Friday, April 09, 2010

Re-Introducing the Mighty Panasonic

In 1990 or 1991, I picked up a Panasonic 15-speed touring bike at a garage sale in Arcata for $15. Manufactured in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the bike had a flat tire and the paint was scratched up, which is probably why it was so inexpensive. I brought it to my parents' house in San Mateo and my dad fixed it up. Years later, it was sitting in my garage gathering dust. I had almost forgotten about it.

One day in 2006 I pulled it out of the garage, pumped up the tires and starting riding.

I was out of shape. I pedaled to the edge of town and back, then came home and fell over. It seemed so far. Then I pedaled to Moonstone Beach and back. That felt like a marathon. Then I made it to Trinidad and back. By December 2006, I made a New Year's resolution that I would complete the 100-mile Tour of the Unknown Coast.


In preparation, I pedaled the Panasonic all over Humboldt County in all sorts of weather. Above is a photo of a chilly winter ride I took to the top of Berry Summit. I was so pleased with the bike's performance that I started calling it the Mighty Panasonic.

After completing the Tour of the Unknown Coast after 11 hours in May 2007, I decided to upgrade.


A got this Cannondale frame free off of craigslist and the Mighty Panasonic was stripped for parts to create a new bike. Eventually, the naked frame was stored in the sand under our house in Manila.


I became interested in riding fixed gear bicycles, and bought this conversion last year. It was fun to ride, but it had a heavy Schwinn frame and sometimes it felt, well, kind of weird. It's hard to explain, but sometimes I felt like the frame was flexing in strange ways. Or maybe the front chain ring and the rear cog weren't properly aligned. Earlier this year I decided to put these wheels on the old Mighty Panasonic. Last week, Kim said that for my birthday she would buy whatever parts I needed to complete the conversion – some bolts for the chain ring, a new bottom bracket, a chain, toeclip straps and some handlebar tape.


By Wednesday evening, the project was done. Still in my work clothes, I jumped on the bike and tested it on our gravel/sand driveway while Kim took photos.


I hit some deep sand and went down! The toe clips did a nice job keeping me from saving myself as I went sideways. After that, I was done for the day.


This morning, I toured the Arcata Bottom on the Mighty Panasonic. It's a beautiful bike. I think the frame is a work of art.


What we have here is a vintage bicycle frame with a vintage crank. I purchased the classic Jim Blackburn bottle cage in 1983, which is perfect for this bike. The plastic toeclips were also purchased in the mid-1980s.


Check out the leather handlebar bag! Kim gave it to me for Christmas. Sweet.


The key to converting a bike to a fixed gear is making sure that the rear cog and the front chain ring are perfectly aligned.

On flat ground, this bike is a rocket.

Welcome back, Mighty Panasonic!


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