My posts have been very sparse recently. Even less frequent have been posts on non-technical topics. To stay true to the title of my blog I’ve gotta step up my posts on “two-wheeled vehicles”. That or change the name. Changing the name would require digging through WordPress menus and since that’s my least favorite thing to do I ran out and got another bicycle so I could blog about it … and ride it.

Nagasawa makes a pretty serious track frame. More serious than me for sure but when I saw this thing on CraigsList I couldn’t resist. It was meant to be. Nearly everything on it is NJS and it’s in very good shape. A few chips in the paint here and there but nothing beyond standard wear. Even better, it’s the right size. You don’t find very many Japanese track bikes that fit someone over 6 feet tall.

The guy I bought it from had it set up for track riding. Since I’ll be riding it on the street I’m in the process of taming it a bit. First things first: get rid of the NJS track seat (aka the “ass-hatchet”). Then I’ll probably have to drop the gear ratio a bit. The wheels are super nice but they’re not beefy enough for every day street riding. I’ll have to start saving before I can get a new set.

Till my next post, enjoy the obligatory bike porn:

Minuteman Bikeway and the Bike Stop

With today a wash because of Irene, I figured I’d write up a fun bike ride I took last weekend on the Minuteman Bikeway. It’s a fun ride but on a Sunday it’s pretty crowded. There’s a good mix of little kids and Lance Armstrong wannabes, perfect for keeping things interesting.

I covered the whole trail in both directions, even had a chance to stop at a shop called the Bike Stop that’s right on the trail. Be careful going past this place. There were lots of people out there either chatting or getting air and people have this nasty tendency of stopping their bikes on the trail or wandering out without looking.

The shop was nice though and the guys working there where fun to chat up. Always a good time talking to people that work at a bike shop when you pull up on an unusual bike. They always have cool stories and know about some random hardware. These guys had a really nice shop and the snacks were just what I needed. Here’s the evidence:

handlebar hacking

The crash course I’ve been getting in bicycle handle bar diameters is a real drag. There’s 1/7th of an inch difference between most roadbike bars and BMX so, as I describe in my last post, the stem on my new cutter won’t work with my new bull horn bars. The old FBM bars I had kicking around are super wonky but since I haven’t used them in a few years I figured I’d try cutting them to fit. Any reason to throwing a cutting wheel on my die grinder is a good reason 🙂

First off I cut down the forks and pressed a star nut so that’s been progress since my last post. These bars have the right shape but they’re way too tall:

First thing was to throw them into a vice and cut off the bottom part which makes the bars about 1/3 of the original height:

At this point they’re still too wide so I trimmed off two inches at the end of each handle. Notice the angle at the end of the bar. This is from a previous cut I made with a hack saw and never cleaned up:

That’s pretty much it. Here’s the final product:

So two points: First, if I have to remind you to wear safety gear when you’re cutting metal it’s already too late for you. Second, I’ve probably weakened the bars significantly by making these cuts. By cutting out the bottom of the bend I’ve effectively made these three piece bars and any weight that’s put on them is going directly onto the welds. Since this is a road bike I’m not worried but I’ll be keeping an eye on them just in case.

Now all I’ve gotta do is sand ’em down and get some white paint. Then some brown bar tape to match my seat.

Volume Cutter Assembled

I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever to get my wheel set from Mello Velo (the local bike shop). I’ve had pretty much all of the other parts together for a week now, but a bike isn’t a bike without two wheels. Yesterday they finally came in.

You’d think that would be all good news but not everything is right with the world. Lets start with the good news though: I’ve got most of the parts that I need to build this thing now.

The cranks are Sugino and they were recommended by the bike shop. The tools required to install the bottom bracket and cranks on this thing are completely different from a BMX so the bike shop did the install. The accessories include a pair of Shadow Conspiracy BMX platform pedals (cheap plastic ones), origin 8 seat, chain and bull horn bars.

Now the bad news: the rear wheel (that big beautiful B43) got scratched up when an unnamed person at the bike shop was building them. And it isn’t just a scratch or two, they’re marked up in a huge way. I’ve got no experience building wheels but it must have taken some serious effort to do this type of damage:

I’m getting a replacement and I’m tempted to try building it myself but without a truing stand there isn’t much I can do. Either way this may work out to my benefit and here’s why. I purchased the front rim with a breaking surface. The intent was to mirror the other fixie setups I’ve seen with a break on the front wheel. The Volume Fu-Manchu forks aren’t drilled for a break but putting a hole in them isn’t a big deal. The problem is this:

The distance between the breaking surface on the rim and the location where the break mount belongs is huge on this fork. Comparing it to the fork on my Raleigh it’s nearly an inch and a half taller. I’ve heard of “long reach” breaks but that’s a really long way. The frame does have a hole to mount a break in the rear however but since I’ve had the B43 laced to the rear wheel I can’t (no breaking surface).

So when my replacement B43 comes in I’m going to have it laced to the front rim and for now I’ll keep the damaged B43 on my rear wheel. After riding around for a bit on it today without any breaks I really want to try going breakless for a while. If I decide it’s just too hairy to ride around without any breaks I’ll lace the deep v to the rear wheel and put a break back there. Here’s how it looks now:

The handle bars in the picture aren’t the bull horns from the picture above. I have a Fly BMX stem on there now and the size difference between road bike handlebars and BMX bars is about 1/8″. The bull horn bars won’t fit in this stem so I grabbed some FBM handlebars from my box of old parts.

The bars are way too high, the riding position is straight up beach cruiser with these bars. It’s kinda funny but not something that’s gonna last. I’ve got my eye on an Origin 8 Classic Pro Stem that’ll solve this problem. When I get the bars sorted and the toe-straps I ordered come in I’ll put up some final pictures. Oh yeah and the top of the fork still needs to be trimmed and I need to set a star nut in the fork too. Always more work to be done.

Volume Cutter

It’s been a busy month and I’ve neglected putting up a few things I’d deem “blog worthy”. First up is the new bike I’m building. Restoring the Raleigh was so much fun I had to start in on another one.

So far I’m just spec’ing out parts. I settled on the Cutter frame by Volume [1]. They’re a BMX company that’s started to dabble in fixie frames. This is their 2009 model the paint is sick. It’s sort of a toothpaste green and it glows in the dark.

I picked up the matching “fu manchu” fork in white. I couldn’t get the fork in the same glow-in-the-dark paint since it’s last years model. I like keeping the fork and frame different colors and I’ll be sticking to a white contrast color for the wheels and bars too.

I’m not sure I like the stem and bars. They’re mountain bike parts and they’re pretty beefy. I like the rise on the stem but I don’t like how thick the bars are and they’ve got a bit of a sweep to them too. Details.

The best thing about this frame is how much like a BMX it is. It’s got an integrated headset that works with campy spec bearings. I got a set of Odyssey bearings off ebay on the cheap and they slip right on. Odyssey started putting a cut in the crown race that makes fitting it on the forks super easy. This makes it so you don’t have to pound it on.

The Volume logo on the head tube isn’t a sticker or paint. It’s actually cut out of the head tube. Cool idea, but I’m taking bets on what the first piece of debris that falls down in there will be.

So far the only down side to this frame is the weight. It’s built like a BMX frame so it’s heavier than other road frames. Other than that I love it. That’s pretty much all I’ve had the time to put together. Hopefully this weekend I’ll order the wheels, then start looking into parts for the drivetrain.

[1] –

Raleigh Record: Mission Accomplished

It’s done. Putting the bike back together was super easy. Part of what made it so easy was that I put the components (breaks, derailers etc) back together as I cleaned them up. The brakes were already done so I just had to bolt them back on, the bottom bracket was a bit more difficult since I had to order new cups and cotter pins but the local bike shop made that easy enough.

Hardest part was installing the new head set. Pressing the cups was easy enough but getting the bottom race on the forks was a pain. The times I’ve fit a race on a set of forks it’s been pretty straight forward. This time the race just didn’t fit on the forks. Again, Steve at the bike shop stepped up with a grinder and “made it fit”. Then I just had to get a spacer for the headset, run new cables, and fit the seat.

The seat was a Christmas gift from my mom (thanks mom!) and is the nicest part on the bike. It’s a Brooks B17 and it’s super nice and super hard. Breaking this thing in is gonna take a while. I also ordered leather bar tape to match the seat and had no idea how expensive it is. Leather is nice but it’s super expensive.

Doing a little digging turns up the Raleigh Record is Raleigh’s entry level bike of the time. I read a few posts from people who paid $20 for a similar bike in perfect condition so restoring this was definitely a labor of love. Now I’ve got a $20 bike with a $200 seat. Oh the irony.

And now the pictures:

Raleigh Update #5

This is the turning point. The derailers were the last two pieces of this bike that had to be cleaned up / repaired. Mechanically they’re pretty much the most complicated parts of the bike. Modern derailers have a lot of plastic on them but these ones are all steel. This makes them super heavy but means as long as they’re not bent they’ll last forever.

So here are some before pics. The black stuff all over them is a mixture of old grease and dirt. This stuff’s like cement and to get it off I used a pretty serious degreaser, some scouring pads and a steel brush to clean it out of the threaded parts and some of the hard to reach places.

Here are the before pics:

As always the bolts were a real pain to get out. I managed to get everything apart except for the bolt that holds the cable from the shifter. Luckily the bike shop had an extra kicking around that they just gave me. Gotta love those random boxes of spare parts.

The hardest part was getting it back together, not because I couldn’t remember how to though … but it did take some experimentation. It was hard because the spring that’s hiding under that black bushing is super strong. After breaking the whole thing down and cleaning it I had to re-pack the spring and use a screwdriver to leaver it into place so I could slip the bolt back in. I stabbed myself with the screwdriver a few times so that was awesome.

I really wish I had taken pictures while it was apart but I was so excited to start putting parts back on the bike that I completely forgot. I did take a few after shots though:

The rear derailer was in even worse shape. Again, not bent but completely caked with the dirt / grease mixture. This one has more moving parts: it has two wheels (with unsealed bearings) that guide the chain this time. So this time the whole thing’s caked with crap AND it has two guide wheels with bearings that are packed in cement instead of grease. Needless to say they don’t spin. Here are the before shots:

Again this one was a just a disassemble, clean, grease, reassemble. The cleaning this time was pretty intense. Had to team up the degreaser with a small finishing nail to scrape the crud (that’s a technical term) out of the guide wheels and a few other tight places. I really should have taken some shots when this thing was apart. It was pretty impressive.

Either way the story isn’t an interesting one: I cleaned it, got new bearings for the guide wheels and packed them with grease. Now it looks awesome and this thing is one step closer to being done. In fact these were the last two parts that needed cleaning. I’m waiting on new cups, races and bearings for the bottom bracket and then this thing gets put back together. Now the after shots:

Raleigh update #4

Drilling out cotter pins is a pain in the ass. I tried real hard to pound these things out but I ended up doing more harm than good. I tried pounding them out the good old fashioned way but I ended up bended the threaded end one one side and putting a good ding in one of the crank arms. Yeah that last one really pissed me off.

So I broke out the drill and the Dremel tool and went to town. I’ve never done this before, so half of this will be me recalling what I did wrong. The other half will be how I managed to get it right on the second try.

On the first pin I took the Dremel, cut off the threads and started drilling from the narrow end. I started out with a relatively small drill bit mostly because I was afraid to use a bit that was too big I figured this might damage the crank arm or the spindle. This was pretty naive. The spindle is hard as nails, well actually harder. It’s harder than drill bits either way. I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to do damage to the crank arms too but I didn’t get a chance to try.

After drilling my pilot I tried opening it up further with a 3/4″ bit. It kept grabbing the sides and eventually it broke the bit. Not only was I drilling with the wrong sized bits I was drilling the wrong end. After drilling the threaded end I tried again to pound it out. But I then realized that the place I wanted to hit with the hammer was gone, I just drilled it out. Crap. Using a punch I could get enough of a foot hold on the sides to give it a good bang but not enough.

I then took the drill to the other side and made the same mistakes as before (broke another bit). But this time I realized I could get a larger drill bit through. That’s because … well that’s just how cotter pins work. Long story short, drill from the wide end with the biggest bit you can manage (mine was 5/8″). Stay aways from the sides but don’t worry about hitting the spindle. If you do eventually hit the spindle it will guide you further in (remember it’s a lot harder than the drill bit) but don’t go so far you bind the bit between the spindle and the crank arm. After this it was short work banging the pin out once I could find a spot to seat the punch

Notice the hole in the side of the cotter. This is from the drill bit making contact with the spindle. It sounds kinda squeaky when it does but it’s no big deal.

On the second crank arm I didn’t make the same mistake. I went right in with the 5/8″ bit from the wide end. Drilled it as far as I thought I could get away with and then banged the pin out from the threaded end. Short and simple. This goes with out saying but you need a solid place to drill from. Ideally you’d have the whole bottom bracket in a vice but I found it enough to get the frame up on my work bench with the bracket pinned down on a few blocks of wood. I held it down with a C clamp when necessary.

Once the pins are out, the crank arms come right out. To get the rest of the bottom bracket apart it’s just a matter of getting the end caps off. These things are super hard to get a good grip on with your wrench. One of mine was very stubborn and I had to enlist the help of Steve down at Mello Velo.

Best part of getting the bottom bracket apart was finding the crap that was inside of it. I knew something was up since the cranks would barely turn. I guess the bird seed in there was getting in the way. Yeah bird seed. I’m guessing the squirrels must have been hiding food in the frame when it was doing time on a back porch. They could have been dropping this stuff down the seat tube I guess.

Even the spindle had seed stuck to it.

Then it was back to cleaning stuff up, this time the crank arms. They came clean enough but they’re pitted up in spots.

This bottom bracket wasn’t sealed. Just bearings, cups and the spindle to hold them in place. I don’t think you can even replace these things and it’s not worth trying. Mello Velo is trying to track down some sealed bearings that will fit the frame. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a spindle that will work with the new bearings and the old cranks. I don’t want to have to spring for a new set of cranks after going through all of this trouble to keep this bike as original as possible.

More to come.

Raligh update #3

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the Raligh. I’ve been working on it but not as much as I’d like. You know how it is: school, work blah blah blah. Same old sob story, poor me. Anyways I’ve started in on the home stretch and it’s turned out to be a very long one.

The drive train on this thing is nasty. It’s the front and rear derailer, the chain rings, the cranks and the bottom bracket. That’s pretty much the hard stuff, specifically the derailers. These things have about 20 years of crap built up on them and it’s obvious that a few parts are bent. Here are the before pictures:

The front derailer:

The front chain wheels / rings:

Rear derailer:

And finally the cranks:

Those of you who’ve done this before will notice the cotter pin through the cranks. I’ll get to these in a in a bit but first the good news … the front chain rings and the kickstand cleaned up great!

So now the bad news: I got everything off the frame except for the cranks. Cleaning the 20 years worth of lubricant and dirt off the frame was a pain in the ass and there’s still more to be done but I can’t get to it all till the cranks are off. But these cranks do not want to come off. Stupid cotter pins. I’ve never seen cranks with cotter pins in them and I now know why.

I did some research and found that there are cotter pin presses out there but none are less than $50 + shipping so I rigged up my own boot-leg press. I took a 3 inch c-clamp I had laying about, cupped the out-going end of the cotter pin in a 10mm socket and used the clamp to press the cotter pin out. I left the nut on the threaded end, one turn out to keep it from completely bending over. It looked like this:

That was till the c-clamp broke. I should have seen it coming when I had to turn the clamp with a pair of 9 inch pliers. It wasn’t as dramatic as you think, I just ended up pushing the threaded bit through the plunger a bit. It sank right into the hollow part of the socket. The plunger wasn’t spinning much after that. You can see the plunger pushed through in the following pic, this thing was flat initially:

So one c-clamp down I looked for other options. I went with a solution recommended by the late great Sheldon “No Clunk” Brown. His site is the first google hit for “cottered cranks” and he has a laundry list of things he’s done to get cotter pins out of old-school European bike cranks. After soaking the cotter pin in WD-40 penetrating oil I tried his claw hammer & pipe method. I didn’t ding up the frame like I was afraid I would but I did some damage to the threaded end of the pin. It didn’t budge.

I figured this was a good time to take a break so I sat down with a whiskey and read some of Sheldon Brown’s journal entries and accounts of some of the rides and events that he attended. Really cool to read about a bike enthusiast riding around the north shore of Massachusetts just a few towns over from where I grew up. Some of the pictures made me nostalgic for New England, especially the one of his bike propped up against a beautiful New England field stone wall.

Sheldon put a wealth of information into the public domain through his website. He basically was blogging every day before a blog was a blog. He passed away but his site is still out there, complete with pictures of his kick-ass beard. His advice was a big help so, thanks man. I’m still working on way to get these pins out, hopefully it won’t come down to using the drill 🙂

Raligh Restoration Update #2

My last post about this restoration project was a pretty big one. I’m thinking it’s a better idea to post about my progress in smaller steps and thus this post will be much shorter. Since last time I’ve taken on the brakes: they’ve been disassembled, cleaned, polished and greased. Here’s the before shot of the disassembled front brake:

After cleaning, polishing and reassembling the front brake here’s a shot of it beside the rear brake before cleaning:

Finally here’s the glamor shot of both cleaned and polished brakes:

I’m really pleased with how effective Mothers polish was on these. It’s kinda funny but it took me a little bit to get my technique down so the front brake isn’t quit as shiny as the rear (which I did second). No chance I’m taking it apart to polish it again though (my OCD isn’t that bad yet).

I’ve also got some new parts: a headset to replace the previous one that was completely shot, new pedals and some toe clips too. I’ll put up pictures and details as I put the bike back together.