Velobrico Workshop: Tigra ladies’ bike

Another stray joined the workshop recently. 

Actually, as you can tell from the photos, this was a while back, when there was still sunshine and no snow!

Tigra is a historic Swiss manufacturer (I understand they disappeared in 2001, bought by Villger, another Swiss brand), which adds another local bicycle to my collection.

This one was left by the bins with flat tires, lots of cobwebs and wrongly adjusted this and that. Nothing major missing though (like saddle, wheels, pedals, handlebars etc.), so all it needs is a little TLC.

I love the frame colour. It’s a really electric blue-green aquamarine which almost looks cromovelato. Really nice. The pictures here don’t do it justice.

The lugged steel mixte frame has the usual mistreatment scratches, but from being badly stored rather than well ridden. The “Tigra” decal from the down tube has disappeared, but the lettering is faintly visible.

I haven’t done any research, but judging from the components I would say this is an early 90s bike. STI shifters. Shimano STX hubs, no-name aero rims. The pedals seem to have been replaced relatively recently (these are the Decathlon urban flat variety, cheap but decent pedals).

Gear shifters and brake levers were oddly inverted, which must have made braking tricky. Gears didn’t shift correctly (WD40 sorted that). One tire pumped up fine, the other needed a patch. One wheel needed a bit of truing, but nothing major. Re-greased the hubs and gave it a wash (after taking the “before” photos for once!)

With very little effort, this middle-aged lady is back on her feet. I bet she’s glad I rescued her!

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Not bikes, but architectural salvage!

It might not be bike-related, but it’s too cool not to share.

 

$_57 (1)A friend of mine has the only remaining illuminated sign from the facade of the now defunct Hürlimann brewery in Zurich.

As you know from the blog, I love reviving things that have a history, and architectural salvage is all about that.

The sign has been stored since it was removed from the brewery, and has a few age-scars as you would expect given its vintage, but it’s a truly unique object.

I’m currently selling it for him, so please share with anyone who might be interested. It would be great for this unique object to go to a good home!

The sign is very large, heavy and currently located in Switzerland, so bear that in mind if you want to bid!

Now imagine what a unique Christmas present that would make for someone…

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Sankt Jurg

epic-fail-ts1-d75551560 I went for a ride this Sunday, the sun was shining, the bike felt good and all was well with the world.

Just a quick morning ride, clock up the kms and work on getting fit again. First half, all good, then on the return leg, I can hear a rhythmic rubbing sound, like a leaf stuck on the back tyre rubbing the frame or brakes with each revolution, no biggie. Then pedalling becomes ever so slightly harder, then the next bump in the road tells me it’s not a leaf. I’ve got a flat.

No problem, I’ll just change the inner tube. I’ve got tyre leavers, patches and glue, and even a whole spare inner tube. But no pump…. Riding on my own this morning and not many cyclists about, so I’ll have to do the unthinkable and call the missus to pick me up.

As you all know, this is an ultimate last resort as the kids will not allow me to forget this rescue probably for years to come. Turn the phone on. Dead. Oh dear.

The next 45 minutes involves walking along the road in cycling shoes, trying to find an open cafe, petrol station, whatever, and asking in crummy German whether anyone has an iphone charger. Nobody has a iphone charger… and petrol stations only have pumps for Schrader valves… People kindly suggest I use their phone to call home. Except I don’t know my number. It’s in the phone…

It’s 25kms back home. My Sunday is not looking so good anymore. Until a most friendly German jogger named Jurg, pushing his daughter to the bakery to buy some croissants, asks if he can help. He has a pump, which fits a Presta valve! He is happy to help, no problem at all.

Thank you Jurg, you literally saved my Sunday.

Velobrico Workshop: Motobecane Eclair (1986) update 

A couple of weeks back I posted about the latest addition to the Velobrico pile of bicycles. A mysterious Motobecane Eclair. Mysterious mostly becuase I couldn’t find out much information about the bike.

Since then, I found that Motobecane went bankrupt in 1983. The remaining assets were purchased by multiple parties, including Yamaha, and rebranded MBK.

I found a French Motobecane brochure from 1986, but no Eclair. All brochures I could find from after this date were for mountain bikes or BMXs, under the MBK badge.

So still no trace of the Eclair (which from looking at the components, should date from about 1986).

Then a breakthrough clue.

Through a Google image search I found some photos of a couple of Motobecane Eclairs. All had been repurposed as fixies or otherwise lightly modified, but were always in the same colour scheme and interestingly also in the same large frame size.

And all located in Germany….

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The other clue as to provenance came from a sticker on the down tube with ZEG written on it. This stands for “Zweirad Einkauf Gemeinschaft“, which I understand to be a bulk purchasing cooperative.

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So I’m guessing when MBK went bankrupt, they sold their remaining inventory, along with exclusive licences to sell Motobecane branded bikes, in certain national markets.

So Germany got the Eclair, and similar variants maybe appeared in other countries. I wonder if Spain got the Profiterole, and Italy the Paris-Brest (yes, it is the name of a patisserie as well as a bike race).

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Has anyone spotted something similar? Just this morning I saw a MBK (not Motobecane) Mirage with a similar looking frame (internal cable routing and same seatpost clamp under the rear stays) in Zurich.

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The Eclair needed quite a bit of tweaking before it could be safely ridden, but eventually I got it out the door and went for a fairly long 65km test ride.

Prior to the test ride I noticed the rear wheel was untrue and had very loose spokes. I tightened them, trued the wheel, and after a few small test runs they seemed to loosen again. So further tightened them, same story. Then I switched out the spoke nipples on the loosened spokes.

This was sufficient for it to survive the test ride, but the spokes definitely loosened again by the end of the ride. Given I can’t remove the spokes without removing the freewheel and can’t do that without a tool that doesn’t disintegrate on the first use, it seems easier to just switch out the rear wheel with a new one. I can’t really imagine why spoke threads could be stripped (which seems the only explanation for the continual loss of spoke tension). Does anyone have experience with that?

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The test ride was otherwise very positive. The brakes are good, though not as powerful as modern equivalents. The mudguards kept me clean =). I was glad not to have to use the lights as the dynamo seems to add 5kgs to the bike when in use…

The handlebar position gave me pins and needles. I get that on some of my bikes but not on others, and have never figured out exactly why that is. Reach or top tube length?

The VP Components pedals were a pleasant surprise, well built, comfortable and suitable for both regular shoes or MTB cleats. Apparently the low cost B’Twin pedals sold in Decathlon are made by VP Components, so buy with confidence.

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The bar tape has stretched apart in the usual spot, on the tops behind the brake levers.

Basically, the downward pressure applied by one’s hands spreads the wrap open over time. This is very common and is so easily avoided by “reverse wrapping”, where you rotate the tape outward from the top (right bar clockwise, left bar counter-clockwise). It’s a neat technique, and worth trying if you haven’t done so already.

I averaged 29 km/hr for first 18kms of my ride (until my phone died) and never did the bike feel unstable. Not bad for a purpose-confused hybrid/aero/tourer/commuter frame!

While the test ride was successful, and this frame offers a good ride, it is just far too big for me.

The current saddle doesn’t look good, so I intend to swap that onto another bike and replace it with a more comfortable one, more suited to a hybrid bike and less “race-y”.

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For me this frame makes for a better a road racer than a commuter, mainly because I have never been a fan of commuting on drop-handlebar bikes. I find the riding position awkward for stop-start riding from traffic light to traffic light, and the skinny tyres poorly suited to cobble stones and tram tracks! But as a weekend racer for a taller cyclist. This bike would be great.

As a final thought, while browsing the Motobecane catalogues, I came across this most fetching photo from 1984.

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I just couldn’t wear shorts that… short.

Maybe that’s why I’m not a fan of Motobecanes?

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Retro Rescue: This is the ugliest bike I’ve ever ridden

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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Bike on a plane

We recently returned to Europe from Singapore, and I decided to take my bike with me on the plane, mostly so I would have something modern to ride while the rest of my stuff took the slow boat. You could ride vintage bikes all the time, but it’s nice to mix it up.

As I have never put a bike on a plane before, I was fairly nervous about the whole experience. It is going to arrive at all? in many pieces? or bent into a U shape? But you gotta have faith, so I gave it a shot.

First step: What sort of bag to use? Hard case? Soft bag? Or cardboard box?

I didn’t feel confident about the cardboard box approach as I imagined luggage being left on the runway in the rain, resulting in the bike being packed in paper maché…

So having opted for a bag, the question was whether to go for a hard or soft bag. A quick look on chain reaction cycles and wiggle.co.uk indicated that prices go from 50 GBP to 250+.

I opted for a soft case, and chose the Brand-X bag with separate wheel bags for 70 GBP. It seemed to have good reviews, and I liked the idea of separate protection for the wheels.

From the baggage handlers (“throwers”) views expressed in the attached article, it seems like the soft bag was the right choice. I wish I had read this article before ordering the bag!

http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/06/flying-with-your-bike-tips-from-a-baggage-handler/

The bag took a couple of weeks to arrive in Singapore, and lugging a massive box home from the post office was interesting.

Second step: How to pack it?

When the bag arrived, it seemed to have even more pockets than I expected, which is good to store some clothes in, and adds more padding to protect the bike. Not so good, was that there was little protection inside the bag for forks, derailleur and the chain ring. As we had a lot of packing boxes, I ripped one apart and created an internal “box” around the bike to protect it. So not really a vote of confidence for the bag…

I guess packing the bike is pretty straightforward, but once you’ve taken off the handlebars, and the saddle, you’ve got two bits either swinging off the bike or loose inside the bag. The bike wouldn’t fit in the bag with the saddle down (but really I didn’t want to scratch the top of the seat post…). So without the bits of cardboard to protect the frame from the swinging brake levers/stem etc., I’m not sure what condition it would have arrived in. Also, the bottom of the bag probably wouldn’t have lasted very long with the chain-ring sitting against it, being banged along baggage conveyor belts. Also the teeth would probably have been bashed around a bit, along with the derailleur. The chap that checked in our bags recommended I release some air from the tyres, which seemed sensible. Not sure if they would have popped without that, but they survived the trip.

Long story short, the bike arrived safely with only minor scratches to the frame (the Lemond Chambery frame seems to scratch if you breathe on it too hard…), and was re-assembled and ridden within 24h despite jet-lag. I loved the contrast between riding in the heat of Singapore, and the crisp summer morning ride along lake Zurich. Probably a warm sunny day for all the locals, but I though my teeth were going to crack from the cold!

Worth mentioning that the trip was with Turkish Airlines, involved a change at Istanbul (so some extra baggage handling than on a single-leg flight), and cost 160 EUR (one-way). No issues at all.

Do you readers travel often with your bikes? So often that it’s as routine as packing a suitcase? Any tips for this newbie would be welcome!

Velobrico Rides: Zurich, Switzerland

So we moved from Singapore to Switzerland. Gone are the early bike rides in hot morning darkness, the occasional monitor lizard and macaque. In exchange we have fresh (cold!) air, wine terraces, snow capped mountains and sunshine!

This is also the first time I’ve tried Strava, so I’ll share my first ride below. My cycle computer broke some time ago so it’s interesting to see the distance travelled and average speed. I did wonder if not seeing my speed would result in a gradual slowdown, but I guess not?

A poor photo of the Lemond in its new surroundings too. It survived the trip via Turkish Airlines!

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