A Makeover and Spa Treatment for Zella Mae

29 Jan

Like most cyclists, few things are more exciting to me than getting a new bike. The downside is that you can only store or ride so many bikes and it’s hard to let go of one you’ve grown attached to. So an old bike gets relegated to “rain bike” or “errand bike” status, like Zella Mae, my first adult bike, a ’93 Specialized Hard Rock.

I ride Zella when it’s wet outside or I need to lock up at places where I’d never leave Juliett, my glamorous Dutch bike. To suit her workhorse role, I’ve upgraded Zella here and there over the years. First it was a rear rack, then full fenders and flat pedals–upgrades needed to get the job done.

Because she works hard and doesn’t get special treatment, I named her Zella Mae after my grandmother’s maid. The original Zella Mae cooked, served and cleaned up for our large family on holidays and special occasions, chattering away in a mix of Creole French and English. Looking back, I wonder when and how she celebrated the holidays with her own family since she spent most of them serving us.

Last week I decided to upgrade Zella again with a chainguard to keep her drivetrain a little cleaner this winter. While I was at it, I paid for a pro tune-up where they replaced all the cables and brake pads, overhauled the bottom bracket and the headset bearings, and cleaned the drivetrain in the solvent tank. Zella got the ultimate spa treatment. It probably cost me more than she would sell for on Craigslist (not that I would).

In the end, the chainguard didn’t work with the bottom bracket so they couldn’t install it. But at least Zella got a day of luxury and she’s riding much better these days for the special attention. While I was pampering her, I found a wire handlebar basket that looks great and works great too. It’s the least you can do for those who take on the dirty jobs and keep working hard day after day.

Have you held on to an old bike even after you replaced it? What do you use it for?

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Around Town


5 responses to “A Makeover and Spa Treatment for Zella Mae

  1. Brian

    January 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I remember buying grips and new bottle cages for my old 830 MTB the week after I bought my 5200, because it seemed so neglected. The guys at the shop thought it was funny I needed grips after buying a road bike.

    When the 830 finally died, its bell and saddle went to my new MTB.

    Now my 5200 has been replaced and it lives in a trainer, which is fine since it needs a new rear hub and shifter, problems that don’t bother me spinning inside and I don’t have to worry about wearing out my tires.

  2. Lizabeth West

    January 25, 2014 at 5:35 am

    I have a ’93 GT Talera and a ’84 Schwinn LeTour that I use when I don’t want to expose a nicer bike to possible theft. I had them lubed, the cables and brake pads changed, plus new tires. An old bike just rides better when you do this. I’m still enjoying them but I have too many bikes to ride each regularly, yet I have a bike for just about every purpose. I have to sell something at this point before bringing home a new bike. You do get attached and that’s when it gets difficult to let one go.

  3. Max Schneider

    May 13, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I always use my old bikes as “train station bikes”. If they are vandalized or stolen it is not as bad as if my real bike got stolen/vandalized. Or for a quick trip to the store/mail box, because being able to leave the “low value bike” on the curb in front of my door makes for a quicker trip than retrieving my “good bike” from the garage….


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