of the 20th century that has continued well into the 21st. I have some fuzzy recollections of Jonathan Vaughters winning some uphill time trial on Mont Ventoux at some point with these wheels, and how they seemed ridiculously expensive even a few years later.

Truth be told, these wheels have always had a particular aesthetic appeal that can't be denied. However, from a pure performance/pragmatic standpoint, the wheelset does have its limitations. Without getting into all sorts of technical specs and jargon here, let's just say that while the Heliums have a decent strength-to-weight ratio and excel as a "climbing wheel," they are perhaps SO light, that they tend not to hold their spinning inertia/momentum as well as a more portly or deep-section rimmed wheel might. The bling-inspired red anodized surfaces sure do look cool though.

Before becoming too emotionally attached to my new lighter-than-air acquisition, it suddenly dawned on me that I could actually try and make a few dollars by running my wheelset over to our shop's sales tent and "flipping" it for around $250. Genius! Surely, some casual cyclist would be only too enthusiastic about dropping some cash on a wheelset that appeared on the scene more than a decade and a half ago..

As it turned out, if such a casual cyclist shopper was out and about this weekend, he/she was not present at this swap meet. So, I am subsequently the proud owner of yet another piece of slightly antiquated bicycle technology. While I have yet to see any reference to the Mavic Heliums as "vintage" anywhere on the interwebs, they are certainly approaching the age whereby overly-sentimental bike blokes like myself start to experience such artifacts as reminiscence catalysts toward what was perhaps, a more glorious, if slightly-more-"epic" era (when WE of course, very much at the height of our powers!).

In the meantime, if anyone's interested, I *might* consider $225 for the wheels... Or not.