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Thursday, February 9, 2017

The End of the Line

Last weekend saw another bout of unseasonably warm temperatures. That made for a pretty good excuse to get out for a quick ride. I jumped on the Panasonic and set out for the Galloway Trail at around noon on Sunday. Temperatures were hovering in the mid-60s with very little wind and it was perfect riding weather. The Galloway Trail is undergoing some repairs where it crosses under the Highway 60, so rode the trail until I hit the end of the line. Then I returned the way I had come. Without the full Galloway circuit, the ride ended up being a bit shorter than expected. But I was able to fit a little over 16 miles into an early February afternoon. By the way, the average high temperature in early February in Springfield is in the 40s. So even a short ride in the wonderfully mild weather was quite a treat.

As I write this, temperatures are in the mid-20s and dropping. Sixty degrees and sunny sounds pretty damn nice.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Versatility of Early Era Mountain Bikes

I'm loving this 1987 Schwinn High Sierra restoration project from Josh Capps over at The Simplicity of Vintage Bicycles. I would call this a very light resto-mod, turning an all-terrain machine into a neighborhood grocery carrier, but clearly maintaining the look and feel of the original bike. I mean, he kept the damn thumb-shifters for God's sake!

But look closely and you'll see some pretty neat updates. The Bullmoose handlebars are probably the most jarring change; they're pretty eye-catching and quite distinct. But don't overlook the Brooks Cambium C17 saddle, which is a relatively new non-leather addition to the Brooks product line. It looks right at home on the High Sierra - so much so that I almost missed it at first glance.

I must admit I've been considering a project much like this. I obviously have a fondness for old GT mountain bikes, but vintage Treks and Bridgestones do it for me as well. With a few modifications here and there, one of these machines would make a fantastic (and essentially bomb-proof) urban assault bike. Now I just need to find the perfect donor bike/frame...

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Snowy Thursday Commute

It's been the better part of 8 months since I revamped my GT Outpost. After its face-lift, I promptly hung it from the ceiling of the shop, all shiny and newly beautified, and haven't touched it since. Pretty sad, but I just haven't had much of an opportunity to ride it. My Peugeot Course is my daily commuter and my Panasonic Touring Deluxe has now become by weekend ride. And so my old mountain bike sat neglected in the garage. That is, until yesterday.

A couple inches of snow fell yesterday morning and, with the streets covered, I decided that a mountain bike would be my best option for a powdery morning commute. I pulled my GT Outpost down out of storage, bolted pedals onto the cranks, and set off for work. A block or so down the road, I shifted onto the big chainring and nearly immediately noticed the chain jumping - especially when I mashed down on the pedals to pick up speed. When I arrived at work, I quickly discovered the problem: the bottom bracket spindle was loose inside the housing and wobbling pretty badly.

When I got home that evening, I pulled the bottom bracket out and replaced it with a used one I had stowed away in the shop. The cranks are spinning nicely now. Turns out the rebuilt Truvativ bottom bracket that I installed on the bike in April was a piece of shit. So I replaced it with a cheap Shimano that I've had for years and simply refuses to die.

Despite the mechanical problems, it wasn't a bad commute. Since the snow was still fresh and not too deep, I got plenty of grip with the 2.0 inch Bontrager knobbies that are on my mountain bike. I meandered over to the Jordan Valley Greenway and took the trail for about half my trip, which gave me a nice respite from riding in traffic in poor road conditions. It didn't take me much longer than usual to make the trip from home to work, even with a short stop on the Greenway to snap some pictures. Not too bad for a frigid snowy Thursday morning.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Riding on December 26th?

I travel a short daily commute to work by bicycle. I ride year-round as long as the streets aren't too slick (a lesson I have to learn the hard way every few years). However, my recreational rides grind to a halt during the winter months. While I'm fine riding to work bundled up in street clothes, I don't have much winter cycling gear for longer recreational rides - boots or shoe covers, warm base layers, wind-resistant gloves, etc.

This year, however, afforded an unusual opportunity to get on my bicycle over the Christmas break. Temperatures on Christmas day in southern Missouri broke well into the mid-60s. But wet weather and a busy schedule kept me from even considering the notion of a bike ride. Things dried out a bit the next day, though. And while it wasn't quite as warm on the 26th, the weather wasn't bad. So I decided to squeeze in a quick ride around town. When I left the house at around 3:00pm, temperatures were just beginning to drop out of the 50s and the sun was warm and bright. I hit the road carrying nothing but my wallet and phone, and wore nothing more insulating than a short sleeved jersey and cycling shorts.

I rode from the central core of Springfield south down Fremont, then made my way over to the South Creek Greenway. I took the greenway through Nathanael Greene park and then hopped off on the connector to get over to the Wilson Creek Greenway trailhead. But instead of heading southwest on the Wilson Creek Greenway, I got a little turned around and ended up going north on the new Rutledge Wilson Greenway. Dodging cow patties as I made my way through the farm was a bit hairy, but other than the bruising my ego a bit that I had gotten lost, it was a perfectly fine accident. I realized my mistake pretty quickly and just decided to go with it. In all, I ended up riding around 25 miles.

It was cooling off enough on the home stretch of my return trip that my hands started to stiffen up but I was otherwise pretty comfortable. Especially for a 2 hour ride in shorts the day after Christmas.

It's also worth noting that the pictures featured on this post were taken using my new Google Pixel. The camera on the phone is fantastic, especially compared to the old Samsung Galaxy S3 that had been my faithful companion for the past 4+ years. The Pixel shoots with great, vivid color balance and nice sharp detail...I just wish the photographer had more talent. Pretty excited about the upgrade, though.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Built For The Long Haul: 1986 Panasonic Touring Deluxe

For nearly 5 months now, I've been working on building up a 1986 Panasonic Touring Deluxe frame. I could've pretty easily done it in half that time, if not less. But I had no budget for this project, so much of the delay in getting the bike built was due to continuously searching for steep discounts on components and parts. This project was also a bit of an oddity. It's a vintage bike and I wanted to stay true to its origins. But it's also a machine I wanted to reliably put thousands of miles on. For this reason, I struck a balance between new and old - seeking out used, vintage-era components when I felt that newer parts weren't needed, and bolting on brand new parts when I needed the advantage of a modern component.

So this was not a restoration project. Think of it more as a resto-mod. Whatever it is, this is my personal tourer and I can't wait to start cranking out some mileage on it.

The Frame: In a previous post, I discussed details of the frame, so I won't rehash those. Before I started buying parts for this build, though, I wanted the frame to be in top condition. I picked up some automotive touch-up paint from my local auto supply store and hit the more worrisome spots on the chainstays and fork with a couple coats. Once it had been touched up, I hosed down the inner surfaces of the tubing with Frame Saver. Then I used a polishing wax to clean it up and make the paint shine, followed by a coat of hard shell wax to protect the paint and minimize further oxidation in the areas where the paint was chipped or scratched.

The Drivetrain: The front and rear derailleurs are period-correct Shimano Light Action derailleurs (FD-Z204 and RD-L523, respectively). They're controlled by a set of clamp-mount Shimano L412 Light Action downtube shifters. A Shimano TZ20 6-speed freewheel, Hyperglide chain, and UN26 bottom bracket round out the Shimano-heavy drivetrain. The whole thing is pushed by a Takagi crankset. I don't know much about this crankset, as it came with the frame when I bought it. What I do know is that it's not original to the bike. However, it's in very good condition and a perfectly serviceable crank. I may someday replace it with something closer to original, but as for now it will do nicely.

The Brakes: As I discussed in a previous post, I had some issues finding suitable brakes for this build. Stopping power is provided by a beautiful set of Shimano 600 EX BL-6208 brake levers that I picked up on eBay and Shimano Altus CT91 cantilever brakes. While the CT91s don't quite have the vintage look of brakes like the Tektro CR720s or the Paul Neo-Retros, they're decent brakes that can be purchased for shockingly low prices, so I'm sufficiently satisfied with the end result.

The Wheels: This was one of my favorite parts of this project: building wheels. These particular wheels are a creation of my own design. I picked up a pair of vintage Shimano 105 HB-1050 front and rear 36-hole hubs that match the OLD on the old Panasonic frame for a great price from my LBS. I laced them to a set of brand-new Velocity Dyad 700c touring rims using DT Swiss Champion 2.0mm straight-gauge spokes. After all, it's a heavy duty bike that deserves heavy duty wheels. These fully custom, hand-built wheels are the ultimate in old-meets-new for the purpose of maintaining a vintage look - as well as compatibility - while maintaining maximum performance. Not so different from the rest of the machine!

The Accessories: In typical touring style, the saddle is a honey color Brooks B17 saddle, with matching honey color Brooks Microfiber bar tape. The tires are Schwalbe Marathons in a 700x32c size, and I'm currently using Shimano A530 pedals. I topped the whole thing off with a Racktime Add-It rear rack and a set of Jenson stainless bottle cages that give the bike a nice vintage - and slightly wonky - flair.