SALVAGING OLD TWO-WHEELERS; SOME TEN-SPEEDS CAN HAVE NINE LIVES.
OK, everybody out there who bought a sleek, drop-handlebar ten-speed back when ten-speeds were the rage, raise your hands. Hmmm, quite a few of you, I can well imagine.
Now, of those, how many rode them for a few weeks and then stashed them away in your garages where they now look like dust bunnies on steroids? Another fair amount, I'd wager.
Since then, have you longingly eyed those fat-tired steeds affectionately known as mountain bikes gliding over everything from potholed pavement to Balboa Park bike paths to singletrack Santa Monica Mountains trails? Fear not, a solution is at hand that will convert your skinny-tire road bike into a street-wise warrior in less time than you can say ``on your left.''
While there is no substitute for the mountain bike when it comes to riding dirt trails, the fact remains that most mountain bikes are pedaled on pavement or paved trails (or relatively smooth dirt fire roads) because many cyclists find them more comfortable and easier to control than their road-tested counterparts.
The reason the mountain bike is so popular is because of its upright riding position, due mainly to the flat or ``riser'' handlebar and higher bar stem. On that handlebar are easy-to-reach controls - brake levers and gear-shifting mechanisms - that allow ergonomic positioning and safer operation. Fat tires make for a more stable and comfortable ride.
So what does this have to do with your garage-dwelling ten-speed? The very same mountain-bike components that helped revolutionize the industry can transform your dust bunny into an urban-assault vehicle.
All you have to do is take that old two-wheeler down to your local bike shop and ask for a ``handlebar conversion'' - so that you can ride more upright like on a mountain bike - and a set of the fattest tires that will fit into your bike's frame.
Be prepared to have the salesperson attempt to sell you a mountain bike or ``cross-bike'' - a two-wheeler with the characteristics of both a mountain bike and a road bike morphed into one. A cross-bike is basically what we're trying to achieve here, but the least expensive conversion can be performed for less than half the cost of a new cross-bike or mountain bike. You may be swayed; shiny new paint jobs often win out over an inch-thick layering of dust and grime. But if you hold fast to your desire of returning to the glory of riding that old ten-speed you cherished so long ago, here are the bare necessities you'll need to make it spin again more efficiently and comfortably (all prices approximate):
New handlebar: The least expensive is steel, but for a few more dollars and a lot less weight you can get an aluminum bar. Go with a high-rise bar for a more upright position. Cost: $10-$40.
New brake levers: Back in the heyday of handlebar conversions when mountain bikes were becoming the rage in the mid-1980s, inexpensive brake levers that were - and still are - used on English touring bikes were readily available. If your bike shop doesn't have them in stock, they can be ordered. However, most bike shops carry the slightly more expensive mountain bike lever, which will work fine. Cost: $20-$30.
New gear shifters: The least expensive design is the ``twist shifter,'' although for a little extra cost a trigger-style shifter is very finger-friendly. Both designs work well and provide excellent ergonomics but may not work perfectly with your derailleurs. New derailleurs could be installed, but if you start considering that option, you might as well splurge on a new entry-level mountain or cross bike. (If your bike has ``stem shifters,'' you won't necessarily need new shifter mechanisms; ask at the shop.) Cost: $20-40.
New tires: Wider road tires, while not as stable as a mountain bike tire, certainly provide more control and shock absorption than the razor-sharp rubber that came on your bike originally. Of course, if your bike has been sitting idle for more than a couple of years, the tires' sidewalls more than likely have decayed to the point where they should be replaced. The most cost-effective tires come with steel ``beads'' and run as little as $15 per wheel. Cost: $30.
New seat: Replace that stiff, unforgiving racing saddle with a wider, padded saddle with coil springs. Nothing is more comfy to handle the bumps off road. Cost: $20.
New cables: A good idea when you're overhauling a bike. Cost: $10.
Tune-up: An even better idea. Cost: $35.
Labor: Price is approximate, depending on how much you haggle with the shop manager. Cost: $20-$40.
There you have it, a transformation of your tattered ten-speed into a lean, mean urban machine for $165 to $245. Some money can be saved by not getting new cables or a tune-up (the bike shop may even throw in the tune-up for free), bringing the conversion cost down to as little as $120. The mechanic can make a recommendation on whether you should skip either or both of the options.
Or you could just fork over the $250 to $300 for a low-end cross-bike or mountain bike.
The choice is yours to make based on how much you are willing to spend to ride again in the most effective manner possible.
PHOTO (Color) COST TO CONVERT A TEN-SPEED INTO A MOUNTAIN BIKE
Bicycle provided by Wheel World of Culver City.
Evan Yee/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 9, 1998|
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