To Hell With The Groundhog.

Waiting in the wings was Baby, my 1966 Schwinn Paramount, holding out for an afternoon ride in the country.

And what an afternoon it turned out to be! Not a puff of breeze, completely still except for the trill of birdsong and quiet voices of couples and families out for a walk on an incredibly pleasant day.

Heading north, the sun disappears behind a thick cloud cover. It’s cool enough that I’m barely breaking into a sweat, but pedaling at a nice steady pace my legs quickly warm. All around me the world seems to be bathed in ochre and sienna and umber. A closer look reveals fresh sprouts of green peeking through the underbrush and dead leaves that blanket the ground.

Trees, not yet laden in foliage allow a view of the lake and land and hills beyond.

It’s weird. I’m riding through rural Missouri, about as far from the ocean as one could be, smack dab in the middle of this land mass we call America. But high above the water, dipping and swooping, are gulls. At the end of one small body of water, in the shallows, a school of some kind of small fish is breaking the surface, the water boiling, making quiet popping sounds as they do.

To hell with the groundhog. Spring is on the way.

Cold New Year’s Day Ride.

It’s New Year’s Day, and brunch with good friends ran long. I’d planned on joining one of the local clubs for a 2017 kick off ride, but that wasn’t to be. By the time we’d parted company, the ride had already begun. I was looking forward to a ride from the River Market, through downtown, and looping around The Plaza, followed by an hour of libations.

After brunch, I spent a few hours in the studio finishing up an illustration. The sun that had promised a better looking day was hidden behind gray banks of clouds. Although not as windy as the past few days, nevertheless the breeze felt cold. I knew my ride wouldn’t be a terribly long one before I gave up the ghost, but I needed to get outside and put in a few miles of road time.

Heading out, my first thought was “Brrrrr!” Almost immediately my stocking cap crept up on top of my head and my ears were exposed. I can’t seem to keep the darned thing low enough on my head when I ride. Coasting at speed down the first long hill, the cold air rushed in around my eye glasses and I immediately teared up. My nose was running like a faucet, and my fingers were only passably warm, despite the heavy gloves that covered my hands. But my saddle position was excellent and I felt comfortable spinning on the big ring. Before long, my legs were starting to warm up as the revs added up.

Near the edge of town there’s a small lake. There are literally no cars on the road today – perhaps people are at home, in bed, nursing a hangover or catching up on lost hours of sleep. I pause briefly to make a photograph, to document the ride. The temps are hovering just above freezing, although the breeze makes it feel a lot colder. I enjoy stopping here beside the water, if only for a moment. A short stop and then I’m off again, spinning quickly, feeling pretty darned good, moving along at a decent clip.

So 2017 has arrived. I’ve shared a meal with good friends. I made artwork in the studio. My Chiefs won the Division. And I got in a good ride. I figure it would be pretty tough to top that as a beginning to a new year.

 

Shakedown Ride.

This is the finished build following my initial shakedown ride this morning. Panaracer Pasella tires sure “look the part” but I will probably go with something a little less stodgy feeling once I’ve rebuilt 700c wheels around the high flange Campy hubs still waiting in the queue.

I found that the saddle needed a slight adjustment, and the front brake required a tiny bit of fiddling with the tension. I must be getting pretty good at eyeballing my builds, because otherwise this build came together quite effortlessly.

A few years ago I wound up getting a screaming good swap meet bargain on a box of Brooks leather bar wrap. The funny thing is that the box specifies the color as “honey,” which this is decidedly not. I bought the bar wrap about the same time that the notion of white tubing began to bounce around in my head, so in one sense the misidentified tape seems to have been paired up with the Paramount from the start. I’ve wrapped it over a coat of cotton wrap to give the bar diameter just a little greater heft.

Taking the bike out for the first ride this morning I was a tiny bit nervous. Had I forgotten anything? Was everything tightened down? Going down the first hill I hoped I had adequately snugged down the handlebars. I glanced down to check the quick release levers on both wheels were as they should be. I wiggled my foot to see if the crank set wobbled. The saddle, as I mentioned before, needed adjustment so I stopped for a moment to lower it slightly and to play with the front brake cable. Mark Twain stood there watching – fat load of help he was.

I’ve a pretty standard route I follow on each inaugural ride that involves downhills, curves, flats, and climbs. Since it’s the first time out the gate, everything seems new and I’m generally hypersensitive to noises, clicks, wobbles, sways, and literally anything a bike might do. This first ride is really important for identifying problems and dialing in things. Aside from the sluggish nature of the Panaracer Pasela tires, I’m very happy to acknowledge that everything seems to be clicking for me.

Speaking of tires, I’m also very happy to note there were no flats because I completely forgot to mount a frame pump this morning!

Fresh Coat on a Classic Paramount

Aside from my Boulder Brevet, my favorite bike – in other words, the one that comes closest to matching the Boulder for fit, comfort, and ride quality – is a 1966 Paramount P12. It came to me misidentified as a P13 model with an ancient Silver Mist repaint. Judging by the patina of the waterslide decal, the repaint had probably taken place very early in the bike’s life.

Normally I like to enjoy the scrapes and bruises sported by a nice bike. I figure they’re all a part of the bike’s history. But the Silver Mist was a repaint, and one for which I never possessed any degree of fondness. To me, this is a special frame and I felt a fresh white coat would lend it some of the dignity it deserved. (Not that the color choice ever needed justification, but it came at the suggestion of Richard Schwinn, whose opinion on Paramounts is definitely worthy of consideration.)

The build up has been long determined, and includes an mix of favorite components. Those parts have been cleaned and polished and are sitting in a box, awaiting tonight’s build. For purists looking for an all Campy drive train…look elsewhere.

For now, here’s the bare frame to enjoy.


As a follow up to the Motobecane mixte that was built up for the boss, despite her clear request for drop bars that cockpit was vetoed. Since I had built up with bar end shifters, I wound up with a fairly significant revision to what had been an essentially “finished build.”

But upright bars were demanded, and the bosses demands were heeded. She gave it a test ride, asked for some saddle adjustments, then gave it a thumb’s up. Because changes nearly always take place, I leave fine tuning fenders to the very end. Having the bosses blessing on all the rest means I can now tidy up the fender line, and get them secured. At the moment the fender line is making my OCD go into overdrive, and the rattle of loose bolts is driving me crazy!

Nevertheless, she now has a decently low geared, classier and much lighter bike than her Cannondale “round about town” ride.

My refuge…

The final semester assignment for my Drawing students is a self portrait in charcoal and chalk that illustrates the theme of “Where’s my refuge?” As usual, I draw along with my students so I can model the kind of decision-making that artists engage in through the development of an artwork. To exemplify the theme, as it applied to me, well of course I would illustrate my refuge astride a bicycle, wind in my hair, sprinting along a lonely road a million miles from anywhere.

For the past couple of months my riding has been pretty limited. School seems to have kept me busier than usual. More worrisome than that, some sort of weird knee issue has emerged. I’ve been an especially strong climber this year, so suddenly finding myself with minimal saddle time, and scared to test the knee to much with climbing has left me a grumbly old fart. The few miles I’ve put in have been almost entirely flat and residential. Ugh.

My knee has felt very tentative during each ride. Walking up stairs has felt very tentative too. So I was overjoyed this cool, overcast December evening to pedal out of my driveway, both my knees and legs feeling strong. Zooming down the first hill was exhilarating, the brisk air harnessed more than a few tears, the moisture slid around the side of my face and quickly dried, leaving salty tracks in the wake. My first climb was a short one, but I did it sitting, as is my wont. In fact, the thing I’ve missed most has been seated climbing: I really don’t care to stand. Strong pedal strokes through town, and then up a longer hill, and another, and then finally the long climb back up to my house. The ride was relatively short – why tempt fate too much? It was probably a good idea using the past several weeks to rest whatever has been ailing me, and it is probably a good idea not to push too hard for a while longer, but it sure feels good to be back in my refuge, if only in short bursts.

1938 Schwinn Superior

Here’s a good one worth sharing – what I believe to be a 1938 Schwinn Superior – the first year of the company’s new lineup of lightweight, high end bikes. It’s in excellent condition and was ridden in last weekend’s tweed ride by the current owner, whose father purchased the bike used in 1940.

Provenance is often difficult to establish with old bikes, but this one comes with a bill of sale – dig those prices!

The new models, including the Superior, the New World, and the top of the line Paramount, were built in the “hand build shop,” a completely separate area of the Schwinn Chicago facility.

Definitely one of the coolest bikes I’ve had the privilege of riding alongside! Note that one of the differences that distinguish this bike from the Paramount is the fillet brazing. Sold as a lower priced alternative to the Paramount, I’ve yet to figure out just how in the heck they produced these terrific fillet brazed frames at a competitive price.

I’ve invited the owner – who lives very close by – to take the “cousins” (his Superior and my 1966 Paramount) for a spin sometime soon.