25 April 2010

Just about a bike: Rock Lobster Singlespeed [UPDATED]


This is my old Rock Lobster. I rode it for a little over an hour today, really for the first time this season. And, you know... It got me to thinking... So, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about it... Let's call it the second in my multi-part Just about a bike series of blog entries about some of my bikes.  Did you miss part one of Just about a bike?  The one about my Ibis Mountain Trials?  Really?

How did that happen?

Rare Rock Lobster / Mr. KOK team jersey
Anyway... this bike's mostly 4130 steel frame was fillet-brazed by a guy named Paul Sadoff in place called Santa Cruz, California, back in the year 1985, at a time when some people still thought the B-52s were cool, I guess. It's the sixth mountain bike Sadoff ever made (stamped 06 on the bottom-bracket shell) . Since then he's probably made thousands more.  I think that makes this bike kinda special.

Because of its vintage it's got a few neat old-school features, like a rather unique braze-on behind the seat-collar for a Hite-Rite, and a couple braze-ins on the main triangle for a portage-strap... and, to accommodate the strap the bottle cage mounts are both located on the down-tube.  But otherwise, in terms of design details and geometry, the bike is decades ahead of its time.  And, for the record, it's also a blast to ride!

I bought this bike from my buddy Mark maybe 15 years ago.  Mark bought it about a year before that from guy named Michael, the original owner who, it turns out, was a friend and neighbor of Paul's back when they both lived and rode bikes in Santa Cruz in the '80s.  Michael, who's now an NAU Geology prof and a semi-regular customer at the bike shop where I work in the summertime, once told me that Keith Bontrager (yes, the Keith Bontrager) himself cut-down, re-rolled, and laced the front wheel.  But other than Michael's compelling provenance, and the small "The Bicycle Trip" sticker on the rim, I have no real, substantial proof of that interesting little bit of history, which really is too bad.

When I first got this bike it was blue and the frame decals were peeling a bit at the corners.  It's still blue.  And the frame decals are still peeling.  But please don't assume I've let the bike languish.  I haven't.  For one thing, I took off the incredibly-huge original quill stem and substituted a new, custom-made, significantly shorter, and slightly taller Rock Lobster quill stem, chiefly so I could get a set of WTB/Nitto Dirt Drops into more-or-less the right place.  When I contacted Paul to order the stem (by telephone, ya see, 'cause this was in, like, the 1990s, back before teh internets tubes were invented) he was super nice about making sure I got the right stem for this bike ("It's gotta be fillet. Can't put a TIG'd stem on that bike.").  He even sent me a nice handwritten note along with the stem, all about when he built the bike and what kinds of tubes he used to make the frame... and also a few suggestions as to how I might choose to light it for formal display.

I built a new rear wheel for it a couple years ago.  All by myself.  No, seriously.  I did.  I even put fancy anodized gold and blue spoke nipples on it... and I got the every-other nipple-color thing right... and I got the hub-logo direction thing right... and I got a whole bunch of other things right, too.  So, ha!  (Thanks, Sheldon... RIP.)

The wheel I built is a Surly fixed-free flip-flop hub on a Mavic something-or-other hoop.  I've got it set-up with an easy-climbing 34x20 gear on both sides, which is a great singlespeed gear around these parts, but a fairly low fixed-gear gear for anywhere that isn't dead flat.  But still, sometimes I ride it fixed in the woods anyway.  Mostly, though, fixed off-road in Flagstaff is just stupid-hard and no fun, no matter what gear you're running.  So, really, I usually ride it as a singlespeed, and coast a lot and do bunnyhops and smile and have fun and stuff on downhills... and just talk-tough about how cool-n-awesome riding fixed-gears on singletrack is.

But, really, it's not.

Here are some other pictures of me having fun riding this bike:


UPDATES:
  • In May 2010 I noticed a crack in the Rock Lobster's seat-tube.
  • In July 2010 I sent the frame back to Paul to be repaired.  
  • He returned it to me, fixed, in early September 2010.  He refused to accept payment for the repair.
  • I had it repainted in October 2010.
  • Since that time, I have replaced the old Suntour cranks with a much prettier set of Cook Bros. and installed a Thompson post instead of the well-worn Kalloy.  The portage-strap, which I made from a piece of an old back-pack (and for which, as noted above, there are braze-ins installed on the frame) comes and goes.
  • In September 2016, I replaced the dropbars with a stylie set of 28" wide chrome-plated genuine Nitto Bullmoose bars and a pair of super-giant old-school Shimano M762 brake levers. Cool!




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