Friday, April 24, 2009

What? A Relief!

Putting the Wald rear rack/baskets on the Columbia marked the last major task associated with the bikes in my stable (for a while, knock wood), and I must say, I'm incredibly relieved. If you follow this blog, you know that I've been working on at least one project now since July 2008. First, the Runwell, then a short break, then the Huffeigh, then recently the Schwinn, with the Mundo thrown in there in the middle (the Mundo is still a project, but a very slow one, so I don't count that).

As much as I really do enjoy doing refurbishment or restoration work, I also get tired of never having things finished. I'm really looking forward now to actually riding all of my bikes, rather than fiddling with bearings, hubs, spokes, paint, etc.

On that note, I'm announcing a slight change in the direction of the blog. There are three words in the masthead of my blog: "Recycle, Refurbish, Ride!" I've focused a lot on the first two, and now I'd like to focus more on the third, which I think is just as signficant. It's easy when you're working on old bikes to get caught up in what I call the "fetishization" of all of the little bits, while forgetting the actual point of the whole endeavor, which is to RIDE THE BIKE!

I believe it is important to show that refurbished or restored old bikes can and should be ridden, not just polished up, tucked away in a garage, and trotted out for a ride down the block now and again. Old bikes should not just be toys for grownups to play with, they should be real working machines, as they were intended. My task now is going to be to show my old bikes in everyday use: grocery runs, commuting, a jaunt to the post office, a picnic in the park, whatever. I don't have a "modern" bike to ride (the youngest bike we own is my wife's Schwinn Suburban, which is a 1977) so everything I do by bike is done on an old bike.

The point is, you can live a bicycle lifestyle without spending a ton of cash and riding some carbon fiber monstrosity. I've never paid more than $100 for a bicycle (excluding parts), and don't intend to anytime soon. All it takes is a willingness to learn some new skills, the time to invest in the work, and a large dose of patience. What you're left with is not only the gratification of a finished product, but also a perfectly sound, functional bicycle (or five).

11 comments:

  1. Wow, you're making me feel guilty. Just finished rebuilding an early 70s Raleigh Sport and it's hanging in the garage (still haven't gotten that SA to be consistently reliable). Rebuilt a '66 Twenty into a single speed earlier this year and now my son uses to ride to school everyday. A girl came up to him this week and said "that looks retro". Ride on...
    Jack

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  2. Guilty? That's no good! What's the trouble you're having with the hub? I've just spent a few days messing with mine, and I've learned quite a bit regarding bearing cone adjustment, etc.

    PS--I haven't been hit on yet on account of my old bikes, but I suspect my wife likes it better that way...

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  3. I like reading about your old bikes and I admire your handiwork. I like old bikes. However, a carbon fiber bike isn't a "montrosity," it's just another nice bike. You're not spending a lot of money on your bikes, because you're spending time instead. Lots of people can't afford the time. What matters is that people go out and enjoy riding, whether they spend a lot or a little.

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  4. Assuming all is correct, Blue will ride on Sunday! There is still work to do (loose spokes, missing grips) but it is ridable. My daughter will debut it at our Sunday Streets event, here in SF where miles of the waterfront will be closed to traffic for fun, fun, fun! I will send pictures!

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  5. @ Roy: You're quite right, of course. My point, although perhaps inelegantly made, is that bicycles needn't be costly or intimidating. So many people find "bike culture" inaccessible because of the cost and the cliqueishness. My goal is to dispel some of that by bringing both the maintenance and enjoyment of bikes back down to earth a bit. I'm glad you enjoy the blog, and I hope you'll keep reading.

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  6. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm working on a few bikes at the moment, mostly other peoples, but I'm working on one for my lovely wife. It really is a lot easier once you get started, although I can identify with the frustration and desire to just ride the things.

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  7. Not "hit on"? Perhaps you're not wearing the right (or enough) Tweed. Putting a basket on the Twenty instead of Tweed on my son though.

    Here's my SA problem: all gears work but the neutral (2nd) goes totally into neutral (becomes unengaged) after a few hundred feet. I took the SA out, cleaned it, oiled it, greased it (bearings in excellent shape), adjusted the indicator spindle many times, etc.

    "Bearing cone" needs to be better adjusted? Also fiddled with the TCW off the Twenty and besides opening, cleaning, greasing, etc. have yet to get that one to engage. Perhaps I need to do more research. Thanks,
    Jack

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  8. Jack, if you like, drop me an email (under "About/Contact Me" at right) and I'll send you a PDF of Sutherland's trouble-shooting guide for SA AW hubs. I didn't see your exactly trouble there, but maybe it'll give you a few ideas. Also, if you haven't already, check my "Sturmey-Archer Resources" links at right. Maybe you can find something useful.

    PS--too warm for much tweed in San Diego!

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  9. Thom, I love your words. I think you have an eloquent way of phrasing my excitement about bicycles in new ways. I didn't mind your carbon fiber "monstrosity" statement.. (damn, he SAID it!). When people find out that I'm a mechanic-geek, they often start talking about carbon fiber while my mind wanders to a 1940's filet brazed something... that's still going strong.

    I wish you the best in everything.
    Chris

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  10. @ 3 Speed: Hey, thanks! Check out the blog "Carbon Breaks" to see part of the reason for my dislike of carbon fiber. And I might add to my comment above that I personally don't find carbon frames beautiful (but whatever floats other people's boats is none of my business); to me, they seem impersonal, suspiciously slick, and shoddy-looking.

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  11. Sorry, that's "Busted Carbon" at:

    http://www.bustedcarbon.com/

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