Last week, at a yard sale, we saw this pretty blue Trek Antelope 850, and for $40 and in excellent condition I just couldn’t not take it home.
A little digging reveals this Trek is from 1990, close to the vintage of the Bridgestone MB-5 which was my first real bike. Functionally identical performance between the Bridgestone and Trek, and the Trek has all original components, save the rear tire.
I was nostalgic to re-discover the ride quality of the mountain bike of my youth (second clavicle fracture, endo, 8th grade), but not enough to put up with silly gearing, janky shifting, and less than snappy braking. I also wanted to maintain the original finish while dealing with the many, expected scars and rusty bits, and to that end I stripped the frame and put on 4 coats of clear before tackling the parts swapping. So the far too big 28/38/48 rings got replaced with 24 and 36, with slightly shorter 170mm road cranks with a narrower q-factor. The stock 13-30 7 speed freewheel is a very pragmatic range with nicely spaced jumps, so that stayed, shifted by an ancient thumb shifter I cobbled together by JB Welding a downtube shifter boss to the baseplate of a Sturmey-Archery thumb shifter. An RX-100 shifter in friction gets the job done. A future upgrade might be a proper stem shifter mount and another paddle so I can put the front derailleur back on.
Raiding the parts bin revealed one functional Arch-Rival, for the front, and one functional Tektro canti, for the rear. It didn’t take too long to recall how to set both up, and the result (at least until winter) is excellent. The original front tire and its dry rotted sidewalls got confined to the shop rafter museum, and a new Kenda K-rad went on. Surly Open bars, random brake levers, and new silicon grips complete the build, along with a vintage SR stem that gives more reach and (along with the bar) a healthy, comfy, and unfashionable amount of cockpit flex.
And it rides awesome, though the shakedown got highjacked by LB graduating to a full pedal bike, taking to it from the first trial with only a bit of assistance at the start.
He’s been riding his Cleary Gecko for almost two years, but as a run bike with the cranks removed. On his first outing back then it became obvious that not only did he need more strength for pedaling, but that learning to both pedal and work hand brakes at the same time was too much. The steel Cleary, with pneumatic tires, is a lot heavier than the aluminum Yuba with solid foam tires and plastic wheels, but after he mastered modulation hand braking became second nature, and speeds in our hilly neighborhood went up, way up, frighteningly so at times. But LB has earned my trust with his judgment around streets and cars and bumps, and when a few clean runs down the gently sloped walk in front of his future elementary school begat multiple laps around the block and then back home, I was content to follow, the no-longer toddler making all the decisions.
Naturally, now he doesn’t want to do anything else.
There are a few in hindsight obvious things about setting a bike up for a ~40 pound small person. Tire pressures, obviously, can be very low. The 25/14 gearing on the Gecko is well balanced. Other things, like keeping the engagement of the brakes light, did not immediately occur to me. The levers allow for lots of reach adjustment to suit small hands, and the custom small diameter bars and grips make the bike comfortable. When he outgrows the Gecko, likely by next spring, he’ll surely be ready to add shifting to his skillset.
I’m still looking for whatever makes learning to ski as natural as a strider makes learning to ride. The next phase of storage installation in the bike and ski room is not too far off.