“One Piece At A Time”

I don’t work on the GM assembly line, but like Johny Cash’s pieced together Cadillac, my newest bike didn’t cost me a dime.

O.K., it did, but that was about ten years ago when I bought my Diamondback Outlook new for a couple hundred bucks. A beginner’s bike it was, and though I rode it hard for a while, I soon outgrew it and bought my current mountain bike, which is lighter, stronger, faster, and all around better. After that came the roadies. Along the way the ‘ol D-back ended up in the back of the garage, gathering dust. When we moved back to Shreveport, I came thisclose to leaving it on the curb, or dropping it off at Goodwill. Sentiment, however, forced me to pack it up and bring it with us.

Still, it remained unused, broken down, and stuck in the back of the garage. Then I received this month’s issue of Bicycling, featuring an article entitled “Your Fifth Bike.” The premise of the article was that most readers already have at least four bikes, but that everyone could use another bike. With that, I am in accord. The article then offered suggestions for that next bike. Being a school teacher supporting a wife and two kids, all I could do was look longingly at those suggestions, for instance, the carbon fiber 20 pound Scott Scale 10 hard tail mountain bike, which retails for more than I paid for my mini van: $5,250.00. Then I read a little inset to the article that began “You may already own your fifth bike.” The inset said many readers probably had an old clunker laying around, and a great way to rejuvinate that old steed was to make it into a single speed. “That’s me and the D-back” I thought, and having the afternoon free, I immediately headed out to the garage.

The bike looked bad. From a crash some time or another, the cranks were bent. The shifters and break levers dangled from their cables because I’d swiped the handle bar for the stoker’s spot on the tandem. Pedals long gone. No seat. Frayed and worn out cables for the breaks and derailluers. But I had plenty of spare parts laying around, and anyway, most of this operation involved removing stuff.

So I got to work. First I removed the derailluers, the shifters and all the associated cables. That by itself made a huge improvement, leaving the bike much cleaner and allowing its own beauty to shine without the clutter of eighteen speeds worth of cables, aluminum, and plastic. Next up, I replaced the upright stem with a more aggressive ITM race stem. Then to the stem I attached the road handle bars that were on the back of the tandem. On to those, I attached the rear break. The break got new pads and new cables. The seat is an old racing job.

Then it was time to make the bike a single speed. I took off the old broken cranks and chainrings and replaced it with an old Shimano 600 (Biopace!) double. Next I got really dirty cleaning the chain and the cassette. Then I removed the big ring from the crankset, leaving me with a 42 up front. As for the back, I don’t have a lock ring tool, so I had to leave the whole cassette. That also limited my choice of rear cogs. On a single speed, the chain has to remain in a straight line from the front to the back. Hence, rather than being able to pick a cog by size, as I could if I’d been able to remove the cassette and replace it with an individual cog, the only cog I could use was the one in line with the front. Still, it worked out well. The gearing would probably be a bit too easy if I was using this for serious riding. But for my planned use – towing my kids in their bike trailer and just cruising around town – it will be fine. In other words, the drivetrain is done, unless for aesthetic reasons I decide to remove the rear cassette and replace it with a single cog.

And that was it. Just like the article promised, in one afternoon of tinkering with an old bike and used parts, I made myself a new bike. I still have a few things left to do, new tires and maybe some bar tape, but otherwise it’s ready to roll. I took it out yesterday for a test run, and it was great. What makes it truly sweet is that this was my first bike, and when I got it about ten years ago, I lived about half a mile from where I do now. Lots has happened to both of us in that ten years, but now we’re both happy. All we need is that bike trailer.

Oh, yeah, here’s some pics.

It’s not going to win any beauty contests, but it’s looks cool in its own way:

Another angle:

My Shimano 600 crank and Biopace chainring:

The ITM stem and the roadie bars:

Now an honored member of the garage:

Finally, if you didn’t get the title to the post, watch this:

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One Comment on ““One Piece At A Time””

  1. Greenshirt Says:

    One man: One gear.


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