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(Attempt at artistic photo utterly fails to show essential details.)


Most available brain capacity for the last few week has been taken up working out how to get the now cleaned frame, someone capable of welding and the Romanian braze-ons in the same place at the same time. There is such a person where I work, but getting the frame to him required some rather complex logistics arrangement involving Eldest Son, the commuter bike, several buses and a couple of trams.

After that it was a matter of saying what I wanted and not jumping through the door every five minutes to see if he’d finished.

By the time the bike was ready to come back I’d concluded that this sort of thing is what Xtracycles are for, so on my next Saturday shift -doing lighting and some stage management for an English speaking Panto group- I cycled down into the city and loaded up for the return.

I cheated for some of the way and took the tram on the worst of the hill.

Judging by the looks from other passengers people transporting freshly welded bicycle frames on a longtail are not a regular sight in suburban Stuttgart.

Life has been getting busy. Again. Mostly this is because I work in a theatre and we’re having the annual Christmas silly session but also because I’m supposed to be writing a report/dissertation for my final year. However, we are making some progress, and interesting things have been arriving at the Ingermany household.

The first is this package from Romania, which is apparently the only place in Europe where you can get old school braze-ons for traditional gear levers. This is the result of far too much thinking and a lot of online questioning after discovering the normal solution for fixing gear levers to the bottom bar -a collar clamp- wouldn’t be possible because the bar is about 1mm too thick.

You don’t have to braze bits on the bike. You can drill a hole through the frame and bolt the gear levers onto that, but I’m a bit jumpy about messing about with the integrity of the frame.

Having finally found how to fix levers onto the bike, we ordered a set of levers from Elder Son’s employer, who themselves ordered them from the Shimano EU distributor, who it turns out are five minutes down the road.

To my rather great surprise these fit the braze ons perfectly.

Now I have to work out how to get the frame and Braze-ons down to work for our resident metalworker to fit them together.

Of the many problems the ugly bike had when we bought it, I felt being called a ‘Didgeridoo’ was probably one of the most serious, so with parts on order and making their way slowly from Romania,of all places, we decided to do something about the matter. As usual in our projects, “do something” generally meant “attack the problem with whatever seemed like a good idea at the time.”


We were pretty sure that the letters were stickers, rather than transfers, so we turned on the hairdrier and put it close against the frame.

Fifteen seconds later it overheated and tripped the circuit breakers.

A couple of minutes later we tried again, this time with the hairdryer a more prudent distance away and after what seemed a decent amount of time, I scratched at the sticker with a fingernail. This worked, but ten minutes later only two letters had been removed and so had most of my fingernails. Either we were going to have to work at a rate of two letters a week and allow fingernails to grow back in between or we needed another scraper.


We Started searching for a scraper, and found a Japanese 10 yen coin that I’ve kept for reasons far too boring to go on about here. This proved to be the ideal scraper: sharper corners than European coins, but soft metal so it didn’t damage the frame.

A few minutes getting rid of the sticky remains with a cloth and some cleaning alcohol, and we had:


Next step, sanding the frame and talking someone at work into adding the braze-ons for the gear levers. Of course that means getting the frame into Stuttgart and back, but I’ll think of something…

Rebuilding the Ugly Bike has stalled a bit while Elder Son decided what he was going to do having graduated from high school. Elder Son  had had quite enough sitting in a classroom for a few years, so the wanted to find a vocational qualification. This is complicated in Germany, mainly because there are so many options with literally thousands of 2-3 year vocational courses to choose from, most of which are not only free, but start paying a small wage from the first day.

Fortunately part of my job is helping to get people apprenticeship places, so I dug out the Big Book of apprenticeships at work, where it was being used as a door stop, & we made a list of possibilities and Elder Son started applying. After a few weeks working in a Hotel and then as a vets assistant, Elder Son landed himself a place as a bike mechanic, making me both proud and frankly rather envious.

I told him it would only be three months before he started telling me how to fix things.

I was wrong, it took three weeks.

Time to dig the Ugly Bike out of the cellar methinks…

This post is brought to you by a combination of poor planning and procrastination. For some time I knew the chain and cassette on my commuter bike were getting pretty worn: I’m not sure I changed them when I bought the bike about six years ago and they’ve done a fair bit of distance since, but they were still just about working so I decided to leave them until winter when I’d put a new chain on and put on the winter wheel with an equally new cassette. Of course, I’d actually said this about a year ago, but hey, the problem wasn’t urgent so I kept forgetting.

Fortunately the chain and cassette wear together, so I could get away with ignoring the problem as long as I didn’t change any components. So of course when I swapped my winter and summer wheels without thinking, the smallest (ie top) gear began to slip. I ignored it for a bit until the next one started to do the same and I realised I’d have to do something.

Most modern(ish) cassettes are held on with a locking ring that has ridges on it to stop it rattling loose, so the one thing you don’t want to do is make it very tight. Unfortunately whoever had put this lock ring on had not been told this as I discovered when I failed completely to move the ring at all.

The usual way of dealing with an over tightened ring is to clamp everything down firmly, and use a piece of tube on the cassette removing tool to gain more leverage. This in theory results in a clicking noise and a loosened cassette.

In my case it resulted in a loud snap and a broken removing tool.

Situations like this are why we have Bakfietsen. Off we went to the bike shop in the next town, where the mechanic applied a professional removing tool to the wheel. This didn’t work, so he called a colleague over to help. Eventually it took both of them and a length of what looked like scaffolding before the lock ring gave up. Now we have the new cassette on, new chain on, and I’ve got a commuter bike again…

Now, will I learn from this experience and get to grips with maintenance before it all goes to pot again?

I’ve been generally lazy about maintenance over winter, and for several weeks (probably months, but never mind) the back gears on the Xtracycle have been playing up, in particular the middle gears seemed to think clicking the lever was a suggestion, to be given some consideration and possibly followed. Eventually. It was one of those gradual problems that you get used to over time, which was why I’d not bothered about it much.

Then came several weeks when I almost exclusively used the commuter bike. For all its faults this has gears which change when I want them to, and the shock when I went back to the Xtracycle was enough that I finally got around to doing something about it.

That something was to remove the rear mech that came with the original Raleigh bike back in 1997, and which has survived all my mistreatment over the last 20 years, but which I was pretty sure had finally given up. Being me, I’d hoarded several replacements, including one from a ‘scrap’ bike a customer brought into our local bike shop many years ago. It took ten minutes to change it, plus about three days faffing about and putting it off.

This made very little difference, so I did what I should have done at first and cleaned out the outer tubing and replaced the brake cable. This got a result. The gears are still a bit iffy, but they usually change when told. Or within a couple of seconds, at least.

I’m wondering if the main issue is the over enthusiastic use of cable ties on the cable, but naturally now the bike is ridable again I’m ignoring the problem.

One of these years I really am going to get my act together and fix all the little problems on the bikes before winter, as well as greasing the bolts on important places so they don’t seize up in the salt spray. Places like the bolt holding the kickstand on the commuter bike, for example, so when it goes all wobbly I can just tighten it up without the hex key socket turning to mush and leaving me with a wobbly stand for the winter.

One of these years, but not last year. Hence the rather drastic maintenance seen above.

for the last few months I’d avoided using the stand by leaning the bike against handy walls, railings and conveniently placed motor vehicles, and jamming bike tubes under the frame, but the stand was starting to move towards the wheel while riding which could have interesting consequences, so this week I visited the City Farm I sued to work at, and attacked the bit of aluminium holding stand to frame with hammers, chisels and the Very Big Drill untill it finally gave way under the onslaught of blunt objects and foul language.

Then problem, it seems was that the bike doesn’t have a fitting on the frame for a stand, so it will eventually twist under use. I’m wondering if this is an excuse to get a two legged stand, but I know the real solution is getting myself organised enough to grease the bolts more often…

 

fixingabak

The Bakfiets had a puncture. This usually means Saturday will be spent fixing it, as the back wheel is quite tricky to get out of the bike, and more to the point, very fiddly to get back on again, or at least to put it on again so the bike moves in a straight line and the brakes work.

It was therefore very annoying that when I had wrestled the wheel of the bike, repaired the puncture, fought the wheel until it went back onto the bike, and then put the brakes and gears beck together so we could use it, the tyre went down again.

Twice.

I was planning to replace this tyre at some undefined point in the future as it was worn down from seven years of carrying children, shopping, party supplies, scrap, exam projects, luggage, and furniture, to the point that the tyre was so loose it didn’t even need tyre levers to take it off the wheel any more. I decided to take the drastic step of actually spending money, went online and ordered a puncture proof-ish tyre, a new inner tube and extra wide rim tape, in the hope of sorting out the problem permanently. Then it dawned on me that I also needed to replace the gear shifter, as the bikes eight gears were now down to seven on a good day, and those were not always predictable due to the twist grip shifters habit of shredding cables, so I also ordered a proper trigger shifter, on the basis that I may as well just fight this battle once and deal with both problems at the same time.

All this came to about fifty euros, which is probably the most I’ve spent on the Bakfiets in one go since I bought it.

I also managed to persuade the Elder Son that as he is now riding the bakfiets several times a week, he should learn how to fix it by helping me, and se surprised ourselves by managing the whole repair in an hour and a half. Elder Son says this is his influence.

Annoyingly, he’s is probably right.

Porteur_01

 

Well, it turns out there’s a lot to be said against using hardwoods for luggage racks. Sure, they’re nice and solid, but it made the bike turn like I’d cable tied a stack of bricks onto the front forks. As the route to college has a number of those ridiculous chicanes made to slow everyone* down when the cycleway crosses a road, it became a decision between taking up weight training just to get the bike around corners, or taking the whole contraption off. The rack also developed the interesting habit of sliding forwards and downwards, something I really should have expected if I’d been paying attention.

I think I could probably sort out most of the problems: I could make the rack lower, and about 8 cm shorter so it didn’t hang over the front of the bike as far, and add another fixing point to the forks so it doesn’t try to keep going whenever I brake, but at the moment what’s left of my brain is mostly engaged in trying to remember enough of my course to survive the first theory tests, so any bike related projects will have to wait for a couple of weeks until there’s spare capacity available.

*Excapt cars of course, because… er…

I had actually spent money on the commuter bike last week. I don’t generally do anything this rash but the route to college involves a drop of 207 metres (670  ft) in 1.7 kilometres (1 mile), so it seemed sensible to make sure the brakes would work, which meant replacing levers.

The brake levers and gear shifters are one big unit, so I had to replace these too. I cannot understand why you would combine two such complex items, but suspect it was to ensure customers have to spend far more money than really necessary.

In such ways do the powers that be maintain global capitalism.

Having fitted these expensive bits I mentioned to the local bike shop owner that my wrist was hurting when I ride. He suggested a new handlebar, but that was way beyond the budget for this month. On hearing this, he went and dug one out of his scrap pile and gave it me for nothing.

Now the wrist doesn’t hurt and the bike feels far more comfortable to ride.

Take that, Global Capitalists…

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