Bike Retrospective

I actually wanted to write this way (way, way) earlier, but I have had a few hectic weeks at the job. So time off was not being spend being very productive, but rather with relaxing and not doing much.

In any case, a while ago I finished my bike, and here it is:

the brakes

Now there has been some modifications to the bike since I finished it, but before diving into those, lets address the aesthetics, I was despairing about.

I was worried that the bike might end up looking a bit clunky, with bigger brakes and mudguards and all that. But it turns out my friend was very much right, the frame demands mudguards and the brakes look fine, even brings the whole thing together. Without mudguards, the frame would have a lot of empty space around the wheels, something I actually saw the other day, and yes - it looked wierd.

Also I had initially a slight angle upwards on my handlebars, done so assuming that it would be more comfortable to rest my hands. My friend also told me about how it is normally done, with the handlebards either horizontal or with a slight downward angle, but I thought that it was just done for the looks, but after I adjusted the handlebards downward a bit, I did actually find that it was much more comfortable, as I began supporting my weight on my muscles rather than on my joins.

What about those changes?

Yes, yes, those changes. The sharp eye may have noticed on the pictures that the dropouts I have are not the ones most suited for a fixed gear bike. So the very ordinary single speed chain I had was a bit of a hassle adjusting properly, as each link consists of a inner and a outer link. So I ended up changing it.

The problem that caused me to do this, was that I could either have the hub pushed all the way back, which still gave a bit of slack (which caused my chain to fall off just about daily), or have it teetering a bit to close (for my peace of mind) to the opening of the dropout. And while I could have gotten a single half-link, I went ahead and got a full half-link chain, it is a BMX chain from a Taiwanese company called Yaban Chain. And while it came in all kinds of crazy colours (as appropriate for the palette mashup fixies out there) I went with simple "silver".

The chain was a nightmare to put on, as it came with a guide pin that could be fitted on a special threaded pin. This all sounds fine, but I could not for the life of me get the guide pin off once I had the chain assembled, and worse, using the combination of threaded pin, guide pin (and possibly my chain tool) caused the links to expand ever so slightly, which caused the normals pins to be useless, as they would just slide out.

I tried riveting a pin in place, but without proper tools (such as an anvil) it did not work out so great and the chain came apart after a few hundred meters of pedaling.

In the end I scavenged a link (while dreading I had ruined the chain) from the few links I had taken off, luckily I had taken off more than one, so there was a set of undamaged links. Using those and a regular pin, I could put together a working chain.

The second change was the pedals, the generic city/mountain bike ones I used, had a odd metallic frame with points on it. With one side having an especially long point that was uncomfortable to tread on even with shoes with really thick soles, and since I recently switched to some quite minimal shoes (very thin sole), it became clear I needed to switch, as I became tired of having to flip the pedal all the time. The pedals are Traverse from Xpedo (also from Taiwan, it seems), but a rather ordinary looking pair. Not the circular or the crossbones ones that are also available.

And then I also added reflextors to the wheels, since I would like to avoid being hit by a car in the darkness.

While I was doing all these changes, I also had to rewrap the bartape, as it had loosened in the rain while parked at work (I really want better parking: V-shaped wheel slots and a roof for the rain).

How is the bike?

So far, the thing I like the most about my bike, is the fact that I can fix it.

I know that seems kind of weird to say, but that was actually one of my goals: making a bike that I knew how to fix when it needed it. As a side effect I am also doing a lot more smaller fixes, tinkering and adjusting. As I have some of the right tools and a little bit of knowledge how the bike works.

That said it has developed a creak down at the bottom bracket, it was very pronounced at the height of the summer, but as the weather has cooled and become more wet, the creaking has been going slowly away. I honestly do not know what causes this, I went by the friend and he rotated the pedel arms around the bottom bracket, but to no awail, it did not change anything. Obvious remaining candidates are: bottom bracket or the frame, both of which suck, as I do not have the tools to change a bottom bracket, and I actually rather like the frame by now.

What about that fixed gear?

Riding a fixed gear has actually been quite good for me, I think. Since there is one (and only one) gear, it has caused me to pace myself a lot better, I do not sprint as I know I cannot relax on my bike and just coast. I go slower up hills (and bridges) as I know I have to deal with any excess speed coming down.

And while it is just anecdotal, I can back up the claims about that it has been good for my knees to ride fixed. Before my knees were often hurting, but after I switched it has been getting a lot better. Admittedly, there was a period where I had to stretch my knees after almost every ride, as otherwise they would hurt as well. Initially this caused me some worry, but I think I tell that this was a different kind of pain, the kind you get from using muscles you did not know you had.

Project: DIY Bike

Posted Jun 01 2015 by Esben Sonne