Category Archives: Retrobike

The Master Mechanic

I’ve always said that a mechanic becomes a Master Mechanic when he or she makes his own tools. Some bike repair scenarios require very specific tools, and it’s impossible to press others into duty. In the brilliant Hard on Equipment, Corb Lund sings;

Well it’s vise grips for pliers /
And pliers for a wrench /
A wrench for a hammer /
Hammers everything else.

That’s just not going to cut it when you need to replace a headset. Which you actually would use a hammer for…

Bad example.

Seriously though, if you want to do it right, and not destroy the frame, you need a headset presses. Similarly, you need starnut setting tools, bottom bracket facing tools, cone wrenches, and truing stands.

Though some brave souls will take matters into their own hands.

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eBay Roundup

This time around in my somewhat regularly scheduled wrap-ups of what’s weird, amazing, or expensive on eBay, we’ve got some crazily expensive and rare bits.

Klein Death Grip tires

Klein Death Grip tires

It’s a set of Klein Death Grip tires! One of the last two bits that I’m sure the dedicated Klein guy struggles with when he/she wants the perfect bike. The other part being Klein grips, which may be called Instinct grips, or may be called Death grips.

Death Grip grips? Of course.

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Vintage bicycle abuse

In the UK, one of the more popular VRC brands is Orange.  You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of them as I don’t think they were ever sold here.

From browsing retrobike.co.uk I’ve learned that the Prestige is one of the more popular models;

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As you can see, when they’re done right, they’re gorgeous.

But when they’re done wrong;

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I get the poverty thing.  I’ve done it.  I once put together a bike using a frame I had, and all the parts either came from whatever leftovers I had, and any not quite worn out parts I scavenged from repairs at the shop.

I ended up with a usable single speed, but of course you have to put up with a lot of Zen and The Art of Bicycle Maintenance type crap.    Like this;

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Zen and The Art of Bicycle Maintenance doesn’t exist by the way.  I guess I’ll have to write it…

Judging from the forum post, the builder has intentionally gone with those stupidly narrow bars.  That’s left him with no room to install the front shifter, which is actually handling rear shifting duties.  Also, cantilever brake levers running V-brakes – which I can tell you, doesn’t work that well.

There are also mis-matched wheels, four out of a possible five chainring bolts, and a frame in desperate need of a respray.

I’ve built some pretty sketchy rides in my time, but not anymore.  Or not to the same degree anyway.   When I was Redbike, Cliff told me that he too used to do the poverty thing, but it’s just too much work.  Too much effort to keep these kinds of bikes running.  And you can’t ever sell them, unless you find a buyer that will understand the known issues, and is willing to deal with them.

He decided that he wanted “flawless.”  And after a lot of years building bikes like this, that’s what I want as well.

Vintage Pro-Flex

Pro-Flex was one of the first companies to offer a rear suspension bike.  You couldn’t really call them full suspension – at least not the early ones – because they only had a flex stem up front.

Suspending the bike is different than suspending the bike.

Anyway;

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This is a 1991 550 utilizing an elastomer “shock” in the rear end, and a Girvin Flex Stem in the front.

There’s nothing particularly special about this bike, but when I saw it, it reminded me that I used to see a woman riding around town on slightly newer Pro Flex.  It’s kinda funny to see bikes that were made with serious off-roading in mind log heavy miles as commuters and grocery getters.  And I always liked the look of these early bikes

They’re pretty popular amongst the VRC crowd, I think because of their pioneering of suspension, and for the attention grabbing looks of the later models with Girvin/Noleen Cross Link fork.

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They were eventually bought out by K2 – makers of skis – and still exist, but just as very plain, inexpensive bikes.  Whatever innovation that existed in the Pro-Flex/Girvin/Noleen days is long gone.