Introducing Cornelius

I hit a roadblock while assembling my Peugeot folding bike this afternoon. The tires have flat spots, cracks, and dry rot. The rear hub is seized. The frame was damaged in shipping and the rear dropouts are bent. The hinge is also seized and the bike won’t unfold. And to top it off, the tubes have Presta valves… and all my pumps have Schrader heads.

It’s pretty obvious this bike was either on display or in storage for the last decade (at least).

Thus, my plan of putting the bike together and riding all evening was shot.

Since my bike tools and repair stand were out and set up, I decided to work on Cornelius, my vintage Centurion road bike, instead.

Cornelius was my first road bike, a gift from a friend. It belonged to her elderly father who was no longer able to ride it. Knowing I was looking for a road bike, she rang me up.

I’d only ridden the bike a couple of times before putting him into storage. I’d never ridden with drop bars before, and had never used stem shifters. I found Cornelius was lighter and faster than my mountain bike, but also tough to steer.

A couple of years later, I gave Cornelius another shot. I wiped out (bad) on my first turn at speed, and ended up walking back home (bloody). Undaunted, I did a bit of research and found that the bars were likely too narrow for my body. So, to eBay I went. I’m 6ft tall and have a broad-shouldered build, so I bought myself a set of Nitto drop bars that were 10cm wider than the previous set, and I found the wider bars made all the difference.

I got tied up with other projects last year, and never finished Cornelius before winter. Today, I made it a point to get him rolling again. A quick lube job, a new Brooks saddle, new leather bar tape, new pedals with toe clips and matching leather straps later, and Cornelius was back on the road.

So I took him out for another test ride. Rode around the block and “down a ways”.

Some reflections:

  • I like drop bars, but they handle differently than MTB bars.
  • If you can’t do a trackstand well (or at all), toe clips will suck and you’ll probably fall over when you stop.
  • Falling over sucks. It hurts, and neighbours will laugh.
  • The position of the brake levers took a little getting used to, but I find it comfortable.
  • I’m leaving the “suicide levers” on until braking becomes second nature.
  • Tires (well, tubes) don’t hold their pressure over the winter. Check tire pressure before riding off.
  • Pinch flats suck.
  • Not a fan of stem-mounted shifters. Will need to get used to these, too.
  • My bar tape, brake hoods, saddle, and toe straps are different shades of brown. This is why it’s best to buy these in person rather than online.

All that aside, I really like this bike. I’ll use it whenever I want to go fast, or when I just want to go for a ride… purely for pleasure, not for errands, work, or commuting.

It’d make a nice cafĂ© racer, too…


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