Saturday, July 26, 2014

Just Like Starting Over

I have no excuse for my hiatus. Let's just put it behind us and move on.

What inspired me to un-hiatus is this recent visitor to the workshop:

A department-store MBSO: Mountain Bike-Shaped Object. Thrilling, right?

But not so fast, bike nerds. If you'll recall, this very blog started off with a tune-up of a vintage Sears BSO, so we here at The Cycle have a soft spot for budget bikes -- and this one is no different.

In the day, my snobby mechanic buddies and I would have called this a Murray Bwaa-ha. However, older and wiser me sees a lot to like in this humble Murray. For instance:
  • The drivetrain works. Stamped steel derailleurs, plastic shift levers, and full-length cable housing are usually a recipe for disaster, but with minimal muss and fuss, I was able to make it index reliably across all 18 gears. Oh, and that humble Ashtabula crank/bottom bracket combination? Perfectly smooth, and required zero adjustment.
  • The brakes work too. Again, stamped steel calipers on steel rims should be doom and gloom, but with some fresh pads (the old ones were worn to nubs) and some limited truing (more like bending and squeezing) of the rear rim, I was able to eek out a respectable amount of braking. The hubs were even surprisingly smooth once I backed out the too-tight adjustment on the rear.

And you know what? That's plenty. The thing will go, and the thing will stop. While we (the royal we of bike-geekdom, especially including the royal me) may get bogged down in the minutiae of having a 16-tooth cog filling the otherwise unacceptable gap between 15 and 17 or picking the correct brake pad compound for a 30% chance of rain with 50% relative humidity, the vast majority of the world just wants to feel the wind on their face and be able to stop before running into something. This bike does that.

In fact, I'd propose that more bikes like this would be a good thing. Today's BSO puts too much of its (limited) budget into worthless suspension, cheap knockoffs of fashionable disc brakes, and general gee-gawery. I wonder how much something like that Baja could be sold for today... basic frame/fork with no suspension (aluminum frames are probably cheaper than the Baja's steel now), low-gear-count entry-level Shimano drivetrain, and basic caliper brakes. Put the money you save on gee-gaws toward professional assembly (I probably put more time into one tune-up on this one than most see in their lifetimes) and you'd have something.

Would anyone buy it? I don't know. Marketing isn't my department.

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