Wednesday, June 25, 2008



I've been real addicted to craigslist bikes listings now. Some ebay too, but it's not as fun, there's always some dipsh*t out there willing to pay retarded amounts of money for everything on ebay almost all the time. If you act fast, you can still get a great deal on CL. I have to confess, I've been buying some things on craigslist. I got a new Fuji Royale II for the missus (pics coming soon of this), A big old Raleigh Marathon I'm going to clean up for a friend, and before all those I got a circa '84 Schwinn Traveler and a couple of Schwinn Continentals for $80. The traveler was 4130 lugged CroMoly, in not-terrible shape, the 2 Continentals were both '70s fillet brazed pretty heavy models. Choosing my battles, I decided to drop the 2 Continentals with Working Bikes and see what I could do with the Traveler. Sadly, I did not take pics of the "during" phase. I ended up sanding the frame down to metal, re-primed and painted it. Cleaned up all the parts, disassembled and rebuilt the wheels, changed out the bars, new cables, bar tape, tires and tubes. It turned out so pretty that I'm somewhat sad to see it go. However, it's leaving for a life as a friend's new bike.

Here are some pics. I left the very nice paint on the headtube, which helped my spray paint job look a heck of a lot nicer. I really like the aesthetics of the old diacompe center pull brakes. Even the old seat/seatpost combo looks pretty good! I think I ended up with about another $60/$80 in parts on it. Pretty good end result!

I'm currently looking for a second bike for myself that I can put a rack on (I could probably bootleg a rack on to the Paramount though it doesn't have any braze-ons at the droputs, but I can't quite bring myself to do it). I'm hoping to find a large frame similar to this one (an old Schwinn, Panasonic, Miyata or something along those lines) that I can fix up for this purpose, I have most of the parts sitting around, including some really sexy mystery rims that I just finished finding some semi-matching hubs for. Here are the rims:

They are some light double walled aluminum with brass eyelets, real thin, if anyone (Norm?) knows anything about them, let me know! I just bought them (of course) on craigslist. I got some NOS folding skinny 27" Avocet tires for them from Harris Cyclery I'll post more pics after I build them up. I'll have to recruit some help to figure out the spoke sizes, since I can't just consult the charts on an unknown rim. But once I get that sorted out, they are going to be some real nice wheels I think.

Here is a picture of my (bootleg) shop and also Marge the dog, my faithful yard companion when I'm out tinkering.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

my new 'mount


After a couple of weeks of VERY obsessive craigslist trolling, I came across a 60mm Schwinn Paramount for sale about an hour after it posted. This was in the 3rd week of May and after watching CL for some weeks, I was starting to notice a definite trend towards higher prices and faster snatching up of bikes that weren't higher priced. This bike was $450 and was already setup as a single-speed. I had just been getting hip to Paramounts a couple weeks before and this price seemed crazy cheap. It seemed like I had seen frames selling for less money than that.

I spoke to this gentleman on the phone on a Wednesday and found out the he was actually in Racine, WI but after talking for a couple of minutes, he volunteered that he'd come meet me halfway, up in the deepest outlying suburbs near the state line. After consulting with my better half about whether this was totally irresponsible madness, she let me off the hook and I made a deal to go Friday morning and pick it up.

I drove up there the next morning for an 11 am meeting at the Bass Pro Shop (!?!). He seemed to feel like that was a pretty easy landmark. I was flying by the seat of my pants, but with a coupe of well-timed cell phone calls I made it there.

I got to ride the bike around in the GIGANTIC parking lot of this mall that was like a proving ground at that time of morning. What a difference it makes to sit on a bike that fits you right (at least it's as close as I've come, more to come on sizing later)! Epiphany #2. I only had to ride it for about 30 seconds to figure it was a keeper. Had some nice Weinmann wheels with both a fixed and free hub on the back. The gearing was pretty short, like 45/18, but I figured I'd change out the wheels and chainring off of the Tempo. It also had Shimano 600 brakes, cranks and headset and some pretty nifty bigger bullhorn bars with nice bar end levers.

Here is how it came:

I gleefully drove this thing back home and changed out the wheels and chainring. We were going to Madison for some family time that afternoon, so I hurriedly got it ready so we could have some nice rides for the weekend. Here's how it came out:

This bike is really fun to ride! Yippee! It weighs in at 21.5 pounds, which (apparently) isn't that light, but is the lightest bike I've ever had. It's just got really comfy geometry.

Can I go on a bit more about it? It's an '86 "Paramount Standard" made in Waterford, WI. It's made of Columbus SP double butted tubing, which apparently is
a bit thicker than the SLX tubing used to make the smaller frames. This is Schwinn's flagship bike, when this bike was built, they made about 900 to 1000 of them per year.

You can get a whole lot of history and discussion on these fine bicycles through the Waterford Precision Cycles site. The factory where these bikes were made for Schwinn is since 1981 continued on after Schwinn was sold off in the 90s. It is still run by Marc Muller and Richard Schwinn, who were responsible for Schwinn's "Paramount Design Group" since it was moved to Waterford in the beginning of the 80s.

Yay, Paramount!

new ride for the missus


After I started riding this bike, I wanted my dearest wife to have an improved bike experience as well, so I started trying to scope out some appropriately sized roadbikes for her. I found a nice Trek 360 from circa 1988 or so a few days later for $100 and we snatched it up. The 360 is a sort of entry-level road bike, 4130 tubing, nice Dia-compe brakes and shifters (indexed shifting on the downtube). S is not a big fan of road bike-y handlebars so the first order of business was sorting out something a bit more cruiser style there. We found some bars by Nitto that I think go under the name of promenade. Here is one place you can find them:

Nitto Promenade Handlebars

We put some "Oury" grips and some Tektro cross levers on it for the rest of that setup. I was able to re-use the cabling by just cutting the ends cleanly and working slowly to restring them. We also swapped out the seat for a sort of modern fairly cushy guy, can't remember that name right now.

Next up was wheels. This thing had some 36-spoke steel rims with Malliard hubs. A pretty heavy wheel overall. I wanted to try and take a stab at wheel building, so I figured this might be a good time to give it a try. I enlisted my pal Chris, who built my wheels to help me again. He took the old ones apart and figured out the right spokes to mate to some new silver Velocity Deep-Vs. I went into the shop after hours one evening and we built the wheels up side by side. He did the rear wheel to make sure the dishing was right, etc. but I did a pretty decent job on the front wheel. Finished these new beauties off with some Zaffiro Pro tires in blue.

I think I actually managed to not have any pics of this bike. Really a shame, because it was a real looker. S rode it for a few weeks but then decided it was too small, which it indeed was. Once you put on handlebars that push the grip position back about 4 inches, it became really apparent.

On the Trek tip, there is a lot of GREAT info if you are trying to hook up with an older Trek road bike and need more info at the wonderful vintage trek website. They have a nice timeline with lots of good info about what tubing got used on what when and that sort of thing along with a pretty full selection of brochures covering a couple of decades.

I am currently converting this bike back to sellable condition. I got a Fuji Royale 2 for her next try last week. It's a full 1"+ bigger, so it seems like a good fit. It came with 27" wheels, but putting the 700c wheels from the Trek on it worked out just fine. Putting the 27" wheels from the Fuji on the Trek wasn't such a snap though, as the 360 came with 700c wheels original. So, I'm going to have to wait until some profoundly back-ordered spokes I ordered come in to rebuild a set of pretty okay aluminum 700c rims to stick on this thing and make it back into a (nicer than when I got it) sellable bike. I'll post some pics when I have it nice and pretty.

new bike v1


Here's what happened next:

After my bike epiphany in Austin, I came home to begin searching out my new exciting road-ish bike. I mentioned this whole deal to my business partner and pal Bob, and he said he had an old Schwinn frame I needed to check out, which I could use to build up. I went by and took a look. It was a Schwinn Tempo, a nice late 80's upper/mid-level Schwinn roadbike. I took it over to my friend Chris, who was working at a shop for a look. I had mixed a record for him several months before, so he was the most bike-ish person I knew. He generously offered to put together some parts for me, some of them at a nice discount and to set the bike up for me.

About a week later he had all the stuff together, nice parts. Here is what it ended up being:
-Sugino cranks and BB
-Shimano Tiagra brakes
-Velocity deep-v wheels
-Panaracer tires
-Nitto stem and bars
and so forth.

It was a nice ride. I discovered a couple of things while breaking it in. 1) I don't like the bars lower than the seat. I know this is de-riguer for the city bike crowd, but I'm old! We set this bike up with dropped bullhorn bars and the stem was already a pretty good downward angle "7" type deal (I can't remember how the degrees work), so further down was a bummer. I'm an old man. So I had to swap those out for regular bullhorn bars. Also, gloves are a big help with wrapped bars, I had always had cushy grips before, so hadn't worn gloves in a some years.

I also added a rack to this bike, which took some doing since it didn't have any braze-ons for such a thing. I had to use some rubber grommets through the triangular holes in the dropouts with some fender washers and wacky hardware I ordered from McMaster-Carr. It kind of worked, but was not too kind to the paint on the seat stays/dropout area. I learned from that experience that if you want a rack, get a touring frame!

Here is a pic shortly after Chris set it up.

I was enjoying this bike, but I quickly started understanding a bit more about frame sizing and realized that it was not a great size for me in the long run. I was already crazed for scouring craigslist for bikes, so I figured I'd just keep my eye out and see what happens.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

a bicycle history

My biking history (only 2 wheels, no trikes or big wheels, as best as can be remembered) from scratch to the recent reawakening/mania:

1) Some little tiny kid bike on which I learned enough to get the training wheels taken off. Can't remember how old, perhaps 5 or something? Learned in my grandparent's driveway.

2) Seems like I had a Schwinn Stingray at some point too, with a banana seat.

3) Once I was big enough for an adult bike (I got real tall and skinny by around age 11), I used to enjoy riding my grandmother's cruiser around her neighborhood in Louisiana. Smooooooth.

4) Around early adolescence, my mom got my brother and I both these bikes that looked like motorcycles. Cool, right!?! They had fake gas tanks on them and little side panels, as well as big-assed wheels with knobby tires! This bike got ridden for at least a couple of years.

5) That bike started to seem real lame once everyone got bmx bikes, circa 1980. I was not in any position to get some brand spanking new PK Ripper or GT or what have you, but my next door neighbor was, so I ended up with his 20" chrome Supergoose frame and some old Redline forks and bars. This was my ride for a couple of years, I sort of liked the Millenium Falcon nature of this contraption, though I also suffered regularly from bike envy as most of my friends seemed to have some sort of generous bike financing going on in their households. There was much riding of this on crazy suburban Texas trails, construction sites (i.e. piles of dirt) and a local bmx track.

6) After shedding that bike sometime around age 14, I was bike free for a shockingly long time, like from age 14 to age 19. My next bike was a big assed, HEAVY steel cruiser, which I thought would look really cool. Man, did that thing suck to ride. I had it in Austin, which is a pretty hilly place and a one speed, circa 50 pound cruiser is just NOT the thing to have there. Probably put maybe 100 miles tops on this bike. I don't even remember what happened to it.

7) Once I had a decent job as a bartender in Austin, around age 22, I realized I could, say, spring for a $400 bike. My roommate had either a Specialized Rockhopper or maybe it was a Stumpjumper, so I decided to get myself a Rockhopper. I remember very specifically having a knobby tire induced buyer's remorse as I rode away. Why is this expensive bike so similar to the 50 lb. cruiser I forsook a couple years before!? Knobby tires was the main thing. It took me a while to go back and ask for some city tires to put on that thing. That was a big step in the right direction.

I rode this bike somewhat infrequently for the next 9 years. Really didn't have to put another dollar into it, so overall I can't really complain about my Rockhopper. In the end, this bike was stolen along with my tools and a few other sundry items in my second of three Chicago garage break-ins.

8) With what ended up being a sort of paltry insurance reimbursement from the burglary, I ended up getting a new Rockhopper. It was nice, being 8 years later and all, but I actually bet the old one was nicer, made in the USA and whatnot. Anyway, I ALMOST got one of these, I think it was a Sirrus or something, a kind of hybrid/city bike deal, but I thought (wrongly) that these bikes couldn't hold up and would get all trashed with the skinny tires and such. I rode this Rockhopper for about 7 years, maybe 2 to 3 days a week in the decent riding season in Chicago.

9) Then last year, my father-in-law was kind enough to offer me his Trek 750 mountain bike. This was a somewhat older Trek, lugged steel frame, perhaps late 80s? Nice bike, bigger frame (I always had seemed to ride a too-small frame ever since my bmx days). So I began riding this over the last year. I actually changed out some parts and set up my Rockhopper for my wife, which (speaking of too-small frames) fit her just fine. I set this bike up with a nice rack and got some pannier bags so I didn't have to keep killing myself with an overloaded backpack. It was possibly my lightest bike at 34.5 lbs. (Ouch!)

That's my bike history up until a couple of months ago.

Friday, June 13, 2008

opening salvo

It's my first blog. I'm in the blogosphere now! Yippee! I felt that I must start a blog to have a place to blather on about my somewhat out of control (re)obsession with bicycles. I'm particularly interested in older road bicycles and they way they are adapted to and used for urban transportation.

Over the last couple of decades I went through a couple of waves of internal-combustion engine fandom, having owned and tinkered with a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a 1966 Chevrolet El Camino, a 1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado and a 1979 Moto Guzzi SP1000. I originally learned to tinker on vehicles out of necessity, not being able to afford the totally outrageous prices mechanics were charging me (or so it seemed at the time!). So, I began to learn to enjoy the work, changing starters, brakes and alternators, later moving on to clutches, head gaskets, etc.

That all petered out by the time I moved to Chicago, land of garages-that-get-broken-into, mostly of natural causes, but the break-ins didn't help. Also, as our world descends into climate-change decrepitude, it became a lot harder to enjoy sitting around burning through gasoline. Things that are old and don't use any fuel beyond the food one eats are starting to seem a whole lot better over the last several years, particularly in these times of (finally) expensive gas for us guzzling citizens of this nation. At any rate, as far as tinkering, my first love was my old bmx bike. I used to take that thing apart once a week, all the way down to the bearings. Not because it was broken, but because I loved to commune with it, I felt as if it was a part of me. I kind of lost that over some years of indifferent mountain bike ownership, but recently it was reawakened.

I have been a pretty avid fair-weather biker in Chicago since moving here in 1999. I would usually ride from about May to October, maybe 3 days a week or so. I had until recently a pretty nice older Trek mountain bike with some city tires and a rack/pannier bag rig. But on an April trip to Austin, TX (where I spent many years and where my brother currently lives), my wife's cousin borrowed a couple of bikes for us to use for a day of riding around. The bike I was loaned was an old Bridgestone frame setup as a single speed (freewheel) with some decent used components, fast skinny wheels and one of those little handlebars that seem to be in vogue now (it's so small that plural seems a bit much, handlebar?!...).

I went about half a block before I realized I was having a major epiphany. SO EASY TO RIDE! Good lord! What had I been doing on all these mountain bikes for so long? I had once borrowed my then boss's Jamis for an emergency errand, but that thing could not have been more the wrong size or setup for me, so I just thought "Who needs these things!?" This bike was still a bit small for me, but GEEZ, it was like having a little invisible motor pushing me along. I could barely break a sweat riding it in humid 80+ degree weather. I immediately began telling the missus that I was going to have to get a new bike setup when I got home and as you'll find out shortly, I did that and how.