Friday, April 1, 2011

Just Because It Can Be Done...

...doesn't necessarily mean it should be done.

After I had bought my Cannondale, in Columbus, and started on my way to becoming a bike mechanic, I decided that I needed an actual road bike.  Riding around the countryside on the big 2.0" Smokes that came on the bike was wearing me out.  But, I didn't want to compromise the bike's off-road capability by putting slicks on it.

So, I started looking around for a road bike.  I didn't even consider buying a new one.  New road bikes, of any quality, were more expensive than I could afford, and I didn't want to invest too much money in my "second" bike. 

(Looking back on it, it seems so odd to me the think that I had two mountain bikes...and that was it.  I look in the rafters of the shop building now, and sorta wish I could return to those times.  But, I can't bring myself to do the "Sophie's Choice" thing and get rid of some of my bikes in order to keep others.  I'm working on it, though.)

Eventually, I came upon a road bike at a Yard Sale that I happened to drive by.  I stopped to look at it, and found that it was my size.  It was a LeJeune, metallic blue-gray, with two flat, cracked tires, alloy wheels, and SunTour components.  (Oddly, the French were first bike manufacturers outside of Japan to spec Japanese parts on their bikes.  The SR crank on this bike was a thing of beauty, too.)

At the time, it was probably 10 years old.  With the 5-speed freewheel on the back, and a double crank, it was a true 10-speed, of the sort which flooded America in the 1970s.

I asked the lady who seemed to be in charge how much the bike was.

"I don't really know," she said.  "It's my sister's, and she just told me to sell it for whatever I could get."

I dug into my pocket, and pulled out my wallet.

"I have three dollars," I told her.

"Sold!" she said, taking my money.

I spent another $30.00, or so, on two new 27x1-1/8" tires and tubes, and an alloy micro-adjust seatpost to replace the chromed steel version the bike came with.  Then, I set about overhauling the bike.

I had bought a copy of "Bicycling Magazine's Guide to Bicycle Repair" at the book store, and it walked me through all the stuff I didn't know how to do.  Finally, after overhauling the bearings in the hubs, bottom bracket and headset, replacing the cables, and cleaning and lubing the chain, and truing the wheels, I got to what I figured was the last thing I needed to do to complete a thorough overhaul:  The Suntour freewheel.

The Bicycling Magazine Guide had a whole chapter devoted to tearing down, cleaning, and reassembling a freewheel.  So, I figured it was a normal part of a "real" overhaul.  Of course, now I know that you typically just blow some solvent through the bearings, let it dry overnight (or blow it dry with an air hose), then drip some light oil into the mechanism to re-lube it.  There's a reason for that.

I sat down in the living-room floor, book on one side of me, beer on the other, and the wheel and tools in front of me.  I took my pin-spanner and chain whip, and removed the outer bearing cone from the mechanism.  Then, following the directions in the book, I carefully lifted the cog carrier off of the freewheel mechanism.

Suddenly, the parquet floor was covered in what I estimate to be somewhere between a million and an infinite number of tiny little ball-bearings, each of which seemed to have a conscious desire to find a hiding place, and damn quick!

I spent the next hour finding ball bearings in the oddest places on the living-room floor.  They were under the couch, under the chairs, stuck to my leg, behind the baseboard.  I was really, really surprised that I was able to find them all. 

An hour later, I had all of the tiny little buggers sitting in place on the bearing races, held in place by a thin coat of Phil Wood Oil.  On the third try, I actually managed to get the cog carrier over them without knocking a half-dozen loose.

That was my first and, I am happy to say, last experience at actually overhauling a multi-speed freewheel.  But, I learned a lot by getting in there and doing the work.  I had a lot better understanding of how freewheel mechanisms work.  And, I was confident that I could learn to do anything involving bicycle mechanics, if I had to.

Mostly, though, I knew better than to ever take apart a freewheel that I was planning on putting back together!


1 comment:

  1. I've found that combos of solvent, oil, and load has broken loose every frozen freewheel I've come across. If they wobble, I toss them and reach into the pile of spare ones.


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