Sunday, January 17, 2010

Winter Maintenance -- Part 1

I'm sure that most people who tinker with their bikes would say the same thing, but winter is the season I use to do most of the maintenance on my bikes. That's not to say that I don't work on my bikes in the summertime -- I do. But I try to ride them more than work on them, then.

Now that I have a work stand, this year's onslaught of winter bicycle maintenance projects has begun. And I must say, they're much easier to manage with the stand -- particularly with the upgrades I've made since my last post.

Last Sunday I added the 1x6 running diagonally across the base to stiffen it up, and I also shaved an eighth of an inch or so off of the two blocks' faces to narrow down and shallow out the grooves carved into them. The stand is more steady, with the extra rigidity in the base, and the clamp has an easier time grabbing hold of a seatpost -- it doesn't bottom out anymore.

So far, I've tackled one short list on Juli's Fuji and have just begun a set of planned updates that will start with the Motobecane, but touch on several of my bikes:

Juli's Fuji:

The one thing Juli and I didn't do to this bike when we were rebuilding it was to repack the headset. I made that executive decision both because it seemed to be turning just fine and also because I'd just redone the Schwinn's headset (first attempted without cages, and done without a work stand) and had been emotionally scarred by that effort -- at least as attempted. But it's been nagging at me, as I think I've said before, so this was at the top of the short list for the Fuji. The other biggie was to put a blinky on the back.

The headset came first. It's an old 105 SC headset, just like the one that came on the Kestrel (that one has since been replaced by an Ultegra unit). I pulled it apart on Friday night (yeah, I know -- my social calendar isn't very full these days), and cleaned the grease out of the cages and races. Everything looked good enough for a repack, rather than a replacement. Unfortunately, I didn't have any fresh ball bearings, so I reused the ones already in there. Not ideal, but it'll do for now.

As I'd been schlepping the bike up to the attic I noticed how heavy it was -- heavier than the Motobecane, and I'm not kidding about that. So while I had it up there, I took the Wald baskets off to lighten the bike up a bit. If the occasion calls for them, it's easy enough to reinstall them.

As for the light, I was hesitant to put the new blinky on the back of the Pletscher, because that's where the last one was when I crunched it standing the bike on its rear tire to pull the front wheel out. Instead, I used a stainless P-Clamp sourced from Velo-Orange to clamp the blinky mount to one of the rack's struts, and clipped it on there. It won't work with the baskets back on, but again, that's an easy remedy for the occasion.

While I had the bike in the stand, I greased the chain up (it was pretty dry), and in the process noticed that a bunch of the grease Juli and I packed into the rear hub had squeezed out around the left side dust cap. More importantly, I noticed that the hub feels tight. The rear is either a cheap Shimano hub or an even cheaper knock-off, where the front is a Campagnolo. The front spins silently pretty much forever, but the rear spins down quickly and loudly. So I'm going to have to take it off and check the lube and see what's up with the cone tension. One more job for the pre-spring list. Otherwise, it's ready for Juli's next season.

My Motobecane:

"Le Mongre" is clamped in the stand right now, as you can see, above. If I were to tell you what it needs, the list would be really short. Actually, it needs only a set of tires, because the Continentals on it are old and starting to fray a bit. But I've wanted to do a couple of things to it, both for aesthetic and functional reasons.

The seatpost is a little short (16cm), as I've written before. It hurts my knees to ride from the balls of my feet, even if the saddle is raised marginally past the seat post's Max mark, but riding from the arches is fine. Still, last fall I picked up a new seatpost. It's a 40cm post in 26.0mm, so it should have given me a safe margin of saddle height. Unfortunately, there's a problem.

I noticed two things when I loosened the seatpost binder bolt, slipped out the seatpost and saddle, and slipped in the new one: First, the binder lug seemed to be a little bent, and second, the seatposts both moved pretty freely in and out of the seat tube -- more freely than I expected them to. Looking at the lug, it looks like it was deformed a little from overtightening, and you can see where the lug has bent the seat tube ever so slightly from being overtightened. Combined with the loose fit of the 26.0 seatpost, this suggests the current seatpost is undersized. So I'm going to look for a used Campy or Zeus or similar 26.2 post and see how that fits. Assuming it fits, I'll have a couple of 26.0 seatposts to put on eBay, along with a pile of other parts.

One other thing I'd wanted to do is to relocate the blinky mount. I'd like to put a larger saddlebag on it, so the seatpost mount wasn't ideal (a bigger bag would block it). And the fenders are plastic, not metal, so they're not rigid enough to support a blinky. So yesterday, I hung the blinky off the back of the Rivendell Hupe, again using a P-Clamp from V-O. It feels a little loose, so we'll see how it holds up -- might warrant a wrap or two of surgical tape. And while I'm on a paragraph including the word "fenders", I'm not really happy with how either of them sits on the bike. The rear sort of hunchbacks out, as is obvious in the photo above, and the front has a wierd sort of twist going on. Need to play with them some. For similarly cosmetic reasons, I also want to trim the front brake cable an inch or so to even out the loops coming out of the brake levers. And that leaves only one thing -- the big crank swap of 2010.

What's that? Well, I've been thinking about how I use my bikes. I do that a lot, actually. One of the most fun things about owning and tinkering with bikes for me is adapting them to suit my needs and to take a particular role in my fleet. I even blogged about this as I was building the Motobecane up a year ago, trying to imagine what I'd do with it. I ended up building it up as a sporty bike with wet-road capabilities, and the ability to carry a large saddlebag, and have genuinely enjoyed using it as an alternative to the Kestrel when the riding was wet or called for something less likely to egg me on than that bike.

At the same time, though, I've been enabling the bike for loaded or climbing duty by bolting on smaller chainrings (I've got a 36/48 combo for the 170mm Apex cranks, vs. the 42/52 it came with -- and for the sharp-eyed, that's the 52 on there right now), upping the tooth count on the freewheel cogs, and adding a long-cage derailleur to take up the chain slack with wide gearing. But the thing is, I don't ride it that way -- I just take it out on my loop when the Kestrel isn't the ideal ride. And with a year of riding it under my belt, I think it's pretty safe to say that I won't be. My 1972 Schwinn Sports Tourer is the bike I use for hauling around the trailer bike, or a bike trailer full of camping gear, or a loaded basket or rack -- not the mongrel Motobecane.

The Schwinn has a wide-ranging 6-speed freewheel on the back, but a 39/52 105 SC crankset in 172.5 up front. If any bike in my stable needs a compact crankset to help with climbing, it's this one, not the Moto. So my plan at the moment is to swap cranks between these two bikes. But because the cranks on these bikes are so differently shaped, I have some work to do to figure out the bottom bracket situation. More on this next time.

You'll notice, btw, that I've said nothig about the Columbia. It's still up in the attic awaiting its turn, leaning on the stand behind the Motobecane. I want to get the "real" bikes out of the way first, I suppose, before tackling this one. I think the Columbia will turn out to be a cool and fun ride, but I also expect it will offer a relatively narrow range of usefulness. So there's no rush to get it done.

All for now,


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