Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Sad End to a Fine Bike?

Some of you may remember my post on the bikes@vienna blog back in February about a customer's fine old Alpine road bike, that I did a major overhaul of, wrote about here:

Well, the story has taken a sad turn. Shortly before I headed to Vegas for the Interbike trade show, he brought the bike back in, because the front derailleur was behaving very strangely, seeming to wiggle side to side a great deal. When I first put the bike in the repair stand, I couldn't make the derailleur do anything odd at all, which puzzled me. I was thinking I needed to take it out for a test ride, when something caught my eye... something didn't quite look right around the bottom bracket area. On closer examination, I discovered something that both bike owners and mechanics dread... a crack in the frame. In this case, the bottom end of the seat tube was nearly completely split, all the way around the circumference of the tube, through the bottom bracket shell. I hated to do it, but I called the owner over and explained that the bike's days of riding were over.

You can see the crack in the two photos below:

It pained me to have to give him the news. He's a really great guy, and the excitement and joy he showed a few months ago when he rode his beloved old bike again for the first time in a long time was enormous... so I knew his disappointment would be great. He took it well, but was clearly bummed, both for the loss of the bike and for the misfortune of having this happen so soon after the overhaul.

It's hard to say exactly what caused the break. The bike was built sometime around 1975, and had seen a lot of miles in the past, and perhaps it was simply a case of metal fatigue that chose this time to rear it's ugly head. It's also possible rust might have had a hand in it, but as I recall, the bottom bracket area didn't really show large amounts of rust when I had it opened up. Whatever the cause, there's really no good cost-effective repair, so the bike must be retired from riding, perhaps to find a place as a display item to remind the owner of happier times.

And from what he tells me, there were a lot of those, hardly surprising since the bike logged somewhere around 100,000 miles! She was ridden as a very stylish commuter in DC, Charlottesville, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., and Memphis. In a more recreational vein, Ms. Alpine (as the owner calls her) toured extensively in California, Oregon, Washington, New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Mid-South. There were also apparently jaunts in Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, and South Dakota. This bike has seen more of the country than many people I know!

Perhaps the greatest thing about this bike though is the place it occupies in the owner's mind and heart. Some people probably don't understand such connections, but it was easy to see it in the eyes of the owner as he told me tales of past adventures with Ms. Alpine. I could relate, as I have a similar connection with my beloved old Trek, which passed its 29th "birthday" this past spring. As for Ms. Alpine, despite coming to the end of the road, so to speak, she will live on in the memory of the owner, and this mechanic who considers himself lucky to have been a small part of a very long adventure.

A picture of Ms. Alpine in happier times:


beth h said...

That is definitely a sad case, though not surprising with the miles it's logged. I hope to ride one of my bikes long enough to warrant that kind of end.

Tom said...

Bummer. Desoite the many miles, no one expects a fatality on the frame.

Tim said...

It's true... one doesn't expect such things, but they aren't totally unheard of, on a bike that's seen a lot of miles and years.

I get the sentiment behind Beth's comment, but I kinda hope I never have this happen to my dear old Trek, which is only five years younger than Ms. Alpine. Granted, I think I've babied it a bit more...

Tarik Saleh said...

I think it is a badge of honor to ride a bike into the ground.
I did something similar to my first semicustom bike (and my second, but that one is repaired and still rolling):