Down the Rabbit Hole: A Cautionary Tale


Having extra bicycle parts lying around your garage is a dangerous business.

Longtime readers of this blog may remember that once upon a time, I had an old Diamondback hybrid bicycle with Albatross bars on it.

Diamondback with Albatross bars

I got rid of that bike shortly after this photo was taken, but I kept the bars in my big box o’ bike parts.

The idea of those bars kind of stuck in my mind, and I kept wanting to build up a bike around them. I originally planned to build up a Cross-Check frame, as I had a number of parts that would fit. Those plans were ultimately scuttled, however, due to an overeager reading of certain other bike blogs.

After seeing too many pictures of attractive young ladies on old-timey city bikes, the association between desirable ladies and undesirable bicycles must have slipped past my my neocortex and wedged itself into my prehistoric alligator brain, where the desires co-mingled, and I ended up with a burning desire for an old-timey city bike.

I briefly considered nice, high-end city bikes. I came close to ordering a Pashley Roadster, but decided against it because it was outlandishly expensive. Instead, I took the cheaper way out, and ordered a made-in-India replica; The Eastman Roadster.

Eastman Roadster

The idiocy of this purchase should have been immediately obvious, but I stubbornly tried to make it work. After all, I had those Albatross bars I wanted to use.

The Roadster had rod-operated brakes with brake levers inseparable from the handlebars. Using my Albatross bars would require new brakes (and levers). The frame did not have drillings for calipers, so I ended up having Hiawatha build me up a wheelset with Sturmey-Archer drum brake hubs. I think this is about where I crossed the thousand-dollar mark for this project. It already would have been cheaper to buy the Pashley.

The Eastman came with 28″ (635mm) wheels, and the new wheels I had built up were 700c. So, I needed a new pair of tires. The Roadster had huge clearance for big tires, and with the chaincase and all, I wanted something pretty much flat-proof, so I sprang for a pair of nice, cushy Marathons.

47mm Tires

So, I finally had my old-timey city bike and got to use my Albatross bars. We had a few rides together; totaling maybe 50 miles. I had problems with it almost immediately. I went through a number of seat posts and seat post clamps. Evidently, the quality control at the factory was lacking a bit, and the seat tube was a few thousandths bigger than 25.4mm it was supposed to be.


I also noticed that under hard braking, the fork would flex to a frightening degree. I am a big, heavy person, and I guess the metallurgy in the construction did not take into account someone of my size. In retrospect, I should have realized this from the extreme ease with which I was able to cold-set the frame.

A stiff breeze would have been able re-spaced the drop outs for me.

I finally had to admit defeat. I traded the frame away for a collection of parts, and ordered the cross check frame I originally wanted.

I kept the wheels, tires, and (of course) the Albatross bars that started me down this whole path to lunacy.

One of the items I got in trade for the Eastman was a pair of lovely 48mm Velo-Orange fenders. I couldn’t get them to fit around the massive tires. So I put those fenders on my road bike, and ordered a pair of the same fenders, in size 52mm. I had reason to believe that these would work, since they fit Doug’s Cross-Check (albeit, with thinner tires).

Sadly, these didn’t fit either. It seems my tire casings have stretched since I first mounted them, from 41mm to about 44mm. So, now it looks like I’m going to need another set of tires – or simply ride fenderless.

So, after all this nonsense, I finally have the Cross Check (with Albatross bars!) that I originally wanted almost two years and two thousand dollars ago.

The Moral of the Story:

  1. Don’t be a cheap skate — Trying to save a few bucks by buying shitty things, will only cost you more in the long run.
  2. Don’t let yourself be influenced into buying a product you don’t want, just because you’ve seen pictures of the product next to a pretty lady.
  3. Don’t leave spare bicycle parts laying around. They will call to you in your sleep and demand to be assembled into a new bicycle
    • Corollary: If you build such a bicycle, you will end up with more spare parts than you started with, and you will never be free from their treachery.

In any event, this story does have a happy ending. I took the bike out for its first ride today. We did 10 miles on the Conewago Trail, and had a lovely time.

My new 2011 Cross Check

4 thoughts on “Down the Rabbit Hole: A Cautionary Tale

    • Yep, that’s a S/A XL-RD5(W) in the back. 5 speed, 90mm drum brakes.

      Up front, it’s a S/A XL-FDD. 90mm drum brake / dynohub.

      I still need to figure out what I’m going to do for a headlight. Probably a Lumotec Lyt or Cyo, depending on how much more money I want to sink into this thing 🙂

  1. I looked at the Lyt also. It looks to me to be sufficient if you are commuting through lit streets at night, but not enough for out in the country. Also, I’m finding I really like these brighter lights as I get older.

    Speaking of not so bright lights, I have one of the Shimano lights that I’ll give you if you want something to have on there while you decide.

  2. @Doc,
    Thanks, but I already have one of those Shimano lights in my parts pile. I think I’ll probably end up with the Cyo-R.

    I want to be able to ride Stony Creek in pitch darkness. I can do that with my IQ Fly, and it’s fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *