Internal Detours
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Peugeot PX-10s aren't for everyone. Those who love them point out they were the least expensive all-out racing bike on the market during their heyday. With a frame built of metric gauge Reynolds 531 throughout joined with fancy curlicue Nervex Professional lugs, combined with a very light parts mix, Peugeot's top offering was a springy machine that handled well on rough roads. A lot of riders won a lot of races on PX-10s, including (probably) Tom Simpson's Milan-San Remo victory and his one day in the yellow jersey.

Those who don't love them point out that the craftsmanship was indifferent at best; the Nervex lugs came right out of the box and were slapped into place and brazed up without a single pass of a file to smooth them up; and the components were defiantly French to the bitter end. Arguably, the PX-10s of 1978 were the pinnacle of mid-50s racing design.

I know about all of the flaws, but I used to collect PX-10s. When I first fell in love with dropped-handlebar road bikes in the mid-70s, I used to admire the white Peugeots with the black head lugs at Dixon's in Roanoke. I never had one until 1997 or so, when I returned to cycling and bought a '74 PX-10LE sight unseen from a guy in a cycling newsgroup.

From there I picked up a couple of other vintage Peugeots. I bought a bunch of assorted documents and old catalogs. I helped gather data for a website about the various Peugeots based on the information we could find in the U.S. at the time.

In 2000, I sold of all the vintage stuff to help pay for the Rivendell. It was part of divesting myself from assorted collections - I sold the vintage guitars off at the same time. I would occasionally chime in with whatever information I could add to discussions online about the various PX-10 variants. I no longer had to keep up with the various odd French dimensions - which make perfect sense if you think metric.

When Charlie Young gave me an incredibly battered old PX-10 frameset at the Cirque this year, he unleashed a monster. I came home with visions of a beater fixed-gear, and was thinking its next finish would be basic rattle-can flat black.

No. Oh, no. Because it's a relatively unusual bike, you see. I poked around and looked at the inside of the BB shell and saw mitered frame tubes where everything came together. The frame angles appeared to be the classical 72 degrees parallel. The fork had the perfect old-style low-trail rake. The wheelbase was my ideal, a near-perfect 40 inches or so.

Contrary to received wisdom, overall it showed much nicer construction than the '73-75 era bikes I was used to. Though the chrome was thin and worn in places, it was much better than most French chrome. In addition to the little touches that indicated someone cared about building a good bike, there was the headbadge. It had rivets like the ones normally holding old-style shield-shaped escutcheons, but the badge itself was the later squared shape. It even had the hardwood plug hammered down into the top of the fork crown as a last-ditch guard against a steerer tube failure.

An exchange of emails with Eric Elman later, I had learned I had what was probably a transitional bike structurally identical to the 1967-1969 PX-10Es, but with the decals and graphics package that was to run from 1970 through 1974. Interesting. No real collector value, especially in this condition, but it was one of the very last of the classical, canonical frames that built the model's reputation.

I poked around my parts bin and stumbled onto a set of wheels I had bought cheaply years ago - fancy tubular racing rims laced up to early Phil Wood sealed-bearing hubs. The front even had tied and soldered spokes, and how cool is that? Days later, I bought a set of Stronglight cranks cheaply on eBay, followed by a French-thread BB to match. Digging through my boxes of parts turned up assorted Mafac brake parts.

Another eBay purchase netted me a Simplex Super LJ rear derailleur, essential if I wanted to be able to change gears - Peugeot used Simplex dropouts that required Simplex derailleurs until the very late 1970s. French, don't you know. Anyway, the seller sent me a huge stash of assorted oddments appropriate for this build, including more Simplex goodies.

There are still some issues. Someone had cinched down the seatpost binder bolt too hard, compressing the seat tube beyond the 26.4 mm of catalog specification. I managed to open it back up some, but I think it's gonna need to be honed, and possibly reamed. I still haven't decided if I'm going to set it up with my current handlebar preferences (Nitto of Japan) or somewhat risky period stuff (narrow Philippe bars and the infamous Ava death stem). I still need to buy some tubulars and some French threaded pedals.

It looks like a long term process. It also looks like a lot of fun.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
  Fred's Birthday Ride advance notice

Here's your one-month advance notice - Fred will be celebrating his 65th birthday with 65 BIG miles Sept. 16. The ride leaves from 1419 E. Durst Avenue from 8:00 to 10:00 - and maps will be available AND the route will be marked. Anyone who wishes to swim afterward is encouraged to bring a swim suit and a towel. Email him at
Saturday, August 12, 2006
  solo fixed sans camera
For the last couple of weeks, I've made it to the club rides, getting in miles and getting back into shape. I seem to be back to where I was in late June, which is good. I only plan on doing one big organized ride for the remainder of the season - the Flight of the Dove on August 26th to benefit Hospice of Laurens County.

Along the way, I got to deal with damage caused when the fancy four-bike rack I got from Performance gave way and dumped the Dawes, Belle, Julius and Stripe onto the concrete floor one night. Damage report - both wheels on the Dawes are now out of true, and the Nitto handlebars are bent badly enough to need replacement. Stripe's front wheel got knocked out of true and the bars were knocked out of alignment, both easily repaired. Julius's front fender was whacked out of alignment and one of the breakaway fender mounts broke. Finally, Belle picked up some really nasty scratches on the left fork blade, probably from Julius' rear axle nuts. Ugh.

Ainsley and I had planned on riding fixed today. Originally, we were going to meet everyone for the club ride at 9:00 from the fountain and then split off to do a moderate ramble. Unfortunately, I woke up to steady rain today. After an exchange of emails, we decided we'd have to reschedule.

This afternoon, I decided to risk a ride in the lulls between the rain. I headed out the usual route out to the trail, and from there I wound up going out 225. I was torn - would I go straight out East Scotch Cross towards Ninety Six, or would I go right onto West Scotch Cross and work my way back into town via Mt. Moriah Road.

My answer came in the form of the two German Shepherds that normally live in the a big fenced-in run at the first house on West Scotch Cross. They were out, barking, and moving at a moderate pace towards me. So much for that, and I got down in the drops and pointed Julius' front wheel into the wind and headed for Ninety Six.

It was grey and overcast, but it was also about 75 degrees. I fought the wind all the way down the long hill before hooking right and taking the back way around to Star Fort. Along the way, I glanced down and realized I was about to reach the 5,000 mile mark on Julius. It's taken a couple of years, but when you ride several different bikes you spread the mileage around. Strangely enough, the previous Sunday I'd crossed the 1,000 mile mark on Stripe, and only a month or so back I'd crossed 8,000 on Belle.

Back towards Greenwood I went. If I didn't get a tailwind, at least I was no longer battling a headwind. I turned right for Lebanon Church Road's gentler climb.

About 3/4 of the way up, I found myself passing between the corners of two pastures that flanked the road. Two horses were in the corner on my left, three others in the corner to my right - all right up against the fences with their heads held over the wires. They were looking intently at each other, almost as if they were talking.

I was maybe 10 or 15 yards away when they became aware of me, and in unison they all turned their heads to look at me. It was just disturbing enough that I made a point of saying, "I don't mean to interrupt y'all, and I'll be right out of your way in just a moment. By all means, carry on as you were." I snuck a glance back when I was a little further up the road and they were all studiously ignoring me.

I thought about that for the rest of the ride. I made a point of saying hello to the collie running loose on the rail-trail, and to the hare that left the trail to sit in the grass at its edge as I rode past. I finished up with 29.1 miles for the day and an image in my head that belongs in a creepy movie.
Friday, August 04, 2006
  the long vacation, part 3 - the long-delayed conclusion

Sorry, but life gets in the way of blogging. I'll try to wrap up the cross-country odyssey in a hastily-written, much-compressed and many-memories-slipping-away kinda way.

We left Cheyenne on a Monday, the first of two days we had planned that involved a short drive. Of course we went off-track a bit, but we still found Boulder Colorado, coming in near a Target that had a Starbucks where they botched Ana's order. We bought her a cheap Timex. The band broke the moment she put it on. It was not a good morning.

We drove downtown, stopping and finding a parking space a block or two away from Vecchio's on Pearl Street. I was in bike heaven - hanging around the place were treasures including an Atala with a Cambio Corsa gear, several tutti Campagnolo Italian steeds - and a fully-chromed Mercian wearing stainless fenders and full Campy. My, my, my. I bought a set of Campagnolo ergo cables and a cycling cap from Peter Chisholm, whose postings on the newsgroup have reassured me that my polyglot mix o' parts will indeed work on Stripe when I get around to rebuilding him. I could have spent hours in there, but we needed lunch.

We searched for a parking spot high and low before giving up and using the parking garage. Lunch was at the Falafel King in the Pearl Street hip district, and it was delicious. Feeling fortified, we walked up and down the strip, buying some small treasures to bring home or adorn ourselves with. Best finds were the pendant with the butterfly wing encased in lucite and the matching Skagen stainless steel watches - though the elegant and cheap little Melita single cup coffee maker was also a good score. Ana talked me out of getting the altitude tent, which is just as well - rumor has it the UCI is about to classify sleeping in altitude tents as a banned practice.

It seemed like every shop we visited had at least one shop dog, sometimes two. Border collies. Labradors. Mixed-breeds. All laid-back and chilling out. It was doggie paradise, made even weirder by the fact that it was a cyclist's paradise, too.

I took a bunch of blurry pix with the $9 pencam as we walked around, because I wanted to document all the bikes in various places. I understand there are 95,000 people in Boulder, and 100,000 bikes. How can you not love that? I hadn't seen this many bikes being used for transportation since I was a kid visiting Chapel Hill and Charlottesville in the mid-70s during the great bike boom - of course, back then the bikes had dropped bars and skinny tires instead of fat tires and straight bars.

It looked like the bike of choice for getting around was a vintage fully-rigid mountain bike, though I saw several balloon tire bombers, upright English and Dutch 3-speeds, and assorted older touring and road racing machines locked up and whizzing by.

We found our hotel and checked in. While Ana called her sister on the cell, I walked down the street to get some bottled water. I picked up a flier advertising a condo for sale there on Arapahoe - 536 square feet for the bargain price of $178,900. Ouch.

We decided that supper should be delivered. Fortunately, there was the Sink, in business since 1922, and ever-ready to produce good stuff. We wound up going with the half-pound burgers made with grass-fed organic beef, splitting a Greek salad. It was a most fortunate choice. If you're ever there, by all means get one of those burgers - surpassed only by Ole's bison burgers.

We had factored in ride time for me the next morning, so when Tuesday dawned I headed out aboard Belle. I had a map of the Boulder trail system, and worked my way down Arapahoe. Initially I was nervous - the lanes were kinda narrow, and there was a lot of traffic - but I found the entry to the trail and headed out.

You may remember how much I liked the Cheyenne Greenway? This blows it out of the water. It felt and rode like a cross between the Blue Ridge Parkway and what an interstate would be like if they made them for cyclists. Again, I saw all sorts of folks out there - young, old, ambling along or hustling to work or appointments or riding out in full spandex regalia for a training ride, or out walking with their well-behaved dogs.

I'd never seen prairie dogs up close before. I did this time - some of them were out foraging right next to the trail, in an area where their burrows filled a field next to a pond. The ducks and geese didn't even flinch as I rolled past.

Eventually, my time started running out, so I turned around and headed back. I figured I'd go back to Vecchio's and get some photos, so I rolled along on the city streets, first on the well-striped bike lanes, then just sharing the road with everyone else.

As a cyclist, I loved Boulder. I felt respected and treated as an equal while riding a bike, more so than I had ever experienced anywhere else. Riding back to the hotel, I was struck by the wild mix of houses in the historic district. Cheek-by-jowl were a Frank Lloyd Wright wannabe, a shingle-side Victorian, a '20s Spanish Revival and a gloriously simple plank-sided cottage.

Our next stop was Topeka. Eastern Colorado and western Kansas are both kinda quiet and not terribly exciting places to drive through. The guide book mentioned it, the food was passable but nothing special, I had flashbacks to eating at some funky cafeteria-styled place in Rocky Mount, Virginia during my childhood, and we moved on. Our hotel was another one like the last one we were in, a Holiday Inn Express or a Comfort Suites, they all blur together.

Wednesday was another long day as we crossed Kansas and drove into Illinois for a time before going into Indiana and thence to Kentucky. By now the highway construction was just getting oppressive. Somewhere along in here we found ourselves on something that was simultaneously an interstate AND a toll road. This sparked a lively conversation along the lines of, "C'mon, we already paid federal taxes towards maintaining this road ..."

We got stuck in traffic again in St. Louis, trapped by more construction and a Cardinals baseball game. We bumped along at slow speed for a while before finally crossing into Illinois, where the roads were just as bad. I can't even remember the town we finally stopped in for supper. I just remember we discovered that Applebee's had "upgraded" their menu by scattering walnuts and pecans over everything we would normally have eaten, an issue for those of us with food allergies. We wound up grabbing something from Wendy's and pushing on to Owensboro, Kentucky.

Our schedule let us take it easy Thursday morning, so we did. I watched Floyd Landis' glory ride and thought of Eddy Merckx before Phil Liggett mentioned his name. It was a great moment in racing, so long as pharmaceuticals weren't linked to it.

We had originally hoped to eat supper Wednesday in Owensboro, but we had amended our schedule so we could have lunch there the next day. Pity we didn't get there early enough - the Moonlite Barbecue was criminally good. I may have been born in North Carolina's mustard-based barbecue country, I may have been weaned on that yellowy goodness, but Moonlite in Owensboro blew their doors off. It was the best damned barbecue I've ever eaten in my life, period. Finchers in Macon - eat yer heart out. It was that good.

On to Nashville, for an overnight stay with relatives, then Friday we headed for home. We took a scenic route for a while, then found ourselves on I-40 in time to spend more than an hour sitting still. A tractor-trailer had rolled, closing both lanes for a long time. We eventually got past Knoxville and into the Great Smoky Mountains, working our way home through Spartanburg to Clinton to home in the wee hours of the morning.
cycling through life is more than the cycling life

Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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