… When my whole family goes out for a ride.
The Gazelle Champion Mondial only needs new grips to be completely gorgeous. Tuesday, I hope. Tuesday.
… When my whole family goes out for a ride.
The Gazelle Champion Mondial only needs new grips to be completely gorgeous. Tuesday, I hope. Tuesday.
Whenever I receive an older bike, I find myself thinking the same thing: “this one isn’t going to be that great.”
I know about steel wool, yet I continue to doubt it. I have seen the transformations now, many times, but I can’t seem to hold onto this knowledge in the face of filthy-bike reality.
Don’t get me wrong, The Gazelle Champion Mondial was never really filthy. Dusty, rusty (in a few spots) and a bit neglected, but not filthy. Still, I was as unprepared as ever for the transformation.
I got it back from Gregg’s yesterday, without the new pedals (they called me to say it was done, not realizing that I was still waiting for the pedals to arrive. I wasn’t about to leave it there, so home it came to await the pedal-ing here). Today, with the sun shining brightly, I thought… I’ll go for a ride. But before I go, I’ll just test that stand-over height on the new bike… yeah, it’s big, but how does it ride? I’ll just test that out in the cul-de-saq… yeah, it’s nice, but the saddle needs to come way down… maybe I’ll roll the bars up… no, roll ‘em back down… can the stem come up a bit? Okay… boy, I should clean this thing up.
So much for the ride.
Here are some “before” shots:
So… three hours later, with many Windex wipes, some 000 steel wool and Mother’s Mag for the aluminum, we have this…
Yes, that’s a bottle cage, and yes, I realize the seat is crooked.
Those formerly-rusty Mafac Racers!
Simplex derailleur, with its PINK wheel. Crazy talk!
The Dura Ace cranks are super sexy, aren’t they? Swoon.
The gleam! My eyes! The goggles, they do nothing! (It’s a Simpsons reference).
Lovely dynamo, gorgeous brakes, shiny headset! I love the fork lug details.
So gorgeous! I’ve ordered some “vintage” red-rubber grips from Amazon, which should look amazing. My initial thoughts on the size are that the standover is high, but eh… with the saddle where it is, my legs fit the bike perfectly, and since it’s low but not jammed down into the seat cluster or anything, I think I’m okay. I’d like a shorter stem, and possibly one that can be raised even more, like a Nitto Technomic with a shorter reach, maybe 90? Otherwise, we’re good to go once the pedals come in. I’m going to ride it as is for a while and get a better feel for what it needs. The ride is very smooth and silky. Hurrah!
It’s been a funny year. For about six months, I couldn’t have cared less about cycling. I was a sedentary, wintery blimp on the couch. Then suddenly, I rediscovered bikes. How does that happen? It’s not like anything (other than a drastic weather improvement) really happened in the last few months… I don’t know what it is, but I feel like I’m back in the groove.
So much so, that I now have two rides backed up in my queue! The first was about a week ago, along the Cedar River Trail on The Gazelle Trimsport (must qualify which Gazelle I speak of now! Yea!). The trail is so damned familiar at this point that I really was riding mostly on autopilot, just out there pumping my legs and enjoying the sunshine.
Just before I snapped this picture, two young men in a golf cart drove up next to me inside the fence. My first thought was: they cannot actually be that interested in my old bike. I was right! They were hoping I would throw their golf ball back in. Given the height of the fence, this proved impossible, but I did manage to roll it at them. Hadn’t had that happen before!
The river is absolutely gorgeous this time of year, as is, frankly, The Gazelle Trimsport. So glittery and shiny!
About twelve miles into my ride, I realized I really, really needed to pee. There are bathrooms on this trail, but they’re all at the 2-3 mile mark, and let’s admit it: on a 20-mile loop, I wasn’t really very close to them in terms of the sheer number of minutes it would take to bike those next six miles. This essentially constituted an emergency. But never fear! I am an experienced nature-pee-er! I have camped for days in remote areas, so I know from peeing in the woods, my friend.
The Cedar River Trail has a sweet little trail offshoot that follows the river for a ways at about the point where I decided it was time to christen the local flora. I wandered down it for quite some time with The Gazelle Trimsport, working to get us far from view. I wasn’t so concerned about someone spotting me as I found relief as I was about someone seeing my unattended bike! At any rate, I eventually felt we were out of sight enough to leave The Gazelle Trimsport there basking in the sunshine and continue on alone. I certainly left the bike in a very scenic spot.
I really like peeing in the woods, actually. Should I admit this? But it’s true. If one doesn’t have to do… well, MORE than pee, it’s a very pleasant experience. Sort of freeing.
You can tell I was raised by hippies.
Anyway, we soldiered on, and I logged twenty miles on that miserable damned seat. Must make a furry seat cover soon!
A few days later, I spent a lovely day out with my son. It’s nearing his birthday, and since he had the day off from school for one of those horrid professional development days I used to loathe so much, I decided to do his birthday early.
First, we headed over to REI to get him his present: a new bike. He’s grown so much in the last couple years that his old 20″ bike no longer fit him. The interesting thing I discovered about the small jump to a 24″ kid’s bike is that while there is little real difference between the two sizes, both the selection and the price change wildly in the larger size. There really weren’t many bikes to choose from, and what there was fell into three categories: utter, complete Walmart-quality garbage I wouldn’t waste $150 on that even if the store did assemble it, would probably require an immediate tune-up at the bike shop to be even vaguely bearable; extremely beat up and grossly overpriced used Specialized stuff on Craigslist, posted by parents desperate to recoup some of the $500 they shelled out last year; and very expensive new Specialized stuff at bike shops, around $350-$500. None of this appealed to me. I finally settled on what felt like an expensive (but was actually somewhere in the low-middle range) bike from REI. The benefits of buying the bike there were that I could return it if necessary, they assemble and tune the bikes when you buy them, and then they offer you a free touch-up tune up within the first six months. This made the just under $300 price tag more reasonable, though barely. Let’s just say this one better last us more than 2 years. Like, at least 2.5 years, you know?
Still, he loves it. It’s a Diamondback, with the usual extraneous 21-gears. The big difference I can see between it and the $200 bikes My Great Guy bought The Girls is that the components and finishes on this bike are nicer: better brands, with nicely thought-out graphics and cool touches like the black rims. Otherwise, the frame quality is no different. I would have gladly spent something in that range, but the bikes for girls in this size are myriad: for boys, not so much. After all, I don’t care about the components on his bike. But in the end, he loves riding, so he’ll make good use of it.
We headed over to the Burke Gilman Trail for our ride, and did about seven miles, which is a lot for him. He has a “new” camera that he bought used from Amazon with his yard-work money, and busied himself taking lots of photos of his bike, and the other interesting things on the trail.
It was a bucolic spring day, with buttercups and sunshine and a warm breeze in between a few short sprinkles of rain. We had a great ride, and firmly established that he can now kick my butt in terms of speed, but I still own him on stamina. That kid is crazy fast on that new bike!
I snapped one shot of The Raleigh alone, and honestly, I think it looks like one of those bizarrely detailed architectural mock-up drawings. Seriously not real.
With the first really sunny week hitting us here in Rainitopia, I decided to head out on a good, long ride. This has been a very wet winter, in a drizzly sort of way. We had no snow, or much flooding, just day after day of blah. I didn’t even feel it necessary to sacrifice a weatherman to Frosticus this year… the gods didn’t need to be appeased; they were clearly just stupid-bored.
When one has a long, sunny ride to anticipate, an interesting trail is in order. So I headed back to the Foothills Trail, starting this time in Orting rather than Puyallup. My goal was about twenty miles, and that was what I ended up riding. The truth is, two hours on The Raleigh or The Gazelle, pedaling steadily, feels like I’m doing more work than any ride on the old Panasonic (Bicycle of the Gods) did. I may not be racing along the path at twenty-five miles an hour, but I’m out there, and I’m working reasonably hard.
Mount Rainier was lurking, glowering testily over the trail. I kept picturing the old mountain crabbily grousing about the development around it, thinking seriously about the possibility of lahars or even just a few threatening puffs of ash…
This was an early-morning ride, for me anyway, starting at 9:30. The sunlight was strong, but low in the sky, making for dramatic shadows and a glittering river.
This side path would be quite rideable, if The Raleigh had nobbly tires. Unfortunately, it does not, and even a bit of gravel is treacherous. I suspect this is just my impression, not necessarily the truth, but I’ve slipped and slid often enough in the past to be wary. It certainly was pretty!
I spent most of this ride day-dreaming and telling myself stories in my head, which is something I’ve done for most of my life. I had always assumed everyone did this, but once I started teaching, I realized that few of my students narrated their lives. This makes me curious about the brains of others: what do other people think about while riding? How do they pass the time when they’re stuck somewhere with only their brains for company? I’ve asked other people, but I still don’t know exactly.
It reminds me of a moment in Northern Exposure, when Joel Fleishman asks his secretary, the stoic Marilyn, what she daydreams about while she’s sitting at the front desk. I’m paraphrasing, as I couldn’t find a clip of this:
Marilyn: You don’t want to know.
Joel: Yes, I do!
Joel: Colors? That’s it? What about colors?
Marilyn: Just… colors.
I remember laughing so hard at Joel’s confusion. I’d feel the same way!
Speaking of colors…
How about these?
One of the best things about the Foothills Trail is how rural it is, once one gets past Orting. I love the farms and green fields.
I turned around shortly after South Prairie, which is a cute little town. I considered going further, but my butt was in serious protest mode. The Raleigh’s Brooks is still not perfect. Or my butt isn’t… take your pick. Either way, after an hour in the saddle, I realized another hour was going to be enough.
This milepost has nothing to do with anything, as I was riding from the other end of the trail and I had started ten miles in, but I liked how efficiently mileposty it was. It reminded me of this:
The spirit stone from the path in Spirited Away.
I really am lucky to live somewhere that cares about creating paths like these. I’m often grateful for the quality of life here in Rainytown, Rainland. We have a certain… liberal bent, combined with a healthy respect for individual rights, that I like. Stuff like this trail is just the icing on the cake, really.
The Raleigh takes a break to learn about Riparian areas.
And of course, it’s always a fun ride when there’s an emu.
He looks so fussy, like the world has just perennially pissed him off. No Rainitopia for him! Maybe he’s related to the mountain.
So I realized from the comments that my occasional mentions of this new bike in the last six months haven’t fully communicated what’s up.
The lovely lady who gave me my Gazelle Trimsport told me a few days after I picked it up that she had another Gazelle for me, if I was interested. “It’s a touring bike,” she noted. I was a bit reluctant, given that I can’t use drop bars, but she just laughed and told me to come check it out.
When I saw it, I realized why she had laughed: it has upright bars! At the time, her husband was out of town, and she didn’t know the combo for the lock they were using to lock the bike up. So the new Gazelle stayed there, for the next few months while our lives overwhelmed our ability to meet up again.
Until this Friday! She treated me to a wonderful lunch, and then gave me the new Gazelle. It’s a 1976 or 1977 Gazelle Champion Mondial G-8 Herren in gold. You can see the details, and read them if you speak Dutch, here: http://jvs.webklik.nl/page/gazelle. Click on the 1976 catalog.
The bike doesn’t need much. The mechanic at Gregg’s Cycles in Bellevue (not my normal shop, but immediately after picking the bike up I went to the local JiffyLube, and since I had time and Gregg’s was only a block or two away…) turned out to be very practical in his approach, with no hard-sell. I expected to regrease the bearings, but he said they didn’t need it as far as he could tell, as the cranks rolled smoothly in the bottom bracket. He ended up suggesting a new chain and new brake pads. He even thought the tires would be good for quite some time, as they had no serious signs of dry rot or cracking. It wasn’t that he didn’t think the bike needed work in the long run, but as he put it: “There’s getting it rideable, then there’s restoration. Right now, you just need to get it rideable.”
The only thing I changed, besides what he suggested, is that I ordered new MKS Sylvan pedals for it. I can’t use toe cages, as the nerve damage in my legs means my reaction time is too slow when I stop. I’ll keep the originals, of course!
The bike has a very good condition Brooks that will only need a bit of Proofride to make it happy. It does have some rust on the components, but I can clean that off. The grips are cheap mountain bike grips, so those will have to be replaced eventually, but as I will probably want bar-end shifters if I keep it, I left them on.
The components include a Simplex derailleur and shifters, Mafac (Mavic?) brake calipers and uh… other stuff. You can read about them, within reason, on the brochure linked above. Assuming the bottle dynamo and wiring are operable, it should have a working head and taillight. The rack is similar to a Pletscher, and there are full fenders. The bike is a ten speed. The upright bars were part of the original package, and are aluminum. It’s not super-light, but it’s definitely lighter than my other bikes. The tubing is Reynolds 531, I believe.
The biggest issue right now is the stand-over height. My kind benefactor is a good inch or two taller than me. On the Trimsport, this doesn’t matter since it’s a step-through, but on this bike it will matter. When I picked the bike up, I stood over it wearing 1.5 inch heels, and the tires were flat. Let’s just say I was aware the top tube was there… so we’ll see. I can deal with the top tube if the bike is comfortable for me in other ways. The bars are rolled way down right now, so I’ll probably roll them up and will definitely have to lower the seat. Then we’ll see!
It should be finished toward the end of the week, as Gregg’s was out of the MKS pedals, so they had to be ordered.
If it’s way too big, I could theoretically switch out the bars with the Shogun, and perhaps the new bike would then fit My Handsome Man, as the Shogun would definitely fit me with different bars. But for now, given the quality and condition of this bike, I’m selfishly hoping it can be mine, all mine!
Meanwhile, I have not one, but TWO rides to write up as well! Fun times here at rideblog, definitely.
At the shop getting a quick tune-up and new pedals (no cages!). Tires are good for now, and aesthetically, it just needs clean up and new grips. Will hold off on those until I decide if I want bar-end shifters.
Of course, right now I don’t even know if it will fit me!
1976 or ’77 Gazelle Champion Mondial G-8.
Isn’t it typical: something sits there waiting to be done in your life for months, then when you finally step up to do it… a pissed-off hornet stings your ring finger, and your entire effort seems wasted. I’m talking about weeding here, people. Why, why do I bother gardening? What’s the point? I stink at it, and nature hates me.
Don’t laugh: it does. Or at least, the world of tiny, bitey things hates me. Don’t believe me? I’ve nearly died, twice, from bug bites/stings. And no, I’m not allergic to bees. First, about five years ago I was bitten by a spider, probably a black widow (yes, I said a black widow. We do have them in Washington), and went into anaphylactic shock. Second, a bite on a hiking trip in a remote area of the California coast resulted in blood poisoning (sepsis) that caused a bright red line an inch wide to run from the bite site on my chest nearly 10 inches toward my heart. Only IV antibiotics kept me from dying. No kidding. So, I know from bad bugs.
There I was, on a lovely Tuesday afternoon, pulling weeds in my garden, when something stung me right through my glove. My finger swelled up like a sausage after a few moments of excruciating pain, and my naturopath pronounced it “probably a hornet. As long as you can keep from getting an infection… again… you’ll be okay.” So no more gardening for a few days (this photo is from about 10 minutes after the sting, before the real swelling began. The top bump is my writing callus — I do a lot of writing by hand — and the middle one is the sting).
What to do instead? I know! I’ll go for a bike ride! Aside from getting hit in the face by a fly (you should have seen the other guy), it was a bug-free ride.
Because the weather was very briefly great, I headed out for the Soos Creek Trail. I love this short ride. It’s a bit hilly and beautiful, running along the right of way for enormous electrical powerlines. If one just ignores them, the views are stunning.
Best of all, it’s spring, so the skunk cabbages are in full bloom!
Now, I realize that many of you have never had the pleasure of cycling along a path that is liberally lined with skunk cabbages. It’s a truly unique experience. You see, skunk cabbages… stink. Like skunks, sort of. In fact, what they really remind me of is the smell of those 70′s “cigarettes” my dad thought I didn’t know he was smoking. Yes, they smell like super-strong 70′s weed.
Hey, they’re totally legal now! At least in Washington. Everywhere else, just a few skunk cabbages can land you in the pokey, kids, so just say no! Not even once.
After passing through the mucky Path of Skunk, I emerged into the more open, drier valley in the middle of the trail. I love this stretch. On a clear day, Rainier is visible in the distance, though today the mountain was moodily shrouded in a few drifting clouds (probably contemplating a lahar).
The way the path twists here is so much fun to ride, and the sweet sound of the red wing blackbirds and wrens singing in the reeds is wonderful.
On the other side of the valley, the trail passes through a lightly forested area with small streams. Wild bleeding hearts take over for the skunk cabbages (thank heaven). I like to stop here and rest in the shade for a moment, enjoying the trees. Wait… what are those things in the background?!
Either end of this trail is marked by short, steep hills. The southern end’s hill is far steeper than the one toward the northern end. I almost didn’t bother to try this one this time. I have yet to make it all the way up without stopping and walking, and today was no exception. Every time, I think I’m going to make it, but then I reach the false summit and realize I’m going to have to ride up a second, equally steep section, and I poop out.
Funny how there’s no way to make a photo really convey how steep a hill actually feels. This looks like nothing, but really, it’s so steep that I needed a Sherpa to lay guide ropes, I swear.
At the end of the trail, I met a nice lady out to train for the running portion of a triathlon who, it turns out, knows my neighbor (who runs ultra-marathons and Iron Man-type things). We had a nice chat about exercise and bikes and running. Then it was time to turn around, and head back the way I’d come. Soos Creek is only 6 miles long, though it does connect to another trail, the Lake Youngs Trail. That one is soft-surface, which The Raleigh prissily objects to (so uncomfortable on those Schwalbe’s), so we’ve never tried it.
The sun was fully out by the time I hit the valley again, probably for the last time until July.
When I reached the final hill on my return, I grit my teeth and took it by the throat like a vicious, enraged hornet faced with a Cotton Gardening Glove of Death. It’s even steeper than the southern end, but it’s much shorter, so power up it I did. Then The Raleigh and I stopped to take our favorite congratulatory picture by the Hill at the End of the World Sign. We weren’t stopping so we could pant furiously and regain our ability to breathe, honestly!
If we were panting, just a little, it was only due to the excessive amount of skunk cabbage gas we’d inhaled, officer, I swear!