Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moto Solo

Not that this is really news, or anything, given the last few posts, but this fuzzy iPhone picture is my Motobecane Grand Touring, now rideable in its latest incarnation.  I think of it as a town bike, but I'm not sure what the best categorization is.  It's pretty sporty, despite its upright bars and dated components and appearance -- not at all a sleepy city bike.

This weekend I re-dished the rear wheel by loosening the drive side spokes a turn, and tightening the non-drive side about two and a half turns.  It's just about properly dished, and laterally pretty true, from what I can tell without shop tools, but I don't really know how radially true it is, and I've no idea how even the spoke tension is.  At some point (likely in April), I'll get the bike into Cambridge (maybe even ride it in!) and over to Broadway Bicycle school to tension and true both wheels properly.

I also put a chain on it (an unused old Sachs chain, in brown, that matches the freewheel well), threw a tire and tube on the rear wheel, and bolted the 600/Mavic MA40 wheelset in, complete with its new XT axles, fancy spinning locknuts and chromed nuts with built-in washers.

All that stuff completed the drivetrain, but stopping is as important as going (as many have found out the hard way), and I encountered a small snag trying to adjust the rear brake (now that the wheel was properly dished).  The 600 brakes I bought for the bike have less reach than the old Suntour Superbe brakes I'd been using, despite both being advertised as 47-57mm, and the rear pads don't reach all the way to the rim.  Fortunately I still have the Superbe brakes kicking around, so I put the Suntour back onto the back.  The front brake is staying Shimano -- the reach is fine, and I suspect it will work better than the too-flexy Suntour caliper.  I also swapped the brake pads at both ends, having neglected to do so previously, and not wanting to find the limits of the ancient Shimano pads the 600 brakeset came with.

I took it outside yesterday for a few minutes, just as the first snowflakes were falling from the latest winter storm in Massachusetts (still going, as I write this, maybe 30 hours later).  Today I put 10 miles on this bike on my rollers, just to check everything out and settle everything in. A few tweaks post-ride were needed, but they were just tweaks, and were done about a half hour after my ride.  All that's left is to cut the kickstand down to size, and Le Mongre is ready to carry me around town, whether for flat-loop workouts or errands.

I'm excited!

All for now,


Monday, February 18, 2013

Wheel Progress

Well, wheel building class is over, and I managed to get three of four wheels finished.  The fourth (Juli's rear wheel -- 600 freewheel hub and Ambrosio Formula 20 rim) was built, and true, but when I sat down to dish it, I discovered that it was nowhere near centered.  Turns out I used the short spokes on the non-drive side.  Oops!  So now it's a pile of spokes and nipples and a rim and a hub, again.  I'll re-lace it this week and finish it up next Sunday at Broadway Bicycle School.

I've been making other wheel progress as well.  My Motobecane hubs have been fitted with bolt-on axles, and the rear was re-centered for a single speed freewheel at the same time.  I'll need to re-dish the rear wheel next weekend as well, and I'll take the opportunity to touch up the front wheel, too -- tension, true and tension balance it.  The other half of the parts swap that landed the Motobecane with nutted axles, the NOS XT hubs I bought are now set up with QR skewers, and the rear has an 8-speed Hyperglide freehub body on it, to boot.  The drive side profile of the freehub is a little different than other hubs I've seen, so the 8-speed cassette was rubbing against the hub itself, and I had to build up a freehub washer, spacer to make that work.  A nuisance, but not hard.

Looking beyond its wheels, the Motobecane is nearly ready to go.  The brake cables have been installed, I've gone through the headset, mounted a headlight and bell, swapped out the 39-tooth chainring for a 42, and installed a water bottle cage mount and cage.  I'm currently working on a new bag setup for the bike.  More on that later, but I'm pleased with how the project is coming together overall.  I'll post a pic when the bags are done, and the wheels installed, in a week or two.

With half of Juliana's tubular wheels complete, there is a Vittoria Rally tubular tire dry-mounted to her built front wheel.  It stretched onto the rim pretty easily, and I need to play with centering and the like.  I also need to dig up some Mastik to mount the tires for real.

The city wheels I built for my friend Allyson are nearly complete and sitting at her apartment.  They need rim strips, but just to be fitted with tubes and tires and a cassette and mounted, otherwise.  At some point I need to get over there to move her tires over to those wheels, and get them onto her bike and everything adjusted to suit.

It feels like I've been wrist deep in grease for days, now, with all this activity.  I reek of grease as I sit here, writing this, in fact.  Good progress this weekend, though, on projects both short-term and long.

All for now,


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Motobecane Grand Touring City Bike

My Motobecane Grand Touring has been an ongoing project since it first fell into my hands about four years ago, during what can really only be described as a transformative time in my life.  It came to me as a frameset and a pile of parts I initially rebuilt into a decent-looking classic 12-speed road bike.  But the fair aesthetics fell by the wayside when I was forced to replace the Motobecane fork.  All I could find at the time is the pictured blue fork I was told is made of 531 tubing, and was originally from an-old Crescent (a Swedish brand) bike with 27" wheels.  Mixing frames and forks can be a risky proposition, but in this case there were no ill effects, and the bike works as well with its new fork as it did with the original.  It may even ride better, with its slender little legs, than it did with the original Motobecane fork.  But it's been ugly since -- really, really ugly.  Not just because of the mismatched color, but also because of the loss of chrome lower legs and a nice low-radius bend in favor of a relative dog-leg bend.

Le Mongre (non-French for mongrel), as I've often called it, has been built as a classic 12-speed, a sporty, fendered rain bike, and then later as a comparatively stripped-down "fast" bike.  In that last configuration, it served as my primary bike for two seasons, and it was even was my ride for the 2011 PMC.  It's not a pretty bike, and nor is it a terribly nice bike (the lugs and brazing work are crap, and on the PMC, its lower frame even filled with water, thanks to a kind-of-stupid chainstay bridge design), but it's a delight to ride, really -- stable, reasonably fast, and comfortable.  It has served not only as an enjoyable ride, but also as a great illustration for me that a bike can be humble, but still serve up goodness.  Even so, in the interest of simplification, I decommissioned it last year.

After hanging on a wall for for much of the past year, I've begun the process of rebuilding Le Mongre as a single-speed city bike.  It's still a work in progress, as can be seen from the photo above -- even more than your eyes would lead you to conclude, really.  But none of what's left to do is hard, and I have most of what I need to finish it on-hand.

To make it a single-speed, I have two candidate wheelsets in mind.  The first is a set of racing wheels I've had for a long time.  The hubs are 32-hole 105 (1050) hubs that came originally on my Shogun Katana -- the first bike I bought for myself, as an adult.  Along the way, I've refit these with a 7-speed Hyperglide freehub body, and had them relaced to Velocity AeroHead II's, in black.  I have a single-speed kit intended for Shimano cassette hubs, if I go with these.  They're a light, fast and sporty wheelset -- the same wheels that carried me on the PMC, and I certainly didn't feel disadvantaged by the bike.

The second is a set of old-school road bike wheels, which are installed in this picture.  These are Shimano 600 (6200) hubs with Mavic MA40 rims, with 36-spokes.  They are probably a better choice for city duty than the others, because of the increased spoke count.  But the thing is, they're perfectly matched to Juliana's Pinarello, and they're sort of my fall-back for that bike, if the tubular wheelset doesn't work out for her.  For me to use it, I'd have to re-lace the rear to space it properly for a single-speed freewheel, which would render the rear wheel useless as far as Juli is concerned, and these would make a nice training/rain wheel for her, if the tubulars work out just fine.  So I think it's likely I'll end up with the more modern wheelset on the Motobecane, even if it's not really the obvious choice.  But who knows - I change my mind every five minutes on stuff like this.

Either way, I'm going to rebuild the hubs around solid/nutted axles for anti-theft reasons.  The bike is going to stay in Cambridge at a friend's place, where it will see weekend duty around town.  So keeping it hard to steal or steal from is part of the plan.  I just picked up a set of lovely, lovely NOS Deore XT hubs with a Uniglide freehub body and nutted axles the other day, and these will donate their axles and nuts to the Motobecane.  The Uniglide freehub body will make its way onto eBay, and an 8-speed Hyperglide freehub body will take its place, along with a 140mm hollow axle and some QR skewers.  And those XT hubs will eventually be laced into FiR tubular rims as a set of road wheels.

But we're talking about the Motobecane, here, so let's not go there just yet!

The bottom bracket will be a Shimano UN72 cartridge bearing unit, located by the same Phil Wood Swiss threaded stainless rings I've had in that bike sinc I bought it.  The crankset will be the same Shimano 105SC (1055) cranks that graced the Motobecane for its time as my primary ride, too, but fitted with a 42-tooth chainring.  The pedals will be the same MKS pedals that came with the Motobecane originally, and which I used mostly on my Schwinn Sports Tourer.  I've rebuilt them several times, and one of them keeps getting prematurely crunchy and stiff, so it may be time to relegate these to the trash heap.  Not yet.

The bars are cheap Wald  bars in the North Road style, and if they work for me, I may replace them with a chromoly Nitto bar at some point.  I don't have much experience with upright bars, and my intent is to use these Wald bars (and maybe others) to find a style that generally feels right.  Then if and when it makes sense to upgrade, I can do that later, without burning much cash experimenting.  The stem is a 120mm Salsa I put on the Kestrel years ago.  It's a TIG welded chromoly part, and not a cheapie by any means, but it doesn't look like anything fancy, and I'm not going to put it on anything else I have any time soon, so there it goes.  Mounted on the bars are a set of Dia-Compe MTB brake levers, which have big, old-school 4-finger levers and should be just dandy for city use.

The brakes are new to me.  I have previously run the Motobecane with the Suntour Superbe brakes that came with it.  But those are kind of flexy, and frankly they scared the crap out of me a couple of times on group rides.  So I found a set of Shimano 600 (6208) side-pulls to swap on in their place.  These aren't quite as pretty as the Suntours, but they have the same reach, and a very similar single-pivot, Campy-copycat design.

To their credit, just before moving their side-pull brakes to dual-pivot designs, Shimano pushed the Campagnolo side-pull design forward quite a bit, by beefing up the profile of the caliper arms, making them significantly more rigid, fore-aft.  So when the pads drag on the rim, the arms don't deflect as much, and stopping power improves.  Unfortunately, these aren't the even-later SLA light-action model (like the Exage Sport brakes on Juli's Pinarello), and they're a little stiff.  But they will work just fine, based on previous experience.

I'm not sure where I'm going to land with respect to a saddle, yet.  For the time being, I'm using my favorite saddle, an old Brooks Professional I rejuvenated with Neatsfoot oil around the same time I started the Motobecane's rebuild.  It's really comfortable, and I may ultimately decide to put it on the Colnago and get myself something wider for this bike, because the San Marco Regals I've long preferred on my fast bikes are feeling harsher on my aging tuckus with every passing year.  Like the Motobeane, the Brooks is no longer pretty (the Neatsfoot soaking softened it and is responsible for the feel, but unfortunately replaced the gorgeous wood-like shine with a dull patina), but it feels great for fast riding -- far better than a modern Brooks Team Professional.  The current model feels like sitting on a PVC pipe, by comparison.  The seatpost is a cheap Kalloy, and is new.

Bolted to the rear is an Avenir clone of the classic Pletscher rat-trap rack.  These can be noisy in the rattly sense, but the spring arm is handy for securing a jacket or sweatshirt, or some other random find from a trip about town.  I had to use P clamps on the seat stays to hold this on, since the frameset has no rack or fender eyelets at the rear.

The bike will be easy to finish up, and unfortunately it's going to be as ugly as ever when I'm done.  But the goal (for now) isn't to make it pretty, and in fact some ugliness may help in the anti-theft department.  No, for now I just want to extend the service of a bike that means a lot to me - because of what it taught me, how well it served me, and when it showed up in my life.  All good stuff, and I'm looking forward to this next chapter.

All for now,