Monday, November 24, 2014

If it ain't broke.

Before getting into the the meaningful (well, I suppose that's debatable - but whatever) part of this bloggery I want to make note of the clever joke that I made with the title. You know, just in case I forget that it was a joke this will remind me to laugh next time I read my own blog. That is a thing I do incidentally, and it's much easier than actually remembering what I have done, I just read about it on the internet.

As I recently wrote to my hand-picked team of bicycle advisers, "You will be pleased (or perhaps indifferent) to hear that I have taken up the challenge of building this fixie". There's that joke - see? I then continued, "I have set the budget of this enterprise at $50 plus whatever I can find in my parts collection".

Now I have to back-up a bit so I will remember what the heck this was all about when I've forgotten all about it and read it on the internet. Mark (no, not Marc) gave me a bike frame, intended to be a singlespeed or fixed-gear road bike that he had ended up with. I've never wanted a fixie, because I don't like riding them. I also have nowhere to keep another bike and generally prefer off-road bikes anyway. As an aside, I am running at an all-time low of off-road bikes at the moment. Seriously... I have just one mountain bike. That's going to change though, mark my words.

I think it's worthwhile making note of my bicycle adviser's fixie heritage here. Jacek has ridden a fixie to work every day since before he was able to walk, and recently crashed on it because he was pulling up his trousers. He's also stripped the threads off every fixed-gear hub known. Paul had a mixed wheel-size 1990's mountain-fixie mashup thing that he rode to the pub for a while. I tried to ride it down the lane behind Tracy's house and nearly died in several hilarious ways. Both of these highly-qualified advisers told me it was a good idea to build a fixie. Now I read that back to myself I'm having doubts about this project... but whatever. Onward!

So I was given this frame. Then, I looked at all the bits of bikes stashed away in my bicycle treasure-boxes. Some mental-configuring later I realized that I was "that" close to having all the parts I would need to build a bike out of this frame, and what better kind of bike to build, than one I don't want? You see... then I might not keep it. Clever, right? Like my joke.

Predictably, I didn't quite have everything I needed, so I bought a pair of Chinese hubs from eBay and a fork from OCB. I have all the other wheel materials already from a pair of road wheels I built for Kermit when I thought he might be a road bike - and then he became something far more practical. The only part I know I am missing is a brake lever, and I am confident I can bring that in on-budget by rummaging in the bin at OCB. So that's good.

The internet's finest cheap fixie hubs.
Chosen to work with some spokes I had already,
and because they had sold out of blue.

During my rigorous mental preparations for this project I discovered that all fixies need to have parts that don't fit, bodged together with shims. So I did some of that. Shim #1 attaches the vintage Syncros seatpost of indeterminate diameter into the shim that was already stuck in the seat tube. This shim-shim-(shiree) was fashioned from a coconut water can, which appropriately is a hipster-approved beverage.

Shim #2 was an interesting one. By almost sinister chance, OCB not only had a 700c fork with canti-brake bosses and a long-enough 1" steerer (which is what I wanted), but it was threadless. It is a true fact that the prospect of finding a 1" threadless steerer fork when you actually want one (pretty much never) is approximately equal to the number of times you will want to find that fork, ever. Figure that one out. Compound this with the fact the threadless 1" headset (an item that is actually constructed from an infinite number of hen's teeth) had been thoughtfully stashed on the fork, and you have some might long odds. I'm surprised the universe didn't spontaneously evaporate at that moment and condense back into the exact form it was previously, just to prove a point. Or perhaps it did. Anyway, back to this shim. Having the mystical forces of the universe align once already that afternnon, I decided not to try looking very hard for a 1" threadless stem. I think if I had found one of those at the same time as all the other stuff, the law of entropy would have been so convincingly disproved that I would have needed to spend the rest of my life on top of a pole... like that Simeon Stylites. A lucky escape indeed. Existential crisis avoided, I decided to use a chunk of cut-off 1 1/8" steerer tube to fashion a shim and use one of the pile of 1 1/8" stems I already had, and a cable-hanger whatnot for the front brake. An agreeable solution all-round.

It's upside-down because it actually was upside-down.
This photo does fail to show any of the interesting tinkering I did though. Oh well.

The fun thing about this shim is that it preloads the headset via the top-cap, and you can fit the stem anywhere you like on it without any spacers... and I didn't even have to spend the rest of my life sitting up a pole to figure it out.

Where does that leave me? In the larger sense, almost exactly where I started from - with a pile of bits of a bike that will assemble into something I neither particularly want, or need. I am looking forward to building the wheels though, when the internet's finest hubs arrive.

As if that wasn't enough, this weekend I finally got around to starting another project (and actually riding bikes too, incidentally). A while back a sad thing happened to my favorite bike, with the result that what was once one became two and the sum of the parts was less bicycle-shaped than the whole. In an attempt to resolve this situation I have put my name down on the list to get a new favorite bike from someone very good at making frames. Simultaneously, someone not so good at making frames (me) is going to repair the old one. I am confident that at least one of these will provide satisfaction. If I get on with it, I might actually beat the real frame builder too, ha!

Can you tell what it is yet?


I'll just wrap this with duct-tape and it will be fine.