April 9, 2011

Red Racer, the secondary bike

I have what I think of as a really nice bike. The bike I have is designed for being sporty. More for the speedy side of the speedy to chub spectrum. With this bike I don't hesitate at riding for 30 miles or more in one session. But with this bike I do hesitate to ride it one mile into town and lock it up on the side of the street while I run errands or hang out with friends. It's the sort of bike that I'd really miss if someone stole it. What's the solution? Use a lesser, secondary bike for such excursions.

In my case it's the Red Racer, an old Ross bike probably from the 1980's that was just barely rideable when I first got it. A donation from my father, this bike is to be my downtown-lock-it-up-on-the-side-of-the-street-and-don't-worry-bike. So, the two priorities for it are,

  1. Safety. It should not pose any undue risk of death or destruction.
  2. Cheap. It should not pose any undue risk to my wallet.
These two priorities are somewhat in conflict at times. For example, when I noticed that the tires had rips in them I had a few choices. I could get the super cheap $7 tires, or I could get some mid-range tires that are just 'ok' for $20. I went for the $20 tires with the thought that the two things one should not skimp on are stopping and steering. Tires are foundational to both. Plus, who wants to be constantly fixing a flat because of a cheap set of tires? Not me. 

One way I'm cutting costs and making the bike safer is by doing as much of the maintenance and repair work myself as possible. I have to admit that going into this my knowledge of bike repair was pretty much limited to hazy recollections of how to replace a flat tire from decades ago when I was first introduced to bike repair. Before embarking on this project I checked out a book from the library called "Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance", by Lennard Zinn. It turns out to be a wonderful guide and reference manual for someone, like me, starting out in bike maintenance. 

So far, I've adjusted the seat and handlebars to my dimensions, changed the tires, rebuilt the rear brakes, tuned the front derailleur, cleaned several components, and rewrapped the handlebar tape with some spare tape I had laying around (like the subtle colors?). The hoods were covered with a dry rotted and ripping rubber, so I took that off and used some spare black handlebar tape to cover them (thinking cheap!). There are many things yet to do. The front brakes need to be rebuilt, the wheels need to be trued, I think one of the spokes is about to go, and I need to wash and probably overhaul most of the drivetrain. Oh, and the pedals need to be replaced or fixed (if that's possible), since one of them creaks when you put load on it. 



The Red Racer after some initial work

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