Monday, August 27, 2012

Life in the old bike yet ....

10 years back I bought a secondhand road bike from a guy at work for $650.. The bike had an interesting history - it had been won as a prize by a women for whom it was too big, sold to a friend who rode it sparingly for about 12 months - he was more of an MTB man - then sold to me through an ad on the staff bulletin board.

That was 2002 or 2003, can't quite recall which, and the bike was less than 2 years old and, to my eyes, the most fabulous piece of machinery I had ever set eyes on.

The reality was, though, that it was a mid-level race bike from a mid-level brand, with mid-level specs and components. But I loved it, anyway. My cunning plan was to become a regular rider and clock up the kilometres, lose weight and regain some fitness.

However, I was busy with work and family and I no longer cycled to work. My trusty hybrid (bought new in 1991) was already gathering dust in the shed, and every time I rode this 'new' wonder-bike I ended up with a crook back. So the bike sat in the corner of the bedroom and stared at me for most of the next 5 years - until I retired from work in August 2010.

The time had come to grasp the nettle and grasp it I did. I walked daily for a month to build some fitness, and with a fortnight to go before the 2010 ATB50 I mounted the steed again. I had some 28c tyres jammed onto it to lessen the jarring ride quality a little but OUCH !! 10 kms and a sore back.

Never mind, more stretching and exercise and the next ride was a little further, about 15kms, and then I rode to where the ATB would start from the next week and home again - about 25kms. So I could at least make the start and, theoretically, ride home again - assuming I could survive the intervening 50kms over the Westgate bridge to Altona and back ! :)  I managed just 4 rides before the big day.

The Raceline at  Studley Park.
But the day came and I survived a total 75kms ride for the day - and slept for 3 hours that afternoon !! My new obsession now had me firmly in it's grasp. I took to a regular route around Kew Boulevarde which gave me some variety and a regular 25-35kms depending on how I rode it. And I joined a local Sunday shop ride which extended my range down the iconic Beach Rd and up to the Dandenongs - rides of 75 to 80kms, something unthinkable a few months before. Throughout this first 6 months the bike did the job for me without a hitch.... and I lost about 6kgs as well. :)

Caked with mud from a ride to
Diamond Ck via Eltham 
I rode the bike to increasing weekly kilometres and as far afield as Warburton, Marysville and the Acheron Way. I rode it over mountains, mud and gravel. I abused the poor old thing and it never failed me. I gave it a bike shop service and a new 12-25 cassette in January 2011 which gave me one extra low gear - not much but every little helps. It still had 53/39 chainrings and gearing more suited to fast, flat rides but I figured I was building decent leg strength riding it into the hills and I would soon need that strength and endurance.

The new Caadx with it's 'go faster' wheels.... now on the Raceline
I gamely signed up for a trip to the 2011 Tour de France, which was duly ticked off the following July. I rode an 8kg carbon GIANT Defy with 'relaxed' geometry and compact (50/30) cranks and 12-28 rear cassette on that tour. The big lesson from the trip was that the 10.5kg aluminium Raceline was 'a young man's bike' and that I was not so young - I needed a more suitable bike for the longer, slower and hilly riding I was getting into - and so I bought my new Cannondale Caadx 105 in August 2011 and once more the Raceline lay neglected in the corner. But not for too long ...

My mate Kevin was keen to start riding and needed a bike. I flipped the stem, which raises the handlebars an inch, and lowered the seat. I swapped out the old worn SPD pedals for a pair of basic flats and he was away. I'd also removed the hideous old 'tiger' bar tape revealing reasonable black tape underneath. It seems the previous owner had added a layer of tape in order to soften the harsh ride transmitted through the aluminium frame and bars. Unlike modern alu framed bikes (including my Caadx) the old Raceline does not have a carbon front fork, so road-shock can be an issue.

Kevin aboard the Raceline at
ATB50, October 2011.
Kevin started the same way as me, with an excursion across the Westgate on the 2011 ATB50 and rode the bike for about 10 months until July 2012 when he bought himself a nice new GIANT Composite 3 roadbike.

So the Raceline came home once more and was ready for a minor makeover. I thought about fitting compact cranks, and even bought   a full secondhand 105/Tiagra groupset, just for the cranks. But, rookie mistake, the cranks were too big at 175mm and didn't really suit the bike. So, with my mate Justin's help, I just fitted the 105 rear derailleur to improve the changes a little and a new 12-27 cassette then thought about what to do next.
The 'new' Raceline... replaced chain, cassette, RD,
bars, bartape - and now fitted with the 'go faster' wheels.

The original bars had been bent somehow and the right side was angled slightly inwards. Justin kindly supplied an old, but unused set of compact aluminium bars which I fitted my self and replaced the bartape with nice I fitted a new chain as well and now, with my best wheels on board, the Raceline runs like new !

Cost of the overhaul was probably less than $150, but this old steed owes me nothing. It's still just a mid-level bike, with mid-level specs but it has acquired some symbolic and sentimental value.

And now that I've been riding for 2 years I am fit and strong enough to do it some justice. I took it for a ride down Beach Rd last Sunday, along with Kevin on his maiden ride aboard the new GIANT, and Justin on his custom steel-framed Gellie and had a blast. Several Strava PBs on the way down and on a short climb in Kew coming home.

Next weekend I may take it back to the Dandenongs - Kevin has all the gears now and needs some hills in those legs !!

And the other news for the Raceline is that I have another old friend ready to take on road cycling ... :)

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