Bikes change hands, sometimes without the owners consent, and when I found an abandoned machine I wondered on it’s story. It had been left propped up against a tree with the brakes locked out: why?

There is, along with the good weather, a rash of abandoned bikes in the city, maybe these machines have been rusting away all winter and, on their first ride out in months found to be un-rideable or perhaps the fate of any unsecured bike in the city is to be an improvised taxi after a night out only to end its journey plonked a discrete distance from the revellers destination.

As a fan of the velocipede I recognised this one as no junk machine; it was tired. The rims were worn past the limits and the forks ridden over one kerb too many but, in the ’90s Cannondale were the masters of the aluminium frame, and I considered this frame a fair example of the art.

What to do? I couldn’t walk by. On bringing it home it was posted on Stolen Bikes Cambridge immediately. I made an inspection. The wheels were done for, the cassette was an improper fit on the hub, the chain thick with rust and the forks bent inward. The frame however has taken the abuse of years well: paint chipped with a few dents but no twists and the stays remained symmetrical.

The response on the stolen bikes group was slow and I suspect the age and condition of the bike put it beyond the ‘recent loss’ worry of an owner. It’s value is less than the cost of replacing it’s bald, miss-matched tyres.

While I waited for a response from the owner of a bike in need of an expensive overhaul I rode it and fell for it: it might be scabby but it weighs 10.2 kg and even with bent forks the sprinter heritage of the geometry shone though: it’s a classic of it’s era. An eBay hunt for parts began and it looked quite possible to bring the bike back to rideable form, and parts garnered could always be swapped back should an owner emerge ..a project had begun. If nothing else I’d get a good set of parts together for a future build.

The frame stamp confirms it as a size 52, Bedford PA build, from August 1997.

The r500 has quite agressive geometry. Re-bending the steel fork took many small efforts to get close to the design rake and offset.

Bending forks straight is a challenge. They are steel, despite the spec stating otherwise, and bent back by some 3 degrees. Working slowly with a lever on the crown end and the toe jammed in a vice I was able to recover something close to the design rake (4.3cm) and trail (5.9cm).

Wheel story. At some point (around 2005?) an Alexrims ALX 330 wheel-set had replaced the original Mavic CXP21s, did they come off another bike? Had a previous owner spent serious money on an upgrade? I will never know. What I do know is they were shot. They had some run out and this was easily pulled back to clear the brakes, but rear freewheel hub was another matter: the cassette was sliding across the splines with every shift. Given the rim wear replacements were due. A Mavic Aksium wheel-set is lighter than the Alexrims and affordable.

Mix and match is a common method used by bike thieves to disguise a bike, fork swaps and wheel switches often feature on the ‘all too cheap’ 2nd hand machine. What has happened here looks a bit different; quality components have been swapped in: the ‘entry level’ SRX brakes and derailleur have been upgraded, possibly to address wear and tear and the wheel-set, although hammered, is a step up from the original.

The brakes are a pair of Shimano 105 side pull calipers: not part of the original spec as far as I can tell, they are pretty scratched up but work well.

The original 2×7 speed RSX groupset had been replaced with a mix of a Deore rear derailleur and a 9 speed cassette. The Deore deraileur was well worn with frayed cable and loose bearings, it had been forced to track a loose cassette for a long time. Gear shifting was only possible on the inner chainring and none of the gears meshed cleanly with repeated back pedal chain throw.

In getting the drive train happy the chain and cassette were replaced and a Tiagra mech fitted (as removed from the CdF). The shifters are a RSX 2×7 speed set and this limits the travel on the rear mech. The cost of replacement shifters balanced against the loss of a single cog (I squeezed 8 steps out of the 7 speed shifter and elected to loose the 11t) keeps the RSX shifter for now.

Swapping the wheelset, tyres, the steel stem for ally and the Welgo pedals for ETC brought the weight to a very decent 9.9 kg.

About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
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