My bicycle history, part the fourth: m-m-m-my Miyata!

You have to sing that part of the title like “My Sharona.” Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure it makes sense anyway.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but it’s oddly hard to do it. I think because I love this bicycle so much, but I know I’m trying to sell it, and therefore I’m conflicted. I worry that writing An Ode to My Miyata will just make it that much harder to give the bike up. That’s life for you.

In the fall of 2009, Shawn and I had gone on a few camping trips together. I always agreed to go on them, but I often dreaded the actual riding. Part of it was my mixte’s 70’s-era gearing (did no one ride uphill back then? why are the gears so high on 70’s-era ten-speeds?), part of it was the bike’s weight, part of it was the plain fact that the bike wasn’t really meant for touring–with the panniers on the bike, I often kicked them with my heels, and they made the bike feel wobbly.

Shawn has a habit of haunting the bikes-for-sale page on craigslist, and he sent me a link to an ad for a mid-80’s Miyata two-ten. The price seemed steep to me (they were asking $300), but a well-made smaller road bike in good shape, especially a nicer steel frame, can go for a lot of money in Portland. So Shawn and I went to check it out. I rode it around the block a few times, talked the lady down to $265, and bought it.

I should have taken it to a mechanic before paying for it, as Shawn had suggested…turns out the seat post was stuck. And by stuck, I mean STUCK. I took it to a mechanic who poured liquid wrench into the seat tube and had me and Shawn hold the frame while he yanked at the seat post with a huge wrench. I winced, worried about frame damage. If you really looked at the seat post, there were clear hammer marks on both side–as if someone had to hammer the damn thing in, and then someone had tried to hammer the damn thing out! They had to drill it out. Yikes!

To this day, I cannot figure out why someone would just shove a seat post in (with a hammer) when it clearly doesn’t fit. If you look closely at the seat tube (the part of the frame the seat post goes into) or run your fingers over it, you can see/feel bumps in the frame from the too-big seat post. It’s so insane! The one it has now fits perfectly, thankyouverymuch.

Someone also, at some point, took off the rear rack it came with. Hmph. (Again, why would you do that?!). I put on another one, a touring-grade Topeak rack, and the people at Community Cycling Center were kind enough to drill the holes on the rack so they were the exact same size as the holes in the braze-ons, as the standard size for that kind of thing has changed over the years.

So, as I always do with new (to me) bikes, I went all over the internet looking things up. Turns out that Miyata made some pretty awesome bikes. Sheldon Brown (RIP) even said that their mid-80’s higher-end touring bike was the best touring bike made at the time. The two-ten was their intro level touring bike, but it was a real touring bike nonetheless! A friend of mine who also loves Miyatas sent me a link to a website where someone has scanned as many old catalogs as he could find, which is how I discovered that it was a 1985 model. I had a number of people tell me that I actually got a good deal on the price.

Getting used to a diamond-frame bicycle was fun, I think it was several weeks before I stopped kicking the top tube every time I got on or off. Until recently it was the lightest bike I’ve ever owned, and I could finally see why lots of people think Portland is flat!

I’m rather fond of this picture, taken by my friend Paul at Champoeg State Park:

Bike glowing in green tree

*sigh* Isn’t she lovely?

After taking a class on brakes at Citybikes, in January I spent an afternoon putting in a taller stem (taken off the poor mixte), mustache handlebars, and new brake levers. A few months later I got around to wrapping the handlebars, too.

The header of the blog, as of this post, includes the Miyata. I’m looking through flickr trying to find a good shot of how it looks with the mustache bars, but good lord, there are so many it’s hard to pick. I think I’ll settle for this one:

Olympic Peninsula 003

–which was I took just before starting a nine-day tour of the Olympic Peninsula with Shawn. The high rear load is probably horrifying to many modern bicycle tourists, but people toured that way for years. I always planned to put on a front rack, despite the lack of braze-ons to do so, I just never got around to it. Oddly, it never felt terribly unstable. I stood on my pedals with it loaded like that and didn’t have any problem.

I probably rode the Miyata 1,500 miles in 2010, as Shawn and I did a tour/camping trip of some kind every other week from late July to mid-September. I have so many good memories of this bicycle, and it was the bike I was riding when I realized how much I loved bike touring–it is amazing how much difference it makes to have a bike intended for the purpose!

“So,” you’re asking, “if you love this bike so much, why are you selling it?” Because it’s too big. Sad, but true. If I’m barefoot and stand over it, my crotch is touching the top tube. (Thankfully, one usually wears shoes when on a bicycle.) Not only am I slightly on the shorter side at 5’3″, but I have longish legs for my height, which makes my torso proportionally shorter. So really, I should ride a bike that’s on the smaller side, so that the top tube is shorter; I can always put the saddle higher if I need to.

I did measure the seat tube: this bike is 52cm. Which is just too big. The Novara is a 48cm…I do wonder if I really fit a 50cm, since my friend Tomas rides a 50cm bike, and we’ve discovered we have almost the exact same height, leg length, and arm length. Augh, bike fitting can be such a complicated subject, everyone seems to have different opinions, and the fact is, my bicycle selection is limited to what I can find on craigslist at inexpensive prices.

Last night, before the Midnight Mystery Ride (which was fun, BTW), I was talking about the Miyata my friend Carl just bought from another friend of mine, when a girl overheard me and said, “Are you guys talking about Miyatas? I love Miyatas!” “Yeah! And I’m selling mine!” and pointed. She rode it around the block a few times and came back with a tortured expression. “I don’t know if I can afford another bike, but I want to start touring, can you tour on this?” I laughed and told her about some of the trips I’d done. She took down my name and email…so we’ll see!

I know I will feel much better about selling her, if she goes to someone who will love her the way I did.

Which of your bikes (if you have more than one) is your favorite? What bike have you had trouble giving up?

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4 Responses to My bicycle history, part the fourth: m-m-m-my Miyata!

  1. revdarkwater says:

    Hi April, I’m enjoying your enthusiasm here at April likes bikes! Concerning fit, have you seen this advice from Rivendell?

    For years I’ve wound up with bikes that, by the way I understood the conventional advice, were “too big,” but they were what I felt most comfortable upon. Rivendell has reconciled my experience to the advice. Just maybe your Miyata and you don’t have to say “farewell.” Here’s hoping. . . .

    • I did read that about a month ago, and worried that I was doing the wrong thing, switching from a 52cm to a 48cm bicycle.

      But….I have fairly long legs for my height. I never buy petite pants, for instance (okay, I’m only an inch or so shorter than the cutoff for “petite,” but still). My torso is therefore shorter than for most people my height, which reduces my reach.

      I hate that stretched out feeling. I have shoulder issues, and it just makes them so much worse.

      In any case, the Miyata gives me zero crotch clearance, and the Novara gives me a couple of inches.

      So to me, it made sense to try a bicycle that was a bit on the short side. I can put the saddle up high enough to get the proper leg extension, and my top tube will still be nice and short.

      One day I’ll be able to afford a professional bike fitting or even a custom bike. For now, it’s mostly a process of reading a lot of contradictory material online, and trial and error.

      • revdarkwater says:

        You could build your own frame! Seriously, this is the most readable frame-building website I’ve seen, by Suzy in Australia:

        Fitting is discouragingly complicated, isn’t it? I suppose because so many factors are involved, of bicycle and cyclist and use. Like you, I’ve puzzled through the advice and experimented till I didn’t ache after a long ride. I did pay for a fit at REI when my wife and I started riding our tandem; they charged just the hourly shop rate, and it was what was needed to get her comfortable on the bike.

      • There’s a local place that does bike fittings:
        Where it’s done by a physical therapist. It’s $150 for the fitting, and they can also do a thing where they show you exercises for where you hurt/have weaknesses. I have seriously considered both, figuring they would save me money on actual physical therapy down the road. However, money is, as always, tight. So, we’ll see.

        I’m unlikely to build a frame anytime soon. I like the idea, but there are so many frame builders locally! That’s one of my dreams–a custom built frame. From Sweetpea. Hells yes.

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