Carnival!

I recently took the family to Basel carnival. 

It’s an annual festival and local public holiday in Basel, Switzerland. 

Great fun and complete madness as the city dedicates itself to making noise, mischief and silliness for three days. It’s great to see the typically reserved Swiss let it all loose.

There are parades with “waggis” (people in fancy dress wearing clownish masks) throwing sweets to children, flowers to ladies and other random stuff to anyone they fancy (alcohol, bananas, potatoes…) as they travel through the city on floats, usually with some political theme (Brexit, Trump and Erdogan predictably popular lampooning targets this year), followed by drummers and flautists.

But mostly there’s confetti. Bags and bags and bags of confetti. Kids chase after random strangers, stuffing it in clothes, down jumpers and in hair. It fills the streets like snow. 

It’s great fun and I expect to find bits of confetti in my pockets for some time yet!

Velobrico Tinkering: Dynamo lights

Though I have absolutely no experience with dynamos, nor any real idea how they work, last Sunday I decided to tackle the non-functioning rear light from the Tigra ladies’ bike.

This bike has a dynamo installed, even though it is not such an old machine. I was recently told that in Germany it is illegal to ride a bike with battery powered lights. I’m not sure if that is true, (German cycling laws here…) as it does sound pretty nonsensical, though I’m pretty certain you are allowed to ride in Switzerland with whatever lights you want.

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Once I figured out how to engage the dynamo so it would work from tyre rotation (this seriously took me a few days of prodding and pulling to figure out), the front light functioned fine but the rear refused to shine.

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First, I removed the plastic housing and checked the bulb. Filament looked ok. Checked continuity with the multi-meter, all good. Screwed it back in. Crossed my fingers. Nothing.

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Then I had a look at the wiring. The dynamo has two wires coming out of it, one for the front light, another for the rear. Not sure how this can make a complete circuit, but I guess that’s not necessary for DC power. The bulb socket seems to be connected to the mudguard itself, so presumably being grounded is sufficient for a DC circuit. My lack of electrical knowledge is by now apparent.

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The wire hanging out of the bottom of the dynamo seemed loosely connected, but I noticed a spring-loaded connector in the bottom which holds it in place just fine. The wires head into the rear mudguard, then follow a crimp in the side until exiting through a hole in the rear, into the light fitting. This wire is then connected to another metal clip, basically wedged into a bent flap, held in place only by the “springy-ness” of the metal itself…

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The wire going into the rear light fitting looked a bit corroded, so I took it out, sprayed some white vinegar on it (helpful for oxidation), dried it, rubbed it with some steel wool. The copper colour shone nicely, so I “re-twizzled” the strands, rubbed the metal clip with the steel wool and reinserted the wire. Crossed my fingers. Tested it it again. Nothing.

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Then I removed the bulb and filed a tiny bit off the bottom to ensure good contact. No joy.

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I now removed the wires from the dynamo and did the vinegar, steel wool and “twizzling”. Crossed fingers. Tested again. Nothing.

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Not to be deterred, I removed the bulb again, and found bits of spider eggs or some other insect leftovers. Blew those out. Another round of vinegar, steel wool, scraped a bit with a screwdriver, dried it, sprayed a bit of WD40 on it.

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While I was at it, I sprayed a bit of WD40 on the metal clip and the wires at the dynamo. A bit of WD40 often works wonders.

Screwed the bulb back in. Crossed my fingers. And it worked!

A well earned cup of tea followed. If only every Sunday were so productive!

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Velobrico Workshop: Tigra ladies’ bike

Another stray joined the workshop recently. 

Actually, as you can tell from the photos, this was a while back, when there was still sunshine and no snow!

Tigra is a historic Swiss manufacturer (I understand they disappeared in 2001, bought by Villger, another Swiss brand), which adds another local bicycle to my collection.

This one was left by the bins with flat tires, lots of cobwebs and wrongly adjusted this and that. Nothing major missing though (like saddle, wheels, pedals, handlebars etc.), so all it needs is a little TLC.

I love the frame colour. It’s a really electric blue-green aquamarine which almost looks cromovelato. Really nice. The pictures here don’t do it justice.

The lugged steel mixte frame has the usual mistreatment scratches, but from being badly stored rather than well ridden. The “Tigra” decal from the down tube has disappeared, but the lettering is faintly visible.

I haven’t done any research, but judging from the components I would say this is an early 90s bike. STI shifters. Shimano STX hubs, no-name aero rims. The pedals seem to have been replaced relatively recently (these are the Decathlon urban flat variety, cheap but decent pedals).

Gear shifters and brake levers were oddly inverted, which must have made braking tricky. Gears didn’t shift correctly (WD40 sorted that). One tire pumped up fine, the other needed a patch. One wheel needed a bit of truing, but nothing major. Re-greased the hubs and gave it a wash (after taking the “before” photos for once!)

With very little effort, this middle-aged lady is back on her feet. I bet she’s glad I rescued her!

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Not bikes, but architectural salvage!

It might not be bike-related, but it’s too cool not to share.

 

$_57 (1)A friend of mine has the only remaining illuminated sign from the facade of the now defunct Hürlimann brewery in Zurich.

As you know from the blog, I love reviving things that have a history, and architectural salvage is all about that.

The sign has been stored since it was removed from the brewery, and has a few age-scars as you would expect given its vintage, but it’s a truly unique object.

I’m currently selling it for him, so please share with anyone who might be interested. It would be great for this unique object to go to a good home!

The sign is very large, heavy and currently located in Switzerland, so bear that in mind if you want to bid!

Now imagine what a unique Christmas present that would make for someone…

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Velobrico Workshop: BMC Fourstroke FS04 (update 2)

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!

Velobrico Workshop: BMC Fourstroke FS04 (update 1)

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?

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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.

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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 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!

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Velobrico Workshop: BMC Fourstroke FS04

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 hard and put away wet…) BMC Fourstroke FS04 (2006?) fully suspended XC mountain bike. 

As you can tell from the ad photo, it has seen better days and needs some TLC, but fundamentally it’s solid, with an interesting frame design, 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). 

Here in Switzerland (and maybe also where you live), servicing and repair costs are relatively high. An overhaul and replacing a couple of parts can easily run into hundreds of Swiss Francs, which puts 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 the bike up for sale, to fund a replacement.

As servicing costs are high, this also puts many buyers off such a bike. Which is great news for folks like me 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 young brand. 

Apparently they began as a Swiss distributor for Raleigh bicycles in the mid 90s (after 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 on their own merits.

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 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…

Watch this space!

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