15 Years Under the Chaincase
With a blizzard raging outside, what better way to spend an evening than working on bikes? The Co-Habitant agreed to help with my Gazelle (and by "help" I mean "do most of the work"), in exchange for which I prepared lavish portions of a dish that is sort of a cross between French Toast and a Croque Monsieur - only larger, fluffier, more generous on the cheese, and with some secret herbs that make it special. He likes my cooking, I like his mechanics: win-win!
Once removed, this is what was inside. It's entirely possible that the drivetrain has not been worked on since the bicycle was first purchased by the original owner. The metal structure supporting the vinyl casing was covered in surface rust, as were parts of the chain itself. But otherwise, there were no apparent problems. These bicycles were built to be used and abused for years without any need for maintenance.
We were disappointed to see that the chainring did not have little gazelles carved into it like the older ones did. But I suppose that would be too much to expect from a '90s model. The metal chaincase support structure disassembles into several parts - allowing the rear portion to be removed without taking the whole thing apart.
The main chaincase attachment bolt is on the chainstay - a more secure method than attaching chaincases or chainguards to the bottom bracket. Another point of attachment rests on the rear axle. While more difficult to tinker with, the benefit of the vinyl chaincase design, is that it is less likely to rub or knock against the chain. It also weighs less than plastic or metal chaincases - though somehow I doubt that was a concern for the makers of Gazelle.
The Co-Habitant was thoroughly impressed by the design of the Gazelle A-Touren's rear triangle, and believes it to be a better (more integrated) system than that of the vintage Raleigh DL-1 or of the modern Pashley.
Everything on the Gazelle fits together just so, as if the parts were all custom-made for each other. And once the chainguard is off, the fork ends are cut in such a way, so as to facilitate wheel removal. The 28" wheels with the stainless steel rims weigh a ton.
The routing of the tail light is entirely internal: The wiring comes out of the chainstay right next to the fork-end, and snakes along the inside of the rear fender invisibly. These are the kinds of design elements that make this bicycle a fully integrated system - almost an organism - that experiences very few problems. There are fewer things to shake loose, break, or fall out of adjustment, which is what makes it so low maintenance.
I know that some enthusiasts would have next taken the whole bike apart, scrubbed off the rust, polished the frame and components, and put it back together - but we prefer to let functional bikes be. Having checked the drivetrain, none of the components seemed to be any worse for wear despite some cosmetic degradation, so we just cleaned them up a bit, greased everything, adjusted the brakes and shifter, and closed the whole thing back up. I will replace the chain soon just in case, but that is about it. Changing the tires on this bike was easy, and the cracked originals are now replaced with new Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. We also removed the vinyl dressguards and are replacing them with something more personalised. The snow continues today, but by the time it is over the winterised Gazelle will hopefully be ready for her test-ride. Working on this bicycle has made us both appreciate just how well it was built. I know that the current-production Gazelles differ in the way they are constructed, but I hope that they retained at least some of the ingenuity of the original design.