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.