Saturday, August 12, 2017

I Could Not Believe This!

I felt like imitating a clickbait title was appropriate for this post, so please bear with me.

I have been wanting to post about this bike for an entire year. It is a 1984 Takara Prestige that I built for a (then new) friend who was moving into a house with a bunch of my best friends who had previously bought bikes from me or had me service theirs.

Previously, it was the usual bike boom road bike with a too-long stem, "safety" brake levers for the top of the drop bars, and stem shifters. As usual, left for dead with a decent amount of weathering but not much wear. The right rear dropout number, G1283, identified it as having been made in the Giant factory in December, 1983. A look in the 1984 Schwinn catalog confirmed that the exact same bike would have been sold by Schwinn as the Traveler. With a surprisingly light 4130 chromoly steel frame and alloy wheels, the bike provided a solid platform for a fast, durable, inexpensive commuter/adventure bike. However, my friend wanted upright bars as she was not used to drops, so I took the bars, brake levers, and shorter stem off other miscellaneous parts bikes, and added SunRace friction thumb shifters. This was about the time when I came up with what I think is the best way to mount thumb shifters on upright bars: swap them between left and right and mount them facing the rider instead of pointing up, making it so pushing down will shift down and vice versa. The reason why I like this arrangement so much is that it reduces the risk of hyper-extending the thumbs when shifting. Finger motion is natural. Even if the rider needs to get out of a very low gear, they can simply reach around the bar with their index or middle finger and push the shifter upward from below. I prefer these to friction twist shifters (to be discussed below) because twist shifters are too easy to accidentally shift, and also almost always very fragile.

The bike has its original 2x6 Shimano drivetrain, alloy wheels, decent Dia Compe brake calipers. The components were in pretty good shape, so all this bike needed was grease and new consumables. For tires, my adventurous friend chose Continental Tour Rides, which are my favorite all-purpose road bike tire. I quite liked the whole setup myself and thought about building something similar but at that time, I still had the old Ross.

Unfortunately, about two weeks after my friend took the bike home, it was stolen off the front porch. Fortunately, I had some spare bikes to lend her while we hunted. She first rode my Falter 3-speed when I first completed it, and afterward, a blue '79 Schwinn Suburban that I ended up parting out. Unfortunately, before I sold her the Takara, I only had one very blurry photo of it and had not checked the left dropout for the actual serial number. The last bike she ended up borrowing, and for the longest period of time, was the 1976 Raleigh Sprite I built for my mom to ride the winter before. I sent the other nicer Sprite home, which was not purchased by the person who was going to buy it (plus, my mom liked that one more), and brought the brown one back.

This bike is worth mentioning because it was my first time trying out some SunRace friction twist shifters. They're okay, I guess. They do ratchet, because they would be too easy to accidentally turn if they didn't, but the ratchet teeth are fine enough where it can be used on 5, 6, and maybe even 7-speed friction derailleurs. As with all twist shifters I have encountered, the components are entirely plastic and don't seem like they'll endure a lot of hard use. They've been okay so far, but being the same price as the better thumb shifters, I don't have a reason to buy the twist shifters again.

Aside from that, I also added old alloy handlebars with grip sections long enough to fit the shifters, an alloy stem with a clamp diameter that fit the handlebar (original was Raleigh's 23.8 mm), and alloy Weinmann RM19 wheels (surprisingly light) to improve the bike just a little bit, as well as the rear rack from the other Falter folder I sold, and a Wald folding rear basket.

The kicker is how I ended up getting these photos of the Takara when all I had before was the blurry one of it on my work stand. One week after I supposedly left Ann Arbor "for good," I went back because I couldn't fit all of my bikes during the first load. I parked next to the very house the bike was stolen from and met another friend for lunch. We were eating outdoors, a block away, when I suddenly spotted the Takara being ridden down the street. Even my sticker was still on it. I stopped the rider, explained what was going on, and asked him where he got the bike. He said "craigslist, maybe $40 or 45." I thought that since he was unsure, he may have been the one who took it, but I didn't pry. I offered my contact info because I didn't want to leave him without a bike, and he politely declined, as well as any monetary reward for returning the bike. Without any further question, I let him go and wheeled the bike back to my seat. After he went on his way, I sat in disbelief and called my friend to report the news about her bike.

In short, two weeks after the bike was purchased, it was stolen and went missing for the good part of a year, and a stroke of luck maybe a month before my friend left town for good as well, her bike was returned. Shame she wasn't able to enjoy it much and had to ride my substandard clunkers instead.