KC/DC Cycle

Ride to live... live to ride

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sensory awareness

I still remember the sounds of my early bikes like the sound of the front wheel hitting a rough spot on the road. It was like a metallic clink. Now I realize that the noise was a result of a cheap bike combined with underinflated tires. Over time I came to the realization that an air pump was a vital tool in my shop to keep the bike maintained. As I look back I can also imagine the cheap hubs/bearings those old bikes must have had. The quality of bearings makes a difference in how smooth the ride will be and how long you can roll without pedaling. The bearings on the headset also affect handling. When they are loose or worn you can get some really hairy handling problems. Now with my bikes I have a practiced confidence. I know, by sound, when something is wrong or questionable.

I have gained a sense of when bearings are loose too. I can feel the looseness in steering. I remember when I was young I had a wheel where the bearings were almost falling out. Now when I buy a used bike I have a routine to check the wiggle in the main bearings - front & rear hub, bottom bracket, headset. So many bikes are ridden 50 or 100 miles and stored that it is sufficient to do minimal repairs to keep a bike for a short time. I have bought so many of these bikes that have barely any wear on them. Often they sell for a cheap price as well.

Another sense I have is when cable housing is binding. I was so impressed when I went to the Schwinn shop as a kid and the brakes and shifters operated so smoothly. The cheap bikes I rode always had problems. Cable housings were bent and damaged I would grease or oil them regularly. I couldn't afford to buy new ones. When the brake is loose on the frame mount it shudders when you apply the brake.

I was terrible at truing wheels too. I've gotten better but I don't have all the fancy time-saving equipment. I have to live with an imperfect wheel. Improper truing affects how tight you can adjust the brakes. If the wheel hops/jumps it affects the ride.

Monday, January 07, 2013


In a reply on a Facebook post I noticed I had a lot to say about my bicycle roots. I didn't have a lot of money especially when I was young. I would retrieve discarded bikes and parts in the neighborhood to repair one of my bikes. I was a terrible mechanic, but got the job done. I didn't have a truing stand. I didn't have a workstand. I didn't have a set of wrenches. I had a pair crescent pliers, an adjustable wrench, a couple of screwdrivers and a hammer. Eventually I got a pair of vise-grips. That was state of the art for me.

Bicycling was always transportation for me. It wasn't just sport. I rode in the street since about 1971. My first favorite bikes were the shiny Schwinns that I saw in the store. I had always had used bikes until dad got me an Orange Krate in about 1969. That lasted a year before it was just impractical for my adventures. I loved the shine, the chrome, the style and the newness. I loved that it worked well, which is something my old bikes did not. But after a year I wanted something lighter that I could go further with. I bought a used Schwinn Continental after we sold the Orange Krate. I had that for a while and moved up to a Super Le Tour II which had a lugged frame and cotterless cranks. Next was a Bridgestone Kabuki and I was in another league. Now I needed hex wrenches and 700c tires and tire irons.

With all of this I still didn't have a good way to carry things and I was barely into toe clips. I wore my jeans. I didn't ride much in the rain because I didn't have fenders. When I did I wore floppy rain jacket and pants. I didn't start wearing a helmet regularly until about 1990.