Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A New Obsession - Vintage Touring bikes

1986 Schwinn Passage

I swear sometimes I am worse than a Storm Trooper looking for droids with how easily influenced I am.  I stumbled across the excellent blog  -The Simplicity of Vintage Bicycles a while back and Josh has refurbished some very nice mid 1980's Touring bicycles there and it got me thinking about how nice it would be to come across one to refurb.  This era is considered the Golden age of Touring bicycles and I am not the only one with an interest.  Just trying finding a legendary Miyata 1000 for sale south of $1000 bucks.

1984 Centurion Elite GT
 Not long after this thought popped into my head I started "causally" looking on CL and came across a 1984 Centurion Elite GT.  Oddly the one on CL had the reverse colors of the example above -light body dark head tube- and some issues like; no wheel-set, partially disassembled (the bike was in pieces) and a relatively high price for all that IMHO.  Usually a lack of wheels isn't too big of a deal but mid 80's touring bikes had a 40 spoke rear wheel and those don't grow on trees, and I was also concerned that with a disassembled bike I would find out that some key piece (washer, spring, bolt etc.) was missing when it was too late.  I sent in a low-ball offer, after it had been up for a week, which I had never done before, which only ended up insulting rather than interesting the seller.  Oh well.

1986 Raleigh Alyeska
I even did a bit of Ebay trolling and found a very nice Raleigh Alyeska from that era in my size, but the price, nearly $400, and the color scheme -bordeaux and rose - doesn't do alot for me.   And if I am honest part of the fun is finding a deal and something that makes the heart race a bit and spending 4 bills for something that leaves me a bit Meh doesn't seem wise.

1986 Panasonic Pro Touring 
When looking at the interwebs I also came across the bike packing blog where someone with a similar obsession and alot more money turned the musty slightly rusty Panasonic Pro Touring pictured above into the sweet Rando machine pictured below.
Panasonic reborn
I guess what is truly frustrating about this experience is that I was so close I could taste it, to the point of making an Amazon wish list - yeah I know.  The bike at the top of the page is a 1986 Schwinn Passage, made only in that year and kind of a little brother to the slightly higher zoot Schwinn Voyageur.   I was trolling CL on Sunday morning and without actually looking for Touring bikes I came across a Passage for $80, it was pretty obvious from the listing they didn't really know what they had and in my brief amount of searching I knew this was a deal.
Web shot similar to the CL listing

So I texted at 10 am, crickets, at 5:30 pm I get a text back saying they've been out but their back and still have the bike if I want to see it, but they don't give me an address (really?!), I immediately text back saying yes I can come can they send me the address?....nothing finally at 8:30 pm I text again that I am still interested and I don't work too far from the city listed on the CL post and can I come by after work, can they send me an address and a good time to come by? nothing. The next day the post is removed, I suspect someone called them and offered more than $80 for it.  Sigh.  It is the way these things go sometimes.  I did happen to see another in my area in my size but I can see some changes have been made to it and its more than I really want to pay.   And further looking I do find touring bikes of that correct vintage but they all fall into one of 3 buckets: too small, too big, too expensive.  I realize what I want is something a bit tatty, mostly original and for a reasonable price that I can bring back to life.  

VO Campeur

If I truly wanted to tour I could buy and build up a very nice VO Campeur frame, and maybe I will someday but that's not what this is about.  For that matter my Handsome Devil could be built up as a very capable tourer and in one of its iterations it even sported a Sugino triple crank.  But no, this is about the same chapter- lust for vintage lugged bicycles, different verse- Touring bikes.  Maybe if I stop obsessing one will pop up when I least expect it?  Hmm...wonder whats on CL down in Portland?

Until next time Ride.Smile.Repeat and try not to obsess....

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Errands, and vacation bikes

Since I can't seem to get started cleaning the parts for the Gitane TdF so I can list them on the Ebay, so I can ship them, I thought I would work backwards and get the flat rate packages from the Post Office. And I thought that;  hmmm the post office is only 2 blocks further than the Farmers Market- I could ride my bike.  And then I countered that with the thought there is a slight up hill (2% grade) in the last block and its hot out (whine).  I need to say here that we Seattleites are heat wimps, at about 75 degrees we start complaining, at 85 degrees we start melting, at about 95 some of us start spontaneously combusting and god help us if it reaches 100.  Give us 68 straight days of 45 degrees and drizzle - no problem but heat? Nooooo.  Yesterday we had a record high for the day of 95 degrees.  Since it was only in the high 70s mid morning I decided to tough it out ride the damn bike, but I did pack a water bottle.  I determined a couple things on the ride.  I am woefully out of cycle shape , a 2% grade feels like 20%, and my rear tire was a bit low.  There is a difference between low pressure and no pressure, and I was very close to no pressure so I addressed that when I got back.

I recently had a lovely long weekend on Orcas Island, an annual trip I take with my Daughter and dog in August.  I am fortunate to have a friend whose parents were smart enough to buy some land there back in the early 1970s so we get to semi "glamp" each year.


We are fairly close to a marina where the dog and I can hang out in the early morning while the girl snoozes.

rough duty
While we did alot of activities on the Island one of the things I love most is just hanging out; reading and enjoying the quiet, nature, the smell of warm pine trees, and the sense that time has slowed just a bit. And seeing the Milky Way at night and a few shooting stars is pretty cool too.

reading girl

snoozing pup
And while I didn't bring a bike or rent one or ride at all that didn't stop my vintage bike radar from going off occasionally, by the marina I spotted not one but two cool old Bridgestone's.

The Bridgestone XO series is rare and legendary so it was very cool to run across one on Orcas.

And not far away on the dock was a nice Bridgestone road bike an R400.

catalog shot

non drive side

Seat-tube cluster

Until next time. Ride.Smile.Repeat.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dreamin'....Soma San Marcos

Jan 2011 Rivendell HQ

Back in 2008 when I had my "Steel awakening" one of the first places I stumbled across on the Web was the Rivendell cycles website.  And while I was in love with their frames my pocketbook wasn't very willing which is why I bought and built up the more affordable Handsome Devil in 2009.  The fact that I am still riding and loving the Devil 7 years later is a testament to how great that bike has been but the lust for lugs has never really left.

lovely lugs
In January of 2011 I was fortunate to find myself with some time on my hands at the end of a business trip to San Francisco, so I hopped the Bart to Walnut creek and got to see and ride a San Marcos prototype, I recall having a big goofy grin on my face when I got back from the test ride.  And ever since that bike has been in the back of my mind.  Note: although sold by Soma the bike was designed by Grant Peterson of Rivendell cycles- a joint venture.

Then not too long ago when I was visiting the Soma blog I read that although they loved the bike they just didn't sell enough to keep making them.  The version two with the different blue and the "Frenchier" fork with rack braze-ons would be the last of the line.  I had a flashback to when I was thinking of buying my first Steel frame and really liked the Rivendell Bleriot, I hemmed an hawed over the, at that time, odd 650b tire/wheel size and should I spend that much? and by the time I got serious they really weren't available anymore.  Eight years later its happening again with the San Marcos.  I just happened to peek online and there is an ebay reseller, a brick and mortar bike shop, that has a few in stock in my size (54cm) with a single top tube (not a fan of the double) and sized for 650b wheels.

very cool down tube decal

I don't know that I can really justify the cost of the frame let alone the build but its got me thinking.  I have about six bike projects in the queue that I think I can make incremental money on and while not covering the cost of frame the haul would put a dent in the purchase price.  I also have a collection of parts; derailleurs, shifters, saddle,  crankset etc. that would look good on this bike but a new 650b wheel-set and all the other stuff would cost as much as the frame set.  In other words allot of ifs and buts, allot of money to build a bike for a guy who isn't riding much and already has two bikes and yet..

Like a siren calling me onto the rocks- damn its gorgeous! Until next time Ride.Smile.Repeat and dream of lugs.

Addendum:  From the Somafab blog my build if I ever do pull the trigger would look something like this..

Friday, August 5, 2016

Post 100 - how did that happen? and an analysis of a missed opportunity

This is my 100th post since starting this blog at the end of 2012, how did that happen? In honor of this milestone I have posted a shot above of the Shimano Arabesque shifters that came on the Miyata 912 I found for $25 at a garage sale.  The coolest component on any bike I have worked on. Its been fun and I hope I have another 100 posts in me.  Its kind of odd many of the blogs that inspired me have gone dark or at least dormant; Ecovelo, Hugh's bike blog, , Old 10 speed gallery , My Ten Speeds  and some have scaled back Trailer Park Cyclist but I am still plugging away -not smart enough to know when to move on lol.

Montreal express

I also thought I would take you through an opportunity that got away from me.  As you know I have been a bit obsessive about Craigslist lately and one morning as I am checking for new listings -a Peugeot for $15.00 pops up.  Now the 2 pictures were pretty crappy and neither took in the whole bike but I was intrigued by a couple of things:

  • $15 a good place to start, old Mt bikes aren't as popular (yet) as road bikes but unless its total trash I could make a profit starting there
  • Although the photos were crappy I could see what appeared to be a "garage queen" -barely ridden, paint and graphics looked good an ideal rebuild candidate
  • I have been interested in finding a lugged steel MT bike to work on and I think they would make an excellent bullet proof commuter.
  • Based on the catalog description on the internets the Montreal express although near the bottom of the line still had some solid components so it would probably be worth $15 just for the Sugino cranks, Shimano thumb-shifters etc.
So I dropped them an email that morning, no response, I texted, no response.  I wasn't too surprised based on the price my assumption was it went fast but a week later the ad is still there on CL! Again I assume that they are just to lazy to take it down but I email anyway, nada.
$155 on CL
Then I see this ad today on CL, and while I can't say for sure its the same bike based on the fact its in the same neighborhood as the first sale and its the same model and color I am 97.2% sure its the same bike.  The new CL ad has the following description:
  • Peugeot Montreal Express
  • Would make a great commuter or city bike (Yeah!)
  • Nice easy rolling street tires (New tires - nice job)
  • 18 speed gearing (3x6) with new cables and thumb shifters (replacing not just wiping down -nice)
  • Big comfortable seat and a rear rack (the original had a rack)

So they did exactly what I would have done and if they sell it at this price, not unreasonable, that is an easy $50-75 profit after the new parts (not the labor of course) and a clean up. 

I suspect that the seller replaced the original thumb-shifters with the inexpensive SunRace ones pictured, I have used them and they work great, so they could keep or sell the nicer 80's thumb-shifters that came with the bike, and comfort saddles are a dime a dozen.  The new tires are a nice and probably necessary touch, I might have gone with some nicer cruiser pedals rather than the resin ones but that's just nit-picking.

I am guessing the seller got the bike because A) they were checking, B) were in the same neighborhood and C) unlike me could probably go right away rather than after work.  A & B are why I got the Nishiki in the previous post.  It would have been a sweet get but that's the way it goes, chapeau to my fellow old bike refurbisher.

are you mocking me?

Until next time...Ride.Smile.Repeat

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

1974 Nishiki Professional - or what NOT to do

1974 Nishiki Brochure I got the one on the right.. 
If, in the spirit of an election year, I wanted to put a positive spin on things I would tell you I found and purchased a top of the line Nishiki Professional for a pittance, and leave it at that.  That wouldn't be an outright lie but it would leave a lot out.  This is an example, dear readers, of what NOT to do:
  • When you find yourself in a deep hole stop digging!
  • Step away from the computer when you have an itch to "see whats out there"
  • Stop looking at CL daily to see if there are any deals or if that dude with the Centurion Elite GT has come to his senses and dropped his price
  • Stop finding new bike projects, for the love of GOD stop!!!
You see, I am an idiot but you folks have a chance learn from my mistakes so some good can come of this.

my ..um..prize
Some bikes are 40 years old, and some bikes are the equivalent of a 40 year-old heroin addict who looks 60, this bike is one of the later.  The Nishiki looked like it had been ridden to and from school through a gravel quarry.  The seller was very honest in her post and price, she knew it was a project, I knew it was a project but upon closer inspection I should have just said no, but I didn't.  I am a sucker for Vintage Orange bikes and young ladies with a nice smile - so sue me.  Where to start with this derelict?....the bike not me!  How about the dents, yes plural, in the top tube:


and here

I am also fairly sure the red tape was not standard - hate to think what that might be hiding

I am also pretty positive the bar-end shifters were not issued with bailing wire.

and in a stroke of oddness some wit decided to remove the perfectly good Sun Tour V Lux derailleurs this came with and replace them with cheapo plastic Simplex which are of course broken..

the classic cracked Simplex Derlin FD
And rear
half a cage and a bag O' parts
I did bargain her down on this point as there are projects and then there are projects with broken derailleurs.  The rear derailleur could actually be a fun resurrection project on a rainy gloomy afternoon, the jockey wheels are intact  and I have another Simplex rear derailleur body I could cannibalize  if need be.

Its too bad about the frame if not for the dents in the TT it would be worth it to strip, repaint and rebadge, but I think its destined for life as a junk bike stealth commuter like the 1983 Raleigh Record I curbside rescued in May.  And although I should have taken a pass this bike does have some value and enough so that I can probably break even if I wanted to.  It has a top of the line Dia-Compe Grand Compe alloy forged Stem with original bolt cap;

and the grand prize a Sugino Maxy cotterless crank with caps;

And I suspect there is a Sugino bottom bracket hiding behind those cranks.  

So heed this lesson friends unless you are looking for a winter commuter and have lots of spare parts lying around avoid bikes in this shape and stay off CL! 

Do love the Headbadge
Until next time... Ride.Smile.Repeat.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

1975 Gitane Tour de France Part II -the breakdown

back on the rack
I have acquired enough bike specific tools that I rarely need to run to my LBS, heck I can even tackle cotttered cranks but as I mentioned in the last post this Gitane has a Stronglight Crank and it requires a special crank puller to remove, and add to that the you need either a special tool or very thin walled socket to get the cranks bolts out and its time to head to the local bike shop.

Soma Grand Randonneur

Some modern shops don't want to be bothered with working  on a bike if its over about 5 years old, but I am fortunate to have a number of shops locally that deal with both Steel bikes and the old stuff, so I was fairly certain one of them would have the correct puller.   My faith paid off and Alki bike and board, only 2 miles away, took care of me for $15.  That was about a quarter of what buying the tool would cost and I don't expect to run into another Stronglight anytime soon.  With the crank job done I could take of the rest myself, although I did pause to look around the shop while I was there as the pictures above-Soma -and below- Motobecane- attest.  I have had my eye on the Soma for a while, they are now on to a version 2 of this frame- a nice white with red accents, I have even gone so far as to mock up a build spreadsheet but to be honest I couldn't ride 5 miles of a Rando event without needing a break right now so I think its more about dreaming and hunting parts and doing the build than the actually riding.  As for the MB I didn't see a model name but going by the Campy hubs and derailleurs, Stronglight cranks etc. I would say it was a Grand Jubilee or above.

Motobecane Grand Jubilee(?)
So back home I got to wrenching and began stripping parts off the bike to get it down to the frame and to have the parts off so they could be cleaned, the seat-post and stem will go back on after a clean and new grease but the rest will either be sold or used on other builds.

table full of parts
As discussed last time I think there are some parts that will bring value on ebay;

Mafac "competition" brakes and levers.

Stronglight crankset with bolts and end caps.

Huret Jubilee rear derailleur and shifters.

I still need to remove the front brake cable guide to include with the sale of the Mafac brakes and then it will be time to get to cleaning and listing.  If I got ambitious I might even remove the whole headset so I can see what date is on the fork steer tube and have a positive ID on the year of manufacture.

Until next time. Ride.Smile.Repeat.