Thursday, January 05, 2012

New old winter bikes

My faithful old winter bike was getting pretty rusty after 8 seasons, and I was also getting rather tired of the mtn. bike frame geometry and wide tires. It was a very stable set-up, but with a studded front tire it was annoying to ride on those days of clear dry roads. Sure, I could have another wheel handy with smooth tire and swap it in, but I also felt the need for a second bike for back-up purposes, if nothing else.

So as an experiment last winter I took an old CCM skinny-tire bike, swapped in an aluminum front wheel (for decent braking) and used it as a "dry roads" bike. I ended up using it as often as the mtn. bike, and quite enjoyed how much faster and lighter it was, especially when towing one of the two trailers.

This year I wanted to go the full route and build up a pair of hybrid bike frames; one with smooth tires, another with winter tires (studded front, knobby out back). This way I would have my choice of bike for whatever road conditions, as well as a back-up in case one bike flatted or broke something right as I was heading out to a gig. So through the season at the re-Cycles shop I kept an eye out for suitable frames / bikes. Both bikes were to be built with very low gearing for trailer-towing in winter conditions, so top gear is usually the cruising gear, and everything else for uphill or towing. If I want to go fast downhill I'll happily just coast...
First up is called Winter Bike #1, only because it was the first one I put together (WB2 is further down). A late-80's Nishiki touring frame came in. It needed a fork, and the one from my deceased (hit by a taxi) hybrid bike luckily fit just right. The frame has some rust and even a small dent in one tube, which allowed me to not feel bad about using what was once a nice frame as a winter bike. This beast has smooth tires for those days when roads are clear and I have some distance to travel and don't want winter tires adding drag.

I ended up with very tight clearance for the 46-36 double chainring due to the cartridge bottom bracket I happened to have on hand, and should perhaps put in one with a longer axle. Yes, the rear shift cable just touches the underside of the front derailer cage.

Indispensable front "crap flap" was added to the bottom of fender to keep slushy salty spray from hitting (and sticking to) the frame.

Modern v-brakes added for excellent stopping power (remember that I often tow a loaded trailer in winter since the Mighty Cargo Trike goes into hibernation).

Yellow crate on rear rack adds both practicality and visibility. Seasonal Xmas led lights run off a small 12v battery w/inverter, though will be removed very soon.

Adjustable stem is great for getting the bike dialed in, but needs a little attention to keep from gradually wearing out and getting loose.

Simple non-indexed drivetrain, with nice wide-range 6-speed freewheel of 14T to 32T!

Lightweight aluminum handlebar, fat grips for winter mitts, and light and bell stuffed on there. Note stylish yellow cable housing.

Winter Bike #2. It was a complete Nakamura hybrid bike, showing some rust and so like WB1 no qualms of using it for winter. I kept the cantilever brakes but had to build new wheels (my 6th and 7th times ever doing so), since the front was getting a new generator hub and the rear a used internal-gear hub. (Yes, these Xmas lights are also coming off soon.)

 This is what a studded tire looks like. It does a nice job of grabbing in slippery conditions, and you know it's working when the non-studded rear end fishtails. Having the rear wheel wash out is usually recoverable, but having the front end do so usually means a wipe-out.  :P  On the old bike I did try riding both tires studded one year but the amount of drag was not worth it.

This bike gets an added treat - a Shimano generator hub! This little device will supply power to the not-yet-installed custom led lights RGB is putting together for me. No friction from this thing like from those old sidewall generators that leaned against the tire!

Shifter for the Sachs 7-speed hub. Now only available in twist-grip form (which I dislike, especially with big winter gloves) this thing is like gold, as the entire unit of shifter/cable/hub clickbox has to be replaced as one. 

If you've ever tried to mount a single chainring on a crank meant for three, you'll find the bolts are too long, because they are made to join the larger two. While short-stack spacers (used for BMX and fixies) can be purchased, the cheap solution is to take a worn out chainring and carve away just the areas around the mounting holes, leaving nice, if slightly irregular, spacers as shown here

Drive side of Sachs 7-speed hub. The click-box is where the indexing takes place, and it usually comes with a metal guard arm that clamps to the axle and projects out to protect the unit if the bike falls over. Since the rack-mounted crate sticks out even further I can leave the guard off, which means one less things to fiddle with during a wheel / tire change. Rear cog is a 23T from my old winter bike, while front ring is a 38T.

Left side of Sachs 7-speed hub, showing coaster-brake (back-pedal) arm and receiver for trailer hitch (WB1 has same receiver, so both bikes can tow either of the two trailers). Maybe I should paint over some of that rust...

Unlike WB1, this rear wheel did not get full close-fitting fender since that design often packs up with snow. So a plastic spray guard is attached under the rack. And like pretty well all my bike, the rack holds the handy crate.

I fastened this piece of platicized cardboard in place to keep snow churned by the rear wheel from dumping into my boots and also on the chain. Time will tell if it simply just packs up with snow...

Front mount for spray guard, with a twist of stiff wire to keep things in place.