We cyclists all know the dangers of the one we didn’t see coming … well, this could be the essential device you may not know you need – until you actually get hold of one, and use it.

a neat vertical unit with small side lights

The Varia RTL 510 makes a lot of sense if you already own a recent Garmin computer ( I bought an Edge 520 a while back ). Buying the version that comes with its own dedicated head unit may seems harder to justify, as it’s quite a bit more expensive.

I’d think of that extra cost perhaps as money better spent toward part of payment for a Garmin computer, unless you really, really don’t need one at all, or you feel that the dedicated unit might be a bit easier to read. I haven’t seen that yet, so I can’t really say.

typical small garmin (520) on an “out front mount “

The radar + light has to be a better primary safety feature than the alternative ‘tail light + camera’ combos on the market, which may only be useful after an unpleasant event occurs. One can, and should, use eyes, ears and common sense, simultaneously with the radar, to help prevent such an event occurring in the first place.

As keen as I am, I don’t intend to do a technical review here, there are plenty of those to be Googled and YouTubed, Have a good look at the ‘DC Rainmaker’ review if you’re interested in the idea.

I’m just here to say how clever and useful I find it. Think of overtaking a parked car, and being able to watch the door opening distance without looking back – or zooming down a hill with the wind in your ears, yet also being aware that there is a vehicle bearing down behind.

There may be an oncoming vehicle near you that drowns out the sound of others following you – you now know that they are there, usually from beyond 100 metres back !

Your Garmin computer gives a warning beep, and a simple linear display of the relative distance appears, via moving dots travelling along the edge of your Garmin’s screen. The beep is clear, but not annoying, and the dots disappear as the corresponding cars pass by. The radar won’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from looking over your shoulder when necessary, but it really helps in instances where concentration ahead is required, and it’s less safe to look back.   

On a busy road there will be a constant stream of dots, which is admittedly less useful, though at least you can see how many cars there are, however, in this situation you also get an indication when the road behind is well clear, and that’s handy too, say when there may be roadside obstacles coming up ahead.

I often ride on local back streets, and this is where the radar also shines, as a further reminder to take care.

Occasionally there may be a false reading, e.g. cars crossing at an intersection you have just gone through, but these mostly drop off the radar quickly. Of course if you are on a cycle path next to a main road, you will also still get readings from the road behind you.

simple mount for the rtl510

The tail light can be put on constant, pulse, and daylight flash modes, with the latter giving a claimed 15 hours battery life. It uses the same type of quarter turn mount as the computer, is simple to set up initially, and one button operates everything on the light. The light is easy to transfer from bike to bike, as are the Garmin computers, which is one of the reasons I bought one, having as many useable bikes as I do, including the old classics.

Sure, it’s one of the more expensive tail lights on the market – but what price the extra safety ?

Check it out …

See Ya !


nishiki 26er ‘road’ mtb – plus gravel, grass, etc.

Reading the cycling magazines lately, one would think that one’s collection just wasn’t complete without having a “Gravel Adventure Bike” in it, so here’s the latest “Re-Cyclo ‘2×8’ model” ! 

As suggested, there’s no “1×11” transmission here ( oops, now it’s “1×12″ – or  even Rotor’s latest  .. “1×13″ !! ) and no disc brakes either – but this was heaps more DIY fun !!

the derailleurs were in great nick

I had to build a pair of wheels for it, and so bought a new pair of Deore XT hubs at a reasonable price, to suit the 8 speed XT derailleur and an 11-32T  8 speed cassette. 

quill-to-threadless mod., with comfortable fizik performance bar tape

I’ve changed the bars to drops, so different brake levers were needed. I had a compact Deda Piega 26mm handlebar to use, but the Deda bar wouldn’t fit through a single bolt quill stem, due to the tight bends, so a 1 & 1/8″  ahead stem and a universal quill – to – threadless adapter were purchased.

classic gran compe straddle wheels & genetic cantis

Brakes are Genetic lightweight cantilevers, that ( handily ) use standard road style brake pads.  I later had a nightmare moment coming to an intersection when both brake cables slid through the straddle wire pulleys – note to self.. “check and double check the cable tightness before test riding” – Yikes .

The Sugino triple crank was replaced by a ( 34/44T ) double Sugino VP 110mm BCD,  on a 115mm square taper BB, giving gearing that should be adequate for 26″ wheels – i.e. from 34 x 32T  to  44 x 11T.

The 10T chainring difference means that front changes are smoother than with, say, a 50/34 compact, and the midrange gear options are greater as well.

the driveline

Sometimes, when ordering spokes, one makes a slight miscalculation, but it may still be possible to use them by changing the number of spoke crosses, either up or down, when building the wheel, which I had to do in this case with the now 4x front. Oops ! In the case of the rear, I had the old wheel, and the dimensions were pretty much the same with the new hub and rim, so I could match the 3x spokes.

On the subject of building wheels, some say it’s a black art. I would say it’s relatively easy to learn the basics and be competent, at least as far as simple general purpose 28/32/36/40 hole traditional wheels like these go. I learnt the basics from Lennard Zinn’s road bike maintenance book.

On the other hand, mastering modern high tech / high performance wheels and truing race wheels to ultra-fine tolerances would seem quite difficult.   

Lacing a wheel is mainly a matter of repetition, taking care to avoid simple mistakes or at least to pick them up quickly before the mistake is repeated on and on … DIY niceties include lacing up so as to see the hub logo through the valve hole.

I haven’t made up many wheels with new rims, but it seems naturally easier to true them than with re-cycled rims like these, which are in the majority for me.

a reliable commuter with a comfortable brooks c17 saddle

I’ve tried a couple of ‘touring-style’ rebuilds like this before, one on a Giant Boulder 550 MTB, the other on a Protour 27″ that was a decent frame, if a bit too large. Though I enjoyed both, I think this will be my most successful attempt. It’s a really nice frame, in my size, and not too heavy either, well, not considering the larger diameter MTB down and top tubes at least. The seat post is 27.0 mm ( Tange MTB ), which is the same as for my Tange Infinity tubed Shogun.

Most other parts I had already, either lying around, or borrowed from other bikes. The excellent 8 speed Ultegra bar-end shifters and the blue flat pedals have been borrowed from the Protour .. it’s nice to now have a completely matched set of 8 speed shifters, cassette, chain and derailleurs for reliable index shifting. I also think that bar-end shifters are at least as easy to use, and in some ways easier, than modern integrated brifters on drop bars.

trad 90s cable location

Because the period MTB triple cabling runs along the top tube, I didn’t need much cable outer, and managed to salvage some unused blue offcuts for the whole lot – yay !

The top tube is so long at an effective 63cm (!) versus an effective seat tube of around 55cm, that it gives a fairly leaned forward position. One possible disadvantage of MTB geometry is the high bottom bracket, which means it’s a little tricky to touch the ground from the saddle when stopped, at my preferred road seat height, at least.

This is quite a big bike for what Nishiki call a 55cm (22″) frame size !

Overall, the cons. are : slow acceleration compared to a good roadie, and still fairly weighty from a hill climbing point of view. The pros. are : great low speed handling, good low to mid gear range ( if a bit gappy ) , and a steady, comfortable ride on rough city streets,  And again, I can’t complain about the cost ….

gone ridin’

Happy Re-Cycling !

A foray into the world of composites – I’m not sure of the model, could be an R660 late 90s, early 2000s ? Anyway it has an aluminium frame with carbon forks and seat stays.

Size is a (virtual) 54cm ctc square, which I thought would be too small, as it came with a very slammed stem and thus a very low front end. So I bit the bullet and bought a Deda adjustable ahead stem and set it to 30 degrees !  Now, I’m not a bike snob, but I do know that the cognoscenti would be aghast … well, I say ‘whatever works’ !  And it works quite nicely too.

shock, horror and so on … bars are deda RHM02

Scattante was / is a home brand of Performance Bicycle Shop in the U.S. Likely made by one of the factories also manufacturing the ‘name’ brands, it seems they were a competitive bike at the price, but lacking in brand kudos. There are plenty of pics on-line of various different models, but I haven’t yet seen any others with a full period Campagnolo group set.

these new miche hubs are really smooth – i hope they last as well.

Even without said stem, it’s not the prettiest two wheeled object by a long shot, with its angular tubes and burnt-orange-plus-carbon colour scheme.  Speaking of “shot”, that’s what the cones in both hubs were. The Centaur hubs have oversized hollow aluminium axles and tiny little ring-like cones … at an LBS I was quoted around $30 per (1) tiny cone, and even on-line they are still seemingly around $20 each..

No thanks, and welcome to the world of Campagnolo spares prices – and therefore forced obsolescence ! ( but I still have the hubs – just in case ! )

Sadly, or happily, it was both cheaper and probably easier for me to buy a set of Miche ‘racing box” hubs 32H, and they spin like a dream, with their butter-smooth sealed bearings. Of course these required re-lacing the wheels, so more therapy for me as well…

the ‘new’ driveline & tioga spider pedals

The original sealed bottom bracket was as smooth as, and so were the steering head bearings, both of which saved me some hassle. Chainrings were a bit worn, and I decided to replace them and go 10 speed, as the rear derailleur and the brifters were getting on a bit. Also, the existing 9 speed cassette only went to 21T, just so, for the hard men only …

the traditional looking veloce r.d. is kind of pretty

Veloce is the only 10 speed group that Campagnolo have now, and I think it has already been discontinued, but for me it was a cost effective way of upgrading. I needed shifters, a 10speed, cassette (12-26t), a chain and the rear derailleur to make it work. The front Centaur derailleur was marked “10 speed”, so it was quite compatible. Campag. freehubs are cross compatible between 9/10/11 speeds too, which is nice.

yowser ! so many choices of cog

Crikey though, that’s a lot of close cogs to shift through, for an old timer unused to such transmission excesses !

What, it’s twelve speed now, you say  ?

not quite right, but hey.

The somewhat worn chain-rings were replaced too (52/39t) – no point half doing a drive line job … I could only find Chorus/Record 135mm b.c.d. big rings new, they work with the Centaur cranks, but aren’t quite the right match. The inner ring is a 39t T.A.

centaur dual pivot brakes

The bike came with a 27.2mm Felt seat post, and a rather attractive looking Selle San marco ‘Aspide’ saddle, which I’ve kept. Don’t think I’ll ride it too far without the padded shorts though !

not a bad looking saddle – if a little hard ..

New pads for the excellent Centaur dual pivot brakes and it’s done.. Not a super cheap build, but worth it for a virtually new bike with a Campag. group set, ‘only’ being 10 speed Veloce not withstanding. A Veloce drive line is what’s fitted to the recent Bianchi ‘L’Eroica’ historic re-make, so it can’t really be a bad thing, can it ?

the ribbed Campag. brake hoods remind me of whales, for some reason.

This bike came at a good price, at least given what the parts would be worth to sell if it didn’t work out – and it’s my first experience with the world of Campagnolo, apart from rebuilding a few old Record hubs.

The plan was, if it didn’t ride well, I would strip the parts and look for a nice replacement steel frame with 130mm rear spacing … but there was no need. I assumed the ride would be sharpish, so I chose a set of cushy Veloflex Master 25 clincher tyres before I had even ridden it.  Along with Cinelli thick gel-cork bar tape. Yes, the ride is ‘informative’, and a little more chattery than a good steel frame, though not unpleasant.

This is now my lightest bike, and I know that’s not the most critical thing for me, but it is a nice feeling when accelerating, or going up hills, that’s for sure.

Happy Re-Cycling !

No More 26″ MTBs ? :

Well, that’s what I had decided a while back, because even though they are the most common local chuck-outs by far, very few of them are worth the time and effort reviving, as so many of these are steel-wheeled department store cheapies.

the bushwhacker !   –   note the long top tube

However, occasionally, one finds a gem amongst them, such as this 22″ framed Nishiki Bushwhacker. This bike was designed and manufactured in Canada, and has some Norco components ( flat bar & seatpost ) – so I think it was made by Norco. The tubing is Tange MTB, a CroMo 4130 tubing which was, I think, a mid-range Tange, similar to the excellent ‘Infinity’ road tubing. The name “Bushwhacker” seems to be an Australian derivative too, maybe there were some Aussies working at Norco in the 90s !

yumm !

The bike came with a broken-spoked rear wheel and no front wheel, and is fitted with Shimano Alivio canti brakes, Deore XT and LX derailleurs and Gripshift 3 x 8-speed twist shifters. Also, a Sugino CSS2 micro-chainset ( 42/32/22 ) and threaded 1 & 1/8 inch fork steerer were on it.

i think the middle ring was default position

These chainwheels have an unusual PCD of 94mm with 58 for the triple’s granny ring, as opposed to the 110mm of current compact double road chain sets. TA have rings available in 94mm if required, though these Suginos seem in reasonable shape, and have all the ramps to aid shifting. I might use them, though a 46/34 double may be another simpler option, as the cassette I will use starts at 11T.

I’ve dated the bike to 1994, and the frame is straight, with decent condition of the paintwork and decals. One thing that puts me off MTBs a bit these days is that for road use they generally have heavy frames and sluggish wheels, thanks to the usual wide tyres and the perceived need for off road ruggedness, so there may be some weight reduction required. Starting with a relatively light frame like this will be a big help !  I am getting spoiled using lighter road wheels lately, so tyre width will need to be 1.35″ – 1.5″ at the most.

nishiki / norco ? — designed and manufactured in canada.

Looking at the larger on-line shops these days, it strikes me that parts for 26″ ( -559 ETRTO ) rim braked MTBs are becoming rare. Most hubs are now for disc brakes, and most rims no longer have machined ( or indeed any ) brake tracks. The change in size to 27.5 / 650B  ( -584 ETRTO ) and 700C / 29er ( -622 ETRTO )  hasn’t helped either.

While I understand the appeal of discs for off-road use, I don’t like the complexity of such things, though if one has to deal with servicing bicycle suspension systems as well, I guess hydraulic brakes are only a further slight inconvenience.

Unsprung ‘gravel road’ bikes seem to be the latest thing for a novelty hungry bicycle industry, well, hopefully this would be an economical way for some to get there – if they really need to, that is. I also wonder if any of these newer aluminium / carbon bikes will be easily restorable in 25, 35 or 50 years time – or will anyone care ?

A major appeal of bicycles for me is that they are, or were, or should be, so much simpler and cheaper than motorbikes to maintain…. so if this one even only had suspension forks, I would have said “forget about it !”

More to follow.

super patina !

I’ve been pondering this example for a while, which came to me as a frame and fork only, and in a heavily surface rusted condition. The rust is only skin deep, and I believe the frame may have been partly prepared for painting then forgotten about for some time. There are traces of black paint remaining, and at the head badge location there are multi-colours, too small in size to reveal the true original colours.

the “s” spot

There’s not much here to tell the story, yet the metal “S” headbadge ‘shadow’ and the single letter ‘S’ stamped on the fork steerer is enough to identify it as a Speedwell Special Sports model. Despite the name, this model wasn’t really that sporty, being just a step up from the “Popular” roadster, and having hand-brakes and a 3-speed hub, along with better fork ends and a rigid rear triangle. To get to the real period “sports” models one has to look further up the range to the “Flash”, which had lighter tubing and steeper geometry, though it seems there can be some crossover between components on individual models, at least sometimes.

I am ( roughly ) dating the frame as early 1960s, because of the lack of a drilled bottom bracket oiler hole and the facility for separate headset cups.

Having toyed with the idea of the unrestored frame in the past, it struck me that this might look good if I could keep the rusty patina by sealing it in, without quite losing all the red rustiness.  Perhaps Penetrol would do that, along with a clear overcoat.

There are two possible approaches I can see with the components – either modern, shiny, and functional, or traditional and roughly period, with patina. At this point I like the latter idea, though, for me, it still has to be enjoyably ride-able, and in safety, so I might just mix it up a little !

it goes here, but not yet !

To refit the head badges, I have seen the little spiral finned pins which can be hammered into the head tube locating holes, and I have also used pop rivets. The rivets or pins must be filed down on the inside of the head tube so that they don’t foul the steerer tube when the head set is assembled. I use either a half-round hand file or a Dremel with a grinding wheel ( if it will reach ). With these rivets, I had to drill the holes out very slightly with a 1/8″  bit, so that they would fit snugly.

The Penetrol takes a long time to dry as it stays somewhat tacky even in hot, dry weather, so I’ve left it a good while, which gave me time to sort out some of the potential components.

old school drops

A set of classic drop bars and steel stem show some promise – cloth tape, anyone ?

hmm…thinking, thinking

This heavily pre-aged Bell model 70 saddle is under serious consideration, now that I’ve pulled the sides in using a classic leather punch, and an old shoelace.

a nice old tool, this – and useful !

i like it !

To be continued …  

Here’s another freebie, from a fairly recent local hard rubbish extravaganza …

eek ! a very rusty rider ..

This Cyclops ‘Solitaire’ looked rather tragically rusted, and would be a ridiculous amount of work to completely de-rust.  However, a closer look shows that the frame paint is in very good nick, and that the bike has actually seen very little use…

but the frame shows promise .. i serviced the bb and steering head.

For someone like The Recyclist, who has plenty of alternatively collected parts, a bike like this can be refurbished without a lot of cost or drama. It’s not the sort of thing one can expect to sell for a fortune though, so it’s more a ‘project for a friend’ type of thing.  In this case, the friend didn’t want a bike with gears.

not sure i want to use this malvern star saddle here, but ..

Ten-speed step throughs, as with “sports bikes”, are typically heavy bikes, with ‘gas-pipe’ tubing and cheap steel accessories, however, they can be modernised and lightened like this one, by simplifying the gearing and/or by using alloy parts such as chain-sets, rims, stems, bars, brakes etc.  This Cyclops is intended for use in flat areas so has been converted to a coaster braked single speed.

a reliable shimano coaster, and alloy rims

The typically 110mm wide rear Shimano coaster hub has been fitted with spacers to slot centrally into the wider 10 speed drop-outs and the Sakae ‘custom’ chainset has had the large 52T ring removed by drilling out the rivets. I went a bit too far with the first drilling, so I drilled all five rivets right through the arms, and then countersunk the holes. ( oops … accidental pseudo-drillium ! ). Using the inner ring gives a pretty good chain-line with the original spindle fitted ( at least in this case ).

oops, i mean … nah, it’s drillium – no more big ring !


nearly there, needs a chain and some mudguard tweaking


ready to ride !

A 20T rear sprocket will give easy pedalling at modest speeds, when combined with the remaining 40T front ring.

the pink mixte, revisited

Some mixte style step-through bicycles, though not all, were made with better quality tubing. They tend to be more rigid than standard step-throughs, as well. This one shown is only 1020 Hi-Tensile, which is a very basic steel, yet as with many older basic bikes, when given lighter components and with generously sized tyres and a good saddle fitted, these can often ride quite well.

Happy Re-Cycling !     

as bought – “before”

as is now – “after”

I bought this one locally, but it turns out it’s come a long way – from North End bicycles in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada !  Well, it was sold there 30 years ago, at least. I wonder if the shop is still trading ?

Researching the model on the internet shows a couple of others that were listed in Canada, and I haven’t seen many Kuwaharas in Australia as it seems Apollo is the common ‘Kuwahara’ made brand here. I’d rather fancied a higher end Apollo ( IV or V ), so I guess this is sort of… ‘it’ !

sugino vp110

It’s a 57 x 57cm c.t.c. frame, a good size for me. Running gear is Sugino VP ( cranks and seatpost ), Suntour ( alpha-5000 derailleurs & shifters, 6-speed indexed ) and DiaCompe (brake levers and callipers ).  The Dia-Compe callipers are labelled to match the alpha-5000 Suntour gear.

yum ! ishiwata cro-mo..

Frame tubing is Ishiwata EX triple-butted cro-moly and the frame is quite light and has an appealing ring when tapped. The Tange fork sings like a tuning fork, in the same way, so I’m hoping it’s a really nice ride. The wheels were Araya 700c with Suzue hubs and a not-so-flash Selle Anatomica saddle was fitted.

i couldn’t help a little bit of lug-lining

The head tube paint was chipped on one side as though it’s been given a rough ride in the back of a ute, but the frame is straight and looks in good nick otherwise.

On dismantling, the bottom bracket is in great condition for a 30 year old, and the reason is that the cups have rubber seals for the spindle and there is a plastic seal between the cups – brilliant !  So it’s a clean and regrease only, plus ‘routine’ new 1/4″ ball bearings – yay.

I did myself a favour and reassembled the BB with copa-slip for next time. There was one crank spindle nut cover which I had to drill out, as the metal cap had fused to the crank, and the allen key hole rounded off. At least you can break the chromo-plastic ones and chip them out…    It’s a good idea to re-fit these covers’ threads with a little anti-seize as well.

The steering bearings were also straightforward, cleaned and re-greased.

A few mods. seemed in order, starting with the cranks – I happened to have a similar crank set in 110mm, so I swapped it for the existing 130mm Sugino VP so I could fit smaller rings. The 52/40T has become a 46/34T. This sounds drastic but it’s not as severe as one might think.

I first fitted a set of old Campagnolo record hubs with Nisi rims, but the notched braking surface on the rims does not make a happy noise when stopping, and also, I sadly couldn’t get a small ‘hop’ out of the rear rim. Hops can be quite annoying when noticeable.

sadly, these nisi rims didn’t work for me — note the nicely brazed-on brace for the seat stays

So I decided to use a set of 32H new Mavic Reflex rims on a Shimano RX100 7-speed hub rear and 105/5700 on the front, and these wheels ride nicely and brake quietly.

Tyres are Tufo S33 tubulars in 23mm.

105 front hub, with RX100 skewers & mavic reflex rims

I kept the original callipers, front derailleur, shifters, and seatpost and changed the levers to a set of drilled TRPs. These levers are modern non-brifters and ‘aero’ cabled with a dog-leg partway down the lever. They look good and work pretty well, but I really think that while the ‘dog-leg’ levers may be better suited to braking from the hoods than traditional levers, perhaps they’re not as easy when braking from the drops.

drilled TRP levers

I was told by the previous owner that this bike was once used by a female triathlete for training, which could explain the short 60mm ‘Win’ stem. I replaced it with an 80mm Genetic stem, and 44cm Cinelli ‘Giro d’Italia bars replaced the Win Kusuki bars that were on it. The Cardiff leather tape seems more comfortable than the Brooks equivalent, but I think that all leather tapes come in too-short-a-lengths !

hot summer = a sweaty rolls

New brake and gear cables, and chain fitted, and the rear derailleur has been changed to a Shimano tricolour 600, now working friction mode on a 7sp. 12-28T cassette.

i decided to go with this better condition r.d.

One might think that 46 x 12T is a low top gear, but I rarely find myself above 40km/h, so I really think it’s plenty. The 34 x 28T bottom gear, however, will be very useful.

how she rolls – just don’t sweat it !

Though I’m normally a confirmed Brooks person, I fitted a San Marco ‘Rolls’ saddle, though I find the suede finish is prone to getting very wet with perspiration in hot weather-  ( today’s ride temp was at 35C degrees, for example, according to the Garmin – somewhat different to that of Winnipeg ! ). The Rolls is pretty comfortable, and a great looking saddle too, but in the end I may still go back to a Brooks.

Happy Re-Cycling !