Old Blue. Oh, the stories, the miles, the memories. And due to it’s age, it’s been through a number of changes of it’s own, as well as in the cycling world around it. Born in 1977 in a bike shop long since gone, this bike was made to travel. I dreamed of a fast touring bike, light and snappy, yet fully capable of long comfortable rides, interstate or cross-country. I worked with the frame builder to get the geometry just right to match my style of riding. Once I had it in hand, it was a real joy sourcing all the components from local bike shops, building it up and finally going out and exploring the Finger Lakes Region on it.
The original plan to celebrate the end of my enlistment in the Coast Guard that fall by riding cross-country hit a financial snag, but it wasn’t long before Old Blue DID get out and start touring. Many many tours, events, centuries, challenges, adventures and a whole lot of years passed until finally, in 2015, Old Blue got to go cross-country … San Diego to St. Augustine … on Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier Route.
Not quite halfway into the trip, Old Blue started sounding creaky. Hey, at that age, whaddya expect? But it took several state line crossings before the source was found …
Cracked downtube. It started back in Texas climbing up to an observatory in the Davis Mountains. Luckily, Old Blue made it to the Atlantic, but the time had come for a painful decision. Looks like it’s time for Old Blue to retire.
My friend Andy wanted to have a look. Andy also had “an attachment” to Old Blue … he was apprenticing in the bike shop where it was built and most likely had his hands on it at times. We talked, we dreamed, we talked some more. Damn it … let’s save Old Blue!
It was some pretty major surgery, but Andy pulled it off and added a few improvements as well. We had a local paint shop give Old Blue it’s now THIRD paint job, and Old Blue came home today to get built up again. Not like the original, mind you. Old Blue was originally built up as a “15-speed”, 5-speed freewheel, triple crank, with 27″ wheels, and when I decided to “go-heavy”, I replaced the original wheels by building up a pair of 48-spoke super-duty wheels. (Those 35 year-old wheels are STILL doing duty, now on a friend’s Schwinn.)
But as time and bike technology “advanced”, many things starting going obsolete. Old Blue could no longer be the bike it was. For the 2015 Southern Tier, I converted it to a single speed. (Yes … I rode across the country on a single-speed … that’s another story.) There’s so much “new” about Old Blue now that it deserves a re-name: “Blue-V2”. Here’s a tour …
Starting at the top and going down … I really love these tough old steel bars ripped off a mid-80’s mountain bike. They don’t give. Period. Not the most comfortable thing around, but if comfort’s what you like, go watch TV. But the upside is they are GREAT for hard, out-of-the-saddle climbing. OK … that’s how ya crack frames … but heck …
Old farts remember Suntour right? Shit built before millennials and still works great. Two fingers and plenty of power. Nuff said.
Weimann Center-Pull brakes. I saw a TON of them in a parts bin over at R Community Bikes recently. One of the most commonly used brakes back in the ’70’s. They were on EVERYTHING, I think. No idea why they aren’t still “The Brake”. Totally reliable rim crushers.
A couple improvements on the back end. The original noodle brake cable stop was replaced by a much beefier model. Less squish, better skids! Andy added rack bosses to match the way these newfangled rear racks mount these days. And he actually found a (rare) Campagnolo 10MM seat binder bolt on eBay or Craigslist or somewhere to replace the original that I swear must be somewhere in my nuts and bolts bin, but never could find. I’ll probably find it tomorrow.
The Seat cluster. Classic wraparound seat stays and there you see the first of two custom sleeves Andy made to join the whole new front end of the bike to the rear triangle. Yes … the original top tube was dented, the head tube had been modified to accept a different headset (Chris King) and fork combo, and the downtube obviously had to go.
And the second sleeve. Inserted just south of where the crack in the downtube developed. Ya know … I love lugs and stuff. Makes bikes look sophisticated. More is better, right? (Yes, you observant bike geeks see the crank arms hanging’ off a Phil Wood bottom bracket. That sucker must be 30 years old now and still slicker than snot.)
Pulled the crank out of the parts bin. It came on a carbon race bike from 1995 (the FIRST frame I broke) and should work well here. Hey wait … where’s the front derailleur? There ain’t one. Who needs it? I have fingers … I can shift manually. I also liked my ’67 Ford Ranch Wagon with three-on-the-tree.
Flip Flop! Got a 17 tooth freewheel on one side and a 22 tooth freewheel on the other side of a symmetrically built Velo Orange wheel. (No dish. Strong … better be!) So, yeah … if I need to shift gear “ranges”, I just stop, get off, drop the wheel, flip it, chain up and stick it back into those bee-you-tee-ful Campagnolo vertical dropouts!
Cheater! So you DO have a derailleur, you say? Sure … a very NICE RETRO one actually, but do you see a shift cable? Nope! I gotta have something to take up chain slack between the grand total of FOUR different gear ratios I have and this does the trick. Just screw down the limit screws to position the top pulley in line with the freewheel, and Tah-Dah … a no-fuss singleator! Because I have two chainrings, I have “Low” and “Medium” ratios with the 22T freewheel, and “Medium” plus “High” ratios with the 17T freewheel. The two “mediums” are only a couple gear inches different, so I really only have three gears. That’s enough. I still have to remove the cable clamp screw and the cable stop on the back of the derailleur. Unnecessary weight! BWAHAHAHA!!
Bolt on wheels … no quick release … a LITTLE less likely to get nicked. They come off easily with my peanut butter knife.
The final bits on the new setup is my “autographed” touring pedals, a Cambium saddle on top a suspension seat post, and 700X38 tires for a bit of comfort on Texas boulder-seal pavement. Yup … We’re Going Again! Adventure Cycling’s 2017 Southern Tier 2!
Welcome Home “Blue-V2” … Let’s Ride!