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A weekend of work

August 17, 2011

Finally I got time to work on the bike last weekend. My friend and fellow bike enthusiast Will came down and we spent a good day and a half on our bikes and drinking many mugs of tea.

Patio workshop

My aim for the weekend was to at least make the bike at least rideable, and the priority therefore was to fix the bottom bracket. Anything else would be a bonus.

We started on Saturday with our tools ready to take the cranks off. Here came the first problem – my socket set was too beefy to fit inside the cranks to remove the nut that held them to the axle. So, off we went to Condor Cycles round the corner, and asked the friendly man in the workshop to give us a hand. He removed the nuts to reveal that my axle was male threaded, and the cranks were held on by nuts (rather than the cranks being attached to the axle by bolts which thread into the axle itself which is the modern way round). Great that he got the nuts off, but it did mean that I wouldn’t be able to put them back on without another visit to the bike shop.

Cleaning ball bearings - some shiny, some not

Back home we set about removing the cranks with a crank puller, and then we attempted to remove the bottom bracket. We didn’t have the tool to do this properly (who knew every component had a different thread or bolt type!), so we used a hammer and a big screwdriver. This fitted into the notches on the bracket and with good old brute force we loosened the thread on the chainwheel-side. Out dropped the ball bearings which revealed the extent of the damage. Half of the ball bearings were fine (shiney and, amazingly, still greased) but the other half were rusted, as was the cup they sat in. That’s why I could hear crunching when I put down any force while pedalling! I tried to clean these up (with a novel sanding method – a mixture of bits of pumice stone plus suncream), but it was clear, even after reassembly with new grease, that this bottom bracket was dead. We stopped for the day.

I ummed and erred that evening about the project and the amount of money it was costing me relative to buying a whole bike (Will has just acquired a Raleigh for £60) knowing that a new BB was going to set me back around £10-£20. Eventually I found a BB at Evans Cycles, which wasn’t too bad a price (Shimano UN26, £11.99) and so I decided to just go for it. I had to measure the shell length and the axle length (68mm and 122mm respectively, and pretty standard racing bike measurements) and hope that the thread pitch was English type (apparently even the thread on bottom brackets isn’t standard – Bottom Brackets at Sheldon Brown). We bought it on the day from the Evans down the road. Now we had to remove the cup from the other side of the shell to make way for the new component. Our attempts to remove it failed, even with the largest of spanners. So that job was left until Monday, when I could visit the workshop at Look Mum No Hands.

At this point I thought I could kill two birds with one stone: get them to remove the cup with an even bigger spanner, and at the same time get them to take the freewheel off, since I saw no point in buying another component specific tool that I’d use only once. I fired them a quick email to see if they might have the right tool for the freewheel, and Sam in the workshop quickly replied yes. I took it down on Monday morning and the job took no time at all. This was a great way to end the weekend – I was finally moving closer to the goal of a singlespeed bike.

Thanks Look Mum No Hands!

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