Lately, I’ve gotten a wicked hankering for a new bike, but I think it’s mostly because my current bike is somewhat unsafe. There are just a number of things that make a rider feel insecure on this bike, but I’m slowly working to finally improve my ride.
After test-riding my bike, a friend suggested that I needed to have my headset tightened. A loose headset makes for an unsure ride. Sure enough, I took it to a shop that helped me out and tightened the headset for me; now I feel a lot more secure riding, especially down hills.
Well, this isn’t really a new problem, per se. I’ve had problems braking ever since I got this bike because it has wheels with shiny chromed steel rims, which makes for an awful braking surface. Not only is the surface nice and slick, but the brakes don’t really hold and stopping is very jerky and unreliable. In the rain, I don’t get any braking power at all and I have almost slid directly into traffic more than once (luckily I was on a flat road and I was able to stop by pulling a Fred Flinstone).
A few months ago, one of my coworkers actually gave me his unused Schwinn LeTour with aluminum alloy rims, in the hopes that I could transfer the wheels over to improve braking. Sadly, I was pretty lame and tried transferring the front wheel and gave up on the whole wheelset when it wouldn’t fit. This past weekend, I decided to dust off the rear aluminum wheel and finally tried putting it on my bike et voilà, it worked! I did a minor adjustment to the brake pads to make sure they were seated right on the rim and I am so pleased to report that braking is much smoother and quieter with the "new" rear wheel.
Now, I just need to get the front wheel on. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that I have an old English bike, since the front fork’s dropouts are keyhole shaped, and therefore won’t fit the standard axle width. Add in the fact that the width of the fork is also too narrow, and this quickly turns into a complicated problem. Right now, I’m looking to either get the front fork’s dropouts filed down, or have someone re-build the aluminum rims around the current wheel’s hub. Both options mean I might be bikeless for at least a few days, and right now with Frannie out of the country, I just can’t risk not having a bike! If I’m lucky enough to find another aluminum front wheel that fits the old Nottingham Raleigh forks, I could potentially just swap it out. Or maybe there’s a workaround using thinner lock nuts on the aluminum wheel’s axle. Hmm….
I’m consulting a bike expert friend tonight, so he can give it to me straight and let me know what I need to do to make this work. Thank for god bikey friends who are willing to help me out. I love them.
Changing out the rear cassette
So right now I have my coworker’s aluminum wheel on the rear of my bike. The nice thing about the wheel is that the braking power is awesome. The bad thing about the wheel is that the cassette (the set of gears on the wheel) is what is called a "corncob." The gears are really small and all just about the same size. It is basically geared very high for speed and not very good for climbing hills. This is great for my commute since I can go fast fast fast on a flat route, but this is bad for climbing any kinds of hills (um… like social rides around SF and through the Presidio).
I’m planning to change out the rear cassette (assuming they are interchangeable) for more varied gearing; I miss my granny gear! I’m hoping to get this done by the end of this week so that I can go on a Friday night ride with climbing. I really like running up and done the hills, and with new braking power, going down will actually be fun instead of harrowing!