The Zebra Bike

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The Zebra Bike is a good example of my "throw together something and ride it" philosophy. I virtually never buy new bikes, but I have a big pile of parts and when I'm not out riding one the odds are I'm thinking about bikes or tinkering with bikes so my bikes tend to evolve over time. The Zebra Bike has several unique elements that tend to evoke a lot of comment.

First off, I can't really answer the "what is it?" question. The frame is French and it's lugged steel. It's pretty light and it has Campagnolo dropouts. I'd guess it was made sometime in the 1970s. It has a very similar geometry to my 1972 Peugeot PX-10, but I don't think it's a Peugeot. It could be a Motobecane or something like that. I bought it used for $60 via eBay and it had a plain white repaint at that time. The paintjob had a few dings and rather than touch it up, I covered the scratches with a spiral of black electrical tape. Once I got started, I liked the zebra effect, so I pretty much covered the whole bike with a mix of black and white tape spirals, giving it the distinctive zebra look. Instead of a headbadge, the bike now sports a small zebra sticker on the headtube.

While many of my bikes are fixed gears, the Zebra has very wide range gearing. When I first put the bike together, I installed a TA crankset with rings of 50, 40 and 30 teeth but I later found some other rings and the gearing now ranges from a high of 101.5 gear inches to a low of 24.5. I certainly don't claim that I've set this bike up with optimal shift patterns or anything, but the gearing works fine. The rear wheel has a Phil Wood hub and a six speed freewheel and the deraillers are old Suntours. Here's the gear chart:

Zebra Gearing

The handlebars are my favorite style: "Clipped and Flipped" cowhorn bars. I make these bars by taking an old set of road handlebars cutting them off halfway down on the dropouts and then mounting them upside down in the stem. The brakes are old Suntour non-aero levers with the cables mounted backwards so the housing comes out the bottom of the lever. I inserted a threaded barrel adjuster into each lever to give the cable housing something to press against and to keep the housing from fraying. I also installed mountain bike thumb shifters right under my thumbs. The final result looks odd, but works very well.

The fenders are currently a mix of coroplast and old fender parts I had laying around, but I'll probably do up a set of full coroplast fenders in the next few weeks. The coroplast fenders tend to be lighter than anything else I've tried.

The Zebra Bike doesn't have bottle braze-ons, but Bell Sports sell cheap plastic clamp-on cages for $5 including a water-bottle. I've never seen them in local bike shops, but I pick up these at our local Fred Meyer (one of those "we specialize in everything" stores that can't decide if it's a grocery store, a drugstore, a department store or what.) For lighting the Zebra Bike has a pair of LED flashers in the back and a single focused white LED light up front. In the photograph, the light is a Princeton Tec Impact that's held onto an old Cateye light mount with some innertube rubber bands, but since I took this picture I found a $12 light that casts just as good a beam as the Princeton Tec. It's the Brinkman Long Life LED light and it runs off 2 AA cells. I found mine at the local Fred Meyer store and I think Walmart and Target and places like that also carry them.

The Zebra Bike has a tailbox made from coroplast. This has more storage capacity than a trunk bag, is weatherproof, light and very inexpensive. I made it in three pieces; one long piece that forms the back, bottom, front and lid and two shorter pieces that form the sides. The pieces are stitched together with zipties. Electrical tape extends the zebra color scheme to the tailbox and the lid is held shut with rubber bands cut from an old innertube.

The Zebra Bike is a fast, fun bike to ride. It's a good bike for those times when I feel like shifting and coasting. And as my friend Joe says "it looks like crap, so nobody will mess with it." What more would you want?

The Freewheelin' Kent Peterson

Issaquah WA USA

August 26, 2002

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