When last we left your intrepid narrator, he was waffling on the horns of a dilemma (and apparently mixing metaphors). A new-old Cannondale had found its way to The Cycle's Home for Wayward Vintage Mountain Bikes, and I was trying to decide if it would inherit the go-sorta-faster parts kit of my Rockhopper (relegating the Rocky to second-bike status) or if it would become the second bike in its own right. To put it in vaguely Shakespearean terms, the question was, "To beater, or not to beater."
Given my inherent laziness, the thought of coordinating a full cross-bike parts swap in the meat of the season lacked appeal, so I decided to leave well enough alone on the Rockhopper and finish off the Cannondale in an Ultimate City Bike build. Thus, I give you...
I know the non-drive-side photo is gauche even by my amateur (and amateurish) bike photography standards, but I wanted to capture the 18-year-old Jandd pannier stuffed with groceries, and if I'm running a single pannier, I like to put it on the traffic side to be a visual nuisance.
Before I delve into the yawn-inducing details, I should note that this build owes a debt of inspiration to my blog-pal bikelovejones. It dawned on me that I've admired her beautiful, utilitarian (Grant Petersen would probably coin some annoying portmanteau like "beautilitarian") city bikes for years, but never tried one for myself. Now that I have one in my garage, I totally get it.
This was a remarkably low-key resto-mod for me, incorporating a lot of reduce/reuse/recycle and barter. I kept the stock 3x7/thumbshifter drivetrain intact, trading the beat-up pedals for an old pair of BMX platforms from the stash. The Planet Bike Cascadia fenders came from the Rockhopper, which now gets clip-ons from the stash thanks to its status as go-sorta-faster bike. The rear rack was traded from Steve F. (a.k.a. Local Steve) in exchange for my old messenger bag. The only real whim was trading out the stock cantilever brakes for a set of cheap V-brakes from the stash. Sure, I have an uncanny knack for setting up old, low-profile, smooth-post cantilevers (some would call it a gift, albeit the sort of gift you wish came with a gift receipt), but with a perfectly good set of Vs lying around, I figured I had better things to do with my time.
The biggest expense of the build came in the form of 26x2.0 Panaracer Tour tires (full disclosure, that Amazon link makes me a couple shekels if you use it to spend money) in place of the knobby Tioga Psychos, at something like $20 a pop. These were also a bikelovejones recommendation, and (so far) they seem like a lot of tire for the price. My better half rides the 700x32 version on her wayward Cannondale, so we kinda match. Aww, how cute.
But the most eye-opening part of the build for me was the cockpit. The stock riding position with flat bars was way too long and low for this creaking geezer and his oft-bulging lower back disc. It was great when I was half my current age, shredding dirt, but now? Not so much. Luckily, I had an inexpensive set of upright bars lying around (I think they were from the initial setup experiments on Better Half's Cannondale), so I plugged them in.
There's the drive-side photo you purists have been waiting for, with terrible lighting and a garage door to make sure you know it was taken by me (this was pre-tire-swap if you're also tracking continuity errors). I've always resisted swept-back, upright bars on my own bikes -- despite raves of how amazingly comfortable they can be, they just never worked for me. But here? Bliss. I don't know what magic position I discovered this time, but I'm not moving it a micron. With the swept bars set up on that long, low stem, the bike can feel like a casual cruiser or an aggressive hammering machine depending on my mood. There's even a vaguely aero position if I hook my thumbs over the forward bends and rest my palms on the shifters/brake levers. I never understood how other blog-pal Pondero could do his long, rambling country tours on bars like this, but now I get it.
Oh, one other thing (thanks, Columbo)... I don't know who first invented lock-on grips for flat bars, but I owe that person a big hug. I know these things have been around forever and I'm just a late adopter, but I'm kicking myself for the years I spent dealing with hairspray and air compressors. Though I will miss the quizzical looks at the drugstore when my bald self checks out with just a can of industrial-strength hairspray...