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.

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.

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!

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.

My first Campy

I got this Atala from its original owner who bought it in the 70’s and rode it around Portland while they were attending law school at USM. I’m told it’s been ridden around seasonally since then, but I’m thinking it’s been in storage at least the last few years. Lots of surface rust, but so far it doesn’t look like a ton of pitting on the frame. The chrome…well, I haven’t done anything to it yet, so I’m going to try to stay positive until I’ve had a chance to clean it up. The bits and pieces are the only Campy that I’ve come across so far, so it’ll be interesting to finally get the chance to fix some up and see how they work on the road. I’ll have to find a front derailleur to replace the replacement. And I’ve heard good things about the Universal brakes, but have likewise never found any before. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to start working on this bike for a couple months because the Great Maine Bike Swap (http://maineswap.com/event-details/) is coming up and I have many sellable bikes that need fixin’.

Harlequin wrapping my moustache bars

I really like the look of a harlequin wrap job, so I finally made my first attempt on the XO-3’s new mustache bars. I saw a tutorial that suggested starting from the top out to the brakes, then starting again at the bar ends and working your way back toward the brakes, meeting in the middle. I just went for it, though, and I like the way it turned out. I did have to remove the shifters momentarily to finish the job, but that was a minor inconvenience at worst. I then applied seven layers of clear shellac, leaving at least an hour between each over the course of a couple days. I wish I’d taken pictures of the bike all wrapped and taped up, but alas I did not. If it helps you imagine it, the masking tape was the basic beige kind and the trash bags were black. Plastic bags from Hannaford covered the bars. Et voilà! It’s just like you’re there in the attic with me, smelling the funky, melting-rubber smell of the shellac and thinking about how this shit used to be bugs. I’ve imbued my bicycle with the tortured souls of countless dead insects. And now that I’ve been riding it for a few weeks I can say that I do enjoy the feeling of that double wrapped cotton tape and all those melted and then rehardened beetles. It’s like the Soylent Green of the bicycle world.

I finished Lily’s bike sometime ago, and she finally came by to pick it up this past weekend. In the end I really like how it turned out, and I think all of the gold accents work perfectly. Spray painting and then shellacking the handlebars worked in some ways and not so much in others, but in the end I feel like it came out ahead. The dirty gold matches the decals on the bike better than I imagined. I rode this bike around town all day running errands and it was incredibly fun and very fast. Glad to see it going to a good home. After all, Lily is in many ways Italian, and I know how big cycling is over there. Hopefully it will make her feel like she’s back home.