Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Old bike stuff...

This is like the argument between the automobile collectors and the hot-rod enthusiasts. When there’s a limited quantity of some item, say, a 1955 Chevy coupe, is it better to restore the car to original condition or turn it into a hot rod? It’s the same with collectible bikes, I think.

There’s a finite quantity of older steel framed road bikes. Personally, though I’d love to have a pristine example of a top-of-the-line road bike from the 1970s or earlier, realistically I know that I would ride the thing a lot, thereby reducing it’s value. Worse, I might even convert it to a fixed gear. I guess that makes me more akin to the hot-rodders. So I’m better off buying a good quality mid-line bike that I can use and use hard. I’d dearly love to have a ‘wall hanger’, a lovely Paramount, Mercian, or something similar with those curvy Nervex lugs, but the temptation to ride it would be overwhelming, I’m afraid. None of my bikes have ever been in concours condition. They’re usually spotty with mud and sloppy chain lube, and have enough spilled Gatorade on the down tube to attract bees.

I’ve been following the Classic Rendezvous list for some time. It’s an e-mail list devoted to older collectible bikes. Some of the people on the list have an amazing wealth of arcane information. Currently, the cutoff date for a classic on that list is arbitrarily set at 1984. Of my four bikes, two are older than 1984 and both of them are fixed gear conversions.

Why four bikes? Wouldn’t just one do? Most of my riding is the daily commute, so two of the bikes are set up as commuters. If I discover a flat tire in the morning out in the garage, there’s no worry about getting to work on time. I just switch bikes. Or if it looks like rain, I ride the one with fenders.

The other two are racing bikes. One is a Giant CFR that I’ve used for both criteriums and time trials. The other is my ancient Pennine that’s a dedicated TT bike. It’s also a lot of fun to ride around on a nice day – i.e. little wind. A calm day is a rarity in Oklahoma.

But there are other bikes out in the garage, lurking in corners and waiting to pounce. There are three, yes, three, Raleigh Tourists. These are ancient 3 speeds with rod brakes and enormous 28-inch wheels. I had one as a mountain bike back before mountain bikes were invented. These things are TOUGH! And the ride is something that everyone should experience at least once. The Raleigh wheelbase is about 46 inches. These bikes are LONG! And if you want one to turn tomorrow, you’d better start initiating the turn today. Their weak point is the steel rim. It hasn’t been manufactured for nearly 25 years and it’s impossible to find replacements. I’m considering getting these re-chromed, but as in all of my projects, money is an issue.

There’s an old Schwinn High Sierra that was converted to a single speed. Jordan wants it for a beater, but he has to learn how to do an overhaul first. For that matter, he has a Nishiki road racer, his old Schwinn BMX racer, and a BMX beater out there too.

My seventeen-year-old daughter has a nice Trek hybrid that is collecting a thick layer of dust, as is her mountain bike. She has my car keys firmly in hand now, and it would be a major faux pas to be seen on a bicycle around town.

The Burley tandem is hanging from the rafters gathering dust too. It’s the family Peterbilt, nearly as fast as a big tractor-trailer rig, and about as nimble. I enjoy riding it, but I have trouble talking my kids onto the stoker seat. There’s a Schwinn Aluminum hanging from the rafters too, another TT project that is currently in stasis.

For those of you keeping score at home, the total is up to 15! There are 2 Community Cycling Project bikes waiting for clients, so the real total is 17. I’m guessing, but I suspect that 7 of the family bikes are older than 1984. Does that make me a collector or just a guy with a garage full of bike junk?


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