Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dumpster + Stumpjumper = Dumpjumper

1988 Specialized Stumpjumper in size 21.5 inches, as found in a dumpster.
Please note that the following post will likely only appeal to and/or be comprehensible by the most bike nerdish among visitors here. You are hereby warned and/or welcomed.

I've fished many a bike out of dumpsters over the years. I don't generally go looking for them, but they often have a way of finding me. Some have been complete basket cases and others have only needed air in the tires. Yet, what never fails to amaze me is finding a decent quality bike tossed in the trash. Old bikes aren't like old computers, in that they never become completely obsolete or unusable. Old bikes aren't like old cars, in that they don't degenerate into egregious polluting money pits, but instead are cheap and easy to recondition. Old bikes aren't like old furniture or mattresses, in that they don't absorb unappealing substances from previous owners.

I can understand rationalizing the discarding of a less than functional department store bike that was never engineered to work well in the first place. That which is nearly useless readily becomes useless. However, bikes that were at least initially high in quality of materials and construction, unless mangled, are almost always repairable into good running condition. This goes doubly so for steel mountain bikes from the off road boom era of the 1980s; with sturdy tubing, user serviceable components, and lack of suspension, they're almost indestructible.

Don't get me wrong. I don't pine for the old days and I'm no longer the Luddite I once was concerning the evolution of bike design. I appreciate lugs and fancy steel, but I also know that great advances have been made in materials and technology, and that, venerable as they are, these sturdy old steel bikes are no match off road for something more modern, like my Salsa Horsethief for example.

On the other hand, I'm certain that with proper care the long-term viability of an old steel monolith will far outpace many modern bikes in the utility department, most likely to the tune of decades. There are far fewer things to go wrong with these old bikes as compared to newer bikes, and equivalent parts are still readily available. With components in good order, a set of lights, a pair of fenders, and some method to carry cargo, an old steel mountain bike can't be outmatched for usefulness.

Deore index/friction thumbshifters and Deore 4-finger brake levers.
Now for a little velo-pathology to explore how this bike may have traversed the past quarter century. This particular Stumpjumper seems to have spent much of its life dormant, stored somewhat haphazardly, and perhaps used intermittently. It has plenty of telltale signs of neglect, in the form of nicks and scratches in random places, probably from being leaned against things or falling against other items in a shed or garage, and a veneer of dried on grease and oil from infrequent maintenance. The underside of the downtube is mostly free of rock strikes and the drive-side chainstay shows little sign of chain slap, so I'd wager that the bike traveled most of its miles on smooth surfaces in town as opposed to rough trails.

Non drivetrain side. Notice the pronounced bend in the rear rack's shelf and support struts.
The remains of a decal that once proclaimed the bike's chromo tubing and Taiwanese manufacture.

That's a solid forged aluminum stem. They don't make 'em like that any more. The stem alone probably weighs more than a modern carbon frame.
Though this bike likely hasn't seen a lot of miles, it had no easy life. It spent enough time outside for the graphics to fade, and there is a bit of surface rust where the steel has been exposed due to paint chips. The components that are still present are without exception original and stock, even down to the grips.

The drivetrain and brakes are Shimano Deore, from back in the days when Deore was on the penultimate tier of Shimano's off road lineup. The cranks are in good shape, and the teeth of the very '80s Biopace chainrings look healthy. Bearings haven't fared as well, as the bottom bracket is indexed, and the headset is in poor adjustment. However, the open seat tube is not rusted, and the chain is oily and moves freely. The derailleurs look fine and move well, but the cables and housing are sluggish and gummy. The shifters are intact, though the mount for the left shifter is bent. The good thing is that all the components on this bike are rebuildable, and the bearings are easily replaceable if needed.

There are a few additions to the bike that have occurred over the years. Though now badly bent, a period concurrent, white Blackburn Mountain Rack was a common addition to many bikes of the era. There is evidence of bar ends once installed but now gone, a sign of an update in the early to mid '90s when bar ends enjoyed popularity. A cycle computer mount at the rear wheel, indicates this bike was probably used on a stationary trainer at some point. Bright red paint under the upper and lower Zefal plastic pump mounts along the back of the seat tube signal that they were probably installed at or near the time of purchase.

Drive side top tube.
Drive side down tube.
Non drive side top tube.
Non drive side down tube.
As its year of manufacture is the same as that when I finished high school, bikes much like this one dotted the college campus of my undergraduate career. Distinctive two-tone paint schemes, unique to 1988 and 1989 Specialized bikes, seemed omnipresent for many years.

This Stumpjumper is readily identifiable as being an '88, due to its under the chainstay u-brake, a feature adopted by most manufacturers for a brief period spanning from about 1986 to 1988. Builders and riders went crazy for u-brakes because of the clean looking cable lines and the u-brake's powerful stopping ability. The popularity abruptly ended once the same builders and riders realized that under the chainstay was a less than convenient location for brake maintenance and made for a tremendous mud and debris catchment area. I've owned a few such u-brake equipped bikes, and though the reason the design was quickly dropped remains potentially problematic, the brakes are dependable and powerful if properly adjusted.

I've yet to get my hands dirty with this Stumpjumper, but that I will rebuild it is not in doubt. I'm happy to have saved the bike from an ignominious end, and I know it has at least a couple more decades of service within its capacity. Whether it will be with me or with someone else is yet to be determined.

Bikes like this Stumpjumper are the antecedent to a growing renaissance of steel, multipurpose, high utility bikes, such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Surly Troll, among others. While at present it seems absurd that a desirable Surly frame will ever make its way to a dumpster, 25 years ago it seemed equally improbable to one day discover a Stumpjumper in the trash. I can only hope that in another quarter century, I'll be the lucky one to find a crusty old Troll next to yesterday's coffee grounds.

I threw on a pair of wheels to get a visual. My parts bin came up short in the quest for a 26.6 mm seatpost. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mountain towns, bikes, and rain

The Mountain Fair in Carbondale had lots of bikes around, and perhaps the biggest concentration of Xtracycles per capita of any place I've been.
We managed to squeeze in a little travel before school starts again, by making a (rare for us) trip into the mountains. It takes so much coordination for all of us to go anywhere that we don't often lug ourselves someplace where we're not obliged to go. It was refreshing to get away, even for a little while, though the traffic both ways didn't do much to dissuade my frustration of crowded driving in the mountains. We ended up visiting Aspen, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs.

Mountain towns offer some great bike spotting opportunities for an aging bike nerd such as me. The bikes to be seen did not disappoint. Foremost in my notice are the many vintage mountain bikes, some of which exhibit evidence of years of heavy action, while others appear nearly unused.  I saw far more neat old bikes than I had the chance to photograph,  but here are a few that I captured.

This circa early 1950s cantilever framed Schwinn has a bent seatpost and a newer saddle, but otherwise looked to be in fine riding condition with an admirable patina.
A matched pair of retina-jarring early '90s Klein Rascals shod in old time-y Specialized Ground Control skinwall tires, now pressed into kid transport service.
Lousy photo aside, this 1988 Fisher Hoo-Koo-E-Koo was mostly original, sporting a pair of Fisher Fattrax tires. Fisher Fattrax were my favorite treads from the old days, but were discontinued nearly 25 years ago.

Aspen's bike sharing system, known as We-Cycle, appeared to be well utilized and contributed to the town's bike-friendly vibe.
Of course the girls found lots of things to experience. The townspeople were friendly and happy to accommodate, especially at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department.
A balloon unicorn and balloon Elmo came along for the ride. 



Back at home, we've had a lot of rain since Monday. Although this is Colorado's monsoon season, it seems as though the rain has been more intense the past couple of years. I suppose that's good for keeping wildfires at bay, though I'm certainly not accustomed to overcast, wet days. I don't know how people in wet climes survive.
The view from my office window is of pouring rain.
I took advantage of a break in the weather to take a Denver B-cycle ride, and ended up riding the elusive white B-cycle.
An enterprising fellow poses with his super chopper near the South Platte river.
A little tough to see in this shot, but that's a guy on a penny farthing commuting home from Denver to Golden. He's been an icon in the area for decades. I've talked to him on several occasions, but can't remember his name at the moment. 
Cherry Creek had been flowing over this bridge along the bike path moments before, as a result of an intense thunderstorm.
To complete a trifecta of oversized bikes spotted, I waited for the train with a doused hipster and his double decker bike. 
New bike instructive stickers in a light rail vehicle.

A fairly recently installed bike box near the Webb Building in central downtown Denver seems to be well utilized. 
My intrepid aspiring photographer enjoyed shooting some art at the Denver Art Museum.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Re-tubelessifying the Monocog

Nope. No sealant. Dry as a bone.
Last fall, I went tubeless with my Monocog as a test with the low budget do-it-yourself method. I've since ridden this super dependable bike nearly daily, on many different surfaces, including goathead infested Albuquerque. In all that time, I never had a flat, until a few days ago.

Off and on, I'd been wondering what was going on inside the tires during the past nine months, so when I went out to the bike barn and found the rear completely flat, it was a opportunity to take a peek.

First I tested to see if there was an obvious, egregious leak by pumping it up. The tire held air fine, though it lost much of its pressure in a few minutes. So, I popped one of the beads open and discovered that the Stan's sealant had disappeared.

I suppose it's more accurate to say that the pool of sealant inside the tire was no longer present, but lots of goo was adhering the bead to the rim. A puddle of sealant, or tire blood as Stella likes to call it, is essential to tubeless tire health by coagulating into small leaks, so its absence was the likely reason for the flat.
While I was at it, I was wondering how the Gorilla Tape was holding up, so I pulled the tire off to inspect. After carefully going over the whole surface, things looked good. The single layer of tape was still strongly adhered. Along the way, I cleaned as much goo off the rim as seemed practicable, paying special attention to the bead seating surfaces, so reseating the tire would go smoothly.

I also cleaned the tire beads, ending up with a pile of Stan's sealant boogers.
After I remounted the tire, I hit it with a shot of compressed air. Both beads popped confidently into place and the pressure held well. Bingo. So I cracked open one of the beads and added two ounces of fresh Stan's to the inside. Shake. Spin. Ready to roll for another several months. I'll just have to remember to have some valve stems with removable cores on hand next time.

In all, remarkably quick and easy, especially considering the epic struggle with the same brand of tire and rim that I experienced not long ago. In the end, it's been well worth the time investment, and gets easier each time.

Now, for no particular reason, some recent photos from my yard.





Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another trip around the sun

In the middle of July each year around here, it's usually hovering around 100 F. This year, it looks as though we'll have a much cooler respite for most of this week. Today, we took advantage of favorable temperatures to hit the trail. I'd been looking for a reason to take Stella on a real trail ride, and marking another year for her was a good excuse.

We started things off as any good ride should, tanking up on fuel. You wouldn't know it by looking at her, but this kid can put away the food when she has a mind to do so. Once energized, we were ready to attack the climb that begins the Hildebrand Ranch trail. The weather couldn't have been better, never getting really hot, and the trail conditions were excellent. We had a great time and completed our loop before the rain arrived. Here's to many more years and many more rides together.
Eating lunch at the beginning makes for more efficient food carrying.

Pointing out one of the talkative prairie dogs that populate much of the area.

There's no shame in pushing. Forward progress is cumulative.

Lots of butterflies and other insects were enjoying a variety of blooms.

Champion at the summit of the climb. 

This butterfly seemed to like the taste of sweat and sunscreen.

She was certain that pixies lived along this part of the trail.

Riding a swooping trail through this field made us feel like dolphins in a sea of dried grass.  



More prairie dogs.

This colony had some prime territory. We stayed a while to watch the prairie dogs yip and scurry.


This valley was a prairie dog metropolis, spanning the whole area.

The trail, edging along the hillside was flowing and scenic.

Just as we were about to close the circuit, the clouds started to appear.


A trail crew of high school students had just worked on this section.

Once we got home, a celebratory root beer float was in order.