Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today I attended a funeral for a bike friend...

...my favorite bike, my beloved Redline 925. It died on January 29th, 2008, but I just got around to having the funeral today, September 7, 2008. You can do that with bikes- they don't decay and stink like humans and other creatures- they just lose air pressure and take up space.

I didn't bury it, I just took it apart-- that's how you have a funeral for a bike. It was damaged beyond repair in a tragic crash-- luckily, I myself was not killed or damaged beyond repair. But my trusty 925 is no longer with me.

The frame and the fork were hopelessly bent. I stripped the rest of the parts off of the 925. I will keep some and the others will be donated to Revolutions Co-op. I guess it is kinda like organ donation- the stem, seat post, saddle, wheels and handlebars will go into other bikes, with other riders.

The Redline was all steel. It had a flip flop fixed/free rear hub - 42 x 15 for those who care about such things. I bought it to ride fixed. I probably spent about 99.9% of the time riding fixed. Once or twice I changed a flat and, in my haste, I made an error and put it on the freewheel side. I never rode the freewheel intentionally. As the late, great, Sheldon Brown said, "Coasting is a pernicious habit".

I bought the Redline in February of 2006 to be my primary commuter bike- it was perfectly suited for the job. It was cheap (retail about 525 at the time) and came outfitted with fenders. I already had lights and panniers, so I just had the dealer attach a rack and computer, and I was good to go.

Since it had fenders and was cheap, the 925 was also my designated rain bike. If skies were threatening I would ride the 925 to my bike club group rides with my friends. Those fenders paid off more than once.

The 925 gave me almost two years of service before it died in the line of duty. At the time of death the odometer read 8393.4 miles. There were probably another 100 or so miles on the bike- sometimes I would change a flat on the front and absentmindedly put the wheel on wrong so the computer magnet was on the wrong side. At other times when I had a flat I would swap the front wheel for that of another bike if I was in a hurry. So, I figure that even though the odometer reads 8393.4, I would be ok in saying that I put about 8500 miles on the 925 as a commuter in two years. Not bad for a sub-$600 bike.

I rode primarily two other bikes a lot while I owned the 925. I have a Serotta Rapid Tour, a light touring all-steel bike Serotta made for a few years. I bought it new in 2001. It has an Ultegra triple group on it and I consider it to be my 100 mile bike.

I also rode my Specialized Langster a lot. I bought it new in 2005. Like the 925, the Langster is a fixed-gear bike. It is great for 30-40 miles on mostly flat terrain. I rode it when I wanted to go faster. The Langster weighed in at 18 pounds, the Redline was "about 30".

But I really loved the 925. It was smooth, it was steady, and it was predictable. After I had the cheap factory wheels rebuilt with quality spokes, the 925 never gave me any trouble at all. I would change flat tires, clean and lube it now and then, but mostly I left it alone. It ran just fine without much intervention on my part. It died with the original chain, chainring, and rear cog. I replaced the brake pads once during the 8500 miles.

I did have to change the handlebars- the original bars broke while I was riding. Luckily, I was just accelerating from a dead stop at a redlight when the right half of my handlebars folded and broke. Too much torque, too much repetetive stress. Cheap bars break eventually.

Not to worry- I had some wonderful sturdy steel handlebars just waiting for a bike. When I was in New York in 2007 I had visited a tiny little shop that specialized in fixed gear bikes. I had bought some Soma Major Taylor handlebars. After the original bars broke, I put the Major Taylor bars on the 925.

At some point I upgraded to Arkel panniers for the 925. Arkels are great-- you can carry a ton (well, not a ton, but a lot) of groceries in the Arkels. Like the 925, the Arkels are simple and sturdy.

One night I had stopped by the grocery to pick up a lot of stuff. When I got home, I weighed my panniers and found that I was carrying over 30 pounds of groceries. What made the ride very interesting was that I was riding into a 30 mile an hour headwind, uphill, in the rain, at night, on a fixed gear bike that weighed over 60 pounds including those groceries. It was hard and I went pretty slow, but I really felt like I had accomplished something.

Another time I rode the 925 to the early club ride-- we did about 30 brisk miles. Then I rode to the Farmer's Market downtown, bought a watermelon and some other stuff, packed it all into one of my Arkel's, and rode home with it.

I had a lot of fun with the roadies when I was riding the 925 on group rides. I remember many rides where people were exasperated that they were getting dropped by an old guy on a cheap Chinese all-steel 30 pound single speed with fenders and a rack. They weren't cognizant of the fact that I had ridden about 7500 miles a year for the past few years while they were mostly just weekend riders. I imagine that high mileage and daily riding probably helped a lot with my conditioning...

But I mostly loved just riding the 925 back and forth to work. I am so sad that it is gone.

If you are curious as to how my 925 died, I wrote an article a few days after the crash that killed my 925 and nearly killed me. It is posted in the archives on this blog here.






3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool. Redline RIP

Fix Memphis said...

Wonderful story Cliff. That old grey bike wasn't much for show but it definitely had personality.

Memphis Cyclist said...

Excellent spin. I'll let the guys at Midtown Bike know the baby they birthed lived long and fast. 8000+ miles is quite an accomplishment. It's a shame that an accident cut short the life of this loyal steed. God bless your 925. It's spirit continues to ride.