Sunday, September 11, 2011

Step One - Inventory

Going about my daily duties, I've been pondering the general direction to take with the project bike. The universe of possible options was narrowed down to three...(1) faithful restoration, (2) focus on function, and (3) focus on function, then make it pretty. Since it has so much original equipment in good condition, I felt a bit obligated to consider restoration, but honestly, my heart just wasn't in it. Rather than serving as an exhibit, this bike was always intended for a specific use. So option 1 dropped out.

After being quite inspired by this video, option 3 seemed like the obvious way to go. Then the obsessing about colors and wide range of possible upgrades ensued. The number of decisions almost made my head explode, and project costs were climbing exponentially. I'm not ready to totally let go of the pretty bike option, but since that could be phased over time, option 3 was put on the shelf for safe-keeping.

That leaves us with option 2...focus on function. Other than a slow leak in the rear tube, the bike is quite operational now. However, a more thorough inventory suggested that replacing a few items with new, or currently on-hand, parts would make the bike more comfortable for me, and perform better for my needs.

The first consideration is points-of-contact. The saddle will be replaced with a Brooks. I really enjoy the various models of B17 saddles I own, but will probably try a Swallow for this bike. The Campagnolo Nuevo Record cranks are more narrow than cranks on my other bikes, and I think something more narrow will be appreciated by the inside of my thighs. I have a pair of 41cm Nitto Noodle bars that aren't being used. They will replace the more narrow Sakae bars that came on the bike. The most difficult decision was pedals. Rather than the platform pedals used on my other bikes, I'm going back to being attached. The current clip/strap pedals will be replaced with a pair of Speedplay pedals left over from my "racier" days. I hope I can find my old Shimano shoes with Speedplay "cleats".

The perfect transition between personal comfort and pure operation comes from the tire department. Fortunately, I'll be able to add some width. Although this bike will be intended for paved roads, some of the county roads in my part of the world are fairly rough. It appears that the front fork will be the constraint, and I'll basically max-out the available space. My current guess is that a 30mm tire might work, and a 28mm will definitely work. I've got my eye on the Grand Bois Cypress.

At one point in the pondering process, brifters were considered. But I've got this perfectly functional Campagnolo Nuevo Record drivetrain here. I also have a pair of Dura-Ace 10-speed brifters, but that brings all kinds of compatibility issues. Since I'm very comfortable using downtube shifters anyway, I think I'll stay with the existing drivetrain for awhile.

In summary, the project is starting to look like a thorough cleaning, followed by a few replacement parts. Bars, brakes, brake levers, cables, tires, tubes, and saddle will all be replaced with things from the parts bin, or purchased new. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, a computer will be added. I'll simply touch up the paint nicks and scratches with clear nail polish. The result should perform well, but will be lacking in looks.

But if initial efforts work as well as anticipated, option 3 can be pulled off the shelf for implementation.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It was just as dramatic a change as the turnaround in Gainesville this morning. That puff of cooler air that drifted into Texas last weekend has given profoundly appreciated relief from brutal heat, and the mildness lingers. It was in the upper 50's when I stopped just past the catfish head fence post decorations to collect an image of the sunrise. A truly lovely morning.

The dramatic change in Gainesville was the difference between riding into a light north wind along a state highway, and riding with a less-slight north wind on paved and unpaved county backroads on the way home. I enjoyed both portions of the ride. The highway portion was smooth, straight, with light auto travel so early in the morning. Just right for getting into a good rhythm.

Descending into Gainesville, I encountered a group of riders headed south. If you enlarge the photo you can see them in the distance. And since the Red River is just north of Gainesville, you can almost see Oklahoma from here.

I paused to refuel at a convenience store. It was warming up and time to shed a layer.

Since the route back promised to be much more twisty-turny, it was also time to refer to my old school GPS.

What a turnaround! The high-pitched hum of Hetres rolling over pavement was transformed into the Rice Krispies sound of crunching gravel. The expanse of the wide state ROW was reduced to one lane of travel between trees. The pace slowed, and the countryside just glided by me.

While we are thrilled with the cooler temperatures of late, we Texans are not totally satisfied. Now our prayers are focused all the more on rain. There are far too many creeks that are not supposed to be dry like this. And too many bewildered cows standing around staring at mud pits that were once refreshing stock ponds.

I suppose it's also a turnaround of sorts for me in that I've invested in the slightly-more-zippy project bike. While pondering and tinkering with the old Trek, I've been ramping up the ride intensity and duration just a bit. I'm not sure if it is time to use the "training" word just yet, but that day might come. The son-in-law has begun riding...often...and fast, and is starting to scare me. Gotta do something about that. So after a few shorter, quicker rides in the last few days, it was most excellent to spend some time in the saddle. Long Steady Distance, I believe is what we'd call it if we were training...but we aren't quite yet.

These purple thistle thingies were a sharp visual contrast with the toasty, crispy brown of the thirsty roadside grasses.

Things have turned around. It looks different. It feels different.

There is a delightful eagerness.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Step Zero Point Five

In which we begin spending money...

My last comment on this post demonstrates that Mrs. Pondero is a fascinating creature, and one about whom I have much more to learn. As it turns out, there IS another "project dog", and he arrived before I even completed the inventory on my old Trek.

His name is Ferris Bueller.

And that seems like a pretty good name for this care-free, trouble-making, free-loading, furry rascal. He's so lucky, it makes me sick.

I might have just started the most expensive project bike ever.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Step Zero - Out of the Box

1984 Trek 660

The project bike arrived late yesterday afternoon.

I've only had enough time to pull it out of the box, slap it together into one piece, and play with it for about 15 minutes. No adjustments. It was a hoot to carve sharp turns and feel the acceleration.

It's pretty much what I wanted...a decent lugged steel bike with standard diameter tubes and geometry slightly more race-like than my current bikes. It fits perfectly, and even though it needs work, it's just what I had in mind for this project.

I know that the saddle, tires, and bars will need to be replaced, but I haven't really had the time yet to do a thorough inventory and make a plan. That'll be the first step, and I'm looking forward to it.