The bike is back up and running. Even with the narrow bars and short stem the International isn’t a bad fit for me. I am also surprised by how stable yet peppy it is. Maybe it’s because I’ve been test riding a bunch of Raleigh and Schwinn 3-speeds of late, but the International is, dare I say, sporty.
Highlights of the bike in my mind are the rebuilt wheels with those shiny stainless spokes, the high polish on the brake calipers (I don’t often go to that extent) and the NOS gold bicycle chain. I wouldn’t dare put a gold chain on a new bike but it’s perfectly at home next to the gold on the Suntour freewheel.
When I was 13 years old my parents took me to Carson City to buy my first road bike. The bike shop we went to, the only one within 40 miles, was a Nishiki dealer. After perusing the lineup I settled on a Nishiki Sport, a decent enough bike. Lots of my friends either rode hand-me-downs or department store junk – for example, Fluff’s parents bought her a Coast King – so I considered myself lucky, sort of. Was the bike suited to my riding aptitude and ability? You bet. Was it what I actually wanted? No way. I wanted an International.
First off, the name. My Lord, what could one do with a bicycle so worldly? If the Sport was the town constable, the International was James Bond. I had no real idea what made the International so, you know, international, but I knew there had to be a big difference. Maybe it came with a martini shaker.
As far as curb appeal went, they both came in a rich burgundy color, but that was were the similarities ended. My Sport was spec’ed with a host of chrome-plated steel parts. You know, steel; what they make cars and battleships with? The International was outfitted with aluminum components, all matte finished and purposeful looking as hell.
The International also weighed nothing comparatively. Not that I was allowed to heft it, mind you. 13 year old boys were not permitted to pull Excalibur from the stone. I only knew it to be nearly weightless because the catalog said so. If not properly ballasted with a water bottle and CyclePro handlebar bag, well, the thing might just up and float away.
My Sport never left the ground except for maybe once or twice when I imprudently jumped a curb with it (I quickly learned it wasn’t a BMX bike). Also, the time I crashed riding down Muller Lane after a long day pulling weeds at the Jubilee Ranch. I lost concentration for a moment and down I went. It was a magnificent pile-in of the first order and I shudder to think what would have happened If I’d actually been on an International that day. The Sport, on the other hand, took the tremendous crash with aplomb. That day its battleship components did right by me.
The Sport stayed with me throughout my middle and high school years with nary an issue. I rode it in the snow, I rode it through the 4″ of water that the town irrigated Minden Park with every week, and I rode it up and down Kingsbury Grade countless times. It would shake and shudder a bit above 40 mph, but it never hinted at pitching me into a guardrail and it always stopped at the bottom.
My parents eventually bought me a fancier bike for my high school graduation. I settled on a Nishiki Olympic 12 after discovering I’d have to wait an extra 2 months for an International. The Olympic was a great bike, but I always wished I’d had enough patience to wait for Excalibur.
The pictured International recently turned up on ebay, and for under $175 shipped I decided I’d waited long enough. The bike had seen some coastal living with rust apparent on some of its steel parts (yes, even the International had a few ferrous pieces). The frame, however, was rust free and the bike was pretty much original so it seemed as good a place to start as any.
I’ll try to post more photos of the bike after I start refurbishing it.