Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Finding that Ideal Winterbike

Turns out, rebuilding a wheel isn’t as hard as I thought.  

Today, the Winterbiking chronicles begin again.  

As you know, winter riding takes its toll on your steed.  Regardless of make, material or method of maintenance, winter will eventually murder your bike.  It happened to Liberman and his predecessor ‘Nameless Gray Bike’.   

With this in mind, I have given my thoughts to finding/creating a bike with a limited life expectancy.   In the winter of 2010/11, I found a dual suspension bike frame on a walk with my dog.  We packed it up and brought it home.  It had no wheels, no brakes, a bent crankset, and the rustiest chain I have ever seen.  Over the months, I tore it down.  Removing the front crankset completely, and replacing it with a spare I had on hand.  I sawed off the rusty chain (trying to use a chain tool resulted in the destruction of the chain tool itself!!) and replaced it with a new-ish one.  I took the rims from Lieberman, put on new rubber and tossed all the parts back on the frame.    All of this took place over a period of weeks.  Half an hour here, an hour there.  Just light work with a small goal in mind:    Creating a Frankenbike that would rise from the ashes of past steeds, live for a finite time, then go down in a blaze of glory only to rise again as Frankenbike Redux.   

I am now proud to say, I am within reach of this goal. I have some skipping on the 5th cog in the freewheel and some nagging brake issues to deal with, but soon the Frankenbike will take to the streets scaring the bikes and likes of our children and elderly.  

Now, despite all this work building the Frankenbike, recent events have unfolded that have put its future in question.  I recently found another suitable winter bike.  This bike was free, required very little work to get running, and came with the fenders!  I give you:  Golden Boy  
Saved from the street corner and lovingly ridden everywhere, Golden Boy came with everything.  Fenders, a simple gearing system (only 6 gears, none of this 24 gear junk), and the dignity that bikes had when slathered with neon.    

It took very little work to get it running.  New seat, pump up the tires, adjust the fenders, and boom – I’m riding around town on this puppy and loving it.  I decided it would make the perfect winter bike, and that the one thing I should do (other than fix the brakes) is to put on some aluminium rims.  I have found that steel rims have lest stopping power in the wet and icy winter conditions.    So, I started looking for a rim with a 6 cog/sprocket freewheel cassette.

I went to CycleSalvation, where they rooted around and found me a shitty 6 speed rim.  It spun, but was CRUNCHY.  So, I knew I would have to tear it down, realign the bearings and lube it up.  Easy job I figured – until I actually got it home. The bearings fell out of the cage, and were gone.  And they were rolling around freely and chewing up the hub’s cone and the inside pit of the hub pretty bad.  I replaced the bearing cage, and the cone, lubed it up and put it all back together.  A good learning experience for a guy with little hub experience.  I also filed down some of the teeth on the 5th sprocket and cleaned up the cassette. All in all, I felt good about that work, and got excited about putting a nice knobby on the new rim, and replacing the tires that came on Golden Boy. 

But alas, after installing the new rim, I found that the 5th and 4th sprockets, skip very, very badly.  I had two choices left:  1) Trouble shoot the skipping or 2) put the steel rim back on.   So I tossed the old steal rear wheel on and added new brake pads.  That seemed to help.  But the bike still took forever to stop in slick conditions.  I finally found an acceptable compromise.  I traded a few volunteer hours at Recylclore for a nice aluminium front rim! 

That, coupled with the new brakes means I’ll be able to stop this winter.

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