It was about this time last year that the “I need a second bike” bug struck me. I hadn’t owned the Raleigh very long, but reading about others’ road bikes was causing a pang of jealousy in my winsome heart. I wanted to go fast, too! To feel the wind in my hair (under my helmet)! To eat up the miles knowing that I possessed more than three gears, even if I never, ever used them!
Ah freedom, so seductive… and such hard work.
I surfed Craigslist for at least three days, which felt like an eternity. How was I supposed to pick a road bike, when I knew nothing about bikes? Then it dawned on me: looks alone! Eventually I found a bike I thought was pretty. The name sounded familiar. I headed out to look it over, and bought it after a thorough fifteen seconds of consideration. Perhaps I was seduced by the lugs, or the pinstriping. I’m not really sure what my motivation was, in retrospect, because it was not a well-cared-for bicycle, and I paid way too much for it.
If it is possible to make a delicate dark blue and pale yellow frame look gawky and ugly, that tape will do the job nicely. The two different tires are a great touch, too, I think. Very urban assemblage and hipply unconcerned for “conservative, matching” aesthetics. The bike, for those interested in these things, has Cromoly tubing, and the original Shimano Deore touring components. It is a Cr-Mo 500 model, which is a “sport tourer,” or to use non-industry parlance: a bike one doesn’t have to be able to corner on at 30 mph, that will take fenders and a rack, but that isn’t set up to ride across the Alps. Though overpriced and a bit abused, it turned out to be a decent frame with a nice, relaxed geometry (whatever that means. I have yet to actually experience the difference).
The triple crankset is great for going up steep heels as it means the bike has 18 speeds, instead of 12. More superfluous gears! More!
It took nearly six months before I managed to summon up the courage to ask a coworker to help me disassemble it. Though he agreed, it did not happen. First I was busy, then he was busy… then he was the kind of busy that people become when they have agreed to something they don’t really want to do, but they don’t want to back out of it and look like a jerk, either. So I let him back out gracefully by picking someone else. I posted a “help meeee!” request on Bike Forums, and quickly found a willing assistant. Mr. Abarth (not his real name) came to my house in the middle of a deep freeze, set up his stand in my family room, and together we disassembled my bike. He was really, really nice, and I had fun.
I remember very little of this process now. I certainly have no idea how to reverse it and reassemble the beast. Fortunately, Mr. Abarth is willing to help me with that, too, or I would have to use the Shogun as wall art, which would be unfortunate because it clashes with my couch.
Once I had the bike apart, it was time to clean the frame. It was at this point that I made a major discovery, hitherto unknown to me but probably totally obvious to every other person on the face of this earth (I have found over the years that many of my so-called profound, life-changing “discoveries” fall into this category): dirt hides rust! Who knew?
The problem with this is that I’m one stubborn mama. No really: mules come to me for fortitude. Once I had decided that the bike would be rust free, it was GOING TO BE RUST FREE. Give me bare metal, or give me death! Experimentation led me to some serious breakthroughs: a paper towel soaked in white vinegar, a metal nail file from a giant Swiss Army knife of dubious ancestry, and total bullheaded persistence will allow someone to scrape off enormous quantities of rust, when that person is willing to devote an inordinate amount of time to this activity.
This will not leave a pretty frame behind, but the rust will be gone. I then coated the bare metal using a very expensive, carefully formulated clear-coating product known in the trade as Rimmel Clear Nail Polish. The results were stunning. No really, they were, depending on how one defines “stunned.” Finally, I broke out my all time favorite cleaning product: a magic eraser. I have no idea how these things work (nor do I need to be enlightened. It says “magic.” That’s what I’m assuming is at work here), but work they do. It took years of dirt off of the decals.
Then I set about polishing up the components.
They mostly came out pretty well, I think. This miracle was achieved with copious quantities of Dawn dishwashing liquid, a purpose-bought toothbrush and “Mother’s Mag” wheel polish from the auto parts store. Everything came up nicely shiny this way, except my freehub. I think it was meant to be black, but I scrubbed it enough to give it a charming, piebald look. Ah well, can’t win ’em all.
Brake calipers. Left one has been cleaned with Dawn and aforementioned exotic bristle brush. Right one is still dirty:
Brake caliper, left half untouched, right half polished with Mother’s Mag:
Polished brake caliper below other brake caliper (do you sense a carefully themed progression yet? Brilliant narrative, eh? Yeah, I know, I’m a teacher):
Both brake calipers now:
So yes, better. The bike is pretty much cleaned up, and ready to be rebuilt. I was going to polish every single spoke, but then I realized that I was rubbing tiny pieces of aluminum that no one else was ever going to look at, and that nothing was actually happening as a result. This seemed stupid, so I stopped. My mother used to claim the family motto ought to be: “It ain’t perfect, but it’s DONE.” Word.
I have a vintage white ladies Selle Italia Turbo saddle, just like the one on the Panasonic, to go on the Shogun. I have pretty stainless steel cables to replace the spectacularly vivid blue ones that were there before. I have new MKS touring pedals that actually feature the grippy metal serrations on both sides (this was apparently not a design feature folks considered necessary in 1982). I have new, gum-colored hoods and vintage NOS Dia-Compe levers to replace the beat-up Shimanos that were on the bike. One of the kind Bike Forums members even sent me his original Shogun stem to at least temporarily replace the hideous modern H2O stem that came with it. Completing the picture is a lovely set of Panaracer Passela gumwall tires. Of course, I have new brake pads and bearings, as well.
The bike will need new bar tape. I want to see it mostly built up, and asses the height of the current stem, before I commit to a color on the tape. If I like the ride, I will add fenders and a rack, lighting, etc. Then I think the Shogun will be an excellent rain/grocery store/run-around bike. The Panasonic is too dignified for dirty work and refuses to wear a rack (also it’s always griping about dirt under its rails, which is totally annoying. Freakin’ prima donnas.). The Raleigh doesn’t handle certain tasks well at all, like climbing and riding in the rain. Since I live on top of a very tall hill, in the Pacific Northwest, this seems like a bit of a handicap. Hopefully the Shogun will fill in this gap.
By the end of January, the bike will at least be assembled, if not completed. If I like it, I intend to act quickly to finish it up. Stay tuned! The process has been fun so far. Sort of. Except for that thing with the metal nail file and the eight hours and the rust and the fact that my hands smelled like vinegar for a week afterward. Except for that.