Friday, June 25, 2010

She's a Beauty

Hey Little Darlings,

Those of you who've seen my granny bike know that it was originally a teal color with black fenders and purple decals, but since I bought it from Fleet Farm for $85 four years ago, I had left it outside and been really rough with it (riding over rocky trails, running up over curbs, running into buildings, riding it through snow and ice, leaving it exposed to all types of extreme weather, never once washed it, etc), so for some time this bike had been looking like it came from a junkyard or a homeless shelter.  It just looked awful.  The fenders were rusty and rickety, the decals were faded and peeling, the black vinyl seat was cracked and ripped up, and the whole thing was overrun by rust.

So this past March I was considering buying a new bike, and as I was perusing Google Images for World War II bike styles and colors, I came across this Pashley English Princess Sovereign in Regency Green and immediately fell head-over-heels IN LOVE:

Isn't it throat-achingly beautiful?  The rich hunter color!  The antique leather seat!  The basket!  The bullet headlight!  The skirtguards!  It screamed "1940s rural Somerset" and I knew right away that this was the style for me.  But Pashleys run well over $1,000 USD (because they're handmade) so I didn't even consider buying a real one.  I checked the cheap new bikes at the local discount stores, but current cruiser colors run in the pastels and creamy ranges--yech.  No pseudo-Regency Green to be found.  So I figured I'd give my teal bike a makeover to look like the Princess.  I printed out a bike-painting tutorial from eHow and bought all the supplies in March, but I wasn't able to start painting until well after the end of the semester in May.  It's now almost July and I just finished it.  Actually, from the day my friend Matt and I took the bike apart to the day I put it all back together myself, it took me three weeks. That's right, I said three weeks.

Why so stinking long?  First, with my McNair research and work and everything, I was only able to work on it an hour or two each day, and some days not at all.  Second, I borrowed my brother Stan's tools, and I had to wait to get some of them.  Third, I don't have a garage so I used my mom's, and she lives on the opposite side of town from me, and without a bicycle I had to take the city bus, and the bus that goes to her house is, like, the longest route in town, so that was a lot of commuting.  Fourth, we've been having 85-100% humidity lately so I had to let each coat dry for several days each.  Plus I just wanted to do everything properly, and that takes time and patience.

Actually the whole project was a Total. Freaking. Nightmare.  I broke three nails.  I had green nosehairs even though I wore a mask when painting.  One day I had green feet.  My mom's garage is home to not one but several large wasp nests.  The Rustoleum paints I used were uncooperative despite my most careful attention to following their application directions to the letter.  In the end, restoring my old bike took way longer, cost more money, and was more labor intensive than buying a new one from Wally World would have been.  And in certain lighting you can tell my Princess dupe was spraypainted (instead of, say, airbrushed or powder coated) because the top coat refused to dry evenly on the rounded surfaces, so some patches are shiny and others are matte. 

But after messing with it for several days, I finally said to heck with a perfect top coat and I just put it all together.  Much to my surprise, the sum of all the parts looks really good.  Behold:

I know the Princess has painted fenders, but chrome ones were actually the cheapest I could find (almost all other fenders today are made of supermodern, superexpensive, ultra-lightweight spacecraft material), and when I took them out of the packaging, they were so sparkly and lovely I couldn't bear to run sandpaper over them and paint them.  But I like the silver.  I also didn't switch to a wicker basket because I need a steel one to accomodate heavy school books and groceries.  I'm very pleased with the result.  My favorite part is that it's a tight, solid, quiet ride now.  No more loose, rusty components clacking as I hit each little crack in the road.

I'm just really happy that it's over.  I got a great sense of accomplishment when it was all done, because I just figured everything out as I went along, and I learned a lot about tools and chain pins and all that.  When I rode the finished product to Stan's to return his tools, he stood looking at the bike for a while, then circled around it several times and patted the tubes and the seat, clearly impressed.  He then jumped on it and rode it down his driveway and back and said, "Wow, this looks really nice!  And you did it yourself?  I didn't know you knew how to take apart and paint a bicycle."