Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1979 Ross Gran Tour - Updates

I have very quickly gotten very used to riding my "new" bike after a week.  I've gotten a little more accustomed to the super stiff frame and crouched-over riding position, but that didn't happen before I ordered a new spring saddle for it.  More on that later in this post.  I'd even go so far as to say that I've been riding the old Raleigh even less than I would like to, the main reason being that I live on the top of a pretty long, steep hill and most of my classes are on top of another hill.

This bike looks kind of nice from far away and I love the clean lines of a classic ten-speed, but lean up close and you'll see that the paint is actually pretty badly chipped (therefore rusted) and it appears that somebody rode through a puddle of paint years ago.  These grassy photos were taken during a slightly longer ride I took in Gallup Park a few days after getting the bike.  At that time, I was still getting used to it.

I love the look and the feel of the old aluminum stem shifters and I've gotten used to shifting them at speed, even going over bumps.  .  Since there isn't a front derailleur and I don't plan on getting one, I've been thinking of making the left shifter into some sort of light switch for the bike, assuming I can rig up some sort of lighting system at no cost.  Also, the rear derailleur has indeed lost its tension after all these years of weathering and although it's tempting, replacing it is not necessary.  What's even more tantalizing, actually, is the thought of dropping in a Sturmey-Archer 5-speed drum brake hub in place of the cassette but I don't need to and don't want to spend any more money on this bike.  Anyway, one funny result of not being able to reach the smallest gears, though, is that it takes longer to ride this to class than it does to ride the 45-pound Raleigh 3-speed.  The tallest accessible ratio here, and therefore top speed, is nowhere near 3rd gear on the Raleigh and the short hill-climbing ratio means I can take my time and save my energy up hills, rather than standing on the pedals and pounding my way up in the Raleigh.  On average, it takes about a minute longer to commute the 2.5 miles which isn't much to lose.  The huge advantage of this bike, which is the main reason why I got it, is that I don't get to class out of breath and dripping with sweat.

I've taken this bike out to cruise around town on a few nights and literally had to tie a flashlight to the stem for lighting.  The illusion of speed that the darkness brought made the bike seem a lot smoother but in reality, I was just going slow.  Before I went out one night, I used nail clippers to trim the seemingly hundreds of whiskers off the front tire just like my sister had done for my Raleigh.  The wind noise was getting annoying and they flung water up at me.  Also, I found out how to read the serial number on these bikes, thanks to Mark D who lovingly restored his.  The first two digits on the left dropout, 0279, means February 1979.  Before this post, I actually mistook this bike for a 1980 because of the decals, which I know isn't the most accurate way to identify bikes.

The new spring saddle arrived in the mail today and I'll be giving my friend the old one, which is still good.  He borrowed my bike once and told me the seat was a ton better than his.  While I was outside, I tried switching the upper brake lever over from the right to the left but as expected, it didn't work so I put it back.  I had to add an extra washer because it had been working the screw loose.

The new seat is HUGE.  I know it was meant for a cruiser, but after a few test-rides around the driveway, I can already tell it'll be a huge improvement in comfort.  In the photo of the old seat, you can see that it wasn't mounted on rails, which meant it didn't even have the slightest bit of damping aside from the seat foam.  The springs and soft foam will help me when the weight of the backpack is resting on my back.  In the photos above, you'll also see that I have removed the blue masking tape left on by the previous owner.  I hope they were nothing more than a means of identification (inb4 THE BIKE WAS HELD TOGETHER BY MASKING TAPE OH GOD).

I finally got the rear brakes to work better after switching the left and right pads around today.  For whatever reason, the two pads are completely different. The one that used to be on the right side was shaped to be for the left so at first I flipped it upside down the day I got the bike.  A photo at the top of this post also shows that the front brakes, which I think are the original ones, have a different mounting style than the rear - screw mount as opposed to smooth post.  The calipers themselves are just slightly different.  Lastly, I added my own touch by writing "Not Abandoned" on the top tube for kicks (maybe it will help one day) and laminating it in clear packing tape.