Last October I paid a visit to Value Village to shop for articles of clothing for the Edmonton Tweed Ride. While there I spotted a lone bike for sale. I’ve heard of people finding nice bikes at thrift stores but my experience has always been rather the opposite. This one, however, was a keeper: an ’85 Kuwahara-Apollo woman’s mountain bike. Lugged Chromoly frame, Takagi crankset, Alloy rims, Suntour Alpinetech front derailleur. It was a sort of semi-mixte with the frame having the extra tubes in the rear triangle but without extending into a top tube. The paint was identical to my ’85 Apollo road bike. It had a few cosmetic problems. Someone had replaced the shifters with cheap indexed ones placed in strange locations and it had the most ridiculously big, ugly seat that I have ever seen. Nonetheless, it was in basically good condition. And the price was only $30.00! Despite the fact that the frame was too small for me and I knew my wife would not be interested in it, I took it home anyway. I was sure I’d find the right person for it.
The bike sat in my garage untouched for couple of months until a friend mentioned that she was thinking about trying winter cycling. Her current bike isn’t really suitable so I offered tune this one up and give it to her. It’s taken me a while to finish this project as the extremely mild winter and bare pavement has kept me from attaining a true winter cycling mindset. Last week, with the forecast threatening a return of more normal seasonal conditions, I buckled down to work.
For the most part it was in good shape. I noticed that the rear brake cable housing was worn and decided to replace it. A closer look revealed someone had mistakenly used shifter cable housing for the brakes. This isn’t good, as shifter housing is weaker than brake housing and is only held together by the plastic shell. This isn’t safe. Earlier this summer, the aging, brittle plastic of the shifter housing on my police auction bike shattered while I was riding. That would be a bad thing to happen to your brakes. Remembering that incident, I decided to replace all the cable housing on the bike. I should probably do this on all old bikes I work on. As it it turned out, they had also used brake housing for the shifters.
As this bike is intended for winter use, I replaced the the indexed shifter with friction thumb shifters. Last winter I found it it to be impossible to keep the indexing properly adjusted and made the same change on my own bike. The seat was replaced with a smaller one from my parts bin and I added a decent old Blackburn rear rack. Fenders are rather handy to have for winter riding so I started installing a set I had taken off another bike. The front fender is OK, but I’m not sure there is clearance with the back one to run studded tires. I left it off until I get a chance to stud the tires and check that out. I oiled up all the appropriate bits and was ready to test it out for winter riding. The weather co-operated by depositing several inches of snow Saturday. Perfect.
The small frame made it feel like riding a BMX bike, but otherwise all was good. The bike handled beautifully. I ripped through the untracked snow enjoying the floating feeling you get when the tires aren’t quite sinking through to make firm contact with the pavement. I sped trough the empty residential streets and into a local park. Here, the snow concealed hardened ruts of ice. The Kuwahara handled it all adroitly. It really is a lovely bike and I now wish it was my size. In any case, it’s going to a good home.