Category Archives: wrenchin’

Pt. 3 Building a kid’s bike that doesn’t suck: Tires

Continued from the series of posts: Kids’ Bikes: They suck and what you can do about it. I started this “series” back in Dec. and then sort of fell off track as things melted down at work.  As we’re heading into prime kid-biking season I figured I should dust off the drafts and get the info out there where it might do some good.

It’s possible experienced wrenchers may find this a bit too detailed. If that’s the case, visit the flickr stream for quick some ideas and examples.

marathon2By  far, tires caused me the most trouble during this project.

I like to think I’m a pretty savvy cookie when it comes to bike parts. I’ve been around them a long time — as a DIYer and a shop rat.  And on top of that, I’m a librarian so I know how to handle a search engine. But dang, these 24″ tires are difficult.

Limited choices + confusing sizes

The legendary Sheldon Brown illustrated the problem quite clearly in the following chart: Continue reading

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A chill in the air? Get studs for your tires

Seattle’s once-yearly cold snap has me thinking traction. Sure, so far things have been pretty darn easy. Aside from the University Bridge (no, apparently they _don’t_ read the blog), the roads have been in great shape.

But the weather folks tell me this won’t last.We’re supposed to get some snow tonight and maybe tomorrow. Then they tell us to expect the teens to the low 20s (in Seattle!) for a few days, followed by more white stuff.

That’s tempting me to up the ante in the grip department. Studded tires are a logical choice, but hard to justify for two or three days a year. Even if I wasn’t such a cheap bastard, by the time I got around to ordering them it would be 50 and raining.

So what’s a tightwad with a hankering for traction to do?

DIY of course. Chains seem pretty nifty, but the process is kind of  high maintenance, even for me. That leaves self-studding as my only option. You don’t need me to point you to a studding tutorial — the interwebs are loaded with them. Totally cool studding videos are in shorter supply. Luckily, the Google delivers with this awesome video from Finland:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Even Anne, who doesn’t give a rip about studded tires,  watched the whole thing. It kind of makes you wanna grab the cordless drill and a beer, huh? If I don’t get snowed in tomorrow, I think I’ll head to Tacoma Screw for some #6  pan-head screws and give it a whirl.

Do you have some studding plans or experience ? (I can’t imagine what our Google search referrers are going to look like after this post). Let us know how it goes.

-Tim

Building a kid’s bike that doesn’t suck: The Mt. bike frame

Continued from yesterday’s post: Kids’ Bikes: They suck and what you can do about it. It’s possible you may find this a bit too detailed. If that’s the case, visit the flickr stream for quick some ideas and examples.

Reaching for the brakes

Pre-upgrade: Reaching for the brakes

For the non-sucky kid’s bike project foundation, I started with Craigslist’s finest: a $65, 21-spd,  24″-wheel Trek MT 220. I like this style of bike because it has a semi-step through frame. I originally tried for a slightly older version, complete with lighter frame and a closer to a true step-through design. Unfortunately, all the samples I ran across were pretty hammered, having been through two or three kids. Continue reading

Kids’ Bikes: They suck and what you can do about it

Since the spring, our kids have really embraced riding under their own power. Anne has blogged about this a number of times. It’s been a great time for them. Meanwhile, as the resident gearhead, I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated by the absolute crap that passes as acceptable kid transportation in the US. Continue reading

Snap! (Crackle, Pop) Goes the Xtracycle

Snapped Xtracycle Tongue

I broke my Xtracycle frame the last day of April and am only getting around to mentioning it on the blog now. It’s been so long I almost let it pass without comment, but figured the info may help someone else down the road.

First of all, I should be clear. It’s not really the frame—more the undersized tongue where the front attachment plate sandwiches the chainstays near the bottom bracket.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’d been hearing this creak, creak creak—first when climbing out of the saddle (which isn’t unheard of for someone my size), then later even when seated (which is unusual, even for us giant folks) and only applying moderate muscle. I kept checking the torque on the three attachment points and even looked for cracks on my Rockhopper frame and the X where it was visible. Everything seemed fine. Finally, the night before “Bike to Work Month” started, I couldn’t take the embarrassment of a noisy bike any longer. I vowed to pull the Xtracycle off the bike frame, coat up the “Special Nut”/dropout contact points with anti-seize and put an end to the creak once and for all!

It wasn’t to be. As soon as I backed off the Special Nuts torque, … CLUNK! What was left of the tongue snapped under the weight of the bare Xtracycle frame. On closer inspection, this piece obviously had been failing for a while. It’s hard to tell from the photo but there’s surface rust on the break, meaning the puny welds had been failing for a while. Sheesh, would it have killed them to beef that weld point up a bit? A small gusset perhaps? Still, at least it held until I got to the workstand, rather than failing on a downhill with kids on the Snapdeck!

So here I was, the night before the big bike commute month kickoff and me, the BikeJunction team captain without a bike. Or was I?

I looked across the garage and spied my spare Xtracycle. Spare Xtracycle? Everyone has a spare, right? I bought this as a loaner for friends and family but hadn’t got around to giving it a very needed tune. In addition to it being a couple sizes too small, the flat tires, rusty chain and ginormous exercise-bike saddle made it unridable for my commute. As a donor, though …

A mere hour later I had the old longbike frame joined to my Rockhopper and was ready for the morning commute. I figured I’d send my Xtracycle frame in for a warranty claim and do the swap again in a few weeks. That was the plan anyway; six weeks later is still hangs in the garage.

A few more notes/observations:

  • Check your tongue! Right now.
  • A bit of reinforcement with the original design would have gone a long way.
  • A gusset would have been great. Even better, a flat, plate-like tongue could probably serve a couple purposes — more metal-to-weld contact and the plate would spread out the forces on the chainstay bridge like an upper FAP.
  • The donor frame has some issues with the disc mount. I pulled the rear Avid brake off my original Xtracycle and it should have bolted right on the donor. Instead, the caliper rubbed the rotor, almost as if the mounting bosses were dialed in for 201mm rotors instead of 203mm spec. A presta valve “nut” worked under the mounts as a spacer, but I’m still wondering if they had a bad batch or something. Anyone seen this?
  • The Big Dummy and other custom Xtracycle options are looking kind of nifty. Less to break.
  • Finally, and I’m serious about this, check your Xtracycle for cracks! You might be able to do it with a flashlight and some creative neck craning, but if you have any creaks or squeaks you’ve been trying to ignore, pull the frame and check it out up close!

Snapped Xtracycle Tongue, other sideHas anyone else out there broken their Xtracycle? Had it warrantied? I’m starting to think it may not be worth the shipping hassle and time delay to send it back. I may just have someone tack the tongue back on there (reinforced, of course) and be done with it.

Summer’s coming, and with my luck I’m going to need a spare.

Xtracycle Stoker Stems

Cheap-ass stoker stem on my Xtracycle

I covered stoker bars a while ago. That was a cop-out because the bar is the easy part. Almost anything will work (chopped off mountain bike bar, old BMX bars, Albatross, whatever). The hard part is mounting the bar in such a way that the passenger’s nose is not stuffed into the rider’s butt.

Continue reading

I ♥ my Wald Front Basket

My xtracycle, my basket, and suzzallo library

After date night, I attended an amazing lecture by Lawrence Lessig at Kane Hall. On the way home, when I should have been thinking about things like hybrid companies, government regulation, and our broken intellectual property system, I found myself moved to conduct an impromptu bike-basket photoshoot. As much as I wanted concentrate on Supercapitalism, etc, I was smitten by the beauty and function embodied in my Wald #585! Continue reading

Xtracycle Build Details: Stoker Bar

Nitto Stoker Bars on Anne’s rig

This is part of an ongoing series of posts (ok, it’s the first–we’ll see how it goes) on the building of our Xtracycles. We get lots of questions about putting them together so I thought I better start documenting. Normal people would do it in order, starting with the actual kit, but me, I gotta start with the stoker bars. Maybe I just like saying Stoker….

Interested in the build? Read on, then see the blurb at the bottom and watch the “Buildin’…” category.

For our stoker bar setups we used some cheap ebay tandem stems and beer-can shims to mount bars for our passengers. I’ll get to the stems in another post but for now, here’s the scoop on these sylish Nitto “Swept-Back” bars.

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Xtracycle: An Anti-Minivan for the Anti-Soccer Mom

antisoccermom2.jpg

  • Seats four in comfort. Check!
  • Cupholders? Check!
  • Loads of cargo Space? Check!
  • Room for the brother to bring his bike? Check!
  • Space for tailgating? Check!
  • Co2 Belching SUV/Minivan? Nah!!!!!!!!

We had a lovely Saturday at the six-year-old’s soccer game. It’s not exactly sport at this age, but it’s fun to watch. Dozens of these tiny three-on-three teams play at a time and the resulting parking frenzy resembles the UW Montlake lot the first week of fall classes.

No matter, we just cruise by the madness and park the SUBs on the sidelines like VIPs!

-Tim 

Do You Want Fries with That?

Nothing says cycling like a big fat burger, right? (uh, yeah…right, Tim)

So it follows that nothing says riding in the rain like a big Costco-sized bottle of ketchup-turned buddy flap (mud flap)!

Heinz Buddy Flap — mudflaps from a costco ketchup bottle

I had big plans to make some fancy Rivendell-style tweed/leather mudflaps, but I went back to my reuse roots. Once I saw the flap-goodness embodied in that giant old ketchup bottle, I don’t know, I just couldn’t sit idly as it was sentenced to the big recycling tub.

Continue reading