Thursday, June 07, 2012

Keeping the old girl rolling

Here comes another post about the Long Bike (Xtracycle)!
It's funny how I can fall in and out of love with my bike. Lately I've been tending not to ride the long bike to work. It just seemed a bit of a drag... a bit too much effort so I'd take the lighter, faster Avanti, which I'd never really gotten comfortable with but was starting to get used to riding.
The Xtracycle felt like it had finally come to the end of it's useful life, everything seemed to be falling apart. The lumpy bearings in the bottom bracket, the warn out rear tire, front derailleur leaver busted... mirror come loose and facing the ground, bell broken... (Ok I'm not too concerned about the bell but it was just one more broken thing!) and it just seemed to take so much effort to ride.. I swear sometimes I felt like I had to peddle hard just to keep it going down hill!

Last week I had to look after my bosses V8, which I drove to work every day. By the end of the week I was mortified to discover that it uses more fuel waiting for the lights to change than our car uses in a week of commuting (OK I am exaggerating but it does suck a lot of fuel!). I also realized after a couple of rushed trips to Palmerston that it is much more likely to lead to speeding tickets than my trusty bike ever would! (Sorry Boss). So on Thursday I was very happy to give the mongrel thing back and start riding my bike again! Once again I took the fast bike but on Monday I'd need to take the kids to school and would need the Long Bike.

Fortunately over the weekend I was able to steal a couple of hours and decided to change the rear tire. After I took the wheel off I attempted to gave it the obligatory spin... Ouch! As I held the axle and attempted to spin the wheel I felt the hard edge of the axle spacer nut spinning between my thumb and forefinger. The wheel had virtually seized! Oh Man! No wonder the damned thing wouldn't roll nice. I felt the edge of the rim and discovered it had worn down to a rather sharp edge... The wheel was straight but seemed to be worn out in every other respect. With no money,buying a new wheel is not an option, I had to try and fix this one! The rim wasn't really a problem, the brakes still work fine and there's no sign of the rim being weakened so I set about trying to extract the bearings. Unfortunately the cogs were stuck tight to the hub and I couldn't separate them until Sunday. Once I'd got the axle assembly apart I could see exactly why my wheel stopped turning! The grease had combined with all the crap which had either gotten into the bearings or warn away from the cup and cone of the axle, they'd formed a thick coagulated paste, the bearings had become impregnated into the grit to the point that they had practically stopped moving! I washed the whole lot in turpentine and then cleaned them up, ready to be re-installed, if possible. As I washed them I notice that the cleaning solution was glimmering with tiny polished specks of metal, not a good look! The axle was warn but I threw the whole lot back together and packed it heavily with grease thinking that my wheel was finished and would collapse on my way to work the next day.

finally I fitted the Schwalbe tire I'd been saving, for good, since Douglas (who I've still never met) gave it to me last October, oiled the chain, replaced the bell and straightened the mirror, ready to ride to work on Monday and fully expecting my wheel to collapse!

After dropping child 1 at school I headed off down Mc Millans Rd... fast! I glided smoothly down McMillans Rd, legs pumping at a much quicker cadence than I was used to! The bike kept rolling past the bridge over rapid creek and felt like I was barely peddling! I couldn't believe it! The combination of smooth high pressure tire and slick, well bedded bearings on the rear wheel seemed to give my bike a new lease! Yesterday I rode again and today I took her for a spin into town and home the long way! She's running like a dream! While I was out I ran into a fella who's had a lot more experience getting the extra miles out of old parts than I have. A couple of days before I'd told him my bike is so warn it's pretty much finished! But now it's like I've become even more intimately connected with it and I can't bear the thought of riding a bike that I haven't pulled apart and shoved back together at least half a dozen times! I am really starting to feel that deep appreciation of this strange art! When I told my friend about my success he kind of chuckled. "With a bit of grease and some oil on the chain you'll feel like you're on a new bike". It's a lifestyle he's been living for longer than I've been breathing. And I know why! This was only a simple fix... 10 minute job really, but the feeling of satisfaction is such a buzz! I know my bike that much better, I had something to do with why that wheel keeps turning. I dismantled it and put it back together... no matter how simple the operation it is satisfying!

As I rode home I thought about how worn the wheel and various other bits of the bike were. The Raleigh was pretty worn out when I purchased it about 5 years ago. The rear wheel I bought for another similar bike I'd owned before it. When I got the Xtracycle I put that wheel on the back, it was still pretty new then but that was back in August 2008. I'd been chatting earlier in the day about how many K's I've done since owning the Xtracycle and it seems I'd underestimated. A LOT!

I'd thought I must have done about 6,000 km in about 4 years but actually it's a lot more.
Here's my conservative estimate:
80 Km per week - (20 km commute per day x 4 days per week. If I count other trips it would be 100 Km)
40 weeks - (52 weeks per year less 6 weeks leave. Yes that's right 6 weeks! less another 6 weeks just to adjust for sick days or those dreadful days when I drive the bosses car!)
4 years - (It's actually less than 4 years but the I think the time I've deducted from weeks is enough to cover)

So 80 Km per week x 40 weeks is 3200 Km
3200 Km x 4 years = 12800 Km

I've probably done more like 15000 but either way it's a lot of miles, a lot more than I'd thought! That's a lot of wear and tear on the bike! No wonder she's starting to groan! 


douglas said...

other bikes will come and go, but long live the extracycle :) where i am and where i started are economic worlds apart. i still remember rummaging through the coconut grove “pedals bike shop” hannons bin to get punctured tubes to repair and run in my bike. Keep the ol longbike going, I always see dumped bikes on the side of the road and in the bush, spare parts almost do grow on trees….. or under trees:)

David J said...

Cheers Douglas.
I am also amazed at how many bikes can be found just lying around. Actually you'd be surprised at how much of the stuff I use has come directly from the side of the road!
Of course the quality is sometimes dubious but over the years I've managed to most of what I need. Those tyres have been quite exceptional though!

Chandra said...

Congrats - that's a lotta miles!

Paz :)

David J said...

Hi Chandra,
Thanks for the comment. Yep that's a lotta bike riding, dream chasing, Bliss!