Yesterday I was forwarded an email from a customer. Unfortunately, the content of the email was all too familiar to a bike shop worker in Chicago. It read in part: “Hope you're well and enjoying this glorious summer. I went to the basement laundry room to put in a load and noticed or rather horrified to see that my "Chief" has been stolen…Loved, loved my bike. Sadly yours,” signed "T" (customer). They had written the email in hope that we would keep our eyes open for the bike.
My first reaction was anger, frustration, and disappointment. I always hate to hear about customer bikes being stolen, and even knowing that occasionally stolen bikes are recovered, I was pessimistic that we would ever see this Chief again. I closed my email and went about my business building up new bikes to fulfill customer orders.
A few hours passed by, and then I was alerted to another email a good samaritan had passed along to our Facebook fan page account. It was a screen grab from a Facebook group (Chicago Bike Selling) notorious as a front for people trying to sell stolen bicycles.
Sure enough, it was our customers bike, stolen out of his basement the night before. The bike was a little worse for the wear. The thieves had torn off his brass bell, and thrown away his basket. They had also flipped the handlebars over in a foolish attempt to mimic the look of bullhorn handlebars popular on fixed gear bicycles. The bike was looking pretty sad and lost, but the really important parts were still there.
At this point, we knew we needed to get the bike back. We just needed to figure out exactly how we were going to do it.
It was a little tricky getting in contact with the sellers. I don’t want to give away the entire method we used to track down the bike in case it can be used again in the future, but I did reach out to a former co-worker for help, and a few different online accounts were used to make contact and arrange a meeting to buy the bike.
At this point we contacted the Chicago Police Department and asked them for help recovering the bike. Luckily, we are friends with an officer (MY) in the bicycle unit who was very helpful putting us in touch with the tactical unit in the area where the bike ended up. A time and meeting place was set for the evening, and the police agreed to come to the meeting. We had a few hours to go before the meeting, and could only wait.
We noticed a second post go up on the bike selling page, this time looking more anxious to move the stolen bike. It appeared the sellers were getting suspicious of our original offer to buy it, and being such a hot bike, they were in a hurry to unload it as soon as possible. Some people had started to comment questioning why they were trying to sell an expensive bike for only a fraction of it’s value. The bike was getting a lot of interest on the page, and other people were commenting offering to buy the bike.
We could see the bike slipping away, and frantically worked to get back on top of the situation. A second account was used to once again contact the sellers and arrange to buy it at a much earlier time. Luckily, they bit and the police and decoy buyer moved into position for the meetup. The deal went down better than expected. Four people showed up, and not only did they have our stolen Chief, but they also brought another valuable bike which had been stolen from a customer of another shop. Five CPD officers rushed the sellers when they showed up with the bikes, and were able to apprehend them. It was truly a great sight being forwarded the pictures of the bike thieves in handcuffs being lined up in front of a police cruiser.
So, here is the bottom line. At Heritage, we make our bikes ourselves by hand. This means that we care very much about every bike we sell. Every single one of our bikes represents sweat and hard work by our fabricators, painters, and mechanics to get them ready for our customers. We work way too hard building our bikes and our customers work way too hard earning the money they spend on our bikes for us to stand idly by while some idiot steals one of our bikes and tries to sell it for a pittance. We have absolutely no sympathy for bike thieves, and will do everything in our power to make sure the worst thing possible happens to anyone stealing a bicycle in Chicago.
Our customer has been reunited with his beloved Chief after being separated for less than 24 hours, and he couldn’t be happier. We can’t wait to get the bike back into the shop to clean it up, check it over, and replace the missing pieces.
Now ask yourself, would your bicycle company do this for you?
Thanks to:"B" - Facebook fan who alerted us of the posting
There aren’t many more exciting days in the year than “New Bike Day”. As much as we would like every day to be new bike day, this just isn’t possible. Unfortunately due to budget, space, and other constraints, a lot of people go a very long time without being able to purchase a new bike. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean these people can’t experience some of the joys a new bike brings. Sometimes you just need to look to your basement, garage, or storage space to find a forgotten or neglected older bike which would be a good candidate for an overhaul or rebuild. Most of the time you can change around an older bike you don’t really use much anymore and repurpose it into something that rides and feels like a new bike again for a fraction of the price of a new bike.
Over the past couple of months in the shop, we have been doing this to quite a few bikes. We have had a matching pair of older Raleighs belonging to different owners come through recently. Looking at the history of the older bikes is pretty neat. Doing a small amount of digging online, you can even find a scan of the original 1978 catalog. The two bikes owners had different ideas about how they wanted the bikes to turn out.
The first owner bought the bike from a local shop in the late 1970’s, and has been riding it ever since. He didn’t really want to change much on the bike, he just wanted it to be a reliable, nice riding bike again. One of the great things about high-quality, older, steel-lugged bikes is that if taken care of, they will almost last forever. The paint job on this bike shows it’s age and use, but after a complete overhaul, cleaning, and a few new parts, this bike is ready for many more miles of riding. The shifting system on this bike is much simpler than modern, integrated shifters,and if taken care of will function forever. The bearing systems on the bike are all cup-and-cone, meaning that they can be easily overhauled with fresh grease and ball bearings if needed. Some high-quality, modern brake pads installed into the calipers will improve stopping power, and some fresh bar tape and new rubber hoods for the brake levers make the cockpit of the bike feel brand new again. The customer already had a nice Brooks saddle on the bike, which just makes sense on an older, made in England Raleigh. New tires round out the overhaul. Pasela PT tires by Panaracer are one of my favorite tire upgrades for a bike like this. The skinwall retains the classic look, the aramid puncture resistant belt helps out a lot for flat protection, and the tread pattern is perfect for city riding. This customer opted for the 700x25mm version of the Pasela PT, which is a good compromise between low rolling resistance and decent pinch-flat protection.
The second bike is a great example of repurposing a bike to bring some new life into it. The owner had received the bike as a hand-me-down in the 1980’s,and had raced on it a little bit in the early 1990’s. The owner had raced bikes until a few years ago, and also owns a modern, high-tech racing bike. The older Raleigh had been in storage for a long time not really being ridden because it couldn’t compare performance wise to the modern racing bike, and also it had old, tubular tires glued onto the wheels. The owner wasn’t really interested in gluing expensive tires onto the rims and then riding around in the city on them. It was decided to install an upright cockpit, rack and full fenders, and rebuild of the wheels with clincher rims and larger tires. This would transform the bike from an old racer into a very functional city commuter. The original Campagnolo hubs were re-laced into new Sun CR18 polished rims using double butted Wheelsmith spokes. The SunCR18 rim is an affordable, eyeleted rim which retains the classic look of the bike. Double butted spokes were used to save a little bit of weight and give the wheel some elasticity for riding on rough city streets. We use Velo Orange parts a lot in the shop. Velo Orange makes quality, functional retro-style parts which work great for repairing older bikes, or retaining that classic style on brand new bikes. Velo Orange hammered full-fenders were chosen to provide good coverage from the rain and also give the bike a stylish look. It was a tight squeeze getting the rear fender to fit on the frame, but it just barely made it. The original drop handlebars and brake levers, while high quality older parts, were swapped out for more comfortable upright bars and mountain bike brake levers. The new upright riding position will give the bike a little more comfort, control, and a better view in traffic when riding in the city. A basic, chrome rear rack was installed on the bike to accommodate using panniers. Once again, Panaracer Pasela PT tires were used, this time in 700x28c to give a little more traction and pinch flat protection.
Another nice bike re-build I have done recently is this old Bridgestone. Bridgestone made some really cool bikes in the 1980s and early ‘90s, and many of their models make perfect city commuting bikes. This customer took some of the parts from his old commuter bike, which died, and had me install them on this Bridgestone he had lying around. He also replaced some of the original drivetrain components to give the bike a 1x9 drivetrain. This will serve him well for biking around the Chicago area.
We do free assessments for service work at Heritage Bicycles. If you have an old bike hanging out feel free to wheel it into the shop. We would be happy to talk to you about upgrading, rebuilding, or tuning up your old bike and making it feel like a new bike again.
I saw A Sunday in Hell for the first time on the big screen at the Bicycle Film Festival in Chicago about seven years ago. The movie starts out with this scene.
It shows Francesco Moser's mechanic cleaning and preparing his bike for the 1976 Paris Roubaix cycling race, also known as “The Hell of the North”. The opening scene is mesmerizing as you watch the mechanic carefully clean and adjust the bike to a soft violin score. If you know anything about Paris Roubaix, you understand that these are the final moments before the bike is unleashed into utter Hell. This race has always been one of the toughest and most demanding for both the rider and his bike, spanning about 160 miles of rough, cobbled roads in Northern France. It almost seems futile to take that much care with a bike about to be abused to that level, but such is the job of the race mechanic.
Watching that scene was one of the things that made me want to become a professional bicycle mechanic. There is something really satisfying about cleaning and tuning a bike until it is perfect, even if you know that it is about to get thrashed in a race or on pothole-filled city streets. Between our shop supported racing teams and the hard core Chicago commuters, I have been getting plenty of opportunity to clean and repair bikes over the past few months. I also know that I will see many of those bikes again in the near future after they have been used and abused, and I will take the time to make them as close to perfect as I am able.
I wanted to introduce myself and let everyone know where I'm coming from and what I envision for the bike shop at Heritage. The Bicycle has been a huge part of my life since I was a little kid. I started out having a BMX bike like most kids. As I got older, I would go on day-long rides with my parents around Wisconsin, and also used my bike as transportation to see my friends almost every day.
As an adult, I have been making my living from bicycles for the past 12 years. I spent seven years riding a bike for a living as a bicycle messenger and the past five years working in shops as a bicycle mechanic. In December of 2012 I went out to Colorado and acquired my USA Cycling race mechanics certification. When I am not working at the shop, I have been working as a professional race mechanic at events throughout the Midwest.
The most important goal for me at the shop is that people should be comfortable bringing their bikes into Heritage and confident in the service you will receive. I will make sure your custom, hand-built in Chicago Heritage bicycle is assembled perfectly before it leaves the shop. I also want everyone who brings a bike in for service to feel welcome. I appreciate really nice, high-end racing bikes, but at the same time I respect the workhorse that takes you back and forth to your job every day, rain or shine. Bring in your bike for a major overhaul, or just some minor adjustments.
See you soon.