02 June 2010


I did a post about something like this before.

Years ago, I was a more than avid cyclist. In fact, until my wife became pregnant for the first time, I had never driven a car. I was 26 when I first got my license. Until then, I travelled only by bicycle. In my sons first two Summers, we travelled by bike quite a bit together. He rode in a back seat behind me on a vintage Raleigh Sports 3-speed. The last two years, with two kids in tow, bikes were out of the question. Until last week, when Mrs. G. purchased a trailer. I tried to hook it up to the Raleigh, but of course it didn't fit...because the Raleigh is English, and nothing fits on it that ain't also English. No matter, it only lit the proverbial fire under my proverbial *ss to complete a project that had been in the cue for a few years.

Behold, my newest old thing: a rescued, re-furbished and totally restyled mid 1980s Fuji touring bike. I found this bike two years ago, leaning against a wall outside the back exit of the Harvard Museum of Natural History...not chained to the bike rack, just leaned against a wall. Back then, it was pale blue, but rusty. The tires were flat and the cables all broken, but it was clear that at one time this was a better than decent road bike. Over the course of that Summer, I saw it there repeatedly. It never moved...the weeds only grew up longer around it. Until finally, after three months, I "rescued" it.

So, I took her home, with an eye to a rebuild. I dismantled her completely, and the old girl lived divided as a frame in my garage, and a box of parts in the cellar, until this week. It became clear to me that I needed a multi geared bike capable of hauling the boy and the girl pronto. First, I cleaned all the parts. I mean cleaned, like with mineral spirits and steel wool. Then I painted her black...because black is sexy. Then I rebuilt her, with a few stylish modifications. In place of the vinyl saddle, I put my old leather Brooks B-17 in 'Honey'. Originally the collective Christmas gift of a number of very close friends years ago, I broke this saddle in by riding it hard on a fixed gear bike for many years. You gotta love that patina, and tell me it ain't tack sharp on a black frame made of lugged steel.

I'd like to say that one day I'll have sewn-on elk hide tape, but I likely never will. Too extravagant. Old-school cork tape in a natural tan is fine by me. On day, I'll own a 1984 Mercedes diesel station wagon that employs the combination of shiny black paint, orange/brown leather, and tan accessories. Until then, I'll settle for this.

I needed a bell. This brass jobbie was on my boy's trike, long forgotten. The handle bars were too wide for it, but that's o.k., because its way cooler mounted on the stem. Ring-a-ding-ding!

Originally a 14 speed, I modified her down to 7 by taking off one of the front chain rings and leaving only the smaller of the two.
Tell me she ain't one good looking piece of simple machinery.

So, what's this got to do with An Affordable Wardrobe? Simple. I basically got this bike in the trash. A little bit of elbow grease, and just shy of $100 later, and I have a well built and damn cool bike. It's useful, it's sharp, it's recycling, it looks good, it's fun, the kids love it, etc., etc...Sure, I could have bought a new 7 speed bike to haul the kids. But it wouldn't be lugged steel, it wouldn't be original, it wouldn't have my blood and sweat on it and it wouldn't be as much "mine".

Learn to see potential in things, and don't be afraid to pour a little bit of your gutsinto it.You'll be surprised.

p.s. here's what she looked like on the day i decided to save 'er:


Brandon said...

I have never commented on your blog, but I have been following it for quite sometime.

I must say I would have never pegged you for a fixed gear rider, but then again people always surprise me.

The bike is beautiful, and a classic in the fuji line. As always you amaze me in your classiness and and ingenuity . I have been riding a my early 80's bridgestone track bike for a while and love the elegance that older lugged steel frames have.

Happy to see another reason to follow your blog

Jho78 said...

Awesome bike, good work. Whatever happened to the vendor tricycle you found? I've been scouring Craig's List pretty regularly for one of those to put seats in the front for my three boys.

Cyclo2000 said...

Nice ride but that ain't no tourer. The clearances are too tight and there's no fixin' points. That's a racer mate.
Interesting bikes the old Fujis, here in the UK they were hardly ever imported as anything other than a track bike (still are).
They were made of pretty decent Japanese Chromolybendum, double butted like 531. Fuji bikes got Shimano Dura Ace in the early 70's - it was late in that decade before we saw it in the UK.
Good luck with it anyway. When I returned to cycling two years ago after a year off I started back on my Raleigh Record Ace in 531 with all friction shift Campag and old centre pull Weinmans. After years flogging about on a superlight, Shimmy equipped Cannondale it was so refreshing to remember the ride quality that only steel can bring. I've used nothing else since.
Info and pics here

Thad said...

Great Job! I used to rescue bikes all the time in Oxford. As a matter of fact, in 5 years of living in the the UK (and between me and my wife going through six bikes ... mainly because I kept finding and fixing other bikes), I never paid for a single bike. As a matter of fact, I sold every bike that I repaired for more than the money that I put into it after riding them for some time.

Rescuing and repairing bikes is great for the environment and the heart!

TRVS said...

Love it. I have a beautiful old Schwinn but a modern mountain bike/tandem when I ride with my daughter. I'd rather be pedaling the Schwinn :)

Anonymous said...

As an avid cyclist, I love the 80's lugged steel bikes. Primarily riding a no-soul carbon fiber set up these days but when I want to cruise around town with the kids I always break out my vintage Centurion.

Great job with the restoration and that Brooks saddle is PERFECT!

BadScene said...

The bike looks great! I recently bought a '74 Fuji Tourer with plans of refurbishing and cleaning it up. It rides like a dream, but it doesn't look so pretty. How did you repaint your frame? Is there a specific type of paint?

Anonymous said...

Another wonderful post. There is nothing like a "recycled" find that one rescues, breathes new life into and bonds with...I do it all the time!

Vashon Is. Wa.

Bollard said...

Oh my GOD, I love this Blog; now you need to move to Allston, more bike nuts over here.

ji3torqueo said...

Great post and more importantly a beautiful, beautiful bike. The colors are great together and that bike will last forever.

I wondered if you still used the bike...

Turling said...

That's fantastic, Giuseppe. Hopefully, the trailer is just as stylish. Unfortunately, I'm guessing it isn't. I have no doubts you can make it so, though.

Matt said...

That is a mighty fine looking bike. I'm keeping an eye out for a bike to restore in a similar manner as a single speed, since I already have a hard working touring bike (with child seat).

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cyclo2000, this is a racer. Still, that's neither here nor there. Great job with the restoration/rescue.
How did the wheels pan out? I imagine you had to clean and grease the hubs (including ball bearings) and true the heck out of them.
Anyway, the B-17 really ties it together. Great job!

David V said...

You did a great job on the bike.
Alas, as we get older that type of ride is no longer appealing.
I have reverted to the type of bike I owned as a boy in the days before "10 speeds."

Khaki Bill said...

"I was 26 when I first got my license."

Your car insurance premiums must stink. Even so, that is one of the benefits of living in a place as densely populated as Boston.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oh oh...We're not allowed to take bikes, locked or unlocked, old or new, "abandoned" or whatever, from the public streets. If you want that bike you must take it to the police station and wait a suitable amount of time for the original owner to claim it. Then you can have it.

That's somebody else's bike, and always will be.

Giuseppe said...

That bike had weeds growing up to the tops of the wheels all around it. All the cbales were broken, and the rust was eating her alive. It was dying, trust me.

The cops would have thrown it in the dumpster right after I left. This I know from experience. Where's the justice in that?

michael lewis said...

It's already been said above, but...

Your reclamation and restoration project turned out AWESOME!!!

Truly an inspiration!

Anonymous said...


I know, I know, and it is a difficult code to follow, but we must obey. And it's not like there's a shortage of crappy rusting steel frames. In any even you did a nice job on the restore.

ckosl said...

jealous jealous jealouuus

Marc said...

Will claim both jealousy and envy. Granted, the last steelie I rescued (Raleigh with SunTour gear) I passed on to a tall lad who needed a bike that was about 5cm too big for me