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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 03-11-07, 11:53 AM   #1
Prime Directive
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Where do I go from here?

It is becoming more and more frustrating to not have anyone around to discuss cycling with! My auto-centric family thinks I'm out-of-my-mind, and the neareast LBS is an hour away by bus. Even that is more of a formal business interaction. This board is very helpful, but it is hard to converse here like you would in person because you feel obligated to think up specific questions that you want direct answers to. I've had two threads in the Commuting forum that weren't, ultimately, very helpful even though the respondents meant well.

So, my question is: What do I do now?

I've been cycling for a year now with a mountain-hybrid I picked up from craigslist. It has 26 x 2.125" semi-knobby tires; a water bottle with cage; a low-power frame pump; a cyclocomputer; cantilever brakes; clipped pedals; a worn seat bag with very basic multitool, patch kit, spare tube, adj. wrench (my addition), tire levers, rag (my addition); a rack that I purchased last month to give me greater brake lever clearance; a Sunlite grocery pannier that I picked up for $15, chain lube, and cheap cable lock.

I commuted for the first time last week for five days to a local class at our workforce and business center. I will continue to do so this week and, possibly, for two-to-four more weeks after that. I'm looking for my first job right now and may be called for an interview next week. I have very little clothing--all polo shirts or sweaters and a few pairs of jeans--plus my helmet and sunglasses. My "cycling shoes" are just old, regular walking shoes with very worn (read: smooth) soles. I also have one pair of newer walking shoes.

I LOVE my pannier--it's the best money I've spent since buying my bike. It is more versatile that I imagined, allowing me to put my helmet in it when leaving the bike, carry a bundle of phone books from the mail box, haul groceries (of course), and hold pretty much anything else. The two main problems, however: 1. It's not enough cargo space for future commuting and/or big grocery visits, and 2. It has no cover what-so-ever and will be soaked in any kind of rain.

I have about $120 to use on my bike (eventually more if I'm hired). Below is a list of things that I've thought of purchasing:
  • SKS P65 black fenders ($48 with shipping)
  • Lone Peak RP-700 trunk bag ($57-63 with shipping [and optional shoulder strap])
  • Ankle strap to (hopefully) protect my pant legs from chain oil in a certain spot ($3.95)
  • Pedal axle greasing/service at the LBS (price unknown) because they "creak"
  • Cycle Aware VuBar bar end mirror ($15.99)
  • Mr. Tuffy brown tire liners (at least $15.99)
  • New seat bag ($15-25)
  • Gear/tight spaces cleaning brush (at least $5.99)
  • Degreaser???
  • U-Lock ($25+)
  • Front and rear lights ($20+)
  • SAVE my money for a quality, water-resistant briefcase pannier ($100-150)

  • Whatever you suggest

Random concerns....
  1. What if it rains while I'm riding? What do I do to my bike afterwards? Will it harm the pannier itself?

  2. What should I get to ride (and walk) in expected rain/snow/slush?

  3. The above fenders may be too wide for my bike despite the presence of eyelets and screw holes galore.

  4. The above trunk bag is wider than the rack, thus it won't sit flat on the rack with other panniers installed.

  5. The bar-end mirror would interfere with my left bar-end hand position--the position I would want to use on the longer straightaways where the mirror would be most useful.

  6. My front wheel is a little off center to the right and I don't know how to fix it.

  7. I don't know how to clean a bike beyond wiping it with a rag.

  8. I've applied chain lube once but don't necessarily know when it will need lube again.

  9. The bike maintainence books at the local library have only been partially useful.

  10. It's slow and tedious to unwrap the cable lock and re-wrap it around the bike rack, but it makes a great strap for hauling things on top of the rear rack (which I can't necessarily do with a pannier or two installed).

  11. Thorns are a threat for most of the year, particularly if I start riding five or more days a week.

  12. I have a cheap floor pump with miscalibrated gage.

  13. I average between 8-11 MPH. Last week's class commute was 5-6 miles RT per day. My longest trip last summer was 30 miles (after working up to it) and my pedals would now creak too much for that to be feasible.
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Old 03-11-07, 12:12 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prime Directive
So, my question is: What do I do now?

Random concerns....
  1. What if it rains while I'm riding? What do I do to my bike afterwards? Will it harm the pannier itself?

  2. What should I get to ride (and walk) in expected rain/snow/slush?

  3. The above fenders may be too wide for my bike despite the presence of eyelets and screw holes galore.

  4. The above trunk bag is wider than the rack, thus it won't sit flat on the rack with other panniers installed.

  5. The bar-end mirror would interfere with my left bar-end hand position--the position I would want to use on the longer straightaways where the mirror would be most useful.

  6. My front wheel is a little off center to the right and I don't know how to fix it.

  7. I don't know how to clean a bike beyond wiping it with a rag.

  8. I've applied chain lube once but don't necessarily know when it will need lube again.

  9. The bike maintainence books at the local library have only been partially useful.

  10. It's slow and tedious to unwrap the cable lock and re-wrap it around the bike rack, but it makes a great strap for hauling things on top of the rear rack (which I can't necessarily do with a pannier or two installed).

  11. Thorns are a threat for most of the year, particularly if I start riding five or more days a week.

  12. I have a cheap floor pump with miscalibrated gage.

  13. I average between 8-11 MPH. Last week's class commute was 5-6 miles RT per day. My longest trip last summer was 30 miles (after working up to it) and my pedals would now creak too much for that to be feasible.
While I could answer all your qeustions , as well as many others, the basic answer to all is that
with cycling "whatever works for you is the right choice". Cycling, unlike cars, is not a precise
science at all nor is so expensive that you can't afford a mistake or two while you learn.

Buy yourself a good cyling repair manual and have at it. Also remember that other than bike
parts what you need to use does NOT have to be cycle specifc. Only the bike snobs believe that.
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Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 03-11-07, 12:28 PM   #3
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I won't try and asnwer all your questions, but it sounds like you're generally on the right track thinking about all this.
I don't know how the season work in Denver, but here in San Diego, we aren't likely to have too many more days of rain this year. If this is the case fenders would be low on my list. #1 would be lights, if you are doing any kind of riding late in the evening. I have an expensive ($100+)NIMH 15w halogen system up front, for visibilty in areas where there is no street lighting, but a 3-led red flasher and something basic up front shouldat least make you visible to cars.

It's totaly worth it to save up and get good panniers/ trunk. Other people may have had different expearances, but most fo the cheap bags I've used have been of rather poor quality. never has there been a day I regreted have spent the money to fianly get some good ones.

In terms of maitence, you can find lots of stuff by searching the forums, Sheldon Brown is also a great resource(see sticky links at top of mechanics forum). I know there have been a dozen threads of post-rain maintence. I basicly wipe down the rims, and clean/lube the chain.

A solid u-lock is a good investment if you leave your bike in area's where it is likely get messed with. Thankfully i can take my bike into work and class and keep watch over it. When leaving it out, I've never had anything taken from the bags, although somone did take a flasher once.

I'm not sure the nature of your pedal creak, but you may just need to replace the pedals. A decent pair of flat pedals with clips shouldn't be more than $20, althouhg in the long run I'd look at some clipless pedals/shoes. I use Nashbar rodeo pedals with lake walkable shoes. I think the shoes were $35 and the pedals $15 on sale.

one final thing I would think about is bike shorts 5 miles is as far i was would want to ride with noraml clothing. Watch the slaes and you can pick up a super basic pair of shorts, which is all you need for a baisc commute.

anyways I hope you get the job and can get all the things you need.
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Old 03-11-07, 12:40 PM   #4
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Quote:
Also remember that other than bike
parts what you need to use does NOT have to be cycle specifc. Only the bike snobs believe that.
I just want to second that. You can use and old tooth brush as a gear cleaner. Old tubes make good tie down straps for the rack.and I've seen some pretty good fenders made out of old soda bottles. I little bit of creativity can save you a lot of money.
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Old 03-11-07, 12:53 PM   #5
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Park Tool has a repair clinic on it's website that is a good source of info too. In general bike repair is not difficult, especially on the older non indexed bikes. Fenders and lights would be my first choices, then go from there. Some people like to use messenger bags for hauling stuff in, I don't, but it may work for you. Just build your stuff up as you go and before you know it you may end up like some of us and have a bike for every day of the week
Also check around and see if there is a local bike co-op where you could volunteer. In many cases they will teach you mechanics in exchange for volunteering and you quite often can pick up parts for little or nothing.

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RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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Aluminum: barely a hundred
Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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Old 03-11-07, 01:05 PM   #6
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PD, the carfree are still an extreme minority in most places. It's good that we have this sub forum because I suspect most of us are pretty isolated.

My son surprised me by going from utterly car dependent to car free last year. It's been a blessing to have someone to talk with about cycling and car free issues.

My significant other is not and probably never will be car free but she very much supports our lifestyle. She bikes with us when she's able. She understands how we mostly keep the pantry supplied by daily bike trips to the store. When we go out to eat we often just walk to one of the nearby restaurants. I've taken SO out on dates on the city bus and she doesn't see much wrong with that.

We do let SO drive us in her car sometimes. That's great for dealing with issues like the legendary 40 pound sacks of cat litter. On the other hand we always make sure it's in the form of trading one favor for another.

Our little family group is in two adjacent apartment complexes. We solve a lot of economic and routine daily problems by cooperation.

I found it to be something of a challenge to be an isolated carfree person. The lack of group support wears you down. I hope in the future, as the carfree idea takes root, that it will be easier for us to find local social and family support.
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Old 03-11-07, 01:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prime Directive
I've been cycling for a year now with a mountain-hybrid I picked up from craigslist. It has 26 x 2.125" semi-knobby tires; a water bottle with cage; a low-power frame pump; a cyclocomputer; cantilever brakes; clipped pedals; a worn seat bag with very basic multitool, patch kit, spare tube, adj. wrench (my addition), tire levers, rag (my addition); a rack that I purchased last month to give me greater brake lever clearance; a Sunlite grocery pannier that I picked up for $15, chain lube, and cheap cable lock.
It sounds like you have most of what you absolutely need. Congratulations! You're off to a great start!

Quote:
I'm looking for my first job right now and may be called for an interview next week. I have very little clothing--all polo shirts or sweaters and a few pairs of jeans--plus my helmet and sunglasses. My "cycling shoes" are just old, regular walking shoes with very worn (read: smooth) soles. I also have one pair of newer walking shoes.
Sounds like you should spend your money on an outfit that would be appropriate for a job interview. Generally you want to dress just a little better for the interview than what you would dress for the job itself. A pair of black walking shoes might be good, a little dressy but still practical for other uses. Maybe a button down shirt, tie and blazer, along with a pair of nice pants. You can probably find the shoes at a discount store, and the rest of the clothes at a resale shop.

Quote:
I have about $120 to use on my bike (eventually more if I'm hired). Below is a list of things that I've thought of purchasing
:

Personally, I'd just save the money and see what I need as I ride along. Maybe you'll spend it at the pub celebrating your new job.


Quote:
Random concerns....
  1. What if it rains while I'm riding? What do I do to my bike afterwards? Will it harm the pannier itself?

    If it rains while you're riding, you'll get wet. It won't hurt you or the bike or the panniers.

  2. What should I get to ride (and walk) in expected rain/snow/slush?

    You should think about wearing the old pair of shoes so you don't ruin the new ones. When you get a job, buy some great new shoes. I like all-terrain running shoes with a good tread.

  3. My front wheel is a little off center to the right and I don't know how to fix it.

    Go to the library and check out a couple books on bike repair. Free!

  4. I don't know how to clean a bike beyond wiping it with a rag.

    The bike repair books that you check out at the library will teach you how to clean your bike. Personally, I almost never clean my bikes. I do occasionally spray some WD40 on the yukkiest parts then wipe it off with a rag. (WD 40 is actually a cleaner, even though a lot of people use it as a light lubricant.)

  5. I've applied chain lube once but don't necessarily know when it will need lube again.

    Lube it every two weeks, plus every time it gets wet or dusty. Again, that repair book from the library will teach about this too.

  6. The bike maintainence books at the local library have only been partially useful.

    Why is that? They should be very useful. Also check out Sheldon Brown's web site, as others mentioned.

  7. Thorns are a threat for most of the year, particularly if I start riding five or more days a week.

    Something you have to live with. Or move to Michigan. We don't have thorns.

  8. I have a cheap floor pump with miscalibrated gage.

    If you have Schrader valves (like the ones on a car tire) just get a gauge at the auto parts store or K-mart.

  9. I average between 8-11 MPH. Last week's class commute was 5-6 miles RT per day. My longest trip last summer was 30 miles (after working up to it) and my pedals would now creak too much for that to be feasible.

    So get some new pedals! $6 to $30.
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Old 03-11-07, 03:08 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Prime Directive
. . . my pedals would now creak too much for that to be feasible.[/list]
Someone may already have suggested this, but have you checked the bolts that attach the cranks to the bottom bracket. Sometimes it is difficult to isolate the noises from the saddle so it may not be the pedals. The creaking you described is related to inadaquately tightened crank bolts in my experience.
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Old 03-11-07, 10:38 PM   #9
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Howdy,

It's great to hear your story. I have a few ideas that may help you (or not) regarding your concerns.


Random concerns....
What if it rains while I'm riding? What do I do to my bike afterwards? Will it harm the pannier itself?
It often rains on me. I suggest investing in breatheable(very important) rain gear when you get a chance.
Also, take care of your bike. Wipe off the water and muck, and take the time to clean and oil your drivetrain every couple of weeks. Some simple things like garbage bags will keep your gear perfectly dry, can fold up to a very small square to transport until it rains, and is also cheap.



What should I get to ride (and walk) in expected rain/snow/slush?
See the above answer. I'd check out some shoe booties as well to keep your shoes and feet dry.


The above fenders may be too wide for my bike despite the presence of eyelets and screw holes galore.
I would go the LBS route on this. Find out what is going to fit your bike, then buy it.


The above trunk bag is wider than the rack, thus it won't sit flat on the rack with other panniers installed.
Same answer as above, really. I know it will be a pain to get to your LBS as it's an hour away, but it will be worth it once you have everything fitting perfect.

The bar-end mirror would interfere with my left bar-end hand position--the position I would want to use on the longer straightaways where the mirror would be most useful.
I've never really cared much for the mirrors myself. If you like them, though, that's great. I think the LBS could be the answer again.


My front wheel is a little off center to the right and I don't know how to fix it.
I don't know how to clean a bike beyond wiping it with a rag.
I've applied chain lube once but don't necessarily know when it will need lube again.
The bike maintainence books at the local library have only been partially useful.

I think these are all related. I'm going with the LBS idea again. Explain to them your situation and distance problems. You might be able to pull off a nice package deal for the things that you need and gather up some great maintenance advice as well.


It's slow and tedious to unwrap the cable lock and re-wrap it around the bike rack, but it makes a great strap for hauling things on top of the rear rack (which I can't necessarily do with a pannier or two installed).
Check out some cheap bungee cords. These things are great and useful for tieing things down, and really cheap. Something like a $1.50 for 3 of them at Wal-Mart.


Thorns are a threat for most of the year, particularly if I start riding five or more days a week.
Make sure you keep a patch kit and spare tube with you. I use a under the seat bag to store my gear. (including tire levers and other useful tools)

I have a cheap floor pump with miscalibrated gage.
If it works, it works. Your bike won't need to be as exact on tire pressure as a pure road bike would. When you get the chance, maybe invest in a decent frame pump that you can attach to your bikes tube.


I average between 8-11 MPH. Last week's class commute was 5-6 miles RT per day. My longest trip last summer was 30 miles (after working up to it) and my pedals would now creak too much for that to be feasible
And of course, I have to suggest the LBS here when you get your other things taken care of. It's probely nothing at all.
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Old 03-12-07, 11:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LandLuger
Someone may already have suggested this, but have you checked the bolts that attach the cranks to the bottom bracket. Sometimes it is difficult to isolate the noises from the saddle so it may not be the pedals. The creaking you described is related to inadaquately tightened crank bolts in my experience.
Good point! Also it might be the bottom bracket itself. To check, straddle your bike and hold a crank firmly in each hand. Try to wiggle the cranks back and forth. They shouldn't move at all, or at most a little tiny bit. If they kind of rock back and forth, you probably have a problem with your bottom bracket. You may need to get it repacked and adjusted (estimate $30) or you may need a new bottom bracket (estimate $60). You could fix this yourself if you want, but you do need special tools and it's kind of tricky. For now it would probably be better to get it done at the LBS (local bike shop).



Definitions:
  • Bottom bracket (BB) = the bearings and courses that allow the cranks to spin, transferring pedal power to the chainring. The BB is housed inside the round piece of metal that holds the bottom parts of the frame together.
  • Cranks = the "arms" that the pedals are attached to, that go into the bottom bracket.
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Old 03-12-07, 12:22 PM   #11
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Get Lennard Zinn's book: Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance (2nd edition)

http://www.amazon.com/Zinn-Art-Road-.../dp/1931382697

It's a great book with info on cleaning, maintaining, tuning, fixing your bike.
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Old 03-12-07, 09:40 PM   #12
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Wow, what a fantastic thread! B) I want to thank everyone who's responded. Just knowing that a forum exists with this kind of encouragement and practical advice has helped a lot!

Quote:
Originally Posted by UCSDbikeAnarchy
I just want to second that. You can use and old tooth brush as a gear cleaner. Old tubes make good tie down straps for the rack.and I've seen some pretty good fenders made out of old soda bottles. I little bit of creativity can save you a lot of money.
I was very embarrased to read this as I already have SAVED some old toothbrushes for the "odd cleaning job" around the house, yet I never put 2+2 together!

I might have to start a thread in Mechanics to help me isolate the creak before heading off to the LBS. I originally thought it was the bottom bracket but was told it was more likely the pedals on my last LBS visit (occurres sporadically so no troubleshooting could be done). Both the "wrench" and I have attempted to wiggle the crank arms and they feel solid. The person who sold me the bike a year ago said he had just repacked the BB as well.

---
  1. Do you have any specific bike book/manual recommendations? (Zin is one)

  2. Sun protection, anyone? Do you apply sunscreen to your face and arms everyday (or more often)? Do you pay attention to ingredients? Long-sleeve shirts? Special SPF/UPF clothing?

  3. I would like to hear suggestions on how to secure a backpack or messenger bag to the top of my rack if needed. A bungie seems obvious, but do you use the two-cords or netting variety? Are there any other non-permanent attachment methods?
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Old 03-12-07, 11:56 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=Prime Directive]

I might have to start a thread in Mechanics to help me isolate the creak before heading off to the LBS. I originally thought it was the bottom bracket but was told it was more likely the pedals on my last LBS visit (occurres sporadically so no troubleshooting could be done). Both the "wrench" and I have attempted to wiggle the crank arms and they feel solid. The person who sold me the bike a year ago said he had just repacked the BB as well.

QUOTE]

Trust me, it's the bottom bracket. The creaking noise is really common, especially for older bikes that aren't top-end. It doesn't really affect performance, but it is annoying. You can either live with it, oil the heck out of your BB, or do this: take the whole assembly apart, using a special wrench, wrap the threads with thread tape, the kind that plumbers use, lube the crap out of everything, and put it all back together.
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Old 03-13-07, 05:09 AM   #14
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I have had pedals causing creaking...it was on my son's MTB. Turns out the threads were partially stripped on the crank arm on that side. New pedals, new crank arm, no more creak.

Yes I suppose you could tie a messenger bag off to a rack if you wanted. I typically use a cinch type strap and a bungie for rack mounted stuff. Kind of a belt and suspenders approach. My son uses his messenger bag attached to him to save time. He can put what he needs in there for class, ride to class, lock the bike and go straight in without having to unload or unstrap a bag from the bike.

Aaron
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RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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Old 03-13-07, 07:52 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prime Directive
Wow, what a fantastic thread! B) I want to thank everyone who's responded. Just knowing that a forum exists with this kind of encouragement and practical advice has helped a lot!



I was very embarrased to read this as I already have SAVED some old toothbrushes for the "odd cleaning job" around the house, yet I never put 2+2 together!
I disagree with the toothbrush idea. Thos bristles can come off fairly easily, unlike metal bristles that are used by prof. chain cleaners. If one of those plastic things gets caught in the chain it could be very bad for the chain. Also, I have tried it in the past and they bend too much under pressure to really do a good job cleaning in between parts on the chain.
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Old 03-13-07, 08:42 AM   #16
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Dude, if you're in NE Denver and an hour away from the nearest bike shop, I'd say you have a captive market for opening up your own shop!

Since you're interviewing for your first job, why not go work at a shop and learn the business?

As for the other stuff, the more you ride, the more you figure out.
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Old 03-13-07, 11:42 AM   #17
Brian Sorrell
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Originally Posted by Prime Directive
I have about $120 to use on my bike (eventually more if I'm hired). Below is a list of things that I've thought of purchasing:
... {clip**
If you are that far from a shop, it's probably best to get tools. They pay off fast. Get a decent book too to have around for reference, or start printing Sheldon Brown's articles -- much of what I've learned was from his site.

A few question answers:

[*]What if it rains while I'm riding? What do I do to my bike afterwards? Will it harm the pannier itself?

I have that same pannier and I've ridden through light rain successfully. If you get a deluge, you can just wrap a trash bag around it for the cheapest waterproofing. As far as the bike -- if it's an aluminum frame, there's little to worry about. If it's steel, then try to dry it off and cover deep paint chips before they start rusting. My local shop also suggested oiling inside my steel frame every year. Perhaps others can chime in on the necessity of doing so.

[*]My front wheel is a little off center to the right and I don't know how to fix it.

That sounds like a "dish" problem. Are the spokes tighter on one side than on the other? On a front wheel, they should be the same tension all around. On the back wheel, the spokes should be tighter on the gear side -- check the mechanics forum for more, or again, Sheldon Brown. Also, if you can find a cheap truing stand you're in business, but using the brakes as a reference point is a good substitute.

[*]I don't know how to clean a bike beyond wiping it with a rag.

My LBS suggests starting from the back and working forward using bike cleaner. You can just use any decent solvent to get grime off. My preferences are Simple Green and Goo Gone.

[*]I've applied chain lube once but don't necessarily know when it will need lube again.

My policy is that when I can hear the chain, it's time for a cleaning. About every couple of weeks, given the type of riding I do, seems appropriate. I scrub the grime off with Simple Green, then apply a waxy lubricant. Silences the creaks nicely.

[*] I have a cheap floor pump with miscalibrated gage.

Get a Road Morph. You'll thank yourself. It's a bit of an investment up front (mine was $35 I think), but it's the best portable pump out there. Check the Touring forum for reviews and references.

[*]I average between 8-11 MPH. Last week's class commute was 5-6 miles RT per day. My longest trip last summer was 30 miles (after working up to it) and my pedals would now creak too much for that to be feasible.

Sounds like a lubrication problem to me. I'd first take the pedals off and clean and grease the threads -- that's the easiest thing to start with. If that isn't it, move on to the BB suggestions above. However, creaks are notoriously hard to find -- it could even be your seat post -- I had this problem and I almost lost my mind trying to find the source of the creak. My most recent creaking sound was the rear derailleur cable housing rubbing against a cable stop -- I swore it was something in the bars -- took a week to find it by trial and error. Invest in a bit of bike grease and you can eliminate lots of annoying sounds.
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Old 03-13-07, 11:54 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sorrell
However, creaks are notoriously hard to find -- it could even be your seat post -- I had this problem and I almost lost my mind trying to find the source of the creak. My most recent creaking sound was the rear derailleur cable housing rubbing against a cable stop -- I swore it was something in the bars -- took a week to find it by trial and error. Invest in a bit of bike grease and you can eliminate lots of annoying sounds.
You are so right! I once spent an entire afternoon trying to find a creaking noise on the bike. It finally turned out that it wasn't even the bike, just a clip I was using to hold my keys on my belt.

(Of course I doubt if this is the OP's problem.)
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