A Long-Overdue Chain Replacement

   I have been experiencing some strange, occasional issues with my primary bike, Mizz Judith over the past year. Sometimes it’s an odd sound. Sometimes it feels like a looseness in the freewheel. Other times I’m certain it’s a BB issue. You know what I never took the time to check, or even consider?  “How long has this chain been on here?”  Turns out the answer was close to 3000 miles. That’s about 2000 miles more than it probably should have been on there. 

   I checked her over as I cleaned up all her filthy teeth, and none were noticeably worn. I was still worried when I put the chain on and took off for my first test ride. But everything shifted smoothly and, at least for that brief ride, there was no popping nor clicking nor feelings of looseness. I will have to be more mindful of this sort of thing in the future since I love my drivetrain and have been unable to find a NOS replacement with the same gearing. And even if I did I can’t bring myself to pay more for the freewheel than I paid for the bike, so there’d have to be some serious luck involved. 

   I also replaced the rear brake cable and housing since it’s been a bit sticky lately and I haven’t replaced either in three years. 

   After all that I got the tandem set up for a taller rider than my ten year old and took a friend out to meet yet another friend for lunch. We all commiserated about the horrible place where two of us used to work, and one of us still does work. It was cathartic for everyone involved, all in our own ways. It was a nice day for a ride!

   When I got back I was trying to adjust the rear saddle height for my wife so that I could finally try to coax her gently onto the bike and either awaken something powerful deep inside her or completely ruin her day. But the bolt snapped off as I was loosening and tightening it. Luckily I had a quick release lever for that sort of thing in a drawer in the ol’ attic workshop. So I switched it out and now I have the perfect set up. I can measure the best height for my wife and get the saddle just right in the new seatpost. Then I’ll keep Ezzie’s saddle on it own seatpost, adjusted just right for him.  I know his seat post height, so I can just switch the whole set-up over when I’m changing stokers. And I also have to change the pedals, at least until the wife decides she wants a pair of SPD cleats. 


In a bikey mood 

I’ve been busy lately since my son got back from a three week stint at my mom’s in Oklahoma. It’s been non-stop play dates and summer fun when I’m not working. There’ve been a few little rides with the kid here and there, once to the Gear Hub for volunteer night on Wednesday.  Ez and I organized and restocked their inner tubes, and he got to test ride kids’ bikes as they were coming off the work stands. There was quite a turnout that evening, too!  At least ten people all pitching in, so a lot got done. The ride home that night was especially fun. I told Ez that it wouldn’t be long before he’d be able to beat me in a race, so of course as we turned into Payson Park he decided we would race from stop sign to stop sign, and he was sure that my sprint in the last few yards constituted cheating. But he was really killing it the whole way home. 

   I also sold a couple of bikes in the past week. The yellow Schwinn Continental that got a new freewheel went to a young man that’s about to head off to college in Pittsburgh. He came with his parents to test ride it, and his dad took it for a spin as well. He told me that he’d had a bike just like it back in the day, and I think he liked it even more than his son. But the son bought it and I presume he’ll be keeping it for himself. 

   The Panasonic went to a fellow pastry chef (did you know I used to be a pastry chef?) from Eventide, so it stayed in the Portland restaurant/food family and that makes me happy.  Now I need to get one of my three-speeds reassembled so I can trade it for some professional photography work from a co-worker with whom I made an…agreement. The ellipses implies something sordid or illicit, but it was actually just a pretty straightforward trade. 

   I also finally spent a little time getting Frank the Tank ready for some rainy weather riding. He hasn’t seen any action since I put him away this past winter (without even giving him a proper cleaning; such poor child rearing for my li’l 65 year old man) so the first thing I did was switch out his homemade spiked tires for something a little more season appropriate. Then I took him outside and gave him a proper cleaning. I put the wheels back on then brought him inside and finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for two years. I got my dremel tool out and put on one of those fuzzy brass tips and I thoroughly removed any rust from the top of the gear case and any especially rough spots on the frame (there weren’t many). After that I touched up the paint, including the white at the bottom of the rear fender. The bottom bracket is a little loose, but also a giant pain in the ass with those cotter pins. I have to deal with it eventually, but I am not doing that right away. Otherwise, though, Frank is looking pretty fly at the moment. 

   Oh, and the landlord dropped off another bike In need of a tune up. I think this one if meant for a lady who’s recently moved in with him. It was a Schwinn comfort bike, so heavy and squishy, but it was in good shape. Even the front shocks worked smoothly. The left grip shifter was coming apart, so I replaced that and gave it a cleaning and tuning. The brakes were all askew in the wrong way, but I got them sorted out.  Other than that the bike just required some basic maintenance. I left it on his porch ready to go. 

   I’ve got a few more bikes to finish up that are fairly close and then several more that I haven’t even started yet. But I’ve been in a bikey mood lately, so I’m thinking progress will be forthcoming. Plus good riding weather!

Overhauling Judi’s Freewheel

While I was working in the attic with Ezra he noticed that Judi was quite rusty in parts, mainly because I put her away without properly scrubbing everything down. And so I took apart her drivetrain and he helped me scrub. But when I went to reassemble the rear wheel I noticed that it felt a little loose and wobbly. The middle gears had felt a little strange when riding lately, and that explains it. So I took apart the freewheel and overhauled it. Now it is running smoothly.

My “New” Tulsa Bike

I found this weird little thing on Tulsa Craigslist, which I peruse sometimes because my folks live there. It said it was a Univega, but there’s no head badge or decals to prove it. The seller didn’t seem to know much about it, and my mother being my mother, she managed to haggle him down to $10. I had been planning to show my dad some basic bicycle repair/maintenance when I visited, and now he and I both had vintage bikes (allegedly both Univegas) to work on side by side. So I took my son to visit the grandparents after Xmas and finally got to get a closer look at this mishmash of delights.

The bike was decked out with a Shimano 600 drivetrain, but the crankset and pedals were more recent than the derailleurs. The shifters, both derailleurs, and the hubs were all arabesque. The crankset was something more modern, though I didn’t get to determine the year while I was there. The brakes and levers were Suntour Superbe, and they were in great condition.

Even though the hubs were a match, the rims were not. After much confusion I managed to determine that the rear wheel was a 700c while the front wheel was 27″. I got new black wall tires in both sizes (eventually), which looked great against the matte black frame. I wish the front wheel had a black rim so I could complete the look. I’ll have to build one up in 700c and bring it with me when I go next time. The brakes didn’t seem to have a problem with the reach.

The saddle was old and busted in spots, but it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable after a ten mile ride.

When I got into town I pulled the bikes out of the shed and cleaned them up a bit. I had packed up my tools, tubes & tires, grease, bearings, etc; everything I would need to do anything that might come up once I got my hands on the bikes. But the bus driver screwed up our luggage at Logan and so I ended up with a very similar looking bag belonging to a man from North Carolina while my bag stayed behind at Logan patiently awaiting my return. So I did what I could with the tools my dad had and didn’t tear the bike down very much at all. I think I even soaked the rear derailleur by just dipping it and the dropout into a bucket of suds. I scrubbed a lot with some brass brushes I bought. I cleaned and lubed all the moving bits.

Then I found a small community bike shop similar to our Gear Hub (http://portlandgearhub.org) called The Tulsa Hub (http://www.tulsahub.org) that was right downtown near the BOK center. I called and spoke with the woman who runs the place, Ren, to ask if I could bring my dad in to show him a few things on his bike and mine, things we couldn’t do without special tools, and she was incredibly helpful and accommodating. I wish I could have met her in person, but unfortunately she wasn’t there for that particular volunteer night. But my dad and I did have fun, and he got to meet some of the guys that work and volunteer there. It was nice to have a chance to experience yet another community bike shop and see how their set up differs from those that I’m used to here in Portland and Biddeford. In the end we got it all done.

It was after this that we had the tire debacle, but once that was sorted out I got the bikes shod and ready to go. I road tuned them, then took mine for a slightly longer ride through the neighborhood. It was cold and windy that day when it hadn’t been previously, so we waited for the next day, our last day in town, before my dad and I took a short ride together.

I ended up waking early and heading out for an 8 mile ride around my old stomping grounds in Owasso. I passed the high school, most of my old houses, a few houses that had belonged to friends. I made a pretty big loop. But at the beginning of things I had to stop near the school to ditch a bulky scarf that I had worn and which I couldn’t carry with me on the bike. I stuffed it into a bush in front of a bank and then continued on my merry way. Once I got home I had my dad get dressed and we rode the mile to get the scarf and the mile back. He’s an older guy and the drop bars and position on either bike made him pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly. We switched halfway, but he was a little bummed since he was planning to start riding more. Luckily, he has another bike that belonged to a friend of his, and that one should work well for him with some smoother tires. But he won’t look as cool as me on my bike. Sorry, dad.

Here’s the funny thing. I didn’t take any pictures of the whole bike, only close ups of the components. So I can’t show you a before and after. But I’ll get to it next time I’m in Tulsa.