In the late 90s, my parents gave me a Specialized Crossroads A1 Expert hybrid bike. At the time, it was the nicest bike I had ever owned — aluminum frame and 7-speed with a triple (or “21-speed” depending on your preferred nomenclature). I would tool around on the bike paths for a few miles at a time, and eventually, I trained for my first triathlon on that bike (though I did the race on a borrowed road bike).
In the years since then, I’ve had an array of bikes — triathlon, road, fixie, mountain bike — each serving a different purpose. Several years ago, my father asked if I was using the Crossroads, and if I wasn’t, he was interested in taking it so he could run short errands on it. He used it for a while, but for the past few years, the bike has been sitting in my parents’ garage, unused and unloved.
The last triathlon I did was an iron-distance race in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, I was focused on running, and since then, I had been so exhausted with Lyme disease that I could never muster the energy to do much swimming or biking. But a few changes have gotten me back on the bike:
- Since addressing the whole Lyme thing, I’m returning to my old energy levels.
- Spending a week crewing for my friend, Kiwi Chris, as she completed a quintuple iron-distance triathlon (12 mile swim, 560 mile bike, 131 mile run) made me nostalgic for all the good times and adventures she and I had on the bike over the years, and I realize how much I missed riding.
- I continue to have severe bursitis in both of my heels. I’m fairly certain that the inflammation was originally due to the Lyme, but at this point, it is somewhat chronic. My heels are better than they were a year ago, but it is entirely possible that it could be years — if ever — before I can run entirely pain-free. So my weekly running mileage is dictated by what my heels can handle. But biking doesn’t seem to cause pain or problems.
- Martha has been struggling with a few running-related injuries that have similarly limited her weekly mileage. So I’ve been introducing her to the joys (though she might use a different word) of swimming and biking.
To get in a few miles on the bike, I found a reasonable route to the office, and I started bike commuting occasionally. Living in Washington, DC, and commuting on a route that takes me over bumpy, pot-holed roads, craggy sidewalks, and a little bit of dirt, I’d use my mountain bike for the ride. It was a bit of overkill, but I decided that it would be better for my wee, little bum than trying to ride my road bike. Since I wasn’t doing much road riding, I left the road bike in storage, and I’d keep the mountain bike in the bike storage room of the co-op where I live.
One day, when I went to get my mountain bike, I found an empty space in the bike storage room when my bike had been. The door leading outside from the bike storage room had been having trouble with the lock, so I assume that someone had come in from outside and picked the nicest bike in the room to steal. At the same time, Martha was getting more interested in riding (or at least, becoming a more willing participant). So I had pulled my road bike out of storage, and taken indefinite loan of a friend’s old bike for Martha to ride. Operation Ride More Bikes was in full swing, but we had hit several hitches:
- I was lacking a bike suitable for commuting to work.
- Aside from my non-existent commuter bike, we had two bike that could not be left in the bike room (since the bike room was clearly not secure), yet we live in an apartment that is barely big enough for two adults and a cat.
Before I could address point #1, I had to do something about point #2. Fortunately, we have high ceilings and solid walls. My first attempts to drill into the studs failed. But a new carbide drill bit made quick work of it.
Once I had gotten the road bikes out of the way, I could focus on my commuter. The old Crossroads was available.
The frame was perfectly good, but the 7-speed drivetrain was due for an overhaul. Further, I don’t like riding in tight spaces with straight handlebars. I started spec’ing out parts to turn it into a cyclocross-style bike. I didn’t want to pour thousands of dollars into it, but I wanted to build a bike that could take a beating and would last. I considered going with Campy or SRAM, but I’ve always used Shimano, so I stuck with what I know. I like the 105 line as a good compromise between price and quality. So I ordered a bunch of parts — a new bottom bracket, cranks and chainrings, a cog set, deraillures, levers — and started to strip down the bike.
My strategy was to replace only as much as necessary to convert the bike to a Shimano 10-speed drive train (with a double) and drop handle bars. I had to hunt around a bit for an inexpensive rear wheel that would fit the 135mm dropouts, but once I had that, I was ready to go. The build-up was pretty easy.
As much as it sucked for my mountain bike to be stolen, I’m really, really happy with my new old bike. It brings together the best qualities of my mountain bike (softer ride) and my road bike (faster ride) when cruising around the city.
There are a few to-do items remaining for the bike, but none of them is stopping me from riding the steed.
- New pedals: I currently have platform pedals with single-sided SPD attachments. I’d prefer double-sided SPD pedals with no platform.
- New brakes: I considered picking up some new brakes, but I decided that it wasn’t absolutely necessary. The current brakes are old, but still functional. If the bike works out, next summer, I’ll upgrade. For now, I just put in new pads.
- New stem: This was my biggest miscalculation. I didn’t realize that modern drop bars have a different diameter at the center than old drop bars. None of the old quill stems I had laying around would work with the new bars. So I had to order a quill stem adapter, and a new stem. The stem I got is 100mm, but it turns out that that’s too long. To avoid being overly stretched out, I have to jam the seat way forward. It’s not an ideal fit, but it works for now. Again, if the bike works out in the long term, I’ll pick up a 50mm stem and fix the fit.
- New headset and fork: The headset is in terrible condition. It’s still smooth, but externally, there’s quite a bit of rust. If I had a headset press handy, I’d probably take care of this sooner rather than later. However, I’ll either need to borrow the tools from someone, but build my own DIY headset press. (I do few enough headsets that I don’t want to pay an extra $100-$150 just for the tools.) Whenever I do the headset, I’d like to convert to threadless, and replace the fork as well.
- New seat post: This is purely aesthetic, but I think I’d be happier with a clean, matte black seat post. Maybe I’ll just wrap the current post with electrical tape and call it a day.
- New deraillure hanger: The deraillure hanger is slightly bent, which means that if I were to shift into my biggest cog (easiest gear), the spokes on the rear wheel would rip off the chain tensioner. For now, I have the limiters set so I don’t accidentally cause that to happen.
I wanted to take some pictures of the bike all shiney and new, but actually riding it took precedence. So these pictures are after a few rides (and one commute to work). Please excuse the shmutz.