Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Next Step

This job is much easier when you have a repair stand but you can do it with the bike upside down. When you install the Extracycle you just about have to do it with the bike upside down, more on that in a minute.
First you want to remove the rear wheel, rear brake, rear derailleur, the cables, chain, and the kickstand if it has one.
Now if you don't already have the bike upside down flip it and gravity will hold the extracycle in place while you get it all sorted. Be sure to follow the specific instructions in the manual so the dropouts fully support the new addition. The nuts need to insert in the extracycle frame or they will not tighten properly.

Now some pictures:

The nuts sit in the dropouts like this.

A close up of the fitting.

The front part of the Extracycle rests against the the chainstay bridge.

Here is the plate they provide to clamp the front down. If your bike lacks a stay bridge, you will need to get a second one to clamp the stays properly.

Next time we start putting all the parts we stripped off back on and setting it all up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Technical difficulties

Looks like there is an issue with the images below. Trust me the other half of that bike is somewhere, but that is just going to wait for tomorrow to fix

Edit: Fixed, forgot to resize.

Making an Xtracycle

So. It has been about 8 (Yes, eight) months since my last post. Games, work, movies, what-not.
But I am going to make up with it by doing some posts on setting up an Xtracycle. If you don't know, an Xtracycle is a frame that you can bolt on to a bike collecting dust in your shed to create a great new cargo bike.
There is also a prefab frameset, made by Surly, called the Big Dummy. But we want to recycle an existing bike.
First you need to get a (near)complete bike to bolt the Xtracycle to. I used a '94 M800 Cannondale I had set up as a commuter bike, that had become the shop dust collector, so it was a perfect start for this project.

(Yes I know the seatpost is sticking way out of the frame, relax. I don't have a 50" inseam on a 5'10" frame. That was "pre adjustment"

Next we need the Xtracycle. The kit I got included the frameset, all the hardware to mount the frame, a snapdeck, two freeloaders, and instructions.

Here is the frameset,


Next time we strip the brakes and derailleur and get ready to install the Xtracyle frame. You also might get to find out just what a freeloader and a snap deck are.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bring the Bike In

Bring it in, bring the bike in,BRINGTHEBIKEIN. Please just bring me the freaking bike.
There is something about bringing a bike in to get a issue looked at. The need to not bring this malfunctioning heap in increases as the ability of the owner to describe the problem decreases. There is also a correlation between how annoyed a customer gets with you and their inability to describe the issues at hand.
Recently we have had a spate of customers with issues that were not willing to bring the bike in to get a diagnosis.
In one case it was just the frame. That should fit in just about any car, it would be easy to carry, and they even let you take it on the bus. He did bring the fork in, he had tried to JB weld the steerer back on after cutting it to short(This is not a good idea. Do not do this) He needed a headset after trying to knock out the old one with a screwdriver(also a bad idea) and cracking the cup. We gave him a new one based on his info and the fork he brought. The headset did not fit. So he made a trip back with the serial number from the frame. We called the Man. and got the "correct" headset. Oops, still wrong. Finally he brings in the frame, I make a few measurements, and a few days later we have the right parts in the door.

Next up.
The girl that wants to put brakes on the flat part of her drop bar. We tell her she will need cross levers. These are more than she wants to spend, so she goes to a shop that tells her what she wants to hear and sells her a BMX lever. This, surprise, does not fit, just like we said it would not. Neither shop has seen the bike. She buys some Crosstops from us then returns the BMX lever to the other shop. Shows back up at our shop a day later, again with out the bike. The crosstops don't fit, the bolt is to short. Now,..I am pretty sure the reason the bolt seems to short is because the lever clamp(This clamp is hinged)is a pretty tight fit and you have to spring it. I could confirm this, but again, no bike. We show her the tight fit, she waves it away and says she wants a longer bolt. We install it on a handlebar in the shop and show that the bolt will bottom and the lever will be loose. This is ok. Read that again, the floppy brake lever is OK. What? Quote: "It can be loose, I just need it for emergencies" Awesome, if the standard is low enough, anyone really can fix a bike.

Phone rings.
Me-Hello, The bike Shop, this is Chuck, how can I help you?
Her-I need a commuter bike but I don't want to buy one. Can you set one of my bikes up with a rack and fenders?
Me-Probably. What have you got?
Her-A Giant.
Me-Which one?
Her- A mountain bike, I got it from you a couple of years ago(This is what customers call "narrowing it down")
Me-Does it have rack eyelets?
Me-Eyelets. They are threaded holes near the dropouts and up near the seat post. The rack bolts on to them.
Her-I don't know.
Me-Maybe you should bring it in. Then we can find the best solution and show you the racks, fenders, and panniers.
Her-What is a pannier?
Me-It is a basket that hangs from the side of the rack. It comes from the french word for bread. Why don't you just bring it by?
Her-It's raining, I don't want to get it wet. Can I just take a picture of it?
Me-How about tomorrow then? A picture might work but it would be better if we just had the bike.
Her-No. I want to have it ready for tonight(OK, you don't want the bike to get wet driving it over here, but you want to put a rack and fenders on it so you can ride it around tonight, in the rain?)
Me-O..K... Why don't you just come by and we can show you what we have. Then you can decide what will work.

Last one(These all happened over about ten days)
The customer has spent about ten minutes inspecting our brake pad selection and finally selected a pair. She buys them and leaves. About an hour later she is back. These pads are wrong and she needs the correct ones, "thinner". We ask what she is putting them on. It is a road bike, she is holding road pads. We go thru a back and forth trying to figure out if she has some really old bike with an odd set up or if it is a touring bike with cantis. After some deliberation, we determine that she has regular road calipers.
We also find out the bike is about a hundred yards away on a parking rack. We ask her if she can bring it in. "NOPE, it has my groceries on it and I can't bring it over here" WTF? How will you be able to ride it home if you can't walk it a hundred yards? I end up up getting my walk in going back and forth between the shop and the bike, several times. Turns out the bike is a Co-Op special with parts from a half dozen bikes on it. This includes a touring fork with lots of tire clearance and shortest dual pivot road brake ever. Some how she managed to wear a set of pads down by rubbing them against the tire without cutting a hole thru it.
We had the correct brake caliper, but she seemed determined to continue her search for "thinner" pads.

So, could you just bring the bike in? I promise to not hold it hostage. I might even fix a minor issue for free.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A book, a good book

Everyone comes here looking for bikeshop dudes talking about the bikeshop life. But there ARE other things. Hence the movie reviews.
Today, instead of the planned, "Just Bring the Bike in" episode, I have got to tell you about Neil Gaiman's, The Graveyard Book. Just fantastic. As you well know, I enjoy the graphic novel, so Gaiman is not an unfamiliar name(He wrote the Sandman graphic novels, great stuff) I had only read one collection of his short stories early last year but I had just seen in the local screed that his new children's book(Screw that "children's book" hype, a book is a book) had won a Newberry medal. So I had to run around the corner to the LBS(Also stands for local book shop) Quail Ridge Books, to see if they had a copy. Alas, the shelf was empty, but the kind lady in the children's sections searched thru the UPS delivery and found me a copy. They provide the same kind of great service the other LBS(That would be us, the Local Bike Shop, duh)brings every day.
So short post. Go buy the book, The Graveyard Book, then make some tea or pop a beer and settle in for a quiet evening. It is a great read(on page 221), gotta go.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


is the resistance of an object to a change in its state of motion.
That pretty much sums it up right there. I got a bad case of inertia. Time was, I would sit down and crank out a column a day, then I came upon an obstruction(Fallout3, we shall speak of it no more) Suddenly it is two months later and not a word has been written.
It is amazing how hard it can be to start something up again. Back in November, the rides came easy. It was great, everybody wanted to go and GO we did. Several times a week. Sure it was cold, sure it was dark, but that didn't matter we were on a roll. Then it started raining, we missed a ride, then another. Holidays came up and people were missing more and more rides. Finally the rides just stopped. Inertia grabbed us with its knobbly hands and then let go, because we were not going anywhere.
It can be tough to motivate this time of year, but the gang is going to do it, we are getting back up to three rides a week(Tuesday and Saturday night as well as Sunday morning. If you are in the area give us a call to see what is going down)
I am motivating as well, Another day is back and will be bringing you my wonderful pralined misanthropy as well as the three asterisk movie review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spoke Grabbin'

First, apologies to all. I have been busy and not able to get any writing in this past week.

So as penance, here is a Tool Time project:

The spoke grabber. This gadget comes in handy when you are working on a wheel that has straight pull(no J-hook) spokes or aero blades spokes(They lack the torsional strength of a round spoke and can really twist up) I also find them handy for holding the spoke with the occasional sticky nipple or when the spokes are really slim like Dt Revolutions.

First you need a fourth hand tool, the Hozan C-356. This is not a cheap tool so try and find a used one. The one pictured is one we retired after about 15 years of shop use. It was to worn to pull on cables but fit spokes great.

First thing you want to do is unhook the spring and then you can set the handles at a comfortable distance for your grip. (The upper handle moves freely)
Once you decide the grip. Take a punch and mark where you will drill thru the upper arm and the main body of the tool. You will need to tap this hole later so pick a drill for the size screw you plan on using. I used a 6x1mm screw which was a little big but what was handy when I decided to do this. I would use a 4mm screw if I did it again. Drill thru both pieces(with the grip in how you want it) using a bit to match your tap. Then go back and oversize the hole in the upper arm so that you are only tapping the hole in the main body. That way the screw you install will clamp the two pieces together. I did this with a drill press but you can free hand it with a hand drill. You want to be careful and clamp the tool to a table or block of wood if you do not use a press.

Tap the hole.

Now loop the free end of the spring on the screw and screw it down tight. Cut off the extra part of the upper arm. I used a chop saw for this but you can do it with a hacksaw.

I also put a hook in the lower arm to give a little extra something to keep it from slipping out of my hand. I removed the grip and cold bent the arm in a vice.

Done. I cannot claim credit for coming up with this mod. I got the idea from United Bicycle Tool, they sold these but I have not seen them in their catalog for many years. The one I got from them is about twelve years old. The one pictured took me about 45 minutes to make and works perfect.

It will work an any thing from a Dt Revolution(1.6mm) up to the large alloy spokes on a Mavic CrossMax

Have fun and don't put your eye out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Biomega Part Twee*

*two, "twee" is what you call Dutch
Remember the Biomega? We finally got around to working on it(That only took a day or two, getting my lazy ass to write about it, that took a couple of weeks.)

As cool as the bike looks it has some major issues in the quality department.(Hoo-boy does it)
First thing was the BB. We noticed it was unscrewed some when the bike was dropped off, that was the good part. Turns out the "shell"(Actually a chunk of alluminum inside the plastic monocoque that is also part of the cantilevers)is threaded backwards with the left hand threads on the non-drive side.
Then we had real trouble getting the chain tensioned and the wheel straight at the same time. Turns out the manufacturer did not realise that you need to have dropouts parallel.

This is ranks in the top five of stupid bike ideas.

While aligning the wheel(An event requiring two people swearing) we also noticed that the cantilever stays are not in plane with the front wheel.

That makes for exciting handling when you take a hands off the bar.

On top of all that the angled drop out interfered with the housing stop for the internal hub. So much that it locked up the shift mechanism. We ended up using axle spacers to widen the spacing enough for the stop to clear. This also helped correct the poor centering of the wheel.

I could not find a retail price for this model but Biomegas conventional frame bikes start at around $1650. That is a bunch of coin for a bike that fails to offer even the quality control found on a WalMart bike(Yes, the Lamborghini is a better buy).
While looking around I found several sites praising the "design" of the bike. I guess design appreciation does not incorperate application.
Were I present it might go something like this:

Designer, "Look at this beautiful lamp I have created"

Me, "But there is no way to turn it on."

Designer, "Can you not see hows its design allows it to flow from the shade all the way to the top of the table."

Me, "I can't even find the cord"

Designer, "A cord would have ruined its symetry"

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Rare Sight

Here we have a Shimano nine speed cassette with... a nine tooth cog. I bet most of you have not seen one of these before. The only time they show up is on some Bike Fridays and a few other odd recumbent bikes that could not use an adult size wheel.

It has SHIMANO right on the tiny, tiny lock ring.

I know you are asking, "Where can I get one? My 53-11 is just not enough for my massive quads"
Well, they only come from a couple of places. Bike Friday has them and I hear a couple of recumbent specific websites do as well. But don't rush right out to grab one because they only fit a special free hub body, also from Shimano. The free hub(sorry I forgot to take a picture of it) has splining about half the length of a regular free hub then it necks down to allow the smaller cogs to fit. These cogs have their own splining and mate to each other rather than to the central hub.
Very cool if you have a bike with a sixteen inch wheel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Does Lamborghini really need the money?

What the hell...

makes Lamborghini, whose cheapest car is over $100,000, want to crap all over their brand by licencing it for a piece like this?
This is a 32 pound, $130, road bike(It cast a similar shadow anyway). You can see, in the shot there, that it is has Gripshift shifters on it.
I know what you are thinking,"What magic was used to get those things that far up a set of drop bars"? I'll tell you. They cut the handlebar in two. Yep, sawed it right down the middle. It makes it real easy to put Gripshifters on. Of course you now need this wide ass stem with guide pins to keep the handle bar from falling out or getting misaligned. And you get the bonus(?) of Gripshift.

Gripshift did make shifters for road bikes about 15 years ago but they had the good sense to stop that silliness. And at least when they did make shifters they were meant to fit on the ends of the bars(Usually they were to be found on triathletes aerobars. No doubt a rumor was spread about the three second advantage in the 100K they offered) so you did not have to saw your Cinellis in two.

You may have also noticed the quality assembly work as well. The assembler at MalMart(Name changed to protect the guilty) must have based this fork setup on all those shopping carts he had recently brought in from the parking lot.

Look close and you can see the defeat of the invention: aerobrake levers. See that? The cables just come straight out of the back of the hoods rather than being run cleanly under the tape. This is the most ironic part of the whole bike(Even more than the name) They built this thing as cheap as possible and then spent extra for brake levers with a feature that did not get used. They could have dropped the price another five bucks if they had just put some non aero levers on. Would have matched that lovely single pivot brake much better.

Reminds me of this awesome thread on BikeForums. A lovely exchange between the MalMart fans and lovers of actual bikes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Something Simple

How often do I hear, "I need something simple, like an old English bike. Them new fangled De-Rail-Eurs is to complex for me to handle" (Tip: A bunch)

So I point them to the one bike, in the shop, that has an internal hub. When they see that the "simple" bike of their dreams cost eighty bucks more than the one with a derailleur, they run screaming from the shop. No doubt in search of two sticks with which to light up their next Marlboro.

Now look, the first thing is that an internal hub only seems simple because you cannot see all of the stuff inside the hub.

(Note, this is what you see if you break even one of those hair springs(They look like hairs in the shot)and need to replace it.
ALSO, this is the simplest internal hub, it is a three speed. Most modern hubs have twice the gears and twice the parts)

A derailleur is much more simple in construction and is as easy to adjust(if you know how) on the rare occasions that you might need to do so.

(Note, this pic is far more "apart" than you ever see your der. because the most likely thing to break is a pulley which involves only the removal of a single screw. You do not even need to take the wheel off)

An internal hub uses a set(or sets) of planetary/ring/sun gears to give several different gear ratios. This makes for lots of little gears and springs and pawls, and a couple of more springs then a separate gear carrier. Oh, and then you have the shift action that is part of the hub. And if you want the "simple" brake, the coaster or foot brake, add another spring, some friction material, a drum and a screw engagement. And an indexed shifter.

A derailleur just uses a properly length parallelogram setup that indexes to the shifter.

Pay no attention to the exposed derailleur. Its apparent complexity is a LIE.
If you set up a der. right it will work without flaw for years.
To be fair, so will an internal hub. Until a hair spring fails and you have to completely disassemble it(see picture above)

But here comes the fun part:
You want the internal hub because it is simple and you want a simple bike when you ride back and forth to work.

What happens when you get a flat?

Well first you unscrew your carefully adjusted cable and unhook it from the hub(It shifts thru the end of the axle(Sturmey) or thru a mechanism on the hub shell(Shimano). Then you remove the cable guide, undo the nuts, take off the axle index washers, and hook the chain over the dropout so it does not lay in the dirt while you repair your tire.

To reinstall: you slip the axle back into the dropouts, making sure to line up the chain, reinstall the index washers(after remembering where you laid them down) by twisting the axle to the correct angle(with your fingers), finding the nuts(near the index washers, in the dirt, by your foot)you install them, while trying to keep the wheel straight and the chain properly tensioned.
If you also needed coaster brake "simple", include: Line up torque arm and find torque arm hardware(in dirt by foot).
Flat tire repair time: twenty minutes. Wait, you are the guy that wanted a "simple" setup. Actual Repair Time: How long does it take you to call some one on the cell and get them to haul you to the bike shop and have the shop fix the flat for you?

Now if you have a derailleur equipped bike:
Shift to small-small gear combo.
Open quick release, remove wheel. The der. will hold the chain in place.
Fix flat.
Slip the wheel back in to place and re tighten quick release.
Repair time: Ten minutes, (I can do it in three, you are just slow)

All I can figure is that people looking for a "simple" set up have a vague recollection of three speed "English bikes" back in the mist shrouded by-gones of friction shift road bikes.
All bikes are index shift now. Click and shift. If you can read this column, you can operate a modern thirty speed bike(Unless you have some kind of inner ear balance problem).
Modern bikes have a better range of gears. This means smaller jumps between gears as well as a lower low gear and taller top gear.
So go ride a derailleur equipped bike before making some kind of silly judgement based on vague recollections of bikes you never rode in the first place.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Review Time

First a couple of warnings:
The closing credits have music by Randy Newman(I beleive he did all the music but he is singing for this part).

Now to the movie. James and the Giant Peach is based on a Roald Dahl book and he really likes putting little kids in stressful situations that are resolved by the childs plucky determination and wit. You would think this would be pretty bad but not so in this case. The movie is very engaging. It is also pretty short, around seventy minutes so even those ADD should be able to sit thru it.

The movie blends live action with stop motion animation and 2D animation.
The live action stuff is ahot on forced perspective sets, a very spiffy effect.
The stop motion makes you think instantly of Tim Burton, and he produced the movie so no surprise there. There is even an appearance of Jack Skellington as a pirate.
The 2D animation looked so much like Terry Gilliams style, I had to roll thru the credits looking for his name. No dice.

All three combined for a fun little flick. Three astericks all around.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Biomega

You have just come out with a new city bike. It has a plastic monocoque frame made from two halves bonded together. It features an internal hub for easy shifting and a nice, big, comfy seat.
But somethings missing. What does it need? Yes! I know!
It should glow in the dark.

Yes, that is the frame glowing in the dark.

Made by Biomega, this interesting rig showed up the other day. The customer picked it up in ,New York and the shop(Not a bike shop more Neiman Marcusesque) he picked it from had done a pretty sloppy job with the assembly so he dropped it off for a looking at.
The Biomega does have some cool features. The plastic bonded one piece frame(actually two pieces glued together) is pretty cool, not super light but it will not rust. The dropouts are large aluminum plates slotted into the plastic cantilever stays. You slide them along this channel to adjust the chain tension.
For some reason it also has folding pedals, a little odd as nothing else on the bike folds. They may have seen that the average person trying to take a 12 inch wide bike thru a three foot doorway was to much of a challenge and folding pedals would improve the odds.
For a city bike it has a pretty extreme handlebar/seat position. and the fork is track steep. Must be for quickly weaving thru traffic for that first orange mocha frappuccino of the day

Friday, October 10, 2008

FRAUD, What is it good for?

Abslo-freaking-lutely nothing.

Today we are going into the topic of getting screwed.
"Why", you ask, are we heading into this dark realm?
Because we had a scam call at the shop the other day.
Actually we get annoying ,spam calls all day, every day. They usually are along the lines of, "I just need to confirm your info for our incredible online phonebook, the fake Yellow Pages"
If there are any small biz guys reading, NEVER DO THIS. They will send a bill for $29.95 for listing your biz address in a place anyone can find it for free about a half million times.
We also get loads of automated, "finance your impending doom" BS. "2" is your Friend(Altho I have a theory that pressing "2" just confirms you were idiot enough to listen to the whole message)
Back to point. Monday we got a call from a guy in Florida, two states and ten hours away, that needed two high end Specialized FSRs shipped next day, he had a CC number ready.
At this point you need a bell to go off and it is not the GREED bell. This is one of those things that falls in to the "To good to be true" column.
As luck would have it, our guys are not complete idiots and saw the con coming. They picked the guy for every bit of info they could get out of him. Then told him it would take time to arrange such a sale as we needed to assemble the bikes and then repack them to keep our dealer agreement(Wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
Now, What Do You Do?
Why you call the credit card company, they are being defrauded. Turns out the CC company could give a rats ass. "we don't do investigations" was their shrill call, "You must call the Police"

Do a quick Google search(PoPo, John Law, The Man) and call the first number that comes up.
It was a sad day, as at the other end of the line was Officer Himmel, of the Raleigh Police Department. Not only was he disinterested in a fraud of several thousand dollars, he was annoyed that we even contacted him. Seems we must have reached the secret number of the officer in charge of cafeteria at the RPD. And then called when he was busy with a rough salisbury steak crisis.
After much grumbling we finally got a number that had a receptive officer at the other end and we passed along all the info we had.
Then OJ went free, but seriously folks.

If you have a deal that just seems to good to be true, think about it. Don't think about the money. THE PRETTY GREEN MONEY, OH MY PRECIOUS, IT WANTS TO KEEP IT FROM.... Oop sorry. Anyway you get the idea. When someone contacts you from out of state, ready to pay right now with a credit card or money order, or wants to pay extra to "guarantee" the item, you want to think twice about the deal. If it sounds to good to be true, IT IS.

This all reminds me I need to do some stuff on buying/selling on Craigslist and Ebay. That should be up in the next week or two.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Down by Law

Yep, another review.
I got on this Jim Jarmusch kick a while back(2006) and put a bunch of his movies in my Netflix que. I like to spread my addictions out so I spaced them out in the 300 or so movies I keep in my que. Hot Tip: Keep lots of movies in your que then you don't have delays and it is always a surprise when you open that little red package.

This week the little red package held "Down by Law".
The movie dates back to 1986 and has a young looking Tom Waits as one of its cast members. Also on the roster are John Lurie, Ellen Barkin, and Roberto Benigni. As usual with a Jarmusch flick, the pacing is pretty deliberate, no crazy cut shots and lots of single camera work. But that works well as the focus is on the dialogue and interaction of the characters.
Shot in black and white, I have to admit I was hooked before the opening credit roll because of the beautiful footage of New Orleans. It really was that good.
The rest of the movie was also guite good. A bit of backstory on the lead characters leading to them both getting setup and winding up in Orleans Parish Prison. Where they meet Roberto. Followed by escape and resolution.
What can I say, the movie is worth watching. I don't want to just tell the tale, that would remove the need to watch it.
My rating: ***(Remember *** is as good as it gets)