Indoor Bike Activities

Now that it's getting colder out, it's time for some indoor bike activities.

Like wrapping and shellacking handlebars. These are the new Nitto Noodle bars on the Co-Habitant's roadbike. We have wrapped and shellacked bars so often at this point, that it's become second nature. He is the wrapper. I am the shellacker. It is satisfying to smear the amber shellac onto that pristine white tape and watch it transform into a warm caramel colour. Makes me think of candy apples.

And in case you are wondering, yes those are reindeer pajama bottoms. Très chic, non?


  1. We have a couple/three more months to go before cycling becomes an indoor activity. But then again it has finally cooled off enough to make cycling enjoyable. Somehow 98* and 90%rh have a tendency to make cycling uncomfortable. ;-)

    Love the jamies...mine have ducks on them LOL


  2. is the final goal to match the brooks saddle? i really like it when the bar tape either matches or complements the saddle!

    did the brake levers get upgraded to aero? what was the rationale?

  3. somervillain - What other modern option for brake levers is there for drop bars? He replaced the original levers that came with his Motobecane with modern Shimano Tiagra levers.

    When the final coat of shellacking is done, the handlebars will be just a tad lighter than the Brooks honey saddle. He prefers it that way to being too matchy-matchy. If you want them to be the exact same colour, start out with bar tape that's "natural" or "tan" rather than white.

  4. i was curious about the aero brakes simply in the context of period aesthetics. the entire bike industry seemed to adopt them at the same time, c.1987, and the aero look creates a sharp divide between post-1987 and pre-1987 bikes. therefore i try to keep the lever style appropriate to the bike's vintage, as it is one of the primary visual cues as to a bike's vintage. i'm not sure what you mean by "modern" levers, but the basic design, geometry and "feel" of modern drop-bar levers dates to about the mid-70s, as the high end levers back then became the standard for what a current, modern brake lever feels like. high end levers were generally separated from the lower tiered versions by the absence of the secondary set of lever arms (thank you, CPSC! ;-), by the presence of rubber or natural gum hoods, and by a higher quality casting/finish of the aluminum parts. the shimano 600 series (600 being shimano's second from the top designation back in the day) levers from the early 80s were very nice, smooth feeling, and were non-aero, but share the same basic form as a current-day aero lever, with the exception of the cable routing. weinmann also made some nice high-end non-aero levers (a pair of which i'm desperately trying to find for my raleigh competition GS restoration!!! i may just have to settle for a similar-vintage shimano 600 set, which i have in my parts bin).

  5. Ah, I see. Generally, I agree about keeping a bicycle period-appropriate, but sometimes comfort wins - especially on bicycles like our Motobecane, which are not exactly collector's pieces.

    When it comes to drop bar brakes, I am especially willing to sacrifice period aesthetics, because I find the vintage ones 10 times more difficult to squeeze and generally less comfortable. I think that was his reasoning, too.

    I do wish that they made the aero brakes with more classic styling though. That plastic detailing on the Shimanos does not do it for me, though they are still aesthetically superior to the Cane Creek levers, I think.

    By "modern levers" I meant the stuff that's available new on the market at the moment.

  6. This isn't my collector's bike. I ride it hard and particularly enjoy taking a road bike off-road. My old stem was raised way beyond the safety margin and needed to be changed. Along with it, I replaced the bars and the brake levers, new cables + Kool Stop pads were simply a necessary final step in making this bike perform. Now it's in primo shape.

  7. "I meant the stuff that's available new on the market at the moment."

    Bingo! I went shopping a while ago and was surprised to find I couldn't buy non-aero levers. I'm going to have to start buying 80s Japanese bikes just to scrounge the parts I like from them. I DO have a set of hardly used, drilled Weinmanns and a set of both black and white hoods for them (might even still have a set of gum Dia-Compes somewhere, I'll have to dig in the bins), but they're MINE, all MINE. I'm a greedy little miser.

    ". . .thank you, CPSC! . . ."

    If you've got the dynamite, I've got the matches.

  8. kfg - It seems that VO has several non-aero levers for sale?

    While we are on the subject, can somebody clearly explain to me the difference between aero and non-aero? I am trying to understand based on explanations I have found, but find it a little confusing.

  9. aero and non-aero brakes work and feel identical. the only difference is a slight aesthetic one-- the aero cabling does not exit the top of the hood, but is routed along the barm underneath the bar tape. non-aero brake cabling exits through the top of the brake lever mechanism. therefore the only visual cue separating aero from non-aero brake levers is the cable exit hole in the top of the hood. aero brakes retained the same "bump" on the top of the rubber hood simply for tactile feel for the rider, for whom having the cable exiting on top provided a convenient place-stop for the hands when using the riser section of the bars.

    in light of this explanation of the differences, you can see why i was curious why you would have gone with a new brake lever as opposed to a NOS or good used 80s non-aero lever, which would have the same tactile feel as any new aero lever, without the plasticky add-ons and while preserving the vintage character of the bike. (this is not to say the current levers don't work well on the moto...!)

    when there is no source of new parts to fit a need, then there's ebay, which has served me well for finding period-sensitive brake levers for all my bike projects. i picked up some nice vintage shimano 600s for $10, way cheaper than the new dia-compes that VO offers, (and way superior quality-- those diacompes are nothing special).

  10. I must say, I prefer the new way--I hate bumping into cables and generally find the new style (inside routing) to be a perfect solution to messy cables in both the look and feel departments.

    Aesthetics and period-accuracy aside, the only serious drawback of the new way--that I can think of now--is that you cannot adjust the height of the stem once you wrap the bars.

  11. somervillain - Okay, I see. I knew about the difference in cable routing, but I thought there might be more to it that I wasn't getting.

    I have tried several different vintage non-aero levers, including the Shimano 600s, and personally I find them uncomfortable. This is just my preference and no doubt has to do with the problems I have with nerves in my hands that result in difficulty to squeeze. I find the modern Cane Creek levers the easiest to use, so if I were installing drop bars on a bike I'd probably go with those despite how much I hate the way they look.

    Components that are inconsistent with a bicycle's vintage bother me as well, including my installation of the modern Shimano mountain bike levers on my mixte. But my main goal was to be able to brake successfully, and I was worried that I'd have problems squeezing vintage brakes. (When that bicycle had drop bars, I ended up hurting my hands by using the original levers.)

  12. "It seems that VO has several non-aero levers for sale?"

    Well, ya see, here's the irony. I need old school brake levers to replace Dia-Compes on older, otherwise reasonable quality bikes. Usually it's those damed safety lever versions, but sometimes it's the very models that VO is selling. Dia-Compe makes some decent stuff, but that ain't them.

    "Cane Creek levers . . . I hate the way they look."

    There once was an ugly duckling . . . that grew up to be a damned ugly old duck. Swans they ain't.

    "I was worried that I'd have problems squeezing vintage brakes."

    There's a myth that older brakes didn't have much stopping power. The truth is that older brake levers didn't have as much mechanical advantage, so you had to apply more squeeze to realize the power. Personally I like it that way, as it makes finer modulation of the brakes easier, but if you ain't got the squeeze, yer outta luck; and brakes. Brakes is one of the really good places to go with what works for you.


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