Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Long Term Test: 1984 Shogun 600 Introduction

This bike is long overdue for an introduction. I had been debating whether to even include it, but because it is to me a "forever" bike, one that I will keep as long as I possibly can, it seems like it would be unfair of me to exclude it from the Garage.

My blue Shogun 600 was actually the first bike I purchased as an adult over a decade ago when I took my first job in Washington, DC. At the time, my motivations were two-fold:

1. I wanted to get myself conditioned to the riding position so that I would be comfortable riding motorcycles.
2. The Tour de France had just finished and I had been watching it on TV, inspiring me to get off my ass and get out to see my surroundings.

Purchased for a pittance from a local seller on Craigslist, the bike felt fantastic to me from the first moment I hopped on it, despite it being about two sizes too large for me. With a bit of adjustment and some acclimation, I was still able to ride it in comfort.

And what a comfortable ride it has been. The frame, made from a chromium-molybdenum steel alloy is stiff enough to allow to efficient power transfer, but pliable enough to offer a superbly smooth ride, especially when fitted with the right set of tires. Despite being made from steel, the whole bike easily weighs in at a bit over 20 pounds, lighter than even the fully aluminum K2 road bike that was made fully two decades later. A full set of Shimano Golden Arrow components was fitted and the bike came to me equipped with a set of period appropriate quilled pedals. Combined with the gumwall tires and downtube shifters, this super well maintained bike only looked like a period piece, but was absolutely rode like it was brand new.

Of course, this being the first bike I had ever owned that had drop bars and downtube shifters, it took a while for me to get comfortable with the positioning of everything and it had been years since I had ridden a bike any real distance. The first few rides were mostly around my neighborhood in Arlington, VA to just try to adjust to the idea of riding at all. Before long, I started looking local bike paths so that I could begin to ride longer distances and it surprised me just how much of the DC area I would be able to cover by bike.

Starting with relatively short 10 mile rides, began to go out for at least one ride a weekend, down to the bank of the Potomac River and back. The first few times, I struggled to get up the hill that was on the home stretch back to my apartment, requiring me to walk the bike for those first few rides, but as I got more comfortable and stronger, I started to be able to ride, albeit very slowly, up the mild hill. I also started out being petrified of riding on the road, so I stuck to sidewalks whenever a bike path was not present and only used bike lanes when they were on smaller roads as I still did not have the confidence to ride close to heavy traffic.

Over the last decade plus that I have owned the bike, my riding skill has increased dramatically and my use of the bike has changed significantly. As a vintage bike, it will be a bit different from our other vehicles as well, since this is easily the oldest vehicle in our garage. Unlike some of the other long-term tests for vehicles we only keep for a few years, the updates for the Shogun are going to be more thematic and focus on a particular aspect of the bike as well as offer bits from its ten plus year history with me already. After all, this bike traveled across the United States with us last summer and has many of its own stories to share.

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