If you have wandered across my flickr stream lately you might of noticed a couple of photos of my latest bicycle. So here is the story behind it. I regularly commute the 2.5km to and from the train station each day. Until recently on self destructing cheap chinese hybrid, that is in desperate need of replacement. So when the latest bulk rubbish collection occurred in our suburb, I decided to see if I could find a suitable replacement. Unfortunately I spent the weekend clearing our shed of 10 years worth of junk to have a good look locally.
A few days later, on the way home in the bus (it was raining heavily), I spotted a suitable candidate in a neighbouring suburb. It was a steel framed road bike, I was hoping for a steel framed mountain bike, but it just lying there, looking for a new home. So in the half light of dusk and in pouring rain I grabbed that bike and what looked like the remains of another heavily abused road bike that was lying underneath it for spares.
One closer inspection, the first bike I spotted was a 25 year old taiwanese road bike, from a time when the taiwanese went for quantity not quality. While the frame was in decent condition, in addition to a destroyed set of front wheel bearings which put the bike of the road many years ago. all the no name components (wheels, brakes, cranks, stem etc.) as well as being poor quality and heavy, they where badly rusted and unusable.
The abused bike was a japanese entry level racer of similar vintage. The frame was badly corroded by rust and damaged by a previous owner aggressively fitting a kickstand. The components including Araya rims, Sunigo cranks and chain ring, Cherry cable pull breaks, SR stem and Shimano shifters and gears where is suprisingly good condition and while the steel components, the bars, rims and cranks had surface corrosion, a single treatment of rust convertor fixed that.
So I spent $60 of new tubes, tyres, chain and brake cables (well $85 if you include tyre liners). Stripped two bikes down, cleaned the components, cleaned and repacked the bearings. The rebuilt one bike out of the parts, using the heavy but serviceable taiwanese frame, the japanese components, a seat I had taken off my mountain bike a couple of years ago, a set of pedals I was going to put on my mountain bike and after a few hours later I had a new commuter which is fun to ride.
Why another bike when you have 3?
Was the question Angie asked. I already have a good road bike bike and a good mountain bike, but neither are really suited for the commute. A dual suspension mountain bike with soft rubber is best suited to hammering singletrack and clambering over obstacles not a couple of kms over bitumen, with a little dirt and some kerb hopping thrown in, neither is my road bike. Plus I don’t like the idea of abandon either at the train station, even though most days I get a bike locker.
So that leaves the hybrid. Well the hybrid is just a cheap piece of mass produced rubbish, bought a few years ago from a discount store when I did not know better. It got me back into cycling, but that is it’s only virtue, built to the cheapest possible price, poor quality control and components. It is failing terribly, both wheel are buckled, the gears are interesting challenge, it needs to go to the bulk rubbish collection.
Why recycled not new?
Why not, I wanted a bike to commute to the train station, I could get what I needed by recycling someone else’s trash. Instead of buying a cheap bike from a discount store for a few dollars more. I wanted something reliable and durable, my experience with cheap new bikes is they are anything but reliable and durable.
If I wanted something new that was reliable, durable and suited to the job in hand, I would need to spend more and make the purchase from a specialist bike store. However, after spending a few hundred dollars on a bike would I feel happy leaving it at the train station, probably not.
Back to reliability and durability, I just want to be able to grab the bike and ride to the train station each morning with minimum maintenance. I am sure I would of got the six speed Shimano Deore rear derailer working again. However, with my road and mountain bikes the rear derailer needs regular maintenance to perform at it’s peak. Without proper maintenance, worn or poor quality parts it is annoying to apply extra force to the pedals and the bike to shift a gear or two, like what happens now with my hybrid.
Also the commute is relatively flat, both my house and the train station are at the top of hills, but neither inclines are steep. The current gearing of 40/17 is more than required. I have used 40/15 without a problem, but the chain does not run true and I not ready to step up to 52/20. But for the commute one gear is enough.
All the cool kids have fixies
Why did I not I go for the simplicity of fixed gear (pedals directly driving the rear wheel, so if you stop pedalling the rear wheel stops turning). Two reasons, the parts I had made a singlespeed and I have had interesting experiences pedalling around corners, as the motorcyclist in me leans heavily and pedals have dug into the ground. This is not something I wish to repeat, particularly as the way home involves a long downhill straight (which I have be known to break the local speed limit on my roadie), a roundabout with a 270 degree turn and a short uphill section, which I try to hit at maximum possible speed.
Advice for others
Recycling an old bike is relatively easy, it does require some specialist tools, but if you are buying your parts from your local bike shop, they will usually help you out. The labour is the easy part, picking the right bike to recycle is the challenge and requires the luck.
And I will back on the scrounge next year, looking for a decent steel frame preferably in a large size and any other quality components that fall my way.
Final word, one other thing to add to your shopping list, new brake pads, 25 year old brake pads do not stop as you as you hoped.