i called the bike seller this morning at 11:00 not knowing what to expect. i was actually surprised when he told me the bike was still available. he said he couldn't find the bike lock key though, but mumbled something and told me i should come anyway and see. the minute i stepped out of the house he called me back to let me know there was no air in the tires, so i wouldn't be able to ride it back if i do decide to buy it. "no problem, i'll bring my tire pump," i said.
it took about 20 minutes to walk down to concord avenue (somerville). i know the street well because every year i come by during the holidays to see all the christmas lights. i wondered if i should've taken my bike to save time, and then ride back one-handed holding the other bike in tandem. although i've seen this maneuver done before by others, i wasn't sure if i'd be able to pull it off myself. and even though i've been to concord avenue numerous times, i actually managed to get a bit lost but eventually found the place.
it was a large apartment complex and the seller came downstairs when i called him, a friendly middle-aged indian man wearing a brooklyn t-shirt. the bike was parked outside, underneath an overhanging 2nd floor balcony. it looked just like the photo, except there was more rust than i'd like and it looked to be a small-sized bike. obviously it lived outdoors, exposed to the elements. the label said it was a fuji sports 10 (from the 1970's maybe?) but the guy said it was a fuji feather. there was a thick plastic-coated cable lock nearby but it wasn't attached to the bike itself. "how did you lock the bike without the key?" i asked. "oh, we didn't," he told me, said they'd just looped the chain over the bike and that was enough of a deterrent. the bike belonged to his wife, but she hasn't ridden it in over 4 months.
while pumping up both tires i made some conversation. his wife bought the bike used from a friend. he was telling me the price they paid but i caught him upping the amount to make it sound like the $65 i was going to pay was a real bargain (i think he said they paid $70-80). the old tires were cracked so they replaced both with black-walled slicks which i could tell (probably the only thing new on the bike). i asked what size they were but he said he didn't know. i guessed they were 26" given the small frame.
he and his wife were actually moving to san francisco, hence the sale. "when?" i asked. "wednesday," he replied. a green light went off in my head. the unscrupulous haggler in me knew that if they didn't sell the bike in the next few days they'd be stuck with it; in essence, they were desperate to sell. however, i didn't take advantage of the situation. he was a software engineer, his wife a designer, and they both found new jobs in the bay area. while we were talking, ash started falling from the sky, until i realized it was snow.
once the tires were fully pumped, i said, "given the state of the bike, would you be willing to sell it to me for $60?" he seemed hesitant, but after a few seconds, he reluctantly agreed. i'm not sure if it was an act, because the initial price of the bike ($65, why not $70?) seemed like there was leeway for some wiggle room. and actually, having seen the bike in person, i didn't think it was even worth $60. i was ready to take the bike away but he said i should try it out first, see how it fits.
the bike didn't have a fast start with ancient cranks gummed up by decades' worth of grease, and felt a little rickety riding. the handlebars were unusually narrow, but overall not bad. i told him i was satisfied and paid him his $60.
riding back, i grew more dissatisfied with the bike with every stroke of the pedal. it wasn't that it was a bad bike per se, but it was another small bike and i already had a fleet of them. i was hoping for something faster, something with bigger (27"+) wheels. that's when i had an idea: my roommate had been talking about buying a bike, why not sell this one to her? i'd sell it the same price i paid (not trying to rip her off): i'd get my money back (to buy a better bike), she'd get a new used bike, everyone wins, what could be better?
along the way i found a box of curbage on beacon street. i saw it earlier, but now i had a chance to do a more thorough inspection. there was a rice cooker but the pan looked scratched up so i didn't take it. there was also for some reason a computer motherboard. i ended up taking a robin egg blue mug (making the total number of mugs i own to 5, only 2 of which i've actually bought).
my roommate wasn't home when i got back (left this morning before i woke up to explore the backbay area on her own). i put all my stuff into a single large bag and rode the fuji sports 10 to belmont as a test ride. did i mention it was super windy today? close to 60 mph winds. the fuji was indeed lighter than my standard trek 800, but the strong breeze felt like it'd topple me over. another thing i discovered was the seat was actually just a smidgen taller than i'd like, meaning i could only touch the very tip of my toes on one leg to the ground. probably a good height for riding, but not so good for frequent stop-and-go travel in the city. i'll probably lower the seat at some point. the worst part was riding uphill with an enormously strong headwind, double whammies. i almost gave up and thought about pushing the bike uphill. the gears also weren't shifting correctly. the 2 front gears wouldn't even engage, and the 5 rear gears would pop back down to the lowest gear because the cable seemed to be too tight.
the first thing i did when i arrived in belmont was to go outside with some paper towels, steel wool, and a can of WD40 to clean off the rust. i was only wearing my t-shirt but it must've been pretty cold with temperature in the 40's combined with the strong winds. but i was still warm from biking the 3 miles that it didn't bother me that much. rust was my main concern anyway. my nose was dripping but the wind was so strong it'd blow my snot away; fortunately there was nobody outside to witness it.
there's nothing on the bike that could date it. there were numerous fuji labels and logo; my favorite is the original saddle withe "FUJI" stamped in the back. i also like that it seems to be actually made in japan with japanese parts.
there aren't any eyelets on the seatstays so that part of the rear rack is attached using a clamp. rubber bracers on the seatstays prevent the clamp from marring the finish on the frame, but the clamp had slid off at some point so was now loose. the clamp is held in place by 2 bolts but one of the bolts is missing some washer and nut (i'll need to find replacements at home depot). the rack itself doesn't seem that sturdy. at first i thought it was plastic, but i think it's some kind of rubber-coated metal.
inspecting the cables revealed the reason for the gearing problems: at least one of the cables (for the front gear) was frayed to the point where it was about to snap in half. the bike seller told me they also did some cabling work when they first got the bike but that doesn't seem to be the case (unless the cables had deteriorated so much since it's last tune-up). i actually don't mind the stem shifters now; when i first saw them on an old bike i thought they were so retro and strange, but since then i've seen them a lot, especially on these (old) cheap bikes. i don't shift all that much anyway (maybe a single gear bike in my future).
the weirdest thing on this fuji has got to be the handlebars. they look like the upturned handlebars of of kid's bike (because they're kind of small) but tilted forward. it makes for an unusual riding posture because i'm actually leaving forward a little bit, like i would on dropdown handlebars, but these aren't dropdowns. i've looked onto for other fuji sports with these same handlebars and i haven't seen any so they must've been put on later as a modification. what i really want are some northroad handlebars; if i can get a set for this bike, it'd be a comfier ride.
while scrubbing off the rust inside the wheel rims, i found some manufacturer information: araya 27 x 1-1/4" japan. turns out this was a 27"-wheel bike after all! just like that, my opinion about this fuji sports suddenly changed. it didn't seem like a bad bike after all, and now that most of the rust has been cleaned off, i could see the potential. maybe i don't want to sell it to my roommate after all.
at first glance, it's easy to mistake the fuji sports 10 with the schwinn 7-speed i got my father last year. that schwinn is the kind of bike i want to ride, but since i already have a bike (or two or three) i prefer to let me father ride the schwinn. the fuji is more comparable to the $20 ross eurosport i got last year as well, since they're both 27 x 1-1/4" wheels. i remember when i first got the eurosport i rode it a bunch of times but then stopped. one big thing missing from the eurosport is fenders. without them, i'm reluctant to ride it in the rain because i don't want to get splattered. i'm also still not 100% comfortable with the dropdown handlebars. should i decide to keep the fuji, i think it might be my fast bike of choice because it does have fenders. and if i can change out the weird handlebars, it'd be perfect.
every time i went outside to clean up some more of the bike, i'd let the dog out. she must've gone out at least 3 times today, chasing balls, gnawing sticks. at one point it began to snow a heavy flurry (actual snow when it was still sunny outside) as hailey went around catching snowflakes. when the flurries began to diminish, she looked at me as if waiting for an explanation or at least to make it snow once again. my father was helping out the restaurant with deliveries, so dinner was just my mother and sister. my sister made some curry pastry with phyllo dough.
riding home, the fuji seemed faster now that i've discovered it has larger road bike wheels. unlike this morning, i grew more satisfied with the bike with every stroke of the pedal. it could all be wishful thinking, but it felt like not only was i going faster than usual, but i was also less tired.
nevertheless, when i got home, i told my roommate about the bike, and the possibility i might want to sell it to her provided that 1) i didn't want it anymore, and 2) she's willing to buy a used bike instead of getting a brand new one. she did ask me how much a new bike costs but we got sidetracked talking about bicycles in china (giant is a name brand, there's still a lot of theft despite all the bikes, and chinese bikes have license plates) and we never returned to the question of bike prices.
at this point though, i'm pretty sure i want to keep the fuji sports 10. i may not use it to get groceries, but it's a good bike for long distance travel. it does need a bit of work though: at least one of the shifter cables need to be replaced (if not both); the brake pads need adjusting (they're too far apart) and possibly replacing (the braking power is not as responsive as i'd like it to be); lower the seat; chain needs to be removed and cleaned thoroughly (replaced with chain link); and replace the handlebars if i can get my hands on some cheap northroads.
weird thing is i've developed some muscle aches in my thighs. i wonder if it's from riding the new bike? it might be configured differently enough that i'm working muscles i don't usually use but it does seem unusual. my thighs get the most workout, they should be used to it by now!