Archive for July, 2010

Ready to roll

Posted in Cycling at 14:06

Peugeot ready to roll

My last few weekends have been spent taking off wheels, pulling off old tires, scrubbing rubber and rust off rims, getting new rim tape put on, cleaning and oiling the derailleur and chain, then figuring out the old Simplex derailleur and adjusting it so it now shifts properly (the cable was a tad slack and one limit stop was too tight, which prevented shifting into the lowest gear). As always, the bike shop I’ve gone to for nearly five years now, Vélo Concept on boulevard Raimbaldi in Nice (if the Flash entrance doesn’t work, try this link instead), has been great. They gave my bike a quick look-over three weeks ago, pointing out a few things I hadn’t noticed, and yesterday they kindly put on new rim tape for me, for the same price as buying rim tape would have cost (plus, I wouldn’t have been able to put it on as well as they did).

Although my bike still needs a few more repairs — new brake and derailleur cables, as well as new brake pads — they’re not urgent. The 30-year-old Simplex derailleur works like a charm. I still remember the old lever shifter on the road bike I used twenty-odd years ago. It was a royal pain since it was very finicky. A millimeter off and it would throw a fit — with so little tolerance, it would often drift into a different speed while you were pedalling. While I haven’t yet tested my Peugeot on the road, it’s already clear that this Simplex shifter is a different beast: it’s solid, has definite stops with plenty of tolerance, and once you’ve memorized its stops, it sets into the new speed in less than a single pedal turn. On my old road bike, I had to pedal several times while fiddling with the lever until it finally decided it wasn’t going to be cranky any more.

We’ve been dealing with a heat and humidity wave for the last month here, so I’m waiting until this evening, when it will (hopefully) be a bit cooler, to take out my Peugeot for my maiden ride on it. I’ll probably take it down the tram tracks (as long as you pay attention to the trams and watch out at intersections, it’s much safer than the so-called “bike lanes” on roads here, which are more like “we painted on some new lines without changing the streets”) to the Promenade des Anglais, which has safer dedicated bike paths where I’ll be able to fiddle to my heart’s content without having to worry too much if I run into any problems.

Everyday mosaics

Posted in La France, Nice at 22:32

Mosaic close-up

A few weeks ago I took my camera to Boulevard Garnier, an east-west street north of Nice’s city center. I walk it occasionally to go to the Libération open-air market, and had noticed some beautiful mosaics on apartment entries. The one shown above is a closeup of this mosaic, leading to beautiful wooden doors. It was done by the mosaic cutter and setter Zanussi, as well as this scrolling vine mosaic just down the street.

There’s a more modest art deco mosaic in my building’s entrance, and back on Boulevard Garnier, this “Provence” mosaic, done in a very different style:
Provence entrance mosaic, Boulevard Garnier

Pleasant surprises

Posted in Cycling, Journal, La France at 17:00

I wanna ride too!
The last few weeks, I’ve been busy scraping off the textured paint in my living room to make way for a new color (of regular, non-textured paint). Luckily the textured paint had been put over white paint, which I then had to wash. That last photo may look relatively white, but in reality, it’s quite yellowish — the cleaned walls look much better. This means I won’t have to use primer, which is nice.

About a year ago, Nice started a “city bike” program called Vélo Bleu. I took a 15-euro yearly subscription, which lets you borrow bikes as you want, with the first 30 minutes free on each bike. While it is very cheap, it’s not so practical when, in reality, I’ve only been able to find a bike to use about 10% of the time, plus they’re very heavy and only have 3 speeds. I enjoyed riding them anyway, which helped me realize that I’d be happy with a cheap bike of my own for riding around town. I wouldn’t have to lose any time looking for a Vélo Bleu, and would save the money spent all those times I ended up paying for a bus or tram ticket when a bike couldn’t be found. The downsides are the probability it could be stolen, and having to maintain it myself. But even needing to do maintenance has its upsides: you know what you’re getting into with your own bike.

I didn’t plan on shopping for one until my yearly subscription ran out. I visited one of my favorite secondhand shops today, as I often do because they’re so much fun to browse, then went upstairs to check their used bikes, just in case. I’d seen decent ones in their store over the years, but nothing that ever caught my eye… until today. A charming old Peugeot in orange, with bright green decals, touring handlebars, a chrome rack on the back, front and rear lights, and a mixte (unisex) frame. I could hardly believe my eyes, and figured something must be wrong with it. I spun the wheels to check for wobble: they turned straight and true. I looked at the rims: no divots, cracks, or any other problems. I checked the rear derailleur: a bit gunky, but in fine working condition, which surprised me for a bike its age. The teeth on the chain wheels looked good; the bike pedalled smoothly. I sat on it: surprisingly, the seat was already at the right height for me, and the frame a comfortable fit for head-up city riding, though I would need to turn up the handlebars to level. There was no rust around the bike’s various bolts, which meant adjustments would be feasible. “If the brakes still work, it’s mine,” I thought — not only did the caliper brakes still clamp onto the rims, the pads were in good enough shape that the bike braked without a problem. The only reservations I had were for the shifter and number of speeds: it’s an old lever shifter, and there’s no front derailleur, so the bike’s 5 rear chain wheels meant it only had 5 speeds. “It is just for riding around town, and 5 speeds are still better than 3, plus this is a lot lighter than the city bikes,” I pondered. Then I bought it. 50 euros, and all I need to replace are the tires and inner tubes.

According to its decal styles and serial number, which starts with Y904, it’s a 1979 touring model. Everything on it but the seat and tires is original. 1979 Peugeot Cyclotourisme set with all the photos I took today. As a kid my brother and I would ride steel-frame Takara road bikes, which also had lever shifters. We often had to finagle their caliper brakes and derailleurs, so having another bike with a lever shifter brings back fond childhood memories. I’ll have to re-learn how to ride with one hand while shifting, and memorize the sweet spots for each of the 5 speeds! It will also be fun to have a mechanically simple bike to work on again. I do love my mountain bike, but with disc brakes, and front and rear suspension, it’s not one I can repair entirely on my own.