more rides, more fun with French bottom brackets
So, Wednesday evening I went home and headed straight for the basement to spend some time with the Gitane and a bunch of wrenches. I pulled both cranks with the cool old Stronglight tool, eschewing the thin-wall socket and ratchet wrench and instead using the funky little rod through the hole in the cylindical tool for both removal and re-installation. I cranked, cranked, CRANKED the fixed cup into place using the only tool I have that will fit - an ancient Model T automobile wrench from a pile of tools we inherited. ON there, dang it! I fitted everything back together with a re-positioned adjustable cup and re-locked lockring.
Thursday Ainsley rolled up on Death Trap, a c.1970 kinda-racey road frame of unknown history - he bought it off the big auction site for cheap, and it shows signs of probably being somebody's one-off custom bike with some indications it might, perhaps, have come out of the old Proteus works. As kitted out in its current incarnation, it features black spray enamel with many scratches, a lone sidepull brake up front operated by a time trial lever stuck into the end of chopped-and-flopped handlebars, aero-bar adapters featuring much electrical tape, and a nice set of IRO's best wheels from back when they were a going concern. The bike gets its name from a post-test-ride comment by a bike shop employee - "This thing is a death trap!"
We rolled through town and I was feeling frisky and actually pulled for a while, breaking out of my usual wheel-sucker role. On down the trail, down through Wisewood and around to 225 and Scotch Cross Road, a route we had ridden more times than can be counted. I was feeling better than I had in a while, and was able to spin the bike up to 31 mph without paying too much for it. I got my adrenaline rush for the day when I managed to smack the pothole near the bottom and felt the back of the bike lift up just a touch before juddering back into line beneath me.
We avoided all canines, equines, bovines and other -ines on the slow incline up Mt. Lebanon Church Road, and the motorists were civilized as we rolled in on the Canadian Mist Highway. It was a good ride, and I had 21 miles at the end of it ... and a loose bottom bracket.
Enough. I put the bike in the rack and pulled the right crank. I used the Model T wrench to remove the "fixed" cup and broke out the Zippo lighter fluid and a rag and cleaned the threads. I reached into the BB shell and cleaned those threads, too. I put a big dollop of blue faux-loctite (some off-brand out of a pile of stuff I had been given) near the outside edge of the cup and screwed it all back in and readjusted and hung the bike up for the weekend.
This morning I rose early again, dressing in cycle shorts and my ancient blue jersey before devouring a huge bowl of cereal for breakfast. Maybe I shouldn't say "huge" - I had an associate nearly 30 years ago who used to eat Captain Crunch out of a large brown dog dish every morning, and I'm not to that level. Anyway, down the basement, down came the Gitane, and out the door I went, warily moving past the wasp's nest they've built in the upper corner nearest the hinges. The wasp on the outside might have been asleep, I couldn't tell, and I wasn't in a mood to mess with him.
I rolled out at 6:10, taking the usual route downtown to the rail trail. Turning off Spring Street onto the trail, I was just starting the little descent when I spooked (1) a grey fox, (2) a squirrel, and (3) a young black cat - all within 10 seconds. Maybe 15 seconds later I startled a deer that ran off into the brush where the straightaway starts. There were other critters later, but I heard rather than saw them. Some helpful soul had removed the downed tree that had halfway blocked the path, and I thanked them and rolled on.
I went left again, down Florida and over to New Market, eluding the canine menace and feeling pretty good. I stood on the bike for the climb up to Marshall Road, feeling pretty good to maintain 12 mph on the first part of the climb and being at peace with it when I could only manage 11 when the climb resumed. I missed the green light, so I pulled a Gerald Dorn and went right on red, checked, then did a U-ey and made another right turn on red - all of this a very legalistic way to avoid blowing through a red light that is technically a defective signal that does not register all lawful traffic. Heh.
I decided not to go through the old Main Drag but spun down Phoenix Street, being surprised at how fast the descent was. I waited at the light at Seaboard Coast Road as traffic moved around me, hearing a train coming in the distance and looking at the crossbuck. Would I get to cross before it came down for a train to pass by? My luck was good, and I the light went green and I stood on the Gitane and went. The crossing is much smoother now, a gentle bump unlike the horror it was in the early 80s. I had no mishaps today, either - in 1982 I rode over those tracks on my old Raleigh rodbrake roadster and got a horrific puncture when the blade and shaft of a screwdriver bounced up out of the track and perforated my rear tire. Yes, perforated, as in, in-one-side-and-out-the-other, looking for all the world like one of those arrows people wear on their heads when they're trying to be funny.
Onto Cambridge, then down Jennings Avenue, taking the route I used in the past for midnight test pilot rides on freshly-built bikes, then back on home. I had 10.5 miles for my troubles - and the bottom bracket is still holding. Down the basement steps to put the Gitane away, where I gingerly unlocked the door. The wasps were awake now, and one of them was watching me as I watched him. He stayed put on the nest, though his wings seemed to draw together at one point. I moved steadily and judiciously and opened the door smoothly and gently, slipped in the with the bike, and closed the door the same way while the wasp's partner watched me. So far, so good, but I foresee a can of Raid in the future, because detente with wasps never lasts long.
Blame the French
The alarm went off at 5:30. I lolled through one snooze cycle, then rose and dressed in cycling togs, prominently featuring the sponsor-splashed last issue jersey of the defunct Greenwood Cycling Club. Breakfast was fast - a cereal bar and a monkey dish of AtlantFresh Greek yogurt - and I name the stuff because it was GREAT.
Then it was down to the basement, where I frittered away more time than I would have liked fitting a blinky tail light to the Gitane. First I had to find a tail lamp; then there was the whole gymkhana of testing it, concluding I needed new batteries, finding new batteries, popping the cover to discover that suddenly the light worked with a vengeance, then playing with different mounting hardware before fitting the whole apparatus at the juncture of seat post and seat tube. You get the idea. By the time I carried the bike out of the basement (carefully avoiding the wasp nest that has appeared in the top corner of the outside basement door) it was 6:20.
The old bike responded well and zipped along nicely, metric gauge 531 providing just the right mix of flex and stiffness (combined with those groovy wheels I got in trade from Craig). Unlike some mornings, I felt pretty good. I paused for a moment downtown to switch over to shades - note to self, next time get at least one pair of regular glasses WITHOUT progressive lenses and their perspective shifting tendencies.
I was near the halfway point on the rail trail when I felt something odd in the pedal stroke - suddenly there was a dead spot followed by a subtle-but-definitely-there re-engagement. Loose crankbolt? Maybe the rear wheel had shifted incrementally forward and the chain now had a little slackness? Was I hallucinating? Princess and the Pea Syndrome?
I wondered. I rolled on. The sensation grew stronger. I stopped. When I put a foot down, I immediately saw the problem - the right side bottom bracket cup had backed out of the frame.
Blame the French. You can make a case for the old French tubing dimensions - they're all even metric measurements, none of those fractional things we encounter with ISO stuff. The subtle differences in tubing diameters make for an indescribably but palpably smoother ride. And the bottom bracket size and thread pitch are good, too - 35mm x 1mm, nice and easy. But why, oh why could they not have made the drive side REVERSE thread like the British and Americans and eventually the ISO standards? There's even what is called Swiss threading, which is metric 35 x 1 but with a reverse thread drive side - and Swiss thread parts are even harder to find than old French ones, btw.
I pondered trying to turn the cup back inwards a little, but no go, not with the tee-ninetsy multi-tool tucked into the equally tee-ninetsy saddle bag. In all fairness, this really is not a roadside kinda repair, anyway. This calls for the use of my old Stronglight crank tool, which is one of two I once owned - and had I kept the other one wrapped in its original paper wrapper instead of giving it to someone more than a decade ago, I would have a couple of hundred dollars worth of spare tool. Anyway, this was a job for a 16 mm narrow wall socket wrench, the aforementioned obscure and obsolete tool, and a big wrench to crank that wretched fixed cup back into place so it would stay, well, fixed, dang it.
I reminded myself that if the cup backed out further, because it was right-hand thread the crank spider would just screw it back in and it wouldn't lock things up. I turned the Gitane around and headed for home at a sedate pace, winding up in the driveway exactly at 7:00 with eight miles for my troubles.
I foresee a Phil Wood sealed bearing bottom bracket in this bike's future - when funds permit.
a small beach ride and early morning jaunts
Straightened out, tires pumped, carefully strapped to a rack strapped just as carefully to a rented mini-van, the Gitane went down to the beach avec moi et la famille, down the long route via secondary roads selected by my fabulous wife to avoid the interstates and get us safely to Garden City. Upon arrival, I promptly removed the green bike from the rack and safely locked it to a beam under the beach house while I unloaded luggage - and it sat there for most of the vacation, because, hey, sometimes life gets in the way of riding bike.
Friday came, though, and the people were lolling, and I snatched the opportunity to venture out. Almost immediately I started second-guessing myself. I had spent a couple of hours playing in heavy surf Thursday afternoon, and now I found myself rubber-legged and weak, riding into the wind. I made it to the end of publicly available road on S. Waccamaw, where a guardhouse marked the start of a gated community. I turned back toward the beach house, grateful for the small wind at my back.
A guy on a modern machine rolled up, resplendent in a club jersey covered with sponsors' names, and asked, "Hey, you wanna ride?"
I shook my head. "Sorry, I don't have the legs for it today, but thanks. Take care," I said, and he went on up the road.
I pulled in at the driveway and rested for a moment. I had 4.5 miles, and there was no way that was going to be enough, so I set off towards the intersection with Atlantic, then on down, rolling along what would become Ocean Boulevard, past folks en route to the beach, cop cars, people riding beach cruisers and flat-bar "fitness" bikes and golf carts. Eventually I reached a spot where I paused, drank some water, and tweaked my handlebar height.
I stopped to take the obligatory "bike at the beach" pic, because that, dear reader, is what I do. I missed the casual ease of the $9 pencam and the freedom to snap pix while riding, but the photo quality of the iPhone makes up for it, right? Then back to the beach house and a much-needed shower and the rest of the vacation and the drive home.
Yesterday I rose early, getting on the road before 6:30 and retracing a route I had taken the Sunday before vacation, pointing the Gitane down the rail trail before going left on Florida and across 34 to work my way back in via New Market and East Creswell's Robber Baron Row. Along the way I had my sole dog encounter of the day, when a Chihuahua bolted across his yard in hot pursuit. Over my shoulder I accused him of lying in wait for me, and then I was spinning away down the hill. I had 10-point-something for the day and had time to shower and get stuff done before going to work.
I got up earlier today, early enough to be rolling at 6:10. The lights were with me, and I was downtown in 5 minutes and turning onto the rail trail in 8. 6:30 found me at the end of the rail trail, pondering - and then I turned right and spun down across the 225 Bypass and down to the little bridge before standing on the bike and rocking it up past Springfield Elementary and hooking right on Alexander. Back across the bypass again, and getting a firm reminder that speed and suppleness go away when they are not maintained, as I held the bike to 25 mph down the hill. Time was I could spin the 70-in gear up to 30 or more, but I need more miles in my legs before I can do that again. I stood on the bike with less vigor than before, holding it steady as cars went past in bunches on their way to work. Left onto Spring Street, rolling smoother than I would have suspected, before retracing my steps and getting home at 7:00 on the dot. It was a whopping 11.5 miles, which beats 0 miles all hollow, and by the time I got to work the stiffness in my neck and shoulders was all gone.
Green is the new Flat Black
I know, more than a year? Really? Well, sometimes life gets in the way of updating this way out of date blog ...
The last time I posted here, I was contemplating painting an old Gitane frameset with flat black enamel. Before I reached for the spray can, though, I stripped off the peeling decals to get a better look at what I had to work with. The decal removal could have gone easier, and I added to the numerous scratches and scrapes. I took a long, hard look at the wabi-sabi, mottled, somehow very organic look of the original Club Green paint - and sighed and went to Greenwood Hobby and Garden for some Testor's model paint and some tee-ninetsy brushes.
I blended. I touched up, wiped off, re-blended and touched up again. From, oh, 20 feet away, it looks almost presentable. When I was done, I dug into the parts stash. After monkeying around with assorted old Phil Wood stuff, I wound up using the original Stronglight bottom bracket cups with my imperfect but still quite functional and surprisingly smooth Stronglight 113mm track spindle. Out came the ancient mod. 93 cranks I had taken off another Gitane TdF c.1998, which had I had at various times used to convert a Peugeot PR-10L, a different Gitane, an early Trek 620, and a Falcon San Remo before it spent a year on Julius the Mercian.
The saddle I fitted is my second Brooks B17, the one with the road rash scarred top from a misunderstanding involving an original Bianchi Pista, a spontaneously releasing clipless pedal and the tarmacadam surface of Oregon Farm Road back in 2000. Pedals are an older set of MKS Sylvan track pedals, with the bent left spindle replaced with a less-bent spindle from an old SR road pedal. The brake levers once graced Lazarus the trashpile Raleigh Gran Sport, and they operate a pair of Weinmann 500 sidepulls kitted out with the Scott Matthauser pads that had put on the Dawes Realmrider back in 1997.
I know - nobody else really wants to know what the parts are, or their history. But everything has history, a narrative, a place in time and space, or else its all just commodity, right? And if I wanted a commodity fixed-gear bike, there are places on the internet that sell them, ready to go right out of the box with no fiddling about with archaic, obsolete dimensions and thread-pitches. What's the fun of that?
At first I was in a hurry, all eagerness and thumbs racing to get the bike ready for last year's beach week. I picked up an IRO flip-flop hub from the big auction site and used Wheelsmith spokes salvaged from a destroyed wheel to lace it to an older Campagnolo sewup rim I had lying around. Big Lee at Bikes and Boards had a front wheel that was close enough - dark anodized Mavic rim and unlabeled but crazy smooth front hub, and I still had one good pair of tubulars. I was set ... sort of.
It worked well enough, but I never felt like I had the rear wheel dialed in, and sewups no longer felt good. I started negotiations with Craig out west, and wound up swapping a dynohub-equipped front wheel and a book for a nice pair of Kogswell-Mavic wheels - which arrived the day after we left for the beach. Sigh.
So Ainsley and I rode around Cherry Grove, and even with somewhat squirrely wheels the Gitane was a champion - right up until our last ride together that week, when the bottom bracket fixed cup worked its way loose. It was an easy enough fix - once I got home.
Leisure rides have been few, far between and hard to come by for a while, but I have lately managed to work in a few. Sunday morning I went out early, and I took the Gitane and managed to get in 10 miles in the short amount of time I had available.
Monday evening, Ainsley and I set out aboard our Mercians for what we hoped would be the classic Wednesday night ride from downtown Greenwood out Scotch Cross and back in via Lebanon Church and the infamous Canadian Mist Highway - but it was not to be. By the time we reached the end of the rail-trail at Florida Avenue there was thunder that could no longer be ignored. We bore left and ran like bunnies down New Market. We were coming up the rise to Marshall Road when it started raining. We booked it along, hooking left along Robber Baron row on East Creswell before taking shelter in the overhang outside Immanuel Lutheran and waiting out the worst of it.
As I noted out there in Facebook land, fenders are good things, cycling buddies like Ainsley who are philosphical and amused by rain are even better. We eventually made it home, where we dried off and waited out the rest of the storm over coffee and wide-ranging conversation.
Wednesday I came home and I NEEDED to ride. It was a last-minute, bolt-down-a-PBJ-and-get-out-the-door kinda ride, and I took the Gitane and got as close to hammering as I have gotten in eons. Leaving at 6:30 gave me some time, but not a lot. I complimented the young couple at the far end of the rail-trail on their beautiful German Shepherd. I waved to motorists and they waved back to me, and everybody was cool. I hooked right through the neighborhood and went down 221 to the 225 Bypass, thence down Scotch Cross road, pausing long enough to raise my handlebars about 1 cm, then again a little while later to get the bars and stem exactly, precisely, correctly straight to fend off CDO (because those letters should be in alphabetical order!).
I was coming up Lebanon Church Road when I saw an outline up ahead. I thought, "dog?" and then got close enough to see the huge ears. It was a fawn, all legs and white speckled cuteness, and the poor dear/deer saw me and took flight. Bless its heart, it was trapped between me on the road and the fence line, so it fled along that grassy strip. I had time to ponder the expression "runs like a deer" and lament that while I could think of the photo of Njinksy, I could not summon Afternoon of a Faun in my head. The little deer turned down into a nook with a gate and watched me pass on by, and I sincerely hope the little beggar made his way back home.
It was overcast and getting dark fast. I poured it on, as much as I could, and the old Gitane ran arrow-straight beneath me. I marveled at how smooth and straight the ancient Stronglight crank and chainring ran, how I was able to glide along down the Canadian Mist Highway past the empty bottles it is named for. Onto Florida Avenue, then bombing down the hill to the rail trail and encountering the same young couple. What else could I do? I said, "Hello again, and that is still a beautiful Shepherd!" They smiled, I smiled, the Shepherd was beautifully behaved again and I dug in and kept turning 'em 'round.
8:00 found me on the trail still, and I stood on the bike and punched it up the nasty little rise at the curve, then it was through Uptown Greenwood past the topiaries. The traffic light at Maxwell and Main actually registered that there was a vehicle present when I put the bike right about where the sensor should be, and the light changed like I was real traffic or something. No such luck at the Grace Street light, but I got around that and managed to burn on home. I rolled up into the carport and was rewarded almost immediately by the pitter patter of raindrops on the metal roof. I had 21 miles with an average speed of 15-point-something, which is my fastest ride in probably seven years or so.
Life is good, love is better, and God's love is the best of all. More later!