Experimental music, photography, and adventures

The Beast, re-imagined

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

It’s been extremely hot, and I haven’t been riding much, but I have been working on a bike project. I’m not very good at working on bikes, so it’s not very often I tackle a big project (or at least this qualifies as “big” to me).

For a while, I was commuting on “The Beast,” a mid-80s Miyata Street Runner which I picked up very inexpensively from someone on Craigslist. Well, eventually the Trucker became my full-time commuter, and The Beast was just lying dormant.

So, I started thinking about ways I could turn it into something more fun or useful to me. I ended up converting it to singlespeed and removing, for now, the fenders and rack. I had some help from Jon, both in terms of parts, and advice. Honestly I am not sure if this would have happened without his help. He put together a singlespeed “kit” for me, including a wheelset, cog and chain, and dropped it off when he visited. When I realized I was going to need a different crank, he shipped me one later. What a guy!

So, here is the Beast, as it stands currently … a couple of notes: I increased the chain tension since I took the photos. Also, in an attempt to channel Jon’s style, I flipped the handlebars upside down. They have an interesting feel, but eventually I am going to need to get different bars. I never cared for these bars anyway.




And here is how it was set up previously:

I intend to use the bike for all different kinds of purposes. The gearing is quite low right now at 32×17, I believe. But I hope to try it out on some singletrack, so this could be a good thing. I also want to use it for rail-trail riding, generally bumming around town, probably some commuting, and some snow riding, come winter. And of course, it makes for a good Apocalypse Bike.

I imagine the fenders and/or rack will go back on, eventually, but for now I’m enjoying riding it in a more stripped-down form.

I’m hoping that this new setup will help me avoid situations like this:

The (re)build process went something like this:

  • Remove old chain
  • Remove wheels
  • Remove grips, shifters, brake levers, derailleurs, brakes, handlebars, and cables
  • Install cog on rear wheel
  • Install new wheels, using spacers to get the rear wheel aligned properly
  • Remove fenders and rack
  • Strip a bunch of parts off my old GT Timberline
  • Check chainline (not good)
  • Pull crank, to see if I can reconfigure chainrings to fix chainline. I couldn’t so Jon sent me a replacement crank
  • Put crank back on
  • Install better brakes and levers from old mountain bike, using old cables for now. Attempt to adjust brakes. This was the most frustrating part of the whole thing. I suck at adjusting canti brakes, especially the older style.
  • Remove old crank
  • Install new crank
  • Set chain length (using Park Blue Book as a guide)
  • Cut chain
  • Install rear wheel and chain.
  • Readjust rear brake.
  • Reinstall grips
  • Do a brief test ride. Chain skipped a bit
  • Retension chain.
I think that’s it. It’s a process that’s way more complicated than it seems like it should be. I learned a hell of a lot doing this, and I even enjoyed it, most of the time. The brakes still aren’t adjusted terribly well. I might have to have a shop take a look at them. They actually work well enough, but they’re pretty squishy and not well-aligned.
I’m thinking of throwing knobby tires on it and going mountain biking. Since my 29er is still out of commission, this  could get me back on the trails sooner rather than later. It’ll be tougher on a rigid singlespeed, but hey, mountain biking isn’t supposed to be easy.

9 Responses to “The Beast, re-imagined”

  1. the flat tire Says:

    Looking good!

  2. John Romeo Alpha Says:

    Looks like it’s turning out great! And what an awesome thing for Jon to do to get you started on it. I’m interested in what you would pack for Apocalypse Bike mode…

  3. Bill Lambert Says:

    That looks like a fun bike. What style of handlebar are you thinking of installing?

    Jon’s been a big help to me with critical parts and advice also.

  4. RANTWICK Says:

    I think it looks cool and should be very versatile. Sounds and looks like you managed without a chain tensioner despite those forward facing dropouts… did you? If so, that is extra super awesome and you certainly will experience less winter crud buildup, as you say. Sweet!

  5. Jon Grinder Says:

    It looks great. Be sure to let us know how you enjoy single-speed mountain biking. I find that, as long as I go in with single-speed expectations, it’s as much fun as “regular” mtb-ing.

    Rantwick: The front-facing dropouts shoudn’t be a problem. The rear wheel is a bolt-on (the wheelset is a 48-spoke bmx cruiser-class set of Perigrines), and I’ve had good luck with that set-up, myself.

  6. Apertome Says:

    Bill: I’m not sure, but I like the sort of swept back bars that Jon tends to use. I want to try something like that.

    Rantwick: Yes, and so far, it works fine. I haven’t ridden it enough yet to know how it’ll hold up, but it looks good.

    Jon: thanks again!

  7. Asher Says:

    Beautiful work so far!

    The ice-clogged RD exemplifies the situation has made me seriously consider picking up a true winter beater for this year and converting to single speed (freewheel, because fixed gear + crappy winter roads = rolling death machine, IMO).

    I think the swept-back bars you mentioned in the comment would look killer.

  8. Chandra Says:

    Bravo, Michael! Congrats on making a new bike out of the “Beast” 🙂

    I am particularly loving the frozen derailleur picture.

    Peace 🙂

  9. Dave Says:

    I think this line from your blog is prophetic: “They have an interesting feel, but eventually I am going to need to get different bars. I never cared for these bars anyway.”

    Can’t wait to see the entry from 7/30 to see if I’m right! 🙂

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