Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Old, Yet it's New

Nope, this is not a story about an aging cyclist. It is a story about an aging cyclist riding a renewed bike. Bear with me while I tell the tale of an almost forgotten bike.
When I first graduated from college and moved to Estes Park I did not own a bike. The bike I rode through my High School years and for college was stolen. I worked with a guy at Hidden Valley who had a summer job at a bike shop and he sold me a new bike that summer of 1979. A Univega Gran Turismo. I really enjoyed my time riding that bike for the next few years. But, as happens to many of us, marriage, job, kids, responsibility, took precedence over hours spent riding a bike. Univega was hung up in the back corner of my wife's horse barn.
When I returned to pick up riding a bike again for fun and exercise I started with a new bike and then renewed my interest in touring and purchased my Surly LHT and was very happy with my choice of equipment.Univega hung there in the barn for a few more years forgotten and dusty sharing space with two horses and a bunch of hay.
Bike evolution and revolution led me back to Univega and wondering how the steel frame would fit me and ride after all these years. I had found the website of old ten speed gallery(OTS) and sparked an interest in me. Here was my own old bike that maybe could become just as pretty and cool as the bikes portrayed on the site! A winter bike project was born in my garage. My goal was to return the bike to its original state with a few improvements. That is how the pros at OTS gallery did things and I wanted this bike to share that glory.

I did not take a before picture, here is the bike when I completed the clean up.
This was a pretty good project for the level of my bike mechanic skills at that time. I replaced all the cables and housing, changed from downtube shifters to bar-ends, added the fenders (I love fenders!), new rubber for the road, Brooks Saddle, Power grips on the pedals. Otherwise I left the bike like she came from the factory. It had that old coolness about it and was fun to ride, but, I had issues with the gearing and the comfort factor for me. My #2 son, Kyle needed a bike to have at college so I gave it to him to use. And use it he did!! Two years went by and a graduation and the bike came home. It had been kept outside, ridden pretty hard with zero maintenance. I spent this summer just kind of staring at it and brainstorming of ways to re-purpose it all.

Condition returned 

I finally came to the decision that if I was going to put the time into this bike, my comfort was going to be priority #1. First thing was to change the gearing to fit the roads that I ride most of the time. The gearing that came with this bike was a triple chainring 52-48-36 and the rear cassette was a five speed, 26-14. Great gears for riding flat roads fast, not so great for grinding up mountain roads that is much of my riding. I had spare parts from a couple of hard-tail mountain bikes that I parted out a few years ago. The new/old triple is a 46-38-26 with a five speed cassette 32-14.

I had issues with getting the old cassette off. You can see it is the old style Sun-Tour two prong cassette removal tool. Man, that thing was stuck!! I knew enough not to force it because it would round off, and strip the two prongs. I was pretty frustrated and just about ready to give up and take it to the bike shop. I did a little internet searching (great bike mechanic help!!) and found a tip on Hugh's Bicycle blog. I put a hex bolt, nut, wash through where the axle goes, through the removal tool to hold it tight to the cassette and could put it all in the vise and OFF!!!. I did not know enough to be careful when I removed the axle and I soon had ball bearings bouncing across the garage floor. So I learned how to repack the bearings and rebuild the axle. Another case of my bike mechanic knowledge growing because of my own stupid mistakes! I could be a bike mechanic at a shop although the shop would lose money on me because I am so slow and most things have to be done twice while I figure out the learning curve!


There was an adjustment of the front deraileur on the frame. It had to be lowered to fit the big chainring. There was also more spacing between the chainrings than the old triple so the front deraileur was maxed out to accommodate the new. Just does work in the highest gear without rubbing! Lucky!

The next comfort change was the cockpit. The original Randonneur style bars had a high "cool" factor but they are very narrow and just don't have very many different places for my hands. I replaced the stem with a Nitto that could be raised to my desired height and I went with the drops that originally came on my LHT. Wide and generous for moving the hands around to stay comfortable. I also tilted the bars up so riding the hoods was a nice upright comfort position for me. I know, not traditional or cool looking in the bike club ride world, but, good for me and that is what this is about, Right?? My personal like is a wrap of gel tape then covered with cloth tape because I like the feel of the cloth. I only double wrap like that from the hoods and top of the bar. Gives it a bit of a clunky/chunky look on the top of the bar, but, you already know.....I don't care how other people think she looks!



I kept the original Dia-Compe center pull brakes because they worked just fine with new shoes on them. I did use the Tektro brake levers that were on the Surly bars. I like the look of the brake cables routing under the bar tape. If somebody out there is doing a classic rebuild and would like these old brake levers and Randonneur bars, you could have them. They are classic with the drilled out lever and cable popping out the top.
I was fortunate because when the bike came back from two years of college life, the rims and wheels were in fine shape. spokes were all OK and the rims did not even need any truing. The original bike came with gumwalls. I like Schwalbe. Schwalbe Marathon 27x1 1/4 gives this bike a good smooth ride. Especially on many of the chip-seal surfaces I find myself on. Such a contrast to my Schwinn road bike where you tend to feel every buzz of chip-seal riding.
What else??  I stole the Brooks Imperial saddle off the Schwinn and away I went on my first ride!

Finished look!
I have been out about eight or nine times for lunchtime rides. There were a few tweaks here and there with saddle and bar position. Did I achieve my goal of a fun comfortable ride???  I did when it comes to the fun factor. I base comfort on my set-up that I have for my Surly LHT and nothing on two wheels will ever match the comfort set-up that I have with that bike. That said, this ride is very nice and I am happy with it. I am a steel frame bicycle guy, probably always will be. I like the smooth, solid ride you get with a steel frame. I understand I am pushing a bit more weight around with the steel bike. Worth it, at least to me!! That is the best part about bikes, we can all ride whatever suits us the best, and never have to apologize for our rides!!

Lunchtime rides are about an hour, so I'll have to test it for a long ride when I can get a weather window that matches up with a weekend day off. I also have not been up into the park for some major climbing. Might be springtime before that happens. Will this become my go-to ride for a century? Not sure until I try it for a 4 or 5 hour ride with some climbing mixed in.

All in all I am one happy cyclist. Holy crap! This bike is 33 years old and is just starting a new life giving me pleasure to ride it!! As is stated at the end of the posts that Hugh puts up at Hugh's Bicycle Blog.
"Rescue, Restore, Recycle"

Recent lunchtime out on Devil's Gulch Road with Twin Owls looking down on us