Thursday, April 6, 2017

Still Way Less Than $500

Here is a 1971 Triumph 3-speed, another bike built for one of my old roommates, one of my best friends, and one of my most loyal customers

My friend Yoon originally bought a Pure Fix single speed when we moved to Ann Arbor in our freshman year. That was a couple months before I had any interest in bicycles whatsoever. As my obsession grew, he naturally caught a bit of the fascination. The first bike he ordered from me was a 1976 Schwinn Varsity, completed February 2015, which he enjoyed more than the Pure Fix. Later that year, in October, he decided he wanted a 3-speed of his own (after being surrounded by so many of mine, literally, in the apartment we shared) so we built a 1965 Hercules. And the following September, he saw the Pake 2-speed automatic I had built and put up for sale. He tried it out, I offered a trade, and he asked if he could have a day to sleep on it. The day turned out to be 15 minutes long as he came right back and gave his Pure Fix and his Schwinn in return for the Pake. It was fair from a monetary standpoint, so I accepted. I was glad that the Pake went to someone who would care for it, and I would also get to see it again now and then.

Shortly after that, my friend realized that the 21" frame of the Raleigh-made Hercules, plus the upside down bars whose appearance he loved so much, made the bike too small for him. His ideal frame size was 56-58 cm, as was mine, so he asked if we could look for a larger frame to move his old parts onto. The hunt was on. And after a few months of checking the internet off and on, we stumbled upon this 1971 Triumph, also made by Raleigh, with a 23" frame located just an hour's drive away for $180. Sold.

The bike was in very good shape and the "swap" was straightforward. Nothing was stuck or worn out so we simply cleaned and repacked the bearings. We didn't actually end up swapping very many parts between the two, and knowing I'd be keeping his old bike, I knocked off a chunk of the price.

In all, we only ended re-using the 20-tooth cog, the chain, the Brooks B72 saddle ...

... the linus headlight, handlebar grips, bell, front wheel, and shifter + cable. My friend didn't like how noisy the Kool Stop brake pads were and he never rode through the rain anyway so we swapped them out for some new Dia Compe Gray Matter pads. Those are quickly becoming my pad of choice for steel rims. They're alright in the rain, too. I replaced the cotter pins after overhauling the bottom bracket since the old ones were a little bit ruined upon removal. We also took the relatively new Vittoria Randonneur tires from my '58 Sports and put them here. Being the speed demon I am, I realized the limits of my tolerance for heavy, puncture-resistant tires. My friend, on the other hand, was more of a laid-back cruiser and was going to New York for grad school. Those bomb-proof tires should keep him rolling for a while.

The Triumph came to us with a chrome Schwinn front fender, as well as a front wheel that was not original. My friend ended up liking the back-to-front dark-to-light gradient that the chrome fender provided, although we did move the front wheel over from the Hercules. Something else we did was since I remember how having an upside down handlebar with the stock stem was on my Superbe, I gave my friend an alloy 85mm stem and longer bars with the standard 25.4 mm clamp diameter. This gave the bike better-looking proportions while moving the hands a tad further forward. The longer grip areas on the handlebar also meant that the grips could be clamped on fully this time, instead of having the end clamps glued on like they used to be.

I had never previously investigated a Triumph up close in person, so the decals were a nice surprise. I especially like the art-deco-style lines on the seat tube.

Both of us were very pleased with how the bike turned out. The chrome front fender grew on me as well. On the test ride, the Vittoria tires felt better than they did on my '58. I did wonder about this previously with Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires, but I still think my very slightly-bent fork has a hand in the ride feel when comparing the same tires on a different Raleigh. Anyway, this bike rode more smoothly than the Hercules did as well, possibly because of the low-quality tires it had before. The Vittoria tires are cushy and buttery-smooth, even if they do have some more rolling resistance. The upside down bars also feel better on this bike than they did on my Superbe. It could be the different bend of the handlebars - I might never know. The best part is that anyone would be hard-pressed to find a transportation bicycle nearly this good (brand new, or fully-overhauled vintage) and with a good Brooks saddle for $280 when all is said and done. Thankfully, despite my fears about the changing market, it is still possible to build a great, reliable commuter for under $500. And on a car-less student's budget, it's pretty much essential.

As for the Hercules, this is what's left of it. As you can see, most of it is there. I have exciting plans for it later this summer but will break it down and safely pack it away for the time being. I won't be assembling any additional bikes for myself until I make my big move in July. More on that later.