MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

TREK 400 - INTRO

FINDING THE TREK 400

BUILDING THE TREK 400

 

BICYCLES OF USA

 

FINDING THE TREK 400

Finding the 400 is one of the few "bicycle found" stories, that has a sequel.  A Saturday morning Yard Sale produced the Trek 400.  But, not until I had gone to the trouble of asking if the Yard Sale host might happen to have an old "Ten Speed" for sale.  The lady, who was obviously in charge of the sale, indicated that she did but, for some reason, had not put the bicycle out on display.  In fact, the Trek was jammed into the back of a compact car parked half a block away.  There it remained, all but forgotten.  Had I not come along, the Trek would not have made the sale at all.  It pays to ask for what you want but don't see when attending a Yard Sale.  And that is a very important statement when working Yard Sales!

Once the lady in charge of the Yard Sale, was aware of my interest, she invited me to follow her husband, the half block or so, to where the compact car protected the Trek.  I might add, the lady and her husband exchanged a few words out of ear shot.  That small exchange of information would later play a small part in the story.

As the little Trek emerged from the Honda, I could see immediately that the bicycle was in great shape.  "Little used" is the phrase I like to use to describe such condition.  I run across a lot of "little used" vintage road bicycles, in my area.  Why?  Because the area in which I live, is somewhat remote.  The city roads are not all that skinny tire friendly.  With that in mind, and coupled with our three month riding season, many bicycles were purchased in North-western Ontario, Canada, only to be used very little.  I have picked up thirty year old bicycles that still had the price tag on them.  That's how little some have been used.

As I studied the frame set's detail and presentation, I was impressed.  Vintage Trek road bike frame sets are very cleanly built.  They rival the apparent quality of any bicycle frame that I have been lucky enough to own.  Both the frames and forks are cleanly assembled and clever in design.  Little things pop out, one at a time, increasing one's appreciation for the whole.  The tubing materials selected, full chrome moly, blend perfectly into Treks own embossed lugs and drops.  This clean presentation suggests craftsmanship at many levels.  And, the way the rear derailleur cable is routed through the chain stay is another fine example of clever design.

Both the frame and forks are made of US made chrome moly tubing, a quality material that does this little bike justice, in my opinion.  The tubes, True Temper double butted efforts,  feed themselves into the one of the nicest lug set I have run across.  The Trek lugs are hardly fancy, but the design is different from what I am used to.  No long points.  Nothing the least bit ornate.  No chrome plating.  Just simple, cleanly designed and installed lugs, each of which has the Trek name cast into the part.

In keeping with the lug presentation, the rear drops also bear Trek's name, in cast form.  The drops are also different, in the fact that the stays fit into the drops, rather than the drops fitting into the stays.  Though this feature is not the most aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion, the assemble is clean and very neat.

The lug and drop work on the Trek 400, though very nice in its own way, has an almost industrial quality.  Substantial is another word that comes to mind.  I guess it is the way that the Trek name is embossed  into the cast components.  That, coupled with the lugs and drops heavy duty appearance creates the industrial flavour.  I would like to know how much a Trek 400 lug and drops set weighs, when compared to the more common offerings found on other vintage road bicycles.  My guess is that the Trek stuff would be heavier.

The rear derailleur cable runs through the drive side chain stay.  A clever innovation, in my humble opinion.  The question that comes to mind is, why didn't Trek run the rear brake cable through the top tube?  Doing so is not an uncommon practice, and certainly cleans up the top tube, of any bicycle frame.  Though hardly a necessary feature to include, it seems to me that it would have made sense to do so.

All in all, the Trek 400 frame set is very nice.  The combination of quality materials and apparently quality craftsmanship works perfectly on this lovely little frame set.  My hat is off to the people at Trek who make bicycles like the 400 happen.  I realize that the Trek 400 is anything but top of the line, but it certainly could be based on the presentation of the frame set alone.

As I continued to look the bicycle over, I was impressed, no only with the bicycle's condition and quality of construction, but also with the component grouppo.  Adding icing, to an already tasty cake, the component grouppo was also a treat.

The Suntour 4050 Edge transmission, with its indexed shifting option, was the first thing to be noticed.  I have used this set-up on other bicycles and found the system to be very user friendly.  I can honestly say that I usually like the Suntour transmission a lot.  The the Edge series is a perfect example of what to expect when using Suntour's stuff.  Clean, precise and durable.  Too bad the Suntour line is no more.

The Suntour Edge theme was carried through to the crank and ring set.  The 52/42 ring set delivers power to a mid range six speed freewheel.  The freewheel spread (14-24) is just about perfect for my old legs, however; I never did test this combination out properly.  The "400" was far too small for me to ride with any degree of comfort.

Even though the drive train was perfect, in the functional sense, I did not like what I saw.  I do not like anodized crank rings from an appearance point of view.  The anodizing, black in the Trek's case, is quick to wear off, leaving the bare alloy exposed.  This exposure is a non issue on most ring sets when the anodized silver color tends to hid the wear.  On the Trek, the rings look worn even from a distance.  Why did the bicycle manufacturers go this color anodized route?  Be it crank rings or wheel rim braking surfaces, once this stuff starts to wear, it looks awful.  My opinion, of course.

Dia Comp aero brakes levers actuated light action side pull callipers, for very effective stopping power.  I have used these exact brakes on other bicycles, and found them to be very user friendly and wonderfully effective stoppers.  The set offered on the Trek was in all but mint condition.  This suggests that the Trek was very carefully looked after or hardly used.  Perhaps both, but my money is on the hardly used argument.  And if that is indeed the case, it is little wonder that Dad was somewhat upset with Daughter, who just had to have a really good bicycle.  One that she would rarely use.

The Trek's wheel set, though not top of the line impressive, was very nice and certainly suited the bicycle.  Maillard 500 sealed bearing hubs, laced with stainless steel spokes to Matrix Titan 700c rims, took care of running gear issues.  This is a very nice wheel set, in almost every way except two.  Once again, I must criticize the decision to use anodized rims. Even though the Trek saw little use, the braking surface on the rear wheel does show wear.  Wear that is visible from fifty feet away.  Even at a distance, the rear wheel looks to be more worn than the front.  And the other issue?  Laser etching!  I hate it!  And the Maillard hub set is laser etched, rather than pantographed.  The etching does wear off eventually and looks awful in its splotchy presentation when it does.  Laser etching - you can keep it.

The wheels were close to perfectly true "as found", once again suggesting minimal use.   Both wheels spun freely and, if they were at all out of true, the wobble or hop was pretty much impossible to see.  Completing an already nice running gear set, the tires were still in excellent condition, showing very little wear and no environmental deterioration, what so ever.

An alloy indexed seat post supported a relatively wide Vetta saddle that would certainly be best suited for the female physique.  I did not ride the little Trek enough to develop an opinion pertaining to the saddle's comfort factor.  My bet is that, for me, the saddle would prove to be uncomfortable.  I prefer something a bit narrower and made of leather.  The saddle was perched on an indexed alloy seat post, which I do like.  However, once again, Trek had decide to go with anodizing.  The top of the post is black and draws attention to itself, rather than blend into the picture.

I would like to see the Trek without the anodized crank rings, wheel rims and seat post.  My bet is that the picture would be nicer to view.  Of course, all of this black stuff looks just great - on a showroom floor.

With the field inspection, of the Trek, completed, it was time to talk price.  I asked the gentleman how much he was asking for the bicycle.  Without hesitation, he informed me that if it were up to him, I could just have the bike.  He had bought it for his daughter who, as he somewhat sarcastically put it, "just had to have a good bike".  He then added that she hardly ever rode it.  Apparently, the waste of money has made the guy angry.  Anyway...

He went on to inform me that his wife had set a bottom line price of $80.00.  He could not sell the bicycle for any less.  I had no intention of paying that much for a bicycle that did not fit, no matter how nice it was.  I prepared to leave, thanking him for the time he had taken to show me the bicycle.  Before I could even begin to walk away, he asked how much I would pay.  Ah - my faith in men returned.

This guy was not going to let his wife control his life, from half a block away.  I made him an offer, which I coupled with a brief explanation, describing how little sought after these old "Ten Speed" bikes were today.  He felt exactly the same.  The price agreed upon was half, of what Mrs. Yard Sale Host had insisted on.  The Trek 400 made the three block journey to my house, in the back of the Ranger.  But that is not the end of the tale...

The following summer, as my chum and I pulled up to a Yard Sale on our bikes, a bright yellow vintage, something or other caught my attention even before I dismounted.  Lynn, my riding buddy who is about my age and every bit as slow as I am, offered to hold my Cambio Rino, while I had a look at the road bike being offered for sale.

The bicycle was a bright yellow Nakamura Criterium and in pretty good condition.  I immediately took hold of the bicycle.  I would keep it in my possession, until I had made a purchase decision, one way or the other.  I scanned the frenzied crowd, looking for the host.  I asked how much the bicycle was selling for and the lady offered a price.  I immediately countered, with an offer of exactly half, even though the asking price was not out of line to begin with.  Before the lady I was talking to could respond, a second woman approached and informed us both, in a fairly loud voice, that I would not get away with it this time.  I was a bit taken aback.

As it turned out, the second lady was having a bit of fun with me.  She was the woman who had told he husband how much to sell the Trek 400 for, the previous year.  We both chuckled about the situation.  I walked away with the Nakamura (figuratively speaking of course, since I had to come back to pick the bicycle up with my truck, later in the day), and I did end up paying the asking price of twenty bucks.  For that, I got a heck of a good deal.

NEXT - BUILDING THE TREK 400

 

 

 

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