Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Few Words on Bicycle Repair & Diddling

Hello Everyone! This is Leland and I'm doing a little guest posting. This blog has become less about the Adventures of Anna and Leland and more about the Emotions of Anna in Regards to Cute Animals. So I'm going to talk a little about my recent forays into the world of bicycle repair and diddling.

Like most people my age, I grew up riding bikes of the great age of generic mountain bikes, often referred to as MTBs. I believe it was in the 1980's when the movement started and continued throughout the 1990's. I think most people my age (and their parents) would easily recognize something like this as a very standard bike (this, by the way, is not mine, but something from the interwebs):

And so my life was not all that different and somewhere around the age of 14 I acquired a red Schwinn Clear Creek mountain bike. It served well enough for any suburbanite child and lasted into the college years where I found going down the steps in front of Stapleton Library at IUP was a rather enjoyable activity. Though, that really is as far as my adventurousness on a bicycle would go (I'm no daredevil). But in my heart of hearts, I always wanted a road bike. I've always felt that road bikes look like they're moving fast even when they're standing still. Plus, and let's be honest, they're sexy. In fact, for the sexiest bikes around, check out these babies.

Well, life goes on and in the later years of college, bike riding went by the wayside and it wasn't until Anna and I were living with her parents that I pursued the road bike dream. Anna's parents are pretty avid cyclists and Jim had a crusty old machine hanging from the rafters in his garage. After some discussion, we went through the effort of bringing it down and assessing its viability. It turns out this bicycle was bought second-hand by Jim in the 1980's and he rode it until the early-mid 2000's at which point he got himself a shiny new machine. Anyway, he said I was welcome to have it. So I had it. I took it to the local bike shop (a pretty sweet place) and had them do a little sprucing up. I was thrilled and as soon as most of the snow melted, Jim and I hit the trails and had a good time.

I was interested in the history of the bike and did some checking out. Though I haven't nailed down an exact year, it is a late 1970's Lotus Excelle, of Japanese origins. Originally built as a racing bike, it certainly seems outdated compared to modern speedsters the likes of which the Manx Missile rides:

Anyway, as close as I can tell, my Lotus originally looked a little bit like the following. Unfortunately, I never took any pictures of it before I started tinkering, so I have to show another internet-begotten picture:

Those of you out there interested enough, my Lotus has a sweet set of components. It's got Shimano 600 series downtube friction shifters and derailleurs, 500 series brakes, a sweet crank, chainrings, and cassette. Well, all of that was a great bike, but it needed some care and I was in the mood for tinkering.....and badness ensued. After moving here to flat eastern North Carolina, I noticed that I rarely shifted gears and so it occurred to me that turning it into a single speed was a very real option. So I went about doing this and it proved very difficult, challenging and ultimately a pretty rewarding and interesting experience. Here's a few shots of my makeshift bike shop. Wine always helps:

So just this morning I finally finished the transformation and I'm very excited to use it. I striped off the old paint and repainted it white; removed the rear brake; shortened and flipped the handlebars; added classic cork handlebar tape (in Bianchi celeste blue!); repositioned the front brake; and the most struggling of all, redid the chainrings and cassette to make a single speed. The Lotus has vertical dropouts, so the rear wheel is incapable of being moved horizontally. This is opposed to the horizontal dropouts that most purpose-built single speeds employ in order to obtain proper chain tension. Since I did not have this luxury, there was much messing with different gear ratios, chain lengths, swearing and throwing. Finally, Jim suggested that I file the dropouts a bit to the rear in order to gain the proper distance between chainrings and cassette. What do you know, it worked! Worked beautifully. So, I present to you the new Lotus, loving christened Indefatigable (in honor of the Royal Navy frigate and the fact that this bike just keeps going):

I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out. It certainly could have been better, and it could have been a little more professional. But this was my first attempt, and I don't think things turned out too badly. I will use Indy as a runabout/commuter type of deal that I'll use mostly for going back and forth to school. This brings me to my next project, the aforementioned Schwinn. She will become, what I hope, a touring bike. I've taken every single piece apart from this guy and am in the process of stripping the paint. It's not too hard of a task, but time consuming. This project will also be one of length because it will be more costly than the Lotus. But, the steel frame is a great start. Once I'm done, it will look mostly like a road bike, but have little larger tires and be capable of carrying me and my gear as I drink my way through Belgium (muhahahaha!). I've got the new handle bar and will slowly bring this guy back to life. Here's a shot of the not-yet-totally-stipped-of-paint frame:

I hopefully will have the constitution to kept everyone updated as this project continues.

Which, brings me to my next project. The Miyata. This beautiful bike I acquired FREE OF CHARGE from my department at ECU. It had been in the basement literally for decades and a professor knowledgeable of my interests suggested I ask the director (who just happens to be the father of the owner of the bike shop I frequent) if I could have it. Well, things went swimmingly and I now am the owner of what I think is an early 1980's Japanese made Miyata. My plan for this bike to do as minimal sprucing up as possible, mostly cleaning and replacing a few bits like cables, breaks and maybe a new set of ergonomic handlebars and turn this thing into my distance bike. I'm really excited about this one because it doesn't seem like it will take a lot to fix it up. It certainly needs help, but even if it only lasts for a few years, it was free! Check it out:

I love the smell of Chromoly in the morning!

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