Monday, July 21, 2008

Project Babe Resurrection Part One (no more # of 104)

"Babe" is the one bike -of all my bikes- I lived on the most. For at least five of my ten racing seasons she was my main steed. I had some of the best conversations of my life with that bike between my knees. It was probably with that bike wedged up my butt that I took the first few bike rides with the woman who would become my wife. It was Babe that gave me my only sub-55 minute 40 km time trial and it was Babe who was with me on all those miles and miles and miles of training and racing.

Yes, there were certainly many other bikes but if I search my brain for the one bike I picture beneath me when I think of my racing years it's Babe (with a close second being my beloved Bridgestone RB-7 that I still kick myself for ever having sold).

BTW, Babe is a mid 90's Bianchi EL/OS straight from Bianchi's Reparto Corse. I couldn't really afford it when I bought it but a "team deal" made it attainable and I always liked the idea that maybe it really was the same exact frame that Marco Pantani swung his leg over everyday to ply his trade.

Around 1999, I was rudely awakened by a loud crashing noise coming from the "office" of our little bungalow. I turned on the lights and to my horror, there was my wall mounted bike stand NOT on the wall. Since Kris is a petite woman, her bike was on the bottom stand and had no damage. My stomach turned backflips, however, when I untangled my beloved Babe and found a gigantic ding in the downtube where the momentum of the fall had brought her delicate frame into contact with the top of our office chair.

At that point, I bought an Ibis frame, transferred all the best parts over and put Babe in the garage. Being a bored kind of guy who enjoys working on bikes, however, I eventually did put a bunch of spare parts on Babe and built her as a backup bike. The huge ding in the downtube really didn't bend the frame. She still tracked straight and true and hands off riding was just as confident as ever. The biggest worry in my head was that the downtube would suddenly collapse under heavy braking.

But now I don't care.

Nowadays I really don't ride at all and I've 50 pounds now that I didn't have ten years ago. Of course I'll never be bike-racer skinny again and I'll never return to the days of 250 mile weeks but it sure would be healthy for me to figure out how to get two or three rides in a week. This stupid episode with gout convinced me of that.

I still have the Ibis but the Ibis and I never really found each other to be good companions. The Ibis wants to sprint up hills and carve sharp corners. That's all fine and good but those days are simply behind me now.

So I've began the work of stripping poor of Babe of the spare parts. I'll have to do a HUGE amount of tender love and care on the frame but she's still all there. The saddest thing I've found so far are small rust spots coming through the chrome on the stays. How could I let such a good old friend come to that? So sad.

So look for pictures and updates as I spend the tiny amount of spare time I have on bringing this old friend back to life.

Frame of action...
1- Strip frame.
2-"Frame prep" = degreasing, rubbing, flush/clean/coat inside of frame, and at least three coats of turtle wax.
3-Strip the Ibis.
4-Figure out what parts from both bikes I like most and clean up/make perfect for installation.
5-Build with patience, love and tenderness.
6-Get to know and old friend.

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