Friday, September 28, 2007

Had a date with Mary, Martha, Sarah, and Susan...

I had a date a few days ago with Mary, Martha, Sarah, and Susan. The Klein quadruplets. They were a little cold from being ignored for about 15 years, but once they got handled a little, they warmed right up.

When Gary Klein began producing his bikes with pressed in bottom bracket bearings and axle nigh onto over 20 years ago, he also created a set of tools to install and remove the bearings and axle. The individual tools were named Mary, Martha, Sarah, and Susan. The instructions must have been pretty fun to write with it's suggestive innuendo.

"Put the stepped washer in the end of Mary and screw in the crank bolt until sung." "With the nut, thrust bearing and Martha on the main screw, place the bearing against Martha and screw the main screw into the left end of the BB spindle." A little sweat is forming on my brow so I'll have to put the instructions down for the moment.

Anyway, I always enjoy working on bikes that require additional thought to fixing them. Such was the case with the Fisher that rolled in requiring new bearings. Usually, it's pretty easy to punch out the bearings in this type of bottom bracket with it's snap rings and internal collars to keep the bearings in place, but this one was rusted and corroded so out came the quadruplets.

New bearings and this 20 year old ride is ready for its next 20 years.

The quaduplets -

New bearings nestled within the confines of the bottom bracket shell.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My new commuter...

This bike is a hoot to ride to work. It's truly an Amsterdam bike. I've got a 14 year old Jandd Commuter pannier that carries my lunch, laptop, and other assorted requirements for a day on the job. The coaster brake and twist shifter let me also carry my cup of coffee during my 2 minute commute.

I also saw this link to photos of bikes in Amsterdam today. There's some cool shots of everyday people just out riding their bikes in all manner of dress. The photographer took 83 photos of people on bikes in a 72 minute period. Doubt those numbers could be achieved in the states on any given day in an urban setting.

The Old Dutch is a big bike. With one exception ;-), I'm pretty sure this reflects on the stature of all Dutch folks.

Complete with integrated lock.

Stainless steel 28" rims.

Neat knurled pattern on the rim sidewall, reflective stripe on the tire, and Woods valve (good thing the Old Dutch is complete with a pump).

Fully enclosed chain.

How is that chain cover kept closed anyway? A nifty little alternating hook set-up with a steel rod that runs through the hooks, that's how.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Old Dutch...

You might remember Dutch from the TV program Soap, years ago. Well, meet Old Dutch, a genuine Dutch city bike. It's big and it's a blast to ride to work.

It's interesting, for years, I worked to ensure that bikes arrive at dealers with no damage. We packed the bikes with cardboard, foam, styrofoam, but still they'd shop up at a dealer beat to crap. These Old Dutch bikes arrived in big ole cartons with narry a cardboard protective sleeve wrapped around the tubes and certainly no foam tube insulators. But out of the carton they came perfect as the day they went into the carton. I like this because it means that that 1/2 hour it seems to take to peel off the layers of protection is eliminated. What I didn't expect was the hour it took me to swap out the tube in the rear tire. Well, 1/2 hour on the first bike and only 15 minutes on the 2nd.

Being European, these bikes also have retained the old Woods valve that has all but disappeared in the States. The men's bike includes a frame fitted pump so I didn't deem in necessary to replace the tube with a common Schrader valved tube. However, the granny frame doesn't come with a pump. I wondered at this and my wife suggested that it's probably because women would be riding with their man and it would be the man's job to inflate her tires. Possibly.

So, on the granny framed bikes I got, I set about changing the tubes to Schrader valved tubes. To be honest, I don't have much experience working on bikes with fully enclosed drive trains. The chain case needs to be opened up to remove the rear wheel because of the horizontal rear facing dropouts. There's a wire that fits into hooks on both sides of the vinyl cover to keep the cover closed. It runs along the bottom and once removed, you can access the rear steel loop that makes up the frame of the cover. Removing this, I pulled the wheel out, changed the tubes and set about putting it all back together.

All the parts laid out.

Let's just say that putting it all together took a little longer than I expected as I tried to get the cover to close back up. There's a little "U" shaped steel clip that keeps the cover together behind the rear cog. Not easy to fit back in place. With one bike done, the other went much faster as I honed my technique.

A beautiful, matte red, granny framed Old Dutch bathed in such nice natural light (complete with Schrader valves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

First bike sale...

As another friend who owns a bike shop mentioned something to the effect of "a collection of bikes is nice to look at, but you've got to also sell to keep the doors open." Or something like that. Well, the interest in bikes here seems to be in something that is comfortable, requires little maintenance, and is fun to ride. I was a big fan of the Electra Amsterdam when it came out so I ordered some and yesterday sold the first one - a nifty white ladies Classic 3 model.

She wanted this bike to ride the couple of miles to work in town. So excited about picking it up she was, that she walked to work in the morning so she could ride home. It's fun when you get to see folks enjoying riding their new bike.

Boy those Amsterdams take a bit of time to assemble (correctly). Well, not a lot of time in the actual assembly, but a lot of time to remove all the protective cardboard, foam, and zip ties. But that's probably a good thing to ensure they arrive at the shop safely.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's all in the hands...

When Bike Magazine did a feature on the 2006 edition of the North American Handbuilt Bike Show and printed only photographs of the frame builders' hands, a lot of folks didn't think too much of the story. They didn't get it. I thought it was a great story. It's the "hand" built bike show. The hands are the key.

When I started working in a bike shop last December after a 13 year hiatus, one of the first things I noticed was that my hands were lily soft. After a few weeks, though, they got tougher. It's a good feeling knowing that your hands are "tough."

Tough hands can get that last few inches of a stubborn road clincher on to your rim. Heck, they can even pry one off sans levers. Tough hands can turn wrenches all day without fatiguing. My friend Brian used to say that your hands were too soft if you dropped wrenches. My hands feel pretty tough right now, but I did drop a Y-wrench today. Guess I'm not a tough as I think.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good tools...

Good tools are a real pleasure to work with. Makes looking forward to using them kind of like watching cookies bake. You can't wait until the next batch is ready. Although, that's not really a problem at my house. I typically polish off the cookie dough before it makes it to the oven.

I was given a set of external bottom bracket installation tools a while ago at Interbike by the tool's designer, a friend of my friend Brian who owns Off-The-Chain bike shop in Hollister, CA. Upon returning home, I put them in my tool box, forgot about them, and continued to use the sharp edged tool that Shimano supplies with their cranks. The Shimano tool does the job, but dang, the edges are sharp. Park's tool is moderately better with its trademark blue plastic dipped handle. FSA makes also makes a tool that is slightly offset so that it clears chainstays better than the straight Park and Shimano - also makes it so you are less prone to busting knuckles when removing the cups. Park should take a cue from FSA and make theirs offset.

But why, when the beautifully CNC and anodized gold Enduro tool is available. It's machined to fit on a 1/2" ratchet wrench. It has stainless pins pressed into it that perfectly (and 100%) engage the bottom bracket.Bottom bracket installation and removal has never been such a pleasureable job. This isn't, however, a good tool. It's a great tool.

Friday, September 14, 2007

When commuting by bike doesn't keep you fit...

I'm never going to get or maintain a level of fitness with my daily commute.
Total distance: 0.38 miles
Total time: 4:28 (including stop at Toby's for coffee)
Cost for the Americano (providing my own mug): $2.00
Leaving the car in the driveway: Priceless

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Light me up...

Getting closer to that time of year when lights are needed, I decided to investigate the small, powerful LED lights on my own. I like the Planet Bike stuff. It helps that they are also very advocacy driven. And even better, their lights that require batteries come with batteries! I purchased four lights of various retail price levels. All the lights had an ON and a FLASHING mode except the Super Spot which was just a single mode ON.

I sat out in front of our house on a dark night (every night is dark on our street since there are no street lamps), and shone the lights on our fence gate with our car just behind the gate to see if the light would illuminate the car through the slats. Each picture was taken with the same aperature setting and each photo exposure at 1 second.

Beamer 3 - $21.50
A neat little light with 3 LEDs and a refractor that focuses the beam.

Beamer 3

Next up was the Beamer 5, a lot like the Beamer 3, but with an additional 2 LEDs and a price of $29.50. It seemed only slightly more intense than the Beamer 3 - maybe the light was a little "whiter" than the 3. If I had to choose between the Beamer 3 and 5 for my personal light, I'd choose the Beamer 3 and spend the savings on an appetizer next time the family ate out.

Beamer 5 (a little jiggly)

Blaze - $34.50
According to the Wilson Bicycle Sales inside guy where I bought the lights, the Blaze is a "good seller." The Blaze is a nifty little light. It comes with not only a handlebar mount, but also a helmet mount - nice bonus. The Blaze is a single LED with what looks like a magnifying glass for a lens. I, foolishly, was looking into the lens' depths when I powered it up. Big mistake. After the blindness wore off, I tested it against the gate. As you can see, it's nice and bright and lit up the car through the gate. It would also make a really cool compact flashlight that you could keep in the car for emergencies.


Finally, the most spendy of the four, the Super Spot at $39.50 has a refractor much like an old time car's (you know the ones that you replace the entire lamp instead of that little halogen unit you can't touch with your hands). It lit up not only the car behind the gate, but a huge area to the sides and down low. Pretty impressive for a single LED light. It lives up to its super name.

Super Spot

So, what's this all mean. Heck if I know. Each one was pretty darn nice in its own right. But, the Beamer 5 doesn't seem to have enough going for it over the Beamer 3, so it's out. I like the Beamer 3 because of its just over twenty bucks price. The Blaze is sweet because it's very bright, small, can fit on handlebar or helmet, and would make a nice emergency flashlight. Then there's the Super Spot with its super wide light dispersion and bright main spot. I'll be carrying these three lights and let sales dictate if I keep all three or drop one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You'll never see this in carbon fiber...

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of carbon fiber. Sure I've got carbon forks on my high-fallutin' road bike and cross bike. And okay, so my road bike has carbon seat and chain stays - but the main frame is sweet steel. I placed my first bike orders this week and realized, every one of them is steel. And is most cases, not even cro-mo steel, just plain jane steel frames.

I've become a big fan of bikes that can get you to work, store, school. I've also become a huge fan of living where you work. My daily commute is a short 8 minute walk or 2 minute ride (6 minutes if I stop off at Toby's for a great tasting Americano - in my own mug to save $0.25). It is an incredible experience to live where I work. I think more Americans should really try to do this. I can't imagine having to commute hours a day because I lived 40 miles from where I worked.

In the States, all the bikes seem to serve a specific purpose and they really all that attractive to use outside of its intended purpose. The one exception is the cyclocross bike - especially if it has a commuter/touring tilt to it. The worst bikes of all are the hybrids with their really crappy suspension forks and seat posts. However, I do see this all turning around a bit. There are a lot more bikes coming down the pike that seem to be addressing a big segment of wanna be bike buyers. Those who go into a bike shop and don't recognize anything in there as a bike. There is a growing segment who want to buy a nice sturdy bike that has a kickstand, no extra moving suspension parts, and a simple colorway. The non-statement statement, so to speak.

With this information in hand, I ordered me some old world bikes. I'm bringing in a few Electra Amsterdams and some Batavus Old Dutch bikes. I remember being at Eurobike a year ago and talking to one of the owners of Electra, Benno, and commenting about how I wished the venerable Raleigh 3-speed would make a comeback. You know, those bikes of your mom or grandpa that you loved to ride when you were a kid. You wouldn't actually want to own one at the time, but now that you are older, you really wish you had an old reliable bike. All it needed when you went to visit grandpa was a puff of air in the tires and off you went.

At the time I mentioned this to Benno, the Amsterdam hadn't been released, but he made some comment to me like wait and see what we will have at Interbike. Well, that's when the Amsterdam was released to the world and I loved it - 700c wheels and all. Good job, Benno.

Seattle Bike Supply, after being purchased by the European Accell Group is bringing in Batavus bikes. The model that caught my eye is appropriately named Old Dutch. Available in men's frame and, get this, a granny frame. How cool is that! Complete with light, pump, and lock! Nothing more needed. No costume required for your riding pleasure.

Cool granny frame.

What purpose do these bikes serve? Why you just ride them. And no, you won't find these in carbon fiber.

Turn the comments off...

I didn't know whether to turn on the comment feature or leave it off when I started this here blog. I think I'll now turn the feature off. My initial inkling was to leave it off because it seems like blogs have become more than their intended purpose of a "web log" - a place to record events, thoughts, happenings. It seems like more and more blogs have become a forum of sorts. There are various forums one can join to yack endlessly about inane topics (like vintage mountain bikes...).

While I appreciate those friends and family who have posted comments of encouragement and congratulations, I'm not looking for any kind of web based public ego stroking. I just have a fun time writing and taking pictures (photos if you know what you are doing). My e-mail address is listed, so drop me a line if you gots something to say or better yet pick up the phone and call me. I gotta go for a ride now :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Can you tune my derailleur...

This cool old mountain bike came in yesterday. The owner was complaining that the derailleur was "skipping." Based on the age and condition, my first thought was "stiff link." So I spin the cranks backwards. No stiff link. Throwing it in the stand, I take a closer look. Uh, you need a new freewheel and chain. I don't think I've seen a freewheel worn this bad. The smaller cogs almost had no teeth left! And his chain...well, twenty-four links of the chain measured out at 12 3/16". A new chain is 12" on the dot.

In addition, he's got a 6 speed freewheel and the old shifter just doesn't have enough range to get the old derailleur across 6 gears. I tell him that I can put a new 5 speed freewheel and chain on his bike and it'll cost about fifty bucks. It's then that I see his front brake pads. They are almost diving down into the spokes. Only a small section of the pad is actually in contact with the rim and the old Mathauser pads are worn at a 45 degree angle.

He doesn't have the cash to get the new freewheel and chain today, but he does have money for new brake pads. He leaves his bike for a bit while I replace his pads. He's got those old Dia-Compe canti brakes that have no vertical pad adjustment.

Those brakes sucked back in the '80s and they still suck today. If the brake boss was brazed on in a less than 100% perfect position, it is impossible to get the brake pad adjusted to hit the rim square. That's why his old pads were worn like they were. Sure enough, it's impossible to get the new brake pads to hit the rim square. Combined with the fact that the ancient RM20 rim sidewall is worn into a cup shape and the RM20 rim has a lip at the bead, the new brake pads contact the rim at the upper corner of the pad and right on the lip of the rim making them stick to the rim when the brake lever is released. I take a file to the edge of the brake pad and get the pads to hit the rim in a satisfactory position and go to hook up the straddle cable. (Insert expletive here).

Besides the fact that the bike is a very early mountain bike - an Araya which I didn't know made bikes, but know them as a Japanese rim maker, he's got exactly two strands of of the straddle cable in tact. The rest are frayed beyond repair.

When he comes back, I point this out to him and say that I don't have any double ended straddle cables. "Well, can you tape it? You know, wrap some electrical tape around the cable so I can still ride it?" Sorry, no, that won't work. I have those straddle cables on order, but they won't be here until next week.

Wait, he says. I have another bike. Maybe you can take the brakes off that one and put them on this one. He comes back 10 minutes later with a bike that has side-pull caliper brakes. "Sorry, that has the wrong type of brake," I tell him.

A little more hemming and a lot more hawing, he says he has, yet, another bike. Off he goes to get this one. He comes back with a folding Breezer bike with v-brakes. "Can you take these brakes off and put them on the mountain bike?" Knowing that the Araya's brake levers weren't made with v-brakes in mind, I say yes, I can make the bike function with the Breezer's brakes. So, I take the brakes off the Breezer and put them on the Araya. The old Magura levers were mushy feeling, but it all works. There's a little rubbing of the brake pads against the rim because of the lever/brake cable pull, but it's working.

Then he says, that what I just did was not what he had in mind. He wanted me to keep the canti brakes on the Araya and use parts from the Breezer to make them work. Sorry, there's no compatible parts on the Breezer...and he finally understands.

So, now we've got an old mountain bike that is for all intents and purposes, functioning - except for those two worn out freewheel cogs which he says he can live with until next week when he gets some money to replace them.

After almost 2 hours, we get to what he owes me for the work I did to his bike. Well, it doesn't matter what it should cost because all he has is a $10...but he'll gladly pay me Tuesday...reminds me of Limpy in the old Popeye shows "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." It's getting close to 6 by this time and I really want a beer. He leaves saying he'll be back on Wednesday with $50 for a new freewheel and chain....we'll see.

Just in case you didn't know what kind of bike the Araya is, it is boldly displayed for you.

And, the tubing is "Motocross" tubing. This thing will never break (maybe I should have worded that "brake").

One cool thing that remained on this bike is the bike shop from where it was originally purchased. Cove Bike Shop in Tiburon. One of the early mountain bike shops in Marin and one that was run by the Koski brothers of the Koski fork and Trailmaster frame fame.

I think maybe if he comes back, I'll trade him the labor to swap out the freewheel and chain for his brake levers and install a set of new Tektro canti levers. I've got an old bike that could use those old Magura motorcycle levers...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

It's just a flesh wound...

There are certain things in this world that have a universal appeal. Monty Python is one of them. I firmly believe that almost everything can be related in one way or another to something Monty Python did.*

Recently, an older British couple who were touring the great Northern California coast came by the shop (actually, my wife brought them over because they needed a little help finding lodging for the night). In the course of helping them, the wife mentioned that the husband twisted his ankle earlier in the day and that it was possibly broken. The husband was walking around with nary a limp, but said it did hurt.

When they were talking about the possible broken ankle, I couldn't help flash to a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I think I started laughing to myself and if I had been drinking a soda, a dribble probably would have emanated from my nasal passages. I made the comment that "it's just a flesh wound." They immediately "got it" and she replied, "well, we are British."

I hope they're okay.

* In addition to being able to relate almost anything to Monty Python, other relatable things are So I Married an Axe Murderer (We've got a piper down!) and the comedian Brian Regan (Take Luck!).

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I wonder if the glue is still good...

A pile of old tubes that have made their way into tires I've ridden were bugging me. With a little time on my hands, I checked to verify their air holding ability. Ones that had big cuts or snake bites got tossed. Tubes that had a small hole were patched. It's been a long time since I patched a tube. Actually, it had been a long time since I had a flat - on a ride. Within the past two days, though, I did get two flats while the bikes were just sitting on the floor - not even JRA.

Out comes my patch kit from storage. I notice that the price tag on it is from when I worked at Pacific Coast Cycles and I recognize the year that the price tag was applied as 1991 - 16 years ago! What is even more interesting to me is the country of origin. The older patch kit was made in "W-Germany." The new patch kit was made in "Germany." The old patch kit was made at a time when Germany was divided into the communist East Germany - home of broad shouldered female swimmers and Katarina Witt, the sizzling ice skating phenom, and allied West Germany - home of Porsche and Volkswagen.

Countries may change in name and politics, but the need to patch tubes doesn't. And, no, the glue wasn't good after 16 years. It somehow evaporated out of a virgin tube.

A couple other things that simply don't change: Rema Tip-Top is still the best patch kit and the price gun I bought for my shop is the exact same make and model that I used over 15 years ago.

The more things change, the more they don't.