Thursday, July 16, 2015

on overhauls

I am in the process of overhauling the All-Rounder.

Overhauling a bike basically maneas that, in addition to thoroughly cleaning every inch of the bike -- frame, rims, components -- and lubing and adjuting the brakes and gears, and replacing parts that are worn (like the brake pads or chain), you also open up any bearing surfaces (headset, hubs, bottom bracket) and service the bearings.
If the bearings are loose-ball, this means taking everything apart, replacing the bearings if they're starting to look at all pitted or worn, and cleaning and re-greasing everything before reassembling it. 
If the bearings are sealed, then it may mean either replacing them with new sealed bearings or, if they are of a certain brand and vintage, sending the part back to the manufacturer for this service. In the case of Phil Wood, their first-generation hubs require that you send them back for servicing. Newer Phil hubs can be serviced by your local shop (or by you, if you have the tools).

Overhauling loose ball bearings is a dirty job. Some shops won't bother doing it anymore, especially loose-ball bottom brackets. They'll strongly urge you to replace that loose-ball BB with a cartridge model. Cartridge models, even cheap ones, have gotten better; and one should last you at least eight to ten thousand miles if you don't totally abuse your bicycle. I don't mind overhauling loose bearings, simply because I know how and don't mind the grease and filth. So I set about overhauling the A-R.

(Below: replacing loose ball bearings in a headset -- NOT mine, an old photo from work)

After I built up the Bridgestone as a city bike, I felt far less urgency about getting the A-R overhauled, and so I've taken my time. One night I did the headset and cleaned up the front half of the frame. The Ultegra headset that came with this frame almost eight years ago (and which I overhauled right around that time) showed traces of bright red grease at the edges of the dirty gray grease, a good sign of both the seals and the quality of the grease. I pulled it apart, cleaned it thoroughly and examined the cups and bearings. Other than one tiny gouge in the metal at the edge of the bottom cup, everything still looked fine. I added fresh grease and reassembled it.

Another afternoon I did the drive-train, removing and cleaning it, and hanging the parts up to dry in the sun. I've been using up the El-Duke degreaser, which I purchased in a gallon jug when the guy was still trying to make it a going concern on a larger scale.  I'm down to about a third of what I started out with, and since then the guy has turned his business into a very small-scale cottage affair, selling small batches only through Rivendell Bicycle Works. Still, the stuff is amazing because it's plant-based, biodegradable and so safe you don't need to wear gloves when you clean parts with it. Some soaking time and a bit of elbow grease will remove most grit and grime from even the filthies metal components.

While the drive train parts were drying I cleaned up and examined the rear wheel. I built these wheels when I got the frameset, ordering hubs from Phil Wood on my shop discount and selecting some good, basic Sun CR-18 rims to lace them into. Since then I've replaced the rear rim once already. Examining it, I took a close look at the ridges caused by the brakes pads (and occasionally, by grit caught in the brake pads). I decided the rims still had enough life in them to get me through at least the rest of this year. I'll rebuild the rear wheel before the spring.

Tonight, I examined the original parts closely. The chainrings are worn down enough that they're starting to curve offset, like cartoon ocean waves. I'd been sitting on a Sugino crankset with triple chainrings for several years, and decided to go ahead and use it on the A-R. But I'll need to get a bottom bracket cartridge with a shorter spindle.

(Below: Chainline is sort of catty-whumpus/crooked, twisting the chain at extreme angles. It can and should be better.)

(Below: Innermost chainring too far out from chainstay. Should be no more than 3-5mm.)

I'll have to scout around for the next spindle size shorter, and that should fix the issue. It will also let me remove the spacers I put behind the freewheel, which only helped the problem a little bit (but not enough). Tomorrow on my errands I'll see what I can find.

I hope to have the A-R rebuilt and ready to ride before the end of next week. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the Bridgestone as a city bike, and will probably ride it next weekend at Sunday Parkways-NE.
It's summer, and I no longer work in a shop, and that means I have the time to actually give my own bike some loving care. It's a welcome change. While I am very glad to know how to do all my own work, I am also glad I don't have to do it forty to fifty hours a week anymore. That said, I am still glad to be of help for friends and family, just as a way to keep my hand in it. I still love the machinery and always will.

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