Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Winter Projects

Like most people, I engage in fewer outdoor pursuits during the winter, so I find it's a good time to inspect, repair, and upgrade my gear. This year, I decided to focus on my Trek Earl city bike, particularly since we were finally getting some rain in California. After a few wet rides, I started thinking about fender coverage.

I like the quality and durability of solid metal fenders, so I got a set from Velo Orange. The chrome finish was very nice, but it was way too much bling for what is supposed to be a low-key city bike, so I painted them black to match the frame. Now the fenders blend in nicely. Most importantly, they do a great job keeping me and the bike clean.

Once the fenders were installed, I was struck by how much the bike began to resemble the classic European city bikes from the 60s, so I decided to embrace that look as I pursued further upgrades. The most glaring omission was a chainguard, so I reinstalled the Earl's original guard. Then I considered the seat. The Charge Spoon saddle I was using was fine, but not quite right for this build. Its racy design is better suited for a more aggressive forward position, not the upright position I get with this bike and these handlebars. Plus, the Charge saddle was just a bit too nice looking for a city bike. I wanted a basic black, cushy, affordable saddle, and the retro-styled Fyxation Curve saddle fit the bill perfectly. At this point, the only area where the bike seemed to underperform was the braking. Again, I didn't want to spend money on a flashy brakeset, so I decided to put the leverage in my levers by replacing the original two-finger set with a four-finger set. This had the added benefit of enhancing the retro style I was going for, and the affordable Origin8 Retro Classic Levers were a perfect match. Lastly, I had been experimenting with several different gear ratios, and found that 42/18 seemed perfect for my riding style and terrain. I can't tell you how much I enjoy riding this bike in its new form. I took it to the East Bay Bike Party for its inaugural ride, and I just had the best time. It's clear why this design was so popular in European cities. It just works.

arkel seat bag

With my city bike finally completed, I turned my attention to my better half and her city bike. This was a bike I had searched long and hard for. There are plenty of bikes on the used market in my area, but people around here are notorious for asking ridiculous prices for used gear. I finally found a perfect candidate, a 1970s Centurion Mixte in darn good condition, and the owner listed it for $60. I snatched it up as soon as possible. Julie loved the look and fit of the bike, but I noticed she didn't really enjoy riding it much. No surprise really. Even after I gave it a tuneup, it was still a heavy, clunky 1970s bike. So I decided to modernize it a bit.

The biggest upgrade was the wheelset. The old steel 27-inch wheels were heavy, and the rims did not provide a very good braking surface. Thankfully, The Bikeman sells a nice aluminum wheelset that is spec'd to fit old 70s bikes like this one, so it turned out to be a pretty easy installation. The best part is the wheels were only $99 shipped. Great deal! Another easy weight reducer was swapping the original steel seatpost with an aluminum post. I topped it with the retro-styled Linus Comfort Saddle. Then I turned to the drivetrain. Luckily, I had an 80s-era Shimano tricolor crankset in my parts bin, and they were a nice match for the Centurion. I also had a modern, sealed bottom bracket on hand, and lucky me, it was just the right size to maintain a good chainline, so I installed it. Then I thought about the gearing. While it was originally a ten-speed bike, I could see that Julie never used the big chainring. So I converted it to a five-speed, and replaced the outer ring with a custom BBG Bashguard for just $20 shipped. After installing a new inner ring and chain, I decided to get rid of the old stem shift levers. I replaced them with a Sunrace thumb-shifter that I found on ebay for $7 and works just fine. To finish off, I re-cabled the brakes and installed new Kool Stop pads.

The Centurion rides like a new bike, and Julie loves it. The frame will always be heavy, but a significant amount of weight was still eliminated, and the performance upgrades are like night and day, even though it was done somewhat on the cheap. I think this bike is going to be ridden a lot more from here on out

arkel seat bag

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