Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bikes, bikes and more bikes

I worked on no less than 4 bikes this weekend. Almost have the grease out of my fingerprints.

Juliana's Fuji:
Juli, Ava and I went to the cul-de-sac around the corner from the house a week ago. Mission 1: To get Ava used to running without training wheels. Mission 2: Get Juli onto the Fuji.

Neither worked out so well.

In fairness, Ava was nursing her left foot a bit. She had a big splinter surgically removed less than a week before. And though she was walking on it just fine, I think her confidence was a little undermined by her hurt foot. The foot is pretty much healed, so we'll try again in a few weeks. Her puppydog Hotrock had a shakedown ride in the hands of her big sister (I made a few adjustments as a result), and is ready and waiting.

Then there's Juli, who (despite hours of growth coaching this winter) is still just a little too short for her Fuji. The standover height is about right for an experienced rider, but it scares her a bit. And the reach to the brake hoods is way too far. Or was, anyway.

Last week, I ordered a Velo-Orange Belleville city bar, and this weekend, I removed the tiny little drop bars from the Fuji and migrated the bar end shifters and brake levers over to these new bars. Everything fit OK, and the aero brake levers fit just fine at the front of the bars, just inboard of the bends, sort of like a moustache bar, but without all the extra bends. She won't have a ton of hand positions, but for a season or two, it'll be fine. Next, I'm going to shorten the bars a bit to give her better clearance for her knees, and then I'll wrap the bars in cloth tape, then twine and shellac them. Not just to be pretentious, mind you. That I'll reserve for the Motobecane. No, I'm doing the shellac/cloth tape/twine thing on Juli's bike because she has little girl hands, and little girl hands don't need big fat grips that don't let them get a good purchase on the bars.

Am hoping to get all that done on Friday morning before heading to the Auto Show in NYC for the weekend with the girls. By Sunday, it should be ready for the second coat of shellac.

I managed to find a fork! Craig's list yielded a 531 fork from an old Crescent (that's an old Swedish brand) 10-speed. It's Crescent orange underneath, resprayed in what looks like the same blue my 1977 Ford Granada from High School was. The steerer is just long enough for the Motobecane, and I test-fit it this weekend with success, but without spacers. I didn't use the headset I'd ultimately like to use, though, so I may yet run into some issues.

I'm currently using the headset the fork came with, which is unlike anything I've seen before. It's to the British specs. Steel. With a knurled top not, and this crazy round "locknut" that has no faces to accept a wrench. Instead it has three holes spaced evenly around the outsides of the nut, and it looks like it is supposed to use a tool with three pins coming at it radially. Never seen anything like that, but it wouldn't be hard to make a tool using an iron pipe and some screws. In any case, it's a neat headset, but its races aren't very smooth, so I will probably put it in a box when the time comes. I have a Tange Passage in aluminum waiting.

Assuming the fork doesn't make the bike handle crazily, I'll probably just leave it alone for the season, and then blast it and get it painted or chromed over next winter. I may also get some eyelets for a V-O randonneuring front rack (or a comparable Nitto rack) brazed on in the process, but that's not strictly necessary, so we'll see.

Next up, I installed the two water bottle cages from the Schwinn on this bike using stainless cage straps. The old-style Specialized cages have the kinds of tabs needed, so off they came. I'd bought new ones for the Schwinn in anticipation of this shift, so no foul there.

Also on the Moto, I took the 27" wheelset off and reassigned it to the Schwinn. And I have a 700C wheelset and a 6- or 7-speed freewheel coming to this bike soon (I'm hoping the brakes have sufficient reach -- if they don't I'll find a set of 27" rims and get them re-laced). And I have a 36 tooth chainring to replace the 42 to widen the gearing. Between the wider cluster that's coming with the new wheelset and the wider chainring spacing (36/52), I may need to replace the derailleurs with long-cage models. At least the rear, to take up the excess chain slack.

Next up for la bicyclette Francaise are new bars, stem, hoods and tape. I'm going to use red cloth Tressostar tape, hemp twine and cork plugs. There's a distinct element of pretense in that combination, but I mostly just want to try it out to see how it feels and looks. I think it'll look nice (well... once the blue fork isn't blue anymore, that is), and I'm hoping it'll feel fine, too. I've been riding with cork/padded tape so long that it may be quite a shock to the hands.

I took the Schwinn down from the rafters and test-fit the 27" wheelset. Perfect! Even eliminates the need for pricey Mafac RAID rear brakes. But I had to take off the fenders, which are too small for the 27" rims and the plumpish tires on them. I also put on some new water bottle cages, as I've already said.

Next time, I'll be putting different bars and tape on this bike, and moving the Nitto bars over to the Motobecane. I'll also be reinstalling the decaleur mount, since I know it's not what was causing the bars to creak (that'd be their sleeved design, of course). I'm going with green leather Brooks tape on this bike, and will add a strip of foam tape underneath, under my palms for a bit of cusion.

I also have to change out the freewheel. The 5 speed New Winner cluster that came with the Motobecane is way too compact for touring (13, 15, 16, 18, 21), and I need to figure out what to put on there. I added spacers to both sides of the axle and tried a 6-speed, and it fits fine, but I'm not certain a 7 will. That'll be easy to figure out though -- I'll just test it with the one on my wife's Bianchi. If a 7 fits, I'll buy a wide-range IRD online. If only a 6 fits, I've got one of those from another wheelset I have, and I'll buy a narrower-range IRD 7 online, and put the 7 on that wheelset.

I haven't really written in depth about this project, but a friend of mine has a Bertoni racing bike that we've been rebuilding on and off since last Fall. We finished installing the cables this weekend, and it's ready for bar tape. It also got a 7-speed wheelset this weekend -- the 32-spoke wheels from the Schwinn that we swapped to match the 7-speed indexed shifters now on the Bertoni (the 6-speed indexed shifters were broken). Those are beefy wheels, and might do with a little softening up of the spokes. The 6-speed wheelset the bike came with will go on the Motobecane.

A quick spin around the parking lot showed this to be a fun and nimble bike. I'll write more about it another time.

So -- a busy weekend with the wrenches. And still a bunch to do, since two of my bikes are as a result not fully assembled. But at least two are ready to roll into Spring -- the Kestrel is my fave anyway, and the Paramount needs to get back into the woods soon. But Ava is all set, both for solo seat time and for trailerr bike time. And Juli still has a mountain bike she can ride while the Fuji waits for the final tweaks. We'll be ready to get out there soon enough...

All for now,


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