Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sekine: The Best Bikes In The World

When it came to scoring bicycles, my brother did exceedingly well at police auctions. In the mid-70s, he and my parents came home from a city auction with a white Sekine (rhymes with "Zucchinni") ten-speed. I tried to hide my envy — prior to receiving my CCM five-speed, the cute, dark-haired girl next door had informed me that Sekines were "the best bikes in the world. And they cost a hundred dollars!" (Guess what she got for her birthday?) $100 was an unconscionable amount of money for a Mennonite to spend on a bicycle in 1977, but my parents forked out fifty at the police auction. I affected indifference to my younger brother's good fortune, while the lucky tyke tooled around town on his flashy wheels.

A week later, my father took the bike to a local shop for a quick tune-up and was informed that he'd miraculously scored Sekine's top-of-the-line racer: the gearing was more competitive than the store-bought models, and the frame was much, much lighter. When I finally knew what was what, I had to grudgingly admit my brother's bike was quite the prize: chrome moly double-butted tubing, alloy cotter-less cranks ... the evidence of its superiority to everyone else's bicycle piled higher and higher.

Unfortunately for my brother and his snazzy bike, his generation of lads were the genesis of the BMX scene. They didn't want fancy gear-shifting bikes; they wanted a tiny, single-speed bike they could ride off the roof of their father's garage without breaking anything more serious than a collar-bone. Once again my parents took him to the police auction. This time they came back with a monster: a bike that must have weighed 100 pounds, but had a freaky-looking spring that acted as a shock between the rear wheel and the seat post. It was a one-of-a-kind piece of work, and its total cost (including a can of silver Tremclad paint) was $25.

Every kid on the block wanted to ride that thing. (Say, bro — surely you've got pictures?!)

By then I had reached that stage of late puberty when all manner of crazy schemes are worth pursuing. A friend wanted to cycle to the West Coast, so I bought the Sekine off my brother. I cleaned it up, put a new seat on it, rebuilt one of the wheels, then promptly lost interest.

Yesterday, while scrounging around for a garden spade amid all the piles of trash in our garage, I stumbled over this:

I must have strapped it to the car the summer my new wife and I took a road trip to meet the family. For the last 13 years I've shlepped it from apartment, to house, to house ... just because I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Yesterday I inflated the tires (at least 20 years old) and cautiously took it for a spin. It's in surprisingly good shape.

After a quick Google, it appears this is probably Sekine's penultimate model, the SHT (the derailleurs are Shimano 600s). I'm missing the chain guard for the rear wheel; my cycling friend persuaded me to throw it away because "it just adds weight." D'oh! But I've still got the coveted "ornate head badge":

Mid-life craziness comes in many forms. Here I am with these two grand, old bicycles, and I'm reading stuff like this, and I'm starting to think I'm not so keen on getting something new as I am on restoring something old ... even if I am all thumbs when it comes to this stuff.


DarkoV said...

"Yesterday I inflated the tires (at least 20 years old) and cautiously took it for a spin".

Unbelievable! I can't believe the tires didn't either uproariously explode (with a bang) or simply sigh to permanent flatness( and a whimper).

I don't think today's rubber tress produce the gum needed to last this long. I'd certainly be holding onto those inner tubes!

Whisky Prajer said...

No kidding! I was absolutely sure I was courting comic failure when I started pumping, but when it became increasingly apparent these tubes were good for the ride, the irony was bitter. In the last five years I've replaced as many inner tubes because even the patch kits are getting shabbier. As you say, it must be the trees.

Griff said...

I have several of these at my home.
I love them mostly because they were the bike to have when I was young.

I have the parts, frames and yes the chain guard.

I am still scrounging for more.
Eventually I will build them all.
For now I ride one daily.


Whisky Prajer said...

Nice! Would love to see some photos when you do get them rebuilt.

Rod said...

Great Post! That is a very nice bike, I love the old deco Sekine. If you have the time, I'd like to ask a few questions of it.

Whisky Prajer said...

Ask away, Rod: whiskyprajer@yahoo.ca

Your blog looks good, BTW.