City to country: Bianchi San Jose

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My first adult bike a was a late nineties Trek 820, a USA-made rigid cromoly steel mountain bike.  It was paid for in part by lawnmowing money.  I was thirteen years old.  Several bikes followed, including a new Gary Fisher Tassajara and a used Cannondale touring bike, as well as several cheap singlspeed and three-speed cruisers purchased at garage sales after the two previous bikes were stolen.  This Bianchi San Jose marks my reintroduction to bicycles in 2006, following a brief hiatus where I commuted everywhere by longboard.  This bike was paid for by the entirety of my first paycheck as a dockhand at a marina.

Originally, the Bianchi San Jose came as a tough singlespeed cross-bike, built more for commuting than racing.  With versatile 32mm tires and a 42-16 gearing, I rode everywhere, especially between work and home.  The first day riding home from work, I was thwarted by a steep uphill grade.  The second day, by the same route, I bit hard and muscled up the hill.  I count singlespeeding and fixed gear riding as significant developmental periods in my time as a cyclist.  At the time, I was an aspiring mechanic that would sometimes make things worse, rather than better, by attempting repairs.  A singlespeed bike was the perfect place to practice my skills. 

The bike gained a pair of eggplant purple deep-V Velocity rims, a Brooks Professional saddle and narrow road tires, along with an absence of brakes.  It was a your average urban fixie, although I thought it above average.  I chopped a pair of old drop bars into a homemade bullhorn bar, eventually turning them backward for a narrow upright position.  It is this permutation that I liked best.  It is like this that I rode to Seattle for the first time, from Tacoma, and decided that a cross-country tour was possible, and eventual.  I still have not ridden cross-country, but that autumn I left on my first bike tour.  

The bike now lives in uptsate NY.  It was a gift to my brother for his high-school graduation, at which time it gained an 8-speed Nexus internal gear hub, practical urban tires, full-coverage fenders, swept-back handlebars, a rear rack with a basket, and a bell.  It has become my daily rider when visiting home.  

The details of the build include: Shimano Nexus 8sp IGH, CST Selecta 700x38mm tiresSKS P45 Longboard fenders, Velo Orange Tourist handlebar, Delta rear rack, Wald basket, and Velo Orange brass bell.

The Rocket Ring is drilled for both 110mm and 130mm 5-bolt BCD.

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Full-coverage fenders, IGH, puncture-resistant tires, and reflective sidewalls– not far from the average Dutch bicycle.

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Shimano internal gear hubs boast incredibly light shifting, even under moderate load.

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The front mudflap nearly reaches the pavement, keeping feet dry even through puddles.

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The basket is zip tied to the rack, as recommended by Rivendell and others.  It is best to wrap the zip ties several times before locking them tight.  Here, they are wound around the rack only once.

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Cantilever brakes provide excellent stopping power when properly adjusted.  Brick-colored Velo Orange brake pads offer excellent stopping power, and are a less expensive upgrade than Kool-Stop pads.  They work very well in wet weather.

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The basket is huge, and conveniently carries a salad for six, dressing, a rain jacket and my Porcelain Rocket purse/camera bag.  Actually, the Porcelain Rocket bag is designed as a front bag, to be used in front of the handlebar roll or drybag.  With a shoulder strap, it works well around town. 

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It has been great fun to explore new and old ideas.  I may seriously consider an IGH in the future on a personal bike, and my next pavement touring bike might just have a couple of baskets.  




Another ride revived; Josh’s winter commuter

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I can count on Josh to revive an old bicycle as something useful and stylish, at the right price.  He is also the owner of this handsome 1983 Univega touring bike, revived for fast commuting and touring.  Upon volunteering to fix a bike for a neighbor recently, he received “an old mountain bike” in trade.  Wary of acquiring an old clunker, he offered to take a look.  The heavily chromed Shogun had gathered dust, but a mix of parts suggested that the bike had been customized and upgraded over the years, but probably not since the mid-80’s.  Perfect.  From our estimation it is a 1985 Shogun Prairie Breaker.  In a world of Stumpjumpers and Rockhoppers, the Prairie Breaker sounds a bit… mid-western.

Josh sold his car several years ago and is committed to transporting himself and his things by bike, including family members, guitars and 50 lb. bags of chicken feed.  He has gathered a functional set of tools and skills to maintain a fleet of bikes for the family, and is always able to envision a new life for an old bike.

Spending money where it counts, Josh has made this old Shogun his own.  He fit a Surly Open bar with Ergon grips, some 26 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Fat Frank tires, and a Carradice Camper saddlebag.  The Brooks B17, fenders, dynamo hub and lighting are all parts from the workshop.  The SR MTS-100 slingshot-style stem is a personal favorite of mine; although less refined than other y-shaped stems of the time it has a more commanding, industrial look.  The stem is appropriately stiff, yet the steel quill provides a comfortable ride.  I spent many thousand miles on this exact stem last year on my High Sierra.  To mate this stem to my Nitto Randonneur drop bars I filed the clamp diameter from 22.2mm to 25.4mm.

The front bag is actually an old trunk bag from the parts bin, mounted sideways, and the platform pedals feature VO double-toe straps which are now discontinued.  Intended as a winter commuter in rainy Tacoma, a large VO mudflap helps keep the feet dry.

Note the VO Rando front rack.  On mounting the rack to the fork, Josh says: “I drilled out the fork for the rack and used self-tapping machine screws. I have the other rack (the VO Pass Hunter) to fit on the cantilever brake posts but that rack is on my Univega and I didn’t want to take it off that bike. I have drilled several steel bikes as such, and have never had a problem so I figure it’s okay. If I do end up running into rust issues I’ll braze some threaded bosses in but til then it seems fine to me.”

“Also I love the Fat Franks and I’ll see how they do this winter. I have been riding them all summer and a bit last winter and they seem to be wearing okay. Depending on the weather this winter I might have to go with something with a bit more tooth but I’ll see what happens. The Franks are great for just about everything other then ice. They even work okay in snow as long as it’s not too packed.”

This is a real bike that goes real places.  Every morning Josh commutes by bike to his job as a musical instrument repairman.  Josh’s other bikes include a custom long-tail made from an old Trek 8000 frame and the rear triangle of a mixte GT mountain bike, while his daughter rides a classy Cannondale 700c to 26″ conversion.

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I have another post on the Velo Orange Blog, entitled Packing the Campeur, Part 2.  It includes a nearly complete packing list and some photos.  This is the only place where you will find a list of the things I carry on my bike.  Enjoy!

Edit: Josh mounted the VO Rando rack onto the fork by drilling holes and using self-tapping machine screws.  He did not tap the frame and use a standard M5 bolt.