Last year as I was getting into bike repair, I recalled that my dad had an old 12-speed bike sitting in the garage completely unridden since moving here in the winter of ’89. I mentioned to him in passing that it might have some value, and asked if I could take it back to my house. Happy to be freed of expectations that he would ever ride it, he gave me his blessing.
80’s steel bikes are being repurposed left and right these days. I think it’s an amazing phenomenon. The bike fit me just fine, (even with me being 3 inches shorter than my dad) and was pretty fun to ride around West Seattle, after I installed a different saddle. This Japanese-made Peugeot City Express has the typical lug details of its era, and was positioned originally as a sort of hybrid/mountain bike with 26″ wheels and cantilever brakes. I suspect it’s really a road frame, because of the holes for caliper brakes and clearance for larger diameter wheels.
The brake arms are so old school, there is only one spring setting hole. Still, these things were made to last. When adjusted correctly, I was able to get the brakes to stop on a dime. But to my eye, the handlebars and stem looked completely doofy. The incongruously chunky stem looked like Robocop. The brake brackets focused all attention on the ugly screws. We see this Peugeot product line come through Bikeworks pretty frequently, and they all seem to have a bizarre cockpit. The Orient Express touring version even has bull moose bars.
After a few weeks, I decided that because it was just a heavier version of a mountain bike, it didn’t really represent a useful niche in my fleet. So I put it aside to sell on Craigslist later, and moved on to other projects.
About a year later, after getting more confidence with interchanging bike components, I knew exactly how to significantly lighten up the bike by swapping the handlebars and stem with something more modern. First, though, I added some slick Continental Gatorskin tires from the $5 Bikeworks bins, which helped streamline it a bit. A wheel overhaul turned up no issues with the rear hub, and minor pitting one of the front hub cones. (Did I cause the latter by riding around West Seattle on a bike that had been idle for 23 years? Probably.)
Next stop: Bikeworks BYOB, where my covert goal was to make it look more “cute.” The only problem was, I had some functional issues to deal with first. Should I use a mountain stem or a road stem? Should I install flat bars or curved bars? Should I switch the friction thumb shifters to indexed? (I admit I prefer the “click” feeling of shifting precisely) As is often the case, I spiraled down the rabbit hole of used parts bins, making glacial progress.
In looking at all the single speed bikes out there, I was struck by how nice it looks to have narrow handlebars. But I quickly learned that you can’t have a narrow handlebar and also include two brake levers and two thumb shifters. Even it you can manage to squeeze it in, it looks too complex. And the odds of me ever opting for single speed in Seattle are nil. In an effort to just get this bike rideable by the end of the BYOB session, I threw on some flat bars with Christa’s old Iguana stem, and called it a day.
But I was not happy with that look. (Not pictured) Too much like a mountain bike! Curved cruiser bars would be better. The strange thing is, finding used cruiser bars is nearly impossible around Seattle right now because they are so popular. I had to spring for the $30 Pyramid cruiser bars from Alki Bike and Board.
To complete the look, I configured this coordinated set of rainbow grip rings from Spur Cycle. I highly recommend these grips because they make people happy just looking at them. I rode it to my oud lesson right after the neighbor kids helped me install the grips, and I loved the ride. So upright and comfy!