Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Brief Departure from Loveliness

Inspired by the responses to my previous post that suggested a beater bike for winter riding, I revisited my old, decrepit mountain bike. This is the bike I rode as a teenager, and until recently it had been wasting away in my parents' garage. Several months ago they threatened to throw it out and I rescued it - so it is now wasting away in our basement. We dragged it out, photographed and tested it, with the aim to determine whether it would be suitable for the role of "Winter Bike".

Here is the bike in all its glory. I had removed all decals from it as soon as I got it, with the curious exception of the "made in the USA" American flag sticker on the seat tube. I forget now my exact reasons for doing this, but no doubt they had something to do with being anti-establishment. Whatever the reasons, the result is that the bike has no identifying information on it what so ever. My parents recently found a Murray user manual, so it may be a Murray. Year of purchase was 1994.

The frame seems to be TIG-welded steel. It is a step-through mountain bike frame. Every single part of the bicycle is black, including stem, handlebars, chainguard and pedals - with the exception of the sickly yellow plastic "pie plate" on the rear wheel, which crumpled at my touch.

Flat mountain bike bars.

Almost none of the components are labeled with manufacturers' names. The brake levers and gear shifters were installed in such a way as to make shifting impossible (the levers were too close to the brake lever mount and would not budge).

The front delailleur is discretely labeled "Shimano". No model name.

The rear derailleur is labeled "Falcon". I did not once adjust the derailleur during my 3.5 years of riding this bike. Nor had my chain ever fallen off. Granted, my rides consisted of short trips around the neighborhood and I never rode this bike in the winter.

The brakes are unlabeled. Just how crappy are these components? I think the bike cost around $100 at the time of purchase, so my guess is "very crappy".

We raised the saddle, inflated the tires, adjusted the brakes and otherwise tightened and adjusted everything that seemed to need tightening or adjusting. Then I tried the bike.

While I can ride the bike, I am not sure whether doing so is a good idea. The brakes and pedals feel tight and stiff, and different parts of the bike creak menacingly as if on the verge of catastrophic failure. It is definitely a beater bike, but for me that alone does not qualify it as a Winter Bike. Do I really want to worry about component failure while I am riding over ice and snow in traffic? Do I really want to be uncomfortable on a bike whose geometry is not optimal for me? I guess I could replace the components to make it both safer and more comfortable, but is that really worth it on a frame such as this one? Thoughts on this are welcome.

In a way I feel sad for letting my high school "friend" get to this state. But then it was such a low end bike to begin with, that it is amazing I rode it for as long as I did without incident. I can't yet bring myself to donate it or throw it away (as I suspect that even Bikes Not Bombs might not accept such a donation), but that is its most likely future...

61 comments:

  1. The bike is too small for you. Let it go. The Pashley is a good enough bike that a winter bike might be in order, but the high school "friend" is not the winter bike. Look at craigslist and you'll get one. We'll all want to hear about it.

    I had a similar bike and I gave it away. I'm happy to have done so. You'll be the same. I appreciate your post. I have ANOTHER bike I'm going to give away as a result of the combo of your post and my comment. It was free to me so I'm merely keeping the flow going.

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  2. Funny, our minds all turn to the same thoughts. I was thinking just this very thing this morning. I have my Lil'C (aka old mtn. bicycle) in the basement as well. She was a great bicycle for me, a bit more expensive than yours and I have to say a better fit. That bicycle does not fit you at all. Anyhow, I would love to get a 'B' bicycle (as H calls them) for the winter, but the budget does not allow this year, so I was considering how I could transform Lil'C into my winter bicycle.

    I am torn about just using the Pashley, part of me says just use it like a car and if it rusts, so be it. You didn't purchase the thing to look at it in your living room ~ or did I?... ;)

    Anyhow, all this to say ~ what a dilemna snow, ice, salt, sand, and cold causes! And it ain't cheap! But it is well worth getting a good winter bicycle if you are going to use it because using an ill-fitting, ill-suited machine will do more harm than good in more ways than one.

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  3. I'm of two minds when it comes to beater bikes. On one hand, I'd just do the minimum to make it safe and workable - new brake cables and pads, a bit of lube here and there and then just ride it and not fret over it's shortcomings.

    On the other hand, I've tried - and failed - at the aforementioned "just ride it" method. I always end up tweaking and upgrading to make things work to my liking. So much so that I now just accept the fact that I really like riding nice bikes and my "beaters" really aren't beaters.

    I get the feeling that you really don't like this bike and are only considering it because you have already have it?

    Trying to make it into something it isn't would be an exercise in frustration. Sad to say but that frame is not worth the effort of upgrading. Money spent on upgrading it would be better spent on a higher quality machine (my opinion). I know MTB's really aren't your style, but used hardtails are a dime a dozen and they make great winter bikes (and and spring, summer and fall bikes too!)

    As for donating it, keep in mind that to someone who has no bike or the means to buy one, that machine could be worth it's weight in gold.

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  4. My humble opinion. Don't ride something that will cause an injury and/or pain.

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  5. I'm sorry to say, but I think you're expressing the same anti-cheap-bike bias that is all too prevalent in the bike community. I bet that after a little lubrication and a tiny bit of TLC, this bike will work as quietly and as reliably as all the others. The only likely problems will be its geometry (raising the stem will help a little) and the horrid spoke guard (why oh why did they make them like this?).

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  6. Yup, the bicycle is not ideally sized for me. I got it when I was 14 and continued to use it until I was 18. I must have grown 4 inches during that time.

    CrankyPants - You're right that I am only considering the bike because I already have it. My memories of it are very fond, but having tried to ride it a few times within the past months, it is not as I remember it. Partly that is probably because the size is all wrong now, and partly because the components have worn out. Either way - it does not make sense to go around hunting for better components for this frame; if I want a beater bike I can buy a crusty $50 Raleigh Sports in my size from one of three local C-List ads right now and just use that without remorse... Of course I'd probably not be able to help myself and would start restoring it!

    Giffen - In my view, the bias against cheap department store bikes is well-grounded. There is a marked difference between the quality of lower vs higher end components. For instance, some of the components on this bike practically flex and/or crumble in my hands when I try to adjust them. Department store bikes are infamous for using poorly made or downright defective parts with high failure rates. I am not saying that one needs a $3,000 bike with top of the line everything. But these $100 bikes deserve their bad reputations.

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  7. Just to be clear, I'm not saying that this bike is right for you now or that you should ride it. Rather that its problems have little to do with its pedigree or price.

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  8. Price itself plays a role as a telling factor only if both bikes are new and it is the retail price. For instance, generally speaking a $1,000 bike will be fitted with better (higher quality, more durable, more reliable, more capable, less likely to break, etc.) components than a $100 bike. However, a vintage bike can be found for $100 that will outlast and outperform the new $1,000 bike. My new Pashley Princess vs my old Raleigh DL-1 are a case in point: I paid 10 times more for the Pashley, but I can't say which I like better, and only time will tell which has the more durable components. The Raleigh components have lasted nearly 40 years so far; we'll see about the Pashley.

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  9. I going to lean Giffen's way. I could work with that bike, although it would take several hours and a bit of money to do it.

    In the first place it was never assembled correctly (the actual biggest problem with cheap bikes, not their actual quality) and has been sitting around as well. I'd strip it down, tension and true the wheels, repack the bearings (with Phil waterproof grease), cut the cables/housing to correct length and lube them.

    The pedals are stiff because they actually don't have any ball bearings in them at all. The axle just runs in "bushings" cast into the plastic shell. They're the cheapest sort of "demo" pedal out there and really should have been replaced when new.

    As for fit it's hard to say from here. Where are the stem and post now compared to their minimum insertion marks? If that's as high as they go then a Kalloy Laprade and Periscopa would be in order. For bars Wald North Roads and cruisers are cheap.

    The brakes are the biggest issue to me. They're the crappiest of the crappiest, rarely ever possible to make work worth a damn even when new. Maybe a local reclaiming shop would have some old BMX brakes of tolerable quality? If not Tektro makes some that aren't too bad and aren't too expensive.

    Of course all of this is based on the fact that it's the sort of work I can do myself in an evening. If you have to pay someone to do it for you it ain't anywhere near worth it.

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  10. kfg - Of course I agree that all the work and new parts you mentioned would improve the bike tremendously. The work we can do ourselves, though some of it would be a pain. But we have none of the necessary spare parts lying around. So let's see, even if we get them used (which would require even more time expenditure), that will be a couple of hundred dollars at least. Now the bike is no longer "my free crappy highschool bike" but a $200+ crappy bike. Does that make sense in comparison to, say, buying a pretty but rusty vintage Raleigh Lady's Sports in just my size for a fraction of the price?...

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  11. ". . .generally speaking a $1,000 bike will be fitted with better (higher quality, more durable, more reliable, more capable, less likely to break, etc.) components than a $100 bike."

    Cross posting. You are of course correct. The cheaper bike is going to have a duty cycle of about 10k miles for the frame and rather less for most of the parts, whereas the more expensive bike is going to have a duty cycle of 50k to 100k miles on the frame (or rather more for the real heavy weights) and its parts will last even longer proportionately, not to mention working more precisely in the first place.

    On whole a $1000 bike is actually cheaper IF you are going to ride that many miles.

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  12. "Does that make sense in comparison to, say, buying a pretty but rusty vintage Raleigh Lady's Sports...?"

    Well, considering how much "winterizing" the bike will cost ($300 -- not including ANY upgrades), the actual price of the bicycle (usually $50, for a beater) is trivial. New pads, tires, lights, a mudflap, chain guard will alone cost the $300, so an extra $50 to have a lovely bike that fits you is a no brainer. However, keep in mind that the wheels on a Raleigh Sports can rust and brakes might not work that well. (Snow/slush is much worse for braking than rain.)

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  13. ...and I forgot fenders! ...and a mirror. Make that $350+.

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  14. "The cheaper bike is going to have a duty cycle of about 10k miles for the frame... the more expesive bike... 50k to 100k."

    Not to be snarky, but do you have any data to back this up? My (subjective) impression is that if a "department store" bike survives the first few hundred miles, it will last for as long as "quality" bike.

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  15. kfg - Interesting that you mention millage. It seems like such an obvious thing that the type of bike you need depends on how and how long you plan to ride it. The Co-Habtant and I calculated that I racked up more miles in the first 3 months of owning my vintage Motobecane Mirage than I had in the entire 4 years of riding that highschool mountain bike. That's one reason I decided to go custom frame plus nice components when planning for my new mixte (which should be ready in Spring). I discovered that I like touring, so I hope to put many many many safe and well-performing miles on that darling.

    Giffen - agreed, but that amount will be equivalent to what I would need to put into that old mountain bike. I would need to replace the stem and seat post to make it the right size for me, I would need to get fenders, I would need to replace the brakes, brake levers, possibly shifters, pedals, chain, and quite possibly a bunch of other stuff... Just saying!

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  16. The bike is down in the basement and we are NOT keeping it! It's going to be donated to someone who will (I hope) ride it into the ground, as opposed to theorize about its fitness to purpose. It's the right way to treat any old bike.

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  17. Filigree, sorry for not spending a few minutes revising my post to make my point more effectively. What I meant was that given the high cost of the winterizing *any* bike, there is no reason to keep the MTB if you don't like it. Especially since the cost of fenders ($50), alone, is the price of a rusty Raleigh Sports which comes with them.

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  18. MDI! You are relentlessly mean. All bikes deserve being theorized about!

    Giffen - Ahhh sorry, I misunderstood your last couple of comments. Got it now!

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  19. Filigree: "It seems like such an obvious thing that the type of bike you need depends on how and how long you plan to ride it."

    And that's WHY these cheap bikes are made the way they are. Their target market is children who outgrow them, college students who abandon them annually (because it's cheaper to buy a new bike than ship/store a good one), "proles" who city commute a few miles each way and those people who mostly keep their bikes hanging in the garage without riding them at all. All low mileage users who are unlikely to wear them out; and loss due to possible theft is minimal. They are actually the most sensible bike for the people they are built for; however much the snobs may look down on them.

    Giffen: "Not to be snarky, but do you have any data to back this up?"

    Not that I can point you to off hand, but those are the accepted empirical engineering standards, yes; WITH a a list of various caveats and exceptions ( you get more bike for your buck in a single speed cruiser than in a mountain bike; a lightweight racer won't last anywhere near as long as a much cheaper "prole" bike, etc)

    I'd actually say you get the most mileage bang for your buck right now in the $300-$500 range; which is where the Mirages/Records/UO-8s that the snobs like to look down on would live if they were available new today; bikes you can ride every day and then leave to your kids - with appropriate maintenance.

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  20. Part of growing up is letting go of one's high school friends. Sometimes it is, anyway.

    The bike doesn't fit. Plus, even though it's a step-through frame, I don't see how anyone--even you, Filigree--can ride such a thing with dignity or grace.

    See whether you can get some studded tires for your Pashley or your Raleigh roadster.

    Speaking of Ralieghs, mine is coming along. I'm going to rebuild the wheels with alloy rims and install new pads so that the bike will actually stop in the rain. Plus, I'm going to change the tires. I just realized that it's becoming more and more like "Lucy!" I guess it's an instance of life imitating art--or blogs.

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  21. Hi Filigree, this is an interesting thread.

    My answers:

    It looks like it isn't your kind of bike and so it shouldn't be your Winter bike.

    I agree with many of KFGs sentiments. The frame itself would probably be fine, if it fit you.

    You said you don't have any spare parts lying around. If you have space, I'd keep this and use it as the basis for accumulating parts for later foraging and upgrade missions. You love bikes right? Otherwise pass it on.

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  22. dukiebiddle said...

    I'm of the opinion that if you plan to ride year round, you need to have a bike you don't mind getting road salt on. Mostly due to sizing, your mystery beater isn't for you. Everything would need to be lubed, repacked and a few components would need to be replaced, and it just isn't worth it to do that to a bike that doesn't fit you, especially if you're not doing all the work yourself.

    If I was in your position, and if I didn't want to sully the Pashley, I would take the beater down to Bikes Not Bombs, donate it and buy one of their higher quality already rebuilt bikes. Since you have a basement, you could switch out your stable seasonally.

    Also, just an aside, why the hell do I know the name of the Boston bike cooperative?

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  23. Justine - I agree that the step-through MB frame is one of the least graceful in the history of bicycle design : )

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  24. I passionately disagree with the advice to ride a beater winter bike for three main reasons. First, aesthetics. We bought lovely bicycles because we like lovely bicycles - why separate ourselves from them for 40% of the year? I don't like the idea that our bikes are too pretty and therefore not practical. Second, comfort and safety are likely sacrificed by riding a beater, as you noted above. Third, a beater bike is totally unnecessary when we have perfect winter bikes. Full chaincases, hub gearing and roller brakes are the best components for winter because they are protected from the weather and the snow/dirt/salt grit. Powder-coated steel frames are made to withstand harsh conditions. I never cleaned my Dutch bike last winter, while riding it daily, and it was perfectly fine at the end of winter. I say stick to your regular bikes.

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  25. I should say that I would not use my Rivendell Betty Foy as a year round winter bike, but that's because it has a fancy paint job, fully exposed chain, and no internal brakes or gears. Likewise, I would not suggest your mixte as a winter bike. For year-round suitability, I'm taking about bikes like your Pashley and Raleigh and my Azor.

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  26. wow, lots or responses already and i'm coming here late, so i'll refrain from my usual long winded responses...

    i agree with most others, this bike is not for you. it is way too small, and if you're at all like me, you will find yourself constantly frustrated at the lack of precision and smooth operation of cheap components. it has potential as a beater bike for someone, but not for you.

    my "ideal" beater bike is one that i wouldn't mind having as a regular rider on any given day, save for its appearance. it would have decent quality components, but the frame and or/comps would be scratched/scuffed/road rashed/worn enough that the compulsory need (by some of us, at least) to maintain the bike in a semi-pristine state was not there. i wouldn't be losing sleep over whether or not its delicate face was getting rapidly aged in the face of salt, sand and harsh environmental conditions. it would be in proper tune and well lubed and adjusted, and would be comfortable and confidence-inspiring.

    it just so happens that my cannondale mtb fits that bill perfectly. i've modified it such that the geometry works quite well for a workhorse urban utility bike, while retaining the features of a mtb that make it appealing for conversion: 26" wheels are *great* in the city, there's plenty of clearance for wide fenders, eyelets and provisions for racks and accessories, and the frame and comps are heavy-duty enough to withstand the torture of unseen potholes and other winter nuisances without knocking things out of whack. and since it was a mid-range mtb from the company that pioneered mtbs, it was built with quality comps that have (mostly) stood the test of time. i have no concern that anything on this bike will break or fail catastrophically, even certain comps may show signs of wear.

    i would scour craigslist for that perfect winter beater for $100, and invest a couple hundred more dollars in upgrading it into the perfect winter bike.

    [so much for refraining from a long-winded reply!]

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  27. I too would donate it. I would bet that a few hours in the co-op stand would make that bike usable to yet another high-school student for another 3+ years, but it won't ever fit you quite right again.

    The beater Raleigh sports isn't a bad way to go. You can always pull off the fenders and treat the undersides, fork tips, and stays with Rustoleum or similar to keep the rust-cancer at bay for a few seasons. That's something any painter can do in her studio over a hot cup of tea. ;)

    I was also going to suggest that you call up the local shop you rented the KHS Green bike from, and see if they're selling any of their rentals.
    You might have an easier time finding snow tires for that wheel size (700c, IIRC) than for the English Sports EA590/ 26 x 1 3/8 tires on a Raleigh or similar.

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  28. A certain lack of grace is often what happens when you create a solution to nobody's problem.

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  29. A change in plans. We're going to have this bike stripped down and repainted powder blue to improve its winter aesthetics. After that, we're having a local frame builder stretch the tubing to allow a more precise fit (something suggested by so many--it's simply too small) and then shipping it to Mike Flanigan for a set of decorative copper lugwork (I suspect he can re-do the tig welding and remove some of the unsightly bulging at the seams).

    After all that, we're going to install the Alfine gruppo with disc brakes and replace those ugly 26" tyres with silk-sewn winter studded tubulars. At some point (this will happen later) we shall rebuild the wheels using DT spokes for additional rust-proofing. The plastic pedals will stay though, as a throw-back to the original look.

    We're keeping it real here.

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  30. Corey brings up a vital point -- you might not be able to get snow tires in 26 x 1 3/8.

    I think I'm goinna to side with Dottie in this discussion. Eustacia Vye will be a great winter bike. Additionally, you could see if it's possible to winterize it a bit. (For instance, add extra waterproof grease in places and perhaps apply some silicone sealant to the chaincase's seams.

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  31. Sweeeet! I love the sound of what you guys are going to do to that bike and am super psyched to see how it turns out. Right on.

    You're making me wish I had my super heinous high school bike. It was a Specialized rockhopper comp. Violent yellow. Uncomfortable but I didn't think so at the time. Ridden to the beach daily, abandoned carelessly in the sand, taken across harbor in whalers and dinghies, ridden at low tide in Long Island sound. Member of slow bicycle movement only because of its stoned rider. I probably rode this bike more in tennis whites than anything else. Wasp extravaganza. Anyway, vive la nostalgie.

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  32. MDI, i would seriously reconsider your plans for that murray. you must consider the historical value of such a fine bicycle from pedigreed provenance. keep it original, man.

    neighbourtease, you should check out the flickr set of my wife's specialized rockhopper comp, it may bring back some memories. it is *exactly* the definition of a winter beater in my book: high quality components designed to last through years of mud and grit, and superb build quality with a tange chromoly frame and fork, but ugly as sin. after swapping out the saddle, tires and handlebar, and adding fenders, racks and baskets, it offers a very comfortable upright ride for her and it can be effortlessly ridden around town:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/sets/72157622995601458/

    my winter beater is a cannondale mtb, with very similar modifications as my wife's, although more beat-up looking. i don't happen to have any pictures of it.

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  33. somervillain,

    That's actually a pretty slick bike, I'd say.

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  34. A Canondale is considered a 'winter beater'? Whatever that means in North America. I take it the message is: may as well ride Canondales/quality old MTBs in the salt water as they don't fit the description of a lovely bike.
    Though those quality frames could last long time potentially. I ride a Marin that is 10-15 years old: it's still a great commuter bike. All the components have been changed at least once through the years for sure.

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  35. There is no reason you can't have a lovely beater: mine is a vintage Schwinn 3-speed w/ a coaster brake & Sturmey hub. Purchased for $50 off c-list as part of a his-and-hers set, i just needed to add lights, a bell & basket (plus new tubes). i'm just not ready to subject my Pashley to salty winter roads, at least not in her first year with me. We also store our bikes in our living space for the most part & i don't fancy the idea of bringing a salty, slushy bike indoors. This one i feel comfortable locking to my porch...

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  36. somervillain, thanks for sharing those photos -- they are great! I love your modifications. The bike looks really comfortable now. Your bikes are killing me they are so awesome. The dl-1 featured that was featured here made me get up and run around in circles. Cool cool cool.

    We have two bikes we're not using in our basement. One is a Specialized Globe that I used (but hated!) before I had my son. The other is a tricked out Diamondback MTB that my father was getting rid of, and which actually fits me very well and is comfortable (!) though I think my father had my husband in mind with said donation. I am now completely inspired to convert this bike to city riding. I am not sure it will be my new beater, though.

    For me a beater is not only the bike that can be ridden in crap weather, but is also the the bike I can lock up all day outside my studio, or for a few hours in Manhattan. I have a rusty ladies sports for this. They are everywhere here and I generally park mine next to another one.

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  37. genevieve, an old 3-speed can make a great winer beater, *especially* if its condition is such that it is not worth restoring/preserving. however, the limitations of a vintage 3-speed in an area that gets lots of snow are poor braking in wet conditions and the lack of availability of good winter tires in the 26x1-3/8" size. you could upgrade an old 3-speed to 26x1.5" (standard mtb) aluminum rims to overcome both of those hurdles, but that could also mean added cost/effort of building two new wheels around the original 3-speed hubs-- a cost/benefit equation that may or may not make sense.

    i also like your description of how you relate to a winter beater-- one in which you're okay with treating as the "runt of the litter" by leaving out on the porch while the others in the pack get preferential treatment. that's sort of how i feel about it as well.

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  38. Just a suggestion: As the bike is part of your life - your 'history'- spruce it up - home maintained as best as possibl. Errrr .... maybe sometime let your young visitor(s) ..niece , nephew , etc to use when they visit you.

    MDI, .. Serious??? :D

    Lemony.

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  39. dukiebiddle said...

    "Second, comfort and safety are likely sacrificed by riding a beater, as you noted above. "

    Dottie, there's nothing unsafe about a beater, as long as you know which way to turn a wrench. I think your other views are perfectly valid, but the safety claim is very culture-of-feary. But yes, if you have a Pashley there's no need for a beater. It's sort of a bass-ackwards way of looking at a beater. The proper perspective is that there is no need for a Pashley if you have a good beater. There are definite practical benefits to riding a beater (theft deterant, semi-indifference to theft, freedom to abuse), but they all take a back seat to the primary one, <$200 trumps >$1600.

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  40. somervillain, your wife's '92 Rockhopper conversion is nearly identical to my '88 conversion. I have a bigger basket and north roads, but they could be siblings.

    But this illustrates the different concepts of what makes a beater. There is a huge difference between an old department store pile of bolts, and an old and ugly high quality machine with indestructible all Deore XT components.

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  41. It is a one piece crank as far as I can see. solid but heavy. Just saying. Maybe a crank converter from Harri`s?

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  42. Anon, one-piece cranks are superior to three-piece cranks in almost everyway. Weight? Are you serious? Who cares about such a small amount of weight? If you use your bike for anything other than racing you can easily compensate for this weight by wearing a lighter jacket OR thinner soled shoes OR carrying smaller tools, or taking one book pen or file out of you bookbag. Enough with this weight-mongering.

    There is a reason why Mike Flanigan began using one-piece cranks again on many of this bikes.

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  43. dukiebiddle,

    I agree about the practical benefits of riding <$100 bikes and I think these machines and their riders deserve respect from the bike community. (The bigoted treatment they receive in many bike shops is unacceptable.) At the same time, there are also numerous benefits to riding >$1600 bikes and *I* would certainly buy one (Azor Opa, most likely) if I had the money, mostly for comfort, safety, and the looks.

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  44. Wow, this has turned into such an interesting discussion - Thank you everybody for your thoughts.

    I guess my own view is the most similar to Dottie's, and I should just go ahead and embrace this without feeling guilty. A major reason I bought an expensive (at least for me) bike such as the Pashley in the first place, is that I assumed it would serve me as a year-round bike because it had features (such as the enclosed chaincase and hub brakes, the wide tires, the fenders and all the other components) that would make commuting with it in the winter possible. I should not let the fact that it is attractive negate that reasoning.

    As a side note, I am more than a little surprised that so many are using derailleur bikes as their winter beaters. Don't derailleurs freeze and are generally a pain in the winter? Why not single speed?

    As another side note (in response to a comment about brakes on vintage 3-speeds being unsafe for the winter), I have heard conflicting narratives about this. On the one hand, I hear that rim brakes on steel rims and rod brakes are "even more unsafe" in the winter. But on the other hand, I hear tat rod brakes are fine, because in the winter you are going very slow anyway, so you don't need (and in fact shouldn't be) making sudden stops. Any thoughts on this?..

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  45. Filigree: "Why not single speed?"

    That's funny, that's the question I was holding back from asking you. :)

    As for the brake issue, my winter single speed has only a coaster brake, for the reasons you cite, plus the fact that you can skid a bike without falling, but if you lock up the front you'll be thinking about it from the ground.

    Both in brakes and drive trains too much emphasis is placed on achieving maximum torque and very little on the idea of appropriate for the conditions torque.

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  46. kfg said...
    "Why not single speed?"
    That's funny, that's the question I was holding back from asking you.


    Well, if I were to get a beater bike, I would start from scratch and try to find a step-through coaster brake single speed, or else would get just the frame and try to build that around it. But again, finding all the parts and such can be a time consuming and tedious process. By the time I got around to it, I am afraid winter would be over; too much to do.

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  47. dukiebiddle said...

    Giffen, I'm not criticizing the purchase of an up market bike at all. I'm just saying that the primary advantage of a beater is cost, and that all other benefits are secondary to that advantage. If one already ownes a bike like an Azor or Pashley, which are already ideal for all season use, to purchase a beater for winter is redundant and just adding to your +$1600 investment, instead of saving you $1400.

    As for safety, meh... 90% of such arguments are bunk. Yes, rod brakes and steel rims suck, they just suck more in the winter. 90% of such arguments that such-and-such that *other people* do that doesn't work for me is unjustifiably and irresponsibly dangerous, be it not wearing a helmet, not wearing bright yellow jacket, riding in heels, riding a fixed gear, riding with rim brakes or riding a beater are nonsense and just serve to make such-and-such feel more awesome about his/her choices, be they rooted in safety concerns or not.

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  48. ". . .try to find a step-through coaster brake single speed"

    NEXT La Jolla cruiser. Wally World; $89 in the box ordered online or take it off the floor for $99. Aluminum U frame of sufficient quality that it'll likely outlive you. Three piece cotterless cranks with steel arms. 27.2 seat post. Bog standard stuff.

    Throw on MKS rubber block pedals from VO, $25. A straight Kalloy post, $10. Maybe a Kalloy Periscopa stem if you aren't happy with the hight of the stock, $20 (ordered from Universal).

    I've done the research, you only need to put in about 15 minutes at the computer and wait for the truck.

    I'm not crazy about the imitation Mother of Toilet Seat finish, but it's a beater and I figure that's why God invented flat black Rustoleum anyway.

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  49. Of course, a cheap cruiser - I had forgotten about that possibility. They do come SS with coaster brake. But I would prob go for one of these babies - in vanilla, with colour matched fenders - rather than the Mart.

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  50. Dukiebiddle, considering there is no conclusive evidence that having a helmet helps in a crash, I don't see how not wearing one could be considered unreasonably dangerous.

    Filigree, for the record my bike has steel rims and rim brakes. The slower winter speeds *DO* in fact compensate for their decreased stopping power. So overall, steel rims are no more dangerous during the winter than during rainy weather.

    Just to reiterate what I, Dukiebiddle, and some others have said, Eustacia Vye is just about the perfect winter bike. I'd ride it all year without hesitation.

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  51. I've actually been keeping my eye open for just the right cruiser (and some of the bikes at that site have sorely tempted me), but I went with the La Jolla because it's not actually a cruiser. It's a city bike dressed up as a cruiser and I wanted a proper modern step through frame with English bottom bracket shell.

    With a small collection of scrounged parts it can be quickly and simply reconfigured in various ways. At the moment it's actually sitting with vintage Cinelli stem/drop bar, a Concor saddle and track pedals with toe clips. It looks like some sort of acid dream induced time trial bike; kinda funky and kinda cool at the same time.

    In two minutes I can have it right back to comfort saddle, riser bar city bike.

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  52. dukiebiddle said...

    Giffen, exactly. None of the examples I listed are unreasonably dangerous, including riding a beater. You ask 80% of helmet wearers their opinion of riders that do not wear one, they will say that helmetless wearers are being irresponsibly unsafe, because that makes them feel better about their own decisions, even though there is no valid study to support the claim.

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  53. I wear a helmet these days cause it helps squash my beanie down over my ears. How else can you keep your ears warm ?

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  54. dukiebiddle said...

    David, works for me. :-)

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  55. hi Somervillain, thanks for your response. My particular bike wasn't well preserved when i got it, nor is it one that appeals to me as a restoration project, so no worries there. Also, we don't actually get that much snow around here lately and am i not a commuter, so i never really *have* to cycle in wet winter weather. It is really the road salt both on the bike itself & in my house that bothers me. We seem to get disproportionately more of that than snow and it tends to stick around longer. And yes, i am fine with leaving this one on the porch both because i don't mind subjecting it to the elements for part of the year, but also i'm not worried about it getting stolen - i would actually kind of welcome the opportunity to search for a replacement if it was, but it has been locked out there off & on for a few years now without disappearing yet ;) ps - i love your vintage beauties that Filigree has featured here!

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  56. i'm not going to get into the helmet debate because i consider it a highly personal choice. i respect any decision based on informed reasoning.

    all this thinking about what constitutes a great beater brought me to this light-bulb moment:

    KHS green!

    i think this would be the perfect "winter beater" for filigree. i know she test-rode it and didn't think it was great (can't remember the details), but it has so many of the elements right out of the box that one would want on a winter beater (modern aluminum standard-size rims with infinite choice of tires, reliable and safe components, and the price: $300-350!!!), yet also many features that filigree in particular considers as requirements: upright, u-frame design, respectable if not fetching appearance, chain guard, rack, kickstand, bell, fenders, IGH (IGH!!!). filigree also doesn't have all the means to inexpensively build an old beater to her needs: to take an old 3-speed and retrofit it with modern aluminum rims for safer braking, it could cost her as much as a brand new KHS green!

    for $300-350 (could probably negotiate down to $300-325), this bike would be reliable and safe in winter and could withstand at least a half-dozen winters stored outside on a porch with infrequent washing/maintenance. then in the spring, give it a good wash and lube, and toss it in the basement until winter as your nice bikes will have luxuriously languished in the comfy confines of your apartment. i know i would have no problem exposing a brand new KHS green to the nastiness of winter... it's a bike i would have no need to "care" for or preserve. (not to imply that i take a "throw-away" stance toward consumer goods, i am very much anti-disposable consumerism; in this example the green serves as a small investment that pays dividends over 5-6 years in helping preserve the nicer bikes (~$60/year), then it can get donated to someone who can fix it up and get additional use out of).

    man, this almost makes me want to ditch my cannondale beater for a KHS green... *almost*... it would need more than 3 speeds for my needs. i have to carry 45 lbs of human youth on mine, up the hills of somer-hille!

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  57. The Murray is a horrible bike in more ways than I can name. Ride the bike you have the most confidence in--bikes can be repaired, bodies less so. Not to be a Nay-saying Nancy, but you_are_going_to_crash in snow eventually. You will learn from your mistakes. Learn how to fall; take judo lessons, but ignore the part where they tell you how to roll. Rolling into traffic is a bad idea. Put the fatest tires you can with little knobs on. Maybe studded. Lower tire pressure. Wear your helmet. I'm currently nursing a tweaked wrist, but at least I have my face.
    Jim

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  58. Somervillain,

    Alike minds think alike! (see my previous post.)
    I would bet that Filigree might be able to pick up an ex-rental KHS Green from the shop for 60% of new, and apply the savings to a light mount and some snow tires.

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  59. corey, you are right. and you beat me to it. sorry i missed your post. your idea is even better, one of the ex-rentals from cambridge bicycle, presume? do you know if they own the greens they rent out? or do they just provide the space/storefront for another company that supplies the bikes?

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  60. That bike would make a really poor winter bike. You'll get soaked without fenders in the winter!

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  61. I'm in California, so probably am not the go-to-guy on that. (big cheesy grin) But Filigree and Himself will know, of course.

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