Posts Tagged ‘Willow Glen Bicycles’

Please Do Not Tow; This Has Not Been Abandoned

Right, then…

Everything I do in live seems to ebb and flow.  I’ll be completely focused on something for several weeks or months, then I’ll forget about it completely, in favor of some new hobby or interest.  What’s interesting is that I eventually circle back to pick up where I left off.  Years ago, I was into motorcycles, now I hardly ride.  Bicycling is the reason I started this blog, but that dried up after my job was no longer commutable.  Earlier this year, I got into photography, specifically film.  After spending a small fortune on cameras and developing supplies, I’m back to bikes.

The last post had me working full time.  As that job was in the East Bay and I’m on the Peninsula, it had me crossing the Bay Bridge every day, which was not conducive to cycle commuting, so that dropped to zero.  This summer, I switched to a new job in Sunnyvale.  Still a long commute, but now I can take CalTrain and – depending on time and desire – can work in a ride from the CalTrain station to work.  Yes, this is much better.

With that, I have dusted off the Dawes, which has languished for some years in the garage.  Even when I was cycle commuting, I was riding on my old converted Biscayne mountain bike.  I’d still be riding that now, but some fucker stole it out of the back of my truck at my girlfriends house.  As I’m not about to commute on the FSR (no racks, no panniers and FS is really not great for commuting), the Dawes was up.

When I first had it built up, I was afraid to really…do anything with it.  It was too nice.  So while I’d take it out for rides, I’d never want to lock it up to a rack, or bring it on CalTrain, as it would get scratched.  Now, due to lack of other bikeage, I’ve gotten over that.  Also, I’ve come to grips with the fact that it’s silly to not use something out of fear of scratching it.  Bikes aren’t meant to be maintained in pristine condition, forever a showpiece.  They’re meant to be ridden, which means they’ll be crashed, leaned against a tree, locked to a railing, rained on, etc…  Keep the rust at bay, and you’re golden.

So, I’ve been using the Dawes for commuting.  I’ve taken it in a handful of times now, most recently last Monday, when there was a pissing rainstorm.  Overall, the bike did great, but the bottle generator was not able to maintain much grip against the tire sidewall, in the rain, so I did not get much headlight.  Because of this, I’ve decided to break down and get a dynamo hub installed.

With the vacancy created by the Biscayne, I finally – after 3 years – built up the Bob Jackson.  I’d used all the parts that I’d accumulated over the years and finally got to the point where I needed to hook up the cables.  But, I just couldn’t make it work…the routing was never quite right and I couldn’t get the housing length just right.  In the end, I ran out of time and patience and dropped it off at  Walt’s Cycles in Sunnyvale to get completed.

Walt’s has become my go to LBS since Willow Glen Bikes shut down (the original owner sold it; the new owners didn’t quite gybe with the old clientele, in my opinion, and at the same time, a Mike’s Bikes opened up down the street).  Walt’s did a good job of finishing it up.   I’ve taken it in a couple of times now and while it’s good, it gets a little light in the front when I have loaded panniers on the back, so I need to investigate some rackage for the front, I think.  Also, the old Trek seat sucks, so I’ve installed a Selle Anatomica X seat (red, like the head tube color), so that should improve conditions, somewhat.  Finally, fenders would be a nice add as we’re expecting shit tons of rain with The Nino coming in, this year.

Now – just like the old days – I’m working on a new bike project.  Rivendell has a bike called the Clem Smith, Jr.  It amounts to what would be and old, lugged, mountain bike frame, that has been converted to cruiser status:  Upright bars, fenders and racks, sharp looking.  Price:  $1500.  Well, hell.  That’s cheap for a Rivendell, but still a tidy sum.  So, my thought is to build up my own facsimile – buy a used steel rigid mountain bike frame and cannibalize the FSR.  Part of me feels weird going “backwards” from an FS bike to rigid, but truth be told, I’ve always felt that the FSR was far out of my range of capability anyway, so it’s not much of a loss.  It’s a gain, actually, as I’ll have a bike that I’ll actually ride.  The thought, then, is to make an adventure bike – something I can take on trails and do some bikepacking with, but not do any shredding of gnars, gleaming of cubes, or weezing of juices (or whateverthefuck hard core mountain bikers with exponentially more skill than I, do).  I’ve taken the first step of buying a frame – a 1989 Jamis Diablo,  made with Tange MTB tubing.  Overall, the frame is good – I want to get some braze on’s installed for a front rack and maybe for a frame tube, then send it off to the powder coater.

So, with these two items – Dawes getting a new front hub, and the new bike getting braze ons – I needed someone that can actually do the work.

I called Walt’s, but they weren’t up to the job.  I went more localler, and called Talbot’s – same thing, not their thing.  Then I did what I should have done in the first place:  Googled Tahn and see where he landed after Willow Glen Bikes.

Turns out, he’s at Bronson Silva Cycles in Campbell right now.  A very friendly and informative call with Bronson himself told me that yes, they install hubs (Tahn being a master wheel builder and all) and yes, they do braze ons as they build entire frames.  Tahn returns from vacation on January 2, so I’ll be heading over,6-pack in hand, asking for advice.  Just like the old days.


A Teensy Bit of Progress

Right, then…

A couple of days ago I mentioned building up the Bob Jackson frame which would basically be a mash up of newly-acquired (but not necessarily new) parts, and parts from my two existing Dawes’ – the fixie will be stripped of parts and will be going out of commission/sold/donated; the touring bike will swap out some parts and be reincarnated as an upright townie bike.

Welp, I finally got off my ass and made a move – the FG has been torn down.  The BB is now on the Bob Jackson; the frame and the Dawes fork will be dropped off at Willow Glen Bicycles to have a headset installed (and have the steerer tube shortened and threaded).

The main purpose of this is due to the fact that I’m moving.  I already fell silly with five bikes (only two of which are in regular rotation; the other two are in occasional use and one (MTB) is hanging in the rafters).  I did not want to show up with six bikes, so I figured now would be a good time to start the project.

Also, the focus now is to see how cheaply I can build up the Bobby J, using existing and used parts.  Granted, some stuff will need to be new.  It’s more of a challenge for me, now.

The bad news is that I no longer have a fixie…sooner or later that vacuum will need to be filled…along with a Mixte and 17 thousand million other bikes.

Updates and Whathaveyou…

Right, then…

So it looks like it’s been almost 2 months since I last posted.  In my defense, I was traveling most of April for work (with one week of vacation).  By the time I hit may, I didn’t want to see the inside of an airplane ever again.  Lots have been going on.

The living situation.  The one roommate that is getting married finally found an apartment and is in the process of moving out.  Right now the remaining roommate and I are still in limbo as he’s vying for a job in Novato – if he gets it, we all move out; if not, we stay.

The job situation.  It looks like I’ll be picking up another 2 day/week gig up in Berkeley.  So if I wind up moving, I’ll be going back up to Fremont.  That would put me at the end of the BART line for when I need to go to Berkeley, but will be 20 miles from my Santa Clara job, which would help me get my weekly riding miles in.  If I wind up staying, then I’m riding to Fremont BART at Bitch:30 in the morning on the days that I ride.  So we’ll see how that shakes out.

Riding.  Naturally, my miles in April were off.  My miles in May really weren’t better due to work, fatigue and general malaisiness.  It’s frustrating in that I was doing quite well and in the groove before April, but this always happens:  I get a good routine down then something comes up and jacks it.  Right now I’m just trying to ride it out until I get back into the swing of things.

Bikes.  As part of the Berkeley gig, I know that I’ll be riding some hills from the Downtown Berkeley BART to the site.  Not just wanting to rely on the Dawes, I converted the old mountain bike from single speed back to multi-speed.  This required some parts, so I wandered down to Willow Glen Bikes.  Upon arriving Tahn asked of my whereabouts and informed me that he had something for me.  It seems that when Shaw’s closed down, all of their excess inventory was purchased by Phil Wood, who was now selling it from their shop in downtown San Jose.  When Tahn was there, he came across a Bob Jackson (hand-built lugged Reynolds 531 frame – very desirable) for – get this:  $20.  It’s a bit big for me, but not nearly as large as the Dawes – I think the Dawes is 63cm and the Bobby J is 60cm – so I have an extra inch of space.  My original plan before all of this was to refurbish the FG Dawes with upright handle bars, flip/flop wheel, wider tires, powder coat the frame, etc…  Now I’m going to convert the other Dawes to an upright single speed and move the drivetrain, racks and such to the Bobby J.  So there’s that.

Drinking.  Last Sunday it has been four months since I took a drink.  Proud of that, but it’s still hard at times.  I mean, it’s not like I’m white-knuckling it at all, but there are times when I just want to go and tie one on…but I don’t.  I’ve been doing some substitution still, so I’m trying to get that under control.  But I’m still better for it.

Aging.  Whilst on vacation, I had a Pirate Looks at Forty moment.  Sue and I were driving down the freeway trying to locate Everglades National Park.  She was driving and I was reading the map.  I was trying to read some printing and realized that I was having a hard time…so I borrowed her Dr. Dean Edell glasses.  “Welp,” I thought, “There it is.  Aging.”  Further during that week, I noted more eye strain and headaches.  When I got home I tried to find some glasses at the CVS, but none seemed to be right.  Finally today I stopped by the Optometrist at Costco and had an exam.  The good Dr. told me that right now I’m on the cusp of needing glasses:  Glasses help, but they’re not necessary.  For now, at least – in 6 mos, I’ll need them.  He gave me a prescription for a low-powered lens (0.75 left and right) and sent me on my way.  I wasn’t ready to blow $150 or so on such a light prescription so I just ordered some pre-fab ones off of the internet (CVS glasses start at 1.00).  So we’ll see how that one shakes out.

So lots of stuff, but boring stuff.  It will be interesting why my life will look like in 2 mos.

Finally pulled the trigger

Right, then…

After long last, the stars and – more importantly, the dollars – aligned.  Today, I put a deposit down on a 2011 Raleigh Record Ace.

This was not a decision that I came to easily.  First off, there was the back and forth of even getting something else in the first place.  Did I really need this?  Why isn’t the bike I already have good enough?  What will be different?  Then, once the decision to get something else was made, I went between buying new or buying an old bike or frame from Craigslist or eBay and refurbishing it.  Once the buy new decision was made, then it got really hard:  Which one?

Oh, the agony.  The downside to the internet is that it provides so many options.  The original plan was to get a Grand Prix – essentially the same frame as the Record Ace, but with Tiagra components.  Then there was the Revenio 3.0 – 105 but aluminum frame.  Then of course, the Record Ace.  Or the Masi Grand Criterium (better pedigree, but 105 components).  Finally there was the Salsa Pistola – better frame material and equal components, but funky geometry.

Of course, each decision was made and unmade several, painful, times.  Even as I walked in to WGB today, I was bouncing between the Record Ace and the Pistola, when Tahn suggested the Orbea Onix (one of the few carbon fiber frames he’d bother suggesting).  Then we threw the Masi back into the mix, again.

Conversation narrowed it down to the Masi and the Raleigh.  The Raleigh had a better gruppo (Ultegra) than the Masi.  1 point for Raleigh.  The Masi had a good gruppo (105), but better wheels, seat post, stem and handlebars.  Point to Masi.  The Raleigh wheels had more spokes, meaning they can take more weight and torque; point to Raleigh.  The Masi came from the factory with a more real-world crankset (50/34), while the Raleigh had a 53/39, which is way too tall for Bay Area Hills; point to Masi.  The Masi had a more aggressive rider position than the Raleigh, but it would be cheaper to change the stem and steerer on the Masi than to upgrade the cranks on the Raleigh; point goes to Masi.  It was about locked up, until I remembered something:  Earlier this year, I had Tahn take a 50/34 Sora crank off of the Dawes and replace it with a Sugino triple.  The Sora crank, while a bit heavier than the Ultegra, would work just fine with the rest of the Ultegra bits.

The decision was almost made:  It got down to measurements.  In the smaller sizes, the Raleigh comes in odd sizes; the Masi in even.  Measuring pubic bone height, I required a bike with 54.6cm frame.  Masi did something inexplicable – their frames went from 53 cm (too small) to 56 cm (too large).  Raleigh had a 55cm frame.

Game, set and match goes to the Raleigh.

I put down 50% deposit today.  It should be in within 1.5 weeks, or so for Tahn to build it up.  In the meantime, I’ll drop off the Sora cranks so he can install those during the build.

I haven’t had a new bike for Christmas in 30 years, I think (although, this is more of a Christmas/Birthday gift to myself).

While this is, in fact, a completely irrational purchase, I see it as such:  I figure I have a good 35 years left of cycling, barring any nasty diseases.  That works out to just under $60/year I’ll be paying for this bike.  Not a bad deal.  Further, there’s no reason why it should not last – it’s steel, like the Dawes, and that’s 40 years old.

I’m looking forward to this!

In other news, I’m back in my groove again, I think.  Back running, back riding.  Now, time permitting, I’ve been doing long rides – typically 40 miles or so.  Since Thanksgiving, I’ve lost 10 lbs (funny what eating better, not drinking and exercise can do, right?).

Also, I’ve finally pick up a beater/foul weather/ride to the bar/leave it locked up at the Caltrain station all day bike.  Actually, I re-acquired it.  It was the only new bike I’ve ever bought – something called a Biscayne Lazer mountain bike that I bought from The Off Ramp in 1992 for a trip up to Sonora.  I probably put about 100 miles on it, and there it sat.  So far, I’ve added lights, fenders and a rack for functionality purposes.  I’m going to convert it to a single speed as the shifters were gummed up.  Right now, I have it okie engineered as a single speed (shifters have been removed – I have  the rear shift cable pulled taught to keep the derailleur in place and wrapped around the chainstay.  Today, I bought the tools and supplies to make it a proper single speed.  So that should be a fun project.

The purpose of this was twofold:  One, I did not like leaving the good mountain bike or the Dawes sitting unattended for hours on end at Caltrain; now I can leave this bike and if someone steals it, I’m not out a lot of money.  Secondly, I want to start my own wrenching.  I have no problem giving my money to Dick and Tahn, but I don’t like the feeling that the bike is just a mechanical black hole.  It makes me feel sort of…limp.  What’s cool is that after the conversion is done, I can use the tools for other forms of maintenance.

Good times.

Now we’ve got it together!

Right, then…

After long last, the handlebar bag and front rack was installed.  We are looking good, Billy Ray!

Tahn at WGB also had to rework the headlight as it is now mounted on the front rack.  Once again, an outstanding job.

On the topic of changes, my buddy and I re-swapped the wheels.  A couple of months ago, I had a lighter set of Wheelsmith wheels installed.  Yes, they were lighter, but they were also narrower with 23c tires.  So while, yes, the bike was a bit faster, the ride and handling went all to hell.  So, the night before Thanksgiving we re-installed the original wheels.  Of course, adjusting the brakes gave us hell and while they stop the bike, it’s not good solid stopping.  But for the time being, it will work, fine.

Now, it’s time to start looking at some randonneuring.

On the new bike front, I had a fit of logic and reason which I realize, in retrospect, really does not work when it comes to bikes.  The short of it is that I don’t need a bike, I want a bike.  Not knowing where else to turn, I posted my dilemma on  One reader commented that asking bike guys whether I should buy a new bike is like asking heroin addicts whether I should shoot up.  Good point, that.  In short, it just sealed my decision to buy a new bike, money allowing.  Right now, the money thing is what’s pissing me off.  I have a customer that should be paying me monthly, but has been paying late, which is screwing up my plans.  I’ll need to work on that.

OK, then – enough of this.


Right, then…

This morning, I woke up and felt like I normally feel after taking meds.  I see this as a good sign that my condition is improving.  In fact, I think it would be a good motto for life:  “Strive to feel like you’ve taken your meds.”

So, while I’m still a bit enfermo, I’m ascending from it, which is good.

Now – on to other things…I finally got down to Willow Glen Bikes to order a front rack and a handlebar bag for the Dawes.  For the bag, I’m going with the Velo Orange Champagne bag.

I was going to go with an Axiom rack that would match (more or less) the rear rack on the bike, but I was talked into ordering a Nitto rack from Rivendell.  It’s a little more than I wanted to spend, but a) it looks good and b) I hear that Grant and the gang had a lean month, so I’m more than willing to do my part to keep a high-quality builder going.  Besides – it’s a good rack.

Also, after talking to Tahn, I’m going to put the original wheels with the 28’s back on.  Yes the Wheelsmith set is lighter, but I can’t get much over 25’s on them and the ride is too harsh for what I want that bike to be.  Right now, the handling is akin to when Hunter S. Thompson pumped The Whale’s tires up to 75psig – you feel every pebble and the handling is skittish.

Regardless, I reckon the bag and the rack will be in within a week or so, so hopefully, I’ll have a nice new configuration in a couple of weeks.  Then, it will be time to start toying with randonneuring.

Now – I’ve been looking for a go faster bike.  I originally was going to get something earlier this year, but some high dollar work was pushed out until 2011, so I held off.  Now, I just got a good check and am back to looking more seriously.  What also changed this was the fact that Willow Glen Bikes just started selling Raleighs.

In the olden days, Raleigh was a nice, English brand with a good reputation.  Then – like Dawes – they were sold to the Chineses.  (Chineses being plural for Chinese).  As a function of this, the build quality – like Dawes – summarily shit the bed, and as such, Raleigh was relegated to box stores and such.  I guess in the recent years, someone determined that this fate would not do for such a marque, so they bought the Raleigh brand and – apparently – started building some damn nice bikes.  What’s better is that they’re still humble – their marketing folks realized that they need to re-earn their reputation.  As a function of that, said damn nice bikes are also reasonably priced.  So now, I find myself at the point where I can afford a bike, again.

My original thought was to go for the Grand Prix.  520 Reynolds chromoly lugged frame, Tiagra components.  $1100

…and it’s red.  My concern was that I already have a steel, lugged bike – I did not want to spend more money to get more of what I already have.

After doing some research, I learned that at that same price point, there was also more of a hard-core racing type bike – the Revenio 3.0.  This has an aluminum frame, carbon forks and 105 components, which is fairly impressive for an $1100 bike.

This, naturally, is lighterer and fasterer and modernerer than the Grand Prix.  One drawback – the green tires.  I’m not exactly sure what that’s all about, to be honest.  They remind me of The Green Machine I had, growing up in the 70’s.

So, after doing lots of internet research, I decide it’s time to talk to Tahn.  The nice thing about Tahn is that he’s a bike guy.  Not a roadie, or a mountain biker or a commuter or a cyclocrosser or a fixter or a track bike guy…he’s just in to all bikes.  Further – and this disturbs me, vaguely – I think he probably knows me a little better than I know myself.  Then again, I’d rather that person be a benevolent entity, so I’m doing OK, here.

Tahn, after patiently listening to my blathering, proffered a third option.  The Record Ace.

Sigh.  I don’t blame him, but it seems that ever since I’ve gotten in to this crack habit, whatever amount of money I plan on spending, turns out to be woefully inadequate.  To be fair, this is the better value, over time.  First, with the Revenio, I’d have to replace the frame and fork after 5 years – aluminum frames have the potential to crack; carbon forks are notorious for sudden catastrophic failure.  Why not go with the Grand Prix, then?  Remember that was fitted with Tiagra components.  The conversation revolved around upgrading components over time.  A good idea, but the logic fails when you consider that Raleigh gets serious quantity price breaks on the gruppo’s they buy; LBS’s do not get nearly that much of a discount.  Thus, it’s actually cheaper to buy the upgraded gruppo up front.

But, I realize that I haven’t described the bike.  Steel 520 Reynolds tubing, lugged frame, Brooks saddle, Ultegra components – $1800.

Well, hell.  Being that – properly fitted and not factoring in nasty events such as stealage or total destroyosity – this bike could rightly last the rest of my life, it’s not such a bad deal.

The only teensy downfall is that this is a 2011 model…and WGB does not have it in stock yet…

…which is probably a good thing as I’m still at least a week out from being able to run or ride…

Pics of the bike

Right, then…

Some pictures of the “new” bike…the glitter finish stands out due to the flash…it’s not as noticeable, actually.