Meet “Blue Steel”

Yesterday the roads dried sufficiently that I could test ride that bike I wrote about last week without feeling guilty for riding a steel bike in the salt, or returning a dirty bike if I decided I wouldn’t buy it.

So I stopped by Towner’s Bike Shop on the way home and test rode it. I was primarily concerned about climbing. All my bikes have been triples. The new (to me) bike is a “standard” 53/39 double. The small ring is the same size as the Portland’s middle ring.

Climbing all over Cobb’s Hill went well. So I bought it.

Meet “Blue Steel”

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Blue Steel is a 1999 Schwinn Peloton, the second from the top of the line in that model year. It’s a pure racing bike. There’s no room (or even mounts) for fenders, nor any mounts for racks.

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Reynolds 853 tubing
 
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Curvalicious
 
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Curvalicious
The frame is TIG-welded Reynolds 853 double-butted steel—their best steel tubeset. Only their 953 stainless-steel is better. The front triangle is traditional racing geometry with a level top tube and standard (not oversize) tubing. It’s a look that I really, really like.

The rear triangle features oh so slender seatstays, and chainstays that start out oval and taper to round. Both sets of stays feature S-bends to help soak up the bumps. And they’re just sexy as all get out.

Box stock, (specs here) Blue Steel’s drivetrain was full Ultegra (9-speed), with the aforementioned 53/39 double in front. Nothing shabby at all about that. But its previous owner had a major case of upgraditis, so now it rocks a Dura-Ace rear derailleur. In other upgraded parts, it has an Easton EC30 carbon fork, Easton EC90 carbon bars, Thomson stem and seatpost, and a Selle Italia SLK Gel Flow saddle. All good stuff.

It rolls on an older set of Neuvation wheels, which were recently re-laced, and is shod with 28mm Specialized Armadillo All Conditions tires—the only upgrade I really don’t care for. While nearly perfectly puncture resistant, they’re heavy, and ride like cast iron.

The price was right too. I got the whole bike for less than the cost of the upgrades alone.

The test ride revealed a couple of things that needed attention. The rear shift cable was binding, the brakes needed a little adjustment, and the bars and levers needed adjustment to fit me better. Towner’s took care of the balky cable and housing, and I tackled the rest last night.

This morning I replaced its quick-release skewers with bolt-ons. I don’t have the finger or hand strength to open QRs without some sort of prying tool. Since I have to use tools anyway, I might as well use skewers designed for tools, so all my bikes have bolt-ons.

Rooting around in my bike parts box, I came up with the seatpost mount for my DiNotte taillight, and mounted that. I moved a DiNotte headlight and two battery packs over from the Portland. Yellow Bike graciously lent its second-bike kit for the cyclometer. And finally, I installed the Mirrycle Road Mirror for STI (Quelle horreur!) that I bought along with Blue Steel yesterday.

After a hearty brunch and a restorative nap, we hit the road this afternoon. Conditions weren’t ideal, but they were darned nice for February. I really wanted a not too stressful, getting to know you ride, so we took East Ave into the city, went north on St. Paul to Summerville on the lake, then turned around and came home the same way.

On the road, it’s fast and quick (two different things) like Yellow Bike, but where Yellow Bike always makes me feel like I have to pedal faster to keep up with it, Blue Steel eases down the road like the Portland does. It uses the same muscles that Yellow Bike does (and those are sadly out of shape), but it sits like the Portland.

The contact points seem to be in the right places, although come spring a longer stem will be nice. The bars will take some getting used to. The curve forward from the tops to the ramps is done in two 45° steps, and this angled part takes up most of the meat of the ramps. Hoods are okay, tops are fine, but the ramps, I dunno yet. I spent no time at all in the hooks or on the tails in this ride.

Blue Steel came with M-520 MTB pedals. That’s fine, because I ride SPDs, and the Portland came stock with the same pedals. I just prefer the A-520 “road” SPDs. The M-520s felt funny under my feet. Not bad, but unfamiliar. A-520s are in its future anyway, so it’s no big deal.

I think the saddle going to become a gem. It’s narrower than what I have on the other bikes, and I’ve been thinking a narrower saddle would work better for me. I just haven’t known which one to try, nor could i decide which bike to try it on. So it’s nice that the Peloton came with the Selle Italia SLK Gel Flow saddle. I get to try it basically for free. I think it’s a keeper.

The ride was marred only by the tires. On BikeForums someone referred to them as Army boots. I’m thinking concrete overshoes is the better descriptor. I’m ordering new 3-season tires for the Portland soon, so I’ll just order two sets.

Riding north and west of here, it’s really flat. The wide-ratio 9-speed cassette has a “hole” in the gearing right where my sweet spot is. It’s lacking a 16-tooth cog. Even way back on my first bike, the Giant hybrid, I found the 16 was missing, yet right where I want to be pedaling. I cured that with the 13-23 close-ratio cassette that I still run to this day on Yellow Bike. I had a 12-23 on order for the Portland before I even brought it home.

On the other two bikes, I can get away in hill country with the close-ratio cassettes due to their triple chainrings. With Blue Steel, I don’t have that, so I have to do something else. One thing is work on the motor so the 15 and 14 become the sweet spot. I’ll give that a go. But fortunately, 9-speed cassettes are pretty cheap, compared to the Portland’s 10-speed ones, so I’ll likely pick up a 12-23 for Blue Steel as well. I’ll have to switch back to the 12-27 for any hill riding, though.

And that’s about it for now. The tires excepted, there’s nothing bad about this bike. It needs only a little adjustment and personalization. It’s a welcome new member of the family here, and I think it’ll be around for a while.

4 Responses to “Meet “Blue Steel””

  1. Apertome Says:

    What a stunning bicycle! The standard tubing looks fantastic, and all the curved lines are very nice indeed. The parts you don’t like are things that you would expect to customize on a bike anyway, so no worries there. Really looking forward to reading more about how this bike rides.

  2. brucew Says:

    Yeah, it’s a looker, ain’t it?

    And I can’t wait to write more about how this bike rides and handles. But there’s a foot of snow in the forecast for the end of this week.

    I think the hardest part of owning this bike is that I can ride it only on dry days. There aren’t many of those here in Upstate.

  3. BruceG Says:

    I think it is interesting how you almost got a Schwinn from Towner’s when you got the Portland, but you eventually got a Schwinn from them. And a very nice one, I see. Now let’s see how many roadies you can drop!

  4. brucew Says:

    Huh. I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Of course,it may be the first Schwinn I’ve purchased from them, but it’s the second time they’ve bought and sold that bike. They sold it to the original owner, and took it back as a trade-in.