Thursday, February 4, 2010

On the Trail of a Fork...I Found One for the Perfect Trail!

About a year and a half ago I rammed my 35 year old Fuji into a tree and cracked the joint between my front fork and the dropout. I wasn't riding the bike; the bike was riding on the roof of our Explorer as we were pulling up to our little cabin on a forested mountainside. A low-hanging, and evidently stubborn, pine bough met the bike. Crunch and ouch!

I took the Fuji into Elliott Bay Bicycles and Bill Davidson pronounced my fork dead on arrival. He said that the original builder hadn't fed much meat from the dropout into the fork end, so it was inherently weak. Couldn't be fixed, so they ordered a generic replacement fork.

I'm always bummed when I look at it. It is a reminder of my carelessness, but also: the replacement fork is raked differently. The Fuji now has more trail than the way it was built, even though I now ride the bike with a handlebar bag. At the time, they encouraged me to look in the used parts bike shops for a replacement, but with an implied "and good luck" because the steering tube is exceedingly long and rare. (It's not that I'm so tall at 6 feet, but I originally bought too large a bicycle.) I did an initial search with--as expected--no luck.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a near exact twin while pawing through used derailleur bins! The fork on the left above is my oldie. If you look closely--it is near impossible to discern unless in person--you can detect that the "new" fork is stouter. The fork rake is different too. Same overall amount of offset, but the arc of the curve is different. The crowns are also different, and the paint that remains is slightly darker. The chief thing is that it will restore the original trail of the bike.

As I've posted previously here and here, I am having a new randonneuring bicycle built up, so this old Fuji will be my backup. So what does it matter if she is equipped with an generic fork or original equipment? It's probably a good deal about sentiment. I do feel as if I'm at least partly restoring her back to what she represents: a solid Japanese bicycle imported into the U.S. for sale on a college campus at a time when bicycling began to capture the imagination of Americans again. And of course, she is also the bicycle upon which I've toured, commuted and first tasted randonneuring. As we all know and I said here, our bicycles are much more than the sum of their parts.

Not a bad tradeoff for a $10 bargain sitting around a used parts room.

Keep it on the lookout!