Vintage lightweights have given me a great deal of pleasure this year. Starting with the revival of my old bought new in 1978 Fuji Sports 10 gaspipe fallen heir to the Brooks B66 saddle, the '82 Schwinn Super Sport my absolute cycling love and passion on which I'm up to fifteen miles a day atop its 46 cm Nitto noodle bars, Technomic stem, Command Shifters and 700cX28mm tires, the '73 Schwinn Super Sport ladies frame my wife named 'Old Yeller' while secretly wishing for an indexed upright bike and the '85 Panasonic Sport 1000 that I morphed into an upright cruiser for her with new riser bars and grips, NOS Suntour thumb shifters, knobby tires and a new Shimano HG freewheel--which, If possible, she likes riding even more than I enjoyed fixing it up.
So on my regular rounds of the thrifts, I've been keeping an eye peeled for parts' bikes that could be used for building her another cruiser. Why two bikes? Well, we have a mountain house, and have been talking about keeping some bikes up there permanently so we can ride on the 15 or so alternate weekends when we go up there away from digital cable TV, email, cell phones and the internet. And it rains a bunch up there in northwestern NC, so maybe that's ten weekends a year, maybe a potential to ride one day each weekend, for a total of 100 miles every season.
Yesterday, leaving one of those thrift stores, empty handed as usual, some folks were fiddling with a nice looking bike on the back of their BMW 5 series in front of the drop-off. I must have looked a little too long. maybe a little wistfully because what I was thinking was that they must have just bought it because it looked so nice, when from twenty paces away the woman called out 'Would you like a bike?'.
'Sure' I said, and gulped.
'Here' she answered, as her teenage daughter unracked the bike. 'We just want someone to use it. Its been sitting in the basement for years'.
It wasn't a vintage lightweight--far from it. Its a department store bike, a Royce Union Fontana ladies MTB, bottom of the line Shimano SIS drive train but with nice grip shifters, alloy rims, Kalin bars, stem and adjustable seat post. Color deep fuscia. Made in Taiwan. About the right size for my wife.
'Shoot' I thought to myself. 'I can never sell this thing, it would be terrible karma.'
But then I remembered that Dave, the guy who sold me the Panasonic Sport 1000 for almost nothing (which is about what it was worth, what with a bum rear derailleur, cables like bakery string, chain too short to shift its twelve gears and a bottom bracket with 2 pounds of crud and rust built up inside), worked with some Boy Scout troops helping out, getting bikes for kids interested in the Bicycling merit badge but whose families might not have been able to afford a spiffy new bike.
'If my wife doesn't like it, I can always give it to Dave' I reassured myself, and hurried home to throw it up onto the rack and see exactly what fortune had thrown my way.
Long story short: 30 minutes of wiping and dusting the thing looked virtually new. A little adjusting and I'll be damned if that simple drive train didn't shift like a dream. I took it down and set up the stem and seat height to fit my wife, stepped back and admired my work. Put it back up on the rack, re-centered the rear tire, adjusted the cantilevers, trued the rear wheel a smidge, then pumped up the tires (those MTB tires take a lot more work than road tires!). The front tire went flat within five minutes. Three bucks later in went a new tube, and while I was at it I adjusted the front bearings so that the wheel spun I have to tell you pretty darn nice.
The wife got home and I urged her up onto the bike and off she went. Five minutes later she came back grinning. 'I love it' she said.
So I'm stuck with it. But what does this have to do with 'The Bottle Imp'? That's a Robert Louis Stevenson short story, about going to hell upon getting what you wish for. It explains my predicament far better than this sorry post.
There's no copyright left, so here's a link to it: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/bottlimp.htm
Today Old Yeller goes up on to Craigslist here in Atlanta, even though in the last few months I just put on an NOS Weinmann rear caliper and correct Hunt-Wilde yellow bar tape and new brake cables and even NOS gum hoods but absolutely in no way whatsoever could I bring myself to change it into the cruiser she craved.
If anyone wants it, PM me. I am forlorn, and when Old Yeller leaves I fear I'm going to hell.