Rob Abrazado (flatvurm) wrote,
Rob Abrazado
flatvurm

Return to two wheels

So...for those of you not keeping score, here's the story so far. Back at the end of last October, some scumbag pieces of shit broke into my house while I was away and stole, among other things, my bicycle. A month or so after that, I trekked up to New York and inherited a replacement bike by way of kawaiiryuko from a friend of his who had abandoned it in his basement. The bike was unridable as-is, but with the help of metalepticfit and the Bike Church, we basically got the drive train and brakes and most of the major moving parts back in order, save the front rim (which was bent) and the rear tire (which was torn).

And that, plus a list of nice-to-haves, was pretty much how I left things back in early December. The bike was technically ridable, but the front wheel hub was squeaky in a kind of worrisome way, the front rim was bent enough to cause trouble with the front brakes, and the rear tube was trying to escape through a hole in the rear tire, so the bike was basically just put up on blocks as I tried to collect appropriate replacement parts on the cheap. I figured until it was refit properly, it would could just be for emergency use, but basically I just left it to sit in the corner, and I started walking everywhere again.

So. Somewhere along the way I picked up a replacement front wheel from the nice and helpful folks at Firehouse Bicycles. On the advice of metalepticfit, between both the rim and the hub, there was basically no reason to save any of the previous front wheel, and just picking up a decent used wheel made more sense than building a new one, so...that's what I did. Also somewhere along the way, I got a new tire for my rear wheel. I got it off eBay; I think Jeff spotted it. First time I ever waited around to meet someone on a street corner on West Philly. Astounding that it was for a bicycle tire.

Anyway. Somewhere else along the way, winter settled in nice and hard. Since I wasn't going to be doing any bike-riding anyway, there didn't seem to be much point in making repairs. Cut to the last few days, which have been just completely gorgeous and spring-like and beckoning to be ridden into on a pedaling machine of some kind. On my way out of the house to go walking, I would pass the useless bike, propped up against the wall, and I would glance in its direction. It would stare at me accusingly until I shut the door behind me. Sometimes, out on the sidewalk...I could still feel its gaze.

Anyway.

So this afternoon, I decided there was nothing else for it; I had to get down to business. Jeff was out and about, so I tried to tackle this bad boy on my own. The front wheel was easy enough to deal with, though getting the tube and tire onto the new wheel proved to be a greater challenge than I expected. Just out of practice, I guess. Not that I was ever in practice, really, but the pieces were more ornery than I thought. Anyway...Jeff came home right about when I was reinflating the front tube and discovering that I had not seated the thing correctly, as the tube was making tiny explosion noises and forcing the tire out of the rim. Mmm. So I deflated and reexamined re-seated thing and tried again, and that seemed fine.

The rear wheel is, of course, a little bit harder to deal with just because of gears and chains and junk, but the needed operation was easier, since all I needed to do was replace the tire. So I did that, slightly wiser for my front wheel experiences, put the thing back in the frame, hooked the drive train up, and started inflating. The immediate hissing sound as I was doing so told me that the tube had sprung another leak. DAMMIT! So I disassembled the drive train, took the wheel out of the frame again, took the damn thing apart (and the rear wheel operation now matched the front wheel's in complexity), patched the tube, reassembled the wheel, put it back in the frame, reattached the drive train, and started inflating again. Much better this time...and only a very little bit of tiny explosions. Hrm. Gonna just...hope for the best on that one.

So. The new front wheel meant my front brake calipers were all maladjusted...which they probably would have been even if they hadn't been previously adjusted for a bent rim. ;) It appears that I lack the proper tools to adjust the calipers directly (actually the "yoke"; I've got this weird centerpull setup up front), so I just aligned the calipers with my hands and then did a shitload of tightening on the cable adjustment. I think I'm going to have to actually bring that bad boy into the shop to adjust the brakes correctly. Also I think in the process of goofing around, I knocked the little end-cap thingy off the end of my main cable. I'm...fairly certain that that's not going to destroy anything.

So. New front wheel, fixed rear tire (and tube, dammit!), fixed front brake. Should totally be road-worthy! Time to go for a spin.

I rode the newly refit beast up and down my street for a little while, and then around a couple of blocks, just to get the feel of thing and see if anything looked like it was in imminent danger of falling apart. Which is, you know...basically my fear about anything that I put together myself. All seemed well, so I took her out for a longer trip. I headed toward the Schuylkill, since that's got the bike trail hotness. I was all set to do a little scouting in a new direction of the usual trail, but then I remembered...it's the weekend! Philly closes off a length of street next to the river on weekend days and lets cyclists and pedestrians have their way with it, something I had forgotten until biking up to the river trail today. Hot damn! So instead of scouting the bike trail, I instead took to the street.

It was glorious and freeing. The reason I recapped the history of things at the beginning of this tale is to highlight the fact that I really haven't done any significant riding in about, oh, four-and-a-half months, say. I go out for more-or-less daily walks, but...aside from that, I basically just sit at my desk. It was excellent to get out in the world at greater than strolling speed, feel the sun on my back and the wind in my face, and work up a halfway-decent sweat.

Or was it? It seems that I not only sit at my desk all day, but apparently I also stuff my face. It has been a long, sedentary, fattening winter, and today I felt every damn day of it while I was huffing and puffing my way along on my bicycle, feeling the ache and burn and wondering...just how many times did I allow myself the treat of a cheesesteak these past few months?

My first hint that something was wrong was the effort it took me to squeeze into some shorts. The same shorts, in fact, that I wore all the time last summer when I was, oh yeah, doing hard physical labor every day. So that stopped, and I got bigger because of it. Anyway...once that rather embarrassing moment was over with (it basically looked like this, except without the prior greatness), I went out on the ride proper. I was definitely winded a lot faster than I'm used to, and I also think I can't push my stance forward as far, basically because my giant belly gets in the way, which is probably just as well, as it prevents me from kneeing myself in my man-boobs.

Also interesting was that I underestimated the challenges of single-speed cycling. On the one hand, I greatly appreciated that there are fewer moving parts and things that can break in the single-gear setup. Less important to me, but still a thing, it also makes the bike itself lighter. And overall it's not so bad having one gear -- I mean, there are times when I'm cruising when I miss shifting into a higher gear, but it's not a big deal. What I really ended up missing, unsurprisingly, were the lower gears. Man, I could feel every tooth of that gear ratio difference when I was trying to power my way uphill, ya know? Thankfully I was not called upon that often to get moving uphill from a dead stop; that would have been adventurous. On balance, for me, personally, I think I prefer multi-speed. That said, single-speed is definitely doable, especially as I get back into better shape. And if I ever go back to multi-speed, I'm sure I'll be cursing that decision the next time maintenance comes to be needed again. ;)

Overall, I'd say the bike performed well. The front calipers may be a little tight, as on the more...energetic...turns, I think the front rim was touching the brake pads, so...I'll look into that. I think I felt a skip in the chain once when powering up a hill, but I was unable to reproduce it and so don't really know what to do about that. Actually, come to think of it...for both issues, it wouldn't hurt to check the nuts on both wheel hubs. Back when we did the primary maintenance in December, I made a list on the blog of future things to address. Here's the old list with updated notes:

  • Wheel hub maintenance - I think both wheels need the hubs redone. The front wheel squeaks terribly, and Jeff said he saw "play" on the back wheel, so...yeah. Gotta do that. Front wheel replacement took care of the front wheel hub. Rear wheel hub remains unaddressed.
  • Replace front rim - That deformity on the front rim doesn't just spell structural imperfection; it also creates a functional hazard in that every revolution of the front wheel causes the ding to knock into the front brake arm. I could actually address this by loosening the front brakes, which I may yet do, but that renders them less effective, and only masks the problem without addressing it. Done with front wheel replacement.
  • Fix/replace rear tire - Jeff had me try a jury-rigged tire patch at the Bike Church, which may or may not be staving off a disaster. In any case, the tube is kinda bulging out of the hole, which basically puts me like a gnat's fart away from a blowout, so...I should probably do something soon about that. Done and done; brand new rear tire!
  • Get lock and lamps - The bike thieves got my lights and my bike lock, so I have to replace them. No lights means no going out at night, and no lock basically means no leaving the bike anywhere. :) I thought about something a while back, too...when the thieves took my bike, they ended up with my lock, but no keys. Nobody won in that exchange. ;) I got a new lock, which I think is great but haven't actually used in the field yet. I thought I bought new lamps, but...what I actually bought were two pieces of junk. Still need lamps. Until then, no riding at night.
  • Replace handlebars - This is a pretty low priority item, but I find my current handlebars pretty short. I know that shorter handlebars are the trend these days, especially for urban bikes, but it's just not my thing. I'm a wide guy, and I'm basically never in a hurry; I'll go for stability over performance any time. [Update: Now that I've gone for a test ride, this is definitely a thing.]
  • Replace pedals - This is basically always on the list. ;) But besides my apparent propensity for breaking pedals, I also am always on the lookout for bigger pedals. Again, stability (and durability) over performance for this cyclist. [Update: Again, after test ride, definitely a thing. The smaller pedals act as strange force points under my ungainly, too-big-for-cycling feet, and also occasionally force me to turn my legs inward, which can't be good. For sure I need bigger pedals, especially if one day I'm going to move on to toe clips. In fact, I'm making this a priority over wider handlebars.]


So I think that's the state of things at this point. The reason you guys get treated to this overly rambly blog post is because basically I can only move my fingers at this point. All in all, I probably only went like 10 miles today, and only half of that was me really going for the gusto. In the scheme of things, that's not an overwhelming ride, but up against a season-and-a-half of inactivity and apparently an extra pants size...well, I've come back from afternoon outings in less pain, let me put it that way. :) I am, let's say, very aware of my body right now, as my muscles start to wake up and discover their disuse. I've also become quite aware of the extra flab I'm carrying around, which I guess sneaks up on you a bit when you spend your days in elastic waistbands.

So, yes, at the end of the day, quite good to be cycling again. Quite bad to be facing a long and arduous time of getting back in shape. But that's life in the big time, right, everybody? Welcome back to spring!
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