Tuesday, August 10, 2010


With every new bike project, there's a stage of planning what I'll need, which overlaps with the process of gathering enough stuff to build the critical mass of parts that comprise the fundamentals of a bicycle. For Juli's Schwinn, that process has been surprisingly quick, and I have most everything I need, already, along with some stuff I don't strictly need, but wanted to include in the build.

On Sunday, I took the girls to the Museum of Transportation for Bicycle Day. There's a concours plus a swap meet (which we also went to last year), and the museum itself is open, with a neat collection of old, very old, and extremely old cars. It's a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a hot August morning.

Last year, I was looking for a clunker, and walked away with the Columbia straight-bar cruiser I've written about up here. I just put that bike on Craig's List, btw, along with the rusty parts bike, as part of the process of paring back on my bicycle hoarding. This year, I was looking for a couple of missing pieces to Juli's Schwinn build. We ended up walking away with a narrow drop bar, along with a complete Dia-Compe 750 centerpull brake caliper to add to the pile of parts.

Actually the Dia-Compe isn't going to go on her Schwinn, but I did install it on the trailer bike, in place of the newer 750 centerpull that was on there. So now I have a matched set of 750's and a matched set of 610's for Juli's Schwinn -- that should give me all of the combinations of brake reach I will need to get the bike rolling. More on that in a bit.

Along with the brakes and handlebar, I've got a Nitto stem with a 50mm reach, a 26.4 seatpost, a new JIS-spec headset, and a front brake cable hanger all waiting. The brake levers, derailleurs, saddle, saddle bag, cranks, pedals, bottom bracket and shifters on the Fuji today will all be moved over to the Schwinn for her to keep using. It's all good stuff, and it will swap over neatly. Juli loves her Pletscher, but that one was modified expressly to fit the Fuji, and will stay with the bike, along with the headset. I've picked up another Pletscher to install on this bike, and will modify the rear struts as needed, to make the rack sit level -- it's a small frame, and I'm pretty sure it won't sit level out-of-the-box.

What's left? Well, I need a seatpost binder bolt, a chain, a pulley-style brake cable hanger for the rear brake, some cables, a kick stand, some handlebar tape, a gear cluster, and of course a pair of wheels. The wheels will be fun to sort out. 27" or 700C wheels will fit fine with the 610 Dia-Compe brakes I have, so the default path is to pirate the 700C wheels from the Shogun. These were Allyson's wheels originally, and they're getting up there in years. The rear is a little out of round, so I'm going to see if I can touch them up next week in my maintenance class, and if not I'll build a new set of wheels around those hubs in my wheelbuilding class, whenever I take it.

But the current question is whether or not I can use a set of 650B rims on that frame. I'm guessing that the brake mounts are too far away from the dropouts to do so (the bike was designed for 27" wheels), but I want to be sure. So I bought a set of 650B wheels (Deore Hubs, Weinmann rims) on the cheap on eBay the other day. Ridiculously cheap for new wheels, actually. Less than half what I paid for that new set of 27" wheels post-crash for my own Schwinn. More like a third -- including shipping. We'll see if the 750 Dia-Compes reach to the 650B's. If they don't, they'll still be good to have for a future project -- maybe Ava's bike post-Fuji. It'll be fun to figure this all out!

Back to the swap meet, I had a couple of firsts, and a few temptations. The firsts, first: There was an Alex Singer bicycle there, and a fully chromed Paramount with red decals and lug lining and red cables. I have a soft spot for fully chromed Schwinns -- both the Voyageurs and the Paramounts. But in truth, I've never seen a chrome Paramount in person. It was just gorgeous, and I'd personally love to see more chromed frames out there. I know chrome plating is a toxic process, and I understand the frames are actually subject to more/worse corrosion problems than painted frames. But even so -- they're beautiful. The girls agreed, so it's not just me!

The Singer was a feast for the eyes, too, with all kinds of interesting details -- like the custom decaleur up on the handlebars, the little reinforcing braces on the front of the Mafac brakes, and much more. I should have brought a camera, but totally forgot. I've never seen a Singer, and it was a real treat. It was even a good size for me, but the seller was asking more than I've ever paid for a bike, and more than I'd consider paying for one. I'm not sure whether I'd enjoy the riding experience as much as the ogling experience.

As to the temptations, one of the constant shell games I play in my head with my bikes is the notion of getting rid of my Schwinn Sports Tourer and replacing it with a bike I can set up as both a utility bike and a touring bike, swapping back and forth with relative ease. I've come very close to doing that with the Schwinn and calling it a day, actually. But the Schwinn is one size too small, and has enough oddities in its specs that it's sometimes difficult to find the right parts for it. The handlebar or stem is making a creak right now, for example, and it's making me nervous. Tightening the quill bolt and bar clamp don't help, and I can't go buy a new Nitto stem for it, because it accepts a 21.15 quill, not a 22.2. I have other 21.15 stems, but their bar clamps won't allow a drop bar to thread through -- they're too wide and not cut out, because they were made for upright bars with wider-radius curves. So it's just a bit of a pain sorting stuff like that out, though the plan itself is still valid.

Anyway, a slightly larger and purpose-built touring frame would be a nice swap at some point, and there were candidates at the swap meet for me -- a nice Lotus touring bike set up with a mountain bike bar, and two Motobecanes similar to my own, but slightly larger and with eyelets on the dropouts. Ultimately, the Lotus was the most interesting, with the nicest components and the greatest utility. But it was also the most expensive, by a factor of two, and I didn't think it was that nice. I figured the bargain Motobecanes would be too much trouble to refit, given their French specs -- and the point is that I want something less fiddly, not more so. I passed on all three, but am going to keep my eyes open for a good bike to bring to France next spring. The Schwinn would do the trick just fine, so I always have it as a fall-back.

So, some progress over the past few days. Not necessarily for my own fleet, yet, but progress just the same.

All for now,


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