Thoughts for Mr. Cheapo

A few weekends back one of my nephews rang me up. He’s a teacher in his first year, and a multi-sport coach as well, with all of the baggage that comes with such a role, including a marginal amount of free time to exercise. I understood that he wanted to begin riding and was looking for a vintage road bike — not for the aesthetics, but for the simple reason (his words, not mine) that he’s cheap. He has no interest in “spending thousands of dollars on bike, for cripe’s sake!”

So I began to look around for something in his size that would fit the demands of his wallet and stingy outlook on life. I want to say right here and now that even though I love vintage bicycles, I do not in any way take umbrage at the suggestion they might be considered “cheap.” Frankly, when you compare the costs of even a relatively low end new road bike, it will still be far and away pricier than any number of superb top end machines from the eighties and early nineties. I get what it is he is saying, and I factored that into my search for his bike.

I forwarded many a Craig’s List posting to him, sent him notices of swap meets, photos of bikes my friends were trying to unload. A vintage Shogun belonging to the son of a friend ultimately caught our respective eyes and with very little fanfare a deal was struck, the bike loaded into my van, and even now is secured to my work stand awaiting new cables and housing.

It’s an attractive bike and I particularly appreciate the seat tube graphic and the head badge. Shogun’s pop up now and then in our market and because most people don’t recognize the brand, they often don’t get the respect that a Trek or Fuji might. Shogun made some darned good bikes — my model 2000 touring bike is an especially nice example. However, even the heavier, lower end models —as this one is — are well made, with geometry suitable for riding.

I haven’t quite pegged the vintage on this one, but the Shimano Skylark rear derailleur was introduced in 1979. The Shimano FE front derailleur dates to the early eighties. Five speed cog in the rear and the turkey wings on the brake levers has me thinking around 1982 or 83 possibly.

The weight of the bike, coupled with components like the Skylark and the stem mounted shifters, indicates a lower model in the lineup. Stem shifters tend to get a bad rap for some reason… I suppose because they were specified for low end models. But they function well, are easy to reach, and if one wanted to move to bar end shifters (my favorites, actually), all of the necessary hardware is already in place for the transition. This bike has a shifter plate on the down tube, making it very easy to change over to traditional down tube shifters.

The Skylark derailleur is a Shimano success story. They made these things for years and put them on millions of bikes. It is essentially a 1960’s design that simply works and works and works. They bear some similarity to Simplex mechs, but did not make the Delrin error of specifying plastic as a main component.

The saddle that came with the bike was an original — but originality only goes so far before functionality must be considered. To be frank, it was a vinyl covered piece of shit, and I immediately replaced it with something better that I had hanging on the wall. The 27” wheels are quite heavy. If the Shimano tourney brakes have enough reach (and I don’t think they will have), I’ll swap the wheels for a much lighter 700c set.

Overall the bike is in excellent condition and should make a decent starter road bike. Like anyone else who catches the bug though, I can see the nephew realizing within a couple of months that this one might be easily sold to help finance a lighter and more responsive road bike.

Or succumbing to the n+1 syndrome — because such things do tend to run in the family.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts for Mr. Cheapo

  1. I completely agree with your Shogun assessment (the most fantastic bike you’ve never heard of; same category as Lotus).
    Although the frame can only be pushed to certain limitations, this should be a fun project bike to put on a ride diet. Speaking of the frame, do I smell high tensile or is this Cro-Mo?
    New cables, housing, brake pads, bar ends perhaps (??), a drivetrain delousing and lighter wheels will do wonders for this bike and the ride. I can’t wait to see the results!

    PS: Don’t forget to remove the dork disk! 😉

    • Josh, there’s a decal on the seat tube that proudly proclaims the bike is constructed from “Special S1 Tubing.” (Whatever the heck that is!) There is little doubt in my mind that it is HiTen.

      I’m going to go through my wheels today to see if I have a decent pair of 700’s with the right spacing. I know I’ve got brake calipers that would replace the Tourneys and which will make the reach. The dork disk will definitely get pulled.

      I may change to down tube shifters just to clean up the lines a little bit… there’s so much cable it makes it look like the front end is top-heavy at the moment.

      By the way, I had a chance to get a Lotus from the same guy who sold me my Voyageur a couple years ago. My bike account was strapped at the time (and he also was asking too much) or I would have jumped on it — it was a very sweet ride.

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