Thursday, December 8, 2011

My First Road Bike: Chimo Criterium

My very first bike was a blue Chimo Criterium that I bought as a teenager. Recently I found some transparencies of it.

It was made by Hong Kong Bicycle (HKB) which is still in business. Although their products look a lot better now.  

The Chimo Criterium had a lugged steel frame.  SR stem. Sugino Maxy alloy cotterless cranks.  Dia Compe center pull brakes. 27 * 1 1/4 inch Araya aluminum rims.  High flange hubs, 36 hole, either Suzue or Sunshine.  Suntour slant pantograph rear derailleur.  10 speeds using a 5 speed freewheel, and 52/40 chainrings.  

Interestingly, the quick release was actually in the brake levers, not on the brake arms.  I always thought that this was safer; if the quick release was on, you still had just as much braking power. Not so when the quick release is on the brake.  (Recently I forgot to disengage the quick release on my Tektro R556 brakes, accelerated, then discovered, that the brake pads would not even touch the rims at all!  Weeeeee......)  

It was a middle of the road bike.  Not light or high quality enough to be a serious racer.  But better than a lot of other bikes that were around at the time.  A good starter bike.   

The frame was rather unusual.  It had steep 73 degree head and seat tube angles. And a very high bottom bracket, 13 inches off the ground.  It was actually possible to lean the bike over to 40 degrees of the ground, and still pedal through the turn, without hitting the pedal on the ground!  There are not many bikes that you can do that on!  

When I first moved out to Vancouver, it was my only means of transporation.  I had no car and didn't take the bus.  Recently I visited Vancouver, and saw hundreds of cyclists commuting.  I thought, "I'm a such a trendsetter and leader!  Once I start doing something, everybody else starts doing it!"  :) 

A few years after living in Vancouver, I completed a cycle tour from Prince Rupert to Vancouver.  About 900 miles (1600 kilometers) through the mountains.  The gear weighed about 40 pounds, and the bike 30, so it was about 70 pounds altogether.  I carried my clothes, tent, sleeping bag, food, and slept in hidden places on the side of the road.  

It was a tough ride.  The bike had 28 teeth on the large cog in the rear, and 40 teeth on the small chainwheel in front, so a relatively low gear was possible.  Still, a lot of those hills were really steep.  I would be standing out of the saddle much of the time, straining each stroke to climb the hill.  One day I noticed that an 18 wheeler truck was only going up the hill, just a little faster than I was.  Some climbs were really tough!  

When I finished the trip, I noticed that I was really strong.  I had big veins in my legs, and even in my arms.  And my resting heart rate was only 50 beats per minute.  For someone who was a tall skinny teenager, this was a big boost of confidence for me.  

A few years later, I went out one night, and locked my bike up with the cable as I always did.  When I returned, the bike was gone. Someone had stolen it.  It was heartbreaking.  So I had my parents ship out my Torrot, that I wrote about in another post

Recently, this past year, I was riding my bicycle and saw a Chimo Concourse locked to a sign post, half disassembled.  The Concourse was much same bike as the Criterium, but without the steep angles.  

Seeing the bike on the street, brought back a lot of memories. I immediately recognized the components, after all the time I'd spent adjusting or rebuilding them.  

One thought was, how cheap everything was.  Lots of stamped steel or aluminum, such as in the brakes.  The quality of the components was so much worse than what we can get now.  Now components are drop forged.  And they look and work much better!  

Suddenly I realized why I've been pursuing a few nice blue bikes the past few years.  When I was young, I always wanted a better bike. But I couldn't afford it then. Now it's fulfillment time!  

BTW, speaking of Suntour derailleurs, the Suntour slant pantograph technology totally changed derailleur technology.  See a great website that summarizes the history of derailleurs and the companies that made them is at:

His writing is awesome.  He writes about the derailleur companies like they were people.  Their rise, success, and fall.  Do check it out.

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