Why I Love Cycling

1974 Touring Bicycle with fillet brazed joints – Photo credit – DeLong’s Guide to Bicycles & Bicycling.

In 1974 I was a high school senior, soon to graduate. I often rode to classes on my 5 speed derailleur bicycle, and that involved a number of steep hills, some of which I dismounted to ascend.  The bike I rode seemed incredibly incompetent, heavy, and badly geared.  At that time, I knew nothing about lightweight steel tubing, expertly brazed and filed lugs, and quality components.  I was riding the bike my parents purchased for me, after much goading on my part.  I can’t even remember if my 5 speed was a Sears or a Schwinn, but I think it was the former.  All I knew then was that I loved to ride bicycles, and wanted to be on my bike whenever possible.  My parents did their best to accommodate this odd request coming from their middle child – a daughter no less.

Baby blue Volkscycle

Upon graduation, my parents presented me with a beautiful blue Volkscycle. I was in heaven, as this was the nicest bike I had ever ridden.  After riding this bike in my college days in the late 70’s, I took a hiatus from school, and moved to the Oregon coast.  That was when my cycling energy surged. Every Sunday I mounted my blue Volkscycle and rode inland up Yaquina Bay, to Toledo, and back.  I rode this bicycle whenever I could, leaving my funky Datsun 510 truck in the carport most of the time.

After a while, I began to realize that the Volkscycle might not be the best bicycle out there for me. There was no internet at this time, so my knowledge came word of mouth talking to other cyclists, some of whom were part of the 1976 BikeCentennial.

Later, I acquired my 1976 Centurion Pro-Tour – a bike which really defined my cycling experience.  The frame was “too big” for me, and yet I toured all over the Pacific Northwest on this amazing bicycle.  I crashed it back in 1999, and that is what prompted a life long search for an equal partner.

But that never happened.  Instead, I ride on several bicycles regularly.  I have never found my one true love – the bicycle of my youth which comported me over miles of challenging terrain.  I don’t know what to think about why that is – but the upside is that I now enjoy riding a number of wonderful and interesting machines.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

2017-03-31 022

My 1990’s Terry Symmetry is a great commuting bicycle.  It handles well and can keep up with the faster bikes on my regular commute.  But recently I had been hearing an annoying rattle on the front end of the bike.

2017-03-31 029

Diagnosing bicycle noises while riding brings to mind Dante’s Inferno.  As one’s thoughts spiral through endless ideas and related solutions, the bicycle itself seems drawn further toward complete annihilation, into the concentric circles of hell.  After decades of riding, I have hopefully learned to pay more attention to the occasional odd and unexpected sounds coming from the bike I am riding.  It’s almost always a good idea NOT to ignore them.  Like most cyclists, I love and expect a certain silence from my bike.  Encountering dry, squeaky chains, rattling fenders, and loose fitting luggage on other cyclists’ bikes weighs on my conscience:  should I point out that their rear wheel is out of true or that a little bit of chain lube is in order?  But that’s a question for another day.

2017-03-31 007

Front end rattles can be as difficult to nail down as noises coming from the center or back of the bike.  In my case, because I had used an unusual mounting system for my fenders, my first thought was that the cantilevered portion of the front fender was bouncing around more than usual.  After holding my hand over the front portion of the fender and hearing no change to the rattling noise, I realized that this wasn’t the problem.  So, I continued my diagnosis while riding by holding my hand over different parts of the front end, to no avail.  Nothing stopped the strange rattling noise.

2017-03-31 010

As it turned out, the culprit was a broken fender nut on the Bluemels “over the top” fenders that I had mounted on this bike.  I had used all the original hardware on the stays, and paid no attention to how rusted the eyebolts looked.  Finally, one of those rusted eyebolt nuts cracked, and that caused all the rattling.  I didn’t really figure this out until I had:  checked the fork for lack of play (there was none), checked the brake mount for a loose bolt (none), and checked the torque settings on the stem’s handlebar bolt and on the stem itself.  All were in order.  A process of elimination led me to the fenders.  I removed them and discovered the problem right away when one of the nuts fell apart in my hand.  I replaced all the hardware, and then decided to re-mount the fenders using these Velo Orange fender brackets, which are designed for bikes which lack fender eyelets (a sad truth of my 1990’s Terry).  I had been using P-clamps to mount the fenders to the fork.

The Velo Orange brackets, shown above, really clean up the front of the bike, but make front wheel removal more time consuming and finicky.  Fortunately, the rear drop outs of this bike have fender eyelets, so no brackets are needed on the back end of the bike.  I’m glad I took the time to resolve this issue.  A loose fender could have caused a crash.

1990’s Georgena Terry Symmetry

A Terry Symmetry frame, built up to my specifications.

About 8 years ago I bid on a NOS 1990’s Terry Symmetry steel frame on eBay.  I was at that time searching for the perfect bike to fill the gap left by my crashed (in 1999) 1976 Centurion Pro Tour.  I had purchased and ridden quite a few bikes since then, but none of them “took”.  I won the auction for the Terry frame, but when it arrived, I saw that one of the downtube shifter bosses was damaged, and perhaps that was why the frame had never been built.  The seller was shocked that he hadn’t noticed this, and he reimbursed me for the costs I incurred to have the frame repaired.

Damaged shifter boss

Nice hand lettering on the Georgena Terry logos

I took the frame to Oregon Manifest winner Tony Pereira, who re-brazed a new downtube shifter boss.  That involved removing the existing lavender sparkle paint in the immediate area around the shifter braze-ons.  His painter was not able to match the paint exactly, so instead came up with the perfect solution of using an accent color.  You can see in the above photos the new blue accent color and the perfectly executed hand-lettering of the Georgena Terry logos.  Now my Terry frame sports a custom paint job!

Georgena Terry is an engineer by training.  She is an avid cyclist, and after the frustration of not finding a bicycle appropriate for smaller cyclists, she began building bicycle frames in her basement, and by 1985 introduced the first steel Terry hand-built bicycle, designed specifically for the dimensions and stature of women’s bodies.  If you don’t know anything about her, you’ll be amazed by this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDRbinNduhM

If we use the term “womankind” to signify all human beings, as is always done with the term “mankind”  then we would have bicycles sized for such beings – who are on average about 5’4″ in height.  Such bicycles would have appropriately sized wheels (probably 26 inch or smaller), and bicycle frame geometry would reflect the correct dimensions of such a human.  Georgena’s initial frame geometry solution was to keep the big 700c wheel at the back, which was the industry standard at the time, and to use a smaller wheel on the front – a 24 incher.  This meant that the steel frame for the rider could be quite large, with a hefty headtube, but still be “as fast” as any other bike out there due to the 700c rear wheel.

Georgena Terry Classic – courtesy of georgenaterry.com

While I am one of those cyclists that prefers the look of a bicycle with the same sized wheels front and rear, this design proved wildly successful and womankind was pleased, as finally they had bikes to fit their bodies.  Since then, Georgena has researched the anatomy and physiology of women riders, and has incorporated her findings into her latest endeavor:  Hand built steel bicycles – both custom and off the shelf, built by Waterford and engineered by Georgena, having sold her interest in Terry Precision Bicycles back in 2009. All of the bikes she builds now feature the same sized wheels front and rear (559s usually), plus many frames designed with a sloping top tube.  They are typically built with Waterford OS2 double butted steel. Her bicycles have some unique characteristics:  large head tube, very little BB drop, steep seat tube angle, slack head tube angle, vertical drop outs, long chainstays, and minimal fork rake. Some of these characteristics are not necessarily what I seek in a bike frame, yet the Terry Symmetry that I ride regularly is one of my most comfortable and treasured bicycles!

One of my theories about this bike’s amazing comfort is the large head tube – made possible by the almost negligible bottom bracket drop of 35 mm.  The frame is “square” meaning that the seat tube and top tube are the same length – 51 cm.  With the minimal drop, there’s a high bottom bracket -about 28 cm.  You’d think I would hate this frame, but instead, having all that steel (Tange tubing which is TIG welded) under me helps to absorb road shock, and is much more flexible than a smaller frame would be. The frame is a bit tall for me – but, who cares?  I often ride pretty tall frames. The most important measurement for frame comfort is the top tube.  In this case, it’s only 51 cm – much shorter than many “smaller” frames, and that’s why I feel so relaxed on this bike – my hands naturally connect with my Nitto Rando bars with no effort at all.

I set this bike up with some of my favorite components:  Shimano bar end shifters, Shimano side pull brakes, Shimano brake levers, and my 1984 Shimano 600 crankset and front derailleur (taken off my old Davidson) which apparently will never wear out!  I ordered a Harris custom 8 speed cassette after riding the bike for a while with an off the shelf unit.

I built the wheels myself (Mavic X221 32 hole rims on Shimano hubs), converting the bike from its original 650c wheel size to 559, and after years of service my wheels have never gone out of true.  Because this bike has minimal clearance (it was built in the sad “racing” days of yore), I needed to mount my fenders over the top of the fork and rear brake bridge.  I cut up an ancient Bluemels fender set which was pretty long in the tooth.  But, the fenders are holding up well.  Recently, I switched out my p-clamps on the front fork (which had no eyelets), for a Velo Orange fender bracket.  The bracket cleans up the look on the front end, but makes front wheel removal much more finicky. I use Panasonic Panaracer Tourguard folders on this bike which have been comfortable and reliable.  Georgena Terry is now recommending Compass Elk Pass 559 Road Tires for her bikes (also made by Panasonic), so I may try those out whenever the Panaracer’s wear out.  But, meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy this wonderful bicycle which I always look forward to riding.