Hannah’s partner, BK, lives in the USA, and lockdown has kept them apart. Each week in the Diversion Diary she brings us some lonesome ramblings, plus a selection of internet finds. This week, BK has been vintage bike shopping.
In theory this should be the last Diversion Diary before BK and I are reunited. But, until he actually gets off that plane in Manchester I don’t think I’m quite going to believe that it’s happening. Infection rates in the USA are going up, and borders are shutting down. If he makes it here I will obviously be delighted. If he doesn’t make it, I’m not sure I’ll be able to deal with it in a particularly adult way. I told him I had a horrible feeling he wasn’t going to get here – he told me I should get rid of that horrible feeling because it’s not doing me any good. His ability to look on the bright side is one of the things I love about him, and one of the ways he makes my life better. Though maybe in a moment you will judge that my excessive rationality and caution might also bring something to this relationship.
For the possibly maybe last Diary I feel like there ought to be some kind of grand finale. Deep and meaningful words, thoughtful thoughts, witty wit. But I’m afraid I’m not feeling terribly creative. All those juices are diverted to the pit of anxiety which sits somewhere in my stomach. So this week you get a virtual collaboration. Hopefully it’s the last bit of virtual collaborating we have to do in a while. (Yes, yes. I hear you sniggering at the back.)
I am not a collector. I feel no compulsion to have ‘things’, catalogue them, look at them, whatever. The only exception maybe is plants, but that’s more of a creating and making thing than a collecting thing. If anything I’m an anti-collector. I don’t hoard, I keep very little by way of sentimental stuff – if it doesn’t fit in a photograph album and isn’t in use or display, I probably won’t keep it. BK however is a collector. If we ever get to cohabit, this could be an issue – although he’s quite tidy, so maybe we’ll get by. Anyway. He’s trimmed down his book and record collections to a core of special-to-him items, but his bike collection is expanding. As part of that expansion, he went a little wild at a bike auction earlier this year (the images are from the auction – would you have bought these bikes on the basis of those pictures?).
This week’s diary is your chance to decide whether you think he’s got junk or treasure, and with words from the man himself it’s also a chance for you to judge if I am quite, quite mad.
The Sacrificial Lambs
- He says: These bikes were bought for resale purposes, some will end up with friends, others you might want to buy
- I say: If he sells any or turns a profit, I will be pleasantly surprised.
‘9X Olmo MTB Frame and Bontrager Ti bar
He says: The frame is my Italian round trip plane ticket, I hope Hannah will meet me in Finale. Started in the 1930s by Guiseppe Olmo a successful Olympic, Classics and Italian National Champion road racer. The frame is a super light version featuring Columbus tubing, probably a mix of SL and tandem tubing, The Bontrager 118g handlebars, essentially a straight piece of (.020 ?) tubing requiring a shim for the stem clamp, were notoriously victim, often failing when a bike fell over or was crashed.
I say: Nice history lesson. Profitable? Hmm…
’87 White Wicked Fat Chance
He says: Probably my worst purchase as the Wicked isn’t the most desirable of Fats and the components are a mish-mash and mostly junk. However, it is the first year of production for the Wicked, a refined version of the original Fat Chance, so the serial number may make a difference in the final pricing. I hope to sell frame and fork, strip the parts, save the wheels, rear derailleur and stem for another bike, and donate the rest to a community bike shop.
I say: You shouldn’t drink while buying from auction sites.
’85 Black Schwinn High Sierra
He says: Not my best choice, it is in decent shape and was the standard issue first MTB and very popular in many suburbs. Real Diacompe cantilever brakes and pre-indexing Suntour Mountech Derailleurs, sloping fork crown, bullmoose bars, adjustable layback seatpost make it a real deal MTB.
I say: I’d ride it to the pub
’84 Black Schwinn High Sierra
He says: These High Sierras are rare and though it is dirty, it is very collectible and lightly used with original reflectors and tires (skinny tires were standard issue original equipment for a number of years in the ’80s because they put bike in a different tariff category). It’s the bike that made everyone buy the ’85 High Sierra.
I say: Rare? But there are two right here!
’85 Chrome Ross Mt. Hood
He says: Ross had an incredible burst in the MTB scene in the early and mid ’80s sponsoring a race team (with Joe Murray) a race series and building quality MTBs affordably. Then, lacking a quality dealer network (they were big box store bikes), they were quickly out developed and out marketed by Independent Bicycle Retailers who could service and upgrade the increasingly complex machines being pushed to the limits of their durability. They do well because of chrome, but it has a bit of a hodge-podge of parts, so I hope to sell it.
I say: I actually quite like this one, mostly because it is shiny, but I’m not buying it off you.
The Screw You Bike
- He says: since I own it and have always owned one of these since they first came out, I will do what I want
- I say: You lot need to know that BK’s bikes have names. Godspeed is his Nishiki Alien that acquired some unfortunate injuries after I went to ride it and couldn’t because the seat post was stuck, and BK conducted a catastrophic attempt at fixing it. I feel culpable for the demise of Godspeed, since BK could have carried on riding it with its stuck seat post for ever more – it was only me noting the post was stuck that precipitated Godspeed’s death. So, I’m not arguing about this purchase at all.
’89 White Splatter Nishiki Alien
The most expensive Japanese bike in the entire auction, obviously, a Goddishspeed in 21 inch is a desirable find. The first production year, ’89 Alien, a Richard Cunningham design, featured an elevated chainstay frame executed with Tange MTB tubing, minimalist gussets and flawless tig welding, with a straight, tapered fork. I got a salesman’s sample and proceeded to modify it with a torch as my Godspeeds past have featured a different cable routing to eliminate the F derailleur pulley (things we’re bottom pull only back then) and keep the R derailleur cable higher out of the muck. I will do whatever I want with this bike as I have the prior two, which will involve lots of roadie hunting. Although there is probably an army a big galoots out there declaring sacrilege, I will sacrifice everything but the frame (which will be brought to gen 3 Godspeed spec and painted black) and sell or reuse parts. I look forward to putting 1500 or so miles on that frame each year for 20+ or more, as I did with Godspeed 2. That fork, which is semi-noodly, is worth money because not many survive and the long steerer tube can be made to fit any bike.
- He says: these stay in the collection as examples of the genre for all to admire
- I say: ‘All’ to admire may be optimistic. But better to have a small and appreciative crowd than a disinterested hoard.
’93 Purple Nishiki Alu Alien
He says: The last year that Nishiki produced the Alien, this version of the original production elevated stay bike was an exercise in economy, welded out of simple large section aluminum tubes, rectangular for the top and downtube, this bike was accessible and purple. This example features an XT wheelset, brakes, rear derailleur and crap crank and SunTour fork and a bunch of BS lime green late model garbage parts. This bike might have been a mistake despite it being an elevated chain stay, rare, purple and my sizish, but I’ll revise it a bit with a proper fork (RS1?) and crank off of the Wicked Fat chance. Still, with all its garishness it will be the most looked at bike in the North Go-Ride store rafters while the frame and XT parts appreciate in value.
I say: Don’t let him fool you with his dismissal of bright green parts, he is a natural born attention seeker, and he loves purple. As for North Go-Ride, his local bike shop, I suspect they will be happy to write a reference to the UK’s immigration department to assist in his departure from US shores.
’83 Chrome Corsaro Mountaineer
He says: This is a superb example of early ’80s Japanese lugged construction, probably made in the Giant factory, that looks to have been ridden a few times, then hung up. The Corsaro Mountaineer has the very rare pre-index Suntour XC, gorgeous cold forged NGC 982 brakes, sealed hubs and adjustable QR laid back seat post, among other all Japanese components. Biplane fork and full width bull moose bars top off the package. It might have real Grab-on grips and Araya 7x rims. It will adorn the rafters in all its shiny glory.
I say: The biplane fork, bullmoose bars and chrome finish do it for me. I’m not arguing.
‘83 Black Diamondback Ridge Runner
He says: Probably my best purchase besides the ’89 Alien and ’93 AMP B2 and significantly less expensive, These were the glory days for Western States Importers, with Diamond Back MTBs and BMX (note logo styles) and Centurion, their road brand, exhibiting the best of Japanese production, handmade lugged frames with Tange tubing. Pinstriped detailing and pre-indexing SunTour Superbe Tech with unique cable housing stop and guide tube frame braze-ons, large flange Suzue hubs, bull moose bar, flat crown original fork (these did not often last!). Original reflectors and pie plate. Amazing! Total show piece. Gets hung in North Go-Ride rafters for all to admire.
I say: It is good for our relationship that you can get so excited about such small features.
’93 Polished Alu AMP B2
He says: Developed by Horst Leitner, a MX racer and mechanic for ATK, the AMP B2 was one of a handful of early designs that worked well enough to prove the concept of dual suspension MTBs. Along with Mert Lawill and Dan Hannebrink, the AMP was a ground up design for frame and fork, with the B2 featuring the first true 4-bar design, aka Horst link/FSR, dual downtubes, and the remarkable AMP linkage fork. Although it is noodly and offers primitive tunability, it’s a grail bike with full generation 1 XTR, Saturae rims, a USA ControlTech cockpit, including bar ends and seat post. Judging by the brake pads and crap stickers that are still in remarkably good shape, I believe only the tires and saddle are not original. Really amazing shape. Probably will end hanging over Coachy’s desk, my bed or the cash register of the North Go-Ride store.
I say: How many MTB coaches have a desk? I wonder if you are confusing your coach with your therapist, or parole officer? Also: It’s not hanging over my bed, with all that tubing the reflections in the mirror would be really disorientating.
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Finally, the Albatross
- He says: Not all projects are finished, ever
- I say: Once again, auctions and beer are a poor life choice.
’84 Trek 760
He says: This purple, Reynolds 531, Wisconsin made, with partial Victory Campy is my size and is perfectly illustrative of the proletariat craft bicycles coming out of the upper midwest. It will hang in my garage, storage space or in a shed in Castle Valley for a few decades or more. I might pick up the hard-to-find ’84 crank for it one day, but since it really needs the Campy non-aero brake levers with white hoods (why do you think they are missing), I will never complete it and one of my friends or family will have to deal with it when I’m gone. On the other hand, if this lock down continues, I probably need some eBay sport entertainment. I think I’ll have all the parts with me when I come to pick it up!
I say: Remind me to make sure there is reference to the disposal of personal items is in the pre-nup.
The Ones That Got Away
Believe it or not, he didn’t buy everything in the auction. Here are a couple that he didn’t buy.
For those of you who are really keen on
old knackered vintage bikes, easily excited, or fans of slow TV, there is a live unboxing video of all these bikes being unpacked from the trailer in Durango, Colorado. It takes him about three minutes to get anything interesting out, at six minutes there’s a freak distraction, and about seven minutes he really get going. But it’s still a slow pleasure, if you’re into enthusiastic bike trivia. If any of you watch it all the way through, there should probably be a cloth badge you can sew onto your saddle bag as a reward.
What do you think? Is he overly optimistic and positive about these purchases? Could a dose of my scepticism be in order and bring balance to this relationship (and his bank)? Certainly I think Joe could have done to heckle a little more. If I’d been there I’d have done plenty of that.
Is there anything here that you find remotely interesting? Would you ride any of them? Buy any of them? Is this interest only a dose of sunshine and chrome away from stamp collecting or model train building? Let’s offer you the chance to make your opinions known. Please feel free to elaborate in the comments.
Is this a collection of
- Some treasure, lots of junk (50%, 28 Votes)
- Junk (27%, 15 Votes)
- Some junk, lots of treasure (14%, 8 Votes)
- Treasure (9%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 56
Which is the best bike in this array?
- The Amp (51%, 35 Votes)
- The Purple Nishiki (16%, 11 Votes)
- The Olmo (9%, 6 Votes)
- The Fat Chance (7%, 5 Votes)
- The Corsaro (4%, 3 Votes)
- The Diamondback (4%, 3 Votes)
- The Splatter Nishiki (3%, 2 Votes)
- The Trek (3%, 2 Votes)
- The Ross Mount Hood (1%, 1 Votes)
- A High Sierra (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 68
At this point I should probably remind you all that this is just an addition to the collection. There are already ten other bikes adorning the rafters of the North Go-Ride store. Plus, he is an American, so he has a storage unit (why do Americans have storage units while we Brits just squeeze everything in the loft or garage?). I have not been in there. Dare I ask how many bikes might be in there? Does he even know?
We’re a week out from when (travel bans, pandemics and unforeseen disruptions not withstanding) he’s due to land. Should I be investing in a storage unit – for further anticipated treasures, or as an escape room?
So many questions. I hope that the next six weeks will be spent together finding some answers.
Catch up with the love under lockdown Diversion Diary:
- Week 15 – Know Your Place
- Week 14 – Up Fish Creek Without a Paddle
- Week 13 – Lockdown Birthday Mixtape
- Week 12 – A Different Focus
- Week 11 – Little Details and Small Acts of Kindness
- Week 10 – Indulging In Nostalgia
- Week 9 – Green Shoots and Hopeful Hippies
- Week 8 – Solace In Solitude
- Week 7 – Fantasy Futures and Lockdown Dreams
- Week 6 – Making the Most of Lockdown
- Week 5 – Vintage Bike Finds
- Week 4 – Silver Linings and Simple Pleasures
- Week 3 – Making Connections and Breaking Wind
- Week 2 – How to Find Silence In a Virtual World
- Week 1- Alone During Corona Virus Lockdown