Finding Your Bearings

As a semi-professional bike blogger I endeavor to stay atop my duties; however, as a semi-competent (at best) human being, other basic responsibilities sometimes get in the way. For this reason I am behind on sundry matters and projects, including sharing my impressions of the Chonus clamp-on bike basket the creator was kind enough to send me (seen here on my wife’s bike):

And these Arclight pedals, which Redshift sent me recently:

When they offered to let me try them I thought they’d be great for my older son, now that he’s riding alone. However, I haven’t installed them yet, because I’ve only recently got him up and running on the Woom NOW kids’ cargo bike I mentioned not too long ago:

Due to spring break and other considerations today was his first ride to school on it, and I look forward to his feedback, and to finding out if he managed to ride it without creasing his sneakers. (Apparently wearing creased sneakers to middle school results in great mockery and deep humiliation–presumably even moreso than showing up to school on a bike with different-sized wheels.)

On top of all that, I’ve got more Silver shifters to install:

In particular, I am going to reorder the cockpit of the Platypus somewhat, which is a word sequence I never thought I’d type but here we are.

And on top of that, in a fantasy world there are at least two whimsical parts bikes I’d like to build just for the fun of it, but I don’t see that happening until we get either a lot of rain or I have to do a lot of laundry. (I do my bike maintenance either when it’s too rainy to ride or I’m in the basement tending to the laundry.)

In the meantime, on Monday I unveiled the Vengeance Bike:

And besides riding them, one of the most fun aspects of having a vintage bike in your possession is immersing yourself in contemporary reviews. Here’s one from “Bicycling,” which I found on some forum or other, and which I don’t feel bad reproducing without a link because it’s not like the people in the forum wrote it or anything:

Regardless of how you feel about crabon bikes, it is amazing how prescient the Kestrel was; sure, components have changed, but this plastic blob ultimately became the industry template. Also, the last paragraph of the review has aged interestingly:

Eventually they managed to do it both better and cheaper.

By the way, while I was down in the vintage review rabbit hole, I checked out more Juhn Kukoda stuff and found this:

Saying the XO-1 is a great bike with a bad bar seems a little like saying “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” is a great movie with a bad leading man. I mean, couldn’t they have picked someone better-looking? Jeez.

And speaking of holes, I also discovered this one under the Vengeance Bike:

From what I understand it was to remove the inflatable bladder they used when they molded it or something.

One thing I did manage to do yesterday though was to install some upgrades on the Normcore Nostalgia Bike, which I was able to rationalize because I had a shitload of laundry:

And no, I’m not talking about that exquisite saddle bag:

Which is made in the USA:

And very much in keeping with the bike’s theme of domestically produced mediocrity:

In fact, the upgrades I performed are so subtle as to be nearly invisible. First I installed a “new” headset:

And then I installed a cutting-edge high-tech cartridge-style bottom bracket:

I replaced the headset because the original felt a little draggy, and while I’m sure I could have fixed it I knew I had this excellent later-model Shimano 105 headset just sitting in an unused frame:

In the heady days before my wife and I became owners of human children and embraced comfortable bicycles, this one was hers. We’re almost the same height, and as I admired its Pepto-hued tubes and giggle-inducing name I very nearly decided to swap the parts over from the Trek instead:

However, after looking at the corroded state of the once-chrome fork I decided to stick with the plan and resurrect the Pepto Bike another day:

The headset transplant went smoothly, except for the death of my beloved rubber mallet, which managed to pound out both cups but didn’t survive the setting of the crown race:

And yes, I know it’s much better to use a metal hammer when you’re removing headset cups and setting crown races, but I would have had to go all the way upstairs to get it, and anyway I figured this would at least be a little quieter for the neighbors.

As for the bottom bracket, I noticed the original was ticking a bit, and while that too was no doubt an easy fix I figured I might as well put in a cartridge unit since they’re so cheap and it’s pretty much the same amount of work anyway. The old one came out without undue hassle:

And I knew I needed a 113mm spindle since I’d looked it up in the 1989 Shimano catalog:

But when I got the old one and the new one side by size I saw the old one was in fact longer:

Three (3) millimeters longer, to be precise:

Perhaps Trek had used a longer one to account for the geometry of the frame, or perhaps someone had put a longer one in there somewhere along the line. Either way, 1.5mm per side doesn’t sound like much, but I did have to spend some time fiddling with the front derailleur, and just when I thought I’d accounted for everything, the first time I acdtually rode it I threw the chain right into the Pie Plate Zone:

Eventually through I got it all worked out and went for a ride:

It’s no Vengeance Bike:

Especially in the aesthetics department:

But it works, and it works well. Sprightly enough for a ride in the country, and unremarkable enough to lock up to a pole in the city. In a way it’s the perfect road bike.

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