Thursday, March 25, 2010

A tale of three bikes

Spring is (nearly) here, and in Indiana that means it's time to dust off the bike saddle and begin the time-consuming process of tuning, upgrading, and repairing bicycles. Wait, bicycles is plural, right? Let me review the three bicycles that Steph and I share:

  • The fixie: Steph rides a red fixed-gear bike mostly around town. I confess to not knowing it's particular details, as I'm not a fixed-gear enthusiast. All I know is that it would not serve me well on Chauncey and 9th St hills.
  • The frankenbike: My father had an old Trek bike (circa early 90's) hanging up in the garage, so I was allowed to borrow this bike for the school year. I've done some good rides on it (20-40 miles) in the past semester, but it lay largely unused during the winter months due to Purdue's propensity for poor road maintenance.
  • The Felt: Steph bought a Felt Z80 two years ago on a whim after her just-purchased-that-day bike was totalled in a car-bike accident. Unfortunately for her, she didn't know much about bikes and picked one that she no longer enjoys riding. So, I may end up using it as my main road bike.
All three bikes have required some service prior to use this season:
  • The fixie had a flat tire, which needed to be patched. Thankfully, Steph is very good at patching tubes, so this was not a big problem. The chain was also cleaned a bit. It is remarkable how little maintenance this bike needs compared to the other two geared bikes!
  • The frankenbike needed a lot of cleaning: aside from the chain, I doubt that any part of the frame or the components had been cleaned since Bill Clinton was trying to pass health care reform. Of course the chain needed cleaning too, but that is because I rode several hundred miles in the fall semester with minimal cleaning. Beyond last semester's slight upgrades (new handlebar tape and front/back lights), I bought 2 new tire treads and had both wheels trued at Hodson's Bay.
  • The Felt bike has not really been used for substantial road biking, so I have decided to try it out on longer rides to see if I like it. Aside from the dirty chain that I had to clean, there was little to be done to make the bike rideable.
For Christmas this year, I received some more biking gear as a gift from Dad: a pair of biking shoes, and some very nice clipless pedals. At first, I was planning to put these on the frankenbike, but realized that I might as well put them onto the Felt bike if I was going to only use the Felt bike for long rides. (For those who don't know, clipless pedals and shoes work similarly to ski bindings. The main purpose is to keep your foot attached to the pedals for better efficiency.)

It took me the better part of 3 hours to assemble my shoes, remove pedals from the Felt bike and frankenbike, and install the new pedals. For now, I put the cheapo plastic $3 pedals on the frankenbike, but might change back to the old, dirty, metal pedals that used to be on it. Perhaps next time I want to take off old dirty pedals, I should buy a pedal spanner wrench, because it took an unbelievable amount of force to remove the damn pedals with a US 5/8 wrench (not metric 15mm as it's supposed to be).

Once assembled, I went out for a short (16mi) ride up S. River Road in West Lafayette, taking the huge hill on N 500 W (11% grade for about 1200 ft), and returning by Lindberg Rd/Salisbury. Overall, using the Felt bike is much more fun than the frankenbike: it is much lighter, has a larger cassette and 3 chain rings instead of 2, and has a Shimano STI shifter (indexed shifting), wheras the frankenbike has old-school knobs (friction shifting) that you have to manually move up and down and hope the derailer has moved to the correct position.

If you don't know what these terms mean, imagine the difference between fretted and notfretted string instruments. With a violin, you must know exactly where to place your fingers on the string to make the correct noise- this is like how shifting on the frankenbike works. On the Felt bike, distance between gears is fixed (like the distance between frets on a guitar).

My goal for the rest of the semester is to do some sort of exercise at least 3 days a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. If the weather permits, I'd like to do short (20-30mi) rides. If it does not permit, I can go to the pool for a while instead. Eventually, I'd like to be able to do a 50 or 100 mile ride; most of those are in May or later, so I have a lot of time to train and work up on my mileage. I never got much beyond 35 miles in one ride last semester, but I have a lot more time in my schedule for long rides now. Or so I hope.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh I can give particular details on the fixie. It's an old puch conversion. I used to ride it with a 42:15 gear ratio but recently switched it to 52:18 against my wishes. See ... since it's a conversion and I've still got the original chainring on it, I wasn't able to remove the 52t chainring as it is soldered to the crank arm so instead I removed the 42t chainring and put on a larger back cog to compensate. Although it technically has a flipflop hub I haven't ridden it single speed anywhere but Seattle. Also, it's a heavy steel frame bike which I like because it feels like I've got a little more power under me than with those super light carbon fiber floating-on-a-cloud bikes. I pondered replacing the drop bars with bullhorns but decided not to as my brakes wouldn't transfer and I love my current brakes and horns.