No, this is the ugliest bike I have ever ridden

It’s called a Townsend Mango Creek. It was my first mountain bike (not the one in this photo, but the same model), and I loved it.

I rode it everywhere, except on a mountain, or a creek, or near any mangoes. I crashed it quite a bit and with it I developed my love of cycling.

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Like any pre-adolescent, I didn’t maintain it very well and one day bits started to fall off. Which were apparently impossible to put back on. Really. Things like pedal cranks. That’s a problem when you’re halfway through your paper round on a snowy Sunday morning.

Then another day some nice people broke into our garage and took it away, along with most of my father’s and grandfathers’ tools.

Just goes to show, thieves have no taste in bikes.

So what’s the ugliest bike you’ve ever ridden? Please share photos, I’m sure there’s some real beauties out there!

PS. Looking at the photo, like the Kristall featured in an earlier post, the Mango Creek apparently also had cantilever brakes. So I’m not a canti newbie after all…

Not sure how to fix something? Watch someone else do it first!

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Bikes are relatively simple machines. Much easier to repair than say, a motorbike, or a car, or a TV. But while they are relatively simple, they still pose a number of challenges to the home mechanic.

Each component on a bike is relatively straightforward, mechanically speaking. But anyone with more than one bike will know there’s been a whole host of different components over the last decades.

Every bike has a bottom bracket, and hubs, and pedals, and handlebars, and brakes. But the way these have been designed and put together over the years has varied dramatically.

As a result of these variations, each different component works slightly differently, is adjusted differently, might be threaded differently, etc. Pretty quickly, the home mechanic finds they need a whole host of tools to undertake the same task (e.g. change a bottom bracket) on different bikes!

But the web is your friend. The internet is an amazing resource to check things out without damaging components by doing something incorrectly, and youtube channels allow you to see people fixing stuff first-hand.

Repair and maintenance instructions can be unclear in written/photo form, and video can really help improve clarity.

I’ve recently added a few youtube channels to my Blogroll that I find helpful. They’re over on the right of my page. Check them out, hopefully they can help you too.

This is the ugliest bike I’ve ever ridden

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Though saying that makes me feel pretty mean. Like insulting an orphaned child… After all, this sad, abandoned mountain bike was rescued from a bin and brought home to be resuscitated.

Something in me just can’t leave a bike in a bin, even if it does have a purple and pink-spatter paint job that I could never imagine being seen riding on.

My wife is (unsurprisingly) unsupportive of my “addiction”…

The initial light hose-down revealed the bike to be in decent condition. No major rust, no bottom bracket wobble, true rims, no major dings in the paintwork. The seatpost and saddle were missing, tyres were punctured, the front shift lever did not work and both derailleurs were not correctly indexed and limited. That’s it, pretty good going.

But it was still ugly.

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Not much on the frame to indicate manufacturer, and as I have previously seen on some mid 80-90s bikes, the name of the components is shown on the top tube (in this case Deore LX STI), but not the bike brand. But I did see a partially erased decal which I deciphered as “Creation Kristall”.

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Kristall is a small Swiss frame maker, based north of Zurich, in Kleindoettingen, near the German border. They have been building frames since 1945 and currently have a full range of city, road, mountain and electric bikes.

This one has a cro-moly frame (and is HEAVY), full Shimano Deore LX component group, Biopace triple chainring, STI shifters, cantilever brakes and fat (almost) semi-slick tyres. And apparently a custom paintjob.

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The Deore LX component group dates this bike as early 90s, and is described by Velobase as replacing “Deore DX, ranked below XTR and Deore XT”.

I’ve been keen to ride a Biopace chain ring for a while, to see the difference with an elliptical chainring. Though after a few weeks on this one, I can’t feel any difference to power delivery, or ride.

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However I’m surprised to report that I’m pretty surprised with the cantilever brakes. It’s the first time I have ridden with them, and fully expected them to be inferior to the v-brakes which replaced them. Nonetheless, they have great stopping power, good modulation and inspire enough confidence to ride pretty hard, and in some pretty bad weather.

For a 25 year old brake system, that’s pretty impressive.

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Also, it’s got a Deore XT shark fin, which is designed to keen mud off the tyres and stop chain suck. Though I can’t imagine this bike ever been ridden such that this would be an issue.

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The Deore LX component group dates this bike as early 90s, and is described by Velobase as replacing “Deore DX, ranked below XTR and Deore XT”.

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I previously wrote a post on repairing the front shifter, which would shift up but not down. I made the schoolboy error of dismantling the entire shifter when simply a bit of spray lube in the mechanism would have been sufficient to return full functionality. Lesson learned!

The tyres are Vredestein Mont Blancs, and honestly seem better suited to cruising a Pacific coast beach than a mountain. If they ever ended up on Mont Blanc, they’d be in serious trouble. A Californian in swimming trunks surrounded by snow.

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Either the tyres or the geometry give this bike generally a real “cruiser” feel. Slow and measured acceleration and steering, but comfortable at speed. Definitely not a true off-roader.

As this bike has a great set of mudguards and fat tyres (and my other mountain bike has a worn BB) I put the Kristall to work as a winter “beater”. I’ve added reflectors, a seatpost and saddle from another bike, as well as front/rear lights. To be fair, it’s doing a pretty good job at winter commuting.

There’s a great expression that “life’s too short to ride ugly bikes”. I’ve obviously completely misunderstood the essence of that here. Thus far nobody has pointed at me and laughed while riding it, but then the Swiss are generally polite. And it does get dark early at this time of year…

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There’s a couple of neat little touches on the frame, like the rear brake cable guide and the internal cable routing through the stem.

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This is probably the roughest “crystal” the world has ever seen, but I’m sure it’s happy to be ridden again after a few years of neglect.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But just look at that paintjob…

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Does anyone still repair inner tubes???

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Not sure exactly why I do to be honest. Just for the fun of it I suppose…

While repairing a flat, I came across a pack of patches I bought in Singapore, and had forgotten just how awesome the packaging was.

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This looks like it’s time-warped straight from the 1950s! You can just imagine this sitting forgotten on a shop shelf for decades under 2cms of dust. As it happens it’s a new packet, just kitsch old design!

I love the graphics on the box, showing what looks like an Austin Ambassador flying through a car inner tube. Amazing what you can do with a box of cheap rubber patches eh?

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Incidentally, the “Rub-O-Matic” device referred to on the back of the box is actually a rectangle of sandpaper. Love it.

So for now this gets a Thumbs Up from me. If it’s good enough for an Austin Ambassador on an Indian country road it’s good enough for my bikes.

But I’ll have to let you know if it lives up to its promises ;)

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Dear Santa…

For next Christmas, if you happen to have one of these lying around, feel free to pop it down my chimney. =)

PS. Readers, if you can guess what it is, you’ll get a gold star.