… 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!