I finally got a chance to check out one of the pedals2people garage nights last night. John Speare invited me to drop in and build up a beater mountain bike to use as a snow bike/winter commuter so I decided to take him up on it. I’ve done a lot of reading about bicycle maintenance and assembly over the last few months, but I don’t have a whole lot of hands-on experience yet. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get some basic instruction and get my hands dirty building up a bike.
The p2p garage nights usually run from 6 to 9 PM, but I couldn’t get out of the house until just after 7PM since I needed to get in the usual family dinner. I was excited to do a little high visibility night biking with the bright yellow rain jacket I received for my birthday last week. Unfortunately my plan was thwarted by a completely unexpected flat front tire. The tire had been fine on my ride home. What happened?
A quick check of the tire turned up a tiny thorn between the treads. I had a spare tube, but no spare time- I was already running later than I wanted. After a moments pause, I ruefully put my bike commuter cred aside and opted to just drive over to the garage; changing the inner tube could wait until I got back.
It proved to be the right choice. As I walked down the alley towards the garage I was greeted by a lot of parked cars, the friendly sounds of a college radio station on a cheap radio and bike frames being pounded on. The garage itself is your basic 50s era standalone unit opening into an alley design that is somewhat common to the neighborhood. There’s room for about one car plus some work space or in the p2p case a lot of bikes and parts plus some people.
I wandered in and John introduced me to several of the guys (Ken, Noah, a few others that it’ll take some more visits to learn) who were busy cleaning up the garage and stacking bike frames. Then he showed me the mountain bike frame and fork he had told me about. It was beat up, black and bare bones. In other words, perfect for my needs.
John got me squared away with a bike repair stand and then directed me to a bunch of spare wheels to find a couple 26 inchers. We found a nice front wheel with a hub that needed loosening up since its cones had been cranked down too tight. A little tweaking with a couple cone wrenches got it spinning smoothly again. The bearings didn’t sound bad at all compared to the front wheel on my project bike back home.
I met John’s wife, Liza, somewhere around this point when she came into the garage from the backyard. John and Liza’s daughter, Maddie, was also about and chomping on some Veggie Booty or Pirate’s Booty (I forget which).
For the back wheel we found a really cool super wide rim on a freewheel hub sans cassette. I used a chainwhip and hyperglide lockring tool to snag a 7 speed cassette from a different wheel. Then John dug up a used cassette spacer ring and the monster wheel was in business. Of course all this cassette fiddling was kind of academic since the bike will ultimately be a single speeder, but it was still pretty fun to work on.
With my wheels accounted for, I started finishing up my bike building for the night by tracking down a workable seat post and some v-brakes. It took a couple tries to find a seat post that fit, but I found one eventually. At one point a p2per named Joan (I think), spied a blue bmx bike in the pile I was going through and declared that it was her long lost stolen bike. Apparently it had a unique sticker on the down tube that she had put there way back when. Unfortunately the happy reunion was premature; after taking the bike for a quick spin Joan seemed less convinced that the bike had been hers.
I ended my night of bike building by bolting the brakes on and hanging the bike up on a free hook in a corner of the garage to get it out of the way. Next week I will have to track down a bottom bracket, cranks, stem and handlebars, but the whole thing seems to be coming together quite nicely. I’m already looking forward to another visit to the garage.