Sunday, March 22, 2015

Six Weeks After Groundhog Day

Before I get to the point, I want to present this gem:


Just your average college kid polishing off an entire pizza before heading to a meeting. Finding no other surface in my room on which I could place a super hot pan, I unfolded the basket of the Raleigh Superbe and put the pizza on it.  I like having racks on my bikes for this reason.  Not specifically for pizza pans, but it's surprisingly convenient to have a small table always at my disposal.  On a daily basis, I have a habit of tossing my phone, trouser straps, gloves, or any number of those things onto the rack while I unlock and get ready to ride.  In the warmer months, I'll sit on a concrete berm to have lunch and use the rack as a lunch table, keeping the food a safe distance from the creepy crawlies on the ground.  If I remember correctly, the first time I had done that with the Superbe was just a few hours before the photo above was taken.  Fun stuff.


The weather forecast two Fridays ago called for a high of 60 degrees and no precipitation, so a few friends and I planned to hop on our wheels and enjoy the spring weather.  I spent the night before preparing by mounting my mini air pump to the basket and packing a tire patch kit.  Also, I had previously ordered an 85 mm stem (to replace the factory 60 mm unit) in hopes of moving my hands forward to make the steering more stable.  It arrived shortly before the ride and I was itching to try it out so I started installing it.  I thought I had measured correctly, but 85 mm ended up being too long and interfering with the headlight.  After a half hour of desperation and head-scratching with the front end of my bike blown apart, I came up with this solution:



An old fender stay, which used to hold the brake cable together on the Ross, was cut up to move the headlight forward a few inches.  Perfect.  I also swapped out the Velo Orange tourist bars for Wald 8095 north roads.  They move forward a bit more before sweeping back so I think my hands were moved forward by a total of maybe 5 inches.  This places my hands more or less in line with the head tube.  I am not bothered by the fact that the Wald bars are steel and not aluminum alloy.


I met up with the two friends and we cruised down to the Argo nature area and stopped at the dam.  Yes, that red Schwinn Varsity is the one I restored.  The friend who owns it is absolutely in love and he now rides to class every day, just like I do.  He says the choice of 10 ratios makes it easier on the hills than his fixed gear despite the sheer weight of the Varsity.  The alloy wheels actually reduced it a fair bit, down to 36 pounds.  Coming from someone who had previously only ever ridden single speeds, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was actually taking full advantage of the gears.  It was here at the dam that he decided to name the bike Kayla.  How beautiful!


Finally, a photo of Gilbert and Kayla together.  For better or for worse, I'll always think of them as a pair (much more so than Gilbert and Gwendolyn) since the two projects went on alongside each other.

Paying attention to my new bars and stem, I found that they had indeed improved the handling a little bit but the biggest benefit was the fact that the bar stayed further from my knees during a turn, getting rid of the need to move my knee out in most cases.


We completely forgot that snow was still melting so the mess that ensued was a surprise early in the ride.  I was fine because of fenders (Ha! My habits have made me well-prepared) but my two other buddies had mud all the way up their backs and on their chins.  Near the end of the ride, I let my friends lead and they chose to fly down a muddy dirt road since they were already dirty and didn't care.


Minutes after that, we stumbled across a 1970's vintage Raleigh Super Course.  DROOOOL.  It was pretty beat-up but otherwise appeared to be owned by an enthusiast, looking at the rear derailleur and saddle.  I think I'd like to have one of these as my primary road bike but in nicer shape, of course.

After we finished the ride and split up, I rinsed most of the mud off the Superbe.  Despite the mess, we agreed that it was a fun ride and planned to do it again once the sediment went away.  Spring has finally arrived!