Bringing It Back

Further to a recent post, a reader noted the Silver2 shifters I am employing on the downtube of the Normcore Bike are primarily thumbshifters:

And that I could be using the more downtube-appropriate Silver1 instead:

[Photo: Rivendell]

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, these work great,” I replied–which they do. Mechanically they work perfectly on the downtube, ergonomically they’re not-quite-perfect in that location but more than acceptable, and it’s only in the aesthetic department that they’re really wanting in this application. Though arguably my Normcore Trek is also wanting in the aesthetic department, so who cares?

Then, a few days later, got a package containing not one but two pairs of Silver1 shifters. My indifference immediately gave way to eagerness, and I put them on the Normcore Bike faster than you can say “bonded aluminum:”

Please note that if you buy the Silver shifters the brass washer hop-up kit is not included:

Now I have both perfect function and perfect ergonomics, so there:

As for the other pair, I knew just what to do with them:

Years ago, when my wife and I were childless Brooklynites, I put this somewhat bedraggled specimen together for my wife as a singlespeed road bike. (I bought it off eBay and have no idea of its provenance.) She was quite fond of it, and it was perfect for brisk laps in Prospect Park as well as riding to places to eat and drink or whatever else childless people do in Brooklyn, I can’t even remember anymore. Also, how can you not love a pink Faggin? But then we had kids and moved to hill country and more practical bikes for her followed (first a WorkCycles, then the Clem Smith Jr.), so I stripped it down and put the frame in storage in the basement.

I’d always meant to rebuilt the Faggin with gears, especially recently since not only can my wife and I both ride it (we’re around the same height), but my older son is now tall enough to ride it too. And since that second pair of Silver shifters was just begging to be put on a steel road bike (I’m expecting a cease and desist letter from Rivendell for putting the first pair on an aluminum Trek), I liberated the Faggin from the closet and went to work:

As always, my goal was to use only stuff I had and to spend no money whatsoever. I had no spare 126mm wheels, but a 130mm went in there with minimal effort:

While I had a selection of bars to choose from, I figured I’d split the difference between upright and drops and set it up as sort of a swift urban runabout that my wife, my older son, or I could grab whenever the Pepto Bismol-hued spirit moved us:

Occasionally I’d have just the right part, then find out it had been compromised somehow. For example, I had an Ultegra derailleur that would have been perfect, but the limit screws were seized and no amount of lubricant would free them. Others wouldn’t work for various technical compatibility reasons, so ultimately I had no choice but to go with the Altus I briefly used on the RockCombo:

I’d officially committed my first egregious aesthetic error.

It was the same with the front derailleur–wrong clamp size, seized bolts again (I really should take better care of my stuff)… So I wound up with a triple derailleur that looked funky but seemed like it could do the job:

I was worried that the oversized pulley on the Altus, which serve more or less the same purpose as a long derailleur cage, would wrap too much chain and render much of the cassette useless in the big ring. However, I can shift most of it before the derailleur gets alarmingly distended, and anyway, with a 42/53 in the front and a 12-23 in the back I doubt anybody will be spending too much time in the big ring. Best of all, I had a spare used chain that was long enough and so I didn’t even have to open a new one. (One important aspect of putting together a parts bike is that you end up taking inventory of all your stuff, and you make happy discoveries such as that brand-new chain you didn’t realize you had, and can now save for when you actually need it, by which time you’ll forget you have it again and buy a new one.) Presumably between the long-enough chain and the (by today’s standards) close-ratio crank and cassette the bulbous pulley isn’t a problem.

As for the front derailleur, I did have to mount it quite high in order for the inner plate to clear that 42-tooth chainring, but once I figured that out it seemed to work acceptably. In my experience triple front derailleurs work pretty poorly with doubles on indexed systems, but fortunately you can get away with a lot more mixing and matching when you’re using friction shifters:

By this point the Faggin had lost what little was left of its classical Italian elegance, but it was almost complete. I only needed to set up the brakes–and that’s when I finally encountered an insurmountable problem:

I needed one (1) more brake cable:

Not even the housing, just the cable itself.

Alas, there was no way around it:

Tomorrow I’d have to go to a bike shop and spend actual money.

The next morning, I headed out for a ride:

The hour was early, so it was just me and the deer:

There was the possibility of rain, so I took the RockCombo since it has fenders:

I hadn’t ridden it in awhile and was amazed at how good it felt. In fact, I’m just going to go ahead and declare I have the nicest RockCombo in the world until I see evidence to the contrary.

Usually, Sunday morning is a tough time to find an open bike shop, especially up here where Citi Bikes come to die:

Happily, I discovered there’s a shop on E. 240th Street that opens at 9am seven days a week–including Sunday–and thanks to them I was able to pick up the necessary cable on the way home from my ride:

I also discovered that the city is putting in a bike lane on Webster Avenue, whaddya know about that:

All in all it was a morning of revelations.

Anyway, with cable in hand, I was finally able to finish the bike and test it out:

In its new guise it felt light, coiled and ready to pounce:

By the way, if you’re wondering about the pedals, I’ll get back to that:

And again, if you’re tempted to point out that the front derailleur is mounted too high, I remind you that I had no choice as any lower and the inner plate hits the inner chainring when you shift. I also remind you that I’M NOT BUYING ANYTHING FOR THIS BIKE. I already bought a cable, for chrissakes, which put the project way over budget.

So yeah, the bike felt great…

…except for a disconcerting amount of play in the rear hub, which happens to be an ancient Chris King. I futzed with it, I pulled the thing apart, and try as I might I couldn’t fix the problem:

Eventually I concluded that what seemed to be a press-fit bearing was loose in the hub shell, allowing the whole wheel to shift on the axle. So I took a closer look. See those things that look like cracks?

Well, yeah, they’re cracks, some going all the way through the hub flange:

So it’s useless now. But here is why I can’t blame Chris King for this:

  • The hubs are really old
  • I bought the wheels used many years ago, so I have no idea how old they are or how they were treated before I got them
  • I know I used them a lot and treated them poorly
  • At one point I moved the hubs and spokes over to new rims since the brake track on the old rims was extremely worn, and I can’t rule out the possibility that I overtensioned the wheel in the process

That last one is the most significant: if there’s a problem, it’s usually me. In any case, it’s a good thing I noticed the play, and it’s an even better thing I actually tried to do something about it instead of adopting my usual “Ah, fuck it” attitude, since I don’t think the hub coming apart while riding would be a good thing.

Unfortunately I didn’t have too many more spare wheels to choose from, and the only serviceable one dealt yet another crushing blow to the bike’s looks:

But hey, it works, and also the hub is way quieter.

So right, the pedals–which also ain’t helping in the looks department:

They’re the Arclight from Redshift:

Here’s how they work:

Awhile back Redshift asked if I’d like to try these pedals. I accepted, since my older son was riding to school, I figured he could use some visibility, and this seemed like a good way for him to not have to remember to put lights on his bike. But then, shortly after, he got that Woom cargo bike, which came with front and rear dynamo lights, and I couldn’t in good conscience make him use these pedals too. Then I lost the pedals, and Redshift sent me another pair, and then, a few days ago, I found the first pair, and now I have two pairs.

All of this is to say I’m remiss in trying these pedals. Of course now my older son is riding a fixie to school, and you can’t use these with toe clips, so I figured that since the Faggin is now a communal urban runabout (that he may also potentially want to ride to school sometimes, especially when he feels how fast it is, potential “Boy Named Sue” repercussions of the color and name notwithstanding), it would make a suitable test bed for the pedals. As for the other pair, unless Redshift want them back, maybe I’ll put them on my younger son’s bike. He’s not riding anywhere at night, but maybe he’ll think they’re fun.

Obviously the look of the pedals is deeply at odds with the bike, but my first impression is that they feel comfortable under foot, and the lights do seem to work like they say. (When you flip the pedals over the lights change color accordingly, which is nifty.) I also watched my wife ride up and down the street with the lights turned on and they certainly are visible. While ideally you’d be better off with stationary lights on the bars or frame, for the simple reason that they’re less confusing to other road users, these seem like they’d be handy if you live someplace where you can’t leave lights on your bike, like I do, and if you often forget to bring them with you, like I do. So I’ll be subjecting them to my usual rigorous testing standards, at least until vanity gets the better of me:

In any case, a long-dormant bike is back:

All indications are that it’s going to be a fast and fun bike, and there’s nothing more reinvigorating than a silky-smooth pair of shifters on a clean “new” drivetrain (I can’t believe I actually cleaned that old cassette when I put it away like 20 years ago, I’d never do that now), though who in the family ends up using it and how remains to me seen:

Ultimately I should probably restore it fully to the proper road bike it wants to be, but what’s the good of having a bunch of random parts if you don’t experiment and assemble them into something weird yet rideable once in awhile?

Best of all, it only cost me a brake cable.

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