For the saddlebag I hope to get for my birthday in a couple weeks. I still have a handful of Shawn (Adventure!)’s pins too, so this bag should be well-decorated.
Really, this isn’t a ride report. It’s more like a dip into the ride report pool. On Wednesday of last week, realizing that I had less than an hour to ride, I took The Gazelle Champion Mondial down to the Cedar River Trail and rode like the wind! Okay, not that fast, but it felt fast to me. I was able to do about 17 miles in just over 45 minutes, which is pretty speedy compared to my ride speeds on The Raleigh, or god forbid, the other Gazelle.
I took just three photos, one of which is of the new handlebar wraps, so folks could see them.
Riding this bike is addictively fun. In fact, today I took my longest, hardest ride ever and it was amazing (more on that ride later). So I think it’s safe to say that this bike has won me over, and you’re all going to have to bear with excessive Gazelle Champion Mondial raving for a while. I know, we all miss The Raleigh, but when I fall, I fall hard. And I am definitely in a honeymoon period with this bike.
Here are my three Cedar River Trail photos. Stay tuned for the longer, more exciting ride report coming soon!
… Because I’ve taken too many rides to report them all! Seriously. SO MANY RIDES.
And why not? I have a freakishly beautiful bike to take them on!
So let’s start at the beginning.
This bike is really beautiful, as I have noted several times before (ehem). The gold color is not flashy, but is almost more yellow than gold. It has a light gold fleck in the paint that makes it a bit sparkly, but especially for the 1970′s, it’s surprisingly subtle.
The bad news on the paint is that it’s super delicate. The slightest scratch is a major ding. I know that some vintage bikes have less paint adherence than others, and it appears this one has some issues in that regard. Well, must treat it delicately…
While riding it hard.
The other features it came with are great: working front and rear dynamo (though the amount of light produced is not exactly blinding), bottle holder, bell, rack and gorgeous full fenders with white tail.
It’s a ten speed, with Simplex derailleur and shifters, and Dura Ace cranks. The shifting is friction, not indexed, which means I have to play a bit to get it into gear. Really, it should have bar-end shifters, as doing this on an upright bike is a bit ridiculous (meaning I really don’t shift much), but eh… so far, I’m okay with it as it is.
In terms of things that needed replacing… the tires are the original Dutch gumwalls, though they’re more red than modern gumwalls (and I love them. I’ll be very, very sad to replace them for this very reason). They’re 700cc, so I’m hoping that somewhere out there will be a beautiful set of reddish gumwalls to take their place when the time comes. The pedals had cages, so they came off and were replaced with MKS Sylvans, which I’ve had on other bikes in the past. They’re relatively inexpensive, and work well, plus I think they look a bit more vintage than some of the other options out there. At first, the pedals were the only modifications the bike needed, as everything else worked beautifully. Even the Brooks is somewhat broken-in (which is a bonus, as my butt seems incapable of breaking them in otherwise).
The bike does need its own saddlebag (I just informed The Handsome Man that this is what he’s getting me for my birthday next month). I don’t like riding it with the basket. Frankly, the basket feels clunky and heavy on a bike like this. The Raliegh’s wee saddlebag, while reasonably functional, is just too small to hold my camera and other gear. I need a medium-sized bag. I’m thinking one of the very small Carradices.
The first few rides on this bike were a revelation: I was so fast! Put a bit of pedal to the metal and off I went, like a yellow rocket (or a comparatively fast rocket, next to The Raleigh or The Gazelle Trimsport). The bike is astonishingly smooth, and very responsive without being twitchy. It corners particularly well and seems to have a nice balance. It’s not light, nor is it heavy. The Reynolds tubing seems to just absorb vibrations and allow for clean riding. I can’t explain that any other way.
My only issue was, of course, the level of uprightness I could achieve. This is a large bike. I couldn’t, honestly, ride something any larger. The top tube is literally uncomfortably high if I hold it fully upright and stand over it. I just hope I’m graceful as I hop on. Something like this…
So as you might imagine, the long stem and low, short bars were a tough combination for me. I could tell, just from how I wanted to sit, that I needed to come up and back a bit for this bike to work. In some ways, that was a shame, as the slightly more aggressive posture (again, more aggressive than I’m used to, but comparatively unaggressive) was part of the fun. My hands did not think the experience should be all about aggression, however.
This required some serious bike-thinking on my part. I knew, first of all, that the horrid cheap black dirt bike grips had to go. But after that? Here was my dilemma: the bike has a lovely forged stem, but dang, is it a LOOOONG stem. I didn’t measure, but I would guess 120mm, as The Shogun has a similar length to its stem, and it’s 120mm. The Gazelle Champion Mondial, however, also had ugly old aluminum bars that were the most beat-up part of the bike. So while I could have just swapped out a stem, it seemed a shame to lose the pretty stem and keep the ugly bars.
The answer? Nitto Northroads in that shiny aluminum stuff (name is escaping me). Got them at a local bike shop, then dithered over making an appointment to bring the bike back in for the following week to have them installed. Went for a ride. The bike managed to throw the chain off and get it stuck inside the derailleur. A local hero helped me in a manly fashion, but I was worried I’d done something to the bike, and since I was on the Burke Gilman trail…
I rolled it the mile or so back to Counterbalance Bicycles. The nice gentlemen there checked it for me and ascertained that the derailleur was fine. Then we talked bars. I realized I was going to need to add extra brake cable for the new Nittos to work, so I made an appointment with them for the following week, and brought it in. They turned it around in a day, and we went through grip options when I picked it up. I tried some molded modern clamp-on grips, but they were a: ugly and b: uncomfortable, so I ended up with some gel pads and cork gel tape. I really like the new look (I know, I ordered some red rubber grips from Amazon a while back… stay tuned on those. They’ll be a give away!).
The Nittos are very wide, compared to the old bars (chromoly! That’s what they are! I knew I’d remember!), but they’re also longer, and slope up slightly. This solved my positioning problem nicely. And since they’re beautifully shiny, they make me happier in that way, too. They aren’t aggressive, but the bike still feels fast to me, and my hands don’t hurt (as much), so that’s all okay.
They’re a completely different shape from the vintage Northroads on The Raleigh. Interesting. But they work for this bike.
So how does it ride now? Wonderfully. It’s still smooth and fast and handles perfectly. I do feel more like I’m cruising and less like I’m racing, but in the end, comfort won. Now… for more rides! MORE!
So I have been riding, but not writing reports (they’re coming). The Gazelle Champion Mondial is all done, with new bars and tape and it’s amazing! I will write more soon, but here are a couple photos of the bike and another of the gorgeous painted Crane bells I saw today at Counterbalance Bicycles.
… 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.