Sunday, April 19, 2009

'70's Bars

It was a busy weekend for handlebars on old bicycles. Things are starting to come together, and I should have both of my older bikes (the Schwinn and the Motobecane) ready for the road very soon, along with Juliana's Fuji. Actually, the Fuji and Motobecane are ridable today, but the Schwinn isn't. All three are very close to complete.

Juliana's Fuji:
This thing is just as cute as all get-out, and it'll look even better with the bars taped, twined and shellacked. I'll hold off on a pic until that's done.

A couple of weeks ago, I'd installed the Velo Orange Belleville bars, and discovered their grips were way too long for this application. So today I took the Shimano bar-end shifters off the bike, pulled out the larger of my two pipe cutters and removed one screwdriver shank's worth of length from each side's grip area. Unconventional measuring tool aside, I made an effort to be very precise so there wouldn't be any uneven strangeness to the bike. The pipe cutter is just a home plumbing tool made for copper pipe, but the aluminum handlebars didn't present a challenge, and after a little filing, the shifters were back in place within a half hour of starting the job.

Next, I spent a few minutes fiddling with cable routing to get a sense of how I'm going to have to set things up before taping. It looks like I'll need to run the shifter cables under the cloth tape, to make sure Juli doesn't tangle her fingers while reaching for a brake. I've got some aluminum duct tape that I'll stick the cables down with, so I don't end up with black stripes of electrical tape showing through the red cloth Tressostar tape.

After I got some tentative cable routing sorted out, I called Juli outside and sent her teetering around the driveway on her new ride. She seemed much happier with this arrangement than she was with her drop bars (but still nervous about the top tube height). I'll probably leave the bike this way indefinitely, and get her something sportier when she grows out of this little one.

My Schwinn Sports Tourer:
Today was a day of details for this bike. I'd removed the Nitto bars in favor of a set of Belleri randonneuring bars a few weeks back, but hadn't wrapped them or adjusted the lengths of the brake cables to account for their reduced width. So I took care of that today, first fitting the cables, then adding a little cork wrap along the bar flats, then wrapping the bars in green leather Brooks tape. Which sort of matches the green Brooks saddle, except that the saddle doesn't look very green anymore.

I also spent a few minutes reinstalling the decaleur mount and trying to angle it so it'd work with the bag and the Mafac rack. Truth is I cut it way too short when I had it mounted the first time (sans racklet), but I'll give this setup a whirl and hope for the best. I need to figure out how to lash the bag down to the racklet, too.

I wheeled it out once the bars were wrapped and took this picture. You'll notice the drooping chain -- no freewheel yet. Hopefully that'll arrive this week, and with a little adjustment to the derailleur travel, the bike will be ready to roll again.

It's now almost exactly a year after I first finished it. The first photo I took of the bike after the initial build was in front of that big bush in the background, in full bloom. The bush is just about to bloom again -- you can see the little buds opening. So it's a bush year, if not a calendar year. The bike was sportier then, with 700c wheels, flatter bars and no racks. But I think it's pretty handsome as it is now, too.

I couldn't ride it without a freewheel, but doing a little testing, the Mafac brakes are a little squeaky against these rims -- hopefully that won't last long. And I need to saddle soap the leather and twine the ends.

Steven's Motobecane Grand Touring:
Having test-installed the fork a few weeks ago, there was still a bit of finish work left for this one. I installed the bars and brake levers, put the brake cables back on and adjusted the brakes. Then I set the pads properly for the 700c rims, snugged down the mounting bolts for the brakes, centered them on the rims, and hopped on for a ride.

It felt good, at least in that little trip around the corner and back. The steering feels a little different than it did with the old fork, but it doesn't feel messed up -- just a little different. The gearing with the wider 6-speed freewheel is much better than it was, and the Campagnolo shifters are buttery. I'm going to have to give it a good long ride soon, and write something up about that experience. My hope is that the fork will get the job done, and I won't have to look for another. The feel of the saddle is OK, so all that oiling I did over the winter might have salvaged it. It's got a dull oiled-leather finish to it now, rather than a polished shine, but that's OK.

There are still a few things to do. The brake levers need to slide up a smidge higher on the bars, I need to take a few inches out of the brake cables to make them look not quite so dorky (and to even their loops out), the bars need to be taped and twined, and I need to figure out how and when to put the hoods on, relative to the other steps.

A couple of observations from an aesthetic perspective. The 700c rims fill the frame just fine, and I can run a fatter tire next time. But the dark anodized finish of these rims give the bike a very different appearance than it had with the polished rims it came with. The wheels look extra dark with the brown Continental sidewalls, too, and I'm not sure I like the look as much. It's sportier, for sure. And of course, the other big change is the blue fork, which just looks terrible in combination with the tan frame. I'm going to leave it as is for now, and at some point I'll make a decision about the finish of the fork and the bike overall. The frame has some rust stains and the like, and a new paint job might be nice. Or I could just get the fork stripped and chromed.

I've always wanted a bike painted the color of a Bugatti Type 35, so I may go that route. A refinish (and the attendant rebuild) would be a good project for next winter.

All for now,


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