Got some more work done recently on my fatbike rebuild. After the flux was cleaned off and the frame was given a good working with steel wool to remove any surface rust, I gave it a rub down with Acetone and got to work with priming.
A good paint job is all in the prep and doing light coats. I sprayed the self-etching primer and let it cure for a few days. A soft rub with a scouring pad and another Acetone wipe down, then a coating of primer sealer. Not many people bother with a primer sealer but I find it makes the paint job tougher and improves the look of the finished project. Self-etching primer is also a great option for extra hold on your base coat.
Its looking good so far. After the primer sealer cures over the next couple of days I need to start thinking about a colour. Lots of options in the automotive isle, and am thinking I'll spray it with an Acrylic Laquer. It will be my first time with laquer, I've done a few with enamel but it does not seem to cure very well and won't polish up nice with wax.
Once its shot with colour and clear coat, the fun beings and I get to hang parts back on it. So far I'm going to need a new bottom bracket, cables, and a chain. Everything else looks good. This old friend is going to be back and badass when she's done. Can't wait.
As my recovery comes along and I get closer to getting life back to normal, I've felt the urge to mountain bike again. I've been out on some easy going rides this year while out camping and with the kids around town, but have not had a good hard ride since the TPMBC Spring Kicker (and the Tillsonburn4 a week prior). I sold my awesome RSD Sergeant to help pay some bills while injured and am left without a mountain bike.
As my body has been healing I've realized that maybe I gave up on the old fatbike too soon. I was empathetic to it. I felt as if I should have helped it recover from its own broken frame just as all the doctors and physiotherapists have been helping me recover from my fractured spine. I spent a good evening out in the shop staring at the dust and cobweb covered frame, reminiscing of all the good times we shared, before finally arriving at the conclusion that I should give it another chance.
I got to work stripping the pain from the frame and fork and fashioned a gusset from some plate steel. It wasn't long after that I fired up the torches and got to work brazing the frame. I felt right at home with the brazing torch in my hand while carefully doing the dance of heat and bronze. The smell of sizzling flux filled the shop while the gentle hiss of the torch played its melody in my ears. Fillet brazing is a bit of a lost art that I got good with years ago, but its just like riding a bike.... you never forget.
I added brass as I needed, carefully wetting out the puddle for maximum penetration. I didn't want to have this joint crack again and the plate I made is very heavy duty.
Brazing is a gentle process. You have to run the torch at low pressure to avoid blowing out the base material from too fast of a flame. The slow flame and quick wrist are what makes a good welder here. You need to be able to adjust on the fly and use your gut to know when to wick the torch away and prevent cooking the joint, and when to pour on the heat and lay in the brass. Experience is the greatest teacher when it comes to this type of welding, and you need to think one step ahead of where you are. There is nothing quite like it and it brings me a slice of inner peace during my rough injury recovery.
I finished off my joint rebuild and shut down the torches. I let the joint cool for 10 minutes before putting the joint into the dunk tank. The dunk tank is just warm water and will dissolve the glassy flux off of the steel. Without the dunk tank, the hardened flux is nearly impossible to chip off but will disappear overnight in water. Science Bitch!
Check back for Part 2 soon. This baby is going to need some paint and lots of parts!
Many years ago I remember venturing into a bike shop and checking out an all new 29" wheeled mountain bike. It was still a niche bike at the time and many people (including bike shop owners) said it was trash and would never take off. Little did we all know at the time, but it would be the start of the "wheel wars" that still rage on today. Once some people decided that 29" was too big and 26" was too small, 650b was thrust into the mountain bike spotlight as 27.5", the "tweener" size. As all this was happening the old 26" wheeled bikes slowly began to disappear. By the 2014 model year most brands had little to no offerings in the 26" size and it was declared dead. Wander into a bike shop today and find me a well spec'd 26" wheeled bike..... I bet you can't.
In recent years, during the time when all the fat and plus offerings were flying off the bike shop racks, Surly quietly introduced a new bike..... the Instigator 2.0. It came with 26" x 2.75" tires, or "26plus". As with most friggin-cool things from Surly it took a while for the idea to catch on (just like the Pugs fatbike, and the Krampus plus bike) and now people have noticed.
Over the last year there have been a handful of 26x2.8" tires come to market and wider 26" rims, all slipping in under the radar with me quietly watching things unfold. There were threads popping up on mountain bike forums with people stuffing these 26+ wheels into 27.5" bikes with enough clearance. It made sense after all, if you were on the short side for a 29er and liked 27.5 but wanted the traction and cushion of a plus bike you could build a 26+ (with about the same wheel diameter as a normal 27.5" bike) or if you just happened to prefer the smaller wheels it made sense too. Here is a nice graphic from Jamis breaking down the sizes.
Manufacturers have taken notice and now for 2017 you can buy a 26+ bike off the showroom floor. Norco has built a new line of Fluid hardtails with 26+ wheel options over three component levels. Haro is building entry level 26+ bikes. Jamis is building 26+ bikes in both steel (with the Dragon series) and aluminum (Komodo series). Just to name a few.
Its an exciting and confusing time to be buying a new bike, and it likely a nightmare for bike shops trying to stock all wheel platforms over a variety of component builds, let alone a decent tire selection. Some might not agree but I like the idea of a 26+ bike, it would be perfect for vertically challenged people (like my 5' tall wife) who want gobs of traction and cushion from a plus bike. I'm a holdout for my 27.5+ bike for trail riding and can see the advantages of 29+ for bikepacking / gravel grinding, but would love to try out a 26+ rig on some "Shred the Gnar" type trails. Horses for courses I guess, and with all the options... the choice is really yours.
Its been a few weeks now, but a bit of elbow grease and a bunch of new parts have the C'Dale up and running again. The owner is going to be pretty happy when he gets his hands back on it. Its going to be a great reliable bike and easy to maintain.
Upgrades from stock include:
I managed to save the crankset with some love and also serviced the headset and hubs. Its all done now. All thats left is to take it out and get it dirty.
I got to work stripping the bike down. I found a few more small issues that need to be fixed up but nothing catastrophic. The frame is in excellent shape but needed the years of built up dirt and grime washed away. A little bit of surface degreaser and polish made it good as new. This bike is going to be so fresh when its done.....
Now that I've got a clean frame to build from its time to put together a parts spec and get the a-ok from the owner.
In my head its shaping up to be something like a Deore / SLX driveline with a OneUp 30t chainring, something big and meaty for tires, and some uber reliable Avid BB7 brakes with FR5 levers and Goodridge cables / housings. Should make for a dam fine machine...
This is part 1 of a multi-part Garage Files blog about rebuilding a friends Cannondale.
A few years ago I managed to convince a friend that mountain biking was a fun pass time. He set out with me in tow to look at new bikes and bought a 2013 Cannondale Trail 4 29er. Its a well spec'd bike for the price and he put 3 seasons of riding on it since, shredding singletrack at Turkey Point, towing his kids around in a trailer and a trail-a-bike, even a trip out to The Hydrocut where I might have gotten him in a little over his head and he cracked a rib. There has been lots of good times aboard this bike and it has an established story at this point, no doubt in my mind that the bike has taken on its own character in the owners mind.
After 3 seasons of use, its looking a little haggard and needs a facelift / overhaul. The front brake gave out this year and he has been getting by just using the rear (yikes!) and the shifting is getting sloppy, no doubt from the cheap Acera derailleur being completely worn out and the build up of dirt in the driveline.
He asked me to fix the brakes and driveline, I've convinced him to go to a 1x driveline for ease of maintenance and lighter overall package. A quick go over and it needs a bunch of small issues addressed, but could also use some upgrades to really "unleash the beast" that this bike can be.
The brakes need to go. The low end hydraulic offerings from C'Dale are complete crap, we will be most likely swapping over to Avid BB7's for ease of maintenance and ultra reliability.
Tires are shot. I'm going to set him up with something with more volume that he can really get aggressive with. Thinking something along the lines of the 2.4 Ardents.
The crankset is also hurting. The bb is nearly shot and the old Octalink Shimano isn't the stiffest option out there. Might upgrade him to a nice Deore crank. As far as driveline, most likely a 30t chainring with a 11-36 cassette, 10 speed of course. This bike is going to be awesome once its done.
Stay tuned for part 2, the bike will be stripped and everything inspected.
After a bit of research (ok, alot, maybe a week of reading about it) I bought a Salsa Cowbell 3 handlebar to install on my CCX. I like riding on the hoods alot and the gentle flare on these make it possible without compromising comfort, unlike the big flare of the Woodchippers. The slight flare is also suppose to make riding in the drops more comfortable, which is great because I don't ride the drops at all right now because of comfort. Time will tell how well the work out, I only have an around the block spin on the bar but so far it seems quite nice.
Install was easy as replacing a handlebar. Duh. I've read that the Cowbell works the best when the flats are level or close to it. I leveled them out and did a slight rotation down as per my personal preference.
Brifters go on. I run them high on the bar as I like the transition from the tops to the hoods to be as flat as possible. Seems the most comfortable for me.
Wrap the bars and enjoy. I'll be doing a review of these bars after I've got a bunch of miles on the bars.
I like Shimano hubs. The cup and cone bearing system is the best one out there. Smooth and serviceable, least amount of resistance compared to other cartridge bearing hubs. They do have one caveat though...... the freehub bodies are total fucking shit. I've destroyed quite a number of them over the years and am use to replacing about two a year on average. I even keep a personal stock of freehub bodies to keep me going, just in case the supplier is back ordered. To be fair though, I've also ruined the likes of DT Swiss and Ringle freehubs too.
A recent ride took out another one on me, I decided it was time for a garage file on replacing and tuning your shimano hub.
Above you can see that my freehub is totalled. Time to rip into it.
Remove the rear wheel from the bike and get the cassette off. On this particular model of hub I had to remove the brake rotor as well (centerlock).
Get your cone wrenches out and break the locknut loose on the non-drive side. Remove the cone from the non-drive side and pull the axle out the drive side. Working with the non-drive side is easier as you can get a firm hold on the nuts without interference.
Now place everything on a rag and keep it organized, clean and set aside. Be sure to note how many bearings are in the hub, this model (like most Shimano) has 9 bearings per side.
Use your big 10mm allen wrench and remove the freehub body.
Grab the new freehub body, make sure to reuse the washer behind the original freehub body (if equipped). Grease the threads of the freehub retaining bolt and install after cleaning the hub face.
Now pack the bearing cups with grease and install the bearings one side at a time. I do the drive side first then slide the axle though to hold the bearings in place when you flip the wheel and work on the non-drive.
Now install the non-drive cone and lock nut. Tighten the cone with your fingers only then install the lock nut. Now put your 17mm cone wrench on the lock nut and use the 15mm cone wrench to TURN THE CONE BACKWARDS INTO THE LOCKNUT! Just snug it up. Don't go crazy here. Now grab the axle and you should have a little bit of play in the bearings. Use the 17mm cone wrench on one side and a regular 17mm wrench on the other and slowly tighten the nuts, this will rotate the entire locknut / cone assembly on the non-drive side. Turn it just enough to get the play out of it, the axle should spin freely.
All done, just put the cassette back on and the rotor, put the wheel in the bike, double check your brakes and shifting, adjust if needed. Easy as that. Shimano hubs kick ass, just wish they could build a freehub body that wasn't made from cheese.
Last year I gave up on hydros after years of banging my head against the wall with the likes of Hayes hydros, Avid Elixirs, and Shimano offerings all failing me repeatedly. I decided that I wanted to keep it simple and cheap but have good braking power and modulation with solid feeling engagement.
Enter the Avid BB7. Best mechanical disc brake on the market. It works great and is cheap. They work great out of the box but there are a few tweaks I've found that take it to the next level.
Here is The Bric's guide to hacking the BB7.
Cables matter! Get yourself a good set of compressionless cables. The quality of these make all the difference. I chose Goodridge cables and housings for this job, they work great, but get out your wallet, they are not cheap.
Lever madness. Levers make a big difference as well. If you are trying to keep it cheap as possible, use the Avid FR5 levers. They can be bought for $15 online and work great with the BB7. If you want a little more feel and adjustment out of your brakes, use the Avid SD7 Speed Dial levers. They have an unreal amount of adjustments at the lever and will give you nearly hydraulic feel at the levers.
Rotors. Use Avid rotors, I've found that the G2 work best with the BB7. The Heat Shedding rotors work second best.
Lets put it all together now.
The proper install. When you install the BB7 caliper be sure to have it centered perfectly. I turn the pad adjusters (red dials on each side) in evenly so the rotor sits dead center in the caliper. Tighten down the bolts and turn the dials out a few clicks each for now. Everything should look perfectly lined up.
Install your levers at your desired angle and adjust the lever reach to your preference. Install cables, be sure to use a file and flatten out the cable ends after cutting before you put on your housing cap (this DOES make a difference).
Use the barrel adjuster on your lever only to take up any slack in the cable. Do not adjust it enough that it pulls the BB7 lever arm as this will take away from the amount of modulation the BB7 has.
Adjust the engagement point of your brakes using the red dial adjusters on the caliper. Be sure that there is no rubbing when the wheel turns but you still have about an inch of space from the lever to the grip with a firm hold on the brakes. I find that having the inboard pad adjusted a little further away from the rotor than the outboard pad gives a bit more modulation at the beginning of the brake engagement.
There is a small set screw in the caliper body that tensions the caliper return spring. Take that bitch out and toss it. With good cables and housings, and a good setup, you don't need all that tension for the caliper to return. This will make your lever action very light and you will have more feel at the lever.
Now go ride, bed the brakes in by riding some extended downhills while dragging the brakes then periods of cooling. I've found that the brakes come alive after 3-4 rides, any subsequent pad replacement requires this bed in procedure again. Now go out and enjoy the most reliable brakes you could ever ask for.
When it comes to bicycles I always love shiney new parts. What better way to please your inner crow than to take that ugly old beat up aluminum frame and give it a new lease on life? With a bit of chemicals and alot of elbow grease you can get the poor old sad looking sap back to a stallion-esque sexiness with a mirror-like shine. I've done a few of these over the last decade and will attempt to walk you through it.
Please Note: Polished Aluminum and Ball Burnished are two different things. Polished aluminum is polished, obviously. Ball Burnished is a process that is basically a frame secured in a giant dryer drum with lots of brass ball bearings that impact and compact the outer part of the aluminum and give it shine.
What you need:
Ok. You have all your gear. Lets start.
First off, hang your frame in the garage, cover the floor under it with a sheet of cardboard. Put on your gloves and glasses, pour some paint stripper into a dish and start applying it liberally with a paint brush. After covering it the paint will blister. Let the stripper do its magic for about 20 minutes then brush it off with the steel brush. Repeat this step a few times if needed.
Now most of the paint is off and you have a hell of a mess. Use the steel wool to get into the crevices and clean out all the paint. It has to be 100% gone.
Once the paint is gone, grab your rag and wipe the frame down good. Grab more rags and clean the shop floor.
Now get your aluminum polish and go at it. Expect to do this for a couple of hours doing a bunch of coats of polish, wiping the frame clean between coats.
Now you're getting somewhere. Don't stop. More polish. Your fingers should be stained black by now.
See the surface scratches? Steel wool with coarse, then medium, then fine. Now polish it again, all over. Did I mention earlier that there would be alot of polishing?
Once you finish your last coat of polish, use some Neverdull wadding and treat the entire frame. Now take a fresh clean rag and wipe the entire frame down, it will brighten up when you do it. You may have to go through a few rags on this step.
Keep at it and you will end up with something GORGEOUS! Much better than any paint job.
Congrats, its as easy as that. You will need to keep it polished once a month so its does not oxidate (dull out). Don't use clear coat, it won't stick to the polish and it will show ALL the scratches, leave the frame bare. In my opinion, a polished aluminum frame is the best looking aluminum frame you can get.
Check out the gallery below for some of my polished aluminum projects.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.