Schwinn Collegiate

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Naming of the Bikes

Unlike anything I've ever owned before, I put a lot of work into personalizing my bikes, and because of that I feel that I have a special role in what/who they are.  For this reason (and so I can explain which of my 3 Univega Gran Turismos I am talking about), I feel compelled to name my bikes.  The problem is, that I am a real fickle namer.  I happily named three of my bikes so far, but I have a corral of unnamed beauties still.  I am most derelict in not having named my orange Gran Turismo.

Don't I deserve a name?

This dereliction is made so severe from the length of time I've had this bike, and the amount of customization I've done on it.  The seat, bar wrap, bar end shifters, fenders, kickstand, tires, and bottle cages are all additions/modification I've made to the bike.  I love this bike dearly, and feel I should have a name by now!  One of my challenges is I keep wanting to give it a gentlmanly name, but I feel like my bike should be given a female name.  So far "William of Orange" is my best idea so far, but James, Cornelius, and a number of other Kingly names have passed through my mind as well.

Here is the orange Univega's twin sister.  She's a bit older and a bit uglier, but I plan to take good care of her and make her beautiful.  It is hard for me to imagine a name for the bike without first fixing her up to my desired look.  I feel like there is something gentlemanly about this bike as well....or that it could be the special lady friend of the other Gran Turismo.  William and Mary?

There is also the new Jamis Beatnik fixie.  It is hard to customize this bike because it is brand new, and I shy away from modifying new things.  I see this bike as a challenge to be conquered.

The newest (to both me and the world) Univega may not get a lot of modifications other than perhaps the black Brooks saddle I bought the other day.  So it needs a name as it stands.  It feels very modern compared to most of my other bikes (Jamis and Large Marge aside).

And then there is the Team Fuji.  Ridden hard and put away wet (literally), I feel a certain fondness for this bike.  It'll need a lot of work, and and in the end it might be worse off than it is now.  I find the raciness and poor condition of the bike to be its most dominant attributes.

Ride: To the Target in Plainville and back
Distance: 11 miles
Time: About an hour


So I came across a bike blog today where the a nice person named Beth (this is an assumption, but I feel pretty confident in it), committed to doing a century (fancy talk for a 100 mile bike ride) without having ridden a bike since she was a kid.  Her blog documents her training and preparation from getting a bike, to facing the daunting hills that this earth is blessed with, to fundraising a hefty amount of cash for a good cause (perhaps she is still accepting donations?).

I read a lot of her blog today, and was entertained.  Though I must say, Beth (if that is your name), a few more photos would bring great joy to your audience.  In particular some pictures of you and your bike!  The people want to know about your Fuji!  I do understand the challenges of trying to get pictures for everything, so I feel your pain immensely!

Anyways, I started to really like that she had a goal to work towards.  Each week she'd extend her rides by 5 miles working up to her full century.  I realized my goals were a bit....less.....lofty.....or at least a bit less concrete.  For example, one goal was "Wheaton College" and another was "Target".  These are all fine and good, but the 5 mile rides might just not be the same as the 100 mile ride.  So I think I need to set some goals.

As of now, my only goal is to make it to Wildflour Vegan Bakery in Pawtucket.  This is something like 12 miles away.  Hardly the epic ride that the alleged "Beth" is planning.  Also, does the fact that I'm biking to get a brownie detract from the seriousness of my riding?

Anyways, in the interest of goal setting, I think I'd like my summer goal to be 50 miles. If you bike this far you get to say "half-century".  If it gets a fancy name (or at least half of one) it must be pretty impressive, right?  I think this is doable.  I may even be able to go further, but what I find hard is the idea of setting aside enough time to go further.  I mean, I have lots to do this summer: eat, garden, puzzles, games, watch tv.  These are all important, time-consuming commitments.  I suppose I should also plan out four new courses that I'll be teaching next year.

So on top of a goal of an epic half-century (impressive, right?), I might want to tie in a weight loss goal.  Again, I like to bike independent of weight loss, but now that I'm in this competition, I think I need a weight loss goal, too.  I'm not sure I can get this by the end of the summer, nor that I want this forever, but I'm going to aim at breaking the 100s!  Imagine: "Hey man, how much do you weigh?" "Oh me? Somewhere in the 100s.  No biggie!"  Let me be clear, I'm thinking like 199, not 150.  So there we have it.  I now have two goals: 50 miles and 199 pounds.  GAME ON!


Rust on old steel bikes is a big concern.  It detracts from the appearance of the bike and if left unattended to, it can eat away at the metal.  The Team Fuji I recently acquired has its fair share of rust, and I immediately turned to an old trick I learned when I first got Rusty.

To remove the rust, take a crumpled ball of aluminum foil and dip it in water.  Then rub the rust vigorously in a back and forth motion.  The idea is that the aluminum is harder than the rust and so rubs it off, but not harder than the chrome so it doesn't scratch the chrome.  I've done this on several occasions and it actually works quite well.  However some rust is just too much deep and won't come off.  Unfortunately, after some severe rubbing of the Team Fuji, a lot of rust still remains.  I'm not sure where  to turn next, but it is clear that this trick isn't going to be quite enough this time.

I did some follow up and a lot of people advise against this method implying that it can cause some long-term damage to the chrome.  Instead they favor naval jelly or oxalic acid.

So I did some rust removal research and this is what I discovered:

Use lemon/lime juice and steel wool

Spray some Simple Green, let it sit, and then apply steel wool

WD-40 and steel wool

White Vinegar....and steel wool?  Perhaps just soaking it in white vinegar will do

Try chemicals like "Rust Off"
Muriatic Acid, which is sold at pool cleaning supply places.  This is recommended for the gears, but seems to strip the metal of any protection (apparently applying oil at this point is necessary).  This is a scary process and requires great care (and the reading of more directions than I posted here).

Naval jelly (whatever this is?!).  This is one of the biggest recommendations I've read about.  It was suggested to combine this with a brass wheel on a dremel, too.

Oxalic acid (wood bleach or a cleaner called Zud). This is the other major recommendation.

Ride: To Target in Plainville where I got a flat
Distance:  5.5 miles
Time: A long time. I had a flat.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Biking in the time of pollen

I went outside the other day to help get Flower started on mowing the lawn.  I took many of the bikes out to get the lawn mower out and left them outside in order to put the mower away later.  When I came out later to put them away, I noticed there was a very thick layer of bright yellow pollen on all of them...and everything.  I couldn't believe how much pollen was everywhere.  I recall having heard that because the winter was so mild we'd have a particularly bad spring in terms of pollen and allergies.

I have never had allergies before, but I've felt awful recently.  I think maybe I have finally developed worst nightmare :(  Or perhaps the pollen is just so bad everyone is suffering.  Anyways, this is killing me and cutting into my bike rides.  How am I supposed to win the money with this pollen assault?!  Sad :(

Ride:  To the Pleasant St. YMCA, to CVS, to the Salvation Army, and home.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Time: ????

Brooks B-17 Flyer Saddle

Brooks is the premier name is leather saddles and has been for over a hundred years.  The B-17 is Brooks' classic and most popular touring saddle.  The Flyer adds additional springs to absorb some of the shocks and bumps of the road.  I figured this would add for a more comfy ride in some of the less than well tended roads of Attleboro and the surrounding  towns.

I obtained this saddle second hand on ebay, and it was in near mint condition.  The seller had already applied proofhide (an oil that treats the leather), and so I immediately mounted the saddle.  At first I had a little trouble  getting the angle right, as the springs tipped the angle of the whole saddle forward.  After tweaking it a bit though, I was able to get the angle just right.

Perhaps most important, I found the saddle to be quite comfortable!  From everything I had read, there is a necessary breaking in time to allow the saddle to shape to your sit bones.  However, I found the saddle to be comfortable quite quickly.  In fact it is so comfortable, that I don't really think about it.  Until I ride some of my other bikes around, I forget that sitting comfort while riding is a thing.  I think this is a wonderful testimonial to the comfort of this saddle.  I have little experience with other leather saddles, so this is not a comparison, simply a review.

I feel like this should be the end of the story, but there are a number of unlikely drawbacks I feel I must mention.  The first is related to the construction of the saddle.  For one, the springs of the saddle add a great amount of heft to the bike.  This doesn't bother me in the least, but most people are trying to cut weight at every corner.  Why spend an extra 500 dollars on a bike that is 6 pounds lighter just to add a saddle that is almost 2 pounds itself.

Additionally, the Flyer seems to emit a squeak for myself and a number of other users.  I find this is more noticeable when I'm leaning further forward and using a more aggressive pedal stroke.  It almost sounds like a small child is jumping up and down on an old mattress.  I have read a number of tips for how to alleviate this squeak which mostly revolve around applying proofhide to the springs, but I have chosen to turn my music louder, which almost always works.

The final drawback is a bit more abstract.  Brooks saddles are not cheap.  They are quality saddles made by a brand with a stellar reputation.  That comes at a premium.  I understand and accept all of this, but with it comes a paranoia.  I don't leave my bike in the rain, but I know many people warn against the dangers of leaving the saddles out in the rain.  For me the problem is damaging it through falls.  After taking a spill related to my learning to ride using clipless pedals, I popped up and immediately inspected the saddle for damage (ok, I got up pretty slowly).  When my bike fell because the driveway was installed by a schmoe who never told me not to use a kickstand on it (even 6 months after it was installed) I was mortified to see the leather torn up in a spot.  It is certainly true that with any bike that you are caring for that you want to try to take good care of it, but add a $100+ saddle to the situation and a greater paranoia sets in.  This may sound petty or like it is more my issue than that of the saddle, but it doesn't make it any less real.

On one final note, these are leather saddles, which means that animals had to die for them to be created.  This I do not approve.  For this reason I only ever by these second hand (as this generates no new demand).  I hope to find a similarly comfortable saddle in the future that is cruelty free and incredibly comfortable.

Overall rating: A- (mostly because of the price)

Monday, May 28, 2012

We don't all age well

This is the prom queen all grown up.  She was once a majestic beauty near the top of the line, but now she's dirty, beaten-up and even has a dent.  Ok, that last part deviates a bit from the analogy, but you get the idea.

I know what you're thinking: "That's not a Univega!" and you're right.  Flower's Fuji got lonely, so I got her a friend.

This is a 1986 Team Fuji.  From what I can gather, this is the second from the highest bike in the Fuji line from that year.

This was probably a charming detail at one point.  However, now it is a rust-monster.  I started to scrape the rust off, and it is not coming off willingly.  Ugh!

The bike is composed of Fuji's 9658 Chromoloy Quad-butted tubing (first I ever heard of quad butting!).

I suspect this is the "Feather Silver with pig skin finish".  I think some of that finish may have suffered over the last 30 years.

A beautiful chrome......30 years ago.  Now it is a rusty pitted mess. I started scraping the rust and it is not coming off willingly.

These are not the pedals the bike originally came with.  Instead someone installed some Look clipless pedals.  Of course I don't have any Look cleats, so I removed these.

I checked the catalog and this bike is listed as coming with a Suntour Sprint: a fine derailleur.  For some reason this bike is equipped with a Suntour ARX instead.  This makes me a sad.

The handlebars are Nitto B115 alloy black handlebars.  The Nitto stem is a bit worn on top, and the tape has some trouble areas, but the biggest problem here are the hoods which are crumbling.

This is my first bike with aero lever brakes.  Rather than the brake cables coming out from the top of the brakes, they come from the bottom and are wrapped under the handlebar tape.

A glimpse of the side pull brakes.

The cool Fuji badge (perfect if you're a visual learner)

This was supposed to be a picture of the two sets of bosses (for those long dehydrating rides to school)

Unfortunately, the greatest defect in this classic bike is this healthy dent in the top tube.  I suspect this will never be a problem, but it is a really sad blemish on a really cool bike.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Univega Gran Touring

As part of the birthday weekend, I was lucky enough to pick up a new bike, and a Univega.  As we all know, I do love to horde Gran Turismos, but this bike is a little different.  It isn't a Gran Turismo, it is a Gran Touring.  The difference, you ask.  Nothing and everything.

The obvious difference is the name.  For some reason Univega decided to change from its method of naming bikes Italian names (the bikes were originally manufactured in Italy under the name Italvega) to giving it an English name....but still the word gran and not grand...hmmmm...

Still sticking to the same font though! Phew!

My other Gran Turismos are an 80 and an 81.  They both have a Suntour groupset.  Flower has an 83 Viva Touring and I believe it has the same groupset as well, though I'll have to check.

This bike however is decked out with Shimano.  The front and rear derailleurs are both Shimano Deore.

The shifters are shimano, and the rear shifter is indexed.

The stickers aren't radically different, though the paint job is now two toned.

This bike has cantilever brakes (which seemed to be standard on Univega touring bikes beginning in 83).

There are additional fittings on the fork.  I assume these are for a front rack.

There are two sets of fittings on the frame for water bottles as well.

There are a pair of brackets brazed onto the rear of the bike for a rear rack.  I've seen a photo of another Gran Touring with the exact same rear rack (which isn't adjustable) so I assume it came with the bike.  Clearly, this bike has all of the upgrades that someone looks for on a touring bike.  Racks, places to attach racks and bottle cages, and of course cantilever brakes to facilitate fender clearance.

An interesting detail is that the seat post has heights engraved on it to correspond with the rider's height.  They didn't really show up in this picture though.  Unfortunately, this is adjusted for a 6'4.5" rider, and it is still a bit too small for me (I'm 6'4").

One thing that didn't change is the handlebars: my beloved Sakae Rondonneurs!

This stem is also stamped with "Medallion 1000 Kusuki"

The bike also came with leather straps on the pedals, but I removed these as my feet are giant and couldn't really fit in them.  Overall, this bike has a very different feel than the Turismos.  Maybe because it was manufactured in Taiwan instead of Japan, but this bike just feels much more modern. Honestly, I still sort of like the feel of the older ones more.  Can't quite say why though.  Nevertheless, it is a fun bike to ride and I'm excited to have her! :)

Ride:  To LaSalette and back
Distance: 2.7 miles each way
Time:  ~15 minutes

5/27 into 5/28

Ride:  To LaSalette and back
Distance: 2.7 miles each way
Time:  ~11 minutes

Ride:  To Hess Station on 123
Distance: 10.52
Time: 1 hour

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Biking for speed

My back wasn't feeling great today, so I read Sheldon Brown's article on pain from biking.  He mentioned that bike fit could be a problem, but it could also be from riding position.  I can't say for sure, but it seemed as though he was advocating putting little weight on the seat compared to the pedals.  He said this requires using one's muscles a lot rather than putting one's weight on their saddle.  This exercise is far more tiring, and he advised doing 2-3 mile rides using one's muscles in order to slowly ease one's self into it (rather than 10 miles putting one's weight on one's saddle).

A bit pressed for time, I decided I would try this method today.  I rode aggressively with little weight on the saddle for about three miles.  This took me 10 minutes and made my average speed about 18 miles per hour (a great improvement on last night's 10 miles per hour).  I enjoyed my ride and while it was trying, it wasn't the misery I associate with my pathetic attempts to do the mile run in school.  It was also a little fun to go fast, though it can be tough with the curves and frequent stops of city riding.  Perhaps I'll give it another go some time when I have more time and see how long I can keep up such a vigorous pace.

Ride:  To the high school, to West Street, and back.
Time:  Ten minutes
Distance: 3 miles

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Biking for weight loss

Although the author of the Lovely Bicycle! blog seems to warn against it, I am starting to bike for weight loss.  Last night, Teresa asked myself and Flower to join her in Biggest Loser weight loss challenge.  The gist of it is that we put 50 dollars in, and on August 15, whoever lost the highest percentage of weight gets the pot.  I believe it is up to 500 dollars now.  I can certainly be happy losing weight simply by trying to control my eating (which is never easy), but being that I love to bike, I figure it is an excellent way to help the cause.  The above mentioned warning is based on the fact that riding can make you hungrier and create a cycle of biking and eating and biking and eating.  After all, when have I ever needed an excuse to eat?

I hope to add to the bottom of each of my posts from now until then, how far I biked that day.  The purpose of this may seem to brag, but I think it is really just to guilt me into being a good boy and riding every day.

Ride:  To Cumberland Farms on Kelley Boulevard in North Attleboro, past the Fish Hatchery, and home again
Time: About an hour
Distance: 9.6 miles

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Geared-up for Kids

This Saturday was the Geared-up for Kids 10 mile bike ride to benefit children's brain tumor research.  I'd been really looking forward to this ride.  It was a chance to ride further and for a good cause.  I viewed it as a bit of a challenge to work up towards, and had been riding a lot to prepare. 

At my side was my trusty biking buddy Flower!

Ok, I admit there was probably a nicer way to transport the bikes, but that is a story for another day.  Thankfully, they did survive the ride well!

While this looks like ea charming picture of Flower thumb upping her bike and the impending ride, in reality I wanted to capture the incredibly rude woman in the SUV who sped into the spot next to us as we struggled to unload the bikes.

As we arrived we saw a small parking lot filled with bikes as the riders registered.

This is meant to be a shot of the registration tent, but it has a shot of my charming Gran Turismo.  Now that I look at it though, I am really amused at the guy in the yellow cycling outfit.  He looks like he is riding a miniature bicycle.  Perhaps he is a clown on the weekends.

On a more serious notes, new bikes are much smaller than older ones.  This is largely due to the development of strong seat posts that allow the seats to be much higher, and hence the bikes much smaller.  The effect is a lighter and hence faster bike.  Apparently, the other effect is that people look silly on their clown bikes.

Wheel Works was on location for any last minute adjustments that the bikes needed.  Flower's bike got some new front brake cables and she met the bike man of her dreams: oooh la la!

These are really just here so she can revisit the beauty of her bicycle man hunk.

Some beautiful scenery at the location.

Looking forward at the start of the ten mile ride.

Looking back at the ten mile ride (many more joined between this picture and the start of the race).

Us at the line....although I am the one taking the picture, I am somehow still not paying attention.

There were MANY bikes there, but very few were old.  This is a vintage Raleigh Grand Prix.  There was also an early 90s looking mixte Univega that I rode by.  I would have taken a picture, but I was riding, and its rider didn't exude friendliness.  I believe I saw a third vintage bike in my travels, but couldn't get close enough to get a read on it.

Most of the bikes there were really expensive brand new bikes.  Treks, Specialized, Bianchi, and Giants were the most prominent and were innumerable.  I saw an cheaper Schwinn here and there including a comfort bike.  Some of the younger kids were riding mountain bikes and BMX bikes.  I was most surprised to see that some of the really young rider were reading miniature brand new expensive Treks and Specialized bikes.

The ride wasn't a race, and more interestingly, it wasn't hard.  It was short and quite enjoyable.  I realized that we should have signed up for the 25 mile ride, which would have been a real challenge for us as opposed to the 10 which didn't make me break a sweat.  Anyways, I really enjoyed it and can't wait to keep going on longer rides this summer!

Of course the best part of the whole trip was this sign that I passed while driving.  It is a bit hard to see through my windshield, but it says "Watch for Turtles Crossing Roads April-October" and is signed "Turtle Rescue League".  Everything about this sign is amazing, yet the part I can't get past is the Turtle Rescue League.  Not that such an awesome thing exists, nor that it posted this sign, but rather than it hand-wrote its signature in.  This tells me that it was able to obtain this stock sign and more importantly, this tells me that this stock sign EXISTED in the first place.  Simply amazing!