Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Life of Walt

Walt is my everyday ride.  For a long while, he was my only ride.  I found him at Velo Cult, sort of on accident.  My dad had given me his old road bike that was, in reality, a very new bike since he probably only rode it about 3 times.  It was a top-of-the-line in it's time carbon Trek from the mid-1990s.  I had been using the Trek for commuting and road riding, but after finding a rusty, beater beach cruiser leaned up against it and locked over it I decided it was time to add another bike to the stable that could handle a little abuse.

I scoured craigslist armed with about $100 and very little knowledge of what constituted a decent used bike.  Eventually, I found one that looked decent.  I took it for a test spin and coughed up $100 for it.  I can't even remember the make or model now.  I took it in to Velo Cult to have it tuned up and they immediately found a whole bunch of bad news (bent fork among other things).  I called the guy back and, not surprisingly, he didn't feel bad about selling me a junked bike.  Burned, but lesson learned.  I came back to VC to look for a used bike that would get me around and found Walt.  He is an 1984 or 85 Raleigh Marathon.  Nothing fancy, but he had a classy air about him: lugged steel frame, friction shifters, mustache bars and friction shifters mounted on the stem.

Walt's near original configuration.
Almost immediately I realized that stem shifters were the devil's work.  In order to climb a hill I would have to bow my right knee outward to avoid shifting into a harder gear.  Back to VC for some old downtube shifters and a used rear rack which set me back about $20 total.  The rear rack and a set of panniers (not the ones shown above, those are a pain to use) is really what opened my eyes to the possibility of just riding everywhere.  Once the load was off my back I felt less like a pack mule and more like a person getting around town.

The next modification I made to Walt was to splurge on a Brooks B-17 and abandon the cloth tape for cork which I find to be much more comfortable.  With those two changes and a pair of shoes on my feet all the points of contact with the bike were dialed in and I started to rack up the mileage, really only using my Vanagon for hauling stuff that can't fit on a bike.  Some creep stole the Trek, so Walt became my do-it-all...road rides, commutes, brevets, shopping trips, camping.  You name it, he could do it.

Walt taking in the scenery.
Eventually, my stable started to grow and I added some specialty bikes that limited Walt's use - although he remains my daily commuter and around town bike.  I decided to make a couple more modifications to his set up to make him into something of a Rivendell on the cheap.  New Tektro big mouth brakes would let me switch to 700c rims and open up the possibility for bigger tires, 35mm Pasela tires would give a more comfortable ride, and a Nitto Tallux stem with Albatross bars would give a more upright feel (I never did fall in love with the mustache bars).  The 35mm tire was actually too big to fit on the back, so I went with a 32 in back and 35 up front.  I'm loving the new set up - looks like a upright townie, but still rides light and fast (relatively) like a road bike.  I can't think of anything else I would like to change, for now.  Well, now that you mention it, I'd like to bring those downtube shifters up to the bar ends or maybe on top like the old stumpjumpers....but that will have to wait.  For now, Walt is perfect.

Walt the Franken-Riv

No comments:

Post a Comment