Friday, September 4, 2009

Dressed Up and Ready to Go

Marianne's new handlebars are now wrapped, twined and shellacked. You can see that the bars do not look quite so wide and wing-like once they have been wrapped.

The hand position is similar to a classic mountain bike position - but achieved more elegantly. I feel that I have a lot more control with these bars than I did with the drops, and now cycling in traffic on this bicycle is no longer an issue - even though I am not any more upright now than I was when I had my hands on top of the drop bars. This must mean that the fear I previously had of riding the bike in traffic had more to do with balancing and braking than with being hunched over.

From a utilitarian standpoint, the best thing about the new set-up are the brakes. The new Shimano levers have made them the best functioning brakes I have on any of my bicycles. I cycled all around town and on some trails yesterday, and the experience of riding this bike has been completely transformed for the better. I am so thankful to Open Bicycle in Somerville, Mass. for the wonderful job they did on this. They did not just replace parts, but worked with me to "troubleshoot" and design the new set-up based on the problems I was having with the old one. Those guys know what they are doing.

16 comments:

  1. Wow, the finished bars look smashing! A thought about your balancing issue with the drop bars - I had similar issues with mine which is why I changed to moustache handlebars. I think the width of the handlebars is the issue; drop bars are very narrow, the moustache bars are nice and wide and less sensitive to every little movement your hands make. I'm glad you had a great ride on Marianne with her new setup; she really does look delightful.

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  2. Yay, she looks beautiful! Having a dependable bike shop is so important; glad you have someone to help you keep your impressive stable in shape :)

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  3. Looking good! The new bars really suit the look of the bike. Glad to hear you've gotten the brakes sorted out to your liking. As you well know, the "whoa!" is as important as the"go!". Installing a new set of brake pads will also improve the braking (if you haven't already done so).

    Any plans for upgrading the shifters or drivetrain?

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  4. Those bars suit the mixte frame much better than they would a diamond frame. I noticed the same on my mom's Nishiki mixte.

    The rear rack looks like a Pletscher and I recall you talking about a Carradice seat bag a while back, but I don't recall you mentioning that trunk bag or how it works with the rear rack (which just happens to be the same as the rear rack I use on Frankenbike).

    Does that trunk bag also work well on the Pashley? Anyway, inquiring minds want to know!

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  5. It's funny how many people think that the bicycle looks better without the drop-bars. This bicycle has a roadbike geometry, with a very steep seat tube angle; it was not meant as a city bike or even a touring bike. So from a design standpoint, it actually makes more sense with drops. But yes, I like the new handlebars better as well : )

    Mr. Cranky - I am going to install KoolStop salmon brake pads. Shifters and drivetrain are another story. I currently use the bike as a singlespeed in one very versatile gear that I favour. I find the old friction shifters almost impossible to use. To replace the shifters with index shifters and also drivetrain, would cost a lot, so I might just stick to my current setup and leave the new components for when I get a custom-made bicycle. One possibility is to get rid of the derailleur and shifters altogether and turn this into a singlespeed, since that is how I use it anyhow.

    Steve A - The rear rack is a Pletscher that came with the bike originally. I had a Carradice bag on it earlier, but then transferred that to the Pashley. The SaddleSack bag works very well on Pletscher racks. It takes up the exact space of the rack. There are 4 straps on the bottom that wrap around the rack with snap closures. This is very secure and there is no movement of the bag. The bag is roomy, has a zip closure that can be hidden under the leather flaps, and has a well designed attachment point for a rear light in the back. The colour is a very dark olive green. The leather trim is a good match to the Brooks "honey" colour. The only downside, is that it sags unless you fill it, which looks rather unattractive. We are trying to design an insert for it to prevent the sagging. The SaddleSack does fit the Pashley rack, but on the Princess I prefer the Carradice.

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  6. Your Motobecane looks almost exactly like my Raleigh mixte. Yours is in much better shape than mine, and I have decided to keep the patina on my S.A.M. but the colour and vintage look like they came out of the same factory.

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  7. Adrienne - That's right, I remember it from your blog. Looking at the close-up on flickr, I can now see that the construction is very different from my bike (lugs, rear stays, tube angles). But the colour and decal placement are nearly identical. Nice basket arrangement you have on it! These are great bikes.

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  8. You know, seeing how successful your Mixte overhaul is, I fear the old ten-speeds will get bought up and used as solid commuters. You can get one for $100. Then, $80 in tyres, Shwalbe tubes, rim tape, a few dollars for labour, new bars (a maybe, and maybe levers) + break cables, pads and a derailer tune-up + pie plate removal. And there you have it, for close to $300 you have a bike that cannot be matched by anything modern in its price range.

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  9. MDI - True to some extent. It depends how comfortable the person is with "old bikes". The gear shifters on these are a pain, and a conversion to indexed shifters will cost. Also, some might not find old paint endearing, and a new paintjob will cost money as well. Personally, I still think it is worth it, but this is only because I value lugged steel and can't get the same bicycle new in a bike store. But those who are more flexible might prefer a modern bike without all the hassle - like the new Trek mixte that's coming out.

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  10. Filigree, so true about old bike components and conversion costs (not to mention time spent). I love the IDEA of fixing up my 26 yr old Fuji del Rey (there are DIY bike shops with volunteer helpers about 20 miles away from me), but when it comes down to actually following through, I always find something else that uses my time. I did as a kid build a tandem bike from all scavenged parts with my neighbor. That was fun!

    BTW, your bikes are beautiful.

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  11. Lovely job with the new handlebars - they obviously make more sense for the type of riding you're doing.
    Personally I cannot see why you would be considering buying a new Mixte when this MBC is such stonking condition! Have a chat with a LBS mech about maybe upgrading the drivetrain?
    I found an old MBC men's bike that had been left out for the trash, swapped the rear derailleur with a mountain bike one (it was toast), new cables/housing and it was good to go, with the original stem shifter.

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  12. Simon - It can be argued that it is simply not worth bedecking a hi-ten steel frame and mediocre lugwork with what in the end may end up being over $1K in work and modern components. It is not just the drivetrain and shifters that would need to be upgraded but also the brakes, the wheels, the paint - the $$ really adds up. The Mirage was a run-of-the-mill model for Motobecane, mass produced and nothing special. Some say that if you are going to spend $1K+ on a bicycle like that in components, you might as well get a custom made one that is perfect for you... Is this what I believe personally? Well, maybe 80%. The other 20% sentimentalises vintage, even if it is a mediocre model.

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  13. About the shift levers, suntour fiction thumb shifters can be had for little money. I like that they place the levers near the grips for easy shifting.

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  14. it's not hard to find 80s vintage indexed shifting parts on ebay that would allow you to upgrade your mirage on the cheap while preserving the period character. a set of 80s era suntour indexed thumb shifters and a similar vintage index-compatible suntour derailleur can be had for $25-40 total and are a snap to replace.

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  15. Cool bike. I buy/sell Mixtes here in Portland, OR, and Motobecanes are nice. Most people out here like the cachet of having a European Mixte, but the reality is that the Japanese versions have superior components, often superior steel, and generally FAR better paint. I compare it to having a Citroen or Renault car vs. a Honda or Toyota.

    I've finished about 40 Mixtes so far, and about 75% come with drop bars. I always convert them to uprights, whether it's the traditional French style, mountain bike with no rise but an arc that I shorten by about 2" on each side, BMX with a slight rise, or even old-school Schwinn gull-wing style. It makes a HUGE difference in the ride.

    One advantage to the older Peugeots is the MAFAC "RACER" brakes, they're easily adjusted to fit 700c wheelsets. Here we have several bikes shops that have a BIG selection of old parts, all categorized, and I often have to raid the "Odd French Parts" bin for my restorations. Velo Orange is now making some really cool parts that fit wonderfully, including a NEW french-thread sealed bottom bracket. Ahhhhhhh.

    Mixtes do work superbly well with rear racks, but I much prefer a set of panniers to a tail bag, for the lower center of gravity and look. BASIL makes some super-stylish models that I've put on few bikes. There are some gorgeous oak baskets with leather straps that look super on the front bars out there also.

    Friction shifters are all the rage here, if you can't live with a jingle while you shift, then make it a single speed. Indexed is nice, but there's something to be said about those micro adjustments that an indexed shifter can't do.

    Great bike! I buy them used here for about $150, and get $400-$500 for them in great condition. (No new Wheelsets or Brooks saddles though.) There's nothing like a lugged steel frame and shiny chrome wheels.

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