Friday, January 20, 2012

American Dreamin'

I love bikes. I think about them a lot. One of my recent thoughts was about American made bikes and parts. This was spawned by Velocity Rims moving production from Australia to the US, and recent blog postings from master frame builder Bruce Gordon. His revived Society of People Who Make Their Own Shit really got me thinking. Is it possible to build a bike with all domestic parts? The answer came quick when you look at the consumables, like tires, chains, tubes, cables, etc. as no one makes these parts here. So no, it can't be done in this day and age. Unfortunately.

Then of course the more I look into it, the more I realized that even if everything was made here, I wouldn't be able to afford it! Some of the best bike parts are made right here, but they aren't cheap. There are a 100+ world class framebuilders constructing beautifully crafted bicycles here in the US too, but most of them won't pick up the phone unless you've got $1000+ willing to be spent on a bare frame. Way out of my league at this time. (Someday, someday)

So how is one person on a budget (hey, that's me) going to ever get an American bike? Buy used of course. Since I know how this vision looks in my head, I needed to narrow it down even further. Steel. Lugs. American. Forged dropouts, Threaded fork. Not super hard to find either, and of course, it would need to be affordable. So these requirements led me to Trek, circa 1986 and prior. Trek made some great bikes right here on US soil, and they were popular, therefore making them easy to find. Hell, even my Xtracycle Trek 850 has a "manufactured in the USA" decal on it. I thought I had it all figured out. But I wasn't excited. Treks are still popular and I see them all over. That's no fun, I want special!

Enter Kansas.

During my family vacation to Oklahoma, I started scouring ebay and Craigslist for possible bikes to take home, since the market around a 150 mile radius of my house is a dud. I found an interesting post on CL and send the guy an email. He said he had over 30 road bikes and it would be worth my time to stop by. I let this prospect bounce around in my brain all weekend. I didn't commit to stopping by until we were already enroute to Kansas. I'll spare the details of the barns, sheds, and grain silos that bikes were piled in and get to the point. The key part is that when that door opened, I saw green and chrome. No other bikes mattered. What is it? How old is it? Where have I heard that name before? I handed my wife my iPhone to do some Googling, and I looked at other bikes to see if there was something in my price range. Nothing else got me as excited as that green and chrome bike. I offered every cent I had on me, and negotiated like it was a life or death situation. Then I strapped the green and chrome thing to the car and drove home. The American Dream has begun, at less than the price of the taiwan-built frameset it will be replacing. Oh boy.

So here she is!

Exciting huh? That's what I bought. A completely incomplete and non-functional project. A very special American made frame and fork, built in 1974 by Romic Cycles in Houston, Texas. First generation Shimano Dura Ace components that someone painted black. A whole lot of work ahead, and decisions to be made. This is going to be fun. Since the snow and ice outside will prevent me from riding it for a few months, I have time to track down whatever bits and pieces I want to make it exactly like it appears in my head. Like my American Dream. Just with some Japanese and English parts here and there too :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 Riding Goals

Well I learned last year that my mileage goal was easily achieved, so this year I'm raising it. This year will bring in a new (old) road bike, which will inspire longer rides. So here's what I'm thinking...

Mileage: 2500. More than I did last year, but still attainable.


-I'll be doing the MS150 again, and hopefully the weather will cooperate this year to allow a double century. 100 miles days, back to back.

-Do more Sabin runs. It's a 20 mile round trip from my house and it's an enjoyable route. I just need to get off my ass and do it more often.

-Bikepacking more. At least twice this year! My friend Phil gave me some really nice panniers, they need to be used!

-200k Brevet. 124.27 miles. It'll be the longest one-day distance I've ever done. With an organized group like the Minnesota Randonneurs would be cool, but solo is fine too.

-Become a better rider in the wind. I usually chicken out if it's blowing over 15mph, I need to just get out there and fight it.

-Detroit Lakes lunch ride. Repeat goal from last year I never made it around to.

That's all for now, I might add more later. As I dive into this new project bike, I'm sure I'll be inspired to come up with more.