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When I was 12, I reckoned myself to have outgrown my old banana-seat bike. It was a 20-inch-wheeled Stingray knockoff from sometime probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s, a heavy little chunk of steel with ape-hanger handlebars, a “denim” covered banana-seat, and a fade-away metallic blue paint scheme which graded from dark blue in the rear triangle to a delicate, powdery silver-blue up front. It was, by any standards, a pretty cool kid bike, but you see, there was a problem. A younger neighbor boy, a kid whom I rather roundly disliked, had just gotten a super-sweet 10-speed 24″-wheeled Peugeot junior-racer-style roadbike. On his whippy little geared bike, he could outpace me handily, which rankled deep in my soul.

Bear in mind that when you are a kid, you lord small age differences over one another, and this little rat was over two years younger than me. Moreover, and more annoyingly, he had the full roadie kit, with padded-butt shorts, a yellow jersey with stripes around the chest, and a short-brimmed cycling cap, the bill of which he always kept tipped upward. He thought he was mister racerboy, and his mechanically aided speed and clothing-aided arrogance made me long to smack him into his place. Hence, I dragged a monstrous early-1970s Schwinn Continental from the back of the garage, WD40-ed the chain, aired up the tires, lowered the saddle all the way, and began to lay waste about myself. This bike is so huge that I had to mount it by climbing on a planter, then swing a leg over the saddle, shove off hard, and pedal with the tips of my toes. That said, I put my superior age, size, strength, and taller wheels to work, and sent Snotnosed Aaron back to the kiddie table.

The advent of me figuring out a “shifter bike” meant that my banana-seated, one-geared kiddie-bike days had come to an end. I rode the gargantuan Schwinn all that summer and half of the next, babysitting when the opportunity presented itself and saved up to buy a more size-appropriate 10-speed of my own. The chronicles of my bicycle evolutions and acquisitions have been covered in this journal over the years, and now I have arrived at a time, when I've got a fairly ludicrous number of bikes in my life. And up until just recently, they were all multi-geared bikes:

1973 Schwinn Suburban (5-speed)
1991 Huffy White River (10-speed)
1990-something Bianchi Advantage (18-speed–6-speed cassette, triple chainring)
1996 Trek 800 (21-speed)
2005 Burley McKenzie (18-speed–9-speed cassette, double chainring)

And now, added to the “stable,” is a 1980-something Schwinn World Sport singlespeed conversion. I've got a bike in each decade of the past 30 years. Crazy, isn't it? The old Schwinn, the Bianchi, the Trek, and now the new Schwinn are my main rides. The old Schwinn is my shopping bike, the Bianchi is my main commuter, and the Trek is my offroad and towing machine. The singlespeed is making a fine commuter also, and it's just plain pretty, as you'll see in following photos.

It started out TEAL because it was from the mid-to-late-ish 1980s. Now it is green, with a metalflake topcoat and lots of coats of silver glitter paint on the lugs.

Because I haven't felt like blogging in any significant way for a while, I neglected to detail the progress of my SS project, but under Joel's tutelage, I've now resurrected and converted an old Schwinn World Sport 15-speed to being a pretty little green-and-silver singlespeed. After stripping it down to the frame, I spray painted it green, then did a clearcoat with green glitter, for a metalflake effect, then highlighted the lugs and fork-crown with many coats of silver glitter paint. In two evenings of tinkering, Joel and I re-assembled it in his basement, largely out of spare parts, and yesterday, I took it on its maiden voyage. The current back wheel is a loaner. I'll be getting to build a new wheel pretty shortly, around a Suzue flip-flop hub. I'm hoping that with the ability to go fixed, I'll finally get the knack of a good trackstand

Sporting 42X17 gearing, and clocking in at around 20lb, it's zippy and agile, stable, and smooth. I rode it up and down the hills around downtown KCK on Sunday, and rode it to work today, and pulled the long hill on 9th Street approaching Myrtle with no problems whatsoever. Just stood up and hustled. Actually much more gratifying a climb than it typically is on my mountain bike, the Schwinn Suburban, or my fancy-pants road bike. The lightness of it, the leverage I get from the bullhorns, and I guess just overall stability of the bike makes it nice to stand up and torque my way up a hill. The bike doesn't wobble at all, and it's light enough that I'm not fighting a lot of extra inertia. For example, my Bianchi and my mountain bike are fine for the standing up and pedaling, but both are pretty stout machines; the Trek800 weighing in somewhere near 35lb, and I'm guessing the Bianchi is near to 30. The Suburban (which weighs something on the order of 40lb) has a tendency to be a little side-to-side-wobbly, and the too-long stem and too-straight forks on my roadie make it a dodgy proposition to stand-and-flog—the potential for oversteering is incredible.

My road-bike is going to be undergoing a few changes to make it more rideable. It's going to be getting a shorter stem with more rise, and will be losing the integrated shifters which work so badly for people like me with small hands. Even though it has the “short-reach” adapters, I still can't brake from the tops or shift in the drops. The actual brake/shifter body is too bulky for me to get a good grip on the lever from the hoods. I can only shift when my hands are on top of the brake hoods and can only brake well when my hands are down in the drops, thus making it a bit of an anxiety-provoking proposition to ride that bike much in traffic. A shorter, higher stem will make it more comfortable for me to ride. The current stem is too long, and I end up with my shoulders hunched forward, despite the fact that I have a very flexible torso. It is also lower than is comfortable for me, causing me to crane my neck to be able to see well ahead of me or look around to monitor traffic. I don’t know if it is some kind of funky racer/TT setup, or if they just expected somebody with a lot longer arms and bigger hands to be riding this wee little 50cm WSD (sometimes it feels like the bike was set up for an orangutan). Anyhow, this bike is going to end up rocking old-school short-reach brake levers and bar-end shifters. Considering as how I have to move my hands all around to brake and shift anyhow, I might as well have brakes that are comfortable for me from either position.

Here are a couple of brief videos of its maiden voyage:

And yes, indeed I am “rockin' the kickstand.” I have kickstands on four of my six bikes, mostly out of sheer cussedness–and because I'm a big old dork.

Hills are fun!

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