It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does…
We’re recently back from picking up Fluff’s 2022 Steve Potts gravel bike. As far as bike-oriented trips go it woulda been hard to beat our day trip to Etna, Ca. The town was cute as a button, Steve himself was a top-notch host, and some glorious soul had seen fit to put a distillery and a brewery within crawling distance from Steve’s shop.
We received a tour of the Potts compound including a intro to some of his favorite machining tools (all which seem like personalities in their own right). We saw lots of titanium bits as well as various frames in process, along with some of Steve’s newest component offerings. Good stuff, all.
Then came the unveiling nearly two years in the making (thank you, Covid). And what a beauty she was in all her titanium-ness. Like my Della Santa touring bike, the blue highlight matches was Tahoe inspired: unlike the DS, her green wasn’t reminiscent of pine needles but instead green ledger paper (ahh, accountants).
The bike is back home and has been properly kitted out with the new Campagnolo Ekar group, making it one of the most expensive rides around the joint. Even so, Fluff treats it like any regular bike and rides it everywhere, all the time. It’s sitting on the back porch right now, all dusty and dirty and she’s perfectly fine with it.
Meanwhile, it makes me itch. Maybe I’ll detail my Scott mt. bike for the second time this week…
It’s the late 1990’s, folks are doing their 1990’s thing and I’m out on one of my many bicycle-related “house calls”, this time to look at a pair of vintage German three-speeds a gentleman is thinking of selling. Both Bauers were in great condition, but the men’s bike really caught my eye as it was a 50th anniversary edition. I have a thing for anniversary models so my interest was very much piqued. Though the owner had invited me over to discuss purchasing them, he balked at what I considered increasingly irresistible offers. Hell and damnation! No bikes came home that day.
Over the ensuing years I bet I called him 10 more times, most with outlandish offers, only to get the same response, “I think I’m going to hold on to them for now.” Hell, damnation and eternal fire!
Fast forward to the height of the pandemic when I received a call from a woman who was selling some clunkers her husband had recently acquired. As you’ve no-doubt surmised, amongst the rabble of junkers were the Bauers, looking not one day older. Somehow they’d made their way through God knows how many hands, only to end up back in front of me. At times it’s as if things never leave the Biggest Little City, they just swirl around in the wind until they land in the perfect spot.
So there they were with barely a chance to appreciate the headiness of the moment as a plumbing issue was making the basement a less than hospitable place for bikes. Out the Bauers came, and quick.
If the men’s bike had been even close to my size it would had stayed right here (thank you very much), but as it was, the bike was just too big. I’ve been trying to focus on only keeping bikes I can actually ride so instead, loyal customer Louis Marvick became the beneficiary of the discovery. Thus adds yet another chapter to story of the Bauer bikes while also proving (please pay attention Fluff) that I can occasionally be pressed to part with a two-wheeled treasure.
As many of you know, Roland sent many of the overhauls and restorations of his bikes my way. Sadly, he’s no longer with us but nevertheless the bikes keep showing up.
Here’s a very nice 1970’s DS that recently came in for an overhaul and new wheels. Noticing that the right rear dropout had the small screw holes in it, I also was able to install an NOS Campagnolo Portacatena kit.
Recently finished up this Urania, yet another in the long line of bike brands I’d never heard of.
…Which is in no way an implication of its quality or prevalence but hints at how many manufacturers are out there, or how little I truly know. Probably the latter.
It’s a nice sorta bike, well worth the effort it took to bring it back to riding condition. … And Kudos to Andy’s Lock and Key for taking the time to crack the code on the old Basta lock. Each of the six tabs had three positions which meant there were over 11,000 possible variations. Nevertheless, they built an algorithm and went to work trying each until they figured it out. That’s dedication no matter how you look at it.
It appears I’m going down this rabbit hole. After 53 years of making my own way re: two-wheelers, I’ve enlisted the help of harnessed electricity in an effort to make riding fun again.
One could ask why someone who absolutely adores old bicycles would consider an e-bike, arguably the polar opposite in so many ways. The simple, honest answer is that I needed help getting back on the road. Over the past 7 years I’d found myself coming up with innumerable excuses to not ride on a regular basis, and during the last two years I’d discovered plenty more to justify riding at all. Loving old bikes and working on old bikes, but not riding old bikes wasn’t working out all that well. Who knew a new bike would solve the problem.
I’d felt a loss of stamina and output over the years, not uncommon for sure, but maybe more dramatic. I was having a hard time getting up enough energy to pedal anywhere, ever. Added to the mix the usual busy work/family life excuse and my particular brand of frequent and inherent sloth and what we had was a first-rate Catch 22. Not riding, after all, leads to more not riding, which eventually leads to not being about to ride, at least not comfortably. Even short rides were painful. After I contracted Covid the modest little hill on our street positively winded me. Something, as they say, had to change.
By pure chance and luck, I was offered an E-mt. bike from “The Dropout”, Chad and Yvette’s happy little bike shop in downtown Reno. Yvette was considering an upgrade so I got to ride her 2017 Scott Strike E-Ride for a month.
There are those moments that you just know are going to change your life. I was in the hills above Reno just noodling along on a sidehill road when I realized I was really having a fantastic time. Not a good time, but a fantastic time. By the end of the 1.5 hour long ride I’d visited terrain I hadn’t been on in twenty years. Best of all, I’d seen it and ridden it without feeling like my heart was going to go off like a grenade. I was tired and sweaty, but I wasn’t miserable. The heavens had opened and I had been enlightened. Glory, Hallelujah!
I told everyone who would listen about my epiphany. Friends, acquaintances, distance relatives, the grocery bagger at Raley’s… Most smiled and nodded politely, unaware of the true substance of my revelation. Isn’t that always the case? You feel the hand of God reach down and touch you and nobody else seems to think all that much of it. We’re all the main actors in our own plays, I guess.
After giving back Yvette’s e-bike I ordered my own slice of heaven and then promptly went back into horizontal mode until it arrived. With post-pandemic supply chains stressed to the limit it would take nearly 7 months for the Ransom to arrive.
When it finally hit Reno I put it in the living room and stared at it for a whole evening. What a majestic beast. I rode it a few times then panicked about getting it scratched (I’m awfully good at panicking when I want to). After ordered BikeWrap I put off-road riding until I could ensure some protection. I can deal with patina on an old bike, but I hate (with a capital “H”) scratching up new stuff. The clear film would help but wouldn’t totally alleviate this, something I’m still quite aware of. I’m trying to resolve the issue, telling myself that this bike, beyond all others requires that I ride the heck out of it.
So far, so good. If you’re wondering if I still get the same sense of exuberance when I go out for a ride, the answer is a resounding yes. It could be from lack of oxygen but I often feel giddy. Bless the bike that causes that.
(All hail The Dropout. Thanks to Yvette and Chad <pictured> for getting me back on the road, dirt, whatever.)
I fell in love with this Fiorelli the moment I saw it on the ol’ online auction monopoly. It’s old Campy bits, its whitewall Fiorelli tires, its rain catchers, and of course, its redness. Soooo, red….
Regarding the crazy position of the brake levers, rather than move them to a more convenient (i.e. less deadly) position I left them how they came. They’re not terribly functional in that state but who am I kidding. I’ll never subject those tires to pavement.
I ended up given this old Frenchy a chance. Sure, it ate up some parts and a whole lot of time – probably more of both than the bike is worth – but as always, it’s hard for me to know when to quit. If the paint had been beat up the decision would have been easier.
Beyond the bits, the bike now has a few new decals, both on the frame and on the Ambrosio rims.
I actually put the bike together two months ago but there were a couple small issues I wanted to address before I photographed it. During that time other projects came in and out, plenty worth mentioning, but I kept thinking, “Don’t post anything else until you’ve put up the Gios.” So nothing else got posted. Dumb idea.
Anyhow, here she is, ready to go out into the world and get dirty and scratched up.
Who am I kidding?
Here she is, all ready to be displayed in the shop.
P.S. I just noticed the “before” photos in the November, 2020 post had gone missing. They’re now reloaded in that section.)
Back in 1985 when I worked at College Cyclery the collective dream mt. bike for all the mechanics was the Alpina Ultima. It would be a year or two before the shop started carrying handbuilt mt. bikes so nice production ones were the best we could get. Even so, the Ultima was better than most anything on the market, production or otherwise. Beyond its substantial double-butted chromoly frame and beautiful tapered fork crown, the Ultima had all the best components; Sugino AT triple crankset, Nitto forged stem, Dia-Compe textured brake levers and so much more. It even had that wacky/wonderful double-quick release seatpost that was popular for, like, 20 minutes.
Sealed bearings were a real big deal, and the Ultima was the most “sealed up” bike you could find. Not only where the hubs, bottom bracket and headset touted as sealed, even the pivot points on the rear derailleur were buttoned up. The Suntour Superbe Tech rear derailleur was undoubtedly the shining star on an already wonderfully appointed bike. Beyond its sealiness, the Superbe Tech also pulled differently from any other derailleur out there, and as we all knew, different meant cool. Rather than the cable looping around to the back, it came angling directly in from its proprietary cable clamp mounted on the chainstay.
The Superbe Tech derailleur also employed the double-pivot system used on various other Suntour rear derailleurs, the Mountech being one of the most popular. It was always a treat to build an Ultima just so you could watch that rear derailleur articulate while in the bike stand.
The bad news was that the Superbe Tech actually didn’t work all that well. It was prone to having play in its pivot points which made for sloppy shifting. We even had one wrap itself around the rear wheel after errantly grabbing a spoke. The upper jockey wheel was also unique to the system, and not in a good way. It wore quickly and was a really pain to replace if indeed you could find a replacement. More than a few Ultimas were converted to standard derailleurs as a result.
I was thus shocked to find this complete Ultima a couple weeks ago. It had all its proper bits and pieces, including its original Superbe Tech. True to the derailleur’s nature, it nearly took out the rear wheel the first time I shifted it, but after some tightening and adjusting it more or less worked as it should. If I were going to ride the bike for any extended time I’d put the Superbe Tech aside and use a more modern derailleur. The Ultima will likely be getting more display time so keeping it stock will be the order of the day.