Monday, May 10, 2010

The Story of Vivian

Meet my commuter, Vivian.  This picture was taken this morning with her all loaded up for the ride to work.  I'm a heavy traveler - work purse, lunch, computer and today, the two dozen roses given to me by the 2Bs  for Mom's Day.

Viv and I go back about two years.  I'd just gotten back on a bike after a several-year absence.  My first bike purchase was a mid-range road bike, purchased with the goal of doing RAGBRAI.  I'd done it several times in my 20's and wanted to get back to it. I quickly discovered that I also needed something as a kid puller and grocery bike.  For years I'd lived walking distance from my office and with our (then) recent house purchase, I was a whopping 2.5 miles away! So, while it was walkable, it was a bit of a haul, especially considering all the crap I like to take too and from the office. Vivian was exactly what I needed. 
She's a '92 Bridgestone XO-2 who had been taken pretty good care of by a local couple with a bike problem.  I had a soft spot for Bridgestone bikes, having owned a high end Bstone road bike in college.  I'd sold that bike in my mid-20's at time when I was casting off all my worldly possessions to move to Morocco (that's an adventure story for another day.)  There was always something about that bike which I loved, and while it probably wasn't the brand name, when I found Viv I knew I had to have her.

When I found her she looked like this.
I set out to give her a little make-over.  She was going on 18 after all, the girl deserved to be classed up a bit.

On a budget, and ridiculously indecisive, I slowly transformed her over several months to get where I wanted her to be.  For awhile she looked like this:
I upgraded the seat immediately to a Brooks B-17s.  The saddle she came with was not only ugly, it was super uncomfortable. I picked up some Wald folding baskets from Craigslist for $20, as an interim solution until I could find something in cool leather or canvas.  I removed the drop bars and put her original moustache bars back on (the previous owner had kept them.)  I spent several months riding her like this as I decided what to do for handlebar wrap - I knew the black wasn't it.

Eventually, I settled on Velo Orange elk hide wraps. They took quite a while to sew on, but I've been very happy with the results. Mine are pretty scuffed up at this point and my winter gloves rubbed off on them a bit (some black tint), but overall I think they still look good.
I later added some fenders - good old SKS's, commuter standard equipment - and upgraded to some waterproof, big boy panniers.  I found the panniers to be bulky (can you see why - they're HUGE) and while certainly lighter than my baskets, I decided I really love my good old Wald folders.   I'm able to fold them up and put the panniers on over for trips to the grocery store, which is nice.

And here she is today.

I love this old gal.  She's got a bit of collectible charm (among Bridgestone enthusiasts - although the XO-1 is most desirable of the XO's.)  She gets me to work on time.  She hauls groceries almost as good as my minivan (Yes, I drive a minivan.  I'm a mom, it's a necessary phase and I've embraced it....and I have a t-shirt.)  She rides like a dream...a heavy dream, but a dream nonetheless.


  1. Right on! What a great bike, doing what needs to be done, and doing it with style. Viva Viv!

  2. I love the picture with the roses- so elegant- I'm resolved that I should always carry a giant bouquet of roses in my bag!
    I like the handlebar wrap a lot- I've been wondering what to do with my new baby's handlebars- was thinking cork grips, but I'm intrigued by the idea of the leather wraps. Compared to handlebar tape how soft and squishy are they?

  3. They're very soft although not as squishy as thick tape I had on before. Super comfortable overall though!