BMC Fourstroke FS04 (update 1)

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I recently bought a tired BMC Fourstroke FS04 mountain bike, which had seen plenty of action, but not enough maintenance.

I saw potential (or as much as one can see from a couple of mobile phone photos…) and brought it home to breathe new life into it.

Sometimes you get lucky and there’s not much wrong with a bike. And sometimes there’s a few skeletons in the closet, but finding them can also be fun (as long as they’re not too serious!).

Firstly, I like to give bikes a good wash. Often so quickly after I get them home that I don’t get any “before” photos… I’ve got to learn some patience.

Washing a bike gives you the chance to look at it closely and spot things you previously overlooked. The BMC was superficially lightly dirty, but chain, chainrings, cassette and jockey wheels were well overdue a de-griming. I wonder whether half of restoration is actually just cleaning?

Now funky shaped frames are great, but who wants to clean their bike with a toothbrush after every muddy ride??

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Overall, the bike is sound, frame is good, components all there. A few dings, but no evidence of crash damage to the frame – which is especially important for aluminium frames. Brakes are ok (if a bit spongey), rotors are true, headset is fine, BB has no wobble.

The front hub was loose, so I stripped and repacked it with new grease. Bearings fine, races fine. Sorted very quickly and only minor adjustment to the disc brake caliper needed to avoid rubbing against one pad after tightening the cones.

The rims are slightly out of true. Usually I use rim brake pads as a makeshift truing stand, to see minor wobbles and where to adjust spoke tension. Truing wheels on a bike with disc brakes will be a little more tricky, so I’ll leave that for later…

The biggest fault the seller mentioned was the twisted derailleur and chain. The derailleur looked ok, so I removed the hanger with the intention of replacing it with a spare from the Steppenwolf, but found it was a slightly different shape and wouldn’t fit.

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A trip to the bike shop later, the mechanic told me he didn’t have any spare hangers in this shape, but he could bash it straight for me. Back home I reinstalled it, stripped the derailleur, serviced the jockey wheels, reinstalled the derailleur and chain (minus one link), and wouldn’t you know it – it worked perfectly!

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If you read my last post on this, you may recall the seller mentioned his local bike shop quoted almost twice what I paid for the whole bike to sort this out (presumably replacing derailleur and hanger).

Pretty poor advice as I sorted it in two hours (including an hour’s walk to the bike shop and back with the kids) and at zero cost (a contribution to the tip jar was all they would accept). Some adjustment needed for perfect indexing, but 80% there. Result.

I adjusted handlebar position, flipped the riser stem and adjusted brake and shift lever positions, taking the opportunity to lube/grease all the screws that hadn’t been loosened in years.

While poking around I found a couple of other issues: a sawn off seat post (kids, just don’t do it…), a loose pedal spindle and broken chainring teeth, but overall this is turning out to be a nice little restoration project.

Watch this space!

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A saddle and a lock, at the same time…

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This is a pretty neat idea. Saves lugging a lock/chain around, and avoids scratching your paint while you’re riding.

I do wonder how heavy it is, but in fairness, on a town bike it probably won’t make much difference to “performance” or centre of gravity.

PS. I unfortunately have not received one to test, but if the right people are reading this, you know what to do! =)

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Summer is a time for holidays, taking a break, recharging the batteries, and filling idle moments scanning second hand bicycle adverts…

The latest addition to the stable is a well loved (i.e. ridden quite a bit) BMC Fourstroke FS04 (2006?) fully suspended XC mountain bike. As one could tell from the ad photo, it has seen better days and needs some TLC, but fundamentally is a solid bike with an interesting frame, sound pedigree and some nice components.

I picked this one up very cheap, for less than the cost of a second hand front suspension fork (which I’m on the look-out for the Steppenwolf Tundra build). Here in Switzerland (and this may be common to your part of the world too), servicing and repair costs are relatively high. An overhaul and replacing a couple of parts can easily run into many hundreds of Swiss Francs, which tends to put people off repairing things when they break.

In this case, the previous owner had bent the derailleur hanger, snapped the chain and twisted the rear derailleur (miraculously without breaking a spoke…), and was quoted a relatively high sum to repair by his local bike shop. So he put it up for sale, to fund a replacement.

As servicing costs are high, this also tends to put many buyers off buying such a bike. Which is good news for people who enjoy a challenge, and finding diamonds in the rough…

BMC is now a well known and respected bike manufacturer, with successful racing teams in road and MTB disciplines, but I didn’t know that they are a relatively new brand. Apparently they began as a Swiss distributor for Raleigh bicycles in the mid 90s (past Raleigh’s heyday…), then branched out into framebuilding when the distribution contract was terminated. What a great outcome that they’re now such a highly recognised brand.

Incidentally, while aimlessly browsing the ads, I came across another ad for the same bike in fully working order, for over four times what I paid for this one.

For once, I managed to take some photos of the bike in original as-bought condition (usually I’m so excited when I get something new that it immediately gets a wash and the tinkering starts as soon as I get it home…), so here they are below.

First glance suggests that the bike is mostly sound, and other than replacing a derailleur hanger (and possibly the rear derailleur), all it needs is a bit of an overhaul (hub servicing, brake bleeding, new chain, pedal adjustment etc.). Will be interesting to see if the derailleur is reuseable…

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Now that’s what I call infrastructure

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I’ve been lucky enough to live in a few countries over the years, but it’s not until I came to Switzerland that I have seen bike infrastructure this good.

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You might say “bikes on a train? Nothing special”. But…

  • Every train has bike storage, and on most every carriage (local trains), not just the mail carriage by the engine
  • There’s 5 or 6 bike slots on this carriage, not cramped together into a corner by the door. Half the seats in the carriage have been taken out to make space for bikes.
  • There are huge bike parking facilities at most stations. Almost too big actually… Good luck finding your bike again (ugly bright colours are your friend).
  • Check out how clean the train is (and the bike). No clutter, no tangle of bicycles banging into each other.
  • This is an intercity commuter train between two major Swiss cities at peak time…

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Swiss people are, in general, affluent (certainly compared to the global average), and this choice is not motivated by cost savings, but by an enjoyment of riding.

For cycling to be an option as part of our daily back and forth, it has to be easy (and safe). In most cases, cyclists accept (sometimes unreasonable) compromises in order to cycle daily.

This is a great example of a society in which a “normal” person, rides from home down to the central station, pops her bike on the train, travels to another city, pops the bike off the train and then parks it at work.

Hers is the pink road bike in the picture above. She is dressed for the office, not for a cyclocross event.

Of course full lycra, SPD clip shoe commuter cycling on a full carbon road frame remains an option…

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These facilities are a great step in the right direction, towards keeping people heathy, safe and happy. That’s what our public institutions should be doing, and what we should be asking for.

Well done Switzerland.

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Tour de Suisse : Bern, Stage 8

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Completely by accident, my family and I happened to be in Bern on Saturday 20th June, so were lucky enough to catch a front-row spot to see a section of the Tour de Suisse.

I’d love to have a go on some of these bikes…

Some photos and video for you to enjoy below!

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What makes for the best commuter?

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Mountain bike, hybrid, road bike or fixie?

As far as I can tell, cycling in cities is becoming more popular. I have commuted by bicycle to work for the last 8 years or so, first in Paris, then in Singapore. Over this period, I have the feeling there are a slowly increasing number of people riding to work.

Cycle commuters seem to come in various flavours.

Some choose vintage road bikes that have seen better days.

Some use fixies or single gear with freewheel, with or without brakes, coloured chains, aero wheel discs etc.

Some use purpose built hybrids with mountain-bike style frames, often front suspension and larger than 26″ wheels with skinny tyres.

Some choose Dutch-style town bikes, usually with a basket somewhere and sometimes with backward pedalling brakes.

And some choose old mountain bikes, that have probably never seen a mountain…

I fall into this latter category and, for the most part, rode old, ugly mountain bikes to death work for much of the last 8 years…

I have had the good fortune to commute in countries where public transport is efficient and cheap, so cost was never a motivator.

For me the main incentive was that I enjoy riding, that it got me to work faster than public transport and that a little bit of exercise doesn’t do you any harm.

Cycle commuting is something that takes a little time to get used to. And in that time, one probably changes the route taken, clothes worn, equipment used, the bike itself and the attitude to other road users.

For me these choices were generally driven by the principle of “I don’t want to die”. Crashes aren’t nice. Everyone has had one (or more), and would like to avoid them as much as possible.

For a time, I commuted by 1980s road bike. It was exhilarating and fast, but it didn’t take long before I had enough close shaves to figure out it wasn’t sustainable. Also I find the dropped position on the handlebars limits visibility and comfort (on the neck), high-pressure 23mm tyres on cobble-stones are like riding a pneumatic drill, and 30 year old brakes and drop handlebars aren’t the best way to avoid getting splatted.

So while a 90s MTB isn’t the coolest way to get to work, it’s safe, comfortable and bulletproof.

That said, if you’re going to spend a lot of time riding, you may as well enjoy it. So maybe spend a bit of cash and get something decent looking instead…

So I’d say, whatever you’re riding, keep safe, and enjoy your commute.

What do you guys and girls commute on? What do you enjoy most about your ride?

Only in London…

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I realise that coffee and cycling make a great combination, but hadn’t realised just how far things had gone.

In fact, it’s apparently so popular that the Telegraph newspaper recently listed the 10 most popular cyclist cafés in the London area.

Surely once a stream of cyclists turn up anywhere, the non-cyclists quickly find a less lycra (spandex) and sweat-filled environment to enjoy a quiet latte…