Recently I had the enviable opportunity to rummage through the Freewheel Bike Parts Museum on company time, and it was sort of like a vacation for bike geeks. For the non-bike geek, it was something like what Sisyphus went through, or trying to solve a Rubik's Cube in mittens, or painting stucco with a foam brush, or cutting wet wood with a hacksaw blade. The task at hand was to organize a parts room that had well over a decade worth of inventory nightmares heaped untidily into cardboard bins and labeled cryptically with random bits of gibberish. Fortunately, I speak gibberish fluently (it's my mother tongue, in fact), so I was the man for the job.
The tedious moments were broken up by some strange and wonderful discoveries. Freewheel Bike has quite a reputation for being one of those places where you can conjure up obsolete parts. This is delightful for customers, many of whom can be seen capering out the door, singing merrily about lifted clouds and sunshine because we found a replacement for their antiquated hub cone. It also makes for scintillating intra-shop trivia questions amongst the employees. [Hint: do not challenge Marcy to a game of "identify that part:" you will lose, and she will mock you] Some of the items probably will never find a home, but that's OK. They can live peacefully in their respective bins, trading embellished stories about the glory days when dinnertime conversation in the average American home included glowing references to cottered cranks and three-speed hubs.
Now comes the part of the blog post designed for those who prefer pictures to a thousand words.
OK, you've probably heard of Stronglight. They're still around, still making nice cranks and chainrings and other stuff. But there is something special about this particular Stronglight chainring:
If you are in the market for some serious gear inches, this immaculately-crafted beauty is your secret weapon (although the secret may be somewhat easy to spot). The ideal customer profile is someone who desires to hit 25 MPH on his Alex Moulton with a 20" rear wheel, happens to have Stronglight (or compatible) cranks from this era, and who doesn't mind that someone wisely wrote the bolt circle diameter and tooth count in red permanent marker on the back of it.
For reference, here it is the mighty 60 with a standard 52-tooth ring from a triple setup. I don't know about you, but my kneecaps are writing letters to their congressman trying to get that thing banned. But that's not all: "someone" (I'm refraining from mentioning Bill's real name so he doesn't feel sheepish) anticipated a 60-tooth chainring fad amongst Stronglight owners and bought not one, not two...
They'll be around if you need them. Incidentally, we're getting rid of our 2009 Bike Magazine calendar as well, and could probably get you a sizzling deal.