Enter the Shogun…

… And Exit the Shogun, so to speak.

About a year and a half ago, after I had purchased and enjoyed the Raleigh for a season, I realized that I needed/wanted a faster bike. Something with pretty lugs and drop bars and go-fast pinstripes. Yeah!

There was only one problem: I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I purchased the first bike I saw that was reasonably attractive, an ’82 Shogun Cr-Mo 500. The Cr-Mo 500 is a “sport/touring” bike, made with what is known in the trade as a more “relaxed geometry.” I have no idea, after reading a great deal about it, what the heck that really means. But that’s okay. I get this much: it means it should be more comfy for long rides, and that it has lots of braze-ons (attachments) for things like rear racks and water bottles.

Or at least, it’s supposed to have lots of braze-ons for those things. My Shogun does not have any braze-ons for water bottles. Which is weird, if one considers that this is supposed to be a bike for folks who want to do light touring. On top of that, it doesn’t have the same seatstays as most Shoguns from this era. I know Shogun made some custom bikes for folks who ordered them, and I suspect this was such a bike. I especially suspect that’s true now that I’ve built it up, but that’s for later in the story…

Anyway, I paid too much for this bike, and it was in really bad condition when I got it. Keeping in mind that the Panasonic was in “mint” condition, with one scratch from being moved in order to sell it, and not a single other nick or ding or sweaty finger print. The Shogun… not so much. It was a rust-bucket. Left out in the rain, it had rust everywhere, sweat-damage from someone using it as a trainer, plenty of missing paint, beat-up decals, scratches from clamped-on water bottles, an after-market insanely ugly stem, bad bar tape and ugly cable housing, old brake pads… you name it, this bike needed it cleaned or replaced. So why did I buy it? Ignorance and haste, plain and simple. A perfect recipe for idiocy.

But okay, I can accept my own failings. So with the help of a kind gentleman off Bike Forums, Abarth (not his real name), I disassembled the bike and cleaned it like there was no tomorrow. Gone was the rust. Shined was the chrome. Much vinegar was sacrificed! Much elbow grease was expended!

I bought new cables, brake pads, brake hoods and levers, and tires. One of the nice Bike Forums guys sent me a stock Shogun stem. I purchased VO fenders and a cute Japanese bell. I even bought a vintage Selle Italia Ladies Turbo saddle to complete the bike. My best friend sent me Brooks leather bar tape as a gift.

But it was not to be. After Abarth struggled to reassemble the bike (I did nothing at this point, having had a painful disease flair-up in my hands), finding along the way that the brakes were routed strangely and the derailleur stank, I stepped up onto the bicycle and discovered… that it didn’t fit me.

Abarth and I had put on a spare Nitto Technomic stem he had lying around, which should have raised the bars and brought them close enough to me to make this a very comfortable bike. But it didn’t. Even with the short reach of the tall stem, the top tube of the bike was too long. A tape measure showed us why: the top tube was significantly longer than the down tube. Normally, bikes are pretty “square,” with a top tube length that is similar to the down tube, but not here. This bike was much longer than it was tall.

For me, this was a big problem. The bike was bordering on too big when I bought it. The stand-over height was about 31″, and I’m only 5’5″ (and a bit) tall. This meant that standing over the bike, my nether-regions touched the top tube. Since I’m not a man, this wasn’t too frightening, but still. Add a very long top tube onto a very tall down tube and you have a bike that is way too big.

I was terribly disappointed. I knew, now that I’m much more bike-savvy, that I had over-invested in the Shogun and that if I had to sell it, I would never get my money’s worth from it. The condition was too poor, and I had paid too much to begin with. We left the tall stem on the bike for the day, and I drove home feeling disconsolate. What was I going to do with this stupid bike?

Then I remembered: The Beloved needs a bike. Now, The Beloved is a very, very attractive man. Trust me on this. But he’s also… strangely proportioned. He’s tall (6’2″), but has short legs. Very short. His inseam, in fact, is just an inch and a half longer than mine (I have a very long inseam for my height, so that’s not quite as weird as it sounds). This means, as you might imagine, that he has a long torso and long arms. This is great for rock climbing, which he does extremely well. But it is not so good for bike purchasing. I have been meaning to get him a bike, but he’s so hard to fit that I’ve put it off. 

But wait… I have a strangely proportioned man… and a strangely proportioned bike!

So the second I got home, I dragged him out to the garage, and made him saddle-up. The height of the bike was perfect. I felt him up, and he had about an inch of clearance over the top tube. Once I remove the Technomic stem and put the longer-reach, shorter standard stem back on it, the bike should fit him perfectly. He’ll need a manly saddle, of course, and bar tape, fenders and the bell. A rear rack should complete the picture and the bike should be ideal for him. Okay, maybe it won’t be ideal, but it should work very well for his limited biking needs.

In the process, I have learned many things:

1. I don’t like wrenching on bikes. My hands hurt. Bikes are complicated, and I’m not very mechanical. I’m happy to know how to change my tires and adjust my brakes. That will do, pig. That will do.

2. I do not need another road bike. While I may need a bike that handles hills better than the Raleigh, I do not need it to be another bike with drop bars. The Panasonic is the right size and I <heart> it very much. My next bike will be something I can haul a few groceries with, perhaps, but I will be sitting relatively upright as I do so. Perhaps it will be French. Ho-ho!

I will post pictures of The Beloved and I on our bikes once the Shogun is completed. He is not getting the leather bar tape (saving it for another time and someone who wants fifty bucks of cushy British goodness under their hands), but he is getting the fenders and the bell. What more can a man want, really?

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9 Responses to Enter the Shogun…

  1. monk says:

    I love the way the Shogun turned out and I’m sure “The Beloved” appreciates all the hard work you put into restoring it. It’s almost like the bicycle gods had it planned to work out this way. I hope you enjoy many miles of riding together.

  2. rideblog says:

    That’s a great way to think of it! Very much fated, I think :).

  3. adventure! says:

    Good to see that the Shogun went to a good home. It does suck that you went through all that process to figure out it didn’t fit you, but look at it as a learning experience? (That’s what I would tell myself, I think.)

    As for braze-ons, sport-touring/touring bikes from that era seemed to be bereft of them, no matter what. April’s mid-80’s Miyata 210 touring frame I think has one water bottle braze-on, nothing on the fork. Looks like it wasn’t until the 90’s (after the touring boom ended) that bike manufacturers realized braze-ons were good on touring frames!

  4. rideblog says:

    Thanks, adventure! The funny thing is, other Shogun Cr-Mo 500s from that era have at least one, if not two sets of water bottle braze-ons. They came standard that way. I think this thing was custom-made from someone with short legs and a long torso, who thought braze-ons were for weenies. That’s my current theory.

  5. jamesjay says:

    sorry about the bike not fitting. Thats about the size I ride, Im short too.

    Really love what you did with the bike. It is a really nice frame and I’m glad its going to be used. My trek is also a sport/touring frame with no waterbottle braze-on’s I can’t explain it either, I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do about it since summer is just right around the corner.

    Also don’t feel to bad about getting it all clean, one of my first bikes I rehabbed I spent way to much money on and it was way to big for me. I sold it for fear of losing the ability to procreate. But it was a good experience and taught me a great deal about fixing bikes. But in your case at least you had the experience. Sometimes it’s ok just to be able to change tries and make brake adjustments.

    – james

  6. rideblog says:

    Thanks James! I agree that the experience was totally worth it. If nothing else, deciding how to make the bike more aesthetically pleasing was fun.

    I’m going to try clamping the waterbottle holder onto the frame, as this frame is already pretty scratched up. Not sure what I would do if that weren’t true!

  7. What a nail-biting read! I was thinking “oh nooo” all the way, and in the end was ridiculously pleased by the happy ending : )

    My experience learning to work on bikes is similar to yours. I know how to do it at this point and can give someone else step by step instructions. But I lack the strength in my hands to do even some of the most basic repair tasks myself. Ah well, you work with what you got!

  8. rideblog says:

    Hi Veloria. That’s exactly my problem (though I don’t yet have your level of mental bike expertise :)). My hands are just too weak and painful to be cranking stuff around. I think if I lived with someone who was super into bikes and who could help me with the big stuff, I might be more able to do it, but in the end… I’m just not interested enough to take the trouble with it.

    All these years I thought I wasn’t doing mechanical things simply because no one I knew did mechanical things. Now I realize that I’m also… just not mechanical. :)

  9. Pingback: Shogun is (nearly) Done! | rideblog

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