Now here’s an odd looking mountain bike.
What do you think?
You may have been wondering what happened to the BMC mountain bike restoration project I started a while back.
Like many projects it got to the “nearly finished” stage and sat there for a good six months causing a nuisance to the family.
Good news that it’s now moved on to the “basically finished” stage…
It was cleaner, but is now dusty from riding. So apologies for the photos, but it’s great that it’s rideable!
On an earlier test ride, I noticed the left pedal crank creaked on the downstroke, which it didn’t on my first test. This suggested a worsening issue, so I inspected further.
Anything other than a smooth bottom bracket/crank is bad news. A lot of torque goes through there, plenty to cause damage pretty quickly if not addressed.
I found an allen key large enough to remove the pedal cranks, and discovered a Shimano Octalink bottom bracket. This is the first Octalink system I have owned, with all my older bikes having square taper BBs.
I also found the non-drive side (left) mating splines to be slightly chewed at the end. Apparently this is common with Octalink systems, and happens when the crank arm isn’t perfectly aligned, prior to screwing the crank arm bolt back on. So, as I had never removed it, this damage was done by the previous owner, though it seems odd it didn’t creak on the first test ride.
In short, the crank arm is toast and needs replacing. The BB itself is in good condition and runs smoothly, so is perfectly reusable, but as Octalink is no longer common, finding replacement crank arms was an issue. Basically I could only find a new Alivio set which would be fine, but for the fact it wouldn’t add to the overall look of the bike.
After a little cogitation, it dawned on me an alternative might be right under my nose…
Some time ago I rescued a binned Steppenwolf hardtail MTB frame with some components still attached, including XT cranks and a more modern external bearing BB. Why not see if it’s the same width as the octalink BB?
Lo and behold it was, so I would theoretically be able to replace a Deore LX crankset and Octalink BB with an XT crankset and modern external BB, at no cost. Not bad at all and 100% eco-friendly.
One problem. Don’t have the right tools!
As systems evolved, so the tools needed to work on them change. Though this a consequence of welcome technological innovation, it poses something of a challenge for the home mechanic.
A regular crank extractor tool doesn’t work with an Octalink BB. To remove a BB on a vintage bike you need a hook spanner, an Octalink BB needs a BB removal nut thingy (like for a cassette but bigger), and an external BB uses another type of large spanner with slotted splines. Consequently, you often need different tools to work on various bikes.
The bike shops near me aren’t really set up for the home mechanic, so buying tools is interesting and expensive. Apparently, in Switzerland, folks like to get other people’s hands grimy instead of their own (which probably makes sense).
As I quite enjoy grimy hands and torn knuckles I set about looking for tools and stumbled across a sale on Chain Reaction for an 18 piece toolset, for 50CHF delivered, including some tools I had already, everything I needed for this job plus a couple of extras. Pretty good deal, and arrived within a week.
Once the package hit the doormat, like a child on Christmas morning I ripped it open and within 20mins had replaced and upgraded BB and crankset and chainrings to higher spec parts. Great!
The toolset is made by X-Tools, and though I was hesitant about quality given the price, I am quite pleased.
The “new” drive train all works perfectly and it’s always most satisfying to complete an long term unfinished job.
So the moral of the story is, if you can salvage used parts, do so. You never know when you might need them and they’ve often got lots of life left.
Secondly, always invest in (quality) tools. Even if technology changes, and you only use them a few times, they pay for themselves quicker than you think.
Also, that which is new today will be vintage tomorrow, so there will always be more bikes to work on!
A while back I picked up a trashed Specialized Hotrock kids bike. The frame looked sound but everything else was pretty far gone.
This bike would need far more workshop time than it’s replacement value, so it’s owners rightly binned it and moved on. But it’s a decent size for my son’s next bike, giving me enough time to fix it up before he can ride it.
Among numerous other issues, the derailleur hanger was bent, chain broken and derailleur was in a sorry looking state.
I straightened the derailleur hanger with a pipe wrench plier and then set to the derailleur itself.
It’s pretty straightforward to service a derailleur, remove, clean, degrease and regrease jockey wheels then reinstall. But it’s a bit of a dirty job, so rarely gets to the top of the DIY service list.
After getting it completely wrong, I removed the jockey wheels again and correctly rerouted the chain, using the smallest cog and chainring to give enough slack to work with.
Total bench time, maybe 40mins on a rainy Sunday afternoon?
It’s been a while that disc brakes have been seemingly considered dangerous, and are occasionally permitted and banned in professional road bike races.
Personally, I never really understood the cause for concern, and RJ the Bike Guy’s latest video does a really neat job of clearing this up.
Check it out.
While looking for info on the bike on the web, I found it’s sleeker, lighter road bike brother.
So mine’s definitely a 2006 model, given near identical paint scheme. Not quite so clean as this one though!
I recently bought a tired BMC Fourstroke FS04 mountain bike, which had seen plenty of action and not enough maintenance.
I saw potential (or as much as anyone can 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 some skeletons in the closet, though finding them can also be fun.
I’m always itching to give new project bikes a good wash. Often so quickly 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. Is half of restoration actually just cleaning?
Now funky shaped frames are great, but who wants to clean their bike with a toothbrush after every muddy ride?
Overall, the bike is sound, frame is good, components all there. There’s a few dings, but no visible evidence of crash damage – 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 were fine, races good. This was sorted very quickly and only minor adjustment was needed to the disc brake caliper 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 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.
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! 👍
If you read my earlier post, 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).
Turns out that was pretty poor advice as I sorted it in two hours (including an hour’s walk to the bike shop and back with the kids), at zero cost (a contribution to the tip jar was all they would accept – but I also bought some cleats). Some adjustment needed for perfect indexing, but 80% there. Result!!
Next I adjusted the handlebar position, flipped the riser stem down 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 some broken chainring teeth, but overall this is turning out to be a nice little restoration project.
Watch this space for the next steps!
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?
Science Communication, Art and Adventure
Welcome to Cycling on the Continent. A blog following a young explorer on his travels around Europe.
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Because being outside is awesome. Because traffic sucks. Because no carbon. Because cool people. And most importantly, because I love riding my bike.
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He rode a bicycle...
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