Friday, April 1, 2011

A new bike project

I've come to the sad conclusion that no matter how I position my saddle my beloved Petunia is a frame size too large for me at 21". Riding her for anything more than a trip to the shops isn't the comfortable experience it is on Penelope Pashley. Nobody ever said vintage road bikes had to be comfortable, but forever changing position to try and get the right balance between saddle and handlebars, and a slightly sore back at the end of it all, isn't a long term plan. I've adjusted and adjusted the position of my saddle to no avail.

Petunia was bought as a road bike and converted to swept-back handlebars, to be the sit up and beg mount I'd always wanted. But it doesn't work. The geometry is just wrong. Her head tube is very straight up, and she's built for drop bars, which she had when I bought her.

I hate the idea of selling her, as I do love mixte bikes, but I think it's time for her to find a new home. I'll be swapping her Brooks saddle and grips for something less salubrious and putting her on eBay. I hope I can recoup what I bought her for; lovely vintage bikes like Petunia are quite pricey these days considering their age.

I had bought a Shimano 8 speed Alfine hub with the intention of rebuilding the back wheel and turning her into a hub-geared bike (another thing I'd been longing for) but the gears will go onto another bike now.

Because I've just bought a clunker on eBay, a sad-looking creature in need of TLC, in fact a total rebuild. I bought this Roadmaster Lady Bird 3 for the princely sum of $56 today. She's the most awful colour, and those rims look like steel, so 35x700C alloy rims will be the go when she gets the 8 speed gearset put on. And creme Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tyres, assuming I can actually find some here in Australia. They are certainly in short supply over here!

But best of all she's a 17" frame - more suited to short little me.

I've priced a respray ($220 including sandblasting and powdercoating, although I may have to pay more to get the delicate seagreen colour I want). Realistically I bought her for her frame, as I believe it's cro-moly (I'll find out tomorrow when I pick her up) and it's lugged. Not outstandingly lugged with exquisite details, but prettily enough lugged to make it worth the $56 plus the respray. Anyway I don't think I can live with that orange. Maybe with chrome mudguards it's a possibility but not the way it is right now with the brown mudguards and chainguard.

She'll need new handlebars as the existing ones are quite rusty, and if I can afford North Road bars it will be lovely, otherwise I'll settle for the nearest and cheapest thing from my bike shop. A new stem will probably be in order too, and if I can find one that allows me to raise the handlebars a bit higher and slope them down a bit, I think we're nearing a perfect setup.

She'll need new brakes I suspect, as I'm sure the brakes she came with will be less than fantastic, 1980s Roadmasters not being the greatest of quality parts wise I gather. Roadmaster used to be a grand old bike name in the 1940s-60s but when manufacture moved from the US to China and Taiwan, quality took a nosedive. Still, the frame should be fine.

There are lots of cheapish ladies' bikes on eBay at the moment, but I chose this one because she already sports a three speed gearset. I know I'll be able to put the Alfine on her without too much faffing around and having to buy too many new bits like chainsets. I know her chainguard fits her; it's an odd-looking chainguard but has a certain quirky vintage quality to it.

Here's an example of a done-over Roadmaster Lady Bird 3 by Melbourne Vintage Bikes, and I hope they won't get upset with me 'borrowing' their photo. They do restore old bikes very beautifully, as do Sydney Vintage Bikes - however I can't afford the fully restored bikes none of which come with Shimano 8-speed hub gears...which means I'd still have to pay for a wheel rebuild. I think the colour below could be described as 'Freshly Peeled Pig" - as pinks go it's not my style, but this old lady now looks like a grand ride, and as good as new. Interestingly although she's certainly labelled Lady Bird 3 she has derailleur gears - probably 5 speeds.

With the right shade of paint, new components and my Brooks stuff I think my new purchase will turn into an elegant and nimble ride too. I hope. I keep comparing the photos above and thinking how beautiful Petunia is, and wishing she was just that little bit more comfortable to ride. Or I was taller. Or something.

If anyone has some names of places to go for good quality components that don't cost the earth, please let me know. I'll be looking for the Schwalbe tyres, alloy rims, decent brakes and a rear rack. I have some good mechanics ready to do the wheel rebuild. I'll worry about lighting later.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be test riding my new purchase. Yes, I broke my golden rule and bought a bike without riding it first, but for $56 if I hate it I can sell it again! Hopefully it'll survive the test ride and so will I :-).

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