A Tale of Two Springs; or Unconditional Love
This is a thread for all to tell the stories of the furthest length you have gone to keep a bike in the family, to avoid "n+1" as a solution. Mine takes place over a couple years, so I'll attempt some brevity.
I dig bike touring. There's just nothing like to loading the bike with 60 pounds of gear and tackling unfamiliar roads with a only a map and your wits… and a good 20 pounds of that gear is crap you'll never use but are too afraid to leave without.
I dig it so much, that I set out to procure a dedicated touring rig. Strapped for cash, however, I quickly found that purchasing a contemporary touring bike was out of the question. As has been my M.O. in the past, I went vintage. Over the next several lunar cycles I procured the necessary equipment from old builds I wasn't actively riding ( (n-1)+1=? ), and from craigslist.
The piece de resistance was a paint-intact, undented, undamaged, in-my-size, some-parts-still-attached Raleigh Alyeska frame from 1985. (For those of you familiar with trying to semi-update classic frames, you know just how precious "some-parts-still-attached" can be…)
The problem? I had a set of 700c wheels I wanted to use, but the Alyeska had been built for 27x1.25 wheels. That, I thought, shouldn't be too much of a problem: the difference between 700c and 27x1.25 is only 8mm, and there should be plenty of room to adjust the cantilever brakes to fit, right? Wrong.
The '85 Alyeska shipped with Dia Compe 960 Cantilever Brakes which, in that year/model, only featured radial adjustment of the brake shoes, not vertical adjustment. In spite of this, I managed to make the square peg fit the round hole with hours of fiddling, elbow grease, and countless expletives hurled at the Deity.
Dia Compe 960
The brakes worked (in the sense that, you know, they stopped the bike) but I was only able to accomplish this by trimming and cutting the rubber to artificially flatten the contact surface of the pad with the rim. Otherwise, only the corner of the brake pad would have made contact with the rim, providing significantly less stopping power−though it would have, in time, naturally worn itself into having more and more surface area.
Nevertheless, my nip-tuck was successful and Olga the Alyeska carried me and my gear safely on countless centuries, as well as to Bar Harbor and back (I was working in rural Maine at the time).
En Route to Bar Harbor
But I wasn't satisfied and saved some money for a brand-spanking-new set of cantis. And I did so for three VERY good reasons:
#1: Eventually all brake pads wear away into nothingness, just as mountains return to the sea. This was going to happen even more rapidly due to how much trimming was necessary.
#2: As my C&V pals know, finding replacement parts is always a pain in the a$$, and shoes/pads seem to be particularly scarce due to their nature as consumables.
#3: A healthy dose of vanity.
I ordered the Gran Cru Zeste in chrome. As the package with my bicycle salvation was on its way I had sweet, melodious dreams of the vertically adjustable shoes, of how I could even change the angle of the pad! Not with a knife, but with a wrench!
They arrived, and I set to work… You guessed it. There was another problem.
The Alyeska has the spring block for its cantis mounted on the outside of the seat-stay. This means that the two ends of the spring (where it attaches to the frame, and where it attached to the cantilever) were at a 90-degree angle to one another.
While the contemporary spring (for the Gran Crus) had a spring with 180-degree attachment points, having been designed for mounts on the inside of the seat-stays.
This resulted in an inability to attach the brakes to the cantilever bosses, because one would either tighten the spring beyond a useful tension, or bend the spring in the direction opposite the coil. Neither of which are feasible options.
Not to be outdone, however, I decided I would simply have to use the springs from the Dia Compe 960's. The only other option being to take the frame to a builder, have them remove the old canti bosses and replace (to the tune of $125). I opted for another option…
The new springs have a little zig-zag number on them to reach in and attach to the interior of the cantilever arm.
The old springs have a long loop which wrapped around a fixture on the old 960's.
The loop would not fit within the new cantilever arms (no surprise there), but I have a few good tools: wire cutters, a couple pair of pliers, a hot stove, and a metric ton of stubbornness.
I cut the loop at the top to give myself the amount of wire I would need to make the shape
Then applied heat to the extended part of the coil until it was hot enough to be plied into whatever shape I desired. While they're not beautiful, machine-crimped right angles like on the new springs, I am happy to report that they do fit inside the canti arms, and they do their job just fine.
So take that, Murphy. I defy you, and you law. I laugh in the face of both of them… until the next problem arises.
Hope you enjoyed reading.