Schwinn Collegiate

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Planet Bike beamer 3

Stock photo from Planet Bike
The Planet Bike Beamer 3 is a light equipped with 3 powerful white LEDs.  It is powered by two AA batteries that reportedly last 100 hours.  It provides 21 lumins of light.  The Planet Bike website actually provides a great demonstration of what that looks like here.  The light quickly detaches so you don't have to worry about anyone snagging it off your bike.  Additionally, the light can either blink or provide a steady light.

To start with let me say that the Beamer 3 feels great.  It feels heavy and well constructed.  I realize that heavy isn't a word that one normally wants to associate with biking, but it just feels like it is well crafted.  The components fit together tightly and feel secure.  In regards to design, it looks sleek and stylized, though it doesn't exactly scream "vintage".  The button also feels like it is high quality and works well.  The bracket that attaches to the bike is also of a handy design that requires no tools (which is good, because I have very few).

Bracket without the light mounted

Fancy mechanism to open and close for the batteries

The lever at the bottom is lowered
By lowering the lever, the pressure is released on the bracket and it is able to spin and loosen.

The bracket released from the bar

Once loosened, the rear piece of plastic can be pulled free from the metal bar (as it contains a slot the bar slides into)

I have used this light for about a year, and overall I am quite pleased.  Even when I take rides in the middle of the night, it provides a good amount of light to not only let me be seen, but let me see what is ahead of me.  As for the life of the light, it does seem to be fading to me, but I am probably approaching the 100 hour mark, so it is probably fairly accurate.

The one negative experience I've had, is that occasionally the bracket gets loose and swings upside-down on my handlebars.  Truthfully, I think this is probably my fault/the shape of the handlebars, and not the fault of the light bracket.  I am planning to love the light from Margaret to the Sanwa, which will probably help me figure this mystery out a little better.

Overall grade: A

Beamer 3 mounted on Sanwa Classic 2210

Fizik microtex bar tape

This is the first handlebar tape I've ever used so it is very difficult to review it.  The "tape" I am replacing is the black foam that the Sawna Classic 2210 came with.  The Fizik microtex bar tape got pretty good reviews for being comfortable (not too padded, not too hard).  It was also reviewed as staying clean over time.  I purchased the bright yellow tape (to make my bike go faster...obviously).  I think it might also make my bike a bit more visible.

When it came to wrapping it I had some difficulty, but it is hard to know if that is my fault or the tape's.  For one, the tape bulged as I wrapped it.  For two, it was only sticky along a thin strip that ran along the center of it.  I found it really difficult to wrap it tightly and flat.  I also found it hard to tuck the tape into the hole at the end of the bars, but again, that might have been my fault.  As for the actual tape, I've only had a little time to ride on it, but so far it does feel pretty good.  I'll update this as I use it more.  As for now, the tape seems nice, but the wrapping was hard (even given the fact that it was my first time).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Finding the right used 10 speed

The side of Cambridge Used Bicycles
When I first decided I wanted to try out a road bike, I really just grabbed the first inexpensive vintage road bike that I came across.  That may have been a mistake.  The Sanwa wasn't as cheap as it could have been, and all signs point to it being a not particularly valuable bike.  That being said, it is doing its job of introducing me to road bikes.  Am I really interested in road biking? I can't say for sure yet.  I haven't even taken the Sanwa out for a good long ride yet.  Nevertheless, I keep searching for that upgrade road bike.  Maybe I am just excited and having a hard time controlling my urge to grab another cool bike.  I'm not entirely convinced that I don't just also have a strong hoarding tendency as well.  I've always loved taking something that is unloved and loving it anew.

In my search for a higher end vintage 10 speed (by the way, the Sanwa is actually a 12 speed) I've faced a number of challenges.

What I'm looking for:
        A vintage road bike from the 60's-80's
        A 60 cm or larger road bike (24" or larger)
        A lugged steel frame (I'm not against high-tensile steel, but I think chromoloy may be more worth it)
       A decent model bicycle (in an attempt to guarantee a certain quality)
       A bike that is structurally sound

I've looked in a number of places and faced challenges at every turn.  The place I've looked most is craigslist.  I did also look at siesta bikes (a guy in Warwick who fixes up bikes...also where I got Sanwa) and a bike co-op in Cambridge, but mostly I check craigslist.  I face many difficulties with craiglist bike searches.

1.  Often bike information is limited and sellers aren't great at responding to questions.  Height is often missing, but so is model name, year, and material.
2.  When the brand and model are listed I find it near impossible to determine much about them.  I scour the internet, but it often doesn't tell me what I want to know.  Some Schwinns are great and some are junk.  Unfortunately, there isn't a website that ranks the various models.  When I do occasionally find this information, it often asks me to check serial numbers and other information that I am not privy to and that sellers are unwilling to put the effort into finding and telling to me.  Even when I ask simple questions to sellers they often don't respond.  Come on, you can't read the words on the side of the bike for me?
3. I have to usually move quickly on the bikes as there is some competition to get them, and that doesn't always work with my life schedule
4. Many of the bikes are over-priced.  I will sometimes find a couple decent bikes, only to see that they are being priced at $400.

I read a lot of posts by people online getting vintage 10 speeds at yard sales or thrift stores for fifteen dollars.  I have gone to many yard sales and many thrift stores and all I ever encounter are low-quality mountain bikes and kids' bikes.

My best bet so far has been Cambridge Used Bicycles, which fixes up used bicycles and sells them at a reasonable price.  Nevertheless, their stock is limited and they're not exactly local.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Sanwa Make-Over

The Sanwa Classic 2210 looked alright in the first place....from a photos...if you squint. However, that wasn't good enough for me.  She needed to go faster.  What is the number one way to make a bike go faster?  Give it a fast make-over!  A yellow one!

Step 1:
Fizik Handle Bar Tape

Bright yellow handlebar tape!  This is Fizik handle bar tape.  I read that it provided a great balance between cotton and cork wraps: not too cushy and not totally uncushioned.  I also read that it stayed relatively clean...which is important when your bike's speed depends on how bright its handle bars are!

Handle bar before

The bike came with wonderful foam wraps that were cracked and poorly put on in the first place.  As cheap and cheesy as they may have been, I'll still miss them.


Ahh! It's naked!  And rusty.  And kind of gross.  The foam came off quite easily.  I just slices the edge with a knife and it peeled off easily.

Notice the use of the electrical tape the mark the position of the hood before taking it out for the test rides

Before I got started, I raised the brakes further up the drop bars.  I always felt like I was reaching too far to ride the hoods.  Was I? I haven't a clue.  Anyways, moving them wasn't bad.  There was a piece of metal  at the top of the brake lever right below the black plastic covers.  It easily rotated to 90 degrees to the left, which effectively released the brakes.  I then just depressed the brakes and slipped a long flat head screw driver in and loosened the screw which made it so that the entire brake assembly could slide up and down the bar.  I marked it with some tape just in case it moved before I secured it (there were several test rides).  

I started wrapping the tape by having it hang over the end of the bar a little.  I think I did this poorly because when I went to plug it, it didn't tuck evenly all around.  Came out a bit sloppy.

Gorgeous one armed beauty!

It was frustrating and came out a bit sloppy in spots, but like the rest of the bike, it looks pretty good from a distance!

Dang that's fast!

The first one came out a little rough, the second one came out...rougher.  When I grip the left drop, I feel lumps....thankfully I rarely ride in the drops.

Oooh, la la! It looks faster already!  Can it get any faster?  YES!

Step 2:

Vegan power!

Enter the yellow vinyl saddle.  Yes, I chose vinyl on purpose.  I'm vegan and so I was quite limited in quality saddles to choose from.  I chose this one because it looked similar to some higher quality saddles, and it was relatively inexpensive.  It is an "Atozi" brand saddle: it is a knock off from Taiwan, but I bought it for 20 bucks off ebay.  When I opened it, it looked bright, clean, and brand new.  It didn't exactly reek of quality, but nor did the 30 year old saddle the bike came with.

"I approve"

Lady Esmeralda inspects the goods for quality control.  

If only "Velo" was followed by "Orange"

Oddly, it is stamped with the word "Velo" on the inside.

Feel free to stick your face in there and get a good view of it.

 This is the saddle the bike came with.  It did not feel very nice.  

At first glance they look similar.  The old saddle includes a divide down the center, which is supposed to increase comfort.  Am I replacing my original saddle with an inferior one?  Was the original one yellow and hence fast? Nope!

From this angle you see that the original saddle gets right up in your business, while the new saddle better understands personal space.  It is hard to see in this image, but the new saddle is longer in the front and wider in the back.

What do you wear when you work on your bike?

First I removed the seat and assembly from the post, and then the assembly from the rails of the seat.  It was simple and just involved loosening two nuts.

No sit


My lovely assistant does her part.

Something doesn't look right here

I had a hard time getting the seat back on the post. I think maybe I needed to loosely fit it all together, and then tighten it all at once, rather than securing the assembly to the rails and then the seat with the attached assembly to the post.

I eventually hammer it down into place and tighten the nuts.  Yes, I'm pretty sure a hammer is the right tool for this job.

 The seat certainly looks fast, doesn't it?  So what does the beauty look like in the end?


 Daaaaanggggg!  Lookin' good!  I think it came out great (especially considering that I was the one doing most of the work).  I think the verdict is in, and the Sanwa is clearly much faster now!  Success!

 A view from the front.  I did the work in the kitchen and dining room because it was quite chilly out today.  It looks great against a built-in china closet, doesn't it?

 The verdict?  Thumbs up!  The tape job is a bit sloppy, and I think the brakes are absurdly high up on the bars now, but overall, I am quite pleased with how this all turned out.  I took it out for a quick spin, and it felt much faster!  I can't wait for me next ride!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My first bike

This is not my first bike.  Most likely my first bike was a knock-off, but it looked very similar to this one.  It was hands-down my coolest bike ever.  Let's face it, all of my bikes are pretty geeky.  This BMX was hot stuff though.  It is with that bike that my love for first riding bikes first began.  It had training wheels and I remember struggling to master it in my parents' half-circle driveway.  Ironically, my biggest struggle was braking.  I don't really understand why this posed such a challenge, but I just couldn't do it.  It was of course equipped with coaster brakes, which are activated by turning the pedals backwards (which of course makes for lots of cool sliding stops).  So how did I stop my bike?  By bailing out.  Yes, each time I wanted to stop, I would just jump off my bike.  My parents seemed to find this amusing.

Other than these things, I don't remember much about the bike.  I know there is a video of me as a kid getting it for Christmas too.  It would be nice to go back and find that video and learn more about my first love.  Regardless, that was the coolest bike I ever owned/ever will own.  They always say you never forget your fist love; I guess that is true for bicycles as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bell Quasar Light Set

We were at TJ Maxx when I came upon a five dollar light set (on clearance): Bell's Quasar Light Set.  I tried to do a little research on my Droid X when I came upon some pretty rough reviews.  I figured it was only five bucks though, and I questioned the intelligence of some of the reviewers (as one claimed the rear light was unable to be opened to put batteries in).  

My first impression with the front light was....well disappointment.  It was really light and plastic and felt cheap.  Also, it is halogen and not LED: probably why it is so cheap.  I put the four double A batteries in and as I did the bulb fixture tumbled out.  I balanced it all together and closed it quickly.  I turned the light on and it certainly was powerful.  I put it on my Sanwa Classic 2210.  At first it was just fine, though I had to angle it down as it was blindingly bright.  A couple days later I was riding to work and went over some bumpy terrain at a decent rate when all of a sudden the light lept from my handlebars and smashed on the ground.  I was certain it was destroyed, but after I put it back together it still worked.  I did notice it was scratched up pretty badly, but I was just relieved that it still worked.

The rear light was another story.  The good news is that it does open (though it took some prying).  Its mounting mechanism is a bit...gaudy.  It contains a plastic knob that you can turn to tighten the screw that allows you re-angle the light, which swivels up and down.  It actually works relatively well even if it is a bit unattractive.  My only problem so far is that when I try to turn it off with my gloves on, rather than the button deactivating the light, I accidentally removed the cover (the same one that the reviewer was baffled by).  I think this might have been more a product of my lack of dexterity than anything else.  This isn't to say that the light isn't cheaply made, but it seems good enough.

Pros:  Cheap (even not on clearance, they are usually $10)
           Removable from quick release brackets

Cons:  Cheap (construction, not just price)
           Removes from quick release bracket in the middle of the ride and smashes on the ground

Grade:  D-

Verdict:  Put your money towards a better set of lights that will last longer.  The rear light isn't awful, but just put the ten bucks towards the Bell Wo Light Set instead or Planet Bike's light set.  After all, what good is a front light if it smashed on the cement underfoot? 

Running late for work

Fill us with poster board!

Sometimes I'm running late for work.  Whether I sleep in because I'm so tired, or I'm not feeling well, or I just can't find something, sometimes I'm just running late for work.  It is always an awful feeling when I have to choose between biking to work and driving because I'm running late.

Why not just drive?  Well that is an excellent question my friend.  For one, I bought the bike..s for a reason.  I hate the idea of buying things and not using them.  I'm equally put-off by the idea of continually buying little accessories for a bike I never use.  I also fear that if I drive one day, I might drive the next, and the next.  I'm a creature of habit, and I need to force myself into positive habits.  Of course I could also use the exercise (how else will I justify gorging later on?).  Finally, I like the idea of saving money on gas and polluting as little as possible.  Yes, I do drive a Prius, and it is only 2 miles, but all the little things add up over time.

Today was one of those days, but when I got home I went for a short bike ride.  Like many aspects of my life (i.e. being vegan), I think it is important to be patient and understanding.  Tomorrow I want to bring some poster boards to school for a project, but it can be tricky to bike with them.  I can't use that as an excuse not to bike though! Yes, I did miss a day of biking, but tomorrow is another day and those 63 calories are facing their mortality.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sanwa Classic 2210 needs a name

The Sanwa Classic 2210 needs a name.  It's a road bike that I'm using to get used to riding a road bike.  I figured if I liked riding a road bike, I could invest in a better one and then convert this one to a fixed gear bike.  I am hoping to change its saddle to a yellow saddle and to tape its handlebars with some yellow tape.  I need some suggestions for a name that suits its personality.

Biking to work

The candy man prepares to mount his trusty steed and pedal off to visit his soda jerk friend

Almost every day I bike to work.  This is no great feat.  According to google maps it is a whopping 1.7 miles.  I have always ridden Large Marge, my Electra Townie, to school and it has been a perfectly pleasant ride with one mild struggle up a hill.  The only other struggle is trying to get the bike in the door (which is a horrifying process) and then dealing with students asking me about my bike throughout class.

Since I got the Sanwa (this poor bike needs a name), I have tried riding it as much as possible to get used to the feel of a road bike.  Additionally, the trip goes faster and the hill is easier on the Sanwa.  Nevertheless, I question whether a road bike is the right tool for the job.  School is close, and I arrive mildly sweaty even in the cold weather.

I also don't exactly dress for road biking.  Today I wore a pretty typical outfit.  Khakis, button down shirt, sweater vest, and bow-tie (I usually have a head too).  Alternatively, I can stick to riding Large Marge.  I just feel like practice makes perfect, and I need to just stick to riding the new road bike until I'm comfortable with it.

I think the real question is, what is more amusing for those who drive by me: a giant man dressed like he's here to sell you a bible hunched over a road bike from the early 1980s or sitting upright on an over-sized goofy-looking bike that he can't quite climb hills with (I know what you're wondering, and no I don't ever get off and walk the matter how badly I want to).

Bible anyone?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Riding with a purpose

Isabella didn't even thank me for hauling her food 7 miles home for her.  Note the great performance of the Wald folding rear baskets.

I always find riding with a purpose to be more enjoyable.  I do often go for rides just for fun, but I always find having a destination makes my rides more fun.  I'm not sure why my rides seem more enjoyable when I have a place to go, but they just do.  I was planning to go for a bike ride when Flower suggested we ride down to Mansfield Crossing to run a couple errands.  It was a long ride (from my point of view), and I was looking forward to my first lengthy ride of the season.

As added incentive we decided we wouldn't eat our vegan raw macaroons from Wildflour until we reached our destination.  The weather was raw and the ride was far from enjoyable.  Although it is only 7 miles in each direction and Large Marge rides like a dream, it was a very hilly ride, and Margaret hates hills.

Electra bills the Townie as possessing "flat foot technology" that allows you to stand flatfooted at stops.  It never occurred to me that this was a great technological development, but Electra certainly stresses it.  Anyways, I believe this is partially achieved by having the pedals further forward.  While this does add to the comfort and upright nature of the bike, it makes hills difficult and standing and riding to be particularly awkward.

When we got there it was a bit challenging to find anything to lock our bikes to.  Again, this is one of the challenges of the suburbs.  With the decentralized nature of the suburbs (I believe the word sprawl is everyone's favorite noun to match with the adjective suburban) few people go shopping on their bicycles.  We ended up having to lock the bikes to a bench and a small tree.  I will say that there is an L.L. Bean in that plaza and it has a bike rack, but the ludicrous layout of the plaza made it a less than ideal place to lock up our bikes.

Regardless, we loaded up our bikes with dog food and cat scratching posts and headed home.  By the way, we did not load up our bikes with sneakers because Kohl's refuses to cater to people with shoes any bigger than size 13.  Do you hear me Kohl's?  I'm calling you out!

Flower celebrates the macaroon that she doesn't even end up eating

Half way home, I realized we forgot to eat our macaroons and we pulled over to eat them.  Well I ate mine, but someone else doesn't eat while she's exercising.  Lame.  I thought exercising was just an excuse to eat more?  Drr.

Post script:  I'm sore :(

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Sanwa returns from the doctor

The Sanwa returned from the doctor's today.  The local bike store was supposed to call me and tell me whether it was worth sinking the money into it.  Instead, they just did some repairs and told me it was done.  I was surprised that they didn't ask me if I even wanted to bother fixing it before they went ahead and repaired it.  But the good news is that it is back and...well about as good as it ever was.

The obvious problem was solved.  The chain was repaired.  When I went in he said the chain needed to be replaced; he didn't tell me repairing it was an option.  I'm not really sure why it went down like this.  Maybe he thought that if he intimidated me with the price that I'd just give up on this bike, but I'm no quitter.   I don't think Mr. bike man was being malicious, but rather just trying to coax me into a bike that he thought would be better for me.

When I brought the bike in, Mr. bike man also told me the front tire was crooked and then discovered that it was loose.  I told him I never took it off and it must have been like that when I bought it.  I didn't find out until later that apparently I was lying to him.  When I bought the bike the guy who sold it to me took the tire off to put it in my car, and when I got home I put it back on.  I'm not sure how it got loose the way it did, but it explained why the front tire road funny.  Anyways, Mr. bike man put a couple washers on it to make sure that the spinning of the tire didn't loosen the nuts.

Finally, he put caps on the ends of the shifting cables to ensure that they didn't fray (of course I didn't know that was a thing).  He also bent the rear derailleur back into shape (sorta) and recommended I don't ever back pedal nor inflate the tires past 50 psi.

In the end I only sank $27 dollars into the repairs which wasn't so bad.  However, I discovered that my bike was a lump of junk, which was heartbreaking.  In fact all I can think about is the yellow saddle and yellow handlebar tape that is currently being shipped to me.

Suburban bike riding

I find the suburbs to be a tough place to bike.  As a kid it was a blessing.  Lots of back roads to ride on, trails to mountain bike on, and the only way to visit your friends when your parents aren't around to drive you.  As a kid in the suburbs, a bicycle was freedom and it was where I fell in love with biking.

As an adult I have a very different experience.  I live in a small city of about 42,000.  There is a small downtown with not many business and restaurants worth visiting.  There are a number of busy streets and extensive back roads that lead to...well, houses.  I ride my bike to work almost daily and often times late at night when there isn't much traffic, and it is cool during the summer.

Why can't I bike around during the day?  Most drivers in the suburbs seem to have little knowledge of bicycle street laws and etiquette.  It isn't surprising that most people in the suburbs don't know the laws regarding bicycles as there aren't many bicyclists and most do what I did as a child and stick to the back roads and trails.

So what does this all mean?  As a person who works with teenagers I quickly realized that most of them have no idea that you aren't supposed to ride your bike on the sidewalk or that you're supposed to ride on the right side of the road.  They do understand that there are hand signals, but only because they need to know them for their license test.  When they find out that I ride my bike, they usually snicker and ask "do you use hand signals?"  Of course these teens grow up to be adults who still don't know the bicycle rules of the road.

I recall the day I was riding home from work, and I went around a puddle.  A car that was behind me passed me and the passenger yelled out the window "get out of the road" (note: the passenger was a snide brat of a girl who I had in summer school some years back).  Of course the real kicker is that as soon as the car passed me, it immediately stopped in a long line of traffic.

Another time I took a late night ride to the bank and moved to the left lane to turn into my bank.  A truck pulled up behind me as I slowed to turn (and used my turning signal that my students love to snicker at).  The truck pulled up behind me and beeped at me.  Besides his being a jerk, I suspect he was simply puzzled as to why a bicyclist would be on the left side of the road.

Of course all of this puts bicyclists in an awkward position.  If we try to follow the rules of the road, we puzzle the drivers who don't understand why we're riding with traffic.  If we follow the rules of the jungle and simply veer about wherever we must to get from point A to point B and survive, then we are perpetuating the problem.  What is the suburban bicyclist to do?