Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rubber swap for the Panasonic; dirt bike summer school

1988 Panasonic MC 4500, before picture. I've always liked the dual water bottle mount on the down tube design of the old days. It's a shame bike builders don't seem to use that placement anymore.
I've been riding my old Panasonic MC 4500 a lot more, as it's been my most accessible mountain bike of late at a time when I'm instructing a little Dirt Riding 101. This is a bit of a change for the Panasonic, because for the past couple of years it had been my office bike, parked next to my desk, patiently waiting to shuttle me to meetings or errands. However, I now primarily use Denver B-cycle downtown, so a while back I brought it home for a new duty assignment.

After several evenings of service on the dirt trails in its urban commuter kit, I decided to swap the Ritchey Moby Bite 2.1 slicks for something with knobs. The Moby Bites are among the best fat slicks I've ever had, and actually do fine on hardpack dirt, but I own a variety of good knobbies and I'm not afraid to use them. So off with the smooth and on with the tractor tread. I popped the fenders off while I was at it, because it just seemed the right thing to do.
It's a big boy. The 22 inch frame is now sporting some different rubber: IRC Mythos XC 2.1 inch meats.
I've been happy with the result. There's a reason why mountain biking caught on in the mid 80s. These old steel bikes from the golden era are just plain fun to ride off road. I previously built this bike up as a geared mountain bike and it was just as good to ride, but something about the current single speed setup brings me back to riding BMX bikes on dirt hills in vacant lots around 30 years ago.

The bike itself started life as a good honest mountain bike, akin to a Specialized Rockhopper or a Bridgestone MB-3, all of which were built in the same factories in Japan. Curiously, the MC in the bike's name inexplicably stands for "mountain cat." The original gray paint has seen better days, but is still adorned with pink, yellow and white moniker decals. For those whose hobby is time wasting, I'll tempt you with the future possibility of a soliloquy regarding this bike.

On to the dirt bike school update.
Had to tie up the princess dress for the demonstration.
In the photo above, notice a fine demonstration of the the standing with feet level while coasting technique. This technique is used to cushion the body against bumps while off road. Our girl has been learning and working toward mastery of many riding techniques, and this is one of her latest.

Yesterday, she had the opportunity to learn through some first hand experience with recovering from a crash. Nothing serious, just a moment of inattentive steering on the roll out following a downhill that led to a fall to one side. That's the good thing about crashing on grass and dirt: it doesn't hurt too much. However, a while later she made too tight of a turn on some loose gravel and ended up with a scraped palm that required a band-aid. There were no tears with either crash, and more than a bit of pride for good recoveries from both student and instructor.
Dirt bike fairies like to have their dress match their bike.


  1. Love the simplicity of the Panasonic. I had access to one for a while:
    Great coaching too!

  2. The Panasonic that you rode looks like a pristine original. The only original part on mine is the frame. They are indeed terrific, simple bikes. Through the eyes of my daughter, I've rediscovered dirt and appreciate it all the more. Best of luck on your journey!