Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Old Enough to Drink

I call my road bike Alfred for multiple reasons I will point out as I go. It is a glossy black 1987 Trek touring bike with red decals. Since it is 24 years old, I like to say my bike is old enough to drink. When this bike was new it was one of those crazy Cannondales with the large tubes. And since it was aluminum (Al on the periodic table, hmmm Alfred starts with Al too), people expected it to fold under me anytime. In fact it seems that the public was so leery of aluminum that the fork is steel. But 24 years later it is still rolling along. And the tubes don't seem large at all these days.

Of course, I have upgraded a few things. Back when it was new I added a Blackburn rear rack. Besides the usual things that wear out regularily (tires, handle bar tape, brake pads, and chain), I built a new set of wheels at the beginning of 2010. One big change from this was moving from 27" wheels to 700C. Fortunely the bike had plenty of clearance and the brakes plenty of reach, so that this tranistion was very easy. I was going to need custom built wheels because these bikes have 126mm spacing in the rear and being aluminum it is not a good idea to try and bend them enough to fit the 130mm hubs generally used on bikes these days. So I found some NOS* Shimano 105 hubs with 126mm spacing on the rear. I bought those and took them to my local bike mechanic Matt the Cary Cycle Surgeon. Matt ordered me the Velocity Dyad rims I wanted and caluclated the correct spoke lengths. I built them slowly and carefully, added some Schwalbe Marathon 28mm tires and they have been great.

The old hub had a 6 speed Suntour freewheel. The new hub takes a Shimano UG cassette. The Uni-Glide cassettes were replaced with the HG (hyper-glide) cassettes still in use today. So I had to find a NOS* cassette as well and I got a 7 speed one. This should make you wonder about the shifters. I am still using the original Suntour downtube shifters. The rear shifter is indexed but can  easily be switched into friction shifting which is what I did. Front shifters were not generally indexed when this bike was new.

The Dia-Compe brakes and levers along with the Nitto stem and handle bars are all original. So is the Sugino crank set. In fact I wanted to switch to a triple crank set, but on closer inspection I discovered that the existing set was a triple. It just didn't have a small chain ring bolted on. I had the bottom bracket replaced with a slightly wider one and added the granny gear. I don't use it too often, but when needed it is great. I am pushing the front derailer to its limits to cover all 3 gears, but it is working.

Chatting with the guys at the various LBSs I frequent paid off when I was offered a set of SKS fenders that a customer had returned at a steep discount. They are silver plastic with black stripes. The fenders go great with the black bike kind of like the Batmobile (another Alfred reference). I have been working on getting the arc of the fenders to better match the bike, but as long as they do their job without rubbing I am content.

As the miles started to add up my rear demanded a better seat. I went with a Brooks B17, black of course. It was ok at first and I did experience numbness where no guy wants to be numb on some long rides, but now I have either broken in the seat or it has broken me in. I rarely notice even slight discomfort even when it takes me all day to ride a century.

The last time I changed the handle bar tape, I used a red and black mottled pattern. I also ordered some bright red Planet Bike bottle cages to match the logos. Being a touring frame it has mounts for 3 bottle cages.

I have been using some low end Crank Brother Egg-beater pedals. They are about 15 years old and I noticed recently that the cleats barely had any tab left. As I looked for some new cleats, I found they were about $22. Instead I picked up some Crank Brothers Smarty pedals with cleats for $20. I have been warned that the quality of these can be pretty spotty, but looks like I was lucky. I used them on a recent century and  two 200K brevets. The small platform makes them more comfortable than the plain egg-beaters.

Alfred takes care of me like his namesake took care of Bruce Wayne.

* NOS - new old stock - means unused product that has never been sold at retail

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