Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fuji, Mama!

I took the day off, today, and spent a little quality time out in the workshop, with a bike build. I had been waiting for parts, and they finally all arrived, this week.

I re-used the original crank, which was a bit grimy:

It took a bit of effort, but the crank came out fairly nice:

You should have seen the inside of the bottom bracket, before I cleaned it up. Thirty year old grease is an amazing substance.

Anyway, the bike finally came together, after a solid 8 hours of work.

It's a mid-80s Fuji Touring, built to order for a fellow who wanted a nice, classy, city bike. I think this will fit the bill.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fat Tire Frenzy

Last month, I bought a little beater car (1986 Subaru GL Hatchback) off of Craigslist, with the thought that I might go mountain biking more if I had something other than the behemoth Dodge truck (10 mpg) to drive to the trailhead and back. Today, I finally decided to forget all of the bike builds, band stuff, and whatnot and just load up and go.

I had gotten a nicer crank for the Walgoose, last week, and actually rode it to work on Thursday. The nice crank made my derailleur mount look even more ghetto than before, so I followed the lead of Tater, on the RatRod Bikes forum, and made a new mount for it, yesterday.

The new mount uses a 31.8mm clamp mountain bike stem, and a piece of the original seat post from the bike to ho;d a clamp-on derailleur (actually, a clamp-on brazed derailleur type mount and a braze-on style derailleur, if you want to get technical). It took a bit of futzing around, but I got it working just before band practice, last night. It seemed to work fine, on the street, so I figured I might as well put it to the test on singletrack, to make sure it was good. (I'll try to make it look more "finished", later.)

I loaded it on the roof rack of my little car (technically a truck, according to the emissions standards, since the GL hatchback is built on the Brat drivetrain and chassis), and strapped it down for good measure. The bike is pretty hefty, and Parmalee Gulch Road, which takes you to the entrance for the top of Mt. Falcon, is very twisty-turny. I didn't want to over-tax the somewhat flexy load bars of the factory Subaru roof rack...

In order to accomodate the wider fork spacing of the fat bike, I modified the head from an old Yakima rack, and did a bit of engineering to attach it to the tray of the rack on the car. That leaves the standard 100mm clamp available for "regular" bikes, and allows me to carry 135mm forked bikes as well.

As if we needed more evidence of the WalMart weirdness on this bike, the front hub on the Beast is actually 130mm. You can see that I arranged the spacers so that I can place the thinner spacers to the outside of the dropout, and clamp the Beast fork, securely. I didn't just set it up for the odd spacing, since I have a new fork for the bike, which will allow me to run disc brakes,  So, I will soon have 135mm spacing on the bike. (Did you get all of that?)

I got to the trailhead with no mishaps, and started to get ready to hit the trail.

It was a gorgeous, late-summer morning on the Front Range of Colorado. The temperature was already into the low 80s, by my guesstimation, but a pleasant breeze was blowing.

I took off down the Parmalee Trail, which is one of my favorites. There is a bit of rocky downhill,

then some more rocky downhill, followed by a climb to

a side-hill trail along the south side of the mountain, which offers some nice views.

It's not a long loop, but I didn't want to be gone all day. Even though I blew off all of my builds and whatnot to go riding, I still needed to work on some things, afterward. The ride took a total of 45 minutes, 17 of which were spent letting air out of the tires to get the right pressure for the conditions, taking photos, and answering questions from other riders.

That left 28 minutes of riding, which doesn't embarass me too much considering the fact that I am running a 22x22 low gear. That gives me a low gear of just over 30 inches, compared to a 20 inch low gear on my 29er. The low gear on the Beast is pretty equal to the gear you get on the middle ring and big cog. on my 29er.

To all of the haters who say that you can't ride one of these WalMart Beasts off-road, I say, "Looks like you are mistaken!"


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's Like Christmas in August!

Can you tell I have a few projects in the works? Pedals, chains, cranks, saddle, hub ... lots of bike parts.  Plus, this:

I ordered band business cards for Steve and myself, last week, from VistaPrint. When I went to check on the shipping, later, a window popped up to sell me a myriad of items with our logo on them. They offer everything from calculators to coffee cups.

I ordered a couple of these, just to see what they look like. They are relatively inexpensive, but I didn't want to order a dozen and have them come in with a 2" logo in the middle of the chest, or something. But, they aren't bad, for the money. I think I will order a few, now, for the general public.

Let me know if you want one, and what size.  White, short-sleeved only, unfortunately.  They cost me $12.00 each, so that is what I will sell them for (plus $3.00 shipping, in the Continental US).

Let me know, before Friday, in order to assure that I get your size...


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Starting Another Beast Build

Danny Mac decided that he needs a Walgoose Beast, built up in a similar manner to mine. The red version was on sale, for some reason, for about $35.00 off, last week. So, he ordered one and had it delivered to my house. But, he didn't really want red, and he asked me to paint it gloss black.

I pulled it apart, today, and removed the tabs to which the chain guard  was attached. After grinding and filing the welds off, where the tabs had been, I lightly sanded the stock paint. I then sprayed it with the "deluxe" gloss black rattlecan from ace Hardware. It can hang in the shop building all week, to cure, as I wait for parts to arrive.

In the meantime, I will try to work on the other four bike builds I am doing for folks, plus the one I am doing to (hopefully) sell, later. Things are a little busy on the bike end, right now. I just need to ride mine, a bit, as well.

I have a plan for that, which I will discuss, later.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Salsa Fargo Build

Danny Mc bought this Fargo on eBay, and brought it to me for a build, with some changes from the equipment with which it arrived. I sourced an external bearing bb for his XT cranks, swapped the bar out for a Woodchipper I had in my shop, removed the Conti tires and replaced them with my Stan's Crows, hooked everything up and battened down the hatches on the bar wrap with some hipster duct tape (hemp twine). The pedals came from Velo Swap, a few years ago. I had aleready passed them on to Danny, and he decided to use them on this bike. Nice riding rig, and the only bike I have ever put the Woodchipper on where it felt good!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

420, Dude!

1983 Trek 420, that is...

 Last week, Tony G asked me to revitalize his old road bike. It had been out of his possession for a few years, and had recently returned home. I told him to bring it over, and we could see what it needed.

I tuned it up, swapped out the drop bars for mustache bars (with a shorter stem), wrapped the bars, changed the pedals and reshod it with 27x1-3/8" knobbies (new tubes and rim strips, of course).  Tony was pleased, and so was I. I like to have a hand in keeping these old classics on the road.

Lots of bike work/builds going on, all of a sudden.


Friday, August 02, 2013

Silk Purse From a Sow's Ear Dept.: The Saga Of The WalMart/Mongoose (Walgoose) Beast, Told Through Words and Numerous Full-color Photographs of Astounding Clarity and Beauty

If you are not aware of the Walgoose Beast, check out the posts herehere, or here in order to catch up. If you spend the time reading through all of the posts on those forums, you will see that something of a subculture has formed around these. You will also read a lot of negative ranting from people who don't understand the attraction of taking this pig and modifying it into something better, more rideable and more personal.

A few days after I sold the Mukluk, I got online and ordered a red Beast from For $199.00 plus Colorado sales tax, I had one on the way. Oh, and did I mention that Wallyworld ships the 65-pound box for free? I still don't understand how they do that...

Even in stock form, at a hair over 49 pounds, the bike is sort of a hoot to ride. It has a coaster brake, a pretty high gear, and narrow bmx/mtb-downhill bars, and when you skid that big back tire with the coaster brake, it sounds like a Peterbilt jack-knifing on the highway.

The tires are the most beastly part of the Beast. They weigh 6.5 pounds each (!), and the tubes inside them weigh 1.5 pounds each. I wonder if they are repurposed Chinese motorbike tires and tubes.

My first round of modification consisted of ditching the overstuffed seat and steel seatpost, in favor of an alloy post and a Brooks B-17. I then pulled the stock 1-1/8" quill stem and handlebar off. In their place, I installed a threaded-to-threadless stem adapter, a threadless stem and the Surly Open Bar that I removed from the Mukluk, before I sold it.

Next, I acquired some front brake adapters for the fork. Universal Cycles sells these, and they are the correct size for the fork leg, without requiring a shim, or welding. The retro-style Tektro brakes were left over from a failed 700c conversion attempt on a Fuji touring bike.

I also swapped the steel cranks for an alloy single-speed crank I had put together for one of my bikes, at some point. That got me a reasonable gear.

At this point, I had brakes I could rely on. But, I wanted a freewheel.

Choppers US sells this freewheel/disc rear hub, with the 170mm spacing, for $36.00 plus shipping. These were originally used on the Schwinn/OCC adult-sized Stingray choppers. I unlaced the original hub, and rebuilt the wheel using the original spokes. I was concerned about spoke sizing, but it laced right up. Score!

At this point, I bought some used Surly tires off of Craigslist, and some new Surly tubes from CycleAnalyst. The bike lost 9 pounds of rolling weight!

Now, I was back to one brake, so I started scheming about how to get the disc caliper attached to the bike, with no welding. I had seen a couple of home-built mounts which seemed to work well. But, they both shared a common drawback:  The caliper was behind the rear axle and, with the rear-facing "dropouts" (actually, track-ends, if you want to get technical),  the caliper must be removed to pull the rear wheel.

A quick trip to eBay netted me a pair of these add-on disc brake mounts. I installed the mount on the chainstay, rather than the seatstay, and that allowed the caliper to nestle into the junction of the two tubes. The caliper stays put, when you remove the rear wheel.

One problem that I ran into, however, was that the 160mm rotor did not reach far enough into the caliper for the brake pads to get a good bite on it. So, I picked up a 180mm rotor, and figured that would solve the problem.

I stuck a cheap old 3-speed crank on the bike, and started trying to figure out how to get a front derailleur to reach across the wide gap between the seat post and the crank. The Beast has a 125mm wide bottom bracket shell ("normal" mtb bottom bracket shells are 68 or 73mm, and the fat-bike bersions on the Salsas and Surlys and the like, are 100mm).

A "claw-mount" Tourney rear derailleur acts as a chain tensioner.

I worked on thefront derailleur mount for about 8 hours, one Sunday. I finally got it to work, but I am not too proud of how it looks.

It's a horrible, ugly Kludge, but as a proof-of-concept, it works. I will certainly be trying to come up with something more elegant,  in the future. But, I now have what I consider to be the minimum number of gears for riding this thing off-road: High, Medium and Low.

I love these shifters, and I luckily had a lonely front shifter in my box of parts.

The 180mm brake rotor did the trick, and I can now lock up the rear wheel with the disc brake.

I have to admit that I love projects like this.  I have had as much fun with this bike, so far, as I did in the entire year and a half I owned the Mukluk.  Perhaps, more...

The bike is over 6 pounds lighter than stock (the derailleurs, etc., added back some of the weight I had initially removed. It weighs a couple of pounds more than my Mukluk, but it is very rideable. I think I may take it out on the trails, this weekend, for a shakedown cruise.

How much did all of this cost? Could I have bought another Mukluk for what I put into the Beast?

It all depends on how you look at it. I have a friend (nameless, for now) who is interested in me building one up for him. I did some figuring on cost, and this is what I came up with:

If you bought the bike and all of the parts new, and did the labor yourself, it would set you back about $800.00, plus or minus. (Half the cost of a base Mukluk, new, and still less than most fat-bikes go for, used.)

If you have a goldmine of bike parts in your shop, as I do, it will be considerably less. I only had to purchase tires, tubes, cables, the rotor, the brake mounts and the hardware to mount the front derailleur, in addition to the bike, itself..

I am into it for well under $500.00.

So, my experiment of trying to create a useable fat bike, for casual on-road and casual off-road riding, for under half a grand is a qualified success. If you paid labor for all of this work, you could buy a new fat bike for what it would cost you to modify the Beast. And, it probably won't hold up to as much abuse as a higher-end model.

The fork is a weak link, and will probably bend under the stress of heavy off-road riding. You could always replace it with a nicer fat fork, but that will cost a bit. I have seen used Surly Pugsley forks going for $75-80, but a new one might cost you as much as the initial purchase price of the bike.

But, the people who will ride a fat bike that hard are not the people I am thinking of as I build bikes like this. I think of fat bikes in the same vein that I think of 4-wheel-drive rock crawlers. The seem more at home creeping along at low speed, bulldozing through and over stuff that stops normal bikes in their tracks, than they do flying downhill at 40 mph, getting big air.

For my style of riding, I think the modded Beast will work just fine.