Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The "Impossible" Bike

One of the reasons I got out of the retail bike biz (other than the fact that the pay pretty much sucked and I wanted to buy a house) was the fact that service is seen as, at best, a necessary evil. Some shops won't even grant it "necessary" status, including the last shop at which I worked.
There, I was actually ordered to lie to customers and tell them that their bikes were not fixable, and that they needed to buy a new one. Now, I realize that most bike shops do rely on the cash flow of volume sales on new bikes in order to meet overhead, but there has to be some room in the business model for good, honest service. I said so, and was informed that I would have to either modify my views (betray my ethics), or leave their employment.
You know which path I chose.
Last week, my buddy Mark sold this nice 1985 Trek 830 to a fellow who then took it to a local shop to buy tires and get it converted to a singlespeed, for commuting. I won't tell you which shop, but they do share their name with a city in Northern Italy.
The "service" department there told the new owner of the bike that it could not be converted to single speed. Just couldn't be done. Plus, the headset needed to be replaced, and this, and that and it would be cheaper to just buy a new factory-built singlespeed from them than to mess around with this old piece of junk (or words to that effect, from what I was told).
Anyway, the new owner called Mark, and told him all of this. Mark called me, and I called bullshit on the shop. Not only could the bike be converted to singlespeed (as can any bike, by the way), but I was pretty certain that everything else on the bike was useable.
So, an appointment was made, I looked the bike over, and had the owner leave it with me for a week. Yesterday, I replaced a broken axle and spoke in the rear wheel as I respaced it for single speed duty, installed a BMX freewheel, chain tensioner and singlespeed chain, removed all the extraneous parts, adjusted the headset (it's in good shape) and replaced the old brake pads. I also replaced the seatpost quick-release with a binder bolt, to cut down on the ease of theft.
Here is the result of a couple of hours of work (click pictures for BIG):

It's a really nice lugged steel frame and fork. I wish I could find a fork like that for the 650b Stumpy.
Even with vertical drops, a chain tensioner allows any bike to become single speed. Fixed gear would be a bit more of a challenge.

The handlebars are about a mile wide, as was the style back in the day. Back East, we would cut those down to fit between the trees. Out here, they supply good leverage for control on long, fast, technical downhills.

Speaking of the controls, I really dig the BMX-style stem. It looks especially cool now that the bike is singlespeed.

So, there you have it: The bike which couldn't be built.
And, yes, I did straighten the brake levers up so that they were at the same angle, after looking at these pictures!


At 1:42 PM , Anonymous red light green light said...

Geez, I go away for a few weeks on vacation and all kind of stuff has transpired.
Daaaaaaamn! That is Trek old-school!
A lugged vintage Trek MTB is not easy to find anymore. A real classic; Great job Jon! That bike will make a sweet commuter and trail bike!

Ummm, I think that I know the shop, Turin, and I have heard this story before. I have also had a negative experience with them in the past when I asked for a tuneup on my girlfriend's vintage Centurion road bike and I summed it up to an inexperienced mechanic. The guy tried convincing me that he couldn't possibly replace the rear D and re-pack the bearings....
I honestly think that several of the guys who work in that shop haven't "cut their teeth" on vintage bikes yet.
If your going to call yourself a "full service/comprehensive" bike shop you had damned well better be able to perform a basic operation on a vintage steel bike......
Anyways, I envious about this Trek....Thumb's up!

At 1:44 PM , Anonymous red light green light said...

Sorry, I forgot to mention that that stem KICKS *SS!!

At 1:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long-time lurker here and vintage Trek-O-Phobe.
Nice! Is that a True Temper decal that I see on the lower seat tube? That is some very fine steel if so....Bombproof and light of weight

At 3:25 PM , Blogger Jon said...

True Temper Chromoly Stays and Butted Main Tubes.

Unfortunately, that sticker is going to disappear. The owner decided to get a powder coat job, and some v-brakes. I'll be stripping the parts and decals off, this week.

I told him that, if it was mine, I'd get some blue metallic nail polish and touch it up, but he isn't as enamored with the 80's aesthetics as am I.

At 3:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, it is getting difficult to find a mid-80's lugged True Temper steel Trek MTB, orig decals still pretty good, nice old head badge, etc....I wouldn't change a thing on it because it will be developing some great patina soon.

On the other hand, it sounds like he is serious about using it as a quality machine regularly which means you are helping him recycle a classic back onto the streets.

A cool build either way and a true classic Trek!

At 5:49 PM , Blogger Big Oak said...

Way to go! Thanks for the inspiration. It burns me that people are out there ready to profit from our lack of knowledge, when all along a simple fix is all that is needed.


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