Friday 20 August 2004

A weirdly enjoyable afternoon

I was doing a bit of fettling on my new bike yesterday evening, and my neighbour came round and asked me for advice on fettling his bike.

It was a mess. Both deraileur cables had frayed under the bottom bracket, and the front one had snapped entirely. The deraileurs were caked in dirt and not working. The brakes weren't working. And the tyres were utterly perished - the worst I've ever seen on a bike.
The frame had minor cosmetic rust everywhere, but no obvious major rust.  He's a very good neighbour; I owe him a lot of favours.

So this afternoon I collected it and started to strip it, dismantling and cleaning virtually everything (I didn't strip the bottom bracket - it felt very good and given the time I had I thought best to leave alone).

It was weirdly like stripping and cleaning bikes I did when I was a lad - because it was in many ways very like the bikes we had in those days. Indeed, just stripping it was a journey of exploration and memory - and some surprises.

The rear deraileur was an indexed Shimano - but it didn't have a slant parallelogram. I had thought that slant parallelograms came before indexing, but obviously not. The brakes were also Shimano, single pivot callipers. They, too, were covered in filth, and the once-chromed nuts utterly rusty. But once upon a time they'd been quite nice callipers, with nice little release levers to slack the cable for getting tyres out. The frame had a label 'Reynolds 500' which I'd never heard of before -  but it doesn't look like a great frame; minimal lug-work and rather sturdy seat stays. The wheels are 700C, but with steel rims - again, I've never seen steel rimmed 700C before.

I couldn't get the cassette off, which was a nuisance because it made servicing the drive side bearing of the rear wheel decidedly tricky. But apart from that it all went pretty smoothly. I fitted all new cables, new tubes and tyres. I thoroughly cleaned and lubricated the deraileurs. I put it all back together and got the deraileurs set just so, so it changed crisply click, click, click. I put new bar tape on just to finish the job. I got the brakes working effectively, although as I haven't trued the back wheel and it isn't perfect they're not as good as I'd like.

It was utterly different from the maintenance I do on my own bikes these days - they are, by comparison, effete machines. And I utterly enjoyed every minute of it. And the best bit of all was not so much when I sent my neighbour off for a test ride and he came back saying it was really nice, but when I got in from my own ride later he came and chapped on the back door and said he'd just been out for another ride and really enjoyed it.

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