A friend of mine was in need of transportation. Like many carless Hartford residents, this young man, whom I shall call Squiggy for no real reason other than the enjoyment I get from saying "Squiggy", found that area bus schedules don't mesh well with his school and work schedules. As a bike-loving man about town and veteran scrounger, I was asked to keep an eye out for a decent bike at a price ranging anywhere from free to cheap. After a few weeks, the ever-generous trash night and a friend cleaning out his garage found me in possession of two free 1990's Diamond Back Topanga mountain bikes. Neither was quite fully functioning, but there were enough parts between the two to make a decent rider. The slightly larger of the two bikes had more intact parts and higher end components, so its smaller, downmarket brethren got cannibalized. Reduce, reuse, bicycle.
I haven't really thought about the Diamond Back brand since I was in elementary school and coveted a lighter, faster BMX bike than my own ponderously heavy (but indestructible) looptail Fuji. My friend Mike had a chrome Diamond Back with black accents. I remember him sticking a black, die-cut Oakley decal on the black, hard plastic seat, creating the convincing illusion of the only custom-molded Oakley seat in town. This decision made him the most visionary aesthete in the 5th grade. DB later came out with some pretty badass snakeskin motifs on their BMX bikes, but I stopped thinking about them altogether sometime late in the Reagan administration, when a hand-me-down Viscount 10 speed made me focus on road bikes. I digress (habitually, you'll get used to it.)
The look of these two bikes is unapologetically 1990s, with splatter paint and little touches of neon pink here and there. I have this sudden urge to ride to Tower Records to buy a Blues Traveler tape when I look at them. They both have Shimano Biopace cranksets, which long ago fell out of favor, but Saint Sheldon liked them and my old Shogun had them, so I'll consider this an asset. The "DB" logo these frames wear proudly on their head tubes predates the now-common shorthand for douchebag. My favorite detail is the star-spangled "Designed in USA" followed by the pink "Made in China." Why pink? Did test marketing find a watered-down pink China less threatening than the full-strength red variety? It was obviously vital to make it known that this furrin'-made bike has that all-important 'Merican pedigree.
I did a trial assembly and took a test ride the other night. The front derailleur isn't right, which seems to be the case with every used bike I get. The chain needs a good cleaning and lube, but is surprisingly unworn, which makes me happy, as the Biopace setup calls for a different chain than any other that I have around the house. Of all the things I've observed thus far whilst riding in diagnostic mode, the most apparent is that I'm growing fond of this bike. The short seat tube/long top tube geometry is well suited to my own peculiar dimensions (short legs/long torso) I may end up scrounging up some parts and building up the donor DB frame at some point. I've been thinking about putting together a snow bike this winter, and this could be just the thing, even if it is a bit heavy. Before I devote any more thought to the donor bike, I'll be riding this one around for the next week or so, sorting it out and replacing parts as needed. Today, for example, the sidewall on the rear tire blew out on my way home from work, so some new tires just went to the top of the list. I was just thinking that I didn't have enough projects...