It’s been a snowless winter so far here in the DC area. Temperatures have been warm-ish, with only a couple of days below freezing. I’ve been riding nearly every day which means that my legs think it’s April. My bikes are another story.
I have four bikes and every year I use the winter to get them fixed up. Bike shops are generally not as busy this time of year. Of course, if I had a shred of mechanical skill, I’d do the work myself but as Dirty Harry once said: a man’s got to know his limitations. Or, in other words, my best repair tool is my credit card.
I am fixing my bikes in the following order: Little Nellie, The Mule, the Crosscheck, and, maybe, Big Nellie.
Little Nellie is getting a makeover. The bike is in pretty good shape but I have never liked its drop handlebars. As I get older, I find that riding Little Nellie is really hard on my lower back. A contributing factor might be the long reach to the brake hoods. In any case, it has never felt comfortable, even after getting a shorter stem. Nearly every day I see a man of a certain age buzzing about on his Bike Friday. He has flat handlebars and seems to be quite comfortable. So, I decided to swap my drop bars for handlebars. I could have bought some run of the mill flat bars from a local bike shop but, unlike Bike Friday bars, they are not split in the middle for easy packing. I frequently stuff the bike in the trunk of my car and a single-piece straight bar might not work. Moreover, the bike is designed to be disassembled and put into a suitcase so having split bars would make this much easier.
I contacted Bike Friday to buy a set of handlebars from them but amazingly they blew me off. Their web site no longer has a shopping page. Since they are still selling bikes, they obviously must have bike parts but they wouldn’t sell me a handlebar. I got online and found a bike shop in the DC area that sells Bike Friday tandems so I called them. They had several split bars that I could check out. I drove about 50 miles and compared about six or seven bars. I originally had planned to use straight bars but the shop had set of H-bars, straight bars with vertical end bars. I bought them then brought the bike to Bikes at Vienna for the work.
After a few days, Daniel the mechanic at B@V called me to tell me that I need a new front wheel. The rim is original and has almost 23,000 miles on it so I am not surprised. Between the cost of the bar, the new wheel, new brake levers, cables, housings, and such the total cost of the conversion is about triple what I had planned on. I hope it works. It should be ready sometime this week.
When I pick up Little Nellie, I’ll drop off The Mule. The Mule needs a whole lot of work. The bar tape is shot. The front brake has a skipping action which I suspect means the wheel needs to be trued. I had some problems adjusting the tension on the rear break and may need to replace it. A few months ago I destroyed both fenders and will need new ones. I’ll probably replace the chain and cassette too. They still have some life left in them but changing them now means I won’t have to change them again until after the summer. Finally, the front derailer gave me trouble last summer. It may just be the nature of using aftermarket chainrings that have no ramps (which guide the chain during shifting) combined with shifting under stress. Anyway, it’s worth checking.
Once that is done, the CrossCheck goes in for service. Because I don’t tour on it, it gets a lot less stress than The Mule. Still it needs new wear items: bar tape, chain, and cassette. Maybe brake pads. It has a weird front rim that has a notch between the braking surface and the part that the spokes connect to. That notch eats brake pads. I’ll probably live with the rim since brake pads are cheaper than rims.
Big Nellie is down in the basement on the resistance trainer. It’s in pretty good shape. The shifting is a little sloppy but I can live with it as is. I’ll evaluate it once the weather gets warmer and I can take it for a long ride outdoors.
While all this work is being done my thoughts are turning to a summer tour. Stay tuned.