The Regeneration Game


Recently I had one of my most satisfying bike related experiences in a long while. It wasn’t to do with my own riding or even vicariously enjoying the achievements of someone I was coaching. Instead it was due to the resurrection of a piece of kit that I thought was long dead.

Let me elaborate.

I’ve been purging the garage of late with a strict remit of getting rid of everything that hasn’t been used in the last two years. Initially it was easy and hugely satisfying, binning obsolete flyers, handing back the dust covered weights bench to my brother in law and marvelling in the new found sense of space. However, once I got into the nitty gritty it became a lot more trying. My garage was full of equipment that has a certain value attached and the prospect of just giving or throwing away those items seemed a touch wasteful.

Having had a degree of success in the past selling old junk, sorry, I mean ‘retro bike kit’ I know that shifting this stuff can actually be fairly formulaic, if a little time consuming. Polish it up, advertise it on the relevant niche Facebook pages and wait for the money to roll in. Until my last great garage cleanout a couple of years back I’d never have believed this was possible but whilst Googling a pair of handlebars to find out their width because I couldn’t be arsed to find a tape measure I stumbled across the whole retro market. Having discovered that I had a pile of bits that had followed the cycle from desirable to obsolete to rare and valuable I set about e-baying with gusto and within a month had raised enough for a brand new bike!

The Predicament

However, there are a couple of bits that have survived the swinging axe of previous sell-offs. Components that have either too much emotional attachment or are seemingly too knackered to be considered of any value. My XTR V-brakes fell firmly into both those categories. Too precious to bin, too wrecked to sell. I can still remember the pride when I fitted these on my old Voodoo race machine twentyish years ago. I recall the power of them sending my mate Ade over the bars when he borrowed my bike at Uni after they’d emigrated on to my GT LTS. Further recollections of the long mangled Avid levers that mated so perfectly with them, stunningly machined, more jewellery than componentry. I loved those brakes and cared for them accordingly but despite my obsessive cleaning, over the years the dirt and moisture became ingrained and gradually they ceased to move. The purchase of my first set of Hope disks sounded the death knell and into the graveyard draw they went.

By sheer chance my recent drive to empty the garage has coincided with the rebirth of my ancient Voodoo frameset as a long term project build disguised as a bike for my wife! I’d come across the brakes once more and wiggled the arms to check they were still broken and hadn’t miraculously fixed themselves. Sadly though they were still knackered and under the regime of clearance I decided that I’d finally whack them on e-bay to see if anyone wanted them for parts. By chance, just prior to listing them I stumbled upon someone’s step by step guide to servicing the exact same brakes and with growing excitement I saw that they may not be beyond repair and could just possibly be reunited with my 1997 race bike! I was so excited in fact that I woke at 5am the next morning, pathetic I know, and rushed to the garage where I got industrial with the vice, hammer and files.

As I hit them, split them, cleaned them and greased them I got a growing sense of immense satisfaction and a strange feeling of youthfulness. Working on bits that hadn’t seen such attention for nearly two decades dragged me back to the halcyon days of cheap food, cider and buying bikes with loans.

The brakes look and function superbly and so inspired and emboldened by my success I dug deeper into the box to see what other old junk could become part of this regeneration game. Next project is my mark one Hope Ti-Glide hubs, a true piece of history that need some serious work!

I recently undertook a superb Velotech Gold bike maintenance qualification at Glenmore Lodge, the National outdoor sports training centre. Whilst, after over 25 years of spannering it didn’t introduce me to anything particularly new, it did firmly reiterate my new found approach of researching and then getting aggressively stuck in with the tools. The internet isn’t entirely filled with inane celeb-gossip and if you dig deep enough you can sift through the garbage and find the vital nuggets of information you need. Armed with that knowledge you can then begin the satisfying problem solving process that fixing bikes can be.

I’d really encourage everyone to have a go at this approach. At best you’ll create renewed, valuable, functioning componentry and at worst you’ve had a chance to smack some stuff with a hammer.

That’s a win win in my book!

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