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...

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