Friday, November 9, 2012

Spiffing up the Ross

Before and after.
After five months of trying the mustache bars on the Ross, I simply could not put up with the awkward brake lever position any longer. So, because of fall's chill, I retired to the basement with stand up pump, work stand, and tools.

I took my time, removing leather grips once again (ugh), dismantling thumb shifters, gingerly loosening the brake levers. Since I wanted to flip the bars, thus creating comfortable gripping like my Miyata, it would lower my reach considerably. I was afraid it would be too much. I posed the question at a local bike shop, regarding a taller stem. They had one and even though it was ugly, it had it's benefits: adjustable and a two piece clamp which would relieve the difficulty of snaking and levering the curved bar into place. I considered that a big bonus. Unfortunately, the stem diameter was too large. I didn't find out this until I'd brought it home, of course. Lesson learned: even if you take the bike to the store, it doesn't insure you get a correctly fitting product. The customer should ask the right questions.

I went back to the current green beauty, raising it to maximum height. The front brake cable was a casualty of all this reworking: it frayed beyond reuse. Luckily, I had an extra in a parts box. The Hub doesn't throw anything out—good thing I now feel pretty comfortable stringing cables. As you can see in the photo, cantilever hanger height must be spot-on to clear the rack support plus the stem's lock ring. It requires patient adjustment. I got it pretty close and ended up reversing the hanger. It keeps the screw just far enough away from the stem, alleviating further fine tuning. I can't see where it'll function less effectively.

I had a helper, er, hopper, nudging my leg for attention. When in the basement, one must also let rabbit out for exercise.

Hershey was inquisitive, sniffing the unusual thing in his run territory. He also loves leather and gnawed on the toe straps. I learned the hard way about this particular fetish; I have short laces on my nice black boots. Okay boy, pet pet pet. What soft fur you have. Who's a good little bunny? Scratch, scratch. Now, run along please...

Back to the project. Notice anything new? Yes, those are spanking white wall tires. There was enough wear on the rubber to finally make a change. About time too. You see, it's bugged me that every accessory is black: both racks, fenders, seat, hand grips, bottle cage. Add this to the black frame and the Ross turned into this ugly—in my opinion—utilitarian thing.

I wanted gumwall tires. It's what originally came on the 80s mountain bikes. Despite the prevalence of all black rubber in the past 20 years—which I've always disliked—I've discovered there is more selection now, even all-colored tires, which I'm attracted to. Think Schwalbe Fat Franks in cream, Fyxation's lime and pink sweeties, or Rubena City Hoppers. Anything to offset the black.

Our stand up pump doesn't register psi for Schrader valves.  Leery
of over inflation, I used my grandpa's old gauge  
The difficulty lies in the 26" wheel size and sticking with wide 2" diameter. Schwalbes are too expensive; Fixation only comes in 700c; I could not order the reasonable and intriguing Rubenas—seems like they're only sold through a dealer. I found some interesting inexpensive Kenda tires on Amazon, but was leery of the max. 40psi. As a last resort I got a pair of Kenda whitewalls locally, which broke my cheap tire rule, but I'm willing to try them. They are 1.75" width, have tread, and should give me the comfort I seek. With stiffer sidewalls and 45psi, the salesperson promised it would be adequate. For a splash of "color" on the Ross, I gave it a go.

Time for a test ride. I left the bike unadorned to study the tires and feel. Upon leaving our neighborhood the tires felt softer than I expected, so I cruised the sidewalks for a bit to get my bearings, then headed to the waterfront path.

She is pretty isn't she? I can't get over what clean lines she has. The fenders blend in with the tire, rendering them practically non-existent.

I know, I know, but how do the new tires work?

Well, hold on a bit. Time for more admiration...

...pretty, pretty. The whitewalls highlight the "Ross" wording.

I still love the chain ring style on this bike. (Just thought I'd throw that in there too.)

First, gotta' fill the tank with Hong's Dumplings.

Ooh la la! After 15 pleasurable miles, the tires roll smoothly and are definitely faster, especially compared with mountain bike tires. They're also quiet—a far cry from the whir and whine of knobbies. So far, so good. But when I climbed a hill there was a noticeable slowing in speed. I presume it has to do with less tire pressure. It's a minor issue though; gaining a quieter, faster ride makes up for the occasional slow ascent.

I will need to tweak the brakes and shifters a bit, but overall the handlebars are more comfortable. My back hurt more than usual later that night, so I'll revisit the angle of the bar, and maybe, eventually, the stem height. But that's down the road, so-to-speak. It will take time, as before, to see what works over the long haul.

The pièce de résistance came when later I hefted the bike onto a bus rack. Factoring in the lack of front bag, the tires are significantly lighter than knobbies. That made my day.


  1. The Ross is not only spiffy, but down right sexy... Great job!

    Enjoy the weekend! It's going to be a nice one.

    1. Hi Sue. Glad you like my redo. Seems like I'm never fully happy with this bike. I've searched for the past three years for an adequate replacement, but have come up short for a larger than 19" frame (Ross's size). I'm 5'8" which is limiting for locating an older women's mt. bike that actually fits.

  2. Can you try to order the Rubenas through a local bike shop? That's how I got mine. The whitewalls look good, though.

    The only decent gumwalls I found were some made by Panasonic. Look nice, not cheap (and knobbies, too.)

    1. It's possible I could order them through a local shop. I didn't think of that. Thank you for posting about these tires as I didn't know they existed until reading one of your posts.

  3. Oooo . . . whilst perusing the changes I felt a sudden urge to ask you for a test ride, then remembered you aren't exactly next door. Very Spiffy!

  4. "Schwalbes are too expensive"

    I have to disagree with this statement. Yes, Schwalbes seem expensive upfront, but they never flat and last 2-3 times longer than other tires. In the long run, they are quite a bit cheaper.

    I've been running nothing but Schwalbes on my bikes since 2007 (except on my Pugsley). I have yet had a flat on any of my bikes. Plus I have two sets of Schwalbes that exceed 6,000 miles and still have a lot of life left to them.

    OTOH.....I really like the look of the white walls on the Ross.

    1. Doug, I agree with you that Schwalbes are worth it, but "never flat"? I don't agree with that, as I have flatted plenty with my Marathons over the years. (Note: I only run regular Marathons, not the sooper-dooper ones.) Still, I don't flat much, but it's slightly more than never.

      On the other hand, Schwalbe is great at warrantying their tires. (Specialized? Ha!)

      The Rubenas have been working good for me so far. Won't know for sure for awhile. I do like the fact that Rubenas are actually made in the Czech Republic, so one of the few "firstish world" manufactured tires left. (While Schwalbe is based in Germany, most, if not all, of their tires are manufactured in SE Asia.)

    2. Doug, this bike is one that I'm not comfortable spending great gobs of money on quite yet. It still is not the perfect step through bike for me. The frame is a bit small and the seat tube is stretched - nothing I can do about that.

    3. My "never flat" comment comes my personal experience. Over 30,000 miles on Schwalbes since 2007 without a flat. That's with Marathon Plus, Big Apples, Supremes, and Marathon Winter models. However, the packaging on the Marathon Plus staes they are "Flatless tires" in big bold print.

    4. Ah, I see. I've only had regular Marathons and Delta Cruisers, and have flatted with those. Mind you, we're talking maybe 1-3 times a year at best. I do fine with the basic Marathons and Delta Cruisers, but if I did live in the North Woods like you do, Doug, and rode the winter, I'd pay the extra for the added flat protection.

  5. I love this bike with whitewall tyres, in fact I love them on most bikes, you have done a great job!

    1. Thanks Vicki. I'm glad to see that your name shows up now in the comments. I checked my settings and it looked okay, though I've noticed that on some Wordpress blogs I can't comment without having a WP account. I wonder if there is some WordPress-Blogger rivalry...


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