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FInally rode my $30 Swap Meet Special

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FInally rode my $30 Swap Meet Special

Old 06-08-08, 05:05 PM
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Tom Bombadil
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FInally rode my $30 Swap Meet Special

I picked up a modified Panasonic LX for $30 at a swap meet this past February. This is a 1980s lower-end road bike that had spent its entire life as a drop-bar road bike until just before I purchased it. An older guy who fixes bikes out of his garage had picked it up and salvaged it - replacing a number of parts, including ditching the drop bar and installing a steel flat bar. Along with brake levers, a stem, and grips from out of his parts bin.

So now its a flat bar road bike, has a steel cro-moly lugged frame, stem-mounted Suntour friction shifters, 53/42 double crank with 165mm crank arms, 6-speed 14-28 cassette, and 27"x1.25" Panaracer tires. The tires are very old and worn quite smooth. Oh, and it has a nice set of MKS pedals.

I'd never gotten around to putting it all together until today. I warily pumped up the tires to 80psi. Replaced the saddle and adjusted the height. The saddle is now almost even with the handlebar, which is very aggressive for me.

My first impression was -- Wow, these gears are tall! A 53/42 double is the anti-Tom crankset. I usually ride on my middle ring, which is 39t on the Fuji and 36t on the Trek hybrid. I can't believe that a lower-end road bike would come with such tall gears.

After coming to grips with this, and getting into it's lowest gears, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it still worked. Shifts were smooth, the wheels spun nicely, brakes worked fine. And the ride was smooth, smoother than many of the newer bikes I've ridden in the past year. I liked the 165mm cranks.

The ride was also fast! This bike took off on me. The road in front of my house has a new paved surface and a 2-3 degree slope (going up to 6-7 degrees nearer the top). As I was riding down it, to get the feel of the bike & brakes & shifting, it kept gaining speed. I rarely get over around 18 mph, the hill in front of my house is usually the only hill I ever ride. Not yet being comfortable with the bike or the more aggressive riding position, the bike kept getting out of control on me, zooming down the street at ever increasing speeds.

I only rode it for about a mile or so, stopping to tweak things a lot. I'll probably ride it a few more times before I donate it to some charity - where someone can get a lot more use out of it than me. Someone who can deal with a 53/42 double better than I can. Would make a nice bike for someone who can still cope with friction lever shifting.
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Old 06-09-08, 11:23 AM
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Pictures... we need pictures...
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Old 06-09-08, 12:02 PM
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Sounds like you had a good time...i have heard that a real cycleist would prefer the friction shift. I will take a well tuned index shift and enjoy the ride. Hope th person who gets the bike can appreciate what they are getting.
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Old 06-09-08, 12:30 PM
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Surprising that no one yet has proclaimed that Real Men Ride Fixed Gear with Friction Shifters!
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Old 06-09-08, 01:36 PM
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Steel is real.
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Old 06-09-08, 02:15 PM
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I wouldn't mind getting it out on a paved, relatively flat (gentle hills being okay) area and putting in a few miles on it. That opportunity should present itself before too long. Although riding on dry-rotted tires is a bit stressful and I'm not keen on dropping $20-$30 on tires for a $30 bike that I won't be keeping. I may have to nose around the bargain bins for 27" tires. I looked for them at Target yesterday but they didn't stock anything larger than a 26".

I have friction shifters on my Bridgestone CB-1, but as they are thumb shifters, using them is not much different than index shifters. Reaching down to the stem to shift, while flying down a hill, is a new experience.
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Old 06-09-08, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
Reaching down to the stem to shift, while flying down a hill, is a new experience.
Why shift? Just coast. Shift when you are ready to start pedaling again.
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Old 06-09-08, 03:08 PM
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Actually, it sounds like my kind of bike. You did not mention the size of your largest rear cog -- I have two road bikes with a 42/26 low gear, and a third with a near-equivalent 38/23. The secret to using downtube shifters effectively and safely is to anticipate situations and to downshift early when starting a climb and to upshift early when starting a descent. One does not want to shift under load, and one does not want to shift while flying down a hill.

For those who own older bikes and want to keep both hands on the bars, barcons are a superb option.
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Old 06-09-08, 03:10 PM
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I was way down in my 2nd lowest gear and I was trying to get out of it so that when I slowed I could be pedaling with some control, instead of just spinning the crank. On my recumbent, I have to be spinning in a tall gear to even get close to that speed, this bike was coasting faster than the bent can go under full steam. But the bent has wide, off-road tires that always provide a lot of resistance. On this old steel, I point it down hill, give it as couple of spins and I'm off to the races.
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Old 06-09-08, 07:45 PM
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Most of my 'bent friends claim the 'bent makes them faster on descents, which is generally true.
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Old 06-09-08, 07:58 PM
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"53/42 double crank with 165mm crank arms, 6-speed 14-28 cassette"
Ptobably a Free Wheel, not a cassette.

Those rings do sound a bit large. My brother has the same cog set on his early 70's Takara, but with 36 & 48T rings. I wonder if yours might have been changed?
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Old 06-09-08, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
Most of my 'bent friends claim the 'bent makes them faster on descents, which is generally true.
If I had a sleek bent with thin tires and a laid-back seat, I'm sure it would.

But on a clunky bent, with fat off-road tires, and my seat back up to almost 90 degrees ... ain't gonna happen.
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Old 06-09-08, 08:18 PM
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This is not a speedy recumbent. I have my seat a little more upright than this image.
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