“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.”
“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
There is an abandoned palace in Decatur, Texas – The Waggoner Mansion, also called El Castile, is a sixteen room mansion built in 1883 by the Waggoner Family. The Reata Ranch House in the movie “Giant” is inspired by this building.
But now it stands, abandoned and rotting… and beautiful still.
So, the other day I was riding my commuter bike. This is the ancient Yokota mountain bike I bought in a pawn shop in 1994 for sixty dollars and then converted last year to a commuter. I stripped the bike, repainted it and added racks, lights, and fenders (and more). It was a workable commuter bike, the frame was a little small for my size – but otherwise fine. Well, like I said, I was riding it around the city and I kept feeling something wrong. It felt like the seat was broken – when I pushed on the pedals the seat would shift side to side. I slowed down, rode carefully, and made it back home.
I took the seat apart and looked at it carefully – couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I gave the whole thing a once-over and discovered that I had broken the seat tube. The weld where the tube joined the bottom bracket had cracked – that was what was flopping back and forth. I’m lucky that was the weld that broke – most others would have sent me for a tumble.
It’s not a surprise that it broke – I’ve been riding the bike for almost twenty years (and it was used before that). That’s a lot of flexing on that weld.
Now I needed to figure out what to do. I need a commuter bike. Plus I need two bikes anyway – my Technium road bike is even older than this one and one bike is always under repair of one kind or another.
A friend of mine tried to weld the crack – but the tubing is too thin and the weld wouldn’t hold.
A new bike is out of the question – we are so broke right now.
So I looked at new frames. There are some very affordable generic mountain bike frames available. The problem is that I would have to buy a lot of new parts (threadless headset, fork for same, stem, top-pull derailleur, cables….) because so many parts from my old bike are obsolete – even if they are still working.
Another option is a used bike. I spent a day touring pawn shops (I’m wary of this – I don’t want a hot bike – but at least I could look at some options) but their prices were high. I was working on putting together the funds for a new frame and components when I spotted a bike on Craigslist.
My old bike was a little small – so I wanted to get the size right – but this one was spot on. It was an older, well-used mountain bike, a Giant Rincon SE, for a hundred bucks. That seemed like the ticket to me – the thing should convert into a good commuter – I could mix and match parts from it and my old bike to put together something nice.
So I met the seller at a warehouse (she said it belonged to her son who rode it “all over Southern California”) and bought the thing.
I spent most of a day cleaning, adjusting, and lubricating – then adding my racks, bags, and lights. I swapped the lugged mountain tires and wheels with the slicks on my commuter. The bike has twist-grip shifters, which I’ve never used before – but maybe it’s time to try something new.
Another difference is that it has a front shock adsorbing fork. I’ve never used one of these before. It’s a cheap one, but does seem to make the city riding a bit more comfortable. The problem is that I can’t mount fenders on the fork – so the bike won’t be as good commuting in the rain.
I’ve been thinking about this and I think I’ll buy a steel rigid fork and an extra headset. I can mount a spare brake and my front rack and fenders on that – and use it for commuting. Meanwhile, I can keep the shock fork and the lugged wheels – if I want to ride off-road I can swap them out in a few minutes.
Two bikes for one.
It rides nice. The Giant aluminum frame is rock-solid and it does fit me perfectly. The components are cheap – but they are running fine right now. They should be good enough for commuting. I’ll keep my old parts and swap them out if anything wears out.
The timing is good – it looks like I’ll be short a car for a while – and have to ride to work.