Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fine Tuning Le Mongre

I mentioned a few posts ago that my Motobecane Grand Touring is in all likelihood going to serve as my main ride for a bit, as I'm planning to retire the Kestrel out of concern for its structural integrity. To get there, though, I need to fine tune the Motobecane, as there are a few things I'm just not happy with, right now.

Most importantly, the bottom bracket is too wide. Where I can ride the Kestrel and Schwinn without any knee ache, that's not the case with the Motobecane. After a twenty or twenty five mile loop, my left knee isn't quite screaming, but I know I wasn't kind to it. So I need to get a narrower bottom bracket, to get the outer crank faces a few millimeters closer together, as they are on both of my other bikes. I've ordered a Phil Wood replacement for the one that's in there now. That one will go on eBay with a bunch of others (cup-and-cone and cartridge alike) that I don't have any use for anymore.

The second most important issue is that the brake levers are too stiff. I wouldn't be at all comfortable on that bike in group rides with the brakes the way they are -- I can't actuate them well from the hoods, and the way the bodies are shaped, I have a hard time reaching the levers from the drops. And though I don't go on many group rides, I think you'd agree that having confidence in my brakes is still pretty important. My hope is that this is mostly just about the levers, and not so much about the brake calipers themselves. I've got a set of Tektro aero levers tee'd up to replace them, and am hopeful that they'll fit better, give me more accessibility to the levers, and move more easily than the antique Suntour Superbe levers that are on there. The Tektros are basically copies of non-Ergopower Campy levers, and they're fantastic levers. I've put them on a couple of other builds, but never one of my own. My turn to enjoy them! If that doesn't do it, I'll be in the market for a set of mid-reach calipers, and there are several good choices out there these days.

Third, the stem needs to be changed out. The one on there is, I recently realized, a Nitto Young stem -- Young as in youths. It's the right size in terms of reach, but at the right bar height, I'm just past the maximum safe height line. Couple being just over that limit with the fact that it wasn't made for adult men, and it's enough to raise my left eyebrow a bit. It's a Nitto, so it's stronger than it needs to be for kids, but I'm not so sure it's as strong as it needs to be for me. A Nitto Technomic is on the way. Forged, long in the quill (so at the same height there will be plenty of quill still stuck in the steerer tube) and generally bulletproof. The one I bought is also 90mm, so the fit won't change, just the strength. I seem to recall the steerer of the blue fork being a little undersized (not French, but snug, just the same), so fingers crossed, with respect to fit. I may have to scrub the steerer out a bit with a wire brush to get some crud out of the way, but hopefully it all just won't be a problem.

Since the bar tape has to come off anyway, I'm going to redo the bars in blue, rather than black. Same tape -- Cinelli cork wrap, just trying to match the fork. And since I'll have to mess with most of the cables as well, I'll swap the housing out for blue, too.

And since I broke a front fender stay on a ride the other day (the break-away clip broke, and no longer grabbed the fender), I'm going to be stripping it of fenders, too. I put them on so the Moto could be a wet-road bike, but I'll worry about fenders when I get myself a nice frameset to replace the Kestrel as my main ride someday. In the mean time I can use the (fender equipped) Schwinn for wet-road duty for now. Taking off the dull-black fenders will also lift the bike's color a little, I think, so it may look better for that change as well.

Speaking of wet roads, it needs new tires, too, so I've got a set of blackwall Panaracer Pasela's ready to be loaded up. The (snug) Continentals will be a PITA to get off the rims, so I'm not looking forward to the swap, but once they're off, I'll never have to deal with them again!

What else? I've thought about a 7-speed freewheel and new (retrofriction) shifters, but neither of them is strictly necessary, and neither is particularly a priority. What is a priority is getting the bike comfortable and safe for fast group rides -- fast rides period. I think all of this will do just that, and it won't take me more than a couple of hours to do the refit. Then I'll have a bunch of stuff to put on eBay or into my parts box, too.

I may go after a chrome fork at some point, but having ridden the bike hard a few times this summer, the fork feels stiff and strong, and the handling is good. So I'm not going to worry about it for now, and risk making it handle badly. The bike will stay ugly, between the champagne frame and blue fork, but with blue accents instead of red, it won't be as bad, I think. But if it is, I'll wear the ugly-bike badge proudly, rather than trying to make it pretty. And given its age, I'll keep the speeds down -- no 45-mph blasts out of Hopkinton center on this one. Whatever its limitations, it is what it is, and I love the way it feels. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to work well!

All for now,


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