A Sunday Ride to Oaks Park

Care for a dance?

Sunday rides are a ritual for me, even in winter.  But today’s glorious sunshine accompanied by a warm spell (60 degrees!) made getting out on a bike today a real delight.  I often ride out Springwater Trail, along the Willamette River, to visit Tadpole Pond, and the wetlands of Oaks Bottom, accompanied by a swing through Portland’s bustling Sellwood district.  Today, I decided to stop in at Oaks Amusement Park, one of the oldest continually operating parks in the U.S.

Being an amusement park, there are fun rides, including this swooping roller coaster which now induces a slight feeling of nausea, even though I once relished joining my pals for a spin on this magnificent, multi-colored joy machine.

But in addition to having the option to get sick, Oaks Park also offers picnic areas along the river, an historic wooden-floor roller rink complete with a Wurlitzer pipe organ, and is the home of the Herschell-Spillman Noah’s Ark Carousel, which is itself listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  I like visiting the park in the winter, when it’s closed, to enjoy the quiet river views and to marvel at the nostalgia-inducing feel of the place.

I’ve been riding my 1975 Centurion Semi-Pro, which I converted to 650b about a year ago.  I re-used the Sunshine Pro-Am hubs, laced to V-O rims, and installed Mafac Raid brakes to accomplish the conversion.

The Grand Bois Cypres 650b 32 mm tires are holding up well.  They are a nice alternative to tires offered by Rene Herse and Pacenti.  However, it appears that these tires are no longer available, although some models can still be purchased on eBay.  Below are photos of the bike’s features and current components.  In addition to re-using as many of the original Dura Ace pieces as made sense, I tried to stay true to the bike’s 1970’s roots.

Original Dura Ace FD

SunTour thumb shifters with bare helical casing

Stronglight 99 with 47/34 rings

Mafac black washer RAID calipers

Fender spacers – split to facilitate the installation of wider tires

Frame transfers – Dura Ace, USCF, and Tange Champion #1 tubing (faded)

Wrap-around seat stay, chromed

Jim Blackburn rear rack

Tange Falcon headset

My ride was capped off by watching a hawk flying overhead, chased by a murder of crows, only to land nearby with its prey in its talons.  My iPhone camera was no match for that photo opp, but the memory of that scene will live on, accompanied by many other memorable Sunday Rides.

 

Cycling Along the Columbia Slough to Smith & Bybee Lakes

Winter cycling can bring surprises.  Recently I wanted to try a different route out to Smith & Bybee Lakes involving less street cycling and more options for fewer total miles.  I was yearning to spend some time in nature, and especially wanted to enjoy the wintering birds which populate this watershed of the Columbia River Basin.

I did some research to see if there were some alternate routes which were new since I last ventured out this way.  I found the above map from the City of Portland site, which shows a possible 24 mile loop beginning up in North Portland.  I didn’t choose the recommended starting point and instead drove my bike out to the Smith & Bybee Lakes parking lot, but used the map as a reference for choosing as many off-road trails as possible.

From the parking lot I first ventured east, and stopped at one of the Smith Lake viewing spots.  This experience changed my whole outlook on the ride.  I took a few videos with my iPhone, shown above, which depict the Lake’s natural beauty and teeming wildlife.  There are over 200 species of birds which have been identified in this area, and it is a destination point for birders.

Continuing east I crossed Portland Road and continued along the off-road path which is best described as “occasionally paved”.  Fortunately, the 32mm 650b tires on my 1975 Centurion Semi-Pro worked well for this road surface.  The route is almost completely flat and passes by a sewage treatment plant (not pictured!) and a golf course.  Bald eagles flew overhead while I observed snowy egrets and great blue herons hunting on slough’s banks.

40 years ago, I regularly rode my 1976 Centurion Pro Tour from my house in SE Portland out to Kelly Point Park and back, so it seemed fitting to take the Semi-Pro out for this ride.  I’ve got it set up with Northroad bars for a comfortable but reasonably vigorous riding position.  Back then, the entire route was on streets and highways, and I’m glad now to have the option to explore this region without having to deal with the stress of road cycling.  In those days, there were no cell phones to contribute to distracted driving, and no gigantic SUVs and trucks to kill you instantly.

I cycled out to the end of the path at Vancouver Avenue, then turned around and headed west back to the lakes.  I was saddened to see the trash around the campsites which line the slough near the Vancouver Avenue overpass, but upon returning felt rejuvenated as the skies opened up and delivered a touch of blue.  I continued on toward Kelly Point park, then circled back to stop again at the Lakes, which cannot be explored by bike.  Dismounting is required to protect the natural areas.  I walked my bike slowly along the trails leading to the view points, but a rack is provided at the trail head if you prefer to lock your bike up.

Smith & Bybee Lakes offer a respite from city cycling, even though they are surrounded by industrial lands and were once a dumping site for toxic waste.  If you venture out here on your bike, be sure to stop and take in the sights, smells, and sounds.  You won’t be disappointed.

Sunshine Pro-am Hubs vs. Ofmega Gran Premio

Front hubs – Sunshine Pro Am on the left.

Rear hubs, Sunshine Pro Am on the right.

I recently needed to build a wheelset for a bike with 122mm rear spacing.  That meant that I could re-use its original Sunshine Pro Am hubs (spaced at 120mm on the rear), taken off the original tubular rims, or select a NOS hub set of similar quality and from the same era (mid-1970’s).  This might expand my hub choice options, because I could probably more easily locate a 126mm rear axle set, which the rear dropouts can easily accept without having to spread the rear triangle.

I ended up locating a 1980 NOS Ofmega Gran Premio 6200 hubset, with low flanges and 32 holes front and rear.  I had previously restored a few bikes that featured Ofmega components, so was familiar with Ofmega’s quality.

Ofmega Gran Premio 6200

Both sets were similar in weight, with the Ofmega set being only slightly heavier, probably due to the longer rear axle and fewer holes in the flanges. To verify my initial impression of the quality of Ofmega components, I researched the history of the company and discovered that its beginnings are murky at best.

According to VeloBase, the Italian component maker was founded by Mario and Dino Perotti sometime in the 1960’s, when they obtained patents for various bottom bracket designs.  It is posited by the disraeligears site that Ofmega had a relationship to the OMG Company, which in turn may have included the Gnutti brand in its portfolio.  By 2006, Ofmega appears to have finally shut down, although the exact date and cause of its demise is unknown.  For better or for worse, Ofmega is best known for its colorful and strangely shaped rear derailleurs, which evoke derision or amusement, depending on your perspective.

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Sunshine/Sansin’s history is similarly opaque.  I had believed that Sunshine was somehow part of Maeda and SunTour, but I wasn’t sure.  After a number of failed English language Google searches, I tried searching on Yahoo’s Japanese search engine, and came across a Wikipedia post (in Japanese) that I used Google translate to read, then took a picture of the brief entry, shown above. This confirmed that Sunshine was indeed a division of Maeda industries, a company with a very long history going back to 1912. This lead me to focus on what Maeda was doing in the 1970’s when my Sunshine Pro Am hubs were made.

From there I discovered that Howie Cohen of West Coast Cycles (and creator of the NIshiki brand in cooperation with Kawamura of Japan), was instrumental in encouraging Japanese component makers to bring high quality bicycles and components to the US market. Howie has passed away, but a website dedicated to his work lives on.  Howie had personal relationships and went cycling with many of the leaders of Japan’s cycling industry, and successfully convinced them that Americans were sick and tired of riding our heavy one speed balloon tired clunkers.  He turned out to be right.

I ended up deciding to re-use the bike’s original Sunshine Pro Am hubs, which I built using Velo Orange 650b rims.  I had a set of Grand Bois 32mm tires that I had originally planned to use for another project which never materialized.  The tires were relatively easy to mount, although it did take a few inflation/deflation attempts to seat the tires correctly on the rims.  As you can see from the above photos, the highly polished V-O rims look quite fine.

I’m glad I went with the Sunshine hubs – this is my new (old) 1975 Centurion Pro Tour, converted to 650b.  I will share more about the conversion in an upcoming post, but let’s just say for now that I am having a blast riding this well-handling and beautiful old machine.