Working on a Wifely Wehicle

I recently purchased two vintage Peugeot bicycles from their original owner. One was a U-08 from the mid 70’s and in nearly perfect condition. The man told me he’d bought it and then put it into storage and moved away for a good long while. Then he moved back, took it out and had it serviced, then forgot about it again. It’s barely been ridden and it shows. But that also means it’ll need the full treatment to make sure everything is ready to ride and to insure it’ll last for decades to come.

The other one is a sweet mixte, pearlescent white with black pinstriping.

That one is about the right size for my wife, and it just might be cool enough, cute enough, and comfortable enough that she’ll want to ride it around a bit. Just to up the stakes I’m gonna take the sprung Brooks saddle from Frank and put it on this bike since Frank is out of commission until I can build him some new wheels, I think. I took apart the cottered B.B. and was all set to order a nice, simple, sealed replacement, but I couldn’t locate one with the right specifications, this being a vintage French bike. So I cleaned everything up and sat it all aside for the rebuild.

It had 9mm cotter pins, which the internet could lead you to believe is unusual for a French bike. I know because long ago I looked up “what are the most common sizes of cotter pins for vintage bicycles?” and was told that it was 8.5mm and 9.5mm. So I got those sizes. But luckily Peter over at Port City Bikes had a scant few left in the right size, and he even sold me two for a fair price! I grabbed some new handlebars and brake levers from the Gear Hub, and that should be all I need to get it in riding shape. I can fine tune it after that, maybe get some different pedals. Maybe saw off the ends of the cotter pins once they’ve had time to really work their way in there and I’ve tightened them down as much as I’m gonna. All the pins I’ve found are way longer than their original counterparts. Not sure when that changed. Probably before I was born.

The jockey wheels on the rear derailleur were both broken. I don’t know if that means this bike was ridden hard, but it doesn’t look like it otherwise. Besides a little dirt and grime it’s in pretty good shape. I replaced the rear DR with something similar in style, but I couldn’t find a Simplex.

Tomorrow my plan is to reassemble the headset and try to get the new stem and bars set up properly. I gotta do the hubs, too, especially now that I got my latest freewheel removal tool!!! Plus whatever else I need to do to make it rideable.


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!

The Landlord’s Nishiki

   My landlord lives downstairs from me, and a few days ago he sent me a text stating that he had locked his bike up out front and that he’d be willing to pay me to fix it up for him. I had mentioned that it’s something I do on the side, so it came as no real surprise, and I’m always happy to help get my fellow Portlanders on bicycles.

   I went down to find a black Nishiki Blazer mountain bike. He had given me the code to his lock, so I took it upstairs and gave it a once over before heading off to work. The left shift lever had snapped off and would need replacing, along with both shift cables. The front hub had some play in it. The drivetrain was dirty and the freewheel seemed to stick a bit. So it needed some work, but it seemed to be mostly in order.

   The following day I removed the broken shift lever and ran down to the Gear Hub with ten minutes until closing time, as is my way.  Kyle dumped out a bucket of old shifters and I sat on the floor sifting through them until I found a perfect match just waiting to come home with me and get back to doing what it does best.  I paid my three dollars and went home to install the lever and cables and test that part out.  Turns out it worked perfectly.

   The day after that I came home from work and made it my goal to finish the bike first thing.  I took it outside and put it in the bike stand for a thorough scrubbing.  I cleaned up the drivetrain first since that always makes such a mess of the rest of the bike (not a lesson I learned properly on my first, or even second time cleaning a bicycle), then gave it a good head-tube-to-toe-clip washing.  The rear derailleur was definitely gunked up a bit, but it was far from the worst I’ve come across.  There was some surface rust on many parts of the drivetrain, so I hit it with a brass brush, also making sure to spot-scrub any nuts and bolts that bore tarnish elsewhere.  I finished up, dried the bike off, and got it into the attic workshop just as it started raining.

   I put on some podcasts (mainly running through the Civics 101 shows from the beginning; highly recommended to my American readers) and got to work on the wheel issues.  I started by removing the freewheel from the rear and flushing it with WD-40.  While gravity was doing its thing I set that aside and overhauled the front hub.  I cleaned it all up and packed it with fresh grease and bearings.  Next I put a medium weight oil into the freewheel and took my time working it in, adding more, working it in, until it was spinning pretty smoothly.  I feel like one of the pawls was still catching just a tiny bit, but only every once in a while, and less so with each addition of oil.  By the time I was ready to grease the threads on the hub and reattach the freewheel it had sorted itself out.    After everything was back together I gave it a quick tune up and moved on to the last job I had to do.

   The rear wheel had a wide-ranging wobble that saw it bumping against the brake pads, first on one side then the other.  I put a drop of oil on each of the spoke nipples and made myself as comfortable as possible since I knew I’d be there for a while.  One of the tools that I have yet to purchase is a truing stand.  The Gear Hub has them available to use during their open bench time hours, but those are limited and I hate the idea of strapping a wheel to my back so I can ride over to the shop just to true it when I could do it almost as well (if perhaps a little slower) in the attic.  I actually just put the wheel on the bike, opened the brakes up wide enough that the rim never touched it, and then started with the most wide ranging adjustments.  Once it started to come into true and I had to do more fine tuning among a smaller range of spokes I would lean my head at a particular angle and watch the reflection of the brake pad in the rim as I slowly spun the wheel.  When the reflection would momentarily grow larger I would mark those few spokes and make my adjustments.  If instead it grew smaller I would make the opposite adjustments.  Eventually I got a consistent reflection and thus trued the wheel.

   And that was it!  I wrote out a note detailing all of the work I had done and I used my wax seal with a bicycle imprint to close up the envelope.  Nerdy?  Yes.  Overkill?  Probably.  But it’s all part of the unique brand of service that I offer!  Am I using the word “unique” in that sweetly derogatory way that some southern ladies might?  Yup.

Tune-up and repairs for a Specialized Allez Sport

I have a friend with whom I ride on occasion whenever the weather is fair and he’s not swamped with work. The last couple years I’ve been doing tune ups on his bikes right around riding season, wherever that ends up landing. Last year I did his mountain bike (which was stolen from his back yard last winter, unfortunately) and this year he had me work on his road bike. It’s a Specialized Allez Sport with 105 and Tiagra components, probably from the early 2000s. It’s all aluminum and pretty light at 24 pounds.

I gave it a quick once over and noticed a few things right off the bat. First off, the front wheel was radially out of true with a noticeable bump in the rotation. The rear had a flat with the telltale snakebites in the tube. The rear derailleur was having a hard time with several gears and the front derailleur was not working at all; just flopping around on its hinges. Also the front brake was rubbing and needed to be realigned. Oh, and the handlebar tape was coming off at the top where the electrical tape was peeling away.

I found that the front derailleur had a small metal piece where one of of the spring ends usually rests that had been sheared off somehow, and this put that derailleur in the not-fixable category.  The rear derailleur just had a nail jammed into it, and once that was removed it required only minor adjustments to get it working perfectly.  The rear tube got replaced and I patched the old one in case my friend ever needs a quick spare. The front wheel got a little better from just removing the tire and putting it back on, so it was partly a problem with the way the tire was seated on the rim. A little truing and it was back in shape.

I went to the Gear Hub over on Washington to find a replacement front derailleur, and I grabbed a 105 that looked like it would have the reach for the triple chainrings in the front, but I didn’t check the specs online first, so when I got home and put it on I found that it just couldn’t quite make it out far enough to get the chain onto the big ring. Of course, that discovery came the Saturday before Memorial Day, so I had to wait until the Tuesday after to get another replacement derailleur, but this time I checked very carefully. Also worth noting, I believe that I got the only road FD for a triple crank in the whole place, so well done me for not giving up and getting down to the bottom of the basket.

I got home, got the new derailleur mounted, and after some time spent fiddling with it and setting the limit screws, angles, etc it was ready for a test ride. Now, here comes a little confession: I have owned a pair of clipless pedals and some mountain bike style shoes to clip into them for over a year now, but I have never yet ridden with either. In fact, up until today I had never clipped in at all. I enjoy toe clips with straps on a few bikes, but even then I always keep them pretty loose. I mainly like that my feet stay in place and I can keep up a higher cadence without feeling like my feet are floating over the pedals. Plus I find them pretty…AND utilitarian since I can ride in them with nearly any shoes I own. But for whatever reason I never actually switched out any of my pedals on any of my bikes for the clipless ones. I’ve been curious, and I’ve heard all sorts of things about how connected you feel to the bike and how much power you get from the lifting of the pedals.  And you know, since I’m getting things off my chest I’ll add that I did try twice to switch out Judi’s pedals before a particularly long ride and both times I found her pedals to be pretty well stuck on there. I know that I should attend to that, but instead I’ve been satisfied to simply take note before putting the pedals and shoes back in the closet.

But anyway!  Today was the day, and boy was it fun!  I did spend some time with the bike up on a trainer practicing my clipping in and out and getting used to the feeling of being attached to my pedals. Then I did a final ABC check and headed out for my official post-tune-up test ride. The first few times I had to clip in I struggled along for several feet before hitting the sweet spot. But I remained hyper aware of the need to unclip any time I had to slow down, which in turn gave me plenty of opportunities to practice. The feel was very different from what I’m used to. I’ve tightened down the straps on my toe clips now and again when I was on a long stretch that presented few stops and minimal traffic, and that did make a difference as well, but this was much more fun and much easier to get out of in an emergency.

I did notice it most obviously when I was climbing. I made a loop of a few miles that I knew would have a bit of all the inclines so I could shift through the gears and see how the bike performed. It was great, only needing minor tweaks to my earlier adjustments on the stand.  I picked up speed quickly, for one thing. My cadence was easy to get up and keep up. But when I went to climb a hill that I’ve been up many times I was able to keep my speed up much more easily and for a longer duration. I have a hill near Payson Park that I use to get up speed on the way down, and then I like to see how much of that speed I can retain as I climb back up toward Chevrus, as well as when I finally need to downshift. This time I got up to 35 mph and stayed above 28 nearly to the crest of the hill without any ill effects. This bike is lighter than my others and it has a greater range of gears, but I didn’t use too many of them here and the weight difference isn’t really all that much. So I like to imagine it was the new pedal situation.

And that’s my new band name: The New Pedal Situation.

Schwinn Rear Derailleur Overhaul

I have been working on a late 70s Schwinn Continental that I got from my mom’s friend’s uncle’s cousin, or some such thing. It was a little beat up and it came to me in pieces. I fully disassembled it, did my thang, then finally started to reassemble it. The bike is finished now, but here’s some of the stuff I did. I’ll post a finished pic once I get to test ride it.

The rear derailleur had bearings instead of bushings, which I don’t see too often these days. It was all loose and the jockey wheels were flopping all over the place before, but after a crock pot bath and an overhaul it works great!