The Bonelli Fairweather. It started off as a Bonelli Lite 1, a cheap and reliable commuter, that eventually won me over, and transformed into one of my all time favorite bikes I’ve ever owned.
Project Bonelli Fairweather
Chapter: 1 – Introduction
Cost So Far: $300 CAD
Model: 199X L Bonelli Lite 1
Nickname: Bonelli Fairweather
Purpose: Everyday Nice-Weather Commuter, Pub Bike, Around-Town Mover
Odometer: Approximately 1,020km
Setup: 2×9 Shimano 105
What is the Bonelli Fairweather?
The Bonelli Fairweather, like it’s counterpart, the Bonelli Slusher (Which you can read about here), started off as a pretty miserable stock Bonelli Lite 1.
I remember this bike distinctly because my main commuter bike (A pretty nice purple Raleigh Serengeti in a large frame size) had just been stolen and I was without a bike (This was a time when I actually only had one bike – can you imagine?).
I had gone off and purchased another miserable bike, a red Mountain Tour that was just not doing its job as a bike very well. I saw the ad for the Bonelli Lite 1 in the Gatineau’s for around $40 CAD, jumped on my Mountain Tour, rode out there, and left that bike in the parking lot, never to be seen again.
I rode the Bonelli Lite all the way home with no issue. Sure, it was heavy, it had an uncomfortable seat, a high handlebar position, giant tires, a heavy triple crank, gears that barely shifted… you get the point. The thing was though, that there was something about the frame that just fit me right.
The Beginning of my Bike Collection
It’s a bit funny looking back now, but really, this is the bike that really kick started my interest in bikes.
At this point in time, it should be noted that I had no spare parts bin, no stacked boxes of stems, seats, cranks, brakes, and ziploc bags of extra bits and bolts. I had no specialized tools for bikes, and in fact, very little knowledge about bikes at all.
But the bug bit – I did a whole bunch of research and I was on my way to customizing my first bike. Little did I know, but I was about to basically rebuild the entire bike from scratch!
The Evolution of the Bonelli Fairweather
And so it went – I bought many things at the local MEC and swapped out the seatpost and saddle. Next, the crank was replaced with a newer triple design (Shimano Alivio I believe), and then, not too long after, I decided to remove the front derailleur completely and the triple front ring was replaced with a single narrow wide ring.
The bike went from a 3×7 setup to a 1×7 setup, and then for a while the rear derailleur was removed, and the rear shifter was removed, and it was a simple single speed, with a whole 7 speed cassette still in the back.
I eventually went back to a 1×7 setup, and used a simple thumb friction shifter instead of the failing grip shifter that came with the bike initially. The photos below show it with a 1×9 setup with the shifters and wheels from the Giant FCR1.
The brakes were upgraded to V-Brakes and so, the brake levers needed to be upgraded as well (The pull for the cantilever brakes was not sufficient).
All in all, at this point, the cranks, pedals, bottom bracket, seat post, saddle, brakes, brake levers, shifters, all the cables and all the housings had all been replaced.
Then another fantastic bike appeared on Kijiji
The Giant FCR1
You can read all about my Giant FCR1 over here. This bike eventually became the king of speed in my stable of bikes, and was upgraded to a full Shimano Ultegra group set, and so the Bonelli Fairweather was fortunate to inherit almost all of the parts. The biggest issue was that this frame didn’t have a proper dropout, so I had to get an adapter from a local shop.
The rest of the parts, including the brakes, brake levers, shifters, Xero XSR-3 wheels, front derailleur, and crank were added to the Bonelli, and the saddle, seatpost, grips, and pedals were picked up from the local MEC.
Coincidentally, literally just the other day when I was thinking about writing this article, I noticed that someone had parked a stock Giant FCR1 right beside my Bonelli Fairweather at work! What a coincidence – see the resemblance in components?
The Bonelli Fairweather now wears a set of 105 derailleurs, Tiagra flat-bar shifters, Tektro V-brakes, and the Xero-XSR3 wheels from the Giant FCR1.
A Really Fantastic Commuter
There is something about this bike – it’s reliable, quiet, smooth, and quick and I just love it. It doesn’t scream at pedestrians that it’s a performance bike, and to most people it would go unnoticed, but I know what it’s about, and it just fits me so well. It fits me so well in fact, that I bought a second one to use as a winter bike (The Bonelli Slusher!).
This is my bike of choice when I don’t want to don the spandex and just go for a short ride. It’s comfortable in jeans, shorts, and regular shoes. It locks up fine outside the pub or the grocery store, and at work as well.
Well, the urge to upgrade bikes never really stops and I have to admit I’ve been tempted to replace both of my Bonelli’s with just a single, ultimate, all-weather commuter. One of the issues is that because it is an older frame, it doesn’t have a modern rear dropout for new derailleurs. This means that I’m stuck using an adapter, which occasionally causes chain interference problems on the back end. Also, because of the external bottom bracket, the chainline is not 100% ideal – in the large ring, it really only likes the top 3-4 cogs in the back, and in the small ring, it only likes the 3-4 rings in the middle.
This bike will likely see new wheels, tires, and a new derailleur if anything. The spring tension on the 105 rear derailleur is really starting to show its age, and the wheels are starting to show some damage from age, weather, and stop and go braking in the city.
We will just have to see! It’s not always practical to have a brand new bike – they are magnets for theft, they often get damaged and scratched up being in bike racks, and it’s often more important to have tough, reliable components instead of light and fast components.