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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?

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.

GTB_01a

Since working at a local bike shop and maintaining the ever expanding family bicycle fleet (currently at nine bikes for six people, one of whom can’t ride yet, and your point is?) I generally think I’m pretty competent at basic cycle repairs, but there are some days when I wonder if I should be allowed out with as much as a hex key in my hand.

Take Wednesday as an example. After successfully not losing one of the wheels while juggling them between bikes, I’d also fitted Elder Son’s saddle to the commuter bike, as mine apparently wasn’t up to snuff. This done, we toddled off to prepare ourselves for the 80k ride the next day (ie, get lots of chocolate).

In the morning, we were just climbing the first major hill, when The Elder Son mentioned that his saddle had moved. When I tested this by poking it a couple of times, it wobbled and almost fell off.  We flagged down a fellow cyclist and were directed to a shop in a town a few kilometres away, where I shamefacedly confessed to not having fastened the saddle properly. The owner came and had a look, and announced that I had also managed to put the post on backwards. Fortunately he was sufficiently amused by this to not charge us for fixing it properly. I expect that story will go around the regulars for a while…

 

GTB_02

Elder Son thought that his brakes may be snagging as well. I lifted the bike and checked both wheels. They turned freely. I harrumphed at this lack of trust in my maintenance skills.

Despite this we made it to Gutenberg. This is at the end of the valley and going further means climbing about 350m in 3 km (830ft in 2 miles), and I’m much too lazy for that sort of thing. So we took a not at all posed picture of the bikes in front of the church door and set off.

 

GTB_03

After a quick break for lunch…

After our return I found the cause of the ‘dragging brake’. The valley that I’d assured Eldest Son was nice and flat climbs 300 m in 25km. Thats just under a thousand feet in fifteen miles.

Need to work on navigation skills as well as maintenance…

 

wheels_on_wheels

Fresh wheel delivery by Bakfiets

The Elder Son has frozen onto my commuter bike as his preferred form of transport, and was ready to go on a bike tour. This meant moving his saddle over to the commuter and fitting a new wheel with a hub dynamo, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but as usual I faffed about and didn’t get on with it.

The wheel intended for the commuter bike was on the Xtracycle, bought as an emergency replacement in January when the original wheel rims finally split after being worn down over twenty years of use. Last week I finally bought a better wheel for the Xtracycle, so now we had to move the wheel on the Xtracycle over to the commuter, after removing the tyre, put the new wheel on the Xtracycle and take the older, dynamo-less wheel off the commuter. this would donate its tyre to the wheel off the Xtracycle before disappearing into the cellar.

Because we can’t do things the normal way, we added another elderly front wheel out of the cellar, and used that to prop each of the bikes in turn as we worked on their wheels. I have no idea why I have so many used bicycle wheels.

There was one interesting moment when I thought the brakes on the commuter were acting up as I couldn’t set them straight, but this was solved by pushing hard on the handlebars, which knocked the wheel in straight and suddenly everything made sense

I then made exactly the same mistake on the Xtracycle, but as we are taught at college, Occupational Therapists don’t make mistakes, we have ‘learning experiences’.

At some point when I’m less embarrassed about it I’ll tell you about the learning experience we had with the brakes and the saddle on the next day…

 

I’ve been neglecting the whirry clicky bits of the Xtracycle of late and now it is making its displeasure clear: the chain has been making a noise like a bag of cats for months, despite oiling it regularly, and last week the chain finally wore down to the stage that the wheels wouldn’t turn no matter how much I pedaled, so I started looking around for a replacement before my smug green glow began to fade.

Some time ago I upgraded to eight speed shifters, mostly because my seven speed shifters were considering gear changes to be a request rather than a command (anyone see a pattern here?). I’d not bothered to change the cassette at the time, reasoning that I could do that later in the year. This was in spring 2011.

So this week, I ordered a new rear wheel with an eight speed cassette, two chains and a chain removal tool. This proved cheaper than getting a new cassette and hub mounted on my old wheel, and leaves me with a wheel ready to fit a spike tyre onto for next winter. For once I have actually planned ahead instead of waiting for things to fall to bits.

Any smug glow this may have created promptly vanished without trace when I decided -for reasons that are unclear- that the chain needed to be tensioned while on both the smallest cogs, instead of the largest as I had done the previous seven times, so the first time I tried to change gear I nearly pulled the rear derraileur off its mount. Fortunately the new chain gave way first.

Back to the Commuter Bike for a few more days, then. At least I’ve got plenty of bits for making bike chain chrismas tree ornaments in December.

 

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