Off With Their Heads!

I take few aspects of my life more seriously than I do my position as the Classic Cycles Old Crap Test Pilot. Sure, being a parent’s moderately important to me, and I also don’t fuck around when it comes to watching TV, but other than those two things nothing else comes close. This is no cushy gig, either–I mean, yes, the bike I’m currently testing is literally cushy, but receiving a vintage mountain bike only to learn it’s a Softride is like showing up at a deluxe resort only to discover it’s that beach from that M. Knight Shyamalan movie:

While I was determined to pilot the bike just as Paul had curated it, it became immediately clear to me on my maiden voyage that I had to dispense with the original saddle. My subsequent ride was far more enjoyable, but there was still the matter of that awful cockpit:

The sproingy stem, the wrist-contorting shifters, and the medieval stockade-like bars were each bad enough on their own, but when combined the result was a synergy of awfulness that even a Softride does not deserve.

Until now I had never directly contravened an order. But there comes a time in every man’s life when he must stand up for what is right, consequences be damned. I just couldn’t help thinking that behind that yoke of a handlebar was a halfway decent bike, and I believe strongly that I owe any bicycle that falls under my purview a chance to be the very best bike it can be. “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men” is a quote I once saw in a movie, and never was it more true than at this moment. So I undid the shifter cables:

And the brake cables:

And the bolts on that ghastly stem:

And in a matter of minutes, like Perseus slaying Medusa, I had beheaded the beast, the cables dangling like entrails:

But this was no act of blind rage. Indeed, I’d thought carefully about what I’d do once I’d decapitated the bike. I wanted bars that would give me both comfort and control, and shifters that were easy to use, and a stem that wasn’t a diving board. However, I also wanted to maintain the spirit of the machine, and not just turn it into yet another rigid aluminum mountain bike. And what better way to complement that bendy beam than with a bendy handlebar?

I’d been using this on my singlespeed, but it was a bit too flexy for a bike you’ve got to really wrench on climbs, so I’d put them away until just the right occasion came bouncing along, which at last it had. I also figured the Sunrace friction thumbies would be the perfect antidote to those XTR shifters, and while they didn’t quite cut it on the Homer, I was fairly confident they’d shine in this application. So with that I began the cockpit reconstruction surgery:

Everything went together very easily, and I was even able to use all the housing, with the exception of the front brake for which I needed a longer piece:

Once I’d gotten it together I straddled it (not an easy task, the beam eats up most of the bike’s standover clearance), took it by the throat, and lined everything up:

Behold, the Bendy Bike!

Or, if you prefer, the Gumby Bike!

It does look kind of Gumby-esque, doesn’t it?

Quite a fitting rebirth for the first day of spring.

A quick test ride up and down the block was promising. The bars put me in a good position:

And the thumbies were just what the wrist doctor ordered:

Coldly, I looked down upon the vanquished cockpit:

It resembled some sort of stingray:

Or a man o’ war jellyfish:

Or the sort of thing you’d find in your bed if the mafia were trying to terrify you.

I then went for a ride, which shall be the subject of my next post.

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