Sunday, October 12, 2014

Condition is Everything

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When it comes to old bicycles, condition is everything

Why am I posting this? Because over the years, I have bought many old bicycles. I overpaid for some bicycles based on their brand name and country of origin. In addition to the price I paid for some of my bicycles, I spent to have the them restored, in some instances twice as much as I paid originally. While some restorations have been worth it, others left me with a mediocre and somewhat decent bike at best. That is why when deciding on buying a bicycle, it's a good idea to look at the overall condition of the bike before making a decision.

Case and point, I recently got a late 70's to early 80's(ish) Concord Selecta Freedom Deluxe 12 speed road bike on trade. At the time of production, this was a mid-range bicycle made with Kuwahara tubing instead of the plain gauge, hi tensile steel so commonly found in bikes of that same era. This bike features a really cool, super smooth crankset that is a combination of the press fit and Octalink drive technologies seen today on modern bicycles. This crank also features self-extracting crank bolts which unscrew with a 6mm allen key, no special crank puller tool required. The Shimano Selecta crankset appeared around the same time as positron shifting, which was the first attempt at indexed shifting.

My Concord Selecta "Freedom Deluxe" 12 speed road bike.

The decals on this bike are painted, and the lugs have been ornately pinstriped.

The decals on this bike are in great shape. 

At first glance, there seems to be nothing special about this bicycle. It has a bolted on rear wheel, bolted on saddle, stem shifters, no rear derailleur hanger and no water bottle braze ons. The bike snob "connoisseur" types would quickly pass on this bike, assuming it is a cheap, low end model. What this bike doesn't show on the outside it reveals as soon as I mount on the saddle. 

This is the smoothest, most compliant bike of all my ten speed bike-boom era bicycles. The foam grips and the alloy wheels give it a comfortable and plush ride, and the steel frame does it's job of absorbing the road vibrations. The stem shifters shift effortlessly and I have just the right amount of climbing and sprinting gear ratios. What a climber this bike is! Seriously, I did not have to get off the saddle at all, not even on the steepest climbs of my routes the last time I rode it. The stamped, Selecta crankset spun smoothly up hills and I found myself spinning where I would normally be mashing. The saddle was firm enough but not super stiff in the crotch area, and the steel frame absorbed a lot of the impact to the groin region. Japanese road bikes of the 70's and 80's have a reputation for being well made and having better quality than the Peugeots and Merciers that were being made during the same period. However, the thing that sets this bike apart from my other bikes was the condition that I received it in.

This bike was received in time capsule, almost air-sealed, new-old-stock condition compared to other vintage bicycles that I have restored over the years. This bicycle needs no restoration, therefore there is nothing I have to put into it after making the initial investment. When I say nothing, not even the tires need replacing. The rubber on the tires is still new with the little stubbies sticking out the sides. Sometimes its better to get a lightly used, mass produced Japanese bicycle that is in good condition rather than buying a high end bicycle parts project. A middle of the road, not so prestigious bicycle in good condition will be ridden more, enjoyed more and it will be easier to keep up with in the future. A high end bicycle will be stored and collected after restoration, hardly getting any ride time over fears that if it breaks down it will be expensive to fix. These days, the better the condition and the better the fit, the more valuable a bicycle is to me. The Concord Selecta wins on both counts. I get freedom from riding it, just as the name on the frame suggests. It's a bicycle I can use to go exploring downtown or the trails around my area. I feel comfortable riding it helmet-less and in my regular clothing. A 20 mile ride on this bike wouldn't be out of the question, because I know that I received it in good cosmetic and mechanical condition. So I can't stress this enough. I have paid way too much in the past for bicycles that I never got running off the ground. So condition is everything...CONDITION-CONDITION-CONDITION!!!

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***Here's a checklist to go over when looking over a bicycle for purchase***

  1. Does the frame have cracks, dents, rust or feel off balance when ridden?
  2. Does the fork on the frame look bent?
  3. Does the chain have rust?
  4. Are the tires dry-rotted?
  5. Are there any missing bolts on the bicycle?
  6. Are the cables worn or rusted?
  7. Are the brake pads worn?
  8. Is there any rust pitting on the chrome components?
  9. Are the wheels severely bent or missing spokes?
  10. Does the freewheel or the rear cassette engage when pedaled?

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Guide to Understanding a Bike Shed

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Understanding Bike Shed Terms and Why there's no such thing as a free bike

Many bicycle enthusiasts own more than one bike. In fact many people who are dedicated bike riders have a whole shed full of bikes, with each bike serving a distinct purpose for a specific cycling activity. Some people have "beater bikes", grocery bikes, loaner bikes, tweed ride bikes and the list goes on and on. Understanding all of these bike terms can be a little confusing for the fellow spouse of a bike nerd or someone who doesn't get the point of having so many bikes. In this article I'll try to "shed" some light on the subject, no pun intended.

"Beater Bikes":  A beater bike is referred to as the bike that gets no maintenance or money thrown at it whatsoever. Also called a rainy day bike, It is used to get around when the weather is bad or when all other bikes have been cleaned up and polished. It is usually an inexpensive department store bicycle like a Huffy or a Murray. It's a bicycle that the owner can keep locked outside without fear or care of it getting rained on, lost or stolen.

For a dedicated bicycle commuter, a beater bike is the only option of transportation and can double as a grocery bike at times. It can also be used by college kids for scooting around campus. You will not see many bicycle enthusiasts or recreational cyclists on beater bikes. This is because these kinds of bikes offer no value in terms of speed and enjoyability. Also, most enthusiasts take pride in their bicycles, even in the cheapest ones that they own. That being said, even the beater bikes will be repaired and tuned up, no longer qualifying them as such. Beater bikes are mostly owned by joggers, city dwellers, students and some triathletes that like to run and swim more than they like to ride a bike.

"Grocery Bike": Some beater bikes are grocery bikes, but not all grocery bikes are beater bikes. A "grocery bike" is a bike that has been equipped with the means to haul groceries. Candidates for grocery bikes usually include vintage touring bikes and mountain bikes. The steel frames and mounting holes are very useful for carrying heavy loads and adding accessories for carrying items such racks, baskets and fenders. My grocery bike is an old rigid mountain bike that I added a rear rack to. Whenever I do groceries, I hang my panniers on my rear bicycle rack and take off. I can usually get a couple of days worth of groceries in one trip. 

The dedicated grocery bike is more of a suburban phenomenon, with companies even making cargo bikes specifically desgined for hauling kids, groceries and stay at home soccer moms. That being said, a grocery bike can be nicer than a typical beater bike and since it lives in the suburbs it isn't exposed to the same risk environment as a bike in the big city.

"Loaner Bike": A loaner bike is an extra bicycle you have lying around for whenever a friend comes over for a visit. It could be either a road bike or a mountain bike, depending on which activity they enjoy the most. In the past I have been able to successfully employ the idea of a loaner bike. Whenever my friend from Germany came over, for example, I had a bicycle that he could use to go mountain biking with. I have also loaned bikes to other friends from out of town and friends who didn't own bicycles. 

I haven't loaned anyone a bicycle in a few years. Hopefully there will come a time where I run into someone with a like minded enthusiasm for cycling that needs to borrow a bicycle for a ride.

"The Wife's Bike": The wife's bike is actually like a second loaner bike. It could actually be the wife's bike...some people actually have spouses that will go riding with them. Most bicycle fanatics enjoy the idea of having their spouses share in their passion. Many bend over backwards finding the right bike and making it as comfortable to ride on for their spouses as possible. Unfortunately, the ultimate fate of these bikes is to gather dust, or be ridden once every three months. The wife's bike could be a smaller bicycle with a longer seatpost that is ridable by both sexes, or it can also be a women's specific bicycle. A non-specific bicycle can be a good loaner bike for a shorter guy friend as well. 

The "Tweed Bike": This term usually refers to one of the prettiest , most vintage and also most useless bicycle that somebody can own. It's the bike that gets ridden maybe once a year at a retro-ride event or tweed ride. A tweed ride usually mixes up different bicycles from the Victorian era to the 1980's. Its like a comic con for bike nerds, mixing period correct attire to bicycles with a "Steampunk" vibe thrown in. 

Tweed bikes often include Dutch style roadsters, High Wheeler or Penny Farthing bicycles and even "Dandyhorses". I own a tweed bike, and I can't wait to sell it or get rid of it somehow.

"Projects": Incomplete bicycles and parts in the shed. I try not to have too many project bikes, and honestly one project bike is one too many. A shed full of project bikes is like having a driveway full of non-running vehicles. It could become one of those "You might be a redneck if..." scenarios. However, having an abundance of extra parts means less trips to the bike shop when something breaks down and can be an inexpensive or free way of doing maintenance on bicycles.

Other Terms: A "Roadie" is usually a term describing  a new and modern carbon fiber road bike. A "vintage" bicycle is the widely accepted term for any bicycle made before 1990. "Old school" can be used to describe 80's and 90's mountain bikes, "mid-school" can be used for some bikes made in the early 2000's. If someone is more of a mountain bike guy, their bicycle for road riding will be a mountain bike with "slicks" or city tires without tread. "Knobbies" refer to treaded tires for off road use. Mountain bike enthusiasts will usually have rigid, hard-tail and "full squish" versions of their mountain bikes. A "rigid" mountain bike is a bike with no shocks or suspension. A "hard-tail" is a mountain bike with a front shock only and a "full squish" is a full suspension mountain bike with front and rear shocks. Mountain biking includes various disciplines such as trials riding, cross country, Enduro, down-hill and free-riding. It's possible (although highly unlikely, unless they're a professional) that a mountain bike fanatic owns one bike for each of these events.

Road cyclists also participate in a variety of disciplines. These include road racing, criteriums, centuries, track racing, cyclocross and gravel grinder events. It's possible that a road cyclist can own at least three different types of road bikes; the cyclocross bike can be used in both cyclocross and gravel grinder events and the "Roadie" can be used in road racing, criteriums and centuries. In addition to these bikes, there will also be loaner bikes, wife's bikes and obscure bikes such as "fat bikes" and recumbents that have no specific designation. Such is the order of the Pantheon in the bike shed. 

The Free Bike Myth Debunked: Some people say that they get their bikes for free. They find it sitting next to a dumpster or answer an ad for free stuff on the classifieds. However, in my experience there is no such thing. Once a bicycle gets to a point where it has to be given away, it has been ridden to the ground or has something fundamentally wrong with it. Only a few people will throw a bike on a curb because it has a flat tire. Even if the bike is picked up for free, there will still be things that will need to be addressed. New tubes, new tires and even overhauling the whole bicycle can be required at times. So to me there are no free bikes, however there are $5.00 bikes, $20.00 bikes or expensive bikes depending on whatever it costs to fix it up.

Hopefully this helps explain that crazy bike-obsessed friend a little better or describe the current condition of one's shed. The best way to deal with a bike person like this is to go on a ride with them. Whether you're the friend or the spouse of a bike nerd, your significant other needs your friendship and association. They will be more than happy to provide you with a bicycle, all you have to do is turn the pedals and try to keep up. Stay tuned for more articles from A Bicycle's Point of View.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vintage Mountain Bike: My 1984 Schwinn Sierra

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Rockin' those bull moose handlebars....80's style.

I rarely take self portraits, but this one seems very period correct, Star Wars tee shirt and all.
As a followup to my last few articles about vintage mountain biking, I wanted to introduce some of my readers to what a first generation mountain bike looks like. I recently acquired this 1984 Schwinn Sierra for 70 bucks a few days ago. This was the first mountain bike made by Schwinn and 1984 was the first year of production. This model was a mid-level option at the time, with the High Sierra being the top of the line mountain bike in the lineup.

My first impression of this bike is how indestructible it feels while riding. This bike comes with really beefy Araya 26x1.75 alloy wheels with high flange sealed hubs that are bolted onto the frame. The wheels alone probably have a combined weight of  over 10 pounds, including the tires and tubes. Although this was a bit of a drawback while climbing, I feel that these wheels can rollover and mow down anything in their path. I don't think there is anything that I can do to easily taco these rims. 

This bicycle features the highly coveted bull moose handlebars. Bull moose handlebars have a unique design that combines the stem and handlebars into a single welded piece. Adding to the uniqueness of this design, this bike comes with old school friction thumb shifters as well. 

"Bull Moose" handlebars and thumb shifters, also known as "thumbies".
The brakes on this bike are truly unique. They are not the disc brakes seen on mountain bikes today or even the V-brakes seen on most 90's mid-school mountain bikes. These are first generation cantilevers, made of all steel with a winged shaped design.When adjusted, these brakes have incredibly good stopping power, although the front brake pads on this bike are starting to squeak and show their age.

Dia Compe cantilever brakes were one of the first braking systems used on mountain bikes.
When I got this bike, it was covered in silt over years of not being cleaned or maintained. The grease was 30 years old and never changed out throughout it's existence. I took this bike apart, regreased all the bearings and dunked most of the drivetrain parts in Simple Green to get the years of dirt and grime buildup off of them. I re-lubricated the chain as a temporary solution but will end up replacing the chain and freewheel in the future to make it ride just a little smoother. 

So, how does it ride? Let me start off by saying that this bike isn't for everyone. Its an old bike, there should be no illusions of it riding like a modern mountain bike or better. For one thing, climbing hills on this bike is more difficult because of the bigger front chainrings, the longer wheelbase and the overall weight of this steel bike. I made all of the hills I normally make on this bike, but found myself climbing on my largest rear sprocket most of the time. Granted, I had a backpack full of my camera gear when I took these photos on my last ride.  What this bike lacks going uphill it makes up for on the way back down.  This bike rides like a beast on flat singletrack and  takes downhills with speed. Its important to keep in mind that people were not thinking of riding their bikes over rock gardens or getting massive air off of jumps when these bikes were made. In the early years of mountain biking there was a big focus on trekking rather than racing like there is nowadays. Having a durable bike that could take a beating was key, but people also had the common sense to get off their bikes when the terrain became too gnarly. The mountain bike was originally designed to take people where a road bike couldn't go. In it's humble beginnings, it was purposed as a tool for exploration rather than an off road racing machine. Although this bike is heavy, there is no compromise to it's durability and this mountain bike rides like a tank. These are how the first mountain bikes that rolled off the assembly line were built.

This bike marks the start of a new focus for my blog, as well as a shift in the type of bikes that I will be collecting, riding on and talking about. I'll still do a couple of articles on vintage road bike riding, however the preservation of old-school mountain biking culture has taken precedent. One might assume that I'll be going off on a tangent of all things 90's mountain bike related, like talking about John Tomac's drop bar riding position or Tinker Juarez. Not at all; I'll be talking about mountain bike culture from the way I grew up seeing it, not from a nostalgic ex-racer's point of view. Some very interesting articles to come. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vintage Bikes of the future, 26 inch wheel mountain bikes?

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Why you should start collecting 80's and 90's mountain bikes

They say 30 years makes a classic. So pretty much, judging by my time here on this earth, I'm pretty much a classic myself. Classics enjoy the respect of enthusiasts and turn heads when being showed off in a modern environment. The mountain bike as it originally was has also become a classic. 

Crested Butte, 1980. There was a repack mountain bike race that day-viewed the first generation of mountain bikes, a far cry from what we would consider to be a mountain bike today. Cantilever or drum brakes, bull moose bmx-style handlebars, and heavy frames with long rear triangles were on the forefront of technology back then. Many of these bikes have sadly not made it into collector's hands after decades of rigorous thrashings on the mountain bike trail. The ones that have made it will soon be as valuable as the most expensive vintage Italian road bikes.

With the recent popularity of vintage road bikes and fixies, old ten speeds have enjoyed a vast number of avenues for replacement parts and upgrades. Most tire manufacturers still make 27" tires, for example. 27" and 700c wheel replacements are still to be found for many of these bikes, even replacements for rear wheels that require a freewheel instead of a cassette. In fact, ever since 700c became the popular wheel size on road bikes, they have been able to co-exist with 27" bikes until this day. I'm guessing back then bicycle companies respected the consumer's wallet, that or 27" wheel touring bikes were seen as benign and not a threat to 700c wheel racing bikes. 

Never in all of bicycle history has there been an attempt so blatant to eradicate a wheel size option than what the bicycle industry is doing with regards to the 26 inch mountain bike. A year ago, I wrote an article saying this would happen, based on market trends and feedback from working at a bike shop. It seems that overnight, all of the good, mid-school wheels and components have either been bought up or priced up at a 300% inflation rate. This is an unexpected outcome to the 650b and 29er wheel craze of the last few years. I can't seem to find anyone who sells good 26" freewheel threaded wheels anymore, unless they are heavy bolt ons for cruisers. The only wheelsets I find available are cassette compatible and top end brands like Mavic. What ever happened to the Zac 19's?

I can only compare what is happening to the 26", unsuspended, steel mountain bike to what happened to film photography. All the powers that be in the photography industry got together , and in less than a decade, film photography was gone. I saw my first digital camera around 2001, a box-like object that used a floppy disc and could only take five pictures at a time. By 2004, 3 mega pixel cameras where starting to become common among most people. In 2009 when I took my film camera to Germany, I received a few impressed looks and one person even told me that they had forgotten what a film rewind sounded like. I had to take my film to a specialty camera store to get it developed, and that was 5 years ago. I still have my film cameras (good ones, at that) but seldom use them because I don't know where I'll develop the little film that I have left in my refrigerator. Were film cameras that much more inferior than digital cameras? No, in fact a 35mm camera with a really sharp lens could get the equivalent of 64 mega pixels in image resolution. My medium format camera could get an even much higher resolution still. So why did the industry have to force film into obsolescence?

For the same reason why the bike industry is forcing out the 26" wheeled mountain bike: to make money. By forcing everyone to upgrade across the board, the bicycle industry is forcing consumers to buy their product, because all other options have been eliminated. As much as I loved my film camera, once all of the one hour photo labs started closing down, I really could not use it anymore. So let's say I were to break a wheel or a 7 speed shifter on my mountain bike. There may soon come a time where that will mean the end of that bike's lifespan as a mountain bike. It will from that point forward have to become a beach cruiser, because those will be the only wheel and tire options that will come in 26 inches. As a desperate measure, I may just have to buy a Wally World bike or a Magna bike from Target with 26 inch wheels, just to swap parts onto my old mountain bike. 

As consumers, we can choose with our wallets whether or not we like what the bicycle industry is doing. When I say bicycle industry, I am not including bicycles found at department stores, many of which still come in 26 inches. I'm including The two big American owned companies in the industry and the one big but still emerging Taiwanese "giant" who are driving the change. "The Big Three" currently own most of the patents in the industry and are known to buy out other companies just for the sake of eliminating the competition. If we don't like what they're doing, then we don't need to buy their mountain bikes, it's that simple. When we start seeing more aftermarket parts available for our old-school rigs, then we can entertain the idea of buying their products again. 

In conclusion, forced obsolescence is never a good thing. Look what that did to letter writing, no one writes hand written letters anymore. Fewer people read the printed page, now you see people reading on their tablets and "eBooks". People don't invite other people over to look at their photo albums anymore, everything is shared online and invitations are kept to a minimum. When something becomes obsolete, our values and manners suffer. Some people will say that it's just a wheel size, that it's just a hobby and that truth be told all bikes were meant to be disposable anyway. But it's much more personal than that. Pricing out the consumer or forcing an expensive change on them is taking advantage of their long time integrity and the fact that they're cyclists. It's telling them that there's a cost of entry and a economical barrier to doing what they love to do. It's telling the consumer either pay up or quit riding a bike. It's an underhanded and indirect way of pre-qualifying people to do something that everyone should have the right to do; ride a bike. Straight up class warfare, if you ask me. 

Here's my answer to what the bicycle industry is doing. I'm going to start collecting vintage mountain bikes and components. I hope to accumulate enough parts to do my own maintenance without ever having to step foot in a boutique, hipster-owned bike shop. Once I can no longer do maintenance on my bikes, all future mountain bikes will come from Target. That's how I'm going to choose with my wallet and I'm sure others will follow suit. The modern bike boom is over, it's been over for about 3 years now. With this forced change the specialty bicycle market will not keep enjoying it's temporary run of sales for very long. Once the bicycle demands of the upper echelon of society are met, they will not derive any more profit from the rest of us. Until another Lance Armstrong comes along and gets people into Tour De France fever, most people will no longer see the need to buy an expensive bicycle again. 

End of rant.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What If Lance Rode an old 10 speed bike?

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Would Lance Armstrong still be fast on a 10 speed?

When people talk about Lance Armstrong, is isn't without reservations, resentments, or any love lost for the recently dethroned athlete. Lance Armstrong, however, has done nothing to rectify his public image, besides showing us how to change a bicycle tire on an old Peugeot (We're glad you finally learned how to do that, Lance).

It's been almost two years since the USADA cleaned his figurative clock of all of his fraudulent Tour De France victories, Olympic medals and world records. Someone who has been raked through the coals the way Lance has should by now have attained a certain amount of humility. There are many things that Lance can do that will put him in a positive light again, maybe even reinstate his status as an athlete. Who better than Lance to set up cycling programs for the underprivileged youth of America, for example? There are good cyclists everywhere from all walks of life, but the sport doesn't follow them, it follows the money. Apparently so does Lance. Someone like Lance could turn the status-quo, like Jonathan Boyer did for team Rwanda or John Candy did in Cool Runnings. If Lance weren't so self centered, he would make a great coach.

The other thing Lance Armstrong created was the stereotype of the American cyclist. The Strava obsessed, weight weenie, goo slurping, middle aged jerk in a mid life crisis who makes it rain money every time he walks into a bike shop. Readers of my last article will see the illustration of how cyclists used to dress. Blue jeans, casual clothes, tee shirts and sneakers was the dress attire until the late 1990's. Now everyone who rides their bicycles on the roads or even on the trails is wearing full team kit, perhaps subconsciously thinking that is what they have to wear to be like Lance. The uniform serves it's purpose in the hot summer months, however its not a year round requirement to ride a bike. What Lance needs to do for his public image is to change the way that he is seen riding a bike. Trek no longer sponsors Lance, he needs to trade in his carbon fiber Madone for an old ten speed. He needs to  wear regular clothes on his training rides. He needs to show the world that it really isn't about the bike, because his whole career and the aftermath of it he has shown the opposite.

If Lance were to say, race me in an unsanctioned event like an alleycat, riding on a Schwinn Varsity or a Huffy Aerowind and still beat me, an avid recreational cyclist, then my level of respect would be much higher for him. That would turn the bike industry on it's head, since they could no longer sell people on the performance gains of high end bikes. If the average person knew that they could enjoy cycling on what they already own, instead of looking at cycling like a specialized equipment sport that requires endless upgrades, there would be more cyclists around the world and money would be trading hands hand over fist. Only somebody of his celebrity or infamy could pull it off, too.

Would you like to see Lance on one of these for a change?

Talking about Lance Armstrong is beating a dead horse to many people. I wanted to write this article because even though Lance isn't around racing his bicycle anymore, the damage he did to the sport still remains. On the local and national level, many riders are still juicing up to win races. Strava obsessed cyclists clip pedestrians on multi-use paths. I'm sure even though it hasn't been discovered yet, new methods of doping have already made their way into the professional ranks. I don't believe for a minute that a certain recent grand tour in Spain was raced cleanly, without drugs or sabotage. Lance can show redemption by condemning his own past actions as well as not letting anyone else get away with what he did, whether it be on a local, national or international field. Who better than Lance to point out the cheaters?

The truth is we don't owe Lance anything and neither does he. He will go down as the biggest loser of the 21st century. His public life has gone to tatters, and there is little he is willing to do about it. His example serves as a warning of the consequences of big headedness, arrogance and dishonesty.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rules of Old School Mountain Biking

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Top 20 Rules of Old School Mountain Biking

If you grew up in the 90's or were already into the mountain bike scene back then, then this article will make sense to you. Long before consumers were priced out by carbon fiber, metric wheel sizes, electronic shifting and "E-bikes", there was mountain biking. Real mountain biking. The kind of mountain biking that required skill and a little bit of recklessness. Back then there were no cycling computers, no phone apps to track Strava or even cell phones for that matter. The most travel available on a suspension fork was 80mm, not 120mm or more like today's bikes. If you are a 90's survivor, or riding a 90's survivor mountain bike, here are the top 20 rules of old school mountain biking you will need to be aware of. Welcome to the club.

1. Trail etiquette is becoming rarer than 4130 Chro-Mo and neon fade color patterns. Respect others on the trail and assist any fallen rider.

2.Always lift the front wheel to clear obstacles on the trail. A steel fork is a beautiful thing to waste.

3. Suspension? Your body is the suspension. Form your body into a spring by bending your arms and your knees.

4. E-bikes are not mountain bikes. They're off road mopeds. Now repeat this line ten times in your head before moving on, until it becomes natural.

5. If the jump is too high, or the climb is too steep, a real man walks it. 

6. It's okay to wear blue jeans and flannel on your mountain bike. 

7. Goos, pre-workout drinks and legal steroids are for wusses. Do you get hungry on the trail? Eat some trail mix, a Powerbar, or a banana. Real food, you wussy!

8. Upgraditis is not a condition we suffer from. Don't fix it if it ain't broken. If it is broken, buy it New-Old-Stock off of eBay.

9. Always shift your weight behind the saddle when bombing a descent or flying off a ledge. Use the rear brake, only feather the front one.

10. You only need seven gears on shift on your rear wheel. A real old-school pro does it with six.

11. If you ride with thumb shifters, that's boss.

12. V-brakes earn you respect on the trail. Cantilevers earn you instant free beers, facial hair and overall success in life.

13. Never make fun of the hippie old guy that looks like ZZ Top and rides a Walmart bike while smoking a cigar in his cutoff blue jeans and tie dye tee shirt. That guy can smoke you on the trail and drop you like a bad habit.

14. Not sure which wheel size to get? There is only one, and it comes in 26 inches. Now pick a size, any one you like, as long as its 26.

15. Yetis are real. So are Klein bikes. But seriously......they're out there.

16. If gram counting is your occupation, I'm sorry, someone didn't love you enough. Give that man a sandwich and a heavy steel bike, pronto!

17. A scar tells a story better than Strava does.

18. Never, under any circumstances, is it okay to show up to a trail with your legs shaved (unless you're a woman, then feel free to do your thang).

19. The bike should always cost less than the car, even if the car cost $800.

20. Clip-less shoes are for roadies that ride mountain bikes. Platform pedals and hiking shoes are all you need.

These are rules for the off-road retro grouch to live by. Its time to take back what was once ours from the roadies who got bored, crossed over into mountain biking and sanctioned every tree stump on the trail. Next time you go mountain biking, bring that retro bike that has been sitting in a garage for a while. Take an old pair of blue jeans, rip them in half if its hot or cuff them at the heel if its cold. Wear a tee shirt, not a jersey. Turn off your cell phone. Wear a wrist watch if you have to. Keep it old school.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Tale of Two Peugeots: The PGN-10 and the PSN-10

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Discussing my two favorite Peugeots from 1985

1985 was indeed a great year for a lot of things. Back To the Future came out, as well as one of my favorite movies of all time, The Goonies. I was born that year so that is probably the best thing that ever happened! All joking aside, that year also introduced two very unique models from the Peugeot bicycle factory. 

Second and Bottom: The PSN-10 and PGN-10. Image courtesy of

At first glance the PGN-10 and the model above it, the PSN-10, look like your typical 1980's road bikes. But look closer, and the differences start to become clear. These bikes have quill seatposts that adjust from the inside of the post rather than from a seatpost binder bolt. Plastic Stronglight headsets would now seem like a quirky idea but were the rave on many 80's french bikes. Even Bernard Hinault promoted his line of plastic headsets. As strange and as prone to catastrophic failure as these design features seem to be, they are highly functional and have been free from any defect over the past 30 years. I'm sure that the seatpost has a weight limit, however riding these bikes it's clear to me that I haven't reached it. The Sachs Huret shifters and derailleurs on my PGN-10 are the cleanest and smoothest shifting of all the bikes that I own. In the following article I'm going to do my best to give a concise review of both bikes.

Kitt From Knight Rider, my PSN-10

Meet Kitt, My Campagnolo equipped PSN-10.

This is easily one of the most comfortable steel bikes that I own, only below "La Poderosa" in it's ride quality and handling. It took a lot of work to get this bike to ride the way it should. Even after having taken it all apart and greasing every single bearing the bike felt whippy and noodly. I researched this and it turns out that its a pretty common issue with this Peugeot model. To counteract the "whippiness" I replaced the 40cm handlebars with some 43cm Sakae FX handlebars I had lying around. The Modolo Speedy brakes that originally came on the bike were not centering correctly, so I replaced those with some Tektro takeoffs from another bike, purchased from a seller on eBay. The original Vetta saddle that came on the bike was dried out and as hard as a brick. I had an extra Brooks saddle that I was saving for a very special bike. I decided now it was the time to use it on my new bike, which I will refer to as Kitt.

The Ride:

Today I took Kitt for a 40 mile spin around the countryside, just to see if I like the bike enough to use it in my next bike rally. This bike definitely has it's talking points. For one thing, I have never ridden this far on a bike without clip-less pedals. The fact that I was able to ride 40 miles in the 97 degree heat and still come out okay means that this bike was mostly comfortable on all it's points of contact.

There is a bounciness to the Super Vitus tubing that resembles titanium or carbon in it's ride quality. Compared to other steel bikes that I own, this Peugeot can absorb road shock without compromising energy transfer through the frame. All this makes for a lively, springy ride, especially when the roads start to get gravelly.  

One might assume that a stiffer yet springier steel frame makes for a faster ride. I did not have a cycling computer to see how fast I was going. Furthermore, I felt I could have lowered the stem a little bit more to assume my usual aero position. The fact is that the speed of this bike still remains unknown. It certainly felt fast, however I know from experience that feeling and reality are two different things.

There was more stiffness in the front fork on this bike than on my other bikes. I  can attribute this to the Stronglight headset being made of Derlin plastic and therefore not transfering vibrations as efficiently as a steel one would. I will have to make sure to wear padded gloves the next time I take this bike on a long ride. 

One thing that helped the ride on this bike tremendously was switching out the stock saddle for the Brooks. I find that any bike with a Brooks saddle rides way better than a bike without one. Despite the odd seatpost and plastic headset, when all the pieces come together this bike works magnificently.

My PGN-10

I was fortunate enough to get this bike with very little use on it and very low miles on the frame and components. The only thing that I had to change out was the wheelset, because the seller put 27" wheels on the bike that didn't fit. I had some 700c wheels with Shimano 600 hubs lying around my garage that I replaced them with. 

This bike rides great with all of it's stock components. Not even the saddle needs replacing. This bike shifts well even while climbing, and I can hardly feel the transition from the large to the small chainrings when I shift. The Reynolds 501 tubing absorbs road vibrations well and in my opinion is more compliant than the Super Vitus as it isn't as bouncy. Since I have owned it I have not had to take it apart and overhaul it like I did with Kitt (My PSN-10 or the black bike, for those of you just tuning in). 

Reynolds 501 tubing makes for a light but strong frame on the PGN-10

The only thing that this bike needs is better handlebar wrap. Again, I can probably work around this by wearing padded gloves when I ride. I haven't done super long distances on this bike yet, however I have done 14 to 20 mile rides on it. From what I have ridden on it I can say so far its a great bike. I may go with this bike for my next rally, I don't know, I haven't decided yet. What do you think? Which one should I choose?

These bikes are somewhat rare finds but are common enough that I decided to do an article about them. If someone comes across a bike like one of these Peugeots, they are keepers, especially if they are the right size. For a long time I couldn't get my hands on a Peugeot, now they seem to be coming out of nowhere. I have been involved in buying and restoring old vintage bikes for a while now, and I am just starting to get some really cool bikes into my collection. Now that I have worked out all the kinks on mine I am definitely not getting rid of them.  I hope to hold on to mine as long as I can and maybe one day my son will enjoy them as much as I do now. Stay tuned for more articles like these and subscribe to my posts for more updates.

Some Notes on maintenance and care:

Do not overtighten the quill seatpost. It may lead to a bulge in the seat tube or failure of the seatpost. Get it snug tight until the seatpost no longer moves.

Derlin plastic can decompose if exposed to bleach or anything that has chlorine. Do not store this bicycle near pool chemicals as this will deteriorate the headset and cause it to crack. Do not clean the bike with hot water or mineral spirits and rather use a biodegradable cleaner like Simple Green. 

To be fair, many road bikes of this era had quirky features, such as odd seatpost binders, Italian and French bottom brackets and headsets, plastic derailleurs, etc. These were even more evident on higher end bikes than others made during that period. With proper care, I believe these bikes can last another 30 years without problems. However, once something breaks it can't be replaced. Keep that in mind when looking to purchase any vintage bicycle. 

Crits Vs. Rallies: Which one has more bang for the buck?

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Criteriums Vs. Bicycle Rallies

Being an active cyclist, it's only natural to want to take the next step in proving one's fitness level and ability. Many new cyclists enter their first criterium race unprepared or unfit for the demands of competitive cycling. I thought I was a good cyclist until I raced my first criterium. I was lapped twice by guys averaging 21 miles an hour in a pack. I didn't know the principles of drafting and I wasn't expecting the sudden attacks and unpredictable nature of the riders participating. Being the new guy in the group didn't help either. I didn't receive any favors from the pack and the veteran riders made fun of me. After that first experience I nearly stopped riding my bike altogether, thinking I had no natural ability to be pursuing cycling. Then I remembered why I started riding in the first place, because I enjoyed it. I didn't buy my first bike thinking that I would end up riding around in circles like a NASCAR race for bicycles. I bought it because I wanted a long term fitness plan to keep me active through my 20's and beyond. 

This outlook has kept me riding for the last four years since my first criterium, however it wasn't enough to keep me satisfied with riding bikes long term. I needed fitness goals, milestones that I could reach and say that I did something meaningful as a cyclist, even though I never won a race. So this year I started participating in bicycle rallies, events that are usually non-competitive in nature that have varied participation and are usually 60 to 100 miles. My first bicycle rally was the Collin Classic in June of this year. I was over 10 pounds heavier than I am now when I participated, however I was able to complete 69 miles averaging over 17 miles an hour. Unlike criteriums where someone doesn't even get mentioned if they don't finish in the top ten, every rider at a bicycle rally gets some sort of recognition. I wasn't expecting a medal for finishing the hundred mile Hotter N' Hell this year, however a crowd of volunteers was waiting for me at the finish line to take off my helmet and put a medal around my neck. In addition the riders received a tracking chip that tracked their progress and overall time from start to finish. You could compare how well you rode against other riders in your age group, and also see your overall ranking. Bicycle rallies give away tee shirts, water bottles and coupons for restaurants for the same cost of entry as a criterium race. In a criterium race, you pay $35 to get whooped by a bunch guys with disposable income, most of them riding $10k carbon fiber bikes and most of them able to show up every week and pay the same fee to race. 

Are all the participants fat, slow, frumpy old guys on hybrids that do these bicycle rallies? Absolutely not. Furthermore a lot of older guys in their 60's and older participate in these rides, and can overtake guys half their age through the course of 50 to 60 miles. A lot of participants that do bicycle rallies are seasoned distance riders, with amazing fitness and endurance. There are also riders of all ages and all abilities that come to these events. There are even shorter routes for families to do, and you will see moms and dads pulling their kids behind them on bicycle trailers. 

All I can say is that I can't wait to do my next bicycle rally in October. I don't know if I'll do another criterium ride in the future, however I'm 100% sure that I would like to keep doing bicycle rallies. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Hotter N' Hell Hundred Mile Bike Ride: My First Century

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The Hotter N' Hell Hundred: A Texas Tradition of Suffering

Sunday Morning Crit Race.

It's 2 o' clock in the afternoon. The sun beams down on my skin, attempting to sizzle in a sunburn through my mesh gloves and every exposed section on my body. Around me there is carnage; riders strewn across the road, some convulsing with heat strokes, some leaning against their bikes, staring with steely eyed, glazed expressions out into the nothingness of the prairie land. Some rider's bikes have broken down and ill equipped riders stand perplexed not knowing how they are going to change their flat tire. As I ride along past these mangled and distressed characters, I know there is little that I can do to help them; I have my own plight to contend with. I have another 18 miles to go, however between me and the finish line is a constant 20 mile an hour headwind to contend with. 

I couldn't figure out which was hotter, the wind which was blowing in my face or the sun burning me from above. The wind covered me with a fine coating of red dust from the famous red river on the Texas-Oklahoma border. My legs are on auto pilot at this point, turning the lowest gears of my bike in order to keep spinning. I could barely move the bike over 12 miles an hour for the rest of the way. "I have to keep going, I have to survive this" I kept telling myself. As I struggled for survival, in the sense of making it within the cutoff time of eight hours and literally my own physical survival, I kept asking myself "How did anyone talk me into this?"

After the Collin Classic, I was almost sure that I wouldn't be doing another big ride for the rest of the year. I was making friends outside the sport and becoming interested in other types of physical activities. I was playing pickup soccer games on the weekends, working out at the gym, losing weight, feeling good.

Meet my friend Levi. Yes, he's the one posing awkwardly with the horse statue. Levi and I have been riding on and off for a couple of years now. We had been toying around with the idea of doing the Hotter N' Hell for the past year, but neither of us had committed until about a month before the ride. 

Having had my first Sunday morning off in a really long time I met Levi and another friend Carlos for a few laps around White Rock Lake in Dallas. That's when the idea finally materialized. I told Levi that I would ride the Hotter N' Hell and train for the next three weeks before the ride to get my miles and my endurance up. By the day of the event we were averaging 18.5 miles an hour on every ride, and riding over 30 miles at a time. This is the absolute fittest on a bike that I have ever been. I have been lighter as a rider in the past but never this fast. Even at this level of fitness and training nothing could prepare me for what lied ahead. 

We rented a RV camper since by the time everybody decided that they were in all the hotels in Wichita Falls had been booked. I managed to talk another friend, Raymond, into doing the ride with us. Raymond organized the RV rental and put the cash upfront to get us to Wichita Falls. At 44 years old, Raymond is a beast on the bicycle. He finished the ride in a little under 6 hours, with time to spare to take a shower, come back to the finish line and wait another hour for me before I finally got there. 

From right to left: Raymond, Levi, myself and Carlos

The RV Camper we rented!

Here we go!

Being the youngest one there, I was the brattiest one in the group and therefore the butt of everybody's jokes for the weekend. On Friday night before the race, I had so much pre-race anxiety (and caffeine) that I didn't sleep at all. I kept everybody awake with my rolling around in bed. Finally, I got up at 4 in the morning and took a shower, double and triple checked my bike and gear, and started to get ready for the ride. Everybody was pissed that I had woken them up. "You crazy" was basically all I heard Levi say, for the rest of the weekend. 

We made it to the starting line early, and got some good spots in the scorcher section, although I had signed up for the Keeper category. Scorchers try to finish the ride between 5 and 6 hours, Keepers are 6 to 8 hours. 

Left to Right: Levi, Carlos and Raymond

I was the prankster on the group, on the far left.

This year I have had a love affair with my Woodrup bike. It survived the Collin Classic and a whole summer of training hard for the Hotter N' Hell. It has pretty much been my go to bike for long rides and hard efforts. Carlos calls my bike "La Poderosa" or the powerful one, conjugated in the feminine tense, so it's more like "My powerful girl" in Spanish. I'm going to stick with that from now on, and call my Woodrup La Poderosa. 

"La Poderosa"
The first 50 miles were literally a breeze, as in we had the breeze pushing us the whole way. I averaged 20 miles an hour, up and down rollers and easily keeping up with the rest of the guys. The 50 mile rest stop was awesome. They had hot dogs, baked cookies and free massages. It was like a siren's beckoning call, and I stayed for almost 30 minutes at this stop, way too long for my own good. Little did I know that all that stalling would catch up to me later. I would get caught in the blasting furnace of what this event is renowned for, being hotter than hell (or at least hotter than having your head stuck in an oven for 3 hours). 

At one of the earlier rest stops, hanging out with the Comic Con crew.

At the 50 mile rest stop. I don't think the chubby guy made it though.

At the second to last rest stop there was a long line to have our water bottles filled. One lone tree stood outside the service tent, where a couple of old dudes and some Nigerians were hanging out. I asked one of them how far we had left and if the route ever turned with the wind. "You don't have the ""butt"" to push against the wind", one of the old guys said, and no, he didn't say butt, he used the other word. One of the Nigerian guys told me that I couldn't bring my bike under the tree, as if it was his tree to make the rules. I'm guessing the heat had made everybody ornery, but the ridicule these guys gave me served as fuel to make it across that finish line. 

This story does have a happy ending. With everything I had, I pedaled myself, at least 15 pounds of gear including water bottles, my digital SLR camera (I was wearing a Camelbak) and my 1980's steel bike across the finish line in a time of 7 hours and 46 minutes. I didn't break any records, I had stopped at least five times for water and lunch, but I made it. Making it is such a big deal that you get a medal once you cross the finish line. For as many people who make the hundred miles, there are many who don't. Many end up riding the SAG wagon of shame, or worse, end up riding back in an ambulance or being air lifted by a helicopter. The 103 degree heat is real and so are the risks. I myself had heat exhaustion for the rest of the day, kept saying things that didn't make sense and ordered a chili fry appetizer with chili fries and mash potatoes for the main course of my dinner. Maybe I was subconsciously starved for carbs, I don't know. 

Will I do it again? Most definitely. The tradition of suffering must continue, even if it's only for a few more times. The next time I ride the Hotter N' Hell, I'll be better prepared. I might take the plunge and get a carbon fiber tri-bike if I ever put this event on my calendar again. That would be much to the displeasure of my wife, but I figure that 18.5 miles an hour average speed on a steel bike is the fastest I'm going to be able to take an 80's racing bike. It's no longer about the rider, I have reached my physical limitations. The bike and my gear need to help me go faster now. Steel bicycles are still the best. They are the most comfortable, most durable bikes someone can own. There is no way I'll get rid of my steelie. But if I'm "in it to win it" in this kind of event, I need a triathlon bike, plain and simple. They don't make those in steel, so I might as well get a carbon one. For now, crossing that finish line was it's own reward. Saying that I rode 100 miles in August is it's own story. Subscribe for more posts and adventures from a Bicycle's Point of View.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July Update: Getting in Shape, The World Cup, and the Tour De France

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Getting in shape, playing soccer, and what about that Tour De France?

For the past three weeks, this blog has been quiet. The truth is, things on the cycling front have been very quiet for me since doing the Collin Classic in June. I'm still riding, but now I dedicate my rides to commutes to the gym. I have been riding 13 miles round trip to the gym plus doing a lot of upper body workouts to even tone my flabby abs with my cycling legs. With the World Cup going on I have caught the soccer bug and I'm playing pick up games on the weekends with friends. My favorite team so far are the Netherlands and I'm a huge fan of Arjen Robben even though he did that swan dive that ultimately ended up knocking out Mexico with a penalty shot. This picture pretty much sums up what happened in real life.

I have actually liked soccer since I was 15 years old. It was my main sport growing up that I would play with friends until I hit my 20's. After that lots of friends moved away, got married and the soccer group that I grew up playing with has since dissolved. 

This is a big year for me. I'm closing the chapter of my 20's and I will be in my 30's by the beginning of next year. I don't want to start that chapter flabby and disproportionally out of shape. So road cycling is on the back burner for now and abs and dumbbells as well as other load bearing and resistance exercises are in. I was never a fan of going to the gym. I do however recognize there are a lot of benefits to resistance training. Although our legs are the largest muscles in our body, we can't assume that we will have a complete workout just by working out our legs. As time passes our bodies don't do a good job of metabolizing fats and start to store fat in our abdominal lining and in our liver. When we only do one type of activity, such as cycling, the body will burn calories and fats off our legs first, and will not address our fat deposits elsewhere. Weight and resistance training forces our bodies to react against it's natural tendency to be lazy and to burn off the easy calories. 

With weight training and supplements I have already lost 9 pounds in the last couple of weeks. No Creatine or Hydroxycut for me though. I have been using CLA, which is a lipid pill composed of good fats high in Omega 3 acids derived from Sardines and Anchovies. I have also been taking Ginseng and Rhodiola pills for mental clarity and Whey Protein powder with bovine colostrum to feed good proteins to my muscles. I have a serving of fruit a day in the form of a homemade smoothie. I feel great and if anything I know that I'm keeping my cholesterol down and have drastically cut my sugar and carb intake. 

This year's Tour De France is going to be a good one to watch. There are many veterans of the sport still racing and defending the old guard. It's good to see guys in their 30's and 40's still performing on the professional level. My hat is off to Jens Voigt and Chris Horner for being some of the hard old dudes in the bike race and still holding their own against guys they could have fathered. Fabian Cancellara is also one of my favorite guys to watch. He has the ability to break up an attack from the peloton and has blown away the competition in one day races like the Strada Bianche. These are some of the main guys I'm rooting for, probably because in a year I'll be in the master's category should I decide to compete. 

This year's tour also brings a ton of new talent to the fore that we haven't seen in years past. Andrew Talansky won the Criterium Du Dauphine, the prologue race which matches rider's abilities to how well they are going to race in the Tour De France. Marcel Kittel is an up and coming sprinter who has dethroned giants of the sport like Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel. Of course we can't dismiss the slightly older kids on the block such as Alberto Contador, said to be in peak form this year and riding with a solid team. I'm not going to take away anything from Chris Froome either, he has shown himself to be (somewhat suspiciously) a freak of nature when it comes to climbing and has that trademark high cadence, low geared spin that he does when he attacks on the climbs. I'll say it's probably being raised in Kenya at high altitude that honed his abilities, again I don't want to take anything away from him.

Glaringly missing from this year's race, in my humble opinion, is the presence of Nairo Quintana. I believe that this little guy from Colombia has the skills and physical ability to win it all should he choose to. I can easily see him pulling off a Giro-Tour double, for example. He has the skills to blow away riders on climbs like Froome, Contador and Vincenzo Nibali as if they were standing still. Knowing the politics that currently surround the sport of cycling I can understand why Nairo opted out of the Tour this year. Although Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche and Fausto Coppi have pulled off such feats in the past, in this era of doping a Giro-Tour double would be highly suspect. Quintana wouldn't have any problem proving his innocence, he's as clean as a whistle and is just pure cycling talent. Knowing his quiet and humble personality he's probably happy currently enjoying the biggest win of his career at a very young age and probably doesn't want the aggravation of having to explain himself that the only thing mixed in his water bottle was Panela, or hard sugar. 

This is my July update. August and September will probably be similar posts like these. Like skin cancer? Heat strokes? Ride a bike in the middle of the day in Texas during these months, just because. No thanks, I'm turning 30 soon and I don't need to prove anything to anyone. Stay tuned for more informative posts and videos from a Bicycle's Point of View.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The 2014 Collin Classic Bike Rally

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69 miles on the Woodrup, beautiful country ride.

Picture of the author. Photograph by Sugar & Spice Photography

On Saturday I finally got to participate in an event I had been spending a good part of the week preparing and training for. I put a hundred miles on my Woodrup bicycle on the days leading up to the Collin Classic Bike Rally, an event in Mckinney, Texas that benefits a children's charity called City House. I signed up for what had originally been a 64 mile bike route, but due to construction on some rural roads, detours had to be made and the route ended up being almost 70 miles. My goal was to make it through the ride in one piece and survive all 69 miles. Not only did I complete the ride, but I averaged 17.1 miles an hour, my fastest average speed yet for a distance that long. I took advantage of four out of eight rest stops they had on the ride to refuel on water, bananas, oranges and electrolytes. 

I have to say this is the most organized bicycle event that I have been to. The route was well marked and wound through some scenic country roads which made the ride that much more enjoyable. There was police presence directing traffic at all times through the route intervals and turns. The weather was beautiful considering this is Texas and temperatures can get to oven hot levels. The day was overcast enough to bear the high 80 degrees in Fahrenheit. 

Along the ride I met a 62 year old Chilean cyclist that was as enthusiastic about his vintage Peugeot as I was about my Woodrup. We rode the last nine miles of the ride together, and at 62 years young, I had to ask him to slow down and wait up for me a little bit as I was starting to cramp up on my back and unbeknown to me, had a rear wheel that had come off true and was rubbing on the brake pad.  He is in truly remarkable fitness for his age. I only hope I can do the things this guy does when I get to be his as old as him. 

This is the first time that I do a ride like this. I'm already pumped up about doing this ride next year, weather and all unforeseen occurrences permitting. I wish there were more spring and early summer rides like this were I live. While most of the country enjoys the July to September months, it gets dangerously hot here during that time. I can't ride during the middle of the day in the summertime, only in the early mornings or the evenings. Otherwise I put myself at risk for heat strokes and UV ray exposure. Therefore this will probably be the last event I see myself doing for the rest of the year. I really enjoyed it and it was a true test of my fitness level. However it did not leave me feeling defeated like some competitive events I had done in the past. 

Stay tuned for more updates from A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bicycle Commuting 101

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Here's a short video from my video series that teaches the basics of bicycle commuting and some of the gear you may want to use while commuting. I'll keep cranking out the videos. Thanks for watching!

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Video Blog Series Coming Soon!

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That's right guys! I'm going to start up a video channel on Youtube to share some of my bicycle repair knowledge and feature some of the subjects that I have discussed on this blog. Some of you may already be familiar with my other channel, Bicycle Adventures, where I have featured videos of myself riding on my bike. Well, the GoPro has broken, and I still wanted to make some cool videos to share on my blog. Subscribe to my new channel, Johnny Guzman, which is the same as my Google+ account. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Humble Schwinn Le Tour

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The Schwinn Le Tour: The Original Touring Bike

Touring bicycles have been around long before the Schwinn Le Tour. The name "Le Tour" is a dead giveaway that this bike was inspired by it's predecessors from across the pond.  This bike however, was the first mass produced touring bicycle to enter the U.S market by a U.S owned company.

According to history, the mid 1970's oil crisis and a national interest in all things European at the time brought about the bike boom and most notably, the "touring" bicycle or ten speed as it was once called. Before then bicycles in the United States mainly consisted of cruiser-style single speed bikes with balloon tires, also known as paper boy bikes. These more common bicycles featured tanks, horns, fenders and many of them weighed in excess of fifty pounds. The concept of lightweight racing bicycles was a foreign one to most people at the time. This perception changed during the 70's, when a fuel shortage, a new environmentally conscious generation and an unpopular war paved the way for a bicycle revolution. Belgium and the Netherlands rolled with the movement and are now the most bicycle friendly countries in the world. The momentum in the U.S ended abruptly around the late 80's when the economy improved and technology rapidly advanced. From the 80's onward, bicycles have turned from a practical means of transportation to a form of exercise and recreation. Out of that bike boom era there arose a people's champion, a working man's fare, the Model T of touring bikes and a well made product forged in a Chicago factory. The humble but reliable Schwinn Le Tour.

Over the years I have owned several Schwinn Le Tours. The yellow Schwinn featured in the title heading of this bike blog was my first restoration. It has now left my possession as I have given it to my mom, who rides it regularly. Unlike their French counterparts at the time, these bicycles were all steel with metal shifters and derailleurs, making them reliable and durable. The strong metal used for the frames could take a sustained load without making the bicycle ride slower. The early Le Tours had almost all factory made components with all parts stamped "Schwinn Approved". Finding the date on an early Schwinn is as easy as looking at the head badge and hubs of the wheels.

The following two bikes are examples of an early Schwinn Le Tour model and one of the last Schwinn Le Tours that came out of the Chicago factory. Both have features of what was popular for bicycles at the time of their production. With a stronger focus on touring, comfort and practicality, the 1980 Schwinn Le Tour on the right was equipped with stem mounted shifters, steel rims, ergonomic handlebars with shallow drops and center pull brakes. The late 80's Schwinn on the left was made much more sportier, reflecting the shift from practical use to recreative use. The 1988 Schwinn features downtube shifters, side pull caliper brakes and alloy rims. Like the earlier model it came with a strong steel frame and eyelets for mounting racks on, heralding back to it's original purpose of touring. Both bikes can be equipped as touring bikes and in this regard no one bike is superior than the other. 

A 1980's Schwinn Logo

A 1980 Schwinn Le Tour with a logo design reminiscent of earlier models.

By the late 80's lighter steel such as true temper was being used for the Schwinn Le Tour

1020 Tubing is not light by modern day standards, however the bicycle rides like a lightweight bike due to it's road dampening qualities.

Early Schwinns featured stem mounted shifters, steel rims, "suicide" brake levers and lots of chrome

Although the later Schwinn model was designed to be faster than the earlier version, the early Schwinn can be a serious contender with alloy rims and some minor upgrades. As shown in this video, this bike is no wimp when it comes to speed. The video shows me whipping past carbon fiber roadies in their $3000 Wiliers and triathlon machines on my 79' yellow Schwinn.

These bikes can be found all day long on the online classifieds, at a good price too if someone is a shrewd buyer. The 1980 Schwinn cost me $40 and zero dollars in investment to get it in it's current condition. I bought the 88' Schwinn to help out a friend and it cost me twice as much.  These bikes can and do usually bring anywhere from $150 to $300 at resale. I personally have a hard time letting go of Schwinn Le Tours. They are such well built bikes and such a bargain for the money that I will usually hold onto them while usually getting rid of my more expensive bicycles. Having restored one from the ground up, I know firsthand the quality of their build and what this bicycle is capable of. For some reason unknown to me, these bicycles are usually passed up by collectors while inferior models like the Varsity and Stingray get all the attention. The Stingrays, Lemon Peelers and Fastbacks which sell in the thousands of dollars can barely be ridden by grown men while a good Schwinn Le Tour that is capable of beating the socks off of a modern day road bike doesn't even get an offer over $100 most of the time. 

One day when the Puerto Rican Schwinn club switches from vintage cruisers to vintage road bikes (I'm Puerto Rican, I can say that...) or when hipsters start to covet Schwinn bikes for their fixed gear fallacies, the collector's value on a Schwinn Le Tour will probably rise. When it does, just remember that I was riding Schwinn Le Tours before it was cool, before hipsters discovered it and before having knowledge of a Puerto Rican Schwinn club, of which I am probably now regarded as an honorary member. Even though my stable of bikes boasts the best of French, Italian and British imported vintage steel, I will always remember my roots and the bike that got me into restoring bikes in the first place. I can always make room for a humble Schwinn Le Tour.