Monday, May 23, 2016

The Road Warrior Ramble

Just when I thought our favorite brewery couldn't get any better, it went and started hosting some Sunday rides. Weekends are pretty busy for us, and I'm coming off a particularly busy season at the office so really all I want to do on my days off are laundry, grocery shopping and be with our kids.

Apparently I've done that every weekend for months because Cody conspired with Miranda, his sister, to get me out of the house "because I never do anything."

I'm so glad I went. I met up with Miranda at the brewery with just enough time to have a beer (a super nice guy put the first $100 on his tab so we got a couple for free!) and hit the road. We opted for the 10-miler since she was recovering from a couple of longer rides and I haven't been on my bike in forever. It was a beautiful day, a friendly crowd, a leisurely pace and an all-around excellent experience. I'll do it again, no arm twisting necessary.

Friday, May 20, 2016

STRAVA Labs Heatmap is Cool

STRAVA Labs has created a global heatmap using data from users' bike and running routes. Pretty rad. The global map shows some pretty interesting things. It's no surprise that Europe has a much greater concentration of cycling routes. I didn't know Sao Paulo was such a hotbed of cycling activity. And how about Puerto Rico being lit up? It's also a little striking to see all of the active cycling routes in Japan and South Korea set against the nothingness of North Korea, though there's no surprise there. Of course I had to include a zoomed in view of Springfield, MO - shown in the bottom image.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Panasonic Touring Deluxe: A Blank Slate

I've never really built a bike up from a frame before. Sure, I generally strip each of my project bikes down to the frame when I start a rebuild. But I normally try to reuse as many of the original parts as possible, so I work within those boundaries and thus don't take too many liberties with the aesthetics of the bicycle beyond a saddle upgrade and grip or bar tape color. In the case of my Panasonic Touring Deluxe project, though, I'm starting with only a frame and a fork. It's basically a blank slate, and I'm free to be creative with how I build it up.

With that said, I plan to piece the machine together with a mix of original components - specifically for the drivetrain - and new or non-original parts. I've already picked up the Shimano Light Action groupset that came stock on the 1986 Touring Deluxe, and I plan to hunt down the matching Light Action downtube shifters. While I'm not as concerned about the make and model of the cockpit parts, I would like to retain the original look of the bike with a simple gooseneck quill stem and randonneur bars. Probably the coolest parts of the original bike were the Shimano drillum brake levers, so I'd like to find a set for this project.

I've been agonizing over what to do about wheels. Initially, I wanted to use this project as an opportunity to build my first set of wheels. But I also like the idea of fixing up an old wheelset that is from the approximate vintage of the bike. I think I've found a compromise - lacing new touring rims to a set of used vintage hubs. And in the hopes that I can pull it off, I picked up a brand new set of 700C Velocity Dyad 36-hole touring rims over the weekend. Eventually, I'm planning to pick up a pair of serviceable used hubs from my LBS to lace them to.

Regarding aesthetics, I plan to go with unpainted aluminum with most - if not all - of the components on the Touring Deluxe. With the dark red of the frame and the white lettering of the decals, nearly any color scheme will look great on the bike. Certainly a black saddle and black bars would look nice, similar to this Miyata 615. But I also really like the way this Maruishi looks with the dark aged Brooks leather of the saddle and the bar wrap. Then I ran across this handsome specimen - an identical year and model as mine. I don't much care for the green cloth-looking wrap on the bars, but the lighter color brown saddle looks very attractive. With this in mind, I'm thinking I'll go with an even lighter shade for the leather that will really pop against the dark red of the frame; perhaps a honey color Brooks. Not sure about bar tape, as I'd like to see the rest of the bike built up before I make that decision.

This is going to be a fun project, but I'm planning to take my time and do it right. Look for good deals on parts to keep my project costs low, while also paying particular attention to the quality of the components that I add to the bike and level of craftsmanship that I devote to it. After all, I plan to put some serious mileage on this bike and I want it to require as little maintenance - especially field maintenance - as possible.

Monday, May 9, 2016

New Project: 1986 Panasonic Touring Deluxe

Since RAGBRAI last summer, I've been on the lookout for a touring rig. What can I say? Spending days out on the road appealed to me, and I'm hoping to do more of it. While my Peugeot PH-10 could probably do the job as a light tourer, it's not really meant for that kind of duty. Indeed, the frame geometry is pretty compact, it doesn't have front-side eyelets on the fork for a front rack, and it only has one set of mounts for a bottle cage. Plus, I've built up the bike as a commuter, so to tackle longer rides, I've started swapping out pedals and using cleats, which reduces my leg extension. Then I have to slightly raise my saddle when I use my clipless pedals. It just ends up being a pain, so I decided the best (and most fun) course of action would be to build up a proper touring bike.

I picked up this Panasonic Touring Deluxe frame on eBay for a decent price. It came with the original fork and headset and a non-original Takagi triple crankset. The frame is constructed of double-butted Tange 1000 chromoly and the fork is Tange Mangaloy 2001. They're perhaps a bit on the heavy side, but are certainly fine materials. The frame and fork are in beautiful condition, with only light signs of wear, aside from some denting and scuffed paint on the chainstays where a previous owner had bolted on and over-tightened a kickstand clamp. Shouldn't be a problem to buff out any rust spots and touch up the paint, though. According to the 1986 Panasonic catalog, the frame color is Canyon Red, and it's a really good-looking deep maroon. But what I really love about the frame are the decals, which are a sparkling white that really pop in the sunlight.

The machine has double eyelets both front and rear for fenders and racks. It also has two sets of bottle cage mounts. The relaxed geometry with long wheelbase is ideal for touring, so it really is a true touring bike. Probably not the best for heavy touring duty, but it should handle light to medium loads without too much trouble. The old Panasonics are well-regarded and are, by all accounts, solid hand-built rigs that have become sought after in some circles. I'm looking forward to getting started on rebuilding this bike, and then spending many years riding it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The GT Outpost Gets (Another) New Life

It took some work to get the old GT Outpost into decent condition after being neglected for so long. Once the bike was undressed down to the frame, the components and frame were cleaned thoroughly with soap and water. After that, I attacked any spots of rust with the polishing wheel. The front derailleur and the original crankset were too far gone, so they ended up in the trash. And I figured this was the time to go ahead and replace the old, beat up rear derailleur as well. KC was kind enough to give me a spare Shimano STX RC rear derailleur and a Shimano XTR crankset, and I picked up a Shimano STX front derailleur from Queen City Cycles. Once everything was cleaned up, I bolted the components back onto the bike. Then I slapped a new chain on the drivetrain, ran new cables and housing, and dialed everything in.

I've developed a new-found respect for this bike as I worked on it over the past couple weeks. The triple triangle frame made with 4130 chromoly is pretty much bulletproof. It also has double eyelets both front and rear, so it's ready to handle loaded all-terrain touring. Many miles on the Katy Trail have shown that it rides beautifully on longer trips. And my best attempts at attacking single track have shown that it's highly versatile. While I don't ride it as often as I should, I hope to keep this machine around for many more years.