Commuting - My Rat Utility Bicycle
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06-03-06, 04:38 AM
I picked up an Electra Rat Rod cruiser a few months back to use as a utility and commuting bicycle in Anchorage. I suspect there are better choices out there, but I liked the heavy steel frame and the old school looks of it. I've done some work upgrading it.
Firstly, I got rid of the steel seatpost and replaced it with an off-the-shelf alloy one. The steel post bends very easily if you extend it much. If the alloy doesn't hold I'll go with a Thompson, but so far the alloy is doing well. That cost be about $20. Next, I swapped out the existing tubes with extra heavy ones. I then added a back rack and a front basket.
That did fine for awhile, but after about 35 miles on it the back rim bent suddenly while riding down a wet road. There's no real reason for it, other than it wasn't a very solid rim. On the assumption it would keep happening, I replaced it with an extra wide Sun Ringle rim, which is supposed to be bullet-proof. That ran me $145 or so including labor.
So far, so good. It's a three speed which limits climbing, but it's quite nice over mild climbs if you let it go at its own pace up the hill. I learned early on it's not a bike you can push too fast. It weighs near fifty pounds with a load in the basket and rack. But on the plus side it's very stable and a real pleasure on the streets.
I'm thinking of replacing the handle bars with somewhat higher ones. I get a loss of blood in my right arm using these for some reason.
06-03-06, 08:32 AM
Nicely done on the bike.
06-03-06, 09:31 AM
What caliber for a rat utility bike? Hi, from THR.
06-03-06, 09:32 AM
Deleted due to double post.
06-03-06, 10:45 AM
Any plans for the winter? Like with skies on each side of the wheels like bush pilots use? Studeed tires?
06-03-06, 10:59 AM
Right on! Heavy fat tired bikes of the world unite! That looks like a fun bike to ride. I ride fixed gear, so I know what you mean about hills. You just have to go at a pace you can sustain. If you commute in traffic, you'll appreciate narrower handle bars though. I used to have 24" handle bars until I trimmed them down to 19". This weekend I'm going to narrow them even more, to see if I can make them a bit more comfortable.
06-03-06, 01:43 PM
What caliber for a rat utility bike? Hi, from THR.
:) Twin M-2's
Yeah, I am planning on getting studs this winter. That's one reason I wanted a heavy steel frame, to keep the center of gravity low. We'll see how it goes though.
06-03-06, 11:02 PM
I did a major ride today (for me anyway). All the way from Spenard to the south end of Potter Marsh, then back. I don't know how many miles exactly--a lot. The Rat Rod held up very well with the new hub. My next project will be to build a new reinforced back rack that will allow for saddlebags to ride way down on the sides of the tires to lower the center of gravity.
06-03-06, 11:04 PM
Here's a map of my route, amazingly enough it's already been named for me!
06-04-06, 01:39 PM
Great utility bike. I can see from the photo that your dog is dubious of your current handlebars, also. ;)
06-04-06, 05:52 PM
What made you choose this bike, other than the fact it looks unutterably cool? I can respect that, if that's all it was (I had a chopper, and love cruisers), but I just wondered if there was more to it.
06-05-06, 02:41 AM
Actually I was hoping to find a plain one, like a classic European utility bike. But it was really hard to find one for a reasonable price, so I went with the next best thing and looked into steel frame cruisers. The Rat Rod was big, steel-framed and had a good three speed shifter. It's not perfect, but it's getting better as I make upgrades.
As to why I don't get a road bike or a mountain bike--I simply have no use for either. Good quality mountain bikes these days tend to be very expensive and still don't have basic utility features such as baskets, fenders or chain guards. The racing bikes are completely out of the question. They tend to be made for smaller framed men and women who like to go very very fast. I would turn such a bike into a twisted mass in a day. They're simply not made for a huge Alaskan and all his ammunition and firearms :D
I don't need great speed, but I do need stability and strength.
The real question is, why is there such a HUGE hole in the bicycles offered by bike shops in this country? Why doesn't anyone sell the basic sort of utility bikes we used to have in abundance in the 1970's and eariler? Why is there such a push for ultra-light high-tech Lance Armstrong wiz bang whoopdeedo, when most of us just want to get from A to B?
As gas prices go up and up and more people start dusting off the old college bikes amd find them very wanting, someone will need to answer these questions.
06-05-06, 03:04 AM
In the UK, at least, there's just no lack of rugged basic MTB's which would do most jobs better than a cruiser. They'll be just as strong, with similar level components, but with far more gears, and less crazy handlebars/frames. Of course, they don't looke NEAR as cool as that thing. But I'd have bought a used rigid frame MTB for $50, and got it Xtracycled, if I'd been looking for what you're looking for. And then maybe added some of those handlebars.......I love those.
06-05-06, 10:28 AM
Nice Rat Rod, Cosmoline!
I bought the same bike this year. I can tell yours is an '06 because the seatstays are aligned with the top tube, a nice visual side effect of the lengthened "flat foot technology" design...
I've had some troubles with mine, mostly as a result of things not being tightened by my LBS.
I noticed you pulled off the rear fender. Do you find that your back and legs get soaked in rain now? Or does that rack stop most of it?
I agree that the bars can get creepy in traffic, or whenever you want to fit into a narrow space.. I just dont know if other bars would look as cool... or have enough reach to be comfortable. Let me know what you pick for your new bars.
My rear wheel got bent quite quickly as well. I think the geometry of the frame puts A LOT more weight on the rear wheel. Is your Nexus hub pretty noisy? Mine sounds incredibly ratchety and stressed, especially when coasting at high speed in third gear..
I picked my bike for similar reasons to yours. My Viking ancestry left me with a large frame that really doesnt lend itself to riding lightweight bikes, and I certainly didnt EVER want to be accused of needing special bike shoes or clothing.
Enjoy your Rat Rod, I know I love mine, and let us know what you do as you continue to modify it.
06-05-06, 10:54 AM
Doesn't look very 'rat' to me =]
..and it will look great with some nice 3pc BMX cranks.
06-05-06, 05:18 PM
I don't know what BMX cranks are. Are you suggesting I pimp my ride?
The back rack does indeed block the water. I usually have a bag back there, too. It's made of rubberized canvas so it's immune from damage.
I notice the xtracycle guys are using some of the Electra Cruiser frames. I looked at those frames, but they're too small for me and require too much seat extension.
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