Author Archives: Lee Diamond

New Life for an Old Pinarello Cross Bike

My old Pinarello Cross frame sits in my office, freshly painted and ready for its rebuild.


It has been about a year and a half since I wrote an entry on Chicago Velo.  It was even further back that I last held a tour of Chicago’s neighborhoods in the summer of 2017. That summer was the apex of a snake bit year. That July, my father died.  My sister and I and our families had a lot to get through dealing with the aftermath. Many moons later, we are close by my mom now and get to visit with her frequently. Our son Jackson is doing great in school, got his new wheelchair and communication device last year and has had 3 plus years out of the hospital, which is wonderful following several years with frequent and prolonged hospitalizations. My wife Chaney is in her third-year teaching at Amundsen High School, which she enjoys much more than her previous school. Our daughter Zoe has been kicking 4th grade’s butt with a schedule that has included lots of activities, sports, music, art, clubs, scouting, and more.  I also finally was able to get my shoulder repaired after a long and painful period of misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. Knocking on wood, since then I have been blessed with good health and have been injury free, chronic neck and back issues aside. As Chaney reminds me often, I am no longer a spring chicken, and certainly the assortment of pops, cracks and pulls that accompany daily life reinforces this over and over.

So, while it has been a good while since I last posted, the intervening time has been much calmer, still very busy, but fulfilling.

I get asked frequently when I might start up the tours again, and truthfully, I am not sure if I will, or when. There are times I miss it.  I long for the social engagement, the friends I would see at the tours, or at our Bike Building Mondays and just the interaction with the larger Chicago cycling community. I miss sharing my love of Chicago, cool buildings, amazing architects and the history of our area. I enjoyed partnering up with lots of worthy non-profits for collaborative endeavors and meeting people from all walks of life that loved biking, and/or architecture, and/or Chicago history. I loved getting people out on their bikes and hearing from people who were inspired by the tours or took people back to places we visited.  I genuinely long for more Ross Felten posters and images that helped brand the tours and gave these rides a completely unique identity. I liked hearing from other cyclists that were motivated to do their own outings, tours, and make their own adventures. If I never do another tour, these are the great memories and things I will keep with me forever.

Conversely, I have not missed a lot of things about the tours either.  I had been very lucky to do 10 years of tours all over Chicago without any major accidents or injuries for any of the riders, but often I worried that it was only a matter of time before that would change. I don’t miss the politics or the infighting I saw regularly when engaged in the world of bike advocacy through partnerships, events and mutual collaborations. It was disengaging for me in what ideally would be a mutually supportive cycling community but was too often fractious and undermining.

The creation of each tour was a substantial investment of time, but attendance had everything to do with weather, and low attendance can get discouraging. I don’t miss the logistics of printing, hanging and mailing out thousands of posters or of laminating hundreds of maps, notes and places of interest.  I don’t miss finagling with walkie-talkies, locking up rental bikes to come back to after the tour, or performing maintenance on the fly on a rider’s bike that hadn’t been ridden for years before they brought it out for that day’s tour. I don’t miss wondering if we lost a rider and had to go find them or if they had just decided they had enough and rode off on their own.

In short, I miss the good stuff and I don’t miss the arduous, tedious or worrisome stuff. The intervening months since the last tour have certainly been filled with lots of biking.  I ride much more now that I am just riding for myself. Almost all of my rides are solo. I can ride when it is convenient to fit into the little bits of daylight in a full schedule, and I can push myself without concern for others’ preferred riding pace or style. I do less neighborhood exploring, but I see more sites. I focus on my fitness, my stroke, my form, the world going past, my cadence, the feel of the bike, the road ahead and enjoy the spoils of a clearer mind, an energized outlook and a more active and healthy self.

Bicycling is still very much central to who and what I am.

The original paint and build of the Pinarello Cross frame, post repair, and before the repaint.

Most of the riding I do these days has been road riding but this time of year, when the roads are crappy with the cumulative mess of winter’s debris, it’s the perfect time to do some road rides on a cross bike. My Cross bike is an old steel Pinarello. It didn’t even have a model name, and it is heavy AF by modern standards, but it is a beautifully built frame and an extremely comfortable ride on or off road, but it needed a paint job.

I met Duane Waller, owner and operator of Chester Cycles, many years ago at the first Winter Bike Swap. Chester Cycles is a bike frame painting company and for years Duane had done a combination of bike frame painting and paint repairs. He is the go-to paint guy for repairs on bikes for Colnago USA. He painted one of my bikes before, the Geoffrey Butler 70’s road bike that I built up with Michael Abene and later had Ben Fietz of Tailwind Cycles help convert into a 3-speed road-commuter. Duane’s work was and is immaculate and the Butler is more fun than should be legal.

Duane is moving on from full frame painting out of concern for his long-term health and exposure to so many airborne chemicals.  Even with the preparation and caution he uses in his spray booth with ventilation, respirator, etc., he was still breathing in an unhealthy, and accumulating amount of paint and finish and he made the difficult decision to focus on repairs only.  Who can blame him? Still, it is sad to see the end of this era.

When he announced this chapter closing, he posted that he would do only 3 more complete frames, and I quickly chimed in to see if I could claim one.  Initially, I was a day late and a dollar short, but one of the folks who had one of the last 3 jobs he was going to do backed out when they couldn’t get their frame ready in time to accommodate his schedule, so I jumped right in.

The 80s Pinarello Cross frame before it’s rebirth.

The bike in question was an early 80’s all-steel Pinarello cross bike.  The frame was an eBay purchase, and just like the Geoffrey Butler, I built it up with my friend Michael Abene. It was a 54cm frame made of Pinarello Dolmen tubing, one of their branded-Dedacciai steel tubing used during the 80s. When I got it, there was some missing sections of decal lettering, but the paint was in great shape with a cool circle motif, though after a couple of years of banging around trails, it had its share of scratches, chips and dings. The frame is a little funny in terms of cable routing, with the rear derailleur cable running along the top tube and down the seat stay and the front derailleur routing through a single shifter boss on the left side of the downtube and then down below the bottom bracket shell.

We outfitted it with a combination of Campagnolo Athena 11 speed drive train, Campy Record headset and hubs, Super Record bottom bracket, Chorus cassette, Nitto stem, bars and seat post, DT Swiss rims, Specialized Trigger Pro tires, Shimano XT SPD pedals, Elite bottle cages and of course my trusty San Marco Regal saddle. Originally, we went with Paul Components Mini-Moto brakes, which I hated and eventually replaced with a set of Paul Cantis which were MUCH less finicky.

Michael and I hit the Des Plaines River Trail a lot after building that bike up.  I did a couple of cross races before the last one resulted in a broken clavicle and the ensuing months of my wife having to do the bulk of the heavy lifting of Jackson. This necessitated that I opt out of any more racing, but we still did plenty of flying over the DPRT and various other single-track trails here and there. The Pinarello was also a great all-season commuter but eventually, it hit one or another bump or rock or root or something too hard and there was a crack separating the downtube from the bottom bracket shell. I am a heavy rider, and that certainly did not help. I was able to get Owen Lloyd of Blue City Cycles to repair the frame. A quick trip to the hardware store with the frame in hand resulted in a relatively decent match for the frame paint and a new can of spray paint, and that was how the bike has been for the past couple of years. 

The full frame and fork after Duane of Chester Cycles had his way with it.

Knowing how creative and amazing Duane’s work has been, I told him he had carte blanche to paint the frame as he wished. His vision was to create a fictional-special edition Pinarello paint job that utilized several of his impressive techniques. The color at the top of the frame and the fork is like a copper-burnt sienna and gradually transitions into a Candy Red at the bottom of the bike and fork. He mimicked and expanded on the circle theme of the original paintjob, and we got a set of recreated Pinarello decals that most closely matched the original, including the tubing decals.  The result is a stunning ride that is so damn amazing that I find it hard to even pass by the bike in my basement without taking a moment to appreciate how utterly sweet it is.  Duane is the absolute bomb and I am so glad that I got one of his last full frames.

A good view of the fade into the Candy Red bottom bracket shell.
Such a looker….

In a bit of serendipity, Owen Lloyd, who did the frame repair on the Pinarello, got the very last full frame job by Duane.

Detail of pantograph on the fork crown.

Just like the Geoffrey Butler, I brought the bike to Ben Fietz at his and Steven Blum’s shop, Tailwind Cycles to complete the build. He got all new Campy cables and housing and fresh as all get-out Supacaz bar tape with a nice orange star theme that I HAD TO HAVE as soon as texted me a picture of it.  The result is the baddest Cross bike I have ever seen.

Bottom bracket shell pantograph.
The completed build post-painting, drive side.
Non-drive side.

Last Wednesday, I took it on a shake-down ride, and I am happy to report that this bike is every bit as fun to ride as it is a joy to look at.  The trails this time of year in the Chicago area are too wet to do much off-road stuff, but there was a variety of road, trail, path, and some single path on the ride that were dry enough that they wouldn’t cause damage to the terrain.

I am looking forward to the drying out of the DPRT and a return to some trail rides to break up all the road rides and a long winter that had me on the trainer more than I cared for.  I am also looking forward to writing more, riding more, and showing off this wonderful bike. 

If you like this type of retro-mod build, stay tuned for the sale of all of the Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour loaner bikes. I had intended to do this sale some 2 years ago, but life, being what it is, intervened. I hope to share this sale in a new post in the next several weeks.

So, until then, take care out there. I hope to see you on the road, or off, real soon.

Endings and Beginnings

Three generations of Diamond women make goofy faces

Three generations of Diamond women make goofy faces

It has been a little over a month since my sister and I found out our dad died. In that month, we have experienced what feels like a lifetime worth of startling discoveries and what seemed like a continuous barrage of shocks. A lot of what we unraveled is deeply personal and hard to share on such a public space. With the extraordinary aid of my wife, sister, kids and family plus many good friends and kind newly met individuals, we are at the start of a new beginning.

Our mom was living in a very difficult environment, and her condition was far worse than we knew or could even imagine. The circumstances of how our parents came to live as they did and the harm it did to them has left us reeling. Because my wife and I are caregivers to Jackson, our son who has a wide variety of special needs, we are never able to travel or leave town.  In the 13 years since his injury, I left the Chicago area exactly twice…for my sister’s wedding and to visit our parents 6 years ago. While there were certainly signs that their health and lives had deteriorated, it turned out to be on a level that was completely unexpected. We have spent the past month travelling between our respective homes in Chicago and the Bay Area and Cleveland while dealing with all the fallout. Meanwhile, my wife had to manage all of Jackson’s caregiving and keeping things functioning on the home front during the final month of her break. It was very hard for all of us, and a super bummer tough summer for my wife and children. 

Over the past month, we saw to our father’s funeral, re-homing our parents’ elder dog, emptying out over 40 tons of belongings and junk out of our parents’ home then hiring a hauling company to spend a full week after that finishing the job. We listed their home for sale and have dealt with a maze of financial, legal and administrative challenges and lots of hotels, road food, and stress. We were away from our immediate families, who had to deal with great challenges on their own. I relied on my work colleagues to keep things afloat while I was away or otherwise busy with these affairs. We saw to getting our mom into the hospital, then rehab in Cleveland, and finally to move with us to a new rehab hospital 15 minutes from our Evanston home. We experienced the very best and the very worst in health care and elder care. We ran all over the city and suburbs of Cleveland dealing with insurance, document gathering, wrecked cars, FedEx, certified mail, notarized documents, bank accounts, assets, debts, properties and so many other things. The good that came of this is that mom is here with us. She will now make her home in the Chicago area as she has little family left in Cleveland and while the future is still very uncertain for her, for the moment, she is being cared for, she is safe, she is getting good nutrition, and she is tended to by a variety of therapists and medical professionals.

I know my sister and her awesome husband Joe have their own challenges to face back at home, and will try their best to get their lives back to a new normal.  My sister and I are grateful that the tough month we have endured has also brought us closer together, and neither of us would have been able to get through all of this without the other. We hope that the new life we are embarking on, and that are mom is working on, will allow us to see one another more frequently, and that we will stay more involved in each other’s lives. I hope that I will also be able to get back to a more normal life at home, and be there for my family and to resume caregiving for Jackson, but there is still much left to do, and so much of what my mom must deal with over the near and long-term future are unknown. 

But here we are. The good part is she is near us and she is safe and she is being cared for and we can be a part of her lives, and she can be part of ours.  As hard as this has all been, this is what matters the most, and it is the best of the new life ahead.

While dealing with all of this, I had an MRI on my still sore shoulder to discover two complete tears and a ¾ tear of various parts of my right rotator cuff, requiring surgery.  This is going to require me to cancel the last two months of the tours I had hoped to run this year.  I am issuing refunds to all the season ticket holders this week, and working on catching up with correspondence from the many kind souls who have reached out to me and my family during this past month. I’ll be getting the loaner bikes on sale soon, a plan already months behind, but hopefully next on my agenda with the time off I will have from the rides. I feel like I was already somewhat of a hermit…barely seeing friends or family due to life circumstances.  The bike tours provided a great social life for me, and I will miss doing them for the rest of the year, but hope to resume them next Spring.  I’ll miss riding while recovering from yet another shoulder surgery, and I’ll probably be jonesing for some kinship, friendship and socializing as the year spills into the fall and winter. I hope to snuggle in with my family, and as much as it pales in comparison, at least get some trainer rides in the basement as I recover.

In the interim, I get the chance to play music again, at least for the weekend, when the old bassist for one of my bands comes back in town for us to do a one-off reunion show at Reggie’s Music Joint. So many people I am friends with now don’t even know that I spent most of my life as a musician, and many of the people I know from that life I haven’t seen in years and years. If you aren’t doing anything this Saturday night, please consider joining us.  I can honestly say it would be so good to see people and share some good times with everyone. 

So…while I hate to announce the rides are done for the year, I intend to keep the rides going next year.  I thank everyone that has supported me and my family through this all with help, a kind word, a message, or just their love and thoughts. It has made all the difference and I thank you all. I’ll post the bike sale details soon and maybe I’ll see some of you this Saturday for the Replica Republic show.

Replica Republic/Discoveries of the American Scientific/OUTDrejas
Reggie’s Music Joint
Saturday September 2, 2017

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Tour Hiatus

This is a brief post to inform everyone that the July, August and September tours have been cancelled.  This includes tomorrow’s Tour of Evanston.

As many of you know, my father died at the end of last month and my family and I are working on sorting out his affairs and moving my mom to be close to us in the Chicago area.  I have to focus on my family for the time being but hope to be able to run the final two tours of the year in October and November.

My sincere thanks for all of the kind wishes, messages, calls, texts, emails, letters and the like that we have received.  It has been a difficult time but we have been better able to get through it with the support we have received. 

Thank you all for you understanding.