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March, 2014

  1. Trek roadbikes stole my heart

    March 31, 2014 by lolkitty: Kaela

    I haven’t posted in a while and I have had some requests for more info so here we go. Previously while living in orange county I bought a 7-speed beach cruiser and thought that it would be built similarly to the Amsterdam style bikes that are practical for every day riding but because it was aluminum it was very bulky. I didn’t have much experience except with mountain bikes and I didn’t realize how riding position and a little bit of weight can make such a difference. I loved it for how pretty it was but it’s best suited for grabbing groceries, a farmer’s market, or even a nice bike for cruising with a trailer.

    I’ll add that I’ve ridden many bikes that were of the beggars-can’t-be-choosers variety. Everybody always has a spare beach cruiser or mountain bike. I didn’t think it mattered very much what kind of bike I rode until I inherited a rickety old junker Trek 400 road bike.
    I saved up for what parts I could and bought them or was given them by friends. Here’s the first photo of it as mostly together with some assistance from the hackerspace 23b.

    I was instantly in love with bikes and riding in a new way. The cro-moly frame was so supple and nimble it was easy to feel like it was an extension of myself. It just hopped and grazed over bumps in the road. I felt like I could ride much longer without feeling the impact or being bogged down by overkill suspension.

    Notice I use past tense about this bike as it was unfortunately stolen out of my yard not long after I had finished building it. The paint was bad but I made it worse with a black glossy paint job and some gold trim that matched my vintage Singer sewing machine. I thought it was cool- though I doubt the new owner shared my sentiment.

    I grieved yet foolishly didn’t make a police report (you should always do that if you can, there are a lot of bike thieves out there). Craigslist and my savings account to the rescue…

    This time it was a shiny red one in great condition. I almost felt too bad to take the derailleur and cool shifters off – but I had bigger plans and I saved the parts for a rainy day. I got a Sturmey Archer 3-speed fixed gear hub and had a wheel built. I also started building a lockable case out of a mini-keg of Newport so that I could hide a security system inside of it. I had all intentions to make it Pee-Wee Herman style with possibly a airhorn and/or smoke screen but while in the process of this project my bike, 3-speed fixed wheel, bike parts, and keg were all stolen. Orange county can be an unfriendly place. But one day soon we will rebuild! Funding all of my other mad-scientist projects (indoor solar hydroponics most recently) is taking priority these days since I obsessively bring my bike with me indoors wherever possible or with enough u-locks to lock the wheels as well.

    Here it is the day it was stolen, you can see the hub but I didn’t have the gears attached yet.

    3-speed fixed gear road bike

    3-speed fixed gear road bike

    A pic of the keg project that never was..

    After having my second bike stolen, even when it was locked up, I accepted my fate and began looking for another Trek 400. It had to be a vintage Trek, no other would do. I don’t know why but they fit my size and riding style really well.

    It became apparent it wasn’t common enough to just stumble upon anywhere and I figured I wouldn’t find another for some time. I very much needed a new bike because I went car-less in 2011 and if it isn’t a bike – it’s the bus – and nobody wants to ride the bus in OC/LA. I started out commuting by riding the bus and it generally took me the same amount of time to get around my usual trips as it did to ride my bike (up to 15 miles or so). In LA I calculated bikes to be about the same time as even cars (in some cases faster depending on where and the distance).

    I ended up getting a Takara from HB Bike shop which I liked but because the steel wasn’t as good quality it just didn’t ride the same. It felt really sluggish and heavy in comparison. To be fair the bike was much older but with vintage bike frames it pays to buy what’s made out of the best metal and always lugged. Plus, lugged frames are beautiful.

    Here it is right after I got it..

    After riding around streets that are mostly flat I lost my taste for extra gears. There’s something really satisfying about slowing yourself down with your pedaling pace and controlling your speed dynamically rather than just stop-and-go.

    I traded some bike parts to build this fixed gear conversion and was given tires and wheels by friends who donated toward the bike kitchen. As bad as it was to have so much stolen, I had a lot of people help me out with parts and how to put it together.

    Here’s a pic of it after conversion.

    Commuting by train and bike is the best of both!

    Commuting by train and bike is the best of both!

    A custom rack I made (with welding help from 23b). The rack was shaped to fit the keg.
    Custom bike rack

    I had to make it complete with a touch of Kaela-ness with the Singer Sewing machine medallion.

    My first fixie was painted to look like my Singer Sewing machine, so I continued the tradition with this 1947 Singer Sewing machine medallion. Here I have a slackline in a bag tied to the rack up front.

    My first fixie was painted to look like my Singer Sewing machine, so I continued the tradition with this 1947 Singer Sewing machine medallion. Here I have a slackline in a bag tied to the rack up front.

    I put some good miles on this Takara but it just never felt right because of the frame. I figured since I had everything else I’d rebuild again so I found another Trek 400 roadbike frame on eBay.

    Trek 400 Frame

    In the end, I had to update a lot more than I expected to get the bike where I want it but I love it.

    All assembled for the first time with new bar tape and headstem

    All assembled for the first time with new bar tape and headstem

    Since this photo I got many more parts: a Velo Orange headset, new handle bars and tape (don’t go cheap on bar tape!), and pedals. I had power grip pedals for a while and liked them for getting around and not being clipped in but I have since moved up to Shimano clipless (Chrome makes awesome shoes for clipless).

    Bikes are fun; you should ride them! =^-^=

    What happens when you have a lot of bike-riding friends… good times!
    Bike party