Monday, October 31, 2011

Shimano Deore DX And Rarity

I love rare things - but I never finished college, so I will never be able to afford to buy the rare things that anyone else wants. Therefore, I have to work very hard to discover what is rare, worthwhile, and inexpensive. Once I acquire those things, I have to work even harder to make people know just how rare they are by writing a blog post about them. You thought you were hardcore with your hobbies? Pfffft.

Thankfully, bicycle components meet all of my criteria above, and today I'm going to tell you a little about one of Shimano's mountain bike lines, Deore DX. Shimano's top of the line system was Deore XT, and DX was the step below that from 1990-1993.  I've tried to find the differences in the two designations but don't find anything significant in the derailleurs; the XT having ceramic pulley bearings and gold lettering is the only difference I could find between "top" level and DX. There are some finish and weight differences in brakes and some other parts of the group, but all I have are the derailleurs and shift levers, and I don't think any of the small differences make one (DX vs XT) better than the other.

Original catalog page 1991 This doesn't show the thumbshifters.

DX was only sold 1990 through 1993, when it was phased out and essentially became XT; XTR had been introduced and Shimano must have felt that three high end groups were too many. Because of its short run,  I'd hazard a guess that good examples of this group are fairly rare eighteen years after it was discontinued. This most likely would have been on a second tier bike, probably mixed in with the other components to give the bike some Deore "flash".  I look on eBay now and again (gotta keep an eye on my retirement accounts) and I only see the quantity of auctions going down while prices are gradually moving up. Not by leaps and bounds, but the front derailleur has gone from a $15 item (NOS) to a $30 item. I question how much of that is people actually looking for this stuff, as I did, and how much is just part of the general inflation of prices we are seeing lately on eBay. It's the economy, you know.

Rear Derailluer Deore DX

When I built the High Sierra, I actually started with the Deore DX front derailleur, and went out of my way to find the rear and the shifters. Luckily there was one on eBay right after I made the decision to "curate" the bike with a DX drivetrain, so I picked it up for a reasonable bid and was soon shifting without worries. DX is solid stuff, and if you are reading this trying to decide whether you want to pull the trigger on an auction for a DX component or buy a bike with DX on it, I vote yes. This setup on my bike started with a 5 speed rear freewheel and mountain triple up front, and now runs a 8 speed rear cassette and a road triple up front with no problems. I'm a big fan of the thumb shifters, as I'm able to run them in friction mode now because of the wider range I have added in back. DX was speced on several touring road bikes as well, so it is suitable for just about anything you want to throw at it. Even though I have a collector's crazybrain I do actually ride this stuff, and have never had any sort of mechanical problems. Setting these up was a breeze, and I have had to make zero adjustments after everything was dialed in. Installation and adjustment is all done with the same size Allen wrench (5mm) and I appreciate the thought that went into that. Fit and finish is very nice, and in my opinion the look is very classic.

Deore DX Shift Levers

I am interested in curating a couple of other mountain groups in addition to my DX setup. Campagnolo made a few "offroad" sets in the eighties and early nineties, and I would love to put together an Elucid set and then find an Italian MTB frame to hang it on; the only problem with doing that is that it leans away from one of my principal tenets, which is that no one else must want it. Since it is branded Campagnolo, there is obviously some desire out there for it, which also makes it expensive. The other group that Id like to put together is a set of Shimano Deerhead stuff for the Ross Mt. Whitney. I'm not to familiar with the ins and outs in Deerhead derailleurs but I will learn and be able to relay it to you in another post AFTER I put the group together. I don't want to queer my market by creating a competition for pieces, so my preliminary research needs to stay under wraps.

I hope you have enjoyed your walk through what my Rain Man brain thinks is worth wasting hundreds of nano bites of storage and hours of painstaking research on.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lawsy Lawsy, I Actually Rode in Today

I rode in to the office today, and am exceptionally busy, so this is going to be a very "lite" post. Since I am rebuilding my Ross MTB, and it might be replacing my Schwinn High Sierra, I thought I'd break out my "winter commuter" to come in on this morning. I also got the High Sierra down because I have yet another flat on my GT - I'm sure now it's because the bike needs new tires. I'm a little stoked by that, to tell the truth, because I bought these tires new and have worn them out by riding this year. I'm pleased that I rode enough in a year to need new tires.

In the office
My High Sierra is a great bike, and one that you have only seen a few photos of - none of them are complete photos of the bike as it is now. I will rectify that by doing a photo shoot on the trail on the way home, and will go over some of the finer details of the bike with you next week.  I put  a lot of thought into building this one, and think that it needs to be documented - but I'm also a crazy person who thinks that owning 10 bikes is normal, so take that where you will. 

Have a good weekend, and get some riding in!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missoni For Target Bicycle - Completed, With My Thoughts.

Since my blog is now steadily making about two cents a day from clicks on the ads (retirement, here I come) I thought I 'd give you two of my own since I completed the Missoni for Target "build". The bike itself is a solid machine, though it came out of the box with a few dings; the fender had a small ding, and the basket had a cut in the rubber it was dipped in. The paint on the bike is solid, and very attractive. However, there is a seam in the paint running down the top of the top tube - the zigzags don't line up. It's not a big deal, but it's one of two things that, in my opinion, are out of place on such a limited edition bike. The other thing is the "limited editionness" of the bike. I showed you the sticker headbadge in an earlier post - number 696. The only other notation of the number on this bike is in the following photo.

Number 696 and thumbnail. Does your thumbnail have ridges? 
That is the cardboard packing paper that was intended to be thrown away. I then found the serial number on the bottom bracket of the bike - and it has no relation to the number 696 at all. At no place in the 11 digit serial number stamped into the frame is the number of the bike. You would think that since they made less than three thousand of these bicycles, they might want to put some sort of notation on something other than a sticker. Granted, it's a solid sticker, but nothing lasts forever, and someday the bike could end up looking like this:

1949 Schwinn Majestic

Long forgotten in some suburban shed, only to be found by some "picker " who knocked on the door on a misty Monday morning. And what will the picker find? A rusty old frame that is very rare, but since the stickers rotted away and the serial number is just a random assortment of numbers and letters, seems like just  another mass production department store frame. I might be overthinking this here but I think that if something is limited, and people pay a premium for that limitedness, it should be permanently marked on the item itself.

As a bicycle it is a nice bike, with a Nexus 3 speed hub. I don't care for a coaster brake, but it does stop the bike, and works better than any coaster brake I've had in my possession over the past few years. For the price paid ($400) I think it's a fine bike. Claire, the owner, told me that she hadn't ridden in 15 years and that  this bike is bringing her back on two wheels, which is certainly a good thing. The assembly was pretty straightforward, so if you are buying this bike (as Claire did) and having it delivered to your house, it should be fairly easy for a novice to assemble. Everything fit very well together, aside from the basket support, and all I had to do there was bend it back into shape a little. The pedals came out of the box a little gritty, but I assume that that is just a standard department store level pedal. 

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the bike to anyone that wants to ride, it's fun and comfortable, and I'm sure will look great with some tall boots and a long skirt. Dress it up with a baguette, flowers, and a little dog and you will be the talk of the Critical Mass! I would also caution anyone who wants to buy this because it is limited to avoid paying a premium; much more than the MSRP of $400 is money poorly spent, in my opinion. You can get a nice Linus Mixte for $600 and that would be a much nicer bicycle, though not as limited.  

There will be a longer review and better photos of this bike on Biking in Dallas soon, but I promised you guys an exclusive, so here it is. 

Missoni for Target

Pose for me darling!
Yes, Yes! 


Show me something real!

Missoni - you devil! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Doing a Little Research and Phoning It In

I do have another job, and today I am hard at it, as I have been every day. We are considering doing a Fall "Thank You" card to our clients and we are trying to decide what picture to put on the front that gives a good feeling and is a nice pastoral Fall scene.  In looking for pictures, I was cruising through Bikeforums  and shamelessly lifting photos from threads there. Since they are ostensibly bike oriented (at least taken by cyclists), and Fall is my favorite time to ride, I'm just going to post them here and call them content. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I imagine what riding some of these roads must be like.

If you are a client, you can probably expect to get a thank you card in the mail with one of these images. We haven't decided which one yet.

Probably not this one - too much modern stuff on the bike.

Probably not this one, because of the litter along the side of the road. Litterers.

I like this one, but it is too bikecentric

We know you have a choice when it comes to insurance - thanks for choosing us.

Happy Fall riding.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Social Riding Dirty.

On Saturday the 22nd, there was a bike friendly ride through Ray Charles' South Dallas. I wasn't aware that Ray Charles rode bicycles, nor that he lived in Dallas, so I was intrigued by the ride and wanted to go. The stars aligned and I was able to hook up with Hubbard and Curnutt and do a little South Dallas slow riding with Jason Roberts and a bunch of other folks with some interest in the history of Dallas and riding bikes.

1973 Raleigh International
I decided on the Raleigh for this ride. I don't ride it very often, as it really needs an overhaul; the spokes are rusty, the tires are a little mildewed, and it's just kind of cruddy. I want to get it completely disassembled and cleaned up, but that is a task for Januaryish. Look for a series of articles on that project then!
Hubbard has been trying to get me to come along on one of these history rides for a while, and I'm happy I went on this one, because it was lots of fun and very interesting. It was mostly lots of fun because hanging with Hubbard is lots of fun, but it was a beautiful day for a ride, and I do love Dallas history. Seeing it from a bike is also much more personal and intimate than driving around, getting out, etc. 

Good morning, Hubbard
After joining Hubbard in a fortifying grain based breakfast drink at The Lily Pad Cafe, we were off by 10:15 or so. There were probably a million of us on the ride (I'm not good with numbers) and after some initial confusion caused by red lights splitting the group near the Farmer's Market, we made it into South Dallas just fine. After riding under a bridge that was one of the first capital improvements in Dallas, we ended up at the site of a former recording studio where Ray Charles did some early recording. I won't give you the whole history, because I am not a good reporter and didn't take notes. I was also distracted by sadness because the Jamaican restaurant next to the former studio was out of business. I love Jamaican meat pies, and have actually eaten at that restaurant a couple of times before.

Mmmmm. Meat pies. 

After that, our group was off to South Ave - but not before schluffing our bikes out of the parking lot and crossing the highway. 

The next stop was a revelation to me. I've never been to South Avenue in Dallas, and was absolutely blown away by the beautiful homes there. South Ave is apparently where some of the early monied Jewish families ended up in Dallas, about the time that Swiss Ave was built out. We stopped in front of either Neiman's or Marcus' son's house (once again, bad reporting) and were soon greeted by the owner, doing some of what must be an incredible amount of work to maintain the house. Jason told him what was up with the throng of cyclists in front of his residence fairly early on a Saturday morning.

Incredible. Also, tilted so you feel like Batman. 

We moved on to my favorite stop next.

Oakland Cemetery was an incredible place. When I was young, I used to ride my Peugeot to an old cemetery in Garland, off of Highway 66, and just hang out reading tombstones and having lonely little picnics. My family  also did lots of weekend trips that included old graveyards when I was young, and on longer vacations we stopped at old cemeteries all over the US to make rubbings or to just stroll through. That is to say; I have some cemetery tourist experience. Without a doubt, Oakland Cemetery is the most incredible one I've ever been in. The art on display here was just amazing though unfortunately the place was overgrown and unkempt.  I'm sure that makes it even spookier at night, but makes it very melancholy during the day.

Sadly unkept
Some of the biggest names of early Dallas are buried down here, and the monuments are here to prove it. 

I want one of these when I go

I loved the place, and will be coming back here, I can guarantee it. Look for another post on this incredible spot with a ton of pictures soon. I can't wait to go picnic here, and do some exploring on my own.

After Oakland, we moved on to a house where Ray Charles lived for 3 years or so, where we were bogged down by a bathroom break. 

Can you hear me? This is Ray Charles house! Ha Ha! Get it? 
I decided to skip making a natural here, because the store didn't seem like one where non customers were welcomed. The hand painted sign on the outside specifically said "no drug dealing", so I didn't know how nice a neighborhood this was; around my neighborhood that's just kind of understood.

Milling around in front of Ray Charles' house.  

After that it was on to the Woodmen's Club, and to be frank, I really didn't pay attention. I'm a Freemason, so caring about some other fraternal order was just not in the cards that morning.

After the Woodmen's club we rode to a bridge over the Trinity, where Jason was demonstrating how bridges can be turned into foot parks by closing one side to traffic. It was awesome to see, and really well set up, though I didn't see any news people there other than myself (and you folks can see what level of reporting I am up to here.)

Benches, tables, lamp posts, even a sax player. 

The Sax player was mostly on key, and I walked around checking out the river, eating a tasty taco from the Ssahm truck, and just enjoying the beautiful day. I don't see why Dallas doesn't do some of what Jason is proposing, instead of investing so much in building new parks and removing bridges. Thankfully(?), my taxes go to Collin County, so I don't really have a dog in this fight. I did for a moment consider starting Bike Friendly Plano, but I'm not sure of the level of work I'm willing to take on. 

Foot park and diverted traffic.

After the instant park stop, we were off to the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ festival. I am not much of a blues guy, so Hubbard and I peeled off from the group and headed back to the Lilypad, and then went our separate ways. As is usual for me, my phone died shortly after the last photo you see above, so I don't have any pictures beyond that point. It was a great ride and a great day, and I cannot recommend enough going on one of Jason's rides. I'm looking forward to the Tweed Ride on November 18, and I'm sure it will be even bigger this year. I plan to make sure that Claire (of the Missoni for Target bike) attends to show off her new ride this year. I have been distracted by the best World Series ever and will finish her bike tonight, since there is no game. Look for a full report with some photos soon. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tomb rider

I went on the "Ray Charles South Dallas" tour this weekend and had a great time and learned a lot about Dallas that I didn't know before we started pedaling. A longer post is coming, but for now I'm putting up a teaser photo.

That's not a mansion behind me. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Limited Edition Missoni for Target and Headbadges

I finally got the Missoni for Target bike up on the repair stand to start assembly and I took a snap of the "headbadge" sticker on the front. I didn't know that these bikes are limited editions, which is kind of a neat thing, even if it is manufactured rarity. That being said, I have several Death of Superman watches that I bought in the '90's, and I'm not sneering at their manufactured rarity today. This bike is number 696 of 2984, which is both a low total production number and a low number on bike, which is pretty cool.

Taking this picture started me contemplating headbadges in general - I love headbadges, and if I had some extra scratch I'd probably collect them on their own. I had a couple of thoughts about the Missoni for Target headbadge; first, that if this bike is such a limited edition, why didn't they use a real headbadge instead of a sticker? Second, that the Missoni for Target headbadge looks a lot like the 1970's Schwinn headbadge.

1974 Suburban 574000/2000000

The Missoni for Target bicycle badge is a little longer, but it was obviously designed by someone that is familiar with the Schwinn headbadge. The oval headbadge wasn't the only one that Schwinn used - or the only one in my garage.
1987 Schwinn High Sierra

I'm not sure when the switch was made to the round badge, but a good way to know if you have a "high end" Schwinn from the eighties is to check the headbadge for the model name. If it is there, it's a better model.
Schwinn isn't the only company whose headbadge will help you determine the relative "worth" of the bicycle. Raleigh used several headbadges over the years, and the basic design remained the same, but the wording under the heron changed over the years.

This is a bad picture. Come on upgrade time/Phone 4S

You can't read it very well, due to the crappy photo, but it says "Nottingham England" under the headbadge on my 1973 International. If you are at a garage sale and you find a Raleigh with this lettering, pay the ten dollars that they are asking. Less than a decade after this badge was riveted to my bike, Raleigh had sold part of its name to Huffy, and had outsourced most of its production to Taiwan, like everyone else. While I love the Raleigh Heron badge, my favorite badge is on my Falcon.

1968 Falcon San Remo
As you can see, the badge on my Falcon wasn't removed when I had it powdercoated, and it got a little overspray on it. In addition, the high heat required to bake the coat altered the original colors in the badge. I've been considering repainting the badge, but I would guess that the only person bothered by the badge's appearance is me. I do think it's an awesome badge with the Falcon, the Olympic rings, and the flame on top.

The final headbadge in my garage is on my Suteki. the Suteki bicycle was the nicest bike sold by Sears, with a high ten frame and Shimano 600 gruppo. While not a 'high end" bike, it was nice, and it does have a very cool headbadge. 

Suteki Headbadge
All of the rest of my bikes have a decal for a headbadge, like the Missoni for Target bicycle. I don't mind the decals, but I do love the way a 3-d headbadge looks on a bike; they remind me of the figurehead on a ship, and make even a pedestrian bike seem classier. The Missoni bike is certainly going to stand out with the paintjob they gave it, but as a bike guy, not a fashion guy, I'm a little disappointed with the choice of a sticker on a bike with such a low production run.

Do you have a favorite headbadge on your bike? If you want to participate in the blog, I'd love to have you send me your favorite headbadge photos, and I will get a few and put up a post with all of your photos. I'm going to hazard a guess that I get zero - but we will see!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Best NAHBS Purchase I Made

Early in the year, I built up my trip to the North American Handbuilt Bicycle show in Austin, but never really wrote anything about it; mostly because when I finished my time at the show I had a sad family errand to run and the show was kind of pushed out of my mind. However, I ended up finding my pictures the other day, and I suspect that someone might want to know what the show was like before they invest in their tickets for the 2012 show.

If you want me to cut to the chase, then I'll save you some reading here; it was fantastic. Lots of bamboo bikes, some really neat stuff like the Nu-Vinci hub, and lots of beautiful handmade bicycles - go figure. If you are considering going and you like bikes, go ahead, you won't regret it. If you are a blogger, request your passes - then you get to go to the cool parties - but that's a different post. 

This blog counts as "media" for sure. 

One of the most interesting trends I spotted at the show was the importance of keeping one's blood thin when riding - as evinced by some of the bikes I saw at builder booths. I'm a big fan of what I call the "French method" of fortifying myself, and I was really enjoying the different ways to portage one's daily dose that were on display at the show. 

Good, but I think it might foam up
I had actually gone to the show with the intention of finding a cage for my flask - I saw one in a magazine once, and thought it was an awesome finishing touch for a gentleman's ride - and that it would look pretty good on one of my bikes as well. I got a flask as a gift from my brother a number of years ago, and I love carrying it, because it seems really grown up to have a fancy pocket flask. I suppose that it seems a little more "alky" to everyone else, but I don't really care what anyone else thinks about my habits. Anyway, one of my express intentions was to pick up a flask cage at the NAHBS; I go to a lot of trade shows in  my line of work, and I expected the NAHBS to have lots of vendors carrying the cool stuff that I can't find locally. That's not as true as I thought - though I suppose everyone is a vendor there, but the items (handmade bikes) tend to be a little steep, price wise. Thankfully King Cage had a booth at the show, and after I watched him make one of his regular water bottle cages on the spot, I asked him about the flask cage I was looking for. I may have asked in between sips from the flask I was carrying in my pocket - I don't remember, it's a little blurry.


Three - cage. 
Smiling, he pulled a couple of cages from his duffel bag, asked for my flask, and then adjusted them to fit. I couldn't have asked for any better service than that, and $20 later (one and a spare) I was on my way, my one real desire for the weekend fulfilled. After the show shut down that night, we (the guys from Biking In Dallas and I ) had invites to an exclusive party for vendors and press at a famous bike shop in Austin, so I replaced one of my standard waterbottle cages on the High Sierra with one of my new cages, and away we went. Obviously at a bike show, people talk bikes and check each other's gear out, and my cage got lots of attention from the people on the street. I happily told them where to get them, and I'm sure that King Cage had a run on all of his available flask cages for the rest of the show. One of the guys from BID swung by to pick one up on Saturday and reported that the secret stash duffel bag was just about empty at lunchtime.

Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don't drink too much - but don't drink too little.
The NAHBS was great fun, and I will put up some other photos - I was journalisting but not photojournalisting, so I didn't get many (good) photos of the bikes - but I know someone who did. If I can get him to either send me his photos or put them up somewhere, I will do another post or two about the show. Unfortunately the flask cages aren't available on the King Cage product page, but I'm willing to bet if you shoot them an email that they'd put one together for you. If you are considering the NAHBS, a flask cage isn't the only compelling reason to go, but it's a good one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Missoni for Target Bicycle

Claire, who offered to let my other blog, Biking in Dallas review her new Missoni for Target bicycle, brought it by the house late last night so I could assemble it for her. So far, all I have done is unload it from her car. Since the hits on this blog go crazy whenever I make a post about the Missoni for Target bicycles, I thought I'd boost my ego by posting some pictures to drive my hits up.

Seatpost binder
I wonder if Missoni is making fashion helmets as well - because they are certainly concerned about safety. 

Is it safety first or fashion first? 
I'll be building the bike this week, so I'll snap some photos as I do so. Missoni for Target.