Archive of ‘maintenance’ category

Not afraid of a little snow…

EleanorNYC has a lovely little post today showing “women who look stylish on their bike and not afraid of a little snow.”  This reminded me that to not be afraid of a little snow, I need studded tires.  If there is snow on the ground that has not yet been totally plowed off the salted streets, I’ll only ride my bike with studded tires.


These are the bad boys on which I rely: Schwalbe Marathon Winters.  I bought them five or six winters ago and they’re still going strong.

Because I don’t have the time, patience or interest to swap out the tires myself (a longer-than-usual process for my Dutch bike), I brought Oma to a local bike shop a few weeks ago for her yearly tire swap.

When it was time to pick Oma up the next day, I Divvied to the shop.  (Thanks again, Divvy!)

20121225-DSCF5480resizedMy girl was waiting for me, still wearing her medical bracelet.


Oma was also wearing a note from my friend Dan, who saw her when he happened by the shop later to have his bike serviced.  An inside joke involving karaoke and Justin Timberlake – fun!  :-)

20121225-DSCF5489resizedNow Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow.

20121225-DSCF5501resized 20121225-DSCF5502resizedA lot of Chicago bicyclists get by fine without studded tires – and in fact I never put mine on two winters ago due to the relatively mild weather – but I like having them as an option.  What do you do to take on winter bicycling?

See also,

My Schwalbe Marathon Winter review from 2009

In defense of studded tires

My studded tires getting me through a post-blizzard ride

The return of my winter wheels in 2010

The Valve Variations

My fun with Kermit Allegra Spade (official name!) has been put on hold, thanks to a maintenance snafu. Kermit Allegra was originally slated to be my ride across town on Sunday. Filled with zeal, I decided that I’d check her tires before we left.

Walter is an attention whore

KAS did not come with a manual, but I felt especially confident because I have not only a standard Schrader valve pump, but also a Woods/Dunlop pump. What ever was on this bike, I thought, I’d be ready. Then I removed the cap to reveal something completely different. A Presta valve.

Presta valve

Unfortunately I did not stop there and turn to YouTube. It was clear that SOMETHING had to be done with the little brown top before air could be put in the tire. I opened the valve–but made the mistake of putting pressure on it. Whooooooosh, went the air. Flaaaaat, went my tire.

Flat tire

Le Peug and his old-school Schrader valves smiled in triumph and carried me off on the ride. Now I’m in the market for yet another pump to join the crew in my front hall closet.

Bicycle mechanics

Before leaving for France, I got a wild hair and decided to attempt some bicycle maintenance on my Batavus. There’s no Batavus dealer in my area, and I was a little bit worried that no one had checked in on the internal hub after a year of riding, even though I haven’t had any problems. So I grabbed up my manual, thinking, there’s got to be something I can do in here...

And there was. According to my manual, the gear shift unit was supposed to have two red dots on it that needed to be aligned—if they weren’t, then the gears were “out of tune” (I can hear you actual bicycle mechanics laughing their asses off all the way in France—maybe one day I’ll master the lingo!).


Luckily I had a faithful assistant at my side.


he already has grease on his nose!

I looked for the dots in the location the manual indicated. Didn’t see them.

My assistant took a turn. Still no dice.


Finally, after rolling around a bit and craning my neck, I noticed the red dots—BELOW the gear shift unit, not to the rear of it. Possibly this has to do with some adjustment they made to the bike in Littlehampton, to make it better for hills. Or possibly my Bat is a mutant. Opinions?

Either way, they were found, and adjusted (very slightly), and we all lived happily ever after. I thought this might be useful to other mechanic dilettantes who don’t have a Batavus dealer nearby!

Have you ever found that something on your bike was different from what was shown in the manual?

DIY: Fun with Fenders

Technically, this should have been categorized as a DIWYF — do it with your family! Without my dad and my brother, there’s no way these Velo Orange Fluted Fenders would have made it onto Le Peug. I had read about fender installations before purchasing mine, and the one thing that all the stories had in common was the potential to get into something difficult–something that required special tools or customization. As luck would have it, mine required both.

Twas the week after Christmas, and we wheeled Le Peug into my Dad’s garage.

Le Peug before

Le Peug enters the garage . . . he doesn't know what he's in for

First step was to clean the bike and touch up the 30-year-old paint job. Dad promised that his 3M compound could take out all but the deepest scratches, and that Wenol, an extra-strength German metal cleaner, could make the dull aluminum rims shine.


cast of characters

As usual, he was right. Check out these before/after shots. That compound cream worked miracles. If you think your bike needs to be repainted, try this first — but keep in mind that it does remove some of the paint, so be cautious.

portion of seat tube near bottom of photo has been cleaned


stay at top of photo has been cleaned

After cleaning the frame with compound, we touched up the scratches with some white paint. Once that dried, it was time for wax. Now, the frame is back to blinding white and looks almost like new.

The clean, touched-up frame — like new!

That took a couple of hours, and a lot of elbow grease, but it was the easy part. Next, we had to figure out how to install the fenders. Le Peug’s brake and stay clearance was tight, so we had to reshape both the front and rear fenders a bit.

And because the screw on our brake bolt wasn’t long enough to attach the fender, too, we had to come up with a makeshift L-bracket. Luckily, right about that time my brother wandered into the garage. He scrounged up some scrap metal and got to work.

Charlie bracket

Charlie drills the custom bracket

One fender down! I study the instructions for our next step.

The other major modification? Shaving down the front sides of the rear fender so that it would fit better between the chain stays behind the bottom bracket. Sorry, but I did not take pictures of this process since flying sparks were involved.

We replaced the wheels and cut the extra length off the stays (more sparks!).

Both fenders on, we replace the wheels.

Then we wiped the frame down again, removing some of the marks we had made with wrenches, etc, during the installation. And here’s the finished product!

front fender with custom bracket

Charlie wasn’t happy with the L-bracket was, since it was so visible and made of two different colored metals, but I like it — the gold matches the decal on the bottom tube and it is distinctive.

all done

my finished beautiful bicycle

While I don’t really enjoy day-to-day bike maintenance duties (refilling tires, yawn), projects like this feel different. Taking the bike apart, cleaning it, installing the fenders and putting it all back together gave me a better sense of how my bike works. And seeing the finished project was oh-so-satisfying: Le Peug looks better than ever, and our painstaking custom installation means a perfect fit with no rattling. I’m now saving my pennies for the next upgrade on my list: a Brooks saddle.

What’s your latest DIY project?

A New Old Bike in Progress

Not for me, but for Mr. Dottie! Thus far he’s gotten by with his Jamis Coda Sport, but has been saving up for another. Instead of buying a new bike, he’s custom building it himself with a vintage frame.

Greg testing the Raleigh

Greg testing the Raleigh

He started with an early 1970′s Raleigh Gran Sport frame that he bought for a low price on eBay. He’s a practical engineer, building it up with components to make the most utilitarian bike for his purposes, including a lot of winter riding. I’ll have a full write-up when he’s finished, but it includes an internal hub, roller brakes, generator lights, and mustache bars. He still has to adjust the parts for the perfect fit and add accessories, but he was able to take his first test ride today. He’s having fun, learning a lot and soon will have the perfect bike that he deserves!

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Zen and the art of…oh screw this! Can I ride my bike now?

Some people are into bicycle maintenance. They get a kick out of lubricating derailleurs and messing with thingamabobs. (See ecovelo) These are the same people who spend pretty Saturdays waxing their cars, if they own them. I am decidedly not one of those people. Quite the opposite. I neglect maintenance even when I know it’s wrong.

Sparkling Clean Oma and Betty

Sparkling Clean Oma and Betty


Aha! Saddle Position Breakthrough

All this time I’ve been riding around with a poorly positioned saddle. How could I not have realized it?

New Saddle Position

New Saddle Position

On Sunday I brought Oma to the Dutch Bike Chicago doctor for a regular check-up and to have her studded tires swapped (a task I could not figure out due to the enclosed chain case). He was super helpful with everything, fixing a spring that keeps my handlebars from swinging around while parked and treating my Brooks saddle. He noticed from the saddle’s breaking-in pattern that I was riding too far forward and offered to adjust the tilt. Of course! Once he mentioned it, I realized that I often have to scoot myself back while riding, but it never occurred to me to investigate. I thought maybe that was simply how the saddle was supposed to be, nevermind my instincts. As you can see in the picture, the saddle is now titled up slightly, making the back part level with the ground.

Huge improvement! On the way home I realized how bad it was before when I kept pushing on the handlebars to scoot myself back, only to realize that I did not need to scoot back. Why didn’t I address the problem before someone in the know brought it up? I don’t need to be a bike expert to know what my body is feeling. This super comfy saddle is a lesson learned.

Spring Cleaning

Spring is here for real! Time to swap out the Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires for the good ol’ regular tires and clean up the nasty snow grit. On Saturday I spent a couple of hours with my garage set up as a temporary workshop to accomplish these tasks.

Riding Smurfette

Riding Smurfette

While my husband changed his tires, I installed the Wald basket and Planet Bike rack on Smurfette. Now everything is set up – except the bell. I don’t want just any bell and have been trolling eBay for something vintage. I think Smurfette now looks quite snazzy!


Possible Peugeot Project

Le Peug has been well-loved. There are a few deep scratches on the top tube and down tube,  some of which have rusted over — not especially pretty.

Le Peug and friends at happy hour last week

Le Peug and friends at happy hour last week

I had been thinking since he arrived that a touch-up might not be a bad idea, so on Sunday morning I read a few posts on bike forum and decided I knew enough to give it a try. The process seemed simple: sand off rust, clean with alcohol, mask (if using spray can), apply primer, apply paint. One of the bike forum visitors even suggested a good match for white Peugeots: Duplicolor White Wheel Paint, which I thought I had a good chance of finding at the O’Reilly Auto Parts close to my house.

So we set out, (more…)