Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Indignity of Bicycle Maintenance: Singlespeed Edition

Recently, in the spirit of contrived irreverence, I registered to participate an upcoming singlespeed cyclocrossing event.  This is not as incongruous as it sounds--I am, after all, a veteran of the 2010 SSCXWC in Portland, OR.  Plus, a photo of me attempting to sterilize myself with a one-speed bicycle even appeared in Bicycling magazine instructional:

(You can't unsee this now.)

Though that's only because I wrote it.

In any case, the above bicycle is the aesthetically challenged yet eminently versatile Ironic Orange Julius bike, which at one time or another has been an intrepid fixie commuter:

A singular-speed cyclocross bike:

And, currently, a comfortable upright commuter:

Now ordinarily I'd just remove all the extra stuff and swap handlebars in order to make this heap of shit "race"-ready.  However, these days the Ironic Orange Julius Bike lives with my mother in Queens, so that when I'm there I have something to ride (which is an increasingly unnecessary extravagance now that the Citi Bike service area has reached her neighborhood, but whatever):

And because I didn't feel like going all the way to Queens to get it, I decided that the best course of action was to take my travel bike and make that a singlespeed:

Not only does it have horizontal dropouts, but I wouldn't have to swap the cables or fit new brake cables or anything like that, so I figured stripping it down and doing a quick conversion would be a quick and straightforward operation.  In fact, I resolved to complete the project without spending a single American cent.  And so yesterday morning that's what I set out to do:

Now I knew it had been awhile since I'd ridden the bike, but I didn't realize just how long it had been.  Indeed, after riding it last winter I must have just put it away without wiping it down, because pretty much everything was salty and corroded:

Seriously, it was bad.  The chain was rusted solid, and I had to break it in four places and remove it in sections just to get it off the bike.

After awhile I realized my original plan of converting the bike and then going for a ride wasn't going to happen, as this project was going to consume like half the day.  Still, I pressed on, and I was nearly done when I squeezed the brakes and discovered that one of the cantilever arms was totally seized.  I sprayed it with some penetrating oil while I worked on something else, but to no avail; and eventually, because I'm nothing if not impatient, I attempted to break it free via the judicious application of a rubber mallet--with predictable results:

That's right, I broke the canti stud right off the bike.  (And no, it's not one of those replaceable ones that threads into the frame.)  Still, I'd come this far, and there was no way after all that work I was going to give up.  Plus, there were still some threads in there.  So I rummaged around in all my spare brake parts and spare canti studs and all the other crap I've accumulated over the years and eventually found a bolt that probably came with a set of fenders or something which I used to secure to the brake to the frame:

Does it work?  Yes.  Do I trust it?  Not a bit.  However, it only really has to last for less than an hour, and for all the fussing over discs and everything else the fact is you hardly use your brakes in cyclocross at all.  Also, the bolt threads all the way through the boss, so that's got to count for something:

And for all the forcing and bending and hammering and breaking the finished product looks pretty good:

Alas, I didn't meet my goal of spending $0, because I did spring for a new roll of electrical tape in order to repair the bar tape:

Not only did it have gouges in it from traveling, but it was also wrapped to accommodate bar-end shifters and cables--but I'll be damned if I'm going to spend the time and money on new bar tape.

(As for the mighty spacer stack, I'll remind you once again I knowingly accepted a frame that's too small because it's all that Surly had and I really wanted a bike with couplers.  Funky appearance aside it feels just fine, plus I suspect the smaller size makes it easier to pack.)

Of course I might in future invest in one of these Problem Solvers canti stud repair kits:

But they seem to be out of stock everywhere, and also I don't see how it's much stronger than what I've currently got going on in there.

In any case, certainly there's a lesson here about patience, but what I really came away from with this project was this:

I have way too much crap.

Sure, on one hand I was able to curate a singlespeed cyclocross bike without visiting a bike shop because I've got everything from wheels to tires to spare cogs to freehub spacers to chains to chainrings and chainring bolts in every conceivable configuration, but on the other hand digging through everything I have to find that stuff was time-consuming and, frankly disturbing.  Over and over again I'd find new, unopened items I not only didn't realize I had, but have since bought again because I didn't know I had them.  I've easily got enough parts laying around to build four bikes--and that includes the frames.  I even found a fork I'd been looking for, and you know you've got too much crap when you can't find a bicycle fork.

So I may have to spend this holiday season going through it all and getting rid of it.  I mean yes, it's good to know you can always build up a spare bike, but as the father of seventeen (17) human children and an increasingly irrelevant yet still active bike blogger I simply don't have that kind of time.  Maybe instead of a Fondon't I'll have to throw a great big sidewalk sale.

And there you have it.  I'll let you know how the bike does.  And in the meantime, if you see me out there, probably best not to ride behind me.


hellbelly said...

Dirty podium finish? Cyclocross should be about doing it as cheaply as possible so you've got a good shot. Heavy otherwise not often used steel frame? Check. Leftover if not suspect parts? Check? Not giving AF and hopefully just out for fun, filth and fury? Winning.

pbateman has a hammer and hammers home the mom jokes once again said...

hey Rust Remove'o,

That brown bike is so darn handsome other than the ungodly pile of headset spacers. yikes, stripes, fruit striped headset.


and dont beat yourself up about the cantilever post. why use any tools when a hammer always gets the job done?

you dont see those monkeys in 2001 Space Odyssey trying to delicately pry apart the monolith with tiny little banana flavored screwdrivers. No, they beat that f'er with femurs bro and it worked out just fine for them too.

nice dismount by the way. i typically dismount moms to the left side too.

waiting on spring said...

I would think riding behind you may be safer than being in front of you. You know, sketchy brakes and all.

Unknown said...

NYC need a Velo-swap. I too have way too much bike crap(and crap in general) so it would be sweet if there was a once-a-year Veloswap to get rid of, or more likely, get even more of, bicycle and bicycle related crap. A

Also, First Podium?

PRTS BINN said...

I did the whole 'clean out' thing last year. Threw away the junk and donated the good but used. I have been thrice shafted since then thinking I had the perfect thing to fix my or someone else's bike. Only to find a tidy, but lacking, parts bin. At least I can imagine the good stuff getting put to use in Nicaragua somehow.

Anonymous said...

Seventeen (17) ??!!?

Anonymous said...

What's the story behind the name of the Ironic Orange Julius Bike? Unless my eyes deceive me, it's certainly not orange

huskerdont said...

"The chain was rusted solid, and I had to break it in four places and remove it in sections just to get it off the bike."

I don't even. I really don't. How does one have all that stuff and all that experience and (apparently) all that know-how and use none of it?

As for getting rid of it all, as soon as you do, you'll need it. My stupid Depression-era-growing-up father used to say things like, no, you never throw out _____ (in the operant case it was a wooden dowel) because you might need it. But I did and then I did and now I don't anymore. On the other hand, their house was so piled with shit you couldn't find anything anyway, so carry on.

And both of those bikes are beautiful, the one with the ugly spacers and the one you call aesthetically challenged. But then, I've always been attracted to the homely.

Chazu said...

Seein' as how this is a New Yawk blog and all:

The glimpse of your choice in floor coverings leads to only one place: This quote of Anjelica Huston's character in "Prizzi's Honor":

"You wanna do it Charlie? Yeah, Right here on the Oriental, with all the lights on."

JLRB said...

I have paid the price for not wiping down a bike after riding through a surprise snow storm - stuck seat post (which I should have left the F alone but instead made a mess of the bike).

And by learned my lesson I mean I still rarely wipe down my bike, but I think about it occasionally.

Last - I am willing to bet you have a better chance of traveling back in time to keep your new years resolution than you do actually organizing your parts bin/pile/whatev over the holidays.

1904 Cadardi said...

Hey bateman,

Tan was MOUNTING the bike from the left, kinda how everyone mounts your mom.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure Tan Tenovo can just drill through the seat stay's bridge and add a road brake caliper, old school without the recessed nut. But only if already in stock.
As Red/Green often says, if it ain't broke...

Anonymous said...

Hey Snob, I too have a Traveler's Check, and about 4 years ago, I crashed it and bent top and downtubes both. After 3 years of living in a closet, I shipped the frame to Franklin Frame in Ohio, and they replaced the tubes, but more importantly, added all the bosses and support struts to turn it into a disc-compatible bike. If you want a more "pro" fix than that bolt, you can ship it there, but I recommend going full-disc, it's a great bike as a result, and has been awesome in its revived state over the past year. All told, it was $340 to replace those two tubes and add all the relevant new bosses/struts, I would guess to do what you need would be more like $160... well worth it!

bad boy of the south said...

So,this is how a franken-bike starts its'life,eh?

pbateman made tea cause he's feeling a bit sick today said...

@1904 -

of course you have to have to dismount my mother from the left, that is the hip her vagina is on.

do you know why her vagina is on her hip?

so she can make money on the side.

i'm here all the week.

Drock said...

I cry, for the bikes of owners who put them away dirty.

HDEB said...

Rode my bike today through mud and wet salty sand and put it away without any cleaning -- rust sux

Pist Off said...

That’s some quality bodging. Bikes are tolerant of kludge fixes, and it’s one of my favorite things about them. All machines should be so simple. I always think in the back of my mind about all the rusty-ass steel bike parts and frames I’ve seen in daily use around the world. Suspension, composites, pivots, and hydraulics make a bike so much less fault tolerant, and so much more high-maintenance. Doesn’t make me hate modern mountain bikes, but I understand those who do. Rigid singlespeeds and cable brakes have a lot going for them.

Die free said...

That sure is a lot of electrical tape you got going there.

Neil Y said...

Rust never sleeps

Seattle lone wolf said...

TT, my touring bike laughs at your diminutive spacer stack.

Blade_Rockwall said...

This is the greatest thing I have ever read. On the internet. In English. This week. But still... Pretty fucken great! I also have way too much bike crap, to the point where I have expressly bought something (small) instead of looking for the one I know I have "somewhere".

InstantPam said...

If you are going to land on your top-tube, it only makes sense to hope for a gentitle landing.