Monday, January 23, 2012

Parts Bin Utility Bike

I've set myself up with the project of putting together a useful, load-carrying, get-around-town type bike.  The project preciptated when a few relics from my ancestral home made there way up here this fall, one of which was the first real mountain bike, hell, the first real bike, I'd ever bought.  Well, what made it up here was the frame of that bike--but that's alright.  That's where the heart of beast beats. 

The frame is a great specimen of the early '90s mountain bike scene--all oversized, gratitously shaped aluminum, coated in purple paint.  It's a Barracuda, a little-known, short-lived company from the days of the mountain bike boom.  Flash-in-the-pan though they were, they were a delightfully earnest company, totally of their time.  On top of the aesthetics of their bike, they had some kind of partnership with Dos Equuis beer and threw a lot of money around sponsoring both racers and racing.  They were also hooked up with something called the Tree Amigos, which took a portion of every bike sale to help fund replanting the rain forests or something like that.  This was way before anyone had heard of carbon credits--it was just the natural outcome of late-twentieth century xtreme sports meeting grunge-era social conciousness.  It was a magical, irrational time.

The other prompt to this project is my frequently telling people that I probably have enough parts in boxes to build up a handful of bikes at any given time.  I am pretty sure this is true, but not entirely certain.  The problem is that every time I go to build a bike up, there are always a few newer, better, more seductive parts that I simply have to try out; I go to the parts bins mostly when something breaks.  So I want to put my boasts to the test.  I want to see if I can add a bike to my stable, essentially, for free.  I also want to thin out the parts bins, particularly of the cheaper, older stuff that I will never be tempted to hang off of a new frame.  So the Barracuda will rise again, a bolted together cavalcade of mountain bike history and clearance deals too good to pass up. 

I'm in need of a decent bike for bopping around town.  The bike I currently use as a commuter is an old Kuwahara mixte frame that I got for a song.  It's a hair too small and has only five gears out back--both excellent qualities for the frozen winter commuting I use it for--but limiting factors for running across town for groceries.  I've wanted a Surly Big Dummy for awhile now, but that runs a little too rich for my blood in a town that locks down one's biking options for 5-7 frigid months at a time.  So I'm starting with this project for a runabout, supplemented with my BOB trailer if I'm feeling really motivated to move cargo by my own steam. 

Nothing in my parts bins is junk, but a lot of it is older.  Much of it is used, particularly the bits destined for this project.  I am happy about this because the bike won't be a clodgy, rattling contraption but nor will I worry too much about locking it up outside of a downtown shop.  Building around a 17-year-old frame with parts that are designated as backups to the backup parts I have for my backup parts means my money is mostly well-extracted from all of this gear.  If karma sweeps this bike from my life, at least I won't be financially broken.  And if it doesn't, everything is nice enough that I'll enjoy owning and using the damn thing.

Finally, I should say, too, that this project rises from my desire not to buy new gear unless it allows me to do something that I couldn't do before.  Here, I have something that I can't do really well right now (ride across town on a comfortable, well-sorted bike and then lock it up without sweating it) while owning a bunch of stuff that would probably let me do just that.  I'm gonna turn a few wrenches, maybe spend a very few bucks, and see if I can't just find a new application for an old collection of memories. 

p.s.  It's late and my life is kicking my ass. I'll edit this post shortly to add some pics to spice things up.  Maybe even that Brooks advertisement again. 

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