Category Archives: Building a bike in my pajamas

In Depth Post #7: Planning my learning center

DSC_0275It’s only a matter of weeks until the in-depth presentations night, so I’m going to start planning and building my learning center. Lucky for me, this won’t require a whole lot of work. In fact, I actually planned out the whole thing while eating dinner in around five minutes.

My general plan is to branch out from the standard poster board and paper idea, instead turning to a display that isn’t fully self-explanatory, and instead will prompt people to ask questions. This will involve a mostly visually based presentation. The pieces that I will be needing are my downhill bike, as well as a (possibly) dirt jumper style bike which I also built over the course of the project. I will also have a laced but not trued wheel in a stand that will have a small amount of text displayed on it, making it more interesting than the standard display board. I will also have a selection of standard tools, as well as some more specific ones I got from Dave, displayed on a table. Finally, I will have a laptop playing a stop motion video of the entire bike build.

The stop motion video encases the entire project, showing the entire bike being built from the ground up. It took me six days to film, and another day to edit. The entire filming process consists of nearly two thousand pictures which are strung together to create the illusion of motion. The pictures were all taken by hand, and required over ten hours of work.

On the first day of filming, I was building the wheel. I took a picture for every spoke placed in the wheel, so the entire wheel building process took an hour longer than usual. Next I took apart the front brake, and filmed it having parts replaced and rebuilt. I needed to rebuild the brake anyways, so the stop motion was just convenient to do at the time. The next day of filming was to show the fork being repaired. The fork I used was not the Boxxer shown in the final product, it was instead the Totem that I had been using before. After repairing the original fork, I moved on to filming the new fork being repaired. This consisted of a very short clip, in which I am spray painting the worn out lowers.

After all these parts were filmed, I finally found time to film the entire bike being put together into the final product. This process is often called an overhaul, where the entire bike is stripped, fixed, and put back together. In my case though, nothing was being repaired, it was just being rebuilt. As I set up the camera and such, my dad began to take apart some of the larger parts. I took off the wheels and drivetrain, and we were ready to begin filming. For this sequence, I had a more complex setup to ensure the final video looked as good as I could make it. For lighting, we had a fluorescent light, a halogen light, and a very powerful shop light. The shop light is two movable spotlights on a stand that would be commonly used to light up workshops when there is no external lighting. Because I knew the filming process would take a long time, I could not use light from outside, as it would change over the course of the day. Once the lighting was setup, I adjusted the camera to fit with the lighting conditions. A camera usually needs to be operated at a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second to compensate for your hands shaking, but since I had it on a tripod, I was able to use an exposure of 1.5 seconds, much longer than anyone would normally use. I also had the camera hooked up to my laptop, which was running a program to operate the camera. This helped with two things:

  1. there was no shaking from me pressing the button on the camera
  2. the pictures downloaded to my laptop as I took them

The filming ended up taking over six hours, with a break only to have dinner. Conclusion, stop motion looks cool but sucks to make.

Details about setup:

  • I may have sound for the video, but it is not necessary
  • I will need a large space to accommodate everything, it will need to hold at least 1 folding table and accommodate two large bikes WITH ROOM TO SPARE (I don’t want anything bumping into the bikes, they total a cost of $4000 so I don’t want them getting damaged) The concrete area outside the MPR would work, if not a large space indoors would be just as good as long as I have space
  • Equipment (I will need):
  1. Folding table
  2. Electrical outlet

Equipment (I am bringing)

  1. Extension cord
  2. Laptop
  3. Bike stand
  4. One, maybe two bikes
  5. Tools
  6. Wheel in a stand

All photos

As a prize for reading to the end, here’s some cats

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In Depth Post #6: Even more stuff happens

DSC_0261Once again I’m going to be making a massive text dump where I do over all the things I haven’t had time to mention. This post won’t go into a lot of detail since it’s an extra, it’s more just to show what’s been happening.

When I left off I was in Kelowna, where the water taste weird and as I found out the bikes are just as expensive as anywhere else. Now I’m back at home, and my first order of business is to collect even more parts. This time, I’ll be ordering them through my (old) mentor at his shop. This includes a chain, cassette, brake line, and a chainring. Here’s a breakdown of what these parts are:

Chain: pretty basic, interlocking pieces of metal the have slots which fit into gears, not like an anchor chain, it’s like a skinny motorbike chain.

Cassette: gears lined up beside each other, smallest on the outside and biggest on the inside, placed on the hub of the back wheel. The smaller the gear, the harder it is to pedal, but the higher speeds you can achieve. The cassette that I’m getting is a VERY high quality one, meaning it costs more but it will last longer and feel better.

Chainring: The chainring is the gear on the front end of the chain, attached to the cranks. The smaller this gear is, the easier it is to pedal. This is the opposite of the cassette. The chain ring I’m getting is a new style called a narrow wide. On the chain, each slot for the gear’s teeth are not the same size. They alternate small and large. Because of this, the chainring needs to be shaped to fit into the small slots, and the large slots end up falling off some time because there’s too much space. This means you usually need a chain guide to hold the chain in place, however this causes drag and makes the chain much less smooth. The narrow wide chainring fixes this by having a narrow slot followed by a wide slot, which helps hold the chain in place, reducing the need for a chain guide.

Around this time, I began building my first wheel (remember, this is before my new mentor). The wheel I started on was an old rim we had sitting around, with some equally old spokes. Following a guide I found online, I failed miserably a few times. After lacing it incorrectly, I eventually got it as round as I could. This is when I found out the rim was cracked, and it would have been impossible to finish building it anyways. Good enough for the first try I guess…

After building the rim, I moved on to repainting my fork. I started out by taking the lowers off the stanchions, since paint on the stanchions could do sever damage. Once the lowers were off, I pulled off the nasty old decals and cleaned off all the caked on dirt. Once the lowers were thoroughly cleaned with rubbing alcohol, I sanded down all the major scratches too make sure everything was smooth. After this, I filled the scratches and gouges with an sort of liquid metal, an epoxy that hardens upon application. I then sanded the entire fork with a small grain piece of sand paper, which make the fork a little bit rough so that the paint would stick. I then got out the spray paint, and put on about six coats. A few days later, I found it still needed more paint, and some pars were uneven. I sanded down some of the paint, and made another attempt. I did this three times before getting it finished.

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After painting it and letting it dry, I applied the new decals. This was an absolute pain to put on straight with no air bubbles. i found that the trick was to lay down just the corner, the get a piece of firm rubber like a spatula to press it down to get rid of air bubbles. Once the decals were on I got a large sheet of 3M car paint protector,  a thin. clear plastic wrap designed to protect the paint of cars in curved ares. This was an ideal material for me, since it was designed to go around bends. However, it was even harder to apply than the decals, and I found that although it worked fine along large bends, it couldn’t wrap around smaller bends very well. Eventually I got the forks covered in a bit of an awkward fashion by using small strips instead of big pieces, which means it doesn’t look as good but is protected better.

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A few days after finishing painting the fork, I got a call from Maple Ridge Cycle saying they got all my parts in. When I came in though, I found that the chain ring was on back-order so I couldn’t get it, and they had accidentally sold my chain, meaning the only parts I could get was the cassette and the brake line. However, I will be able to get the other parts within a week.

Next I built my second wheel, this one would be put onto the bike so I had to do it right (back wheel). When i was lacing the spokes, I made a stop motion animation for the presentation at the in depth night. This made the process more drawn out, but I still ended up finishing it within the day. One issue I faced though is that the spokes are slightly too long, but the rim is double walled, meaning I had extra room so the spokes didn’t poke all the way through. The front wheel doesn’t need to be rebuilt yet, since it already has a good hub in it.

Next up I was able to put on my cassette, bars, headset, grips, cranks and chain ring. The bolts that came with the cranks are slightly too long for the chain ring, but they should work so I put them on anyways. I also got a set of pedals from Overtime Sports on a massive discount, from the regular $85 to $50. I tried putting the brakes on, but it turns out the adapter for the front bike is oddly sized, meaning it doesn’t fit properly. It still works enough to test the bike, but I need to change it at some point. The bike has no chain yet, so I can’t really ride it.

Moving on to mentoring, I had my last session with Dave. This time, we would be re-cutting the bottom bracket. This isn’t a necessary procedure, but it’s still good to have it done. I would have never been able to do it at home, since the tool cost over a thousand dollars, and without Dave I would have had no clue how to do it. The tool is simple enough, it’s two handles on either end of a bar with cutting pieces on them. The reason it’s so expensive is because of how precise it needs to be. The idea behind it is that is cuts new threads into the frame, so that the bottom bracket fits in perfectly straight. Factory made frames aren’t always precise, so doing this is always a good idea. The tool is very finicky, and if you put it in the wrong side, it will ruin your frame. First you chase the threads, meaning you put the tool in and cut new threads, making it much more aligned with the frame. Next you face it, meaning you cut the lips of the frame so that they are flat, meaning the bottom bracket will not be able to go in crooked. After finishing, I had to make sure that all the pieces got cleaned out properly, since the little shards of metal left from cutting could damage the bike. This concluded my (so far) final day of being mentored by Dave.

In depth post #5: A lot of stuff happens

As the title says, a lot of stuff happens in this post, so I can not go into much detail for each part of the update.

To start, after ordering a box of parts off chain reaction, they finally came in! This is the most excited I’ve ever been for a parcel, since the mail at my house is usually advertisements. Within the depths of a bubble wrap filled box, lay my zee shifter and derailleur, my answer protaper bars, and a crown race. I’ve already covered the bars and derailleur in previous posts, so I’ll just cover the crown race. A crown race looks simple enough, it’s just a metal disc. However, it is crucial to building the bike. I crown race is put onto the fork where it slides into the frame, and the lips around the middle slot into the head tube of the frame. The head tube on the driver 8, with a chris-king headset, is tapered at the bottom, so the crown race fills the gap where it is tapered so that it is a smooth tube for the fork to slide into. I’ve been able to put on all the parts, so my bike now has a nearly complete front end, as well as shifting capabilities (but no chain).

Next up is the stem, the piece on the front of the bike that holds the bars to the fork. This piece, although small, can have a drastic effect on the bike. Because it has the bars attached to it, the shape of the stem can change where the bars are, causing the rider to be leaned further forward or further back. The stem that I had chosen was a Raceface Atlas. This stem is quite nice looking, however many people are not big fans of it because of it’s geometry, which is odd compared to other stems. This means that if you are used to another style of stem, and you switch to this one, the bike will feel foreign to you when you ride it. However, I’m not used to any particular stem, so switching to it should be easy enough for me. I ended up finding one on pinkbike for $50, marked down from the usual $95 U.S. The stem had been up for sale for quite some time, and I thought that the person had just forgotten to take it down. Luckily, that was not the case, and it was just that nobody else wanted to buy it.

And last, I found a Driver 8 for sale at a bike shop in Kelowna. This is actually a quite rare occurance, since the Diver 8 is a discontinued frame, and has been for a few years now. This is the first Driver 8 that I’ve seen for sale, so I decided to check the price tag. This Driver 8 was a 2012 model, whereas mine is a 2011. However, the price was at $3800. On sale. The regular price was $5000, I’m guessing they marked it down since it’s outdated. The components that were on the frame were not the exact same as mine, however in terms of performance they were nearly identical. Essentially, I’m going to be making the same quality and style of bike, and I’m estimating that it will cost around $2000 dollars. This means that by building the bike myself, I could be saving a whopping $3000. That’s more money than I even have total, make it the full $5000 and I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford to get a bike like that. In short, learning how to do things yourself is the way to go.

Moving on to mentoring, I had another session with Dave in his shop. This time around, it started off with trueing the wheels of a few customers just as a check to make sure that I had the technique solidified. After, I helped Dave clean up a customers’ bike before moving on to my own bike. For this session with Dave, I would be bleeding my brakes. Hydruaulic brakes like the ones I have, which are common on most mountain bikes, are a bit more complex than the standard V brakes. A V brake is a very elementary systems, involving a wire attached to a lever, that when pulled, pulls in two pads towards the rim of the wheel. When the pads make contact, the create friction and slow the bike. Although practical, these brakes do not offer a lot of stopping power, and once the rim gets wet they can no longer create friction, rendering them nearly useless. On any bike that needs stopping power, you will commonly see disc brakes. A disc brake uses hydraulic fluid, which gets compressed by the brake lever. This compression forces the fluid to the other end of the brake line, which is attached to a series of pistons attached to pads. The fluid forces the pistons to move upwards, which creates contact between the pads and a disc that is attached to the hub of the wheel. Because the disc is designed for stopping a bike, unlike the rim, these pads can be created to be much more abrasive, and This makes the brakes much more effective.

The downside to these brakes is that the hydraulic fluid needs to be replaced after riding with it, since air leaks will sometimes get into the fluid, causing the brakes to create less pressure. TO fix this, the brakes need to be bled. Bleeding requires different tools for different brands of brakes. My brakes are Avids, which are generally considered harder to bleed, however Dave has more experience with Avids than any other brake type. Dave bled the back brake first for a demonstration, then I bled the front brake. Bleeding Avid brakes requires two syringes with different quantities of hydraulic fluid in them. The syringes are attached to either end of the brake line, and are screwed in to prevent leaking. The syringes are then used to push the fluid back and forth, which helps release any air bubbles into the syringes. Once the bubbles are gone, the fluid is forced into the brake line, before the holes for the syringes are resealed to prevent any further leaking. Although this process may seem relatively simple on paper, actually doing it is much more difficult since the fluid is highly corrosive, and must be handled very carefully. After cleaning up the bike, I concluded my day with Dave and left the bike in his storage room to be worked on another day.

Mentorship question, In-depth week 12

1/2/3. Currently, my mentor Dave has been able to provide me with multiple learning opportunities inside the shop. This includes being able to see interactions with customers, how the pricing is worked out, and more importantly what a customer is expecting. He’s explained that many customers don’t quite understand that paying a higher amount for better service once is much better than paying a bit each time, but coming back for service over and over again. He’s also shown me how to properly present someone’s bike when they come to pick it up, including having it properly cleaned as a bonus. To accelerating and reinforce new learning, there are quite a few opportunities in Dave’s shop. Most of these revolve around the bikes that his customers bring in. As bikes are brought in, Dave is able to show me what to do on various components on the bike, and for smaller issues I am able to learn how to fix it myself, and get hands-on experience working with a large assortment of bikes.

4. When Dave and I get together for our mentoring sessions, we mostly talk about life in the world of biking, and he is quite interested in the in-depth project. We are also currently discussing ways that I can give back to him, including having my dad and I help Dave create a new website to improve on his existing one.

5. Currently, what is going particularly well with Dave in our mentoring sessions is the ability to communicate properly. He is able to see when I am struggling, and knows when to offer help and when to hold back so I can figure it out on my own.

6. From Dave, I am most prominently learning how to just be a guy that everyone seems to like. I have yet to meet someone who does not like him, and through observation I have noted some key elements as to how he interacts with customers and partners that really cements strong relationships with them.

 

In-Depth post #4: Buying a hub, Boxxer forks, and defying the laws of time

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For this update, I’ll start by explaining how to defy the laws of time itself, with next to no effort. It works quite simply: All of my updates are actually in the past-tense, since a lot of the work I did started before the project was assigned since that’s when bike parts are cheapest (September-December). I knew that the project was going to be assigned since my sister went through the same program, so I decided to start early and take notes as to what I did and when, meaning that nearly everything I’m talking about is in the past-tense. In the current day (when this is posted) I already have all the parts, the only thing left to do is to build it up. However, in this update, the bike is just a frame and a rear shock, with some wheels that I had from my old bike which I can’t put on yet. However, my work with the mentor is present tense. I didn’t need a mentor to buy parts, since that would make my project into a bartering topic. Instead I bought the parts already, and the mentor is teaching how to build them in the present tense. So without further ado, I present to you two different timelines.

Timeline 1, buying parts:

Without much luck finding parts at local stores and Pinkbike, I had earlier turned to ChainReactionCycles (see last post) to acquire some of the more specific and harder to find parts. However, there was still one odd shop that I did not look at yet. In the summer, my dad had spotted a little shop called North Shore Sports Swap, and decided to look in quickly. In a display case, they surprisingly had a large selection of Shimano Saint parts, which are some of the best parts you can come by. Searching through the case, he found a set of cranks normally priced at $250. At this hidden shop, they were a meager $120 for last year’s model. Without even hesitating to see if I actually wanted them, he went ahead and bought the set, then got me to pay him back. I didn’t argue, since it was a great deal. Now, back in the present (past tense present), I decided to go back and see if they had gotten anything interesting. Upon my return, I realized that hardly any of the Saint parts had been sold, and it had been nearly 2 months. This was highly confusing, but I had no reason to complain since it just meant that I could get all the good deals. What I was after was the Saint rear hub, which was normally priced at $220. Here, it was only $90. Why? I don’t actually know. My assumption is that the store got a large shipment of parts from someone else who couldn’t sell them before the newest model came in, and since nobody looking for expensive bike parts really came through their shop, all the parts were priced insanely low. After hunting through I find the right size of hub for my frame, and got it without hesitation. I knew right away that I wanted to get it, since I need all the good deals that I can get. So far, my parents paid for the frame since I needed a new one anyways, and I have been paying for the rest using saved up money from a paper route and dog sitting jobs, and birthday and Christmas money. In the present (present as in now in real life) the bike ended up being $2150, and I still have around $600 left in my open account, with another $1000 left in a locked account. I guess saving all of my money really ‘PAID OFF’ (get it?).

After having success in the local shops, I went back on Pinkbike to continue looking for a fork. I spent a couple of weeks monitoring the prices so that I could guarantee I was getting a good deal. After searching through a variety of prices ($400-$600 for the exact same quality), I was able to find a 2009 Boxxer Team dual crown fork for a low price of $300, much cheaper than anything else that I could find. Although it’s a bit of an older fork, it’s in great condition, and the guy that had it before me ended up replacing the interiors as well as getting a new set of stanchions which are TI Nitrite, a material that makes them slide much smoother. The downside is that they wear out faster, but based on their condition I don’t have any concerns about it at the moment. The lowers of the fork are pretty scratched up, and they’re a relatively boring silver colour with torn up decals. There’s dirt caked on them, and one of the crowns was painted, but it’s wearing off now. Although it’s a pretty nasty looking fork right now, I have a plan to make it look a whole lot better. I’m going to be ordering a new set of decals, then I’m going to fill in some of the scratches and marks before repainting the whole thing. I’ll also end up cleaning the worn out paint on the crown.

 

Timeline 2, mentorship:

Back in the present, where I already have nearly all of the parts needed to make my bike, I have started working with Dave McInnes at the BicycleHub, and for my first day of work we were going to rebuild my back wheel with some new spokes and nipples. Yes, nipples are a part, they’re the little screws that hold the spokes and rim together. Recently, I had gotten some anodized red nipples that I wanted to put on with black spokes to replace my silver and silver combination. To start off, we took the wheel off the bike and removed the tire and tube from the rim. With my beefy Nevegal tires, taking them off the rim is an absolute pain, but it’s not as bad as some other types of tires. Once the tire was off, the next step was to release the tension from the nipples. This had to be done evenly, since if you released all the tension in one area, but another area was still tight, it would warp the rim. To release tension, a spoke wrench is used to turn each nipple one full turn looser, going around the rim twice. At this point, a large majority of the tension is released, so a screwdriver can be used to loosen them off the rest of the way. An important thing to note is that on the rear wheel, the spokes on each side are different length. This is because the hub is offset on the rear so that it can hold the cassette, and to make the wheel centered one side of the spokes needs to be longer. Because of this, the spokes on each side need to be put in separate piles so that they don’t get mixed together. Once all the spokes have been removed, the next step is to use a spoke calculator to find the length of the new spokes. Doing this involves using a caliper to measure a bunch of sizes on the hub, then inputting them into the calculator. The calculator will then tell you what length of spokes you need. For my hub, I needed 16 spokes that were 258mm long, and 16 spokes that were 260mm long. I had a set of 258 spokes, but neither Dave nor I had a set of 260mm spokes. Dave did have a set of 259mm, so we used those instead. A 1mm allowance will still work, but a 2mm allowance starts to get a bit too high. My old spokes on that rim were significantly too long, 260mm and 262mm, and although they still worked they just barely did.

After finding the correct length of spoke, they then get laced into the hub and rim. Laced meaning put into all the correct holes and loosely screwed on. Because the lacing process would take an entire page to explain to someone who knows nothing about the parts, I’m not going to bother trying. Dave’s lacing technique was a bit different than the one I had seen before. Spokes are usually laced in 3 cross, meaning each spoke crosses over 3 other spokes before it enters its hole. Most people lace their rims so that there is no cross on top of the valve hole, giving you easy access to pump up the tire. However, Dave prefers to lace his rims so that the valve hole does have a cross on top of it, making it harder to pump but giving the rim much more stability, so following along with his technique I got the rim laced. The next step is to tighten all the spokes to what is called “working tension”. To find the tension, a tool is used to grab on to the spoke and flex it, the tool then shows you the tension. I don’t actually know what the measurement is, but working tension reads 15 on the tool’s scale. 15 is the working tension since before that tension, tightening or loosening the spokes won’t actually change anything. Once it is at 15, tightening a spoke will pull the rim to that side. Once all the spokes are tightened, you spin the rim in the trueing stand (a stand the holds the rim so you can spin it) and see where the rim has wobbles side to side. To find and fix these wobbles, you push in the feelers on the stand (metal arms that are put next to the rim), and when the rim brushes against the feeler, you know that there is a wobble to that side. To fix these impurities in the rim, you tighten spokes on the opposite side of the wobble, pulling the rim to that side, and causing it to straighten out again. After you are done checking the side to side straightness, you check if there are any high or low dips in the rim. If there was a low dip, you would tighten the spokes on the dip to pull the rim back up. There are two important steps in this: 1. You can only tighten spokes in even numbers, if you tighten an odd number of spokes the rim will get a side to side wobble, and 2. the spokes on the outside of the dip get tightened less than the spokes on the inside of the dip, ensuring that you tighten it with the curve. For high spots, you loosen instead of tighten but follow the same process. After fixing dips in the rim, you stress the rim by pushing it against the wall on each side of the hub, making quarter turns as you go around the entire rim. This ensures that all the spokes have been settled properly. Next you check dish, which means how centered the rim is on the hub. If the dish is further to the right than the left, you tighten the left side spokes only to pull it back to the center. After you have finished all these steps, check the tension and then repeat until all the spokes are close to the recommended tension (mine were a tension of 23) and make sure the rim has no impurities. All of this took me around three and a half hours from start to finish. Doing this at Dave’s shop ended up being a lot better than doing it at home, since he has a few specific tools at his shop that I don’t have which made the process a lot easier. His trueing stand is also a much more expensive, reliable, and accurate stand than the one that I have at home. If I had not had Dave to help me along the way, I’m guessing the entire process would have taken around 4-5 hours instead.

 

In-depth post #3: finding a new mentor, buying bars and a derailleur (in my pajamas)

A quick recap of what I have: I’ve bought a frame with a rear shock and headset, and I’ve failed to buy multiple forks and a set of bars. After these miserable attempts at buying used parts, I have given up and turned to the internet to get me some new parts. My weapon of choice: Chain Reaction Cycles, the proclaimed largest bike store in the world. It’s an online shop with no physical location, but because of this they can offer way more parts. They don’t actually have much of anything in stock, instead they have tons of pieces that either have to be ordered in or have only a few in stock. Because they’re such a popular site, and they make buckets of cash, they also offer a new sale almost every two days. I’m signed up for email notifications about sales, and I literally get a new one every two-three days. For my purpose, this is great. If the part you want isn’t on sale, you can just wait a month and it will go on sale at some point. All it takes is patience, and you can get pretty much whatever you want.

When I was first recommended to the site, they were having a massive sale. I saw some really good prices, and the sale ended in a matter of hours, so I went full-on mad shopper and ended up narrowing down my results to a few things that I wanted. This included the bars I was failing to get, as well as a derailleur and shifter that would be a pain to find used. The bars I eventually narrowed down the the Answers Protaper, and the Shimano Zee or Saint.

The Answer Protaper came in two different models, and two different year models as well. Comparing the two, the pro and the not-pro, it took me a while to find the difference. I eventually discovered that the difference comes from the grade of aluminum, specifically the 7050 category. Initially I thought the difference in aluminum wouldn’t be too great, however I discovered that the grade could change the weight and strength significantly. However, the price difference was a bit too high for me. I eventually found a compromise, buying the more expensive version of the older model. the older model was pretty much the exact same, but because it was older I could buy it for much cheaper. This was my final choice.

For the derailleur, I should probably start off by explaining what it is. A derailleur is a spring loaded mechanism in the back of the bike that guides the chain over the gears. To change gears, you pull on the shifting lever to either release the tension of the cable attached to the derailleur, or to add more tension. The change in tension makes the derailleur move, and thus it pulls the chain with  it causing it to change gears. The derailleur needs to be a good fit for the bike, and often requires a lot of adjusting to  make it shift smoothly up and down. When I bought it, I could either decide between the Zee or the Saint. The Zee only came in a short cage, which means it’s smaller, but the Saint came in the medium and long cage. I ended up finding out that for my bike, a short cage would be ideal. So my final choice was the Zee. This ended up being a better option anyways, since it was also the cheaper of the two. The Zee is often considered the little brother of the Saint. However, it still retains a key similarity with the Saint. That would be what is called a clutch system. The clutch system makes the derailleur much stiffer, and as it shifts into lower and higher gear it will add and release tension to the chain, which will help ensure that the chain stays on.

I’ve now ordered both these parts, and I have to wait for a few weeks to get them in. In the meantime though, I’m hoping to get a chance to work with my mentor. However, it’s been rather difficult to arrange a time to meet with him. As I said in my last blog post, I am looking for a new mentor, and luckily I have found one. His name is Dave Mcinnis, and he runs a bike repair shop called BicycleHub. It’s a small shop in what feels like the middle of nowhere, but it’s one of the most interesting ones that I’ve been in. The back wall is quite long, somewhere around 8’X50’, but he’s painted the entire thing (by hand) to look like a brick wall. The ceiling is just open rafters, and the floor is chipwood with some mate here and there for grip. The entire place would usually seem rather “ghetto”, yet it feels welcoming more than anything. Even though the shop is so hard to find, he actually does bike repairs for some of the best riders in BC, and he has a storage space upstairs filled with those riders’ bikes. Even though the shop is small, he has some ridiculously expensive tools, including a bottom bracket cutter that runs for over $1000.

When I met with Dave for the first (and so far only) time, it was as if I was no stranger to him. He treats everyone as if they’re a close friend. He’s seems to always be happy, and is one of the nicest people I’ve met. After talking for only 15 minutes, he was already offering 30% discounts if I needed to buy any tools from him. His shop is also closer than Maple Ridge Cycle was, and even though it’s still some ways away I’m in that area pretty frequently. To start working with him, I sent a list of what I would have to do, and now I just have to arrange a date that works with him, come in and he’s offered to give me whatever help I need.

So far the hardest mentoring challenge has been to find a mentor that I cant work with, who I can also easily meet with. Meeting with Troy was nearly impossible, and although meeting with Dave is much easier it will still be difficult. Hopefully it will work to have Dave as my mentor, since I can’t keep trying to find a new one. Right now it is working well is my ability to find good prices on good parts, since I have so far not bought anything at even close to retail value, and all of my parts are in good working order. I could still do better at getting together with my mentor more often, however this has been difficult since schedules do not always line up. To make sure this happens, I will plan out dates to meet ahead of time so that I know if they will work, and if not I can arrange a different date.

In depth post #2: buying a fork in my pajamas

Progress:

I’ve now bought my frame, and it’s time to start throwing parts onto it. The road to completing my bike is going to get progressively harder from here, since now I have to be concerned with making sure that every single part on my bike will work well with the others. If one part is a different size, it will be like throwing a gorilla into what used to be a civilized and productive work space. The end result: an extreme loss in efficiency and many, many, rustled jimmies. To prevent this, I will have to investigate the dimensions of each individual part, and compare them to ensure that my bike fit together properly.

I’m going to start by buying the biggest, generally speaking most essential parts of my bike. These will be the ones that will make it rideable, just not fine-tuned. The first part to buy is the fork. The fork is not used for eating, if it was, you would get oil all over your food. The fork is what many ill-informed people would call the “shocks”. It’s the piece on the front of your bike that attaches to your frame and wheel, it is also connected indirectly to your bars. The fork is one of the pieces that will take a massive beating, which is why it’s solely designed to do just that. On a mountain bike, the fork has a hydraulic or air based suspension system, which is used to absorb impacts as you ride over rocks, roots, and other obstacles. On many other bikes, such as road and BMX, the fork has no suspension, so it’s just made to hold to wheel on, not to be taken over rock filled trails.

Mountain bikers can generally choose between two standard types of forks, single crown or dual crown. The crown is the piece that holds your fork to the frame, and holds the two stanchions together. Stanchions are the metal rods that move through the fork “lowers”, these two pieces move together and apart to create a suspension system. A single crown fork will only have one crown, which is located at the bottom of the head tube. This means that the stanchions can only extend to where the crown is. Because of this, the fork isn’t as sturdy, which means the suspension cannot travel as far, or else it would risk snapping. A dual crown for has on crown on the bottom of the head tube and one on top, which allows the stanchions to extend to the top of the head tube. Because of this extra support, dual crown forks can have more travel in the stanchions. However, they are much heavier, and because the stanchions extend up the sides of your frame, you cannot turn as sharply since the stanchions hit the side of the frame and block you. For downhill riding, dual crown forks tend to be preferable. For all mountain, single crown forks are more popular.

Within these two categories of forks, there are a few variations that can improve performance and reduce weight. A very common one is called a totem fork; a single crown fork with thicker stanchions. These thicker stanchions allow the fork to have nearly as much travel as a dual crown, while still retaining the full turning capability. However, they do add a significant amount of weight. Another variation of the single crown fork is the lefty fork, where there is only one stanchion on the left hand side. These forks are produced by Cannondale, and they reduce the weight of the fork by a significant amount. However, this ends up with them being less sturdy, and they are often the punch-line of some terrible jokes. Possibly one of the best fork variations is the Manitou Dorado. Manitou is one of the fork making giants, and they are often considered to produce some of the best quality forks today. The Dorado is no exception. The Dorado concept is simple enough, it follows the standard dual crown shape. However, the stanchions on the bottom of the fork, protected by two bash guards. Having the stanchions on the bottom can be much better, since instead of the oil pooling at the bottom of the fork, it is sitting right next to the stanchions. These means that when the stanchions are compressed, they get properly greased each time so that they can slide smoother. However, the Dorado is expensive, so I’m not getting one just yet.

Because this fork is so important (and expensive), I decided to make it my first priority piece to buy. Usually, a new dual crown fork would cost around $1000-$1500, and used forks tend to cost around $400-$500. However, I was going to try to find one for $300 or less. But the first thing to do would be to decide what dual crown fork I wanted. After some searching, I narrowed my results down to the Boxxer Team, which is the highest end coil fork (spring-loaded not air), or the marzochi 888, which is cheaper and more durable, but heavier. I was eventually able to track down a guy on Pink Bike who was selling a Boxxer World Cup for $300, which is the air version of the team. After contacting him and arranging a date, I was set to go buy. At least until he messaged me saying he sold it to a friend. Needless to say, my jimmies were rustled. I also had the exact same experience when trying to buy a marzochi 888 and an uncut answer protaper handlebar. Both of these had great deals on them, but the sellers bailed out at the last second. From this, I have learned that internet salespeople are incredibly flaky, and never to be trusted. However, I need to just keep trying, and eventually I’ll be able to find someone who is actually willing to sell.

 

Mentor questions:

  1. What learning challenges emerged?

Last week I went out to my mentors, Troy, shop to check out my own bike, and do some work around his shop. Everything seemed okay when I first got there, but within around an hour I realized that the whole thing wasn’t working out all that well. Troy was not able to stay the entire time, so he left me with some tasks to complete. They all seemed simple enough: put the chain back on an exercise bike, clean this old bike and take the brakes off, and put this bike rear wheel and derailleur back on. I knew how to do all of these tasks, so it seemed simple enough. However, after removing the cover from the exercise bike (which was a task on its own), I discovered that the chain falling off was the least of my concerns. The entire bottom bracket had come off, which meant I had to replace it. Bottom brackets are not something I have ever worked with, and this one was a weird bottom bracket as well. After fixing it with the help of some other employees, I moved on the cleaning the old bike. This task was simple, and I completed it quickly. Putting the back wheel and derailleur back on the other bike was harder, since it was an odd shifting system that I had never seen before, and once again I had next to no idea what to do. By the time I got the wheel half on, it was late and I needed to leave. I hold myself slightly accountable for these issues, since I should have checked out the tasks beforehand, but I don’t believe it was entirely my fault, which brings me to the next question.

2.   What logical challenges affected your communication?

There is only one challenge that affected communication, and it is a very simple one. Troy was a rather unorganized with getting together with me to do some work, and he ended up bringing me in on a day where he really didn’t have any time. Instead he ended up having to leave around a half hour to an hour in, which left me completely to my own devices. This completely severed any means of communication, and I was left with a nearly impossible task and one that was extremely confusing, and my mentor was not there to, well, mentor me. Because he had to leave, we could not interact or communicate.

3.   What three strategies could improve your mentoring interactions?

I believe that to improve my mentoring interactions, I must communicate with Troy beforehand to make sure that he is completely available on the day that I come in. That way, I can ensure that there will be no interruptions or mishaps that will cause my mentoring experience to fall apart. I will also arrange with Troy before I come in on some things that I can do, to ensure that I do not get stuck with tasks that are far beyond my level. If I do this, it will ensure that I am doing and learning the right things, instead of just making mistakes until I get it right. For my third strategy, I am also considering keeping Troy as a mentor, but getting a second one as well. That way I will have more options for places to go, and I can ensure that I will have someone to go to if I need any help.

 

Square One: Buying a Frame in my Pajamas

The first step to building a bike is ALWAYS the same thing. Buy your frame. The frame is by far the most important component to any bike, it dictates every other part of your bike as well as the size and feel. If you buy a frame that doesn’t fit you properly, the bike will never feel right, so you basically just blew the majority of your budget on a part that you won’t like. So seriously, pay attention when you’re buying it.

When I started looking at my frame, I began browsing near the end of summer. This is generally the best time of year to start looking since everyone is selling their used bikes. Because there’s so many putting up offers, everything ends up being much cheaper than any other time of the year. Because of this, I had a mad rush of trying to get the right frame before anybody else could snag my favourite.

When comparing different frames, I already knew that I needed a size M, so that part wasn’t hard. The difficult part is finding a frame that you like the look of, and that you like mechanically. By mechanically I mean whether or not you like things like the length of the top tube, size of the head tube, and the angle of the frame. This is all a bit confusing to new bikers, so I’ll give you a breakdown.

The top tube length is the length of, well, the top tube (kind of a no-brainer what that is). This is an important piece to consider, since it dictates how stretched out your body will be. The top tube length is generally how long the bike will be from the seat to the handlebars, essentially meaning your butt to your hands. If the top tube is too long, you’ll feel like the Spanish Inquisition came and put you on a stretching rack. If it’s too short, it will feel like getting stuck in a trash compactor.

The next most important measurement on a downhill bike is the head angle. This is the angle, measured from the head tube at the front of the bike, of how far downwards the top tube is tilted. Generally speaking, the flatter angle is, the easier the bike will be for pedaling. However, for downhill riding, a lower angle is generally better. Somewhere from 64-68 degrees is a relatively standard angle for a downhill bike.

The other important measurements on a downhill frame include the length of the chain stay, which is the length of the back of the bike, and the size of the head tube and bottom bracket, which dictate how stiff the bike is side to side and up and down.

When I was looking at different frames, I started and ended off on a website called Pinkbike, which is where nearly everyone sells their bike parts. I was originally looking at a wide variety of frames, and decided that I was ok with the Specialized SX Trail. I liked the looks of it, and it’s one of the more popular downhill bikes. However, I wasn’t fully pleased with it. The last bike I had, which lasted for four years, was a Santa Cruz Bullit, and I came to fall in love with the Santa Cruz brand. The frame was reliable, and took a massive beating without complaining at all. This lead me to find the Santa Cruz Driver 8, an outdated frame that they stopped making in 2011, replacing it with the new V10. Although outdated, it had everything that I wanted. The sizing and measurements were perfect, it was aesthetically pleasing and unique, and the suspension system was a big step up from the Bullit.

One of the issues I had on the Bullit frame was the the rear suspension only had one pivot point. This made it insanely reliable, and allowed it to take more of a beating, however it had some disadvantages. The single pivot suspension makes the bike essentially fold in half when it compresses, meaning the bike can’t be preloaded (compressed so that the spring gives you extra pop when doing a jump) when setting up for jumps, and whenever I pulled the brakes, physics took control and made the suspension not work to it’s fullest extent. The Driver 8 on the other hand, has a four pivot system that solves those issues, making it an ideal frame. Another cool feature is the offset bushings, which allows me to change the frames angle by moving the rear shock.

Sadly, the only Driver 8 that I was able to find on Pinkbike was a 2011 model being sold by someone that lived in Oregon. Well that just sucks now doesn’t it? Nope! After contacting the person just in case, it turns out he was coming up that weekend for a trip to Whistler, meaning I could meet him half way and buy the frame anyway. This was even more lucky than it sounds, since the guy I bought it from had built the frame to be insanely good quality, so he left on a couple of the parts. This included a Chris King headset, which is quite literally THE top of the line headset for downhill bikes. It also came with a RockShox rear shock, which is better than anything I would have bought. The best part? The entire thing only cost one thousand dollars. If I bought that all new, it would have costed two thousand dollars or more.

Some challenges I’ve faced so far include trying to find the right color scheme for the bike, and just trying to find a frame I like. The transaction happened so fast that it was relatively easy, however if I had settled my mind on a different frame I would have had to spend much longer looking for a good price on one that I liked. I am also finding it challenging to find a mentor who is nearby. I am currently going to have one of my dad’s friends who works in Maple Ridge at Maple Ridge Cycles, however it is 45 minutes away from my house. Although he is far away, I will try to find ways to incorporate a trip to his shop when I go out for BMX racing.

Mostly what I’ve learned so far is how difficult is is to find the right pieces, and how it is even more difficult to find the right prices on those parts. I am on a relatively tight budget, since I don’t really want fourteen years worth of savings to go into one project. I do care about making the bike good, but I would still like to have something other than a few crumbs left in my wallet. I’ve learned strategies to conserve my money, and how to make what I have go a much longer ways. This can mean searching for the right prices, making sure the person I buy it from doesn’t rip me off, paying attention to sales, and how much I can barter with most people before they blow me off. I’ve also learned a lot more about how the rear suspension works, and how the pivots can affect so many different parts on the bike. For example, a single pivot will be directly affected by braking, whereas a three or four pivot system will not. I have also learned how to properly negotiate with someone over the internet. Bartering with a street vendor in Mexico is easy, since you know that they’re expecting it and you can watch their reaction. However, over the internet you must be much more careful, and offering a lowered price can often lose you the deal. I’ve learned that it’s extremely important to make yourself sound like an actual person, using proper grammar and what not, rather than a pickle who learned how to make emoticons. This can help me become a better builder as well as mentor for others, since general knowledge like this can go a long ways in the big world of online shopping. More mechanical knowledge is equally as important, since it doesn’t matter how good you are at buying parts if you’re still trying to put the round hole in the square peg (yes, intentional).

My mentor, Troy, originally started bike building and repairs as a hobby, before working at Norco for a few years. He then left Norco to open up his own bike shop, Maple Ridge Cycle. Since then, he’s been teaching himself his techniques through repairing different types of bikes and general mechanics, including all types of bikes, exercise bikes, and once even a golf cart. So far, he’s taught me how the suspension pivot system works, how the angles on a frame relate to each other, and how to properly size a frame. He also helped me pick out the right style and size of frame, as well as getting the right price on it.

 

measurements:                 small                         medium                       large

Headtube Angle: 65.5 ° 66.5 ° 66.5 °
Seattube Angle: 68.5 ° 68.5 ° 68.5 °
Headtube Length: 109.22 mm 119.38 mm 129.54 mm
Chainstay Length: 441.96 mm 441.96 mm 441.96 mm
BB Height: 370.84 mm 370.84 mm 370.84 mm

Link to bike picutres:

http://www.pinkbike.com/u/dibgydog/album/Santa-Cruz-Driver-8/

Building A Bike In My Pajamas

You may be asking yourself right now, “Why would I ever want to build a bike in my pajamas? Pajamas are for sleeping in, not building bikes.”  My reasoning behind this deranged idea is that building a bike is often viewed as a complicated, expensive, and overly time consuming project. Essentially, it would be easier to just spend that money on a 50” plasma instead, so you can sit back and watch videos of people riding bikes instead. However, I plan on making this concept as simple as possible, so that I can build a bike so easily that I wouldn’t even have to get out of my pajamas. I am dead serious when I say that I will quite literally be building the entire bike in the same two pairs of trusty PJ’s.

As you have probably figured out right now, my (Aidan) in depth project will be to build a complete bike, using my own funds and my own hands. When I say this, I don’t mean going to Walmart, buying a bike for $250 and then replacing one part to make it ‘Mine’. I will be building this bike from the ground up, starting with nothing but a frame, and then adding every little piece bit by bit as I aquire funds and more parts. I am going to estimate that this will cost anywhere from $2000-$3000 to build the entire bike, which may come as a surprise to some. Believe me though, that’s a low price for the quality of bike that I’m building. I’ll just clarify one thing right now, that three-hundred dollar Walmart special that parents buy for their 5th grader is NOT a good quality bike. A good quality is always going to cost you thousands, and because of this, Walmart bikes are the business end of a lot of jokes when you’re up on the mountain.

This project will be taking place over the course of the year, completely ending somewhere around June, but the bike will be rideable mid-February most likely. I say rideable, because that means I have enough parts to complete it, and I’ve put them together. However, I’m still going to be upgrading it until sometime around the beginning of summer.  To complete the bike, I’ll mainly be working on it at home and at a bike shop called Maple Ridge Cycle, where my dad is good friends with the owner. The owner of MRC will also be mentoring me throughout the project. As for how I’m going to build my bike, I will consult with my mentor on what the right parts to buy are, then I’ll search around for where I can get the best deal on them. If I’m buying expensive parts, I’ll look for used versions, and watch the prices so that I know when a good deal comes up. If you’re wondering why I’m building this bike, it’s simply because I outgrew my last one, and it seemed like a good idea to teach myself how to build my own for my next one. My obstacles and challenges are rather minimal, but they pose quite a large threat. The only obstacles and challenges I can think of are getting to my mentor’s shop since he’s far away, making sure I get good deals on all my parts, making sure my parts fit together, and the biggest of all, money. If I run out of money, I am quite frankly screwed. You can’t build a bike without money to buy the parts. Even though I have some challenges, I’m still looking forward to this project, as it gives me a chance to see all the inner workings of my own bikes, and mainly I’ll have a new bike at the end of it that I’ll be able to ride for quite some time.