Friday, 13 January 2012

Not All Custom Bikes are the Same ...

Well, that worked out OK ! My latest project was to replace the derailleur gears on my wife's bicycle with a hub gear set-up. Many years ago she bought an open framed bike from our local Decathlon store. Not at all expensive, less than 100 euros if I remember correctly! It came with a five speed derailleur gear operated via a twistgrip on the handlebars, and this arrangement suited her just fine. To be honest, she hardly used the bike until recently when she decided she was going to use it a bit more seriously to help with her fitness regime. Like many people, retirement from a regular job can bring about weight gain and a general loss of fitness. Now I'm sure lots of guys  my age remember what it was like trying to teach your dear wife to drive ! If you value your marriage you just don't do it ! So very cautiously I asked her if she wanted me to accompany her and show her some quiet traffic-free routes to follow until she had built up enough confidence to go out on her own. Over the years, I've found that when going out with a beginner or even a less experienced cyclist it's better to cycle a good bike length behind them and keep the talking to a minimum. They've got enough to cope with at first and carrying on a conversation can be really distracting, so confine yourself to just giving clear directions. Don't cycle beside them, it'll scare them ! And don't cycle in front of them because they'll instinctively put a bigger and bigger gap between you and next thing you know you'll have ridden away from them!  Very discouraging !
The Cyclist Touring Club in the UK used to recommend people who would teach beginner cyclists and they would also put you in touch with experienced cyclists who would be prepared to just cycle with you as a buddy to help you gain self confidence. A good arrangement I thought, I wonder if they still do it ?
Pretty quickly I noticed that if my wife was going to get any real benefit from cycling she was going to have to get something done about the gearing on her bike. This is not uncommon. After all how does a manufacturer know what level of fitness a potential buyer has ?  How many people in the 1970's got a "ten speed racer", used it half a dozen times and then parked it in the back of the garage because it was just too much hard work ? Probably that was one of the reasons why mountain bikes sold so well....lots and lots of gears !! Many people use only one or two gears out of the fifteen or eighteen gears, but those gears let them get up hills they couldn't climb on their "ten speed racer" so it puts "bums on saddles" which is what we want !
Now it so happened that I had, stored away, an almost new Shimano 7 speed hub which I had bought very cheaply at one of the excellent cycle jumble sales at the Manchester Velodrome. This just needed to be built into a rim, so to save time ( and probably money ! ) I made a visit to our local Decathlon store and bought a basic front alloy wheel. When I got  home I stripped the front hub out of it and using one of the many on-line spoke length calculators I cut and rethreaded the spokes to suit the Shimano hub. It took me a couple of hours to do this,certainly not nearly as fast as the redoubtable Mr Alex Cross in Clarkston Cycle Centre in Glasgow.This man can hold a conversation with you and completely build and true a wheel in less time than you can make a cup of workshop tea ! True Genius !!
Anyway, another mornings work had the wheel in place, Shimano twistgrip installed and new cables connected. Another one of the reasons for using this Shimano hub was the fact that it had a built-in rear brake which considerably tidies up the rear end of the bike and is effective under all conditions and just about maintenance free. So a quick run up and down the street to try the gears and brake and then the hand-over to Madame. She still only uses three of the gear positions but finds the changes so much slicker and of course when she does go further afield and encounters steeper climbs she's got a couple of lower gears to help her over them. And a couple of higher gears to use on those lovely long descents ! She can now keep up a good spinning cadence of 80rpm on the level which is essential for efficient fat burning. She's delighted,I'm delighted but now she's wanting to know how to sprint for the 30kph signs !!

So all in all, a good inexpensive modification and another cyclist has now got the bike they always wanted.

At the CTC York Rally once I overheard some Yorkshire cyclists discussing the Scots " Aye, they're just like us, but a bit frivolous wi' the money !"

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