May 6, 2013

A different animal

I love a good project bike – and it’s been a long time since I've had the opportunity to actually bring something into my stable and do work.  The last decade, instead, has seen a slow progression of bicycles leaving the stable, in lieu of “the one” and various financial challenges.  At one point in 2005, I had no less than 10 bikes in varied states of ride-ability – and at least four that I could grab at will and ride.  I had the commuter-steed, the weekend warrior, the grocery bike, the beer-run/bar-hopper fixie, and usually one “beater” for nasty weather.  Since 2008, however, aside from a rotation of my kid’s bikes as they grew, the stable has held only three:  the do-everything Kogs, my Dad’s ’68 Schwinn, and my Uncle-in-law’s ’74 Peugeot PR-10.  The latter I had restored to hopefully sell for my uncle, but, the bottom of the market fell out before I finished the job.  Neither of the two family-heirloom bikes has been ridden by me, short of a quick test ride on the Peugeot in ’08 just to confirm it was finished and ready for sale.  Since then, they've just hung upside-down, as personal museum pieces. 

However, I have found the bug again, and after some careful negotiations and a fair price determined, the Peugeot is no longer my uncle’s, in storage; it’s become my own.  Sure, I could just leave it as-is.  After all, purchased new in ’74 in Holland, the bike has rare French parts on it that simply don’t exist anymore, from Lyotard, Normandy, Simplex, Ideale, MAFAC, Atax, and Stronglight.  Riding it, though most would argue that is what it was made for, just seemed out of the question for me, personally.  The frame, however, is the weak link.  With nearly 25 years of garage-wear, scratches and dents on it, caked in grease upon receipt, the frame and paint have seen far better days.  Most would consider it “totaled”, based on the top-tube dent alone.  It’s not the gold-standard PX-10 model (the kind that Merckx rode to victory on a few occasions).  The PR-10, its lower-rung step-child, is still made from good, light tubing; but it’s lacking the finer, collectible touches of the bespoke PX models.  The lugs look like they were cut with a hack-saw and doped-together like household plumbing…but, it’s still lugged steel, baby.  From the standpoint of the frame alone, my mental plan started to make some sense:  remove all the interesting French bits, keep an eye out for an actual PX-10 frameset someday, and use THIS frame for a project bike. 

Yeah, yeah… that’s the ticket….

Similar to the project bike I so dearly loved from circa 2003-2005, dubbed “IT”, I wanted to approach this one with the same money-saving outlook.  My uncle had been very, very kind on the final offer to acquire the bike – which basically amounted to “time-served,” a couple chores, and a handshake – so, I approached the task with a goal of spending as little as possible, unless it was something I just flat couldn't replicate myself.  .  If I don’t have the parts, I’m going to make them, scrounge them, or dumpster-dive them.  However, a dip into the parts drawer filled nearly all the gaps, and a recent “garage sale” purchase yielded the biggest piece I’d need:  a rear wheel.  So far, total investment is right around $25.  I bought a roll of reflective tape, and discount-rack bar tape in a nasty neon color… which seemed somehow fitting, anyways, so it worked out.  Everything else was already in the garage, amassed slowly from other failed and abandoned projects.  Even a spare battery headlight and taillight lay waiting… now back in use, instead of hiding in a box. 

The fenders, however, are gonna get me – and I may end up paying for a commercial product here.  The corrugated plastic campaign yard-sign vs. wire coat-hanger prototype currently fitted is pretty sloppy, and VERY wobbly… even mild pavement joints introduce enough jiggle that the only thing stopping the side-to-side oscillation of the home-made fenders are the tires they keep smacking into over and over.  Extra coat-hanger stays, duct-tape and zip-ties here and there, another lap around the block… still not quite what I had in mind.  I’m hacked off at myself, because after retiring and selling-off the Redline Monocog I’d used a couple winters ago, I can see myself shrugging my own shoulders and haphazardly tossing its fenders into the trash bin.  Ugh… the things I save, compared to the things I don’t save…. Sometimes I confuse myself!  By the time I buy stainless rods – even a pre-fab replacement stays kit from Amazon, cut, trim, and fashion to the hacked campaign signs… yeesh, how much is my time worth again?

Other considerations:  I wanted to use a much taller stem for this bike; but the Franco-centric oddball quill diameter killed that dream really quick.  Getting the Stronglight crankset and bottom bracket out of the frame dang-near put me in the hospital:  Traditional crank-pullers don’t fit… they’re too small to engage the larger diameter spider threads on the French stuff, and trying to hack something together is a great way to ruin the crankset.  Sure, there’s a tool available… for nearly $50.00… and, sadly, the shop that used to have one in their tool-box has long-since closed its doors (RIP, ACME).  The solution ended up being patience and brute force… but, I finally freed the cranks from the bottom bracket spindle, after nearly splitting my skull open when the non-drive side arm finally let go.  Head meets top-tube… at high speed.  TONG!!!!  Felt great.  The bottom bracket, too, has oddball wrench flats/notches which also require a special tool… so, being the special tool *I* am, I fiddled for nearly an hour devising a way to bypass the French “connection” to the frame… ultimately winning, with sore hands and lungs full of chromium dust.  As much as I’d like to curse them, I can’t really fault Peugeot for trying-on this particular business model – though I’m fairly sure it ultimately played a role in the demise of that company’s bicycle production.  It worked for Schwinn for far longer, in this country, but keeping to a common standard represents a better way to guarantee continued success – Raleigh, Cinelli, even Cannondale in some respects (Lefty shocks, anyone??) -- many bike companies find out too late, it seems, that proprietary goofiness is not a good way to keep customers.

Why’d I spend so much time restoring it, if the frame was such junk??  Yeah, I know.  Wishful thinking?  My 2008 brain is not my 2013 brain.  There’s a reason it never sold! 

Finally, Japan has a firm foothold on the old French frame – re-used older Shimano bottom bracket, beat-up Sugino VP cranks with a single no-name 42 tooth chainring, crusty old ACS single-speed freewheel (need to find a cheap fixed cog somewhere), random old KMC chain, spare 700c front wheel from an old Trek, from-who-knows-where road drop handlebars with the nasty neon bar wrap, and enough reflective tape to see the bike from space.  Headlight mounted, taillight mounted, old Blackburn rack mounted.  A pair of my used Panaracer tires pulled off the wall, and tubes reused from the bike’s original 27” wheels from when I restored it.

Playing on how I used to pronounce the last syllable of Peugeot when I was a kid, The “Poo-Goat”…. lives!

                (cue death metal theme song: key of  F minor)
(Four-count high-hat count-in)
Poo-goat, poo-goat, poo-goat
I made you out of steel…
( Insert face-melting guitar riff)
Poo-goat, poo-goat, poo-goat
Sit Ubu, sit, good dog…
(insert double bass pedal solo)
Human shield!
Human shield!
Human shield!
Human shield!
Diamonds.....and rust…

“Thank you” & cityname & “, goodnite!”

First impressions:  though some of it may be the difference in frame material compared to the Kogs, I had forgotten how smooth and fast the Panaracer tires felt….and it makes me wonder, almost immediately, why I’d switched to the Specializeds.  After a few block-laps, I hopped back on the Kogs for a quick comparison… not really a difference?… so maybe it’s just the way the single-speed transmission, higher spoke-count wheels, and larger volume tires feel compared to what I’m used to.  The Kogs is just as smooth, and fits better.  The Goat’s road drop bars are okay… but I feel really stretched out, despite the frame being nearly spot-on-measure with the Kogs.  Maybe some North Road style bars, or a simple flat bar from a mountain bike?  …at least a shorter stem, perhaps.  The vision:  the Goat will likely be a bad-weather bike… primarily to mean bad winter weather, because the BEST improvement over the Kogs involves tire clearance.  Combined with the slight diameter savings between 630 and 622 (27” to 700c) wheels and frame design of the period, there is more than enough clearance for Nokian’s 700c variety studded tires and fenders.  That part alone makes the time spent in the garage worth it – and I’ll gladly spend the cash on those tires if it enables ye-olde excuse-eliminator next fall.  If I can fix the stretched-out feeling with more upright bars, we may have a winner.  Fenders, too… I’ll end up spending some coinage on these accessory items, and that’s okay.  Even then, the Goat is definitely not a cash-vacuum so far, like some of my previous projects.

Other impressions:  having one gear ratio and silently whooshing along – feeling a marked difference in the way the drivetrain seems so directly connected to the earth – my immediate notion sounds a lot like history repeating:  the Kogs should be single-cog, too!  Not so sure I’ll go there, for a few reasons… but I had forgotten completely how amazing single-speed riding feels.  Sure, show me a couple big hills and I’d probably change my tune – but, there is definitely something sexy about it.  So light, so clean, so quiet, so ZEN…. It makes me wonder if I should intentionally keep the long-reach ill-fitting handlebars on the Goat in place, so I’m not tempted to start riding it too much.  Hmmmm….

For now, leaving well-enough alone… with the Kog’s vertical dropouts, whatever I do toward a single-cog conversion there will end up kludgy and compromised – unless I were to get extraordinarily lucky enough to find the perfect combination of chainring and cog to drop right in, without mods, chain tensioners, or eccentric hubs/bottom-brackets: speaking of cash-vacuums….it’s FAR better if I just not invite that particular monster out of the closet.  The Kogs is great, just the way it is – always has been.

…but, I also know myself well enough that knocking off a 200k with a single-speed under me again… that might be great for the soul, and fun, and the Goat may be just the animal for the job.  Limiting it to salt and ice alone just doesn’t seem fair. 

(Pics coming soon – bet on it!)


Dhannon said...

I found your blog searching for the identity of a Peugeot bicycle that I found. It has curved handle bars (road bike), front & back fenders, a headlight, and tail light that are ran but a little generator on the back wheel. There is also a flat carrier over the back wheel. From what I can find I believe it's early '80's but not for sure. Can you help me?

kG said...

Well, I'm no expert, certainly -- but, most Peugeots had a small round model sticker on the seat tube, right below the top-tube. Likely candidates are PX-10, PR-10, P10, C, PY, etc, etc... Your best resource is probably a combination of the serial number, and the decal scheme. One of the best resources I've found to help decode all that is here:

Hope that helps!