Thursday, January 27, 2011


A few weeks before Christmas a friend invited me over to his house to look at a bike he had rescued on its trip to the dump. The story was a man had done some work for an elderly woman in her yard. While cleaning up the yard he found the bike which had belonged to her deceased son. She asked him if he would carry it off to the dump. On the way there my friend spotted it and asked if he could have it.

I stopped by after church and took a look at the bike and told him I thought it was worth it. It was a Lotus Odyssey, which a vague memory told me came from the golden days of the Japanese bicycle in the early 80's. In those days the Dollar did well against the Yen and some very high quality bikes came here from Japan. I looked it over and saw that it was all there and barring something unforeseen could easily be a ridable bike with a small expenditure. The components were top of the line or second tier parts from their time.After a little research I found that my hunch was right; It was a sport touring bike from the early 80's and the frame would have been handbuilt in Japan.

After returning from our Christmas vacation I picked the bike up and began to disassemble it. It came apart very easily and I found one quirk, it has a reverse pull front derailleur. After stripping it down to the bare frame I spent several hours removing years of accumulated dirt. What appeared from underneath truly surprised me. The chrome was one hundred percent intact with no pitting. About ninety-five percent of the paint was there and there was very little external rust. I inspected the lugs inside and out and was pleased to find that this was a very well made bicycle and reported this to my friend.

This is the point where I began to think philosophically. In this day and age most road bicycles are styled after what you see professional racers riding. It's no secret that bike shops get a big bump in July after the Tour de France, the only major pro race that gets big press in the U.S. It's not uncommon to see older new riders out on $6-8000 bicycles because that is what they wanted and the shop was more than happy to sell it to them. The problem is that these bikes are meant for young professional racers who are light and flexible. This is not a criticism of bike shops because the industry decided to create this trend, leaving little room for the person who wants a sturdy, comfortable bike that they can ride for years. I told my friend, "You cannot walk into a shop today and buy such a bike off the floor. You would have to have one built for you, which would be very expensive."

After all of the stripping and cleaning I began to reassemble the bike, discovering that beyond a few things that normally wear out, it needed very little. I went with large 28mm tires for comfort and decided that the silver paint with blue decals needed blue handlebar tape and brake housing. A trip to my local bike shop netted me most of the parts I needed and a long time friend/mechanic got the wheels in good shape.The whole thing went together with surprising ease and with a few tweaks it was a bike that shifted and braked well and to my eye, looked damn good.

The moral of the story is that you do not know what is underneath something until you actually get there. This bike was a diamond in the rough that will shine for my friend as long as he wants it. In my mind it has also confirmed my belief that there is great value in something that another person makes by hand. Yes, carbon fiber bikes weigh much less, but they will be disposed of long before this 30 year old gem is retired. You can ride anything you want, but don't look down upon someone who chooses a different and perhaps less conventional path because sometimes the minority is right.

Keep on doing what you do and don't let fashion dictate how you live.

P.S. I'm still new to blogging, so I will try to provide photos as I can load them.

1 comment:

  1. I'm all about recycling! It gives me a thrill to bring new life to something old that someone no longer wants. I can relate to how good it must have felt to restore the Lotus.