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More things to fix

July 19, 2011

A few posts ago, A Can of Worms, I said that I had found more things to do on the bike than I originally planned. These included general maintenance like the brakes, pads and cables, and also a bit of cleaning. Realistically all this needed to be done to make the bike rideable before putting in the effort for the conversion of the bike to a singlespeed. Annoyingly, I can add a few more things to the list of things to fix now after having ridden the bike for a few weeks since the start of the project. Eventually I’ll post a complete check list (in a logical order) of what I have done to the bike, which I hope will be useful for anyone wanting know what things might have to be done to refurbish an old bike. I’ve gone at this blindly as this is the first time I’ve messed with a bike, so here is the list of things I’ve encountered so far:

Fixed:

  • brakes (and pads and cables) – all replaced
  • rims – slightly bent, so straighten them
  • saddle was wearing through so replace this
  • handlebar tape was worn/none existant so replace this

To do:

  • need to adjust brake lever position
  • chain – quite loose, so tighten using the position of the rear wheel in the horizontal dropouts
  • tighten the cranks and pedals
  • bearing wear in the rear wheel and bottom bracket – will need new bearings I think
  • teeth wear on the chainwheel
  • possibly need new tyres
  • replace the freewheel with a singlespeed!

First problem solved

July 7, 2011

It took a while but I’ve finally fixed the brakes, so I can keep riding!

It wasn’t a simple choice on the brake front. After deciding that it wasn’t worth attempting to fix the old Weinmann brakes I had to find some new ones. I found out that I’d need some fairly rare sizes, and also a fitting that isn’t now the standard. Because the frame is rather old, and to accomodate a possible upgrade to new 700c wheels in the future, I looked for some ‘very deep drop’ caliper brakes. Luckily this kind of upgrade has been done a few times before, so I went by some recommendations on message boards at bikeforums.net and CTC forum and bought some Tektro R556 from SJS cycles. These come in the nut fitting I need, and have a drop range of 55 to 73mm, so they are perfect for my frame and wheels. They also have a quick release lever to allow the wheel to be removed more easily and seem to be well built. At £35 they were a bit more expensive than an alternative brake, the Alhonga deep drop brake from Spa cycles, but in general the Tektros got a better report.

I also needed new cables. I didn’t realise that these came in different fittings – Shimano and Campagnolo, but I guessed that my levers fit the Shimano type cable end. I found some very cheap (but highly rated) Transfil Shimano type cables from Wiggle, so I bought them in the hope they would fit. The whole cable set (two lengths of inner cable, one outer and outer caps) only came to £7, which I thought was pretty good!

Everything arrived by Friday, so I spent Monday evening fitting them to the bike. I found a tutorial on Youtube which went through the basic set up, and within a few minutes I had the brakes on the bike with new cables and adjusted to fit. It was so much easier than trying to adjust the old brakes. It took a little time to find the perfect clearance from the rim (because the rear is still slightly bent) but at least these brakes were easy to centre and tighten. Now for the test drive!

A can of worms

June 23, 2011

When I started out refurbishing this bike I thought it would be a simple case of removing some parts and connecting the gaps. How wrong I was. So many rebuild or conversion sites recommend that you do all sorts of extra repairs in parallel with your project. Naively I dismissed this and got on with focusing on just the gears on the rear wheel. However, as soon as I had started to dismantle the bike and do a bit of cleaning, I discovered a few things on the bike that needed fiddling with – a tightening here, an adjustment there. Of course, being the tinkerer that I am, I did just that, I messed with those parts to see if I could get them to work better. Instead I found out that these parts didn’t need just adjusting; many of them needed replacing altogether. A can of worms was open.

Problem 1 – the brakes

I thought these worked reasonably well on the bike before I started out on this conversion. Yes the front one squeaked a little, but they still stopped the bike.

Weinmann Type 730 caliper brakes

Weinmann Type 730 caliper brakes

When I first took the wheel off the bike to look at the freewheel I saw that the brake pads were seriously worn and needed replacing. So off I went, bought some need pads, and came back to fit them to the bike. But I thought I should check the rest of the braking system to see if I could make it work better. There is a problem where the brakes don’t pull and spring back evenly, and have a habit for one side staying close to the rim even after adjustment. I searched internet for some help on caliper brakes and these particular brakes (Weinmann Type 730) and found that others have had the same issue.

I also discovered that these brakes require a special tool for centring. I tried adjusting the clearance of the pads and also the centring of the brake unit but still had the problem of the brakes sticking. This could be due to old brake cables, but also it could be due to the pivot in the brake assembly sticking and not releasing properly – possibly due to a perished plastic bushing in the brakes. This leaves me with a few things I need to fix:

  • I need to replace the cables (something you should do in general maintenance)
  • I could clean and grease, find a new plastic bushing and buy the special centring tool, or
  • Find a new set of brakes.

I would like to keep the old brakes to keep in with the theme of refurbishment, but in the event that I can’t find the components to repair them I’ll have to buy some new. The new brakes would have to fit onto the old frame with the nut-and-bolt fitting and the have same reach  (Sheldon Brown explains caliper brakes). I’ve already found some that look like they’ll do the job, a pair of Tektro R556, which have been suggested in some forums as good direct replacements for Weinmann Type 730. Currently I can’t use the bike because of the brakes (or lack thereof), so this is now the number one priority.

Problem 2 – the wheels

The circle of refurbishment continues with the wheels. I’ve talked about the rear wheel and the conversion to a single speed freewheel previously. I decided that I could:

  • modify the existing hub and wheel – requires a new tool to remove freewheel
  • build a complete new wheel with new parts from scratch
  • buy a ready made wheel either in the shop or on ebay/London fixed gear single speed

At the start of this project I didn’t consider the any aspects of the wheel except how I could make it single speed.

Serrated front wheel rim with brake pads removed

Serrated front wheel rim with brake pads removed

However, there is a lot more about the wheel that I need to consider. Firstly there is the size: I have 27″ rims (630mm), which are larger than the modern rims (designated 700c (622mm) – see here for wheel size explanation). The size of the brake drop needs to be considered when changing the size of the wheel. Secondly there is the material – my rims are steel and aluminium tends to be the modern standard material. Also, the front wheel rim is serrated, which means it’ll probably make unwanted noise under braking not matter how which brake pads I use.

This is a lot to consider – wheel specification, brake drop and drive train type. And on both the front and rear wheels. Probably the best option would be to find matching front and rear 27″ (so I don’t need to worry about changing the brake drop size) aluminium wheels with a singlespeed (or even flip flop) hub. Having said that, I can still cope with the wheels as they are, and removing the freewheel and redishing the wheel should be a relatively simple and inexpensive job. For now, I will keep the current wheels, only adjusting the dishing and replacing the freewheel.

Other maintenance

  • I’ll probably new tyres soon, although I’ll wait until I’ve finished deciding about the wheels first!
  • I need new tape for the handlebars as the old (sponge) grips have worn through.

Mid-project test run

June 20, 2011

I’ve been riding the bike for a week since I did a little maintenance on it. Even after only a little TLC it rides much smoother. The lack of a rubbing derailleur on the chainwheel really helps.

Testing gear ratios

A good reason to pause and not completely dismantle the bike immediately is that a) I can still get to work and b) I can test the gear ratio that suits my ride the best. I used to ride with a ratio of 40:15 (or when I wanted to be lazy, 40:17), and so I first calculated the equivalent gearing when using the larger, 52 tooth, chainwheel, which I plan to keep in my conversion. (Note, this ratio measurement does not take into account different sized cranks or wheels between bikes, but since I plan to keep the same cranks and wheels on my bike, the ratio calculation is sufficient. If I needed to change the cranks or the wheel size, I will need to use a method that takes this into account: a useful article and calculator for gearing ratios is found here). This turned out to be a gear I didn’t have – 19.5. However, I do have 19 and 21, so I tested these combinations on the rides. I’ve been switching between a 52:19 and 52:21 depending on how much effort I can be bothered to put in. I think the 52:19 has the most going for it though, it just requires me to try harder!

Consequences for the design

From further research, it seems that the freewheels I will be able to find easily range from 13 teeth to 18 teeth. Since that would give me quite a high ratio, I might have to go back to using the smaller chainwheel in combination with a smaller freewheel.

Saving money, and recycling!

June 16, 2011

Interestingly I just found this:

This bike costs £649.99 at Evanscycles.com. So basically with this project I am trying to create a £650 bike for a fraction of the cost (it will be a tad less well spec’d than the new bike, but hey for recycling and the environment!)

Dismantling and assessing

June 14, 2011

Having decided on a course of action I had to take the bike to bits to work out what I needed for my conversion. I had read a few sites (see links) and had an idea of what I may need to do. Any possible route hinged on the type of gear and freewheel I had on the bike. Reading the excellent Sheldon Brown’s site, I found that there are more than one type of cassette/freewheel. I had briefly come across this but assumed it wouldn’t be much of a problem. It turns out I was wrong and I will need more tools than I originally thought to complete the job.

The freewheel problem

The two types of freewheel

There are two types of freewheel that my bike could have. Either a thread-on freewheel (left) or a freehub and gear cassette (right). If I had a more modern freewheel, I’d probably have a cassette and freehub, and would be able to modify this quite simply to give a single gear. I could either dismantle the cassette on the bike, keep one gear and pack it up with spacer elements in order to fit it onto the freewheel, or buy a conversion kit (like this) that fits directly onto the freewheel. If I had an older thread-on freewheel, I’d need a more extensive rebuild of the wheel, but could buy a single gear freewheel to attach.

I decided to investigate by taking the bike apart again.

Freewheel illustration from Sheldon Brown

Threaded freewheel!

Compare my freewheel (left) to the example from Sheldon Brown (right) and you see that I have an old-type threaded freewheel.

That result depressed me. This job was no longer an easy quick fix. It’d at least involve some redishing. On the plus side, I could use the same techniques as Need 4 Single Speed. On the down side, I realised I didn’t have the tools or a workshop to borrow them like Need 4 Single Speed did. Plus the insides of the freewheel and the bearings made me realise that there was a lot of work to do. Is the conversion even worth it?

Early stage planning

June 13, 2011

So, having decided to keep the bike I now have to decide what to do with it. I have a few options.

Do I:

  1. Repair all the broken bits
  2. Remove as many broken bits as I can, but otherwise keep the bike the same
  3. Remove the broken bits and remodel the bike

It comes down to how I use it. It currently is a commuter bike; I use it on short, flat journeys around London. I rarely change gear (partly due to the difficulty of using frame mounted gear levers in traffic). Brakes are a necessity and a light bike would be easier to manoeuvre.

Evaluation:

  • Option 1. Expensive. I’d need a new derailleur, handlebar tape, possibly a new rear wheel, and lots of cleaner.
  • Option 2. Easy. The bike still functions but I feel this is a quick fix. Also it is no where near as cool.
  • Option 3. More difficult. It’d take time, but would be fun. I just need a few tools, bit of degreaser, and a few components.

This wasn’t exactly a fair poll – I’ve been biased to option 3 from the start, but it did give me ammunition against all those who questioned my impulsiveness.