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Archive for the 'Working on bikes' Category

Ridus Interruptus

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

I made a few more tweaks to The Beast, including throwing knobby tires on it, to ready it for mountain biking. Saturday, Dave and I met at Brown County State Park to hit the trails.

We rolled out, and I was excited to be back on the trails for only the second time this year, and I felt good, and strong, and the bike felt pretty good, too. I was anxious to see how the bike would do in its new setup. It quickly became obvious that it handles a lot differently from what I’m used to, and that it would take some time to get used to it. It was a warm and extremely humid morning, so much so that my camera lens fogged up and I couldn’t get it to clear up.

The first technical challenge of the day involved a short, but steep, eroded climb with a nasty root at the top. I picked up some speed to help myself clear it. I hit the root pretty hard, and my tire bounced a bit. I didn’t exactly crash, but I sort of fell, and I laid the bike down. When I got back up, I took stock of the situation. I wasn’t hurt at all, except a small bump on the leg. But then I looked in my handlebars, and was shocked at what I saw. These photos are from Dave …  my camera lens was still fogged up.


We were less than a mile into the woods, and my handlebars were severely bent. My ride was over. Actually, it’s probably a good thing that this happened right away, rather than deep in the woods.

Dave snapped this shot of my contemplating my bars … or pouting, perhaps.


Dave walked back to the trailhead with me. As we were walking back, Dave said, “Talk about ridus interruptus!” — thereby naming this post. Dave grabbed his earbuds and headed back out. I drove home. Later, he sent me this shot of a great switchback from the Green Valley trail, to let me know what I was missing. Damn!


So, I was pretty frustrated. I drove home. Once there, I ate some lunch, and then I decided to put the bars from my old mountain bike on The Beast. Within three hours, I was fed, the “new” bars were installed and wrapped, and I was riding once again, this time closer to home.

The Beast was hilarious on paved roads, with knobby tires. It sounded like a helicopter going down the road. I like to imagine that it must be sort of like a mini Pugsley, in that the tires seem oversized relative to the frame.

I explored some nearby parks, covering some familiar ground, and some new trails I found. Sadly my GPS crapped out on me, so I don’t have a map of my exploration. Alas.


Here, you can see my new/old bars. I used these for many years, and they usually work well for me.


I can’t get over the carving in this log — perfect for a singlespeed ride!


T’he Beast looks menacing, from a low angle.





So far, everything had been pretty flat and easy. I found some additional trails off the beaten path and explored. Some parts were wide open, like the photo below, while others were overgrown and not maintained … it was like bushwhacking, on a bike (bikewhacking)?


I practiced some skills like log-hopping, riding over rocks and roots, etc. These trails were tame enough to be ridable, but technical enough to give the bike a good shakedown ride. I learned that climbing on the singlespeed really requires a wide handlebar. The ends of this bar worked perfectly for this, and in fact I could have spent most of the ride holding onto them instead, except that I can’t reach the brake levers from there. I wonder if I could move the levers to the outer portions of the bar, or something.

At one point, I came out of the woods and had a nice view of the gazebo at this park. From the gazebo, you can’t tell the trail is even there.


More bikewhacking …


So, despite the fact that my original plans were foiled, I had a good ride, and these bars are definitely better than the ones I had on there before. I haven’t decided yet if they’re staying or not. My first real offroad ride on the Beast in singlespeed form was illuminating, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it was quite hot, and just as humid, later in the day. I was really cooking. I’m glad I rode anyway.

Once I was sure the Beast was doing well, I contacted Dave and we decided to try again at Brown County on Sunday. More on that soon!


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.

Panaracer Pasela sidewall failure

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

On my way home from work yesterday, I noticed that my front tire seemed to be spinning a little funny. It seemed like it had a lump. A closer look revealed that there was a bulge in the sidewall. I just kept riding and made it home without incident.

The tire is a 700×35 Panaracer Pasela Tourguard.  The tread still has plenty of life left in it, so it’s rather disappointing that I can’t use it anymore. On the other hand, these tires are known to have rather weak sidewalls, so in that sense, I can’t say I’m surprised.

According to my records, I put this tire on the bike in December of 2009, and it has lasted 4361 miles (all as a front tire).  Those miles were on all kinds of terrain: pavement, gravel, trails, debris-strewn urban streets and harsh country roads. These are relatively inexpensive tires, so I feel pretty good about this. I don’t have exact records, but I think I got, at most, one or two flat tires that entire time.

I had an extra tire in the garage, of exactly the same model. I replaced the old one. We’ll see how long this one lasts …

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