Saturday, October 27, 2012

Our first fixie! It's pretty junky.

We here at JunkMilesBlog International Web Publishing (weblishing?) Conglomerate are certifiable bike junkies and of course that means you'll see us occasionally buying - and maybe even riding - a really junky bike.

This is perhaps the junkiest bike we've ever personally purchased, but at $60, we couldn't resist the urge to dip our toe into the warm, seductive, hipsterized, fixated waters of PBR-swamped fixed-gear, umm ... fixedness.    The sheer junkiness of this particualr contraption we acquired is hard to beat.

Gaze in awed wonderment:
 Hmmm... we know from our excursions throughout the bicycle-oriented corners of the world wide web, people who convert their crappy 10-speeds into crappy fixies tend to give them some hilariously crappy paintjobs.  But why are the lugs on this one painted a different color than the tubes?  Maybe a closer look, say, at the lugs in the brake mounting area of the fork will give us a better...

GAAH!  That's not paint at all, but rather adhesive-backed, fake woodgrain shelf paper!

Well!  That is sort of a quantum genius of junkiness, which in practice has clearly only improved with age.  There's no patina quite like the patina of faded, gouged-up, peeling, fake woodgrain plastic shelf paper. 
 The crank, on the other hand, is a tad disappointing.  There's nothing especially wrong (or right) with it, per se, but the seller advertised it as a "180" referring to a crank arm length we've never heard of before.  Sure, we've seen 165's, 175's and 170's aplenty, and it turns out this one is the latter, so we still don't know for sure if anyone actually makes a 180.  (And for heaven's sake, don't email us on the subject,  we want to be surprised if we ever find one!)

Next we go to the hubs...
 Shimano Alivio hubs are (ho hum) perfectly serviceable units found on many mid- and low-priced mountain bikes and the ones on this bike at least are by far the newest components on the bike.  They are laced to somewhat elderly but undamaged Matrix Journey heat treated (a good thing, I guess?) 6061 Aluminum rims.  Fairly heavy duty and Made*In*The*USA*.  The results?  Nice round, true-rolling wheels.  Probably worth sixty clams on their own, just as replacements for other bikes as needed; a fact which weighed heavily on our purchasing decision.  Sixty bucks is, like, a whole fortnight's beer budget to us.  These relative-value considerations need to carefully thought out. 

The saddle...
Well, this is kind of predictable.  Lots of backyard bicycle molesters use duct tape to repair a saddle whose vinyl cover cover is cracked and splitting with age and weather.  But! This one wins double-bonus points for the sheer quantity of duct tape used in the refurbishment.  There's got to be about 3 pounds of the stuff here.

 In fact, we're not really sure if there actually is a conventional saddle underneath all that tape. Maybe it's duct tape all the way down?   Perhaps we'll save it as a self-gifted Xmas present and carefully unravel it under the Yule tree on Xmas morn'.  Maybe there's a nice, pristine, honey-leather Brooks B17 underneath all that tape.  (We're not counting on it.)  Super-Triple bonus points on the creator of this nightmare gizmo velocipede for putting the fake woodgrain plastic shelf paper on the seatpost as well.  Bravely done!

We decided to add the brake and lever (sourced from our big box o' bike junk) after very nearly dying, oh, about 50 feet into our initial test ride.  This particular brake lever we scored long ago on eBay, and it's a Lambert lever.  Bicycle cognescenti all 'round the world consider the word "Lambert" to be more or less synonymous with "rare"  (Or possibly "weird").  This makes sense, as Lambert wasn't a very successful bicycle company when it was flailing about during its brief life back in the 1970s, despite (or because of) the fact that they insisted on making pretty much all their own components, like brake levers, for example.  (We will comment more on Lambert and their notorious "Death Fork" in a future post, as we are currently doing a nice resto-mod on our old Lambert.)    As a result of Lambert's commercial unpopularity, not many brake levers bearing the distinguished name of Lambert survive today, relative to the much more common world standards of Campagnolo and Shimano.   So Lambert levers are actually kind of rare.  And rare equals valuable, RIGHT?   That's our story and we're sticking to it.

Also scrounged from the Big Box o' Bicycle Junk, the ancient Diacompe sidepull brake (second picture,  above) has been disassembled, de-crud-ified, buffed out (sorta), then reassembled and properly lubed and we can assure you, there are few finer moments on Earth than that magical 40 minutes spent massaging a petrified 40-year old sidepull back to life.  (You might just want to trust us on this.)   Anyway, the brake works fine and the bike can now be stopped without first abruptly hitting a tree, a curb or mini-mart.   We consider this a worthwhile upgrade.

For the benefit of you fixie aficionados who have a deathwish prefer riding brakeless, here's the bike in its more "pure" form, before we totally screwed it up added its one and only safety feature; the front brake.

Riding impressions?  Well, it's a decent quality 1970s Univega lugged steel frame, at a smidge over 23 lbs, it's not too heavy, so we're guessing it's made of Cro-Moly steel rather than gaspipe.  As mentioned, the wheels are nice and round, the hubs spin freely and silently.  The drivetrain has a very slight 'clunk' to it when you go from accelerating to decelerating on the pedals (all fixies do that, right?)  The fat, soft tires (second picture, above) are sort of a mild knobby hybrid, so we've got some pretty nice trail tires on a bike absolutely unsuited to trail riding.

In a nutshell, this bike is completely retarded.

And we love it.

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