Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Bicycle(s) You Own

In the past week, I've talked with three people at the U.P. that have purchased new bicycles recently.

Scott picked a new Trek 7300 commuter as his first "grown up" bicycle purchase. He is actively putting it to use commuting to work and experimenting with routes from the 50th and Grover area to downtown. Any suggestions?

Tracy also bought a Trek commuter as her first bicycle as an adult. She lives a little further out west and has transported it to join the UP lunchtime riders over the past two days.

A few weeks ago, Wes was rear-ended while transporting his 2006 GT Series 1 roadbike. From witness accounts, he was more distressed about his totaled bike than his totaled car. The good news was that he was fine and the insurance covered the damages to car and bike. Now he's riding a 2008 fully-carbon GTR Team bike w/ Dura-Ace components, Dura-Ace tubeless wheelset and a Ritchey stem and fork. Dang that's a nice upgrade, dude! During our lunch ride yesterday, I struggled to hang on his wheel at the levee hammerfest north of the I-80 bridge. My hope is that he enters that thing in a Cat5 race with me next year.

Congratulations on the new bike purchases to the three above. Enjoy them and be safe.

While purchasing a new bike is always a titillating experience, shopping for a pre-owned bicycle also has its rewards. Craigslist is a great place to start, especially if you're looking for an entry level bike.

A month ago, I bought a 1987 Nishiki road bike for $40 off of Craigslist with the goal of overhauling into a single speed during the off season. Advertised as a CroMoly "lightweight", it has enough extra steel to be recycled into a manhole lid. Heck, calling the derailleur guard a pie plate is an understatement; it's more like a charger plate. At first, it will be a rebuild on the cheap. New bar tape, brake pads and a spacer kit are the only parts I hope to purchase. I will swap the 27 inch wheels with a spare set of 700s if the existing dia-compe brakes are long enough to reach. The original peddles are also going into the manhole lid effort too. In doing this overhaul, I hope to build a bullet proof commuter while learning more bicycle maintenance.

If time permits, I may even take it to the Omaha Bicycle Co-Op just south of California Tacos on 30th and California. Katherine and I dropped by there recently: a Creighton student named Emerick Huber has built this grassroots co-op with the help of other students, the neighborhood association and contributors (bike shops, electricians, carpenters and such). It's a pretty cool place. The basement has like a jillion bicycles waiting to be restored. What used to be a kitchen contains bins of spare parts. The former dining room, living room and bedroom are now fully stocked mechanic stations. When we visited, all three mech stations had a volunteer working with a neighborhood kid on simple bike maintenance such as flats and brakes. They even have a deal that if you go through their volunteer mechanic training program, you can build your own bike out of the parts other have donated. Bike cost = your sweat. Volunteers are needed with even the most basic bike maintenance skills. If you can fix a flat, you're ready to volunteer at the Omaha Bike co-op.

Finally, as many of you know, my current multi-use bicycle "Old Yeller" is a hand me down from brother Brendan. It was in pretty dire shape when I got it three years back and lasted for another five hundred miles before the indexing blew up on the 8 spd Shimano RSX shifters. That was a year ago next week. Munson came to the rescue with a cache of quality used parts and reassembled it into what I've got now. While the bike is worth $300 on paper, it rides and looks great. In my estimation, it's priceless.

So what is it about your "grown up" bike that you like? What would you change now if you had the cash/time?


  1. I saw that Dura-Ace GT this morning. Why on earth is a bike like that being used as a commuter? I wouldn't even ride MY nice bike down here, let alone something like that, worth at least twice as much.

    Good for him for riding it, but ... yikes.

  2. oh, and to actually answer the question ... (sorry) ...

    On my Felt, I'd change nothing. The handlebar is slightly bent and the shifters are 'only' 105, but I really don't care.

    The Bianchi could use a new saddle and maybe a few other things, but I'm perfectly happy with that, too.

  3. I want a "do everything" bike. I have 2 bikes now that could conceivably be one if they actually made it. I have my lightweight Lemond that has a stiff aluminum frame and upper end parts. This bike is only for fast rides and could not take fat tires or fenders. Not a year round commuter in the least.

    I also have my Bianchi which is comprised of a heavy flexy frame and lower end parts. This setup works since this bike gets exposed to all conditions of weather when I commute year round. But I can't really take this bike on an interval session or a group ride. I'd be losing all my momentum to the spring from the long wheelbase and "comfortable" steel ride. The nice part about this bike is I can fit cyclocross tires on it and go for gravel rides. It also works with full fenders so a majority of the sludge and such stays off me/the bike.

    What I want is an efficient (read stiff) framed bike that accepts wide tires and has fender/rack mounts. I also don't like canti brakes. Most cyclocross bikes would fit the bill, minus the brakes. And most touring bikes aren't designed for efficiency. They are like my Bianchi; springy for a comfortable ride.

    This is the closest I have come to finding something that'll mostly fit my requirements. I do question it's efficiency though. The description says it's not built like a tourer, so my guess is that it's not extremely springy. I like that it has standard (long reach) road brakes, so canti's aren't needed. The other thing is that, even with all my lightest bits on it, I imagine it would still weigh in at 19-20 lbs. Granted this is only 3 pounds heavier than my current road race machine, it might be a hindrance if I'm going to race again.

    I was thinking I could sell my Bianchi and have almost enough to cover the frame's cost, then just use whatever parts I want to build it up. I could transfer all my Dura-Ace 10 speed stuff straight over, but then I wouldn't want to use it as my all season commuter. I guess, over the winter months, I could swap out the wheels/chain/rear derailleur to lower end stuff that can take more abuse. Hmmmmm... I need to ponder on this.

  4. Wes doesn't actually use it as a commuter. He transports his bike for lunch time mini-crit like workouts. Older kids leave him little time to train after work.

    Thanks for answering the question, Bryan. For the record, Bryan would like some Zipps for CAT3 racing next year.

    That's a second reference to the Casserole from Munson in the past three months. Good job on resisting the impulse buy.

    Donations are be accepted for these fine young fellows (nb: 10% processing fee).

  5. Cyclists need a quiver of Bikes:

    1. Road Rocket.
    Sounds like all on this site have one, Brady has an TITAN Missle, rest of you have Atlas/MX's. My Tarmac Pro with Campy Centaur, and campy scirrocco wheels is simply awesome.

    2. MTB:
    At least with a decent shock to ride on dirt, or during snow. I have a late 90's Trek 8000 with Indy Shock on front.

    3. Touring Bike
    These make great commuters with their braze on's and long stable wheelbase. I myself have a 1982 Trek 613 w/531 Reynolds Frame, is all stock except for upgraded pedals. And conspicuously ahead of it's time, no pie plate.

    4. Commuting Bike:
    Yes, the fixie, minimally ith rack, and hopefully panniers to carry stuff. Brady, you'll end up loving the fixie for commuting. Simple. Elegant. MInimalist. Keep the handbrakes. My one suggestion is to buy new 700c wheels. My 1976 Varsity went from 43# to 29 after ridding the wheels, gears, cables ,etc. Fenders are also a must for your fixie.

    What would I change on any of these?

    1. Tarmac; Nothing.
    2. MTB; Maybe better shock.
    3. Trek Touring: Nothing
    4. Varsity Fixie: Maybe new crankset. My old pedans have sealed but rusted bearings and they squeak, and I can't get to them. Maybe an old Brooks saddle would complete it.

  6. I now own 5 bicyles:
    1) P2sl
    2) Old Yeller
    3) 1991 GT Karakoram Mtn Bike
    4) 1987 Nishiki Single Speed
    5) 196x Schwinn Torpedo?

    Aero wheels one day for the P2sL would be nice. Old Yeller could use a new saddle as I don't want Shim to poke fun of its ladylike qualities. Fenders for the Single Speed.

    I won't be going fixie on that Nishiki anytime soon. Freewheel SS for now; perhaps a flip flop hub later. Hills in Omaha will make a fixie a challenge and I like my knees healthy. Would like new wheels too, but budget dictates otherwise. Gonna be frugal for now.

  7. Mike: Why the hang up on Cantilever brakes?

  8. the touring and commuting bike could -- and probably should -- be the same thing. both are comfortable, easy to get up hills and durable. why have two bikes that are almost the same?

  9. Canti brakes are hard to adjust and come out of "good enough" adjustment often. On cross bikes, they are made for mud clearance. We have 4 cross races a year and it's rare there's a muddy race. I'm not going to be riding muddy trails, just gravel roads, so I don't need the crazy clearance. I don't quite understand canti-brakes on touring/commuting bikes anyway. They don't need mud clearance. Touring bikes and the people that are ga-ga over them have this notion that retro is the only way and anything designed since 1970 is going to break within the first 200 miles of use. Yes, steel frames are durable, but are down-tube shifters and non-aero brakes really that indestructible? What you get is a really heavy bike and slow travel speeds. Granted, that's what touring is about, comfort and an easy pace, but you would be able to travel further wasting less energy if your bike wasn't a 35 lb wet noodle under you.

    All this Evil Munson speak is mainly a result of me being broke. You can spend $4,000 on a custom steel jobber with high quality, long lasting parts that will end up being a fine riding, efficient ride. Heck, there's $300 canti's that are supposed to be the cat's meow, but I'm never going to know that. I wouldn't want to put any expensive stuff through my winter commutes anyway. Plus, since canti's are mostly exposed cables, you get lots of rust unless you use stainless steel cables. Again, I'm cheap, my cables are not stainless.

    Basically, I just want to be cheap and use one bike for everything. If my Lemond could take large tires and fenders/rear rack, that would be it. I would be in bike heaven. The Casseroll frame, if it's at all stiff and efficient would be almost exactly what I'm looking for. It would only be perfect if it were lighter, but that's probably not possible with steel. 2 pounds is not a real biggie anyway. Some day I'll get my act together and sell my Bianchi. That along with some savings will land me that Casseroll. Some day...

  10. Thanks for the clarification. I was wondering because I remember how freaked out you got when you saw the canti engineering on my '91 GT Karakoram. What the ? Hang on a sec -- that's not it. Here, this is better.

  11. The brakes on your GT are U-Brakes. Aside from seeing them on your bike, I've never had any experience with these brakes. Do they have good stopping power?

    The brakes that go on the Casseroll are wider and longer than modern road bike brakes. I'd think that, since the brakes provide about as much clearance as the bike's frame has anyway, mud clearance won't be an issue. The only clearance I'd need is for occasional gunk from gravel roads anyway.

    The Casseroll frame is considered by some to be the swiss army of bike frames. There's only a couple other companies that make similarly multi-functioning frames, namely Surly. But again, the canti's are my nemesis. So with the Casseroll frame I can break the bike down and rebuild it multiple times a year in different variations to satisfy my need to tinker. If you have 5 bikes that each have their own job, you'll never need to touch them, aside from the standard light cleanings. That's SOOOO boring for me. Plus you'd have a garage full of bikes. I can barely fit my car in my garage the way it is, I couldn't imagine adding more bikes.

  12. Hey Brady... with two weeks of commuting behind me, I'm still really enjoying this. I can cycle to work in about the same time as it would take me to drive in, and then walk from my spot near 14th and Leavenworth. If I were to figure gas and parking costs, I'm saving $25/week!

    I think I might try that Leavenworth route you spoke of. I eyeballed it in Google Earth, exaggerating the terrain, looking at it edge on, and rotating around at multiple angles, and can really see that Leavenworth sits in a sort of valley between hills to the north and hills to the south.

    As for my Trek 7300, I'm finding that adding accessories and personalizing the bike is half the fun of riding it. To transform it more into a commuter, I've added a back rack, standard pannier, grocery pannier (only for trips to the store), front and rear lights, and seat bag. I'm thinking about fenders, as well.

    One thing I'm worried about is that I fear getting into cycling might be like getting a tattoo... you can't stop with just one. If I commute in the winter, I wonder if I'd need something more MTB-ish to deal with slush and mud. Perhaps I can just put on fatter tires. Any ideas?



  13. RE:cycling might be like getting a tattoo... you can't stop with just one.

    Congratulations, you've reached the next level of cycling obsessive compulsion. You're a quick bloomer; usually that festers for a year or two before onset.

    Your current bike is fine for the winter commute. Just add those fenders. You can do it yourself. Fenders are roughly $25 from your LBS.

    As for the tires, the majority of time the roads are clean. Plus, I'm not sure if adding mountain bike tires to the street really buys you anything as far as traction goes. I could be wrong here, but I think that those tires are helpful in grabbing traction on softer surfaces like mud and dirt. If it was me, I'd stick with the slicks for the commute. That way you can save some ca$h for you next bicycle.

  14. Here is my list of Bikes and part wishes,

    1) Eddy Merckx Team Scandium - Campy Record with Mavic Kysrium Wheels, the wheels are kind of old, I might like some new ones, maybe next year.
    2) Lemond Spine Bike (Carbon/Steel)also all Campy Record.I use it for a training bike mostly and really dont need to change anything.
    3) Rocky Mountain Team Element Mountain Bike, Sram and Race face with Cross Max wheels. Its old and of no resell value and I just keep it around as a spare.
    4) Gary Fisher Team Mountain Bike, all high end stuff (carbon cranks, Bontrager stuff) its for sale if anyones interested.
    5) Trek 9.9 Top Fuel, I just had it built and pretty much hand picked all the parts so no real need to change any thing, its all xtr and Bontrager stuff.
    6) Eddy Merckx 7-11 Team frame which I made into a fixed gear.
    7) Rocky Mountain Rail-Cross Bike its probably too big, but I only use it for gravel road rides in the winter which it is pretty well suited for. In has 105 stuff which is ok what I use it for.
    8) Trek 8000, I use this one as a polo bike, it needs everything new, but if your gonna wack it with a mallet, whats the point in upgrading it.
    9)Cannondale Super V - this one is my wife's and hasnt been off the wall much in the past several years.

    We also have a number of kids bikes, and parts galore, maybe I can drop them with the stoners at the Community Bike Shop.

  15. I forgot my Schwinn Cruiser circ 1965. Oh P.S. I have a saddle for you. Its an old Selle Italia I took of the Fisher.