Internal Detours
Saturday, June 07, 2008
  The return of the Peugeot

Earlier this week, I managed to hook up the brakes on the PX-10. Last night I went down into the basement and glued on the tires, wrapped the bars with some old Bennotto tape scavenged years ago, fitted toe straps with buckle pads, and attached a handlebar mounted bottle cage.

My plan was to ride the fixed-gear Mercian on today's ride with Ainsley. It didn't seem prudent to ride a bike that hadn't been tested yet. But after I put Eli down for his morning nap, the lure of metric-gauge Reynolds 531 was just too much to resist. I had time for a quick spin around the block, just long enough to tell me that I wanted to adjust the saddle height. I ran back down into the basement and grabbed a 12 mm box-end wrench, a 6 mm allen key, and a multi-tool and threw the lot into a jersey pocket. A second water bottle went into the middle pocket, and wallet and pencam went into the last pocket. I was going to risk it.

Heading back out, I ran into Ainsley. We both said hello to Dr. Fox, who was tending the edge of his garden by the road where we met, then bolted for downtown. Vonona drove up behind us on Grace Street and passed us at the intersection near the two churches. A moment later, I was working my way through the narrowing gap, then weaseling around the blocked-off area set aside for a vintage auto show.

We snapped a couple of shots while waiting for Vonona to unpack, and I adjusted my saddle angle and height for the second time that morning. After a brief discussion, we decided to set off for Ninety Six.

Going down the rail-trail conversion, I mentioned to Ainsley that the handlebars felt awfully narrow - which is period-correct, right? The drops might have been 42 cm, but the tops felt like 38s, which might have made Daniel Rebour happy, but the jury was still out for me. I also wondered if I had a bent pedal spindle, or if the bike was aligned correctly.

I wonder, now. Moments later, the bike felt - right. Like, really, really, just right.

"Ainsley, you know that theory that things take on aspects of their owner's personality?"

He nodded.

"If there's any truth to that, whoever owned this bike before liked to make it go fast."

And it was true. There's no telling where Joe B-Z got this bike from originally, but I know PX-10s from this era were popular with the Metropolitan Cycling Association back when. The ancient, battered Peugeot has the same vibe as Stripe, my equally battered old Mercian Colorado racing bike. It just wants to GO, even if I don't have what it takes to make it go fast.

Near the intersection of Scotch Cross and 25, Ainsley said, "Dog right." And sure enough, a middle-sized canine came rushing up, barking and running alongside for a moment before veering back off. I snapped something impolite at him, then realized what I'd said and laughed.

"Ainsley, I can tell I'm riding a Peugeot. I just cursed at a dog in French."

He thought that was pretty amusing. We slowed up and waited for Vonona, then headed down the long hill towards Ninety Six. When we passed Pembroke Road and started down the fast part of the slope, I dropped down into the hooks and shifted up onto the 52t ring. Again, the bike just wanted to GO, and was surprisingly stable and secure.

Ainsley took the long way into town, while I escorted Vonona in past the golf course. A few minutes later, we pulled up at the bakery. I snapped a couple of pix of the bike, doing what I could with the pencam. We hung out waiting for Ainsley, who wound up getting a package of their fresh sticky buns and a loaf of bread - and yes, it all fit into his Carradice saddlebag.

I asked the proprietress about whole wheat stuff and was told they're working on it. I'll keep my fingers crossed - local whole wheat bread could be very good. After a while we mounted up and headed back towards town. I fiddled with the shifters, finding the crossover point in the gearing and grateful I'd ridden fixed as much as I have. It occurred to me that of all the PX-10s I've had, this was the only one I'd ridden with stock gearing. I had a few sloppy shifts - 30-year old Atom freewheels don't always mesh well with modern chains - but in general, everything worked very nicely.

As always, with any new bike I have to come up with a name. "Django" seems to fit, and this bike is a keeper. Repeat, a keeper. Just really nice handling, and lots zippier than people give PX-10s credit for - especially the ones with original geometry unchanged from c. 1953. It was a pleasant ride, and I wound up with something around 25 miles for the day - sorry for the lack of precision, but I haven't fitted any electronics to the bike.
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