Emotional relationships are what I call them, these connections with my many two-wheeled friends. One particular road bike, I spend hundreds of miles a week with. A couple more I’ve never even swung a leg over and some of my mountain bikes have been raced almost to death, then sat unridden for years. But they all have a special place in my heart and their reserved place in my garage. Some have stayed unchanged for decades and some get transformed several times a year. This tale is about one of my fondest rebuilds.
I founded the non-profit used bicycle store business called DreamBikes and one day several years ago, this beauty rolled into the Madison, WI store. The eclectic mix of stuff that shows up there is amazing and this is a great example of that bike porn. This beautiful large brown Proteus frame was built in a small College Park, MD bike shop near where I grew up and then was dropped off at DreamBikes as a donation for resale. Koichi Yamaguchi worked at Proteus for a short time in the 80’s but I can’t track the history to know for sure if this frame-building master had his hands on this one.
The Proteus came in as a classy old 10-speed with all the vintage bits including early Shimano Dura Ace components. I wanted to do something special with this bike that showed some off the 80’s bike art as it existed and also make it an extension of my off-road pedigree. My Madison bicycle-junkie friend Erik Lee provided some inspiration and the project began! My Minneapolis bicycle-addict and co-worker Liam now says it’s a hipster bike but I don’t care what you call it, I just love it.
Several times I’ve spun the Proteus down to the Madison farmer’s market and it’s just perfect for a casual summer Saturday bike ride. It doesn’t have gears or a rear brake and it’s far from the technology of a modern-day road bike, but the emotional connection when the tires hit the pavement just can’t be explained. I’m at a loss for better words to describe how special this bike is to me. I love looking at it as much as riding it and once in the saddle, it’s just feels right: emotionally and physically. It’s a little flashy, a little moto, and definitely, east coast.
Frame and fork: 1980-something 63cm Proteus steel road bike (tubing unknown), sloping crown fork, horizontal dropouts, Campy rear axle adjusters, and an original beautiful brown paint job over top of heavy chrome plating. Older bikes were chromed underneath and then painted over top for durability, especially near the vulnerable areas of the drivetrain and fork-ends
Wheels: 32-hole Profile BMX bolt-on polished hubs w/ red RockShox rubber band hub shiners, gold Velocity deep dish rims, DT 14/15 double-butted spokes, gold DT nipples, and Bontrager ‘Hardcase’ 700 x 25c tires because there’s no one more moto than Keith Bontrager
Drivetrain: Original 175mm Sugino Maxy cranks with single-speed set up, gold KKT Lightning BMX pedals, gold Regina track chain, and Shimano DX BMX single-speed freewheel. If you frequent ebay for New Old Stock parts, you know the value of those rare pedals alone; ouch!
Brakes: 1980’s black Shimano Dura Ace front-only caliper with Dura Ace lever and original gum hood mounted on the left side handlebar (non-moto placement)
Contact points: Brown suede Regal saddle, silver Thomson seatpost, vintage Campy seat binder bolt, gold Portland Design Works ‘Speed Metal’ grips, Nitto alloy hipster-type flat bar (yes Liam, I admit it), old Dura Ace hidden bolt stem, and steel Dura Ace headset built loose-ball, sans retainer
At my recent favorite hangout, The Racery here in Minneapolis, we repurpose and customize all of our bikes to your liking or what we think you’ll like. Bring out your own personality with a new custom ride from The Racery and continue the legacy of our pre-ridden pro bikes. Have a great ride! Roger
(Roger Bird has spent a lifetime on his bikes and in the bike business. He’s our general manager here at The Racery and makes the 300 mile one-way commute every week by auto or plane to share his passion with us about the bicycle. Roger thinks he has 27-or-so bicycles in his garage these days and is sad that he’s let many more of his beauties get away from him at the Trexlertown, PA bicycle swap meets over the years.)