A Bike Life

Four decades of touring, racing, commuting and recovery … a bike life indeed!

Category: Equipment

Just like new!

My RB-1 with Fizik White (logo) Tape

There is something about new handlebar tape that makes a whole bike seem new. I just got through putting some new white Fizik tape on my road bike. I finished it off with some red electrical tape to match the bike’s red and white theme. The Fizik tape looks durable and from what I’ve read on the Internet it is easy to keep clean.

Over the decades I have used a variety of types of bar tape. Like most cyclists my age, I started with Tressostar cloth tape. It was thin woven cotton with an adhesive backing. I used the black version without lacquer and it lasted forever. I was never brave enough to try the famous harlequin wrap.

When I started racing I moved on to Benotto Cello Tape. This stuff was made of tough plastic and looked really cool on the bike. It was shiny with a slight texture and surprisingly grippy. Unlike modern tape, the Tressostar and Benotto had no padding at all.

My RB-1 with Velo Orange Elk Hide

My previous tape job was the coolest looking but alas, it did not last. When I re-furbished my Bridgestone RB-1 I decided to try Velo Orange‘s Elkhide sewn on bar covers in white. These are pre-cut elk hide and come with excellent directions. On evening I spent a couple of hours stitching them on. As you can see they looked great! Everywhere I went, other cyclists asked about them. They we comfortable and had excellent grip, the problem was that there was no good way to keep them clean. After a while they looked really ratty. I finally removed them and put the Fizik on instead. Apparently Velo Orange has discontinued the white version.

Well, with my new white tape I am ready for anything. I am sure that I will be faster on tomorrow’s commute!

The Five Schwinns of my life

A good friend recently asked for help fixing her bike. She has a Schwinn Varsity and the rear derailleur had lost a pulley. Because the bike was so old, I had to replace the entire derailleur, but now it works just like new. As I worked on her bike, it reminded me of the five Schwinns I have owned over the years and how big an impact they had on a bike life. The pictures in this posts are not of my bikes, I wish I had pictures of all of them 🙁 I chose these pictures because they are similar to the bikes I owned.


My first Schwinn was a classic Stingray like the one pictured here. Mine had a green banana seat and matching grips. I think it had silver fenders and I know it had a 2.25 inch slick tire in the rear, just like a dragster. It was more than a bike, to a kid in 3rd grade, the Stingray was freedom. I could go anywhere from 18 Street to Seerley Boulevard from College to Main Street and I didn’t have to be home until the streetlights came on. I raced with my friends, did wheelies, delivered newspapers, rode down stairs and jumped off homemade ramps on that old Stingray. Today my kids have Facebook, Xbox, Twitter, etc, I wish I could share with them the joy of that old Stingray.


I spent my junior high years on Guam. My family lived in faculty housing by the university and my neighbor had a brown Schwinn Varsity chained to his water meter. One day I asked if whe would sell it to me and I took my paper route money and bought it. Those old Varsitys were heavy! I am sure mine weighed 50 pounds. But to me that bike was a thoroughbred race machine. During my stay on the island a small bicycle club was formed. I remember a ride in the hills of southern Guam. Of the twenty or so riders, only three of us made it to the top of the hill by Fort Santa Agueda without walking. The other two were adults on Schwinn Paramounts (Schwinn’s legendary top of the line bike), of course I was on my trusty Varsity. When my family returned to Iowa, I had the varsity shipped back and it was my way to re-acquaint myself with my old hometown. I even took it on a 55 mile ride with the local bike club.

Super Le Tour 12.2

I worked all summer the year I returned from Guam to earn enough for a serious bike. I had my heart set on a Peugot PX 10 but by the time I had the money there were none available in my size. So I ended up buying a brand new Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2. The Le Tour was one of the first mid-line Japanese Schwinns. It was relatively light for its day and the blue and chrome finish made it look like it could fly. I rode that bike on my first RAGBRAI(a 430 mile ride across Iowa). I added toe clips, bought stiff Italian cycling shoes and replaced the wheels with a pair of sew-ups with Campagnolo hubs and a Regina ORO racing freewheel. I raced that bike in criteriums and time trials all over Iowa. The old Le Tour saw me through my high school years looking at this picture (not my bike but the same model) is like looking at a picture of an old friend.

High Sierra

Many years and four children later, I was living in Wichita, Kansas. I had not yet finished my college degree and I was working as a Red Lobster manager. I wasn’t doing much bicycling. Mountain biking was just coming of age. An employee of mine sold me an old beater mountain bike. It had some nice components but the frame was junk. I went out and bought a Schwinn High Sierra frame that had never been built up. The frame was bright yellow and in the fashion of the 1980’s I tricked it out with hot pink accessories. The next year I returned to college for a year to finish my degree, the bike and I (hot pink components and all) sere a regular sight around campus. Mountain biking was just the shot in the arm I needed to get back into cycling.

Paramount PDG 70

I have been fortunate to own a number of great bikes, some of them considered classics to this day. I have also been fortunate to not have to spend top dollar even to buy high end bikes. The Le Tour was the only bike I ever bough new at retail. When I finally got my college degree and a job to go with it my wife let my buy a Schwinn Paramount PDG-70. The PDG-70 was a high end mountain bike, no suspension with Shimano Deore XT components throughout. This bike was a leftover, it was a previous year’s model that had not sold so I bought it new at a significant discount. This bike was sexy and fast. As you can see in this photo The top tube and stem were long encouraging a very aggressive riding position. I rode this bike almost exclusively on hilly single-track trails. Some years later I replaced it with a newer model (not a Schwinn) with front suspension and I sold it to my brother. I think I made a mistake, I like the PDG-70 better.Of the many bikes I have owned, five have been Schwinns. Each one evokes memories and has a special place in my heart.

Rockin’ the Big Ring

The Big Ring!

My wife is a cycling newbie. It is fun to watch her improve as we ride. She is riding faster and farther nearly every time we go out. Today was no exception. We rode just about 10 miles and while she felt she could have ridden more we decided to call it a day.

On our last ride, she got on her bike after our daughter had ridden it. Our daughter had left the bike in its highest gear (52×13) and when my wife started out, she almost fell off! Today I decided I would try and help her shift the front derailleur. This was easier said than done since her bike is nearly new and has brifters (shifter combined with the brake levers). When I re-built my bike I stayed with downtube shifters and since I have never ridden hers I could not remember which way to shift up or down.

Up until today, my wife has ridden exclusively on the middle chainring. Her bike has a wide range rear cassette so she rarely has need to shift off the middle ring. Today, however I saw her pushing pretty hard up a hill into the wind, so I talked her into dropping to the small ring up front. She found a gear that she liked and rolled smoothly up the hill. On the way back, downhill with a tailwind, I coaxed her onto the BIG ring. It was her first time but she really got going, we rode quite a ways spinning in in high gear. She had a blast but was afraid to go any faster.

I am sure this won’t be the last time she is out there rockin’ the BIG ring.  Next I need to  teach her how to ride one handed and drink from her water bottle.


My Bridgestone RB-1

I am a bike commuter again. With gas well over $3 a gallon it just makes sense. Throughout my life I have had a somewhat varied relationship with the bike. I have been a racer, a commuter, a long-distance solo tourist, a club rider and yes a commuter.

I have started commuting to work again this summer. I began on my fixed gear bike but the 10 miles with hills on both ends was too much. I had lowrider mounts put on my Bridgestone RB-1 so now I can carry front panniers as shown in the picture and this is my commuting setup. I am going to try and mix biking to work and swimming for the rest of the summer.

Now, if only we had showers in my building 🙁

Since I am an old man I have a bailout gear on this bike. The setup is an Ultegra triple but I replaced the rings with TA Alize 24-38-48 up front and 13-24 in the rear. So if things get really bad and it looks like there is no tomorrow I can drop into 24×24! I was concerned that I might have to resort to the 24 ring up front. Apparently all the fixed gear time paid off I took a different route home and on the big hill I managed to ride my 38×19 all the way up!

The (bike) Dashboard and the Bell

Road Bike Dashboard

I currently have three bikes, a road bike, a fixed gear and a mountain bike. My two primary bikes, the road and fixed gear are both configured with nearly identical dashboards. I just got my road bike fork back from Jeffery Bock, an old friend and frame builder. The bike is a Bridegstone RB-1 an old ’80s racer. Jeff added eyelets and lowrider mounts so I could carry front panniers and use the bike to commute. If you look closely you can see the rack parallel to the front tire.

Fixed Gear Dashboard

On my dashboard I have a CygoLite Million 200. This is a 200 lumen LED light. I bought it because it is one single piece and recharges via USB so I can charge it at my desk at work. 200 lumens is a very bright like it is highly visible even in daylight. For daytime road rides I set it to flash so cars can see me even if they are driving into the sun. Next I have a Cateye wireless cyclometer. Since my dashboard is busy I wanted a computer that could mount on the stem. Finally on the right side I have a bell. My fixed gear bike has almost the same setup except the light is a Nightrider Ultra Fazer 5.o. The Nightrider is not as powerful as the CygoLite but it is better than nothing.

One of my pet peeves is people who ride on trails and do not call out when they pass. Most trails are multi-use and here in Cedar Rapids you will find runners, walkers, Roller-Bladers, moms pushing strollers, dog walkers and cyclists sharing the same trail. The problem is that everyone on the trail moves at a different speed. Since bikes are the fastest trail users and move silently, trail etiquette dictates that when passing, you should call out, “Passing left” to let people know that you are approaching and overtaking them. Strangely, both I and others have noticed that few cyclists actually call out when they pass. I have a bell on the bike so that I can alert other trail users when I am overtaking them from behind or approaching a blind corner. The bell can be heard from a distance and the sound is non-threatening. I typically ring the bell twice and call out (in my friendliest voice) “on your left, three riders”. I only pass where there is sufficient room so if I pass walkers and they edge over I try to tell them that there is “plenty of room”. My goal is not to get them to move over rather to keep them from moving into the passing lane.

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