Monday, May 17, 2010

Victory from the Jaws of Defeat/Sunday Cruiser

It was a tough weekend.
We made a special trip Saturday down to a nursery 90 miles away only to find that the tree they thought had arrived had not arrived,  got a flat tire along the way and had a close brush with dangerously low oil pressure.  The good news is that we made it back on the dummy and still had time to go see a movie.

On Sunday the Scientist went on a bike ride with another scientist (they like to time themselves and go fast, so I stayed home and read the paper), then started to work on Minerva.
I'd taken off the 17T sprocket on Saturday and "returned" it to Cambridge Used Bicycles (they "traded" me at 19T for the 17T).  I put the new one on, and started to re-assemble the bike.  That's when things started to go wrong.  I had bought a chain at Harris "asking for a SRAM for a 3 speed" like the one I got for Gilbert.  Unfortunately they must have grabbed the wrong one,  and doubly unfortunately I didn't check it until I'd shortened it and tried to install it, only to realize it was the 3/32" chain used with derailleurs, not the 1/8" chain used on 3 speeds. Sigh.

After some cursing, I took it off, put it back together, and returned it to Harris for an exchange.
I got back and spent the next 2-1/2 hours cursing at chains.  First I got the chain on at the perfect length.
But then I realized that a) the sprocket wasn't on tightly enough (needed an extra shim) and b) because the chain was so damn tight,  I couldn't get it off except by taking off the crank.  Chainbreakers are designed to be used on an "open" section of chain,  and all those parts of chain are concealed in the chain case, and since there was no slack, I couldn't get the link into the chainbreaker.  Cursing.

Then I put in an extra whole link ( two sections)  only to find that that chain was too long, and even with the axle pulled way back in the dropouts, it was noisy and loose.  More cursing, and the verge of tears. At every step of the way it seemed that I'd accidentally push a pin all the way through, or bend a link or something annoying.  Kudos to the Scientist for not only being a third hand,  but also talking me off the ledge more than once.

Finally I found the goldilocks solution- removing the two sections (one "link" ) I had just laboriously spliced in, and putting in a special "half link"  that the nice guy at Yellow Jersey had sent me when I was first having problems with the chainguard.  Success!  Not to loose, not too tight- and when I got it all up and running- it was like a dream-  quiet, smooth!  Hooray.  There would definitely have been tears if it hadn't worked after all that.  (Stopping and eating lunch would have done wonders for my mental health.)

I took it out for a test spin to the grocery store and it's a fabulous ride- like a cruise ship- smooth, stately, stable. The 19T make it SO much easier to start from a stop, and much better up hills.  It's noticeably less peppy in 3rd, but that's OK, especially for this bike that I mainly want as a Sunday Cruiser.

After all that, I needed a margarita, so the Scientist and I bicycled into to Harvard Sq (yes, a whole 7 blocks) and had a bike date at our local approximation of a tex-mex restaurant, followed by coffees and a slow, one handed ride home.
Odd-rackfellows- the Scientist's road bike and Minerva cuddling at the rack.  The Scientist made me carry his size 14 birkenstocks so that he could ride there in his cleats ?!?

 A tough day, but I'm glad I did it-  I was worried a week ago that I'd have no bikes ready for bike week, and now I have two great rides!


  1. Oh my sounds like a long "hard" job....but worth it in the end.

    There are those days that everything I touch is very dirty and/or breaks and/or ....well you get the picture. Glad the 19T works well.

    Stay Current ~ Ride Vintage!

  2. Minerva is a beautiful bike!

  3. yay, perseverance won again! wow, what a chain nightmare! i've shouted my fair share of expletives at recalcitrant chains (always in the context of a chaincase), but your story wins the prize.

    good to hear it all worked out and the gearing is to your liking. i switched the 18T cog of my DL1 to a 22T to deal with somerville's hills, so i definitely sacrifice top speed, but it's worth it to be able to lug up spring hill without a stream of sweat running down my back.

    and speaking of tex-mex, for months we've been without a babysitter. we finally scored one for this friday, so we can finally have a bike date! and the first thing we thought was "margaritas!"

  4. Your man rode to Harvard Sq from your house in cleats? Nice : )

    Glad to hear your Minerva adventures ended in success despite the obstacles (which were riveting to read about!). And I'm sorry, but when I look at your rear rack, I feel waves of intense envy. It suits the DL-1 so perfectly.

    Oh and nice dress by the way!

  5. Velouria,
    In his defense, there was still discussion of biking to Davis Sq for Indian food when we left the house :) In my book that doesn't require cleats either, but his road pedals are such that it is not easy to bike on them in street shoes, and his "city bike" is living at lab these days so he can bike around campus.

  6. Having spent the best part of Saturday trying to reassemble my DL-1 (although mostly in the role of "tool monitor" and "internet researcher" and "human bike stand") I can sympathise wholeheartedy! We spent hours wrestling with the chain, feeding it through the chain case (and dropping links inside it). Eventually we got it all assembled only to find that the thread was shot on the back spindle and nut. Presumably the only thing keeping it on before was all the grease and caked on mud I'd spend days removing. So the bike is still unrideable. Still, it kind of forces the issue on whether to replace the single speed with gears...

  7. Sheffield.
    Before you trash the rear wheel, you could very likely have the spindle re-threaded to a slightly smaller size, and buy a new nut in that size.
    I'd try taking it to a machine shop, but I bet they could do it for $20 (or of the equivalent in GBP). Kind of a pain, but less of a pain than finding a new rim, hub, getting it built up etc.

  8. sheffield, since you are in the UK, there should be plenty of bike shops that specialize in old sturmey archer hub bikes (i would assume). new axles are readily available and still sold new. replacing the axle does require tearing down the hub, but if you're not comfortable taking on that challenge then any shop that specializes in old bikes should be able to replace the axle for you.

  9. I recently had one of those days. Riding with a broken brake cable hanger, but luckily it still functions while broken.

    Alls well that glides well in the end, especially with margaritas!

  10. I am sorry to hear about your travails last weekend with Minerva! I had a less harrowing time with my DL-1 doing similar things last weekend... I swapped my 20 tooth (before that, it was a 17 like yours) for a mighty 24 tooth sprocket. I really need to climb hills where I live, and I am wimpy. I may want a chain case in the future, though, and this size sprocket may make me go back down to a 22. Anyhow, when I was extending my chain, I nearly panicked when I realized that the extra chain links I got from the shop were not as thick as the rest of my chain. I put it on anyway, and it is working, so I am leaving it for now. Also at the same time, I put on fresh tires and tubes, and mounted my flying pigeon rear rack. I am feeling like my as of now unnamed DL-1 is going to be a work in progress for awhile...

  11. Congrats on the hard work and accomplishment of a solid riding bike. That's way more than I would ever attempt regarding bike maintenance, so my hat's off to you. Definitely deserving of a bike date and margaritas :)