You might find it hard to believe, but at one point I wasn't much of a bike aesthete. My original Portland bike, a mid-nineties Giant Rincon MTB, wasn't much to look at. After buying it I immediately stickered the bejeezus out of it (in an attempt to make it more "theft-proof"). I didn't care how components looked, and generally replaced meh with meh when said meh wore out. Yet, I rode that bike for five years, pretty much into the ground.
Then I got my second Portland bike, a mid-eighties Centurion Accordo road bike. It looked nice, so I didn't bother stickering it. I began to see the value in having a nice-looking bike. And all the bikes I've owned since then have been "nice" to some degree.
I've owned my Surly Long Haul Trucker for four years. It's been much loved, and much lived on in those four years. I've made sure that everything on the bike has been of decent quality, and I've been concerned about how it looks from day one. But there has been one thing that had been off, something that's bothered me somewhat over the past year or two: The crankset.
Now there is nothing wrong with the crankset, it still was functional. But it just looked out of place: a Shimano Deore crankset that very much looked modern mountain-bikey. Me no like the modern mountain bike look.
The last time that anything was done to the drivetrain of the Long Haul Trucker was before the big tour in May. After 5,000 miles, everything was worn. I knew I would need a new rear cassette, chain, and chainrings for the front. But why stop there? I had some cash from the sale of my Worksman Cycle Truck so I had the money for a new crankset. But what would look classy enough?
The answer I found was a Sugino XD 500T triple crankset. This is a very classic looking crankset, sold by the likes of Rivendell. The three rings are 46x36x24, which is approximately the same as what I had with the Shimano Deore, though the small ring on the old was 22 teeth. This means my lowest gear with the Sugino is about 19" vs 17" with the Shimano, not much of a difference!
To round out the rest of the drivetrain overhaul, I got a new bottom bracket (mostly due to the difference in spacing with new crankset), new Sram chain, and new 13-34 seven-speed rear cassette. And I moved the MKS Lambda/"Grip-King" pedals from the Raleigh to the Long Haul Trucker.
But new blingy drivetrain hasn't been the only thing that's been done! Oh no, I've fully went out on the Fancy Bicyclist deep-end and got a set of metal fenders. Like the crankset, I've been wanting some aluminum fenders for awhile, but since my plastic fenders (Planet Bike Cascadia) were still serviceable and I was cheap, I held out. The time seemed right and I had the extra cash (see Worksman Cycle Truck sale from above) so I took the plunge.
On Thursday my friend Ed and I installed a set of Velo Orange hammered fenders. It was a few hours of futzing but we made everything work, but just barely. As you can see from the front, there is not a lot of space with a platform rack, front fender, and 37-622 tire. Ed drilled a hole into my Jandd Extreme rack to anchor fender to rack and prevent movement. We also put the stays between the front fork blades rather than around it (as it normally would be mounted) as the rack conflicted and the stays too thick to bend around it. It works, but everything up there is tight.
I think the Long Haul Trucker looks rather elegant now. And it's amazing how just a few cosmetic changes make a difference. It's not like they make a difference in ride quality (though a new drivetrain means it runs smoother) but it has become more fun to ride. And I want to ride it more. Yes, it's all mental. But if it helps me enjoy the bike...