Logo 1 #topThe Poor Man's Fix-it shop.[not for the proficient craftsman] . . . .Logo 2

TUMBLEWEED HANDYMAN CORNER

 
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...BICYCLE CONTENTS PAGE
(click image for story or picture)

HANDICAPPER
Trailer

 

 

    Do you need a bike trailer but you can't afford to spend as much for the trailer as you did for the bike (or more)? You might like this option, a $15 dollar trailer made from a thrift store walker and some spare parts. It not only looks nice, but it works surprisingly well. I wouldn't want to trust if to carry all my supplies across country, but with a little alteration I suppose even that isn't out of the question.

    Click the image for the "rest of the story."

 

BIKES I'VE KNOWN
Bike link

 

 
    Over the years I've owned a few bikes. If you have absolutely nothing better to do and want to waste your time reading about something that will teach you absolutely nothing, you might give this page a try. Then again, you might like to brows the pretty pictures of bicycles.

    (Note, if there's any page I should have, and wish I had, left out of this section of my site, it's this one. If you read it you'll understand why. I hadn't intended this to be an autobiography but rather a helpful hints resource.)

 


rack

 


    The terrain of my property is rather steep and covered with gravel. I count on my kick stand for support, which doesn't like sloping ground and soft surfaces. When I come home from shopping my bike has a hard time staying upright once I'm not astraddle of it. To keep the bike upright I made this little bike stand out of scrap lumber. I don't think I have to describe it, the picture should do that.

    One problem I had was keeping the rack from falling over. This I accomplished with a simple screw holding it to the porch. The angled pieces not only serve for support for the rack, but also for the wheel of the bike.

    Be sure to measure the width  of the widest tire you plan to fit into this rack. I didn't, and there are some bikes that just plain won't fit this rack.

 
     Something not pictured. My driveway is steep and ends abruptly. There have been times I was unable to come to a stop and swing off my bike without falling over. This is especially true when my back is giving me trouble. To overcome this problem I set a couple concrete blocks, end to end, with a thick board cut the same size as the two blocks and laid across the top, near the end of the drive, along side the rear tire of my van and next to a canopy post. When I reach the end of my drive I ride up next to this step, rest my left foot on the step, and swing off the bike. It's a lifesaver, literally.


rack

 


    A rack of another color.

    This rack fits into my trailer hitch. It was given to me by a friend, and it's more of a help than she could imagine, for some reasons I'll tell you about in a moment. Racks such as these are not only handy for carrying your bike, but for fixing it as well. When working on a bike one of the most needful things is getting it off the ground so it's at a comfortable working height, and that allows the wheels to rotate. This configuration serves both of these capacities.

    If you don't have a rack like this you might consider purchasing (maybe from a thrift store if you can find one (two) there), some metal brackets or the like that can be mounted to a wall and protrude far enough so your pedals are free to rotate. I have some of those that came from a hardware store that I planned on using, but ended up with this setup instead. I use the brackets to hold spare wheels and tires, something it's well suited for.

 


rack

 

 
    For years this is how I carried my bike. A rack in the front of a vehicle is not visible for many reasons. But until I was given the rack previously shown I had no choice. What I want to show you here is how I have the crossbar of the bike wrapped as it sits in the rack. Even though the rack has a rubberized coating on the surface, as the car moves, the bike rocks in the rack. This movement, even though slight, wears away the paint on that part of the frame. And if cables run under the cross member, the problem is intensified.

    If you don't want to wrap your frame in towels, then you might consider taping a thick sock over the working end of your rack, something that will cushion the ride as well as move with the bike rather than wear against it. This advise isn't only for carrying the bike on the road, but when using the rack for a bike stand for working on it. 

 


grip

 

 
    I have problems with poor circulation in my hands and feet. Riding just a very few miles causes my hands to become numb and painful. I took some pipe insulation and cut it in half, and to length as you see here, and taped it at the ends to my grips. This works out very well, but after a few weeks use the cover looses its cushion and has to be replaced. Also it tends to try to rotate on me if I didn't tape it well enough.

    This bike, my Urban Xpress, came with grips I especially like. You can buy them at your local store, at least I've seen them here at the department store in the bike section. This flat surface give better support to the palm of the hand and doesn't bite into the flesh like round ones do.

    If you have trouble with circulation or numb hands, as you ride try alternating the position of your hand, rotate them so your wrist is straight rather than bent as in normal riding. Hold the grip with your finger tips for a while so blood can circulate through your palm.

 

 


grip

 


    This is how the cushion would look when finished, however this one is compressed and needs to be replaced

    I like the shifting levers under the handlebars like this, only they aren't placed in such a way as to be easily accessed. On both the front and the rear shifters I had to almost twist down to the bars to get them to shift. It might just be the manufacturer of this kind of shifters that creates this problem, the shifters being of a cheap, though effective nature. I was hurting my thumb, especially my left thumb, shifting. I used a piece of brass and cut it to the shape of the shifters, only longer for leverage and reach, and taped it to the shifters. This worked to a degree, but the shifters were still too far under the handlebars for my liking. I then took a small block of wood the same length and width of the shifter (the brass extension) and taped this to the shifter. I only needed about a quarter inch of build-up for the right shifter, but the left is now a full inch closer, and is easily accessible. This solved the problem, and in 4 years I haven't had any trouble with the additions coming loose or slipping on me as I had expected.

.

 


bags

 
    I bought a set of inexpensive (cheap) saddle bags from the department store. These are nice enough bags, though too small for my liking, but for the price I really can't complain. I find it interesting that these bags are exactly like the brand name bags sold at the bike shop for twice the price. Hmmm.
    The bags kept grabbing on something when I tried to remove them. By the time I figured out that the board giving support to the bottom of the bag was catching on the axle, it was too late and the bags had torn from the bottom to the degree that I was losing things along the road. I tried a stop-gap measure, not expecting it to work, but I was desperate by this time. I took a heavy piece of fabric and cut it to fit well under the bag and most of the way up the back. I then cleaned the area with a stiff brush and sprayed it with some good glue (contact cement probably would have worked better). Then, once the fabric was in place, I covered the edges of the fabric, halfway on the fabric and half on the bag, with duct tape. It looks tacky from the back, but no one sees this side anyway.
    As absurd as this sounds, it works. I've been doing this for 2 years so far, and only have to make slight repairs, mostly to the duct tape, once or twice a year. Not bad for a cheap fix.
    I don't like the tiny zippers they put on these bags. In my mind there might as well not be a zipper there at all since they'll give out with not much use anyway. I leave the bags open when I ride, but I don't like doing this for many reasons. In place of open bags I started using large paper clips, the metal kind that have wire handles that fold back on itself. I clamp the bag closed with these, which works as well as anything rinki-dink.


 


guard

 
    There's a couple things I want to show you here in this picture. First however,r ignore the slab of wood, that's for the trailer as described in the first article above.
    Notice the small piece of wood that lays across that larger piece of wood. The saddle bags I use have metal hooks that fasten to the rack. I don't know how they figure those hooks will do any good since, even with tightening them (squeezed them closer together with a pair of heavy pliers), I kept either kicking them off when I swung my foot over the saddle, or the heel of my foot would knock the first hook off and I'd have to get off the bike and correct the situation, or, as was the last straw, I would ride over something and find both the bags laying in the street behind me. Twice I've had people drive after me or in some other way inform me that my bags were laying in the street far behind me.
    Now for the little piece of wood. This wood, held on by small bungee cords, is used to lay across the bags so they're held tight against the rack, holding the bags to the rack. No more wayward saddle bags. Another cheap fix that works.

    Second thing to notice is the loop attached to the struts that hold up the read of the rack. I had problems with the saddle bags getting in the spokes. This loop is a piece of old brake cable housing cut so it fits across the rack struts in a loop, the loop being light, cheap and filling in the area where the bag was not restrained. This loop is held to the struts with black tape. It's been 4 years and I've yet to have a problem with this setup, and the bags stay out of the spokes.
    Fenders cost an arm and half a leg. They're expensive, and they're cheap, cheap in that they're cheaply made. I got these fenders for half price, they were white until I painted them to match the bike. The plastic connectors that hold the fenders to the bike break far to easily. Several times I've discovered a fender loose on one side or another, dragging against the wheel. It happens so often that I carry black tape with me to make repairs on the road. This is tacky, no doubt about that, but I use a small piece of wire or something like an ice cream stick that reaches across the broken area, and taped it on each side of the break. This only holds for a short time, but as yet I haven't discovered a permanent fix.

 


pad

 
   I have trouble with my crotch going to sleep after just a very few miles. I usually don't notice this until I disembark my bike, then I can hardly walk at times. Just what causes this problem I don't know, but it forces me to stop for a while after about 3 to 5 miles or so and let the blood circulate. My first attempt to solve the problem is the same as everyone else I suppose, and that's to cushion the seat with sheep's skin like in the picture. This didn't work well enough, so I put some foam padding under the seat cover. Again, it didn't work. I was having so much of a problem in this area that I would ride with my leg against the seat while almost standing up. I checked with the doctor to see if I might be having the same problem Lance Armstrong had. My doctor said this is one cancer I've outgrown, it being an ailment of the young and maturing. I bought a rather expensive saddle, one with a groove down the middle and a cut-out in the back. This makes a big difference, but it doesn't solve the problem. I no longer have to ride side-saddle however, and I think I discovered part of the problem.
    Padding on the saddle adds to a man's problem. The padding presses against the prostrate and causes pain in that area. What we do to rectify a problem only makes that problem worse. A seat needs to allow blood to circulate in the groins area, which padding serves to block. A proper saddle has a groove that goes all the way from the front to the back, but those things cost as much as the bike itself. However any saddle with a cut out and groove will serve to allow blood to flow to some degree, and the cut out in the back allows air to circulate where most of the sweat and heat is accumulating
    The things we learn, wouldn't you say?



 
    Looking behind you.
    I don't even ride around the block without a mirror. But I find the mirrors that attach to the handlebars less than useless. I wear a mirror that fastens to my glasses (usually with lots of black electrical tape). They're small, and very close so I can see a great deal with hardly moving my head. Also, because they do turn with my head, I can see everything, not just what happens to be in line of sight, if the mirror on the bike hasn't been jarred out of place, or hasn't been busted because the bike fell over.
   These tiny mirrors tend to be pricey, in fact, like most bike stuff, it's highway robbery. But if you check the web you can get for $5 dollars or less what I paid over 16 for. Check out BlueSky bikes. You'll have to find the web address yourself. I'm not advertising for them, but we poor riders have to stick together... That didn't sound right, let me try again. We riders that are poor. Does that sound any better?
    I hate flat tires. I suspect most riders who aren't masochistic do. I ride (my best bike) on tires that are very small, so they take those skinny tubes with long, skinny valve stems. I don't like those because I keep breaking them off when I fill the tire. I guess it's just me, but regardless of who's fault it is, I don't like them. Another problem with them is I can't get that green slimy stuff into them that stops flats. I want them so I don't get as many flats. This is how I solved the problem. I bought a 21/64ths drill bit (an odd size if there ever was one) and made the valve stem hole the size that will fit a standard tube. Now I can install the small thorn proof tube I want, and fill it with that slimy stuff, and add a tire strip over tube. This of course causes my ultra-thin, ultra-light wheel to now weigh as much as the tire of my van, but at least there should be less flats, at least that's the theory. However, I have had a flat with this arrangement, but the beauty of it is that I rode 3 miles on that flat, realizing that the bike was a little hard to peddle, and the tire or tube wasn't damaged at all. The valve stem hadn't even moved off center. If I can ride home on my flat I'm not near as upset with flats as when I have to carry home what should be carrying me, especially when I'm coming home with a load of groceries.
   By the way, if you try drilling out the valve stem hole, realize that you're weakening the rim, and be sure to sand the edges of the hole smooth so it doesn't cut into the valve stem. If you don't, you'll be carrying that bike home again, and this time with a tube that can't be patched.
spokes     A lot of bike tourist travel the road past where I live since I live on a popular bike route. I try to describe to these tourists what I'm picturing here, but few (if anyone) takes me serious, most being more week-end tourists out for a long jaunt rather than serious bike enthusiast. However one young man I told of this, dismissed it, and he was on his way to the tip of Mexico, a route that might well require such a safety measure as this
   A broken spoke can do more than spoil your day, it can wreck your wheel. When a spoke breaks it throws your wheel off-kilter and (over time) forms a set, something that has to be worked against when the spoke is finally replaced. In the meantime the other spokes are having to bear the load the missing spoke was carrying, causing them to weaken and break. Because of this the broken spoke should be replaced as soon as possible. But it's not often easy or convenient to tear your wheel apart where the spoke breaks, this particularly being true when the spoke breaks on the rear wheel on the freewheel side. And if you happen to be touring and carrying a load...?
   This trick is not something I thought up, I read it in a bike magazine some 40 years ago, so it's not some hidden secret, it just isn't talked about for some reason. Take a spoke (I carry at least three with me) that's longer than those on your bike. Place the spoke along side one that fits your bike, the threaded ends matching (also make sure the threads are the same by trying the nipple of one spoke on the other spoke). Then where the spoke bends, bend the new, long spoke. Using needle-nose pliers, again bend the spoke in the original direction, as in the illustration. Now clip off the head of the spoke, leaving only maybe 3/8ths of an inch. (The spoke on the left is one with the head broken off) The head of a spoke is what tends to break on a spoke. If a spoke breaks in the middle it's usually caused by flexing as the wheel comes around and touches the ground because it's too lose. Heads of a spoke are what bears the full weight of the spoke, and it's the weakest point. By eliminating the head, you've effectively overcome this weakness. I have spokes on my bike I've replaced in this way almost 40 years ago. I've yet to have one break on me or give me any trouble whatever.
    Now, when a spoke breaks, remove the spoke and replace it with your manufactured spoke. Even if the broken spoke is on the freewheel side you don't have to remove the freewheel because you don't have to thread the spoke through the hub from the outside. If it's a spoke that should extend from the freewheel side of the hub, ignore that fact and insert it from the inside. It will serve its purpose just as well. The freewheel side of a hub takes more pressure than any other part of the wheel because it has to be "dished," causing it to be stretched (the spokes) more than any of the others, so it's the most likely to break, especially if carrying a load as would be the case with a tourist.
   Tape these extra spokes along the rear stays (the bottom part of your bike that leads to the hub of the rear wheel), where they're fully out of the way, but easily accessible. And don't forget to share your knowledge with other travelers. They may not listen to you at the time, but when they break that first spoke on the freewheel side, they'll probably try real hard to remember what you had told them.
   A final note: normally when replacing a spoke you would remove the tire and tube and rim strip, and replace the nipple as well. At this time you would make sure the spoke didn't protrude beyond the nipple and puncture your tube. You won't be able to do this, nor to file down the spoke if it's too long. so for this reason you want to make sure the replacement spoke you've made is no longer, and maybe even a hair shorter than the spoke you've used as a sample.
   
    Here's some general tips for checking your bike to see if it needs repair or adjustment. This might save you having to pay $40 to a bike shop to do the same thing, and hope they did what you're paying for. I used to work at a bike shop, and I taught adult education bike repair for two colleges, besides my own experience and the experience I gained from leading long bike tours. This said to show that I'm not just talking from book learning, I've been there.
    First take your bike and lock the front brakes by squeezing the brake lever. Rock your bike forward and backwards. There should be no movement other than a little flexing of the brakes as they rock with the wheel. If the brakes move too much, or if they seem to be loose at the attachment screw, tighten them until they move freely but don't feel loose.
   Now lift the front wheel and let the handlebars go freely. The wheel should turn to one side or the other with no binding. If it binds or moves slowly because of resistance, the bearing are either dry, worn out, or too tight. I'm not about to try and teach you how to make repairs, there's a lot of other resources much better equipped than I am to do this. I just want to show you how you can keep tabs on the safety of your bike, and its rider.
    Check the brake pads. If they're too worn, replace them, and make sure they're adjusted correctly. A poorly adjusted set of new brakes can be more dangerous than a properly adjusted set of worn brakes.
    Grasp the wheel(s) at the top and move the wheel from side to side. There should be no "play," movement, in the hub at all. Now, while you have the wheel in hand (and off the ground), turn the wheel until the air valve is at the top, and a little to the right or left of top dead center. Let go of the wheel. The wheel should roll until the air valve is at the bottom, and possibly even rock at that point a little. Unless you have some counter weight on the wheel such as a reflector, the wheel that doesn't act in the way described indicates the bearings are too tight or they're worn.
    Stand behind or in front of the bike and turn the wheel. (I'm assuming at this point you either have your bike upside down, or preferably in a bike rack suitable for working.) Watch the wheel as it turns past the brake pads. The wheel should run straight with no "humps." If the wheel doesn't run true it needs to be adjusted. Unless you really know what you're doing, don't try to adjust the wheel because you will ruin it. Bike shops gain a large part of their income by repairing what the novice has destroyed by trying to save money.
    Back to your handlebars. Make sure the bars don't move in the forks. Block the front wheel against something like a wall and try to turn the bars. They shouldn't move. If they do move in the fork they're liable to turn on you when you're riding and you'll end up head over heels in the road. Now, lift up and press down on the bars. Again they shouldn't move.
   Check the adjustment of your brakes. If the brake levers are moving too close to the grips, they need adjustment, or the pads need to be replaced.
   Check the cables. If they're rusted or frayed they should be replaced. As a stop-gap measure you can wire brush the rusted part and apply a little oil to the area. Frays are dangerous, being sharp wires that puncture, and should be covered with some electrical tape until you're able to replace them. Keep in mind that rust and frays weaken the cable, and will eventually leave you without brakes or gears.
    When you replace the cables, cut the cables with sharp wire cutters or diagonals. Cut at an angle rather than straight across. If you replace the housing, which you should, make sure you cut between the coils and don't squash them, and clean the end of the housing with a file so it sits straight across. Clean out the inside of the housing with something like the tapered end of the file (the tang that inserts into the handle) or a large nail so there's no sharp edges to rub against the cable and cause it to wear and break. Use some good grease on the cable so it doesn't have resistance as it passes through the housing. If the loop of the housing is too large the brake or whatever will be spongy because it has to compress the curved part of the housing before it can apply the brakes. Try to make the loop as small as possible, accounting for the turning of the handlebars, yet not so tight they kink. A little forethought can make a world of difference as to whether you end up with a fun riding, safe bike, or one that's a headache.
   Your seat should be fairly straight across, flat, not angled down at the nose or leaning back. Adjustment makes the difference between a bike you want to ride, and one you try to avoid riding. All bikes, even expensive ones, come with cheap saddles since they expect the rider to buy a seat of their choice. So don't expect your new bike to have a good riding saddle, it probably won't. And if you ride much, you'll probably spend as much on your seats as you did your bike as you buy and reject them in your efforts to find just the right saddle Keep in mind however that part of choosing a good seat is a matter of getting used to it, not replacing it. People don't break in saddles like they do shoes, they break themself into the saddle, and that requires time and riding (and sores and calluses at times).
   Make sure your seat is secure on the seat post, and that the seat post is tight. Move the seat from side to side and up and own. It shouldn't move. Make sure the seat is properly adjusted. A seat too far forward or backwards, too high or too low, can not only mean the difference between a good ride and a bad, but it effects your knees, ankles and other parts of your anatomy, which will eventually tell on your health and well-being. Seek advice on this topic from web sites and your neighborhood bike shop.
    Check your gears, ruining them through their course as you turn the pedals. Do all the gears work properly?
   While your hands are on the pedals, rock the crank to see if the bottom bracket (the part that houses the crank) moves at all. It should have no play at all. Turn the crank and check to see that it moves freely, while listening to see if there is any sound that might indicate dry or worn bearings. Feel the peddle and see if there's any looseness.
   An often overlooked measure is to grasp the pedals, one in each hand, and press them in opposite directions, checking for looseness in the crank where it attaches to the bottom bracket. Now press the opposite direction (pressing hard). Often when there's some play in this area there will also be a sound such as a mild squeak, but not always. Once the crank begins to wear, if not caught right away, the crank (being aluminum unless it's a cheap bike) will wear beyond repair and will have to be replaced. It's a good idea to tighten the bolts that hold the crank to the bottom bracket even if you feel no looseness. I've had occasions when a bike I was riding came loose in a crank and I had to ride home with one pedal in order not to destroy the loose crank, and I then carried the tool to tighten it if it ever came loose again.
    If your bearings need lubed, make sure you use a good lubricant. Some greases are too thick, or designed for high speed, which heats up grease and causes it to flow properly. Bikes need a soft grease, such as a Phil Woods lubricant, which tends to be expensive. A friend of mine suggested boat trailer grease, that not only is soft, but resists moisture as well. I've been using this for over 30 years, and when I re-lube my bearings, I find the grease to be just as clean and soft as the day I installed it. In the can it doesn't separate, even after 30 years, nor does it change in consistency at all. And, for us poor folks, there's lots of it in the can, and it's cheap. I use it on everything, including my cables. Regular grease tends to dry and become more of a grinding dirt after a while, as you may have found out if you've taken apart an old bike.
    While turning the crank, look down at the chain rings and check to see if any of them (or all) move from side to side. They should runs cleanly and smoothly with no wobble at all. Any wobble will cause the chain to run awkwardly through the front derailer and possibly knock the chain off the chain ring.
    While turning the crank and shifting the front gears, see that the chain doesn't try to creep up on any of the teeth. If it does a tooth is probably out of line. Now, while the chain is on the outer ring, lift the chain away from the ring. There should be none to very little lift. If the chain lifts very far away from the ring it's an indication that either the chain is worn (which is probably the case) or the teeth of the chain ring is worn. Replace the chain if you have any doubts about it at all. Make sure your chain is the right length or it will have difficulty reaching some gears, or it will be too slack when in others. If the chain is dirty, but ok, clean it with a good stiff brush, remembering that dirt is a chain's worst enemy. A dry chain will wear quickly, so keep it lubed. Motor oil or 90 weight oil is suitable, and when you oil the chain, place a drop on each link as it runs past you , on the outside chain ring. Spin the crank to work the oil into the link, then use a rag and wipe of the excess, this also serving to oil the outside surface of the chain while keeping oil from getting on your clothes or collecting dirt and grime. While your at it, clean and lube your  derailers, they collect dirt as well. WD40 or silicon lube can be used here. Don't forget those brakes and levers, they need lubricating too. Make sure you remember to clean the gunk off the chain rings and the small wheels of your rear derailer. They collect the bulk of the dirty grease. I use a screwdriver for this, when I don't tear them apart to clean them. Don't forget your front chain rings, they're collectors of dirt as well.
    I replace my chain, on both my bikes, every summer. I put on about 3 to 4,000 miles on my bikes, both of them together, not on each, and that tends to wear the chains down to replacement point. Those who ride farther may have to replace your chain more often to avoid wearing the gears and chain rings as well as the chain.
If when you replace the chain it skips a tooth it means the ring that skips is worn and needs to be replaced. Usually the last two or three gears of the rear freewheel are the most likely to need replaced because they receive the most wear, being small. Replace the entire freewheel, it's cheaper and more cost-effective than trying to replace the single ring. This might hold true of the front chain rings as well, Compare prices, the model and make of your bike can make a big difference in this case.
   Other than checking for paint problems and rust, something that strongly effects those of us who live near the ocean, that's about all you need to do to keep your bike in safe operating condition. Keep in mind that rusty spokes can ruin a wheel. I have to steel wool mine and paint them on occasion. Rust, once it starts, can only get worse, and weaken the metal it's effecting.
   A good coat of wax is also advised. When waxing or polishing you bike, remember that it's painted the same way as your car. Don't use harsh soaps to clean it. I use baby shampoo, on my bikes and my van. It does the trick without harming the paint.
   As a final note, don't forget to check all the nuts and bolts for tightness, remembering your rack, baskets and any other addition you've made to your bike
   What I've presented here is a rough outline, things that come to mind as I write. Check the web for more detailed and better laid out lists of suggestions and instructions.
 

 


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