20 January 2015

A Retro-Future in Rust

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In the 70s, Japanese bicycle company Bridgestone marketed their youth bicycles as vehicles of the Space Age. Advertisements depicted lasers, robots, and the wondrous marvels of beyond. Of course, certain limitations existed when it came to incorporating aerospace components into terrestrial two-wheelers, but with a little imagination one could surely take these bikes into orbit. 

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While pop-up headlights, throttle-style shifting, and on-board “computers” were largely superfluous to the operation of the bicycle, they added a bit of sci-fi magic to the ordinary bike ride to school. Additionally, there were other design choices that were made to increase the overall futuristic-ness of these bikes: disc brakes, turn signals, and an oval (or elliptical) chain ring.

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When the Mrs. and I lived in Japan, we would frequently visit the local second-hand stores to look for records, collectibles, and other things. One day, I noticed behind one of the stores were a rusted heap of bikes in various states of disrepair. I asked the owner if I could peruse the bikes and he said it was fine. Carefully walking amongst the twisted wheels and entangled frames, I spotted a Bridgestone Astro G, one of such bicycles from the 70s. A brief struggle to retrieve it from the pile and 5,000 Yen later, it was mine.

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Unfortunately, it was in no condition to ride. The tires were rotted, the pedals were rusted to the crank, and any trace of lubrication or grease had long since vanished. It was going to be quite an undertaking to restore it, but I figured it would give me something to work on in my spare time.

That spare time has come and gone. I disassembled as much as I could, labeled the components in Ziploc bags, and in that state it has remained ever since. The more I dived into it, the more I realized this thing needed attention beyond what I could give. The rust spots would be easy to deal with if it were just a matter of steel wool and WD-40, but that would destroy the original decals that are still intact. The handlebars have a faux-chrome coating that has all but peeled away, but the grips are immovable, so they won’t separate from the stem. I was able to free one of the stuck pedals but the other won’t budge. I gave it the ol’ college try, but just couldn’t get to a point where it’s in any better condition than the way I found it.

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So what am I going to do with it? I don’t know. If anyone is handier about these sorts of things, I’d be willing to let it go for the 5,000 Yen ($50 USD) I paid for it. While attempting to haggle down the price, the previous owner said that was a good deal, because it would be worth much more in the hands of someone that can restore it. He’s probably right, but that person wasn’t me.

- Bicyclist Abroad

 

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