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Meet Riley

August 30, 2011

I’d like to introduce you to Riley, my gender-neutral named 3 speed Raleigh Sport.

In about two weeks, Riley has gone from being a heap of rust in the front yard of a house down the block to this fairly decent beast.

Some things have been simple. Other’s have not.

First we bought a new tube for the flat front tire and got the old tires (the originals) inflated to see what else we might need to do if we wanted to fix her up. Really, until the wheels were moving there was no sense of whether the gear hub worked or the brakes. Or anything.

Putting in the new tube was the first time I had ever put a tire in on my own. I’m pretty chuffed really. A year ago I was just really getting my bike mojo on, and I had no idea how to change a tire. And that embarrassed me. Being in Tokyo meant I didn’t really need to know though as everything maintenance wise was covered on Maru through the bike shop I got her from. But I did start to feel I should know some basic maintenance.. (new tube, $6)

Of course I did start to learn with Grover and the visits to the university Bike Chain, and then again with Florence but to be able to almost competently fumble through a tire change alone felt pretty awesome.

Once up on her/his wheels (this gender non specificity has to do with convincing the boy it’s not really a girl’s bike…) it was clear the rear brake cable was shot.  So, lesson number two involved figuring out how to install the brake cable. Thanks for friends and the internet, we got that settled. ($1.25)

Of course, major idiocy moment was that I didn’t properly tighten down the back wheel. This meant the wheel started to loosen while I was ridding. I only really noticed because the chain got too slack to pedal. So, I  had to stop and fix that by the side of the road. Good thing I had packed a wrench.

Lemon juice and steel wool took most of the rust off the chrome. The back wheel is in lovely condition, but the front has irreparable corrosion. Better the front than the back with the gear hub in it. The handle bars and back rack and wheel rims for the most part came up sparkly sparkly. ($=who knows. had both lemon juice and steel wool already)

The old tires were splitting and the rear had a flat spot so I coughed up the dough to get these Delta Cruisers (inspired from lovely bicycle and by coincidence the same tires that are on Maru). Since I would be changing both, I also got a second tube. (this is where the ominous music should begin because things went downhill from here). (second tube $6, tires $75)

The front tyre went on pretty well. Me and the boy had decided to do one each so that we both would feel confident in our tire/tube change skills. He had the front. We paid careful attention to tire rotation direction, followed the direction to lay the new tube flat inside the rim, line up the tire on one edge, partially inflate the tube, line up other tire edge, check for no pinching and then inflate fully. The front went on fairly smoothly although the tube seemed a bit big for the rim, despite several checks that we got the right size.

The back wheel was a disaster. The tire would not go on. WOULD NOT. I pulled, I pushed. I deflated the tube back down to give me a little more give. I pulled, I tugged, and finally, finally I got it on. However as soon as we started to inflate it, it popped. In all the struggle I must have pinched it at some point. Not one, but TWO holes.

This led to my first experience with a patch kit. Also part of the learning curve. ($=one hour babysitting for the neighbour in exchange for his patch kit). Again, the boy and I did one each. We fumbled it a bit (not enough glue the first time as it says “apply sparingly”!), but eventually got it sorted.

And off we go to make a second attempt to get the tire on. Again it was a struggle, but we carefully avoided pinching the tube. Finally we got it on. Only… well, it clearly wasn’t in right. It wasn’t sitting in the right grove on one side, and the edge had kind of slipped down into the tube area. Terrified we were going to puncture the tube again we did what any bike repair novices would do: checked the internet, gave up and took it to the neighbourhood bike shop. He worked magic with some WD40 inside the rim and an air hose. He inflated it, and inflated it, as I closed my eyes terrified the whole thing was about to exploded. He yanked and WD40-ed and then POP, the tire slipped into place. ($=nothing. Nice bike guy)

Finally I’m thinking I can get this bike back together. So we put the wheel back on, reconnect the hub cable and grind, grind, grind. BLAST. At this point I have no idea what we have done but the gears won’t work and the hub is grinding.

Thank god for Sheldon Brown. Turned out I had accidentally overtightened the hub cones (something I had no prior knowledge of its existence) AND we had overtightened the hub chain screw and not done the adjustment right. Translation: I learnt a lot about my hub very quickly without ACTUALLY taking it apart. After much tinkering, and much help from boy, we got it sorted. Cross your fingers that is, as I’m not sure the hub is properly tightened onto the axel right now but I have no tool for that.

Anyway, tomorrow will be the real test as I attempt to do a real commute on Riley. Florence is still out on loan so Riley needs to be up to the task. I’ve temporarily put the Brooks saddle on Riley, but it’s not quite the right saddle for her/him. (I don’t know if it is selfish that I put Florence’s other seat back on before lending her out, but I thought downtown and parked outdoors night and day, it was a fair precaution. I don’t want my bike borrowers worrying about things like that either.) So eventually Riley might be sporting better grips and a matching brooks seat, if she turns out to be a good ride. AKA if I haven’t destroyed the hub.

Oh, and the chain case! currently not installed for some fixing up. There is a bit of it that is bent and has the potential to rip up a calf nicely if it was to catch.

So the “free bike” has now cost….$88.25

But what an education it’s been. Who needs to take a night class on bike repair once you’ve had to figure all this out?

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