Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time Machines

Feeling a little blue as I watched a beautiful day pass me by, I went down to the basement and took the McLean off the hook. This bike has been curing for 30 years now. Built in 1979 by McLean Fonvielle, this touring bike appears to have spent most of its life leaning against the garage wall of the original owner. Here's how it looked pre-purchase.

I got this bike late last year but had not ridden it more than 400 yards until today. When I first acquired it, I rode it down my neighborhood street and quickly realized how horribly out of whack the front derailleur was, and how wrong the seat was. Back on the hook it went. I had rides to do, and other bikes to do em on, and my focus was on training, not tinkering with the set up of a new machine.

Also, I debated whether to even ride this bike, which is effectively a time capsule of the day it was made. We're talking original tires, the original chain, no wear on the brake pads. The paint is pretty close to immaculate. Check out the headtube.

It's tempting to let it sit for another 30 years, let my heirs sell it to the next collector or take in on the Road Show. Should you decide to ride one of these vintage beauties, the issue is always how original to keep it. This one is nicely appointed, with Phil BB and hubs (the front one has a bit of play), and a TA triple crank. But the handlebars, standard issue for the day, are too narrow for my taste and with too much slope near the brake levers, and the stem is a tad short. The tires are 27 1 1/8 -- every other rider I own is a 700C, and I'm partial to that size. Then there's the downtube shifters. I don't mind em, but I really prefer bar end shifters, even on the 70s vintage bikes.

So you see the quandary. Let it be, living with the quirks of the set-up, or switch a few things around, turn it in to a more practical randonneuring machine and give it a place in the batting order.

Well, I leave those decisions for another day. The fact is, just to get it out on the road required a parts swap. I switched a big rivet Brooks Pro on it, did a bit of adjusting on the front derailleur, pumped up the original tires, put on some modern pedals, and off I went to a couple coffee shops where I could sit outside and keep an eye on it. The bike drew attention from the folks who know a little about older bikes -- and there are more and more fixed gear riders around Raleigh who fall into that category. Simply put, it looks like a time machine, right down to the cream puff paint job.

I'll bet this bike and I could have some big adventures together. And maybe we will. But in the meantime, it's back on the hook, waiting for another sunny Sunday and another cuppa joe while we ponder the future.


Jerry Phelps said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Phelps said...

She's a beauty Mike. Even the gum sidewalls are immaculate. Definitely worth keeping on the hook waiting for another perfect day like today.

Where/how did you find her, or did she find you?


Rich said...

Mike I have several 27 x 1" tires if you've got any dry rot on the originals. Kinda narrow for touring but if you need'um or want'um just say so...

Scott C. said...

Bar end shifters were popular in the 1970s, so I'd waste no time getting those installed. Maybe if you rummage around online you can find an old pair of Campy bar-cons on sale.

I really think you're missing out, however, if you don't switch back to quill pedals, a good pair of leather shoes and some nail-on cleats ;-)

Scott C.