Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Working on my commuter bicycle; rain

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

The shifters on my old GT Timberline mountain bike, which has become my primary commuter, weren’t working too well. Often I’d push on the levers and they would depress without changing gears. Not really surprising, since I’ve had this bike for 14-15 years, and these were the original shifters. In my attempts to fix them, I broke the left shifter completely.

This is typical for me; while I’m generally fairly technically and mechanically-inclined, for some reason I usually do more harm than good when I try to work on my bicycles. This has resulted in me treating my bicycles like black box systems, even though I feel that understanding how most parts of them work should be well within my grasp. I did figure out that I could put a piece of plastic between the front derailleur and my frame to keep it in the middle chainring even though the shifter wasn’t connected. This got me to and from work and the bike shop on Monday.


This picture is from back in February, but it’s the best I have of the shifters.

Since my bicycle is so old, it only has 7 speeds in the back, meaning it’s outdated. Fortunately my LBS had a set of replacement shifters in stock, and I had a gift certificate to use there (thanks, mom). However, the ones they had did not include brake levers, whereas my old ones are brake levers and shifters in one unit. The guy at the bike shop suggested I use a hack saw to remove the old shifters to make room for the new ones.

I felt this project was getting a little more complicated than I wanted, but decided to go through with it anyway. I bought a hacksaw (mine must’ve gotten lost or discarded in one of my many moves) and went to work. I cut out the old left shifter without too much trouble. After doing so I realized I needed to remove the brake lever to install my new shifters, which required me to remove the grip. It disintegrated in my hand, so I cut the rest of it off. I’ll need to wrap these bars with some tape eventually.

I installed the new shifter, reinstalled the brake lever, and routed the new cable to my front derailleur. I made adjustments to it the best I could, tested everything, and it seemed to work! I made a few more adjustments to the barrel adjuster, but I couldn’t believe that I got it to work on the first try. I tested it a little bit by riding around but because it was getting late, I didn’t go very far. I left the right shifter intact, as it works somewhat at least; that’s a project for another day.

It rained all day yesterday, although I worked from home, so I didn’t get to test my new shifter any further. This morning it was still raining, but I rode to work anyway. Shifting on the front derailleur felt a lot more solid than it has in a long time. In fact, I couldn’t even get in the big chainring sometimes before, and now it shifts with confidence. I don’t often need to change chainrings during my flat commute, but it’s nice to be able to. I’m looking forward to installing the right shifter and seeing how much that improves things.

The rain didn’t bother me too much this morning. I dressed appropriately and my legs got a little wet, but that was about it. I might install a mudflap on my front fender soon to see how much that helps keep my ankles dry. Since I brought a change of clothes, it wasn’t a big deal that I got a little wet.

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