My Bikes

My SR as of 6/16/2012.

I bought this bike in the early-mid '90s from a local bike shop. It was un-ridden, basically NIB, but un-assembled. The headset and BB were original, but no other components were in the frame other than the seat-post. At the same time I got the bike, I purchased a number of NOS parts: Superbe-Pro High-Flange hubs, Superbe Derailleur, Gran Compe levers, etc.

This is the 7th or 8th revision of the bike since I built it up. Parts list as follows:
  • Suntour XCD rear derailleur
  • Suntour Mountech front derailleur
  • Suntour stem-mount shifters
  • 110mm crank (170mm arms) 34-44
  • Suntour Winner freewheel (5-speed, 13-28, I think)
  • V-O Porteur bar
  • Nitto Technomic stem
  • Brooks B-17 Standard saddle
  • Shimano center-pull brakes
  • Kenda 40-622 tires
A couple of reasons I've made the choices I made:
Frame: Old '80s Japanese frames are robust, attractive, hand-brazed steel. This frame was manufactured by Miyata for SR from 'good' quality Tange Champion seamless tubing. The geometry is conservative, plenty of room for the tires I like to ride. The finish quality is very good. It's not light, but it will last me a lifetime. The bike was a "Sport-Touring" model. Braze-ons for fenders and racks will eventually see some use as I continue to refine my set-up. This bike will hopefully see Randonneuring use beginning this summer.

Components: The old-fashioned components are correct vintage for the bike (mostly) and work very well. The freewheel for instance has the same range as your 10-speed Shimano cassette, just not as many steps. The bikes saddle and handle-bar set-up suits this old guy better than the original drop bars.

Tires: These Kenda 40-622 (don't know the model-name) 'tractor' tires are among my favorites. They're huge and robust, and they ride and handle comfortably and predictably. I have been using a smoother, lighter 38mm tire on this bike, but swapped these on for the weekend's mixed-surface camping trip. These tires have been bomb-proof.

The Army Surplus pack seems to work well as a frame-less and rack-less handlebar bag (time will tell...). I'll eventually add fenders and a V-O "Constructeur" rack on the front to support the bag and move the weight as low as possible. I may add a rear rack as well, and the pack may see service as a saddlebag after that.

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The BIG BIKE (updated 6/15/2012)

This is the latest set-up of the BIG BIKE. It's been painted my favorite color and I moved the brown saddle, grips and tires. I like the color-scheme now.

The tires are surprising. Pumped to their rated max of 65psi, they're very smooth-riding and seem grippier than they look on first appearance. When I put 'em on, I thought they'd be cosmetic only, and that I'd be pulling them off in favor of one of the other recent sets. Not the case, they are actually OK. I like the way they look on the BIG BIKE's dark anodized rims. (I just wish they were a little wider!) Anyway, I like the Cocoa/Black theme.

The BIG BIKE as a 'Junk-yard Porteur'...

I'm very enamored with useful bikes, especially Cargo bikes, Touring bikes, Randonneur bikes, and Porteurs. Today (Christmas '11), I put a basket on the BIG BIKE to see if I liked the idea of converting it to a 'junkyard porteur'.

The BIG BIKE first ride.

I took the BIG BIKE on it's first ride today - had a really beautiful day as a follow-up to our little rainy day yesterday. It was nice & sunny, cool but not cold (T-shirt & bare head on the bike) & just a bit breezy but not windy.
I'd like to have an additional 'top' tube brazed in.

The BIG BIKE handles very differently from my SR - a bit longer wheelbase, longer top tube, and a lot more trail - this thing rides no-hands like the old Schwinn Cruiser I had as a kid. The 40-622 tires are a good fit with the bike - not too heavy, but definitely not wimpy road-bike "O-rings".

One nice aspect of the s-l-o-w steering geometry is that the bike is super stable when climbing out of the saddle - and I spent a lot of time out of the saddle today. I'm glad I left the big "Bear Trap" BMX pedals on the bike - makes it a lot more comfortable for standing. In fact, the bike climbed pretty easily considering that I just had the one gear.

It sounds a little like the old joke about the guy being 'the tallest dwarf in town', but this is a pretty fast clunker-ish bike. The lightweight Cro-Mo frame makes it that way, and it rides very comfortably with the cushy rubber grips and Brooks B-17. The combination of heavy tires and 70-inch gearing is going to take some getting used to. I'd like to gear it up just a touch, when I'm strong enough to handle it.

Anyway, it's a pretty fun ride on flat terrain. I may even throw a 22T cog on it sometime and try it out on some dirt trails - that ought to be a gas!

I assembled The BIG BIKE tonight. So far after test-riding it only a couple of minutes in front of the house, it seems like it's going to be a fun bike to ride. I was inspired to build a bike like this after seeing the really cool antique-style bikes that Mike Flannigan builds at A.N.T.

ANT Truss-Bike
Ok, my bike isn't as classy as an ANT, but I think I got pretty close to the concept and proportions of the truss-bike pictured above.

Yes, I know The BIG BIKE looks "too large" for me. I wanted it to be large, because bikes from 100 years ago were pretty large for their riders - that's how they used to fit them (if 'fit' is the word...). I normally ride a 56-58cm frame, so compared to those bikes, the 60cm+/- size of The BIG BIKE is not so large after all.

The BIG BIKE was built on the tightest budget you could imagine - this bike was nearly free, thanks to a garage of salvage parts (some I've had for literally decades), a gift from a stranger (the frame & fork), and stumbling onto some great deals. The wheels for instance, I've had for 15+ years, and I got them with a $200 Vitus Carbon bike (4 sets of wheels total). I consider them 'free'. Same for the stem and seatpost. The Brooks B-17 Standard saddle is the single most expensive component on the bike and I've had it a while. The tires, bars, bottom-bracket and headset are new, but low-end. Honestly, I've spent less than $200 on this build, including the $85 Brooks saddle. By the way, I will not ride anything but a B-17. I found a saddle that works for me and I'm sticking to it!

Anyway, here's an approximation of the details of the BIG BIKE
  • Head Tube Angle: 72 deg +/-
  • Seat Tube Angle: 73 deg +/-
  • Trail: 80cm
  • Seat Tube C-T: 61cm
  • Top Tube C-C: 57cm
  • Chainstays: 42.5cm
  • BB Drop: 7cm
Please keep in mind the above dimensions are hastily taken and should be considered a thumbnail sketch, and NOT exact.

  • Crank - Alloy Dyno BMX
  • Pedals - Beartrap BMX
  • Rear Hub - Steel, Coaster
  • Front Hub - Alloy, Maillard
  • Stem - Steel
  • Bars - Alloy, Porter-style
  • Front Brake - Long reach
  • Seat post - SR Alloy
  • Rims - Matrix 700c hard annodized
  • Tires - 40-622 Kenda all-terrain/city tread
  • Tubes - presta
The frame 'looks' like a standard late '70s sport-touring lightweight, the component mix would be your average 'cruiser, if not for the 700c wheels. Hence the 'Adventure Bike' moniker.

One early plan had been to set this frame up as a French Porteur style bike, but the relatively high trail dimension is not going to be good for loading the front of the bike.

If I add a load to this bike (which I intend to do, if I actually use it as I plan to - for adventures of around a century), I'll have to go with either a rear rack (distasteful), or a Saddle-bag, like an English-style Roadster.

I may use a frame-bag for incidentals or shorter than 'big distance' trips, or supplementary carrying space.

PS, I painted The BIG BIKE too hastily, and assembled it so I could ride it while the weather permits. I'm going to have to strip it & re-paint (black, to look more like an antique bike) and do it right, but that'll have to wait for funding - maybe as a birthday present?

BIG BIKE prep...

I've been working on the BIG BIKE frame.

fillet-brazed seat cluster
I have the threadless BB, the new headset, shim for the seatpost (yeah, I'll have to shim it to use one of my old posts), and I've filed off the derailleur hangar, and the 3 braze-ons for derailleur cable routing (downtube, BB, right chainstay).
fillet-brazed BB (not a cast BB)
See the inside of the chainstay? these stays were oval - not much clearance for the Kenda 40-622 tires I'm using! I massaged them with a hammer and 'dolly' to get more clearance. Surprisingly, the rear dropouts were about exactly the right spacing for the coaster hub I'm using, even though this was originally a derailleur bike.

right chainstay, post-surgery
Been sanding a little on it in the evenings, but it feels like pretty slow going. Dang thing had a LOT of paint - several coats, plus a clear-coat that looked like a sheet of plastic!

frame is about 59-61cm
fillet-brazed headtube
I'm still deciding on a finish for the bike, and if I want a rack, or a handlebar bag, or a saddlebag, or what.

I also want to get a full set of detailed measurements (and the same for the SR, as well) just for the record and comparison purposes.

 Just for fun, I faked this shot depicting Big Bike as having a double top-tube
I think I like this look! Wish it was as easy as messing with the picture was...

Before BIG BIKE, there was the Relic...

The Relic is beyond salvage. Since I first reassembled it, it's felt...weird. Kinda fights your input, the wheels don't look like they're aligned right, drifts on dirt...
Twisted Relic

So the other day, I tried to straighten in out. Carefully measured the rear triangle and attempted to align it and the fork. Man, did I ever get that wrong! The poor thing is twisted worse than ever now & pulls hard to the right.

I ended up removing the saddle to put on the MTB so I have something to ride when my son & I go single-speeding, 'cause the Relic just ain't cutting it right now. It's too bad, too, 'cause I don't mind most of it's faults - I just am not OK with the really weird handling and misalignment. I doubt it's worth the money (as scarce as THAT stuff is lately) to have it properly aligned by a mechanic - the bike WAS a freebee.

So I stripped it completely thinking that if I really try hard, I might get it aligned properly. Well, it might be possible, but what I was able to learn from that exercise is that both fork legs and the rear stays are not straight. I don't mean not aligned - I mean they're about as straight as a snake! If you hold a stright edge up to them, they duck and weave and wander this way and that. They're also very soft, so I'm thinking even if I could straighten them, I'd still feel unsure of myself riding the beast.

So, a couple hours fiddling and measuring the other night to no avail. Finally, I decided to take it to a relative's place to use the table saw as an alignment table. I was able to find out on the table saw that the head tube and seat tube were 2-3 degrees out of alignment with one another.

So, I clamped it down to the table and started twisting on the frame, attempting to correct the problem. First attempt - no luck. Second attempt - no luck again - still out of plane 2-3 degrees. Third attempt, not only did I not get it re-aligned, I deformed the head tube.

I completely cleared the rim of the dumpster from over 20 feet away when I pitched it.

I'm looking for another frame I can convert to a relic-ish coaster bike. This time, I'll try to start a little higher up the food chain, and get something I can ride.

Background on my SR Semi-Pro...

I bought my SR frame over 10 years ago from Pedal Pushing Bike Shop in San Diego (I can't remember exactly - it seems like maybe 10-15 years back). I had just learned about the shop and found that they had a ton of old SunTour stuff that was never installed, New Old Stock and New In the Box. In fact, the frame I bought had never been ridden - it had been stripped and stored. When I bought the frame, I also bought some of those Suntour NIB components.

I've always preferred SunTour to Shimano and when a recent windfall enabled me to go shopping for a couple more parts to set the SR up as a geared road bike again (it's been ridden pretty much been a single speed or fixie since I got it), I decided to put those old SunTour parts to use and make my bike sort of a 'retro-tribute' bike. SR and SunTour have a shared history and a San Diego connection in their history.

Ask cyclists that have used the old SunTour components - in the 70s and early 80s SunTour components were at least equal, if not superior to anything on the market - in fact they invented the Slant Parallelogram derailleur.

Anyway, while researching the build, I found some good pics of an original Semi-Pro in really nice shape. I'll show them here for contrast.

This is the original bike with Shimano 600 kit, 27" wheels and Benotto bar wrap.
My bike sports a Brooks B-17, Porteur bars and fatty 38-622 tires.

Man, what nice decals on the original!
Mine didn't look anywhere near that nice, so I was forced to remove them.

On my bike, only the head badge and Champion tubing decal survived.

The stock bar/lever set-up shows the Benotto Bike Ribbon tape popular in the '80s (even matches the frame color!).

My set-up is less conventional, but more comfortable, and looks more 'vintage'. I've always favored cloth handlebar tape. This brown Newbaum was as close as I could find to a match for the saddle, but I've seen some vinyl since then that's a bit closer.

Shimano Tourney center-pulls I equipped it with.
I was trying to stay away from Shimano, but I like the way these Tourney's look with the quick-release lever built into the straddle link. The center-pulls have TONs of stopping power with Kool Stop pads and a really light pull.

So I obviously am not doing an original restoration here.

My goal was to stick to about the same period for the equipment, use as much Suntour as I could find, and make the bike look if possible even older than it is, while keeping it as rideable as possible. This is definitely the most comfortable road-bike I've ever owned.

The Schwinn Tempo and SR Semi-Pro
I think the end result is a bike that looks if anything older than the original, but with the advantage of handling like an '80s Japanese sport-tourer.

So far the bike hasn't failed to draw comments from cyclists who recognize the retro look of the machine.

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