After attacking the Marin Headlands in the morning, we cruise into the city, grab a coffee with our Wilier ambassadors Matthew and Chelsea and promise to meet up tomorrow for a ride around the vineyards of Napa. Meanwhile, Chris and I head into downtown San Francisco. And what better way to discover this ever-changing city than on Chris’ Cento10AIR Disc Ramato.
Words/Images: James Startt
It’s easy to take this city for granted, because its many monuments are as distinctive as Big Ben in London or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s only when you immerse yourself in the city’s center, with its ruggedly steep streets, plummeting descents, cable cars and trolleys, not to mention the layers of telephone and electrical lines, that you get a real sense of the town. And then of course there is the rich array of neighborhoods compressed together in the city center. Suddenly, there’s that moment of realization when we understand that we’ve stumbled into the perfect playground for Chris’ Cento.
“Riding in the city is kind of like racing a criterium,” Chris says. “You’ve got to watch for the move, with the lights always changing, and you’ve got to hit it, otherwise you’ll miss the break. Looking for gaps in the traffic and finding holes to move through, you need a sense of awareness of what’s around you while avoiding potholes and pedestrians.”
Chris quickly embraces his newfound role, situated somewhere between crit racer and bike messenger. After a good, hard ride in the Headlands this morning, this ride is all about having fun. He attacks the hills, bombs down the descents with childlike playfulness—darting in and out of the dramatic play of light and shadows created by the California sun, the skyscrapers and the hills. “In some ways these streets are the urban equivalent to the Galibier or Tourmalet climbs,” Chris says. “Those are the most iconic mountains of the cycling world, and the steep streets of SF are the most iconic city streets in the world. What a great place to test this bike!”
People come up and chat with us. Some are quick to remind us that such sunny weather is not a daily staple in a place otherwise known as Fog City. And in fact Mark Twain’s quote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” is cited more than once.
Clearly, we’ve landed on a special day. And as the afternoon light starts to fade we continue our journey, passing from the financial district into more residential neighborhoods and the historic Chinatown. In some ways the mix of Victorian and modern architecture is a perfect match for Wilier’s history. Wilier, after all, was founded in 1906, right when many of San Francisco’s Victorian, bay-windowed houses were being built. And like many of the city’s modern buildings, Wilier is still pushing the boundaries of design and innovation. And then of course there’s the classy Ramato color on Chris’ Cento that laboriously recreates the copper bikes Wilier first made in 1948 and makes a perfect match with the warm winter light descending on the city this day.
Perhaps the most fun, however, comes as we return toward Fisherman’s Wharf, where the traffic revolves around the pace of the timeless streetcars that still run through the heart of the city. For Chris, the temptation soon proves too great and he jumps into racing one down the tracks. With a gentle bell ringing behind him, Chris can only smile.
He is having blast, and clearly is in no hurry to stop. At one point he even pops a wheelie as he rolls past some skateboarders in a downtown park, further proof that this thoroughbred race machine can handle virtually any situation.
At the end of the day, Chris says, “What a great ride! What a great way to experience the city. What a great way to experience the Cento10AIR.”