Bianchi Examination and Progress-MLCB Post #420, September 19, 2019

I follow a set procedure when I get a bicycle, regardless of the source. Almost all bikes get stripped down to the frame, if they are not already. I note serial number and circumstances of sale or transfer. I inspect the frame for serious flaws or damage. I also get a look at the inside of the tubes. I make sure the seat post and stem will come out readily. In the case of the Bianchi Squadra, I did this before I even left the bicycle co-op. This was due to other parts of the cycle being damaged. When I see something like that, I usually check things over before money or barter change hands. This saves any hard feelings on any ones’ part. This is also better than disappointment down the road.

The Squadra had a good bit of road tar from oil and gravel road riding. I use a product called Goo Gone. It gets rid of road tar (a hazard here in the Midwest, due to many roads being paved in oil tar and gravel, and the tar liquifying in temperatures above the mid 80’s Fahrenheit) as well as any adhesives used for attaching speedometer fittings or other accessories. It also removes a lot of paint blemishes and mars, and cleans the paint well. Because the bicycle has some decal issues with weathering and the like, as well as some decals coming loose, I can tell the clear coat has been compromised. A new clear coat will be applied when the weather turns.

I am also sourcing a period group set for this. As I have been modernizing the Trek 600 out of its Shimano 600 group set, I will use this on the Bianchi, as these two bicycles are from the same year,(1986) and the Bianchi also came with a Shimano 600 series group set. I still have the Universal brakes and Shimano levers, and I may continue using the Shimano 600 crank set on the Bianchi, unless I can find the original Ofmega cranks, or some Campagnolo from that era. The original Ofmega headset is still on the Bianchi, and it looks to be of the same quality as the Hinault/Stronglight on my Trek 600, just a little higher level of fit and finish.

Doing all of this brings me into contact with the finer points of the frame and paint, which are excellent, despite a few scratches and wear spots from years past. The bicycle has some thin braze-ons on the drop-outs. I’m used to drop out braze-ons being a bit beefier. I surmise these are meant to be for fenders only. That’s about all I’ll need. I may put a decaleur for a front bag on there, but this bicycle is mainly meant to go fast over day length distances, in my opinion. But what a day that’ll be! Once I get it all together, and find what works best in terms of pedals, saddle, and handlebars. That may take a while. Hopefully, we’l have some of those fine autumn days that inspire nostalgia, tailor made for bike testing.

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Bianchi-Worthy? MLCB Post 419, September 15, 2019

When I saw her, I knew it had to be. She stood there, at the edge of a group, her looks only slightly marred by age, and a hard life. She seemed to call to me. But it was just someone at the co-op, wanting me to replace some handlebar parts. But the allure was too great, and I returned to her, time and time again, drawn as if a moth to the flame. I knew there had been others, it showed in her appearance, and the casual way she leaned toward me, showing all she had, the good and the bad, and waiting for judgement. Someone around there said she’d go for small change. That’s just the way she was. At this point, an aging cyclist was about her only option, seeing how things were.

She’d once been popular, but that was all in the past. She was part of a team. Once. It said so on her top tube. “Squadra” said it all. Somewhere in her life, she sought single speed. That was obvious. But before she left the co-op for a better life, the floor jumped up and hit that single speed chain ring right off her bottom bracket. The wheels too, and we all know where those are going, after some rusty hardware replacement. Right now, her frame is all she has, but what a frame it is. Squadra has had a hard life, and we’re not going to judge the decisions made in her past. The future is what we have control of. It’s time to make the most of it.

I started with component removal. I left the Universal brakes where they were, as well as the Shimano brake levers, cockeyed on the bent handlebars and stem as they were found. I’ll have to rewrap those bars, and see what’s gone horribly wrong there. I’ll just pitch the stem, even though it’s a nice one, it’s also bent along two axes, far away from true, in so many ways. But the frame is in good shape. Nobody “drewed” the frame, as they call grinding off the derailleur hanger. I’m glad of that. I have the original Shimano Tricolor 600 derailleur and some other things, but I may need a front derailleur and some down tube shifters.

As for the single speed parts, those will go to the Facet. The Facet doesn’t have a derailleur hanger. It would be a good candidate for the single speed way of life. Hopefully, we can make it so both these bikes survive and thrive, and are better at their respective duties. I think both these bikes can be greatly improved by what has been planned for them. A 1986 Bianchi Squadra is a great find in any condition, in my opinion. Columbus Formula Two tubing is great steel for a bike. It could be bigger, but I don’t think that would be best in this case. A slightly small frame, I find, makes for a better racing bike like this,for my use. We just have to scrounge up a few parts, and we’re good to go!

Why I Work on Bicycles-MLCB Post #418, September 12, 2019

To start with, I wanted to get into a hobby that was self-supporting. I had come from a hobby, film-based photography, that had wound up providing me with a job and income. I loved film photography. I had come into it from both parents’. It was not necessarily a way of life, but good, really good cameras were scarce back in the day, as were people who new how to use them. When film photography became obsolete to many people, in favor of digital photography, I sort of lost all that. But I got back into cycling more. I enjoyed cycling. It was always a good way to get to pictures, and not have a car to need to park. You could get well into the woods on a bike, and closer to pictures faster.

But I got back into cycling to get healthier. The problem was, this did not expand my wallet. So I wound up getting bicycles from garage sales and shops and resellers of used bicycles. Often, these bicycles were in far from good condition when I got them. So I had to learn how to fix them myself. But I learned on some basic and inexpensive bicycles. I took a Sears Ted Williams ten-speed apart entirely, and learned how it functioned. I got ahold of some books and read up on bicycle maintenance. There will still some good used bookstores around then. And internet forums were also coming into their own.

I had ridden a lot as a youngster, and as a young adult as well. Most folks in my family did. I learned to ride in the street and road, as well as how to cover greater distances, from family members. At least one older cousin still rides. But the experience of repairing some of the more difficult bike problems was always left to those who did bicycle repair for a living. I was amazed to learn one could repair and refurbish and rebuild a bicycle, all by oneself. Since then, information has expanded by leaps and bounds. Internet forums are bigger, YouTube shows you how to do most anything, and many other sources of information help us to find the way out of cycling problems.

Some days, I still feel like a novice. But that’s a good thing, a great thing, actually. I feel that is what keeps cycling fresh. It’s impossible to know everything, or to experience everything there is to know and experience about cycling. Cycling just keeps opening new doors and new places to the cyclist. Cycling also teaches, along the way. And you learn what a big world is out there, even right nearby. It’s the only hobby where you can get exercise, travel, and take your camping gear along with you. All you need is a little expertise about maintenance of the machine, where you are going, and whether your level of fitness can get you where you are going, and returning you whence you came.

Roswheel 3 in 1 Panniers -MLCB Post #417, September 8, 2019

I got some inexpensive panniers for my cycle touring recently. For about $40.00, give or take , these Roswheel panniers are pretty well thought out. For forty bucks, you don’t get YKK Zippers or waterproof material, but these are water resistant, and appear to be water proof on the bottom, next to the rack, where most of the water gets thrown up from the wheels. If you don’t have fenders, this could be a lifesaver. I usually pack my panniers with garbage sacks for bad weather waterproofing of the contents when needed. 13 gallon kitchen bags work well enough. I like the design of the bags well enough, with the indentation of the front to add to heel clearance, the mesh pockets on the rear, and the top bag. And they are made of 1000 D nylon.

These bags have a 37 liter total capacity, enough for my rear load and then some. The bag that goes on top has obviously been designed to be a messenger bag, and it comes with a strap for carrying. This also makes it more versatile as a grocery store stop bag when traveling. It attaches to the top of the two panniers with four clips. I might also say that the panniers, when empty, fit into this bag, making for compact and efficient storage. We will have to see if a tent will fit in this bag. That would simplify camping greatly. The workmanship looks good, much better than the last panniers I got from Amazon. We’ll have to see how these hold up. I may not be a good bellwether, as I tend to still have most of my panniers. I don’t tour often, and take good care of the gear when I do.

The top bag, by itself.
Polyurethane- like material for shedding water on the bottom of the bags.

I packed these bags up with clothing to see what they would look like when fully loaded. They hold their shape well, and can take a bit of over stuffing. Weight of an actual touring load will vary, but my actual touring load will not fill these panniers as much. When fully blossomed, these panniers will get to about 21-22 inches wide. Something to think about, on the road. These could use some reflective tape sewn into them in the back. I may have to consider getting out the old Brother machine for that. Part of that capacity are the two largish pockets on the sides, enough for a coat or rain gear. These panniers are permanently joined, and sit over the top of the rack, with four velcro straps securing them to the top of the rack, and two straps securing the panniers to the bottom of the rack.

Panniers without the top bag.

These panniers are good enough for short tours and grocery or shopping runs. They seem reasonably well made for the price, and appear to offer good value for money. By my own philosophy, I probably wouldn’t undertake a long tour with them. Long tours are quite expensive, and I would prefer to spend money and get the highest quality. Something like Lone Peak, Axiom, Ortlieb, Arkel, or Vaude. Just so my tour is not ruined by any bicycle wardrobe malfunctions. And I like separable panniers, generally. But for $40.00, you do get 1000 D( denier) nylon, a good well sewn set of bags, of a very nice and sensible design. So I will give these a try, and let you know just how they work out.

Top bag attachment, by clips.

Falcon Gets Wings-MLCB Post #416 September 5, 2019

I finally completed the Falcon San Remo, although I have yet to use the period tubular tires and wheels. Instead, I have some 80’s era narrow rim racing wheels and 700×25 Bontrager tires on there, as well as an old mountain bike saddle and seatpost. I also modernized the brake levers with some later Dia Compe levers. I also added Mafac racer brakes, because they were the best brakes from that period. When I have to stop, I want to stop. Mafacs do that well. They may not be the brakes that came with the bicycle, but I would have upgraded to those.

The rear derailleur is a Campagnolo Velox, and it does a fine job, as does the box-type Campagnolo front derailleur. These two took me a while to set up. But they do a very nice job. Nothing fancy, just reliable shifting. For non-indexed shifters, they do a fine job. Between all my bikes and parts, I was able to scrounge enough Campagnolo stuff together to have levers, front and rear derailleur Campagnolo equipped, and period correct, like the original Falcon San Remo. Brakes probably would have been Universal, but I like the Mafacs a lot better. Most other brakes from that period leave a bit to be desired.

I took the bicycle out for a ride after completion. It’s a real goer. Handling was smooth, yet brisk. The bicycle was not squirrelly or sharp like most bicycles of that era. I credit the Reynolds 531 steel and design skills of Ernie Clements for that. It would be the perfect bicycle if it could just move my schedule around and get me more time to be out on the bike. I may get a chance to see what it can do over the weekend, and how it compares to the Trek 600. It won’t be an everyday bike, for sure, but a lot of fun on Eroica -type rides. It shows a lot of history in scuffs and scratches, but I see that as part of the charm. It was once the nicest bicycle in town. I think it still is.

Vittoria Randonneur Cross Tires-MLCB Post#415, August 29, 2019

Tread kind of looks like tree bark, but holds the road well.

Let me say that these tires came second hand. But I am convinced I was the first owner to actually ride them. They looked new in every aspect. These are not light tires, by the way. On their own, they seemed a bit stiff, but that may just be the size I’m using. I put these on the Schwinn Passage. They were disappointing in that they are only 70 psi tires. Until I rode them, I was skeptical. But they do a nice job, combined with the slack angles and Columbus Tubing of the Schwinn Passage. After a few rides, I can state that they are a good, albeit heavy, tire. For a touring bicycle, that’s not so much a drawback as with a racing cycle.

I have the 700×35 size, which are good for what I need them for. But this tire does have a bit of rolling resistance, which is noticeable. I may be able to trade that for some puncture protection, though. This is a directional tire, which is something to bear in mind. 590 grams is not lightweight for a bike tire. Along with the rolling resistance that may be a game ender for some people. Sidewall thickness is not nearly as much as the tread thickness, more about that later. I think the treads are good for my use. I don’t need a deep tread tire hereabouts. If I regularly rode gravel or dirt, I would probably choose Schwalbe Marathons, lighter, and with deeper tread, from what I can see.

But enough abstract sniveling about the negative aspects of the tire. I think this tire has a nice ride, actually, especially compared to others in its price range. I think the thin sidewalls contribute to this as does the thinner tread. I also like the sidewall reflective striping. Especially in LED light, this shines like a beacon. The striping makes it easier for drivers to see you, or for you to find your bike in darkness. I found these tires rode well, both loaded and unloaded. I have yet to get a full touring load on the Passage, for reasons that will soon become apparent. But I have to say I find this tire to be a good, inexpensive touring tire that overcomes it’s weight and rolling resistance with a smooth and comfortable ride.

Passage Complete-MLCB Post #414, August 25, 2019

I had some time this afternoon, and got around to completing the Schwinn Passage touring frame I got a few weeks ago. I’ve already test-ridden it. I usually get in a test ride before I start too much work, just to get the feel of the bicycle. If it’s not going to work out for sure, one can usually tell after a mile or so. This is not to say that some bicycles cannot make a surprising turn-around after some adjustments. This bike has the same ride quality as my first Schwinn Passage, many years ago. It is a nice, comfortable bicycle without a lot of weight. Usually touring cycles are a bit heavy, as they need to be built heavier for the loads they carry.

In this case, I am much of the load this bicycle will carry. I have front and rear pannier racks mounted to it, I do not think they will be necessary for most of my rides. But it will be nice to have that option. I had to change out the rear rack, as some of my rear racks I had in mind were too short for the frame and the mounting points. The shorter rack can go on the Trek 950. It has some seized bolts as well, so some work has to be done to free all that up. Steel and aluminum do not mix well with water/salt. But that can all be set straight, and then the Trek 950 will have a heavy duty rear rack.

The Passage will need some testing and fine tuning. It’s another big frame, and these are hard for me to adjust to, and dial in properly. The Passage is right at the limit of the size of bicycle I can and should ride, but a little smaller than the Raleigh. Just enough. Standover height is right at the limit. The Passage has so many good features that a touring bike should have. Relaxed geometry, long chain stays, great lugged steel construction, three bottle holders.(the bottom one’s for fuel) all the braze-ons,(except for a front fork rack mount)and good handling. All it needs is some riding.