On your bikes

It occurred to me after my last bike-related posted that I hadn’t given any updates on the previous bike situation, in which my mountain bike was down for some fairly serious repairs and I was waiting to get my old road bike back.

It took a while to get all the parts I needed to fix my bike.  Eventually I gave it a new bottom bracket, crankset and rear wheel (the latter obtained from Recycle Cycle Cymru for £10 and the others purchased new), as well as replacing the  gear and brake cables, brake pads and chain and giving the rear derailleur a thorough clean.

Changing both the chainrings (as part of the crankset) and the rear cogs (with the wheel) meant getting a whole new set of gear ratios, as the new components were different sizes to the old ones.  In general it seems that the gearing is slightly higher now than it was (although having changed my tyres at more or less the same time makes it hard to tell as the width of the tyres also made quite a big difference – in fact since changing to thinner tyres after first drafting this post, I’m inclined to suspect that the fatter tyres had a lot more to do with the increased cycling difficulty than any change in the gear ratios).  At some point I should probably try to dig out (or reconstruct) the gearing chart I once prepared for the original chainring/cog combinations and do a similar one for the new gears.

While waiting to get these repairs completed, I got my old bike, a Motobecane touring bike probably dating from the late 1970s (as the company went bust in about 1980), back from the friend I’d given it to (in whose shed it was sitting unused much as it had in mine).   When I first got it back my other bike was still in pieces, so I spent an evening working on this one to get it into working order so that I could avoid walking to work the next morning.  Most of that work consisted in adjusting the mudguards so they didn’t rub on the wheels.  I noticed that the tyres were looking a bit perished but decided they would do at least for a few weeks.

The bike performed reasonably well on my way into work, but when I was coming home I heard some ominous squeaking sounds from the rear wheel area.  On stopping to investigate I discovered that the retaining nut for the rear brake assembly was missing.  I’ve no idea whether it had fallen off while I was cycling or if it was already missing, as that’s one bit of the bike I didn’t check carefully (having ascertained that the brake itself was working).  I rode very carefully the rest of the way home and then took a trip (on foot) to my local hardware shop to get a replacement bolt (fortunately it’s a standard metric size) before riding again.

My next ride on that bike was on a Sunday afternoon and was designed to be a short circular route along some country lanes near my house.  I say “designed to be” because my front tyre (or at least the inner tube) exploded when I was about halfway round.  On inspection, it appeared that the sidewall of the outer tyre had given way, causing the inner tube to get caught between the tyre and the rim and leading to its swift, explosive demise.  I did have a spare tube on me, but with the outer tyre wall so broken I had to push the bike home (probably only about a mile or so, but still a lot harder work than cycling it) and then order a new pair of tyres.

By the time my new tyres, Schwalbe Marathons like I (later) put on my mountain bike, arrived I had got the other bike working again so there was less pressure to get the road bike back on the road.  When I did get round to putting the tyres on I managed to cycle about 10 yards before the new front inner tube exploded.  This time, I think it was because I didn’t take due care to ensure the inner tube wasn’t trapped under the edge of the outer tyre.   Naturally, that had been my only spare inner tube of a suitable size, so I then had to wait several more days to get another one.

I fitted the new  tube and got the tyres both pumped up a couple of weeks back, and have taken the bike out for a couple of tentative spins down the road (mostly to the postbox and back) without the tyres blowing up.  This afternoon, I made another attempt at doing my previous circular ride and was pleased to be able to get home in one piece.

I think I’ll probably stick with using the mountain bike for most purposes, not least because I find it has a somewhat more comfortable riding position.  However, it’s useful to know that I have another bike I can fall back on if I need to take that one off the road for a while for maintenance.  I’ll probably try to use the road bike from time to time as well, to ensure that it stays in good working order and feels loved.