Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ready to Ride

Last weekend I had planned to go on my first S24O of the season. I watched the night time temps all week in hopes that I'd get a break. I didn't. I'm good sleeping outside to about 40F; below that, it's not much fun anymore. It's been below freezing every night and I'm just not up for the suffering or hauling tons of crud to minimize the suffering. So instead, I stayed home and caught up on my list of bike fixes that I've been letting go.

The picture above shows all but one of the bikes I made fixes/changes to. From left to right, on the RB1, I swapped out bars, stem, cranks, bottom bracket; on the RB-T swapped out bars, removed fenders, rack to make this years trails/mountain/CX bike; on the Miyata, I put cruiser bars, replaced the chain and pedals; on the blue Univega, I finished a build that's been lingering for a month or so.

The Univega was a donation to Pedals2People. I think it was a frame only. Or maybe the bits that were on it were trashed. Either way, the son of the folks that donate the P2P garage space needed a bike, so we fixed this 0ne up for him.

Over the last couple days there has been an interesting discussion on the iBOB list about how to design a good city bike. The main thread is here. One post yesterday hit the nail on the head around designing good bikes. He mentioned that there were a few critical similarities between the "sport" tourers of the 70-90's; the universal Japanese bikes (UJB) of the 80's-90s, and the interesting French bikes from the 40's on: they all were made of good quality steel tubing; they took fattish tires; they had attachments for things like fenders and racks. Namely, these bikes were versatile. We've heard this before; that under a skilled rider, a versatile bike is all one needs. It's true.

This Univega is such a bike. We set it up as a commuter. It's got Armadillo tires on it so Don will never get a flat; it's got a rack; it's got fenders; it's got a reasonable spread of gears; it's reliable, light, simple, comfortable, and it's really fun to ride. All Don needs to do is get some lights and he's got a bike he can commute on every day.

It's hard to find versatile frames like this today. Off the top of my head, I can think of Bianchi and Jamis that have similar frames. The Surly Long Haul Trucker is another. There may be something by the Soma's and other smaller mass producers. After that, you're moving up the price ladder: Rivendell sells a frame like this. And any custom guy will make you one. But the point is, in a market flooded with speciality mass-markety bikes, finding a good versatile frame like this once-ubiquitous Univega is a task. That's a bummer.


Anonymous said...


What about the Hybrid/Comfort bikes. They can be made into nice bikes. I have set up a Secialized Crossroads right now that I comute on. Has Blackburn rear and Nashbar mini front racks. Albatross bars. Suntour barends. etc.. A great and sturdy bike.

Phil R.

John Speare said...

Phil: sounds like a great bike. For me, the the hybrid/comfort bike geometry and riding position is too upright. It's great for sub-5 mile rides around town, but after 10 miles or so I have a hard time keeping them going.

bleckb said...

I was wondering whether you went on the sub-24. Even if it was over 40F, the ground would have been coooold and soggy.

Michael said...

You need a really thick mattress pad this time of year. Even if the air is warm the ground is still mighty cold.

I ride a Trek FX, upright enough to be comfy, bent over enough to be aerodynamic and can fit a 700x35 tire. Headwinds or rides of more than about 20 miles (I rarely ride more than 20 miles) make wish for drop bars.

Apertome said...

I am glad I found your blog. I am hoping to start doing S24O trips sometime myself, but haven't done one yet. Where would you go for one, in that area?

That Univega looks like a nice practical bike.