Monday, August 29, 2016

First Ride(S) Impressions: 1986 Schwinn Passage

Elliott Bay from Alki Point
Yes rides plural, nothing epic both were about two miles each just getting a feel for the Passage and a couple baby steps towards some semblance of fitness.  So here is what I know so far.

Definitely smooth feeling steel and with no racks or stuff its surprisingly light especially as compared to the HD.  I started with approximations for fit borrowed from my Handsome devil; saddle height, distance of saddle from stem etc but its going to need some tweaking to feel as natural as the HD does.  The good news is I am in the ball park I don't think the frame is too big or too small, which would suck,  I just need to keep fiddling with it.  

After the second ride I am fairly convinced I need a Nitto Technomic stem to get the bars higher, right now I get them just about level with the seat but I am used to a more upright position on the HD and the stem on the Passage is maxed out.  I'll need to get a longer reach as when the stem comes up it also comes back and closer.
Those tires seem so skinny! The Passage has 27 x 1 1/4 tires the standard 27" wheel size but I have ridden 700x 47c tires for the last 4 years and its noticeable how much they smooth out the ride especially over the crappy pavement we have in my neighborhood.  Long term some 27 X 1 3/8 tires are in order.  Update: Actually Kenda K40s are on order as I found a deal for $8 bucks and change a piece at bike tires direct.

The front derailleur tends to slip after a while and I believe I have a slack chain, my guess is that the chain has too many links, it was ok in the middle ring  but it felt very "floppy" in the granny ring so I will need to adjust that, and if  I do I may also replace the free wheel.  I have a wider range IRD 6 speed (14-32) that I think should work -of course you start to peel away a layer and you find more and more.
I noticed a slight rub from the front wheel so it either needs to be trued or the brakes need adjusting which could prove interesting.  I did some web searching for adjustment info on Dia Compe 960 Cantis and didn't really find anything expect a ton of ebay listings.  I am going to try the stock option first but I do have my eye on some Tektro 720's that I think wouldn't look out of place on this bike, are reasonably priced and have greater adjustment options.  We'll see.

I am not sure the WTB saddle is going to be... um ample enough for my "luggage" and I do have a nice Brooks Imperial sitting on a bike thats getting no use right now so that might be a change too.

Ample coverage

After the second ride I am not sure I am in love with the stock SR SP-250 alloy semi-platform pedals, they are probably great with toe clips but I am not going that way just yet and in the interim I might try out some MKS Sneaker pedals for a better platform for my foot.

Minor wishes; I would like a bell for safety as much as anything and I usually avoid bike paths because even though they are multi-use I find that some of the people who use them are oblivious to everything around them and it would be nice to have a bell for a polite warning rather than having to whistle or shout.  I also have some cyclo -computers about somewhere and while I don't really care about my speed or distance in an of themselves they do provide a useful benchmark so I can say "back in August I was only doing X and now I am doing Y" - progress.

So the bike is rideable especially for the short flat stuff I am going to be doing for a while but the problem with having worked on so many bikes is that I notice when little stuff isn't quite right; fit, sloppy chain, faint brake rub, slack shift cables and it bugs me so it may not be the "just ride it" experience I was thinking of but I hope I can get it satisfactorily dialed in without peeling away too much of the onion, for now I am really just concerned about the functional and not the cosmetic which I also notice but choose to ignore for now.

The Curious Case of non standard Colors

While I was waiting to go collect the passage from seller I was scrolling through images on Google of 1986 Passages and I noticed something kind of odd.   The only catalog color listed for this bike is Midnight Navy (Blue) and indeed most of the bikes I saw were that color... but not all.

My Passage in Midnight Navy
On ebay there was a 1986 Passage in Imperial Rose (Red) a color for the 1987 Voyageur.  EDIT  I found out that frames that didn't sell in 1986 were sold in 1987 in the Imperial rose color.
Passage in Imperial Rose
I also found an example in British Pine (Green) a color for the 1986 Voyageur. EDIT I looked again and British Pine is more of a dark forest green so this was a repaint and new decals but I do like this color green so Chapeau to the owner.
Pinetrest Passage in British Pine
And I even found one in Gunmetal (Grey) a color for the 1986 Prelude sport bike EDIT I found out that this was also a color for the 85 LeTour and a color Schwinn had on hand for leftover frames that needed to be painted.  Thanks to the knowledge members at Bike forums (C&V) for dropping some knowledge on me.
Passage in Gunmetal
It doesn't really matter but it does make a fellow wonder why is this?  Some ideas:
  • Like car companies back in the day you could pay extra and order a different color from the factory
  • April fools joke
  • The lines on the dot matrix printer at the factory got mixed up
  • They ran out of Midnight Navy one day and sorta improvised
Whatever the answer it did make for some interesting browsing.  Until next time..,


Saturday, August 27, 2016

From Obsession to Possession: 1986 Schwinn Passage

CL Photo
I mentioned in the last post that although I had missed out on a screaming deal on a 1986 Schwinn Passage there was another on CL in my size but I wasn't enthusiastic about it due to both price and some changes that had been made, mainly the brake levers and rear derailleur were not stock.  Also it appeared that the bike had some work done on it; tires, cables, bar tape etc and I was thinking of something more down at the heels with a price to match that I could bring back to life.

Mid 80s Fuji Touring Series III Ebay
I found a Mid 80s Fuji Touring Series III on Ebay that I put in a half hearted bid on, had I had the ability for local pickup I would have bid more but it was in NY with a $80 shipping charge so I capped my bid at $60 and it sold for nearly $100.  Still pining for Mid 80s Touring steel,  I checked on the Passage to see that it was still on CL, I checked the date and saw it had been on there for nearly 25 days so I decided to make a below asking offer but not too below, about a 20% discount. My offer was accepted and it was less than what I would have paid for the Fuji had I won the Ebay bid and had it shipped.

Deal Sealed
Its more than I would pay for a project bike but not a lot more than I paid for the Motobecane Grand Touring and in part the GT is why I got this bike.   Yes most of it was driven by my recent fascination with vintage touring bikes but I also have a hankering to ride a vintage bike and as a Super Clydesdale these days I am frankly concerned I might break the GT.  And while breaking any bike would be sad breaking a bike I searched and searched for would be doubly sad.  I also figure a touring bike with stouter tubing and a 40 spoke rear wheel is up to the task.  The GT is really more sport road bike than touring bike.   And who knows if I start riding then maybe I can drop down to a mini Clydesdale and ride the GT without fear of breaking it.

Well what about using your Handsome Devil for longer rides you say? thing is its set up as a 1x9 bike right now with a low gear of about 28 gear inches (see Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator for some bike nerdery) and a reasonably fit person could ride hills with that, I am, however,  neither reasonable nor fit so hills are a non starter.  Unfortunately I live in a hilly place so a 5 block, fairly flat,  ride to the famers Market is the extent of my pedaling these days.  Enter the Passage and with some tweaks to its  current chainrings I can drop it down to about 20 gear inches, the lower the number the easier it is to spin the gear and grind up hills.  And while I could just convert the HD to a triple and add a front derailleur I like it as 1x9 and for roughly the cost of those new parts to make it a triple I got a whole Vintage Touring bike instead!
Changes coming to the Chainrings
You will notice that the biggest two chainrings are close to the same size; 50 and 46 tooth respectively, and you see that alot on older triple crank bikes.  That always baffled me until I read an article by Sheldon Brown about half step gearing and now it makes more sense, in the days of 5 speed freewheels it was a way to get more gear choices in the sweet spot of cruising speeds.  If you have ever been on a flat or slight incline or riding into the wind and you just can't find the right gear you will understand, with the half step gearing you got finer slices of the pie so to speak so you could find that just right gear to spin and you still have the granny to bail out when you hit the steep stuff.  Well thats all fine but I want range so I envision chucking the 50T ring, moving the 46T to the outside and getting a 36T middle ring a 24T baby ring to get way down low in the granny gears. At some point anyway.

Ok enough about gear theory this bike has cool touring stuff.  Its got Dia-Compe 960 Cantilever brakes
Cantis scare me a little bit as I have had a hard time adjusting them but I figure this is an opportunity to research, practice, learn a new skill and conquer that fear, or I can always cop out and go with V-brakes like I did with the Handsome Devil.

The Passage has Huret rachet levers that came stock and I look forward to trying them out.
I've got down-tube shifters and I know how to use them
Its got braze-ons for a rear rack - it was designed for a blackburn rack and came stock with one but that has been lost to time..

And something I always appreciate engraved handlebars- so classy.
Sakae Custom Road Champion
One thing about spending a bit more is this bike had actually been worked on in the last year, at least for replacing consumables like tires, cables, brake pads-Kool-stops!- and bar wrap, and so (in theory) its rideable.
new rubber from Specialized
And that is what I intend to do for whats left of Summer and into fall -ride it.  I am going to resist my urges to strip it down to the frame and make a bunch of changes, its going to be my longer than 5 blocks non grocery getter bike.  I am going to start by driving it to the dead flat Alki trail in the mornings and doing a leisurely flat ride of 7 miles or less, about the extent of the flatness, but you have to start somewheres.  

Columbus tubing
As I am sure the sharp eyed among you spotted it has some rust spots that need to be dealt with and it could used a good waxing and I'll only know if the bearings are greased if I open them up.  I'd prefer gum walls and there's room for 27x1 3/8 tires, and maybe I'll track down a Huret Duopar Rear derailleur to get back to stock,  and put a wider range 6 speed FW to replace the 5 speed and pie plate, and shine up all the alloy parts, and I'm not wild about the levers or their position or the handlebar or the bar tape color and.. blah blah blah.  There will be time for a tear down in the dark short days of winter, for now, however, I just plan to ride it.  I put it in the stand and tightened a shift cable here and a brake cable there made sure it shifted ok,  and took the opportunity to swap the (Nashbar?) retro cheap saddle for a WTB Rocket V I got a deal on a while back.
New Saddle and the ability to carry a few tools for the inevitable adjustments
The plan for tomorrow morning is to check the tire pressure, load it on the rack, drive to the flat lands and then take the Passage for a spin and generate a smile or two.

As always ..Ride.Smile.Repeat.  I certainly intend to.

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..