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Monday, March 2, 2015

Spring is coming - the Dangers of Buying Bicycles from Big Box Stores

March 2nd 2015

In 19 days Spring will be here, which means it is time to start spring cleaning your bicycle and doing some maintenance.

And for those of you thinking of buying a new bicycle this Spring - especially if you are thinking of buying your bicycle from a Big Box Store - I recommend reading the following piece.

The Dangers of Buying Bicycles from Big Box Stores

By Smokey Dymny, Quadra Bike School

Spring is coming and many people’s thoughts turn to getting the kinks out of their muscles, getting some exercise while going to and fro to work or to school. "Let’s get the old bike out of the shed and oil it up. Whoops! It looks a bit rusty. Well, let’s take it for a tune-up at the bicycle shop."

"Oh, oh, it’s beyond reasonable repair.  Time to look for a new one. It’s still cheaper to buy a bike than pay for fitness fees. And I might try to skip the gym, but I’ll always take the bike if I’m going on short trips, and I’ll be able to take the kids on outings to the park, on the coastal trail, and to grandma’s house."

"But wait! These bikes at the cycle shop are nice, but they look a little more expensive than I remember. Let’s go to Canadian Tire (or: Rona, Walmart, Sports Experts, etc.) and get a cheaper one."

Stop immediately people. Here’s where you’re going to make a big mistake with your money and perhaps your safety. I run a bicycle mechanic’s training school on Quadra Island (search: Quadra Bike School for details). I developed this professional level training course in Toronto with tools provided by the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada and workshop space provided by a non-profit training school. In 2011 I moved the course to Quadra Island and funded everything myself, with smaller classes.

So here is why I’m warning you about going to a big box store or any place but a reputable bicycle shop. Inexpensive bikes come badly of pre-assembled pieces from factories in the far east. They are put together by assembly line people, not mechanics. Their bearings are not greased or well adjusted, the wheels are not trued (straightened) or tensioned, and the brakes and shifting can be completely maladjusted.  It’s up to a bicycle mechanic to put everything right so the bike is pleasant, easy and safe to ride. I stress the word "safe" because I’ve seen poor assemblies that will put someone’s life at risk.

This month I received an email with the headline “looking for mechanics” from a person stating that she’s “from Cycle Profix, a Canada-wide (sic) mobile bike assembly and repair team” and is currently “seeking skilled Bicycle technicians” to do assembly work all over B.C.

I requested more information about the company and their pay scales.

She wrote that Cycle Profix “hires bicycle technicians across Canada as independent contractors for daily work at either major stores (the ones listed above) or at our regional shops”. She wrote that for “In-Store assemblies, contractors are paid between $3.50 - $4.00 per bike.” She further wrote that “Bikes come 70% assembled, and given an average of 5 bike assemblies per hour, the comparable hourly rate would be $17.5/hr.”  “Skilled technicians can reach over $22/hr.”

Isn’t it nice to know that your bike from a big box store was assembled in an average of 12 minutes by a “technician” who was hired for “daily work” which means s/he doesn’t have a full time job; is just contracted to do a bunch of assemblies at Rona, for example, and then moves on. If your bike is faulty, the store won’t even have an idea of who worked on it and they won’t have a mechanic on staff to make repairs. In twelve minutes the “technician” won’t have time to grease any bearings or true the wheels. All the mechanical adjustments that would make the bicycle able to last, at least a while, simply won’t be done. An inexpensive bike it may be, but it should be adjusted properly to work safely. In twelve minutes the technicians going to tear off all the packaging, bolt on the front wheel, the handlebar and safety reflectors, pump up the tires, and try to adjust the brakes.  I’ve had a big box store bicycle brought into my shop for a tune-up last year and the owner did not realize that the front shock had been assembled backwards. (I have the picture too.) That means the front brake was operating backwards as well.

A front shock was also shown mounted backwards in a full colour Canadian Tire newspaper ad several years ago. Makes me wonder how they dare sell bikes.

If you make it through one season with a big box bike you’ll be lucky. The wheels will turn with too much friction or they’ll wobble (bearings too tight or too loose). The wheel may twist into a taco - a ‘taco’ shape when you hit a big bump (wheel not trued or tensioned). In one case a young woman who “saved” $50 not buying a bike from my shop came back with her bargain bike after just one trail ride with a ‘tacoed’ front wheel. The disaster stories can be repeated endlessly.

The sensible course of action is not to try for the short-term bargain. Like any poor tool, the bike won’t last long enough for you to realize any savings. You may be having it repaired early, or you may stop riding and give up on your exercise goals. Don’t do either. Just stay away from crappy department store bikes. See you local pro shop instead. Happy riding!

Editorial Notes from Charles

I just wanted to add some notes here, having purchased bicycles from Big Box Stores when I was younger. Smokey is correct in his assertions above regarding both the low build quality at Big Box Stores and also the hazards of riding a bicycle that might not have properly tuned brakes (for example).

When I was growing up in rural Ontario (north of Kitchener, about 30 minutes drive from Kincardine) we didn't have any local bike shops. There was only Zellers or Canadian Tire or Home Hardware. That was it.

Which meant when my parents purchased bicycles for us kids we often had to spend a goodly amount of time fixing those bicycles on a regular basis. I can recall many a day when myself and my best friend Jonathan Davis spent fixing our bicycles. Jonathan's father was an auto mechanic by trade and we would borrow tools either from him or my father and we would spend hours upon hours fixing bicycles, patching wheels, readjusting the handle bars or seats, and removing the chains and greasing them with WD40 (note: Do NOT use WD40 for bicycle chains. We were 10 years old and didn't know any better).

One of the things I noticed was although my bicycles were often brand new, Jonathan's dad would buy second hand bicycles - Jonathan's bicycles were often slightly faster than mine (even though we were physically equals). The reason, looking back on it, was because my bicycles were typically the cheapest available bicycle from Canadian Tire whereas Jonathan's bicycles were 2nd hand bicycles that were of a higher quality. This means that even though they were used, they were often slightly better than any new bicycle I had at the time.

The bicycle I used in highschool got me through university and I didn't buy a new bicycle until I was living in Jeonju in South Korea. I remember this clearly because I bartered the shop owner down to 50,000 won (roughly $50 CDN in 2003) and managed to get him to throw in a lock too. What was spectacular however was despite that being an amazing bargain, that bicycle was the best bicycle I had owned up to that point. It was well made, well put together, had shocks, disc brakes - it was a very impressive bicycle for the tiny amount I paid for it. So Kudos to the Koreans for making such a well made bicycle.

Coming back to Canada I took the bicycle mechanic training program Smokey spoke of up above in 2009 (back when Smokey was still teaching in Toronto). The course changed my life even though I ultimately decided to work in a different industry. Around 2007 I had purchased a cheap Canadian Tire bicycle because at the time I just wanted something to get around on.

Within the first week of owning that bicycle the plastic pedals broke - both of them. I wasn't overweight (not terribly at least) so my only conclusion was that they were very cheap plastic pedals. So I purchased steel-alloy pedals that lasted considerably longer until I eventually sold that bicycle. By the time I sold it however I had replaced: Both front and back brake pads, one of the inner tubes, the aforementioned pedals and the seat (although that was a comfort decision, not a matter of it breaking).

When I took the BAM program as taught by Smokey I learned the errors of my previous ways and determined I needed to start buying quality bicycles for their longevity. Since then I have gone through numerous bicycles, finding old broken bicycles that had been abandoned, buying used bicycles - fixing them all up and then selling them for a tidy profit.

I have also gotten quite good at disassembling bikes to give them a new paint job and then reassembling the bicycle, so when sold it looks practically brand new - or at least modified to the point that it still looks good.

One of my favourite activities is when I find a really old antique of a bicycle and then fix it up, either restoring it to its original state - or modifying it so I making the retro bicycle something new and interesting.

Anyway the point of my whole story here is simple. If your old bicycle is beyond repair, go buy an used bicycle that can be restored and then hire a local bicycle mechanic to do some restoration work. Then send me the before and after photos of what the bicycle looks like after it has been restored and everyone can see the results and agree: Restored bicycles look better than anything you could buy at a Big Box Store.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Glowing Bicycle Wheel Rims


The glowing wheel rims on the bicycle in the two photos above is not due to any kind of special wheels that produce their own light - although that is an interesting idea... Nor is it the result of trick photography or photoshop.

Nope, all that happened is the camera flash created a glare off of the very shiny wheel rims, creating a split second of very bright light reflecting off the rims. Thus in the photographs the rims of the bicycle appear to be glowing, as if they were producing their own light.

The basement bicycle repair "shop" belongs to Smokey Dymny of the Quadra Bike School (one of the best bicycle mechanic instructors in North America), whose main shop is on Quadra Island in British Columbia, but this is his winter shop in Toronto where he keeps a number of tools during the off season when he is not currently teaching. I took the photos while visiting with him back in December to hang out and talk bicycles.

People looking to become trained bicycle mechanics are encouraged to visit the Quadra Bike School's website at bicyclemechanic.ca. (Yes, I know, he beat me to it. I will just have to content myself with a blogspot domain name.)


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Solar Roadways? The future or just a vivid imagination?

I admit cyclists as a community don't normally think about the quality of the roads except in relation to potholes and bicycle lanes, but this video caught my attention because the concept of solar roadways would affect cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

The video is amusing (and possibly not suitable if you are watching this at work because the guy says "freaking" so much it sounds like he is swearing), but it does make you wonder whether it would be economical to actually build what he is talking about. If the math works for building the materials, installing, and the cost savings is enough - then yes, I guess we could really have solar roadways as an option.

Obviously solar roadways would be more advantageous in the USA than it is in Canada. The cost of heating the roads in Canada would be too prohibitive, but it would make total sense in southern states and even a few northern ones where it doesn't snow that much. We could probably even get away with it in southern Ontario, but I don't think it would work in the prairie provinces.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Danny MacAskill's Imaginate, Bicycle Stunts

Danny MacAskill has been up to his old bicycle tricks again. This time in "Danny MacAskill's Imaginate", a 7 minute video supposedly to give us a glimpse as to what goes on in his brain when he is thinking up bicycle stunts.

You can see some of his previous bicycle stunt videos here on The Bicycle Mechanic just by clicking stunts on the side bar.

If you have Netflix you can also watch the documentary about the making of Imaginate. (Although I will admit I skipped forward through some of the boring bits of the documentary. I just didn't have the patience to watch the whole thing.)

The stunt video is below!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Premium Rush - Bicycle Courier Movie


I just finished watching the 2012 bicycle courier film "Premium Rush" on Netflix. (And yes, I realize the film came out 2 years ago and I only now got around to watching it. Whatever. Sue me.)

Anyway I really enjoyed the film. Hence why I am sharing the trailer for the film on here.

So yeah, watch it on Netflix, buy the DVD, download it for free - it matters not to me. I just felt it was an enjoyable movie and wanted to share it with my fellow cyclists who may not have heard of it.

I also find it interesting that the film didn't pull any punches when it came to crazy cyclists, stupid car drivers, and idiot pedestrians. (And don't forget the police, who are often corrupt or clueless.) They all got slammed. Proof positive that drivers, cyclists and even pedestrians are equally stupid when it comes safety issues.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Demystify Your Bicycle at HUB (Vancouver)

HUB in Vancouver B.C. is offering a series of small 3-hour long introductory classes to teach people how to fix and maintain their bicycles. The classes are held at The Pedal Depot (1830 Ontario Street) in Vancouver.

More information on this topic is available at https://bikehub.ca/bike-education/maintenance-mechanics

The introductory classes only cover brakes, gears, hubs and wheels and cost $200 to sign up for all 4 classes.

The graphic below lists the classes as "intermediate", but the classes really are designed for complete beginners.

The "beginner" 2-hour class is more of a "complete basics" class which covers jargon, terminology, etc and almost no mechanical skills and is designed to teach people how their bicycle works, and what the different parts are called. The beginner 2-hour class does a basic inspection, how to clean and oil a chain, check for wear and tear, and patch a flat - basically all things you could learn from a YouTube video or by reading The Bicycle Mechanic.

So if you already know how to fix a flat, you probably don't need to take that course.

On the other hand if you are looking to become a true professional bicycle mechanic, you are probably best off taking the six week bicycle mechanic training course at Quadra Island (which is not far from Vancouver), which costs $2500 for tuition and residence. Students come from all over the world to take the course at Quadra Island because it is the most intensive and comprehensive bicycle mechanic training course in the world.



Monday, June 30, 2014

An Essay on the Topic of Abandoned Bicycles

Many people in Toronto (and other cities like Toronto) have bicycles.

But many people also either apparently lack the mechanical skills to fix their bicycle;

Or they have skills but are simply lazy.

I am uncertain which it is.

What I do know is that I see a lot of abandoned and "broken" bicycles on the streets of Toronto on a regular basis.

Sometimes I even take the abandoned bicycle, I fix it up and I sell it. It isn't thievery. It is an unlocked bicycle with something broken on it.

Often it just needs a replacement part and the part is somewhere in the $5 to $50 range, but for whatever reason the previous owner was too busy or lazy to go to a store, buy the part, replace the broken part, bob's your uncle, your bicycle is (practically) good as new.

And it boggles my mind that the people abandoning their bicycles don't know they can do this. Something breaks, they are too lazy to fix it, so they just abandon the bicycle because they think it is easier to go and buy a brand new bicycle instead.

Let us assume the average person spends at least $200 on a new bicycle. If they make $20 / hour doing whatever it is they do, they just spent 10 hours working just so they could get a new bicycle.

When they could have just walked to a store, purchased a $5 to $50 part, replaced the part, and the comparative cost to them would have been either 15 minutes worth of work or 2.5 hours worth of work (assuming they are getting paid $20 per hour).

And now hopefully you understand why my mind is boggled by the people who just abandon their bicycles and go buy new ones, and understand why I am writing this essay / rant. Essay writing is a great way to get your point across.

It is almost as if people either don't realize how cheap it is to fix a bicycle, or they don't realize how easy it is. 90% of repairs are actually so easy a 12 year old could do it.

It is the 10% of repairs that take a bit more brain power.

Take for example any bicycle which is tossed out because it has a flat tire. (I have lost track of how many bicycles I have seen abandoned just because it had a flat tire.)

You either patch the tire with a patch kit and glue;

Or you buy a new tire that is the same size.

Presta, you're done! (And yes, that was valve pun.)

Next, lets take the example of any bicycle that was abandoned because the chain was tangled up / snagged on something / broken / etc. (This is another very common cause of abandoned bicycles)

Just rip the old chain off, buy a new chain the same size, buy a chain tool, install the new chain using the chain tool.

Bob Schrader's your uncle, it is done!

Sometimes I have found abandoned bicycles that the only thing that is wrong with is that the brakes don't work.

In which case, just follow the instructions on The Bicycle Mechanic for fixing the brakes (seriously, they're not that hard to fix), and voila c'est fini!

In some cases they might require you to purchase new brake pads. They cost about $5.

And there you go, three of the most common reasons why people throw out / abandon their old bicycles - and how easy it is to fix those three common mechanical problems.

Now I could understand if someone was throwing out a bicycle because they were leaving the country and could not take the bicycle with them.

In which case the thing to do is take it outside, put a piece of paper on it that says FREE BIKE, and watch how quickly it disappears. In which case the bicycle should be in perfect working order.

Typically you will see the perfectly working free bicycles outside of apartment buildings on the 1st of each month. The previous owner moved out on the 30th or 31st and left their bicycle outside on purpose for someone to take it.

That I can understand. But for the silly people who abandon their bicycles because it has a broken part that could be replaced for $5 and some brief elbow grease? Those people need to realize how easy it is to fix their bicycle.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Schrader Vs Presta Valves

If you read my post about Bicycle Mechanics in Leaside Toronto then you know I purchased two things today: #1. A Presta-Schrader valve adapter, and #2. a bicycle pump that is compatible with both Schrader and Presta valves.

I already have a Schrader bicycle pump, which is pretty standard. But I didn't have a working Presta one so I decided to get a new one (that works) and in the event it ever breaks and I need an adapter, I therefore bought an adapter too. I call it the Mechanic's Rule of Tool Redundancy - when in doubt, get two or more in case you cannot find the other tool, it breaks, or cannot be used for whatever reason. This is why you can never have too many toolboxes, screwdrivers or tools in general.




Since the invention of the pneumatic tire many valve types have come along but for bicycles the two most popular that are still in use are Presta and Schrader (or as I like to call them, de French one and zee German one - not because that is their country of origin, just because they sound like they are French and German).

The Presta valve is the skinny one of the two and is slightly more cumbersome to use, having a lock nut instead of a spring to make sure it is closed and doesn`t leak air. The Presta valve is more popular on racing bicycles because it is skinnier and doesn`t leak air easily.

The Presta valve also enabled racers to inflate tires with a simple pump with attached chuck (pump head) and no hose. Having no valve spring to overcome it is therefore faster and easier to pump gas into the tires. If Schrader valves had a valve depressor it could speed up the process, but it would make the pump head larger, heavier and impractical.

Because of the small diameter of the Presta valve it requires a smaller hole in the rim, which means that the bicycle rims can be narrower. This saves on weight and increases overall speed.

However Presta valves break easier, are harder to fix, are not widely used except in racing bikes, and Presta pumps break easier too (based on my first hand experience with them). Some Presta valves have been made with removable cores to make them easier to fix, but demand is so small that they are uncommon. Removable Presta cores can be identified by two wrench flats on the coarse valve cap threads.

In contrast Schrader valves are robust, universally used, and have an easily removable core. And they are easier to fix. Spring closure makes them simpler to use because one needs only to press the inflation chuck onto them at any gas station that has an air pump. With foot or hand pumps, a screwed or lever chuck provides the valve depressor - and it can tell you what the pressure is in the tire too.

My advice for my fellow bicycle mechanics? Get a Schrader pump and a Presta adapter. You might never use the Presta adapter, but at least you will have it when you need it.

Bicycle Mechanics in Leaside Toronto


Sandy's Bikes and Books

Address: 95 Research Rd #1, Leaside, Toronto, ON M4G 2G8
Phone: 416-467-1035

As you can see above Sandy's Bikes and Books is just that, a bicycle mechanic / bicycle store that also doubles as a book store. Oh and vinyl too. Don't forget vinyl.

Sandy himself is very nice, very talkative and I am sure I will be going back there again to buy bicycle parts. Today I purchased a Presta-Shrader nozzle adapter there for a mere $3.04 (tax included).



GEARS Bike Shop in Leaside

Address: 109 Vanderhoof Ave, Leaside, Toronto, ON M4G 2H7
Phone: 1-888-984-3277

GEARS is all about racing bicycles - and I make this review with the knowledge that GEARS has been sponsoring this blog for the last 2 years and hopefully will continue to sponsor the Bicycle Mechanic. So, knowing that these are high end racing bicycles expect that if you want to purchase a bicycle at GEARS that you will be spending a pretty penny. However at the same time I will point out that their service was excellent when I said I was looking for a Presta pump. What I got was an Evo Hurricane pump which is compatible with both Shrader and Presta valves. Cost was $29.99 + HST.


Enduro Sport in Leaside

I am not going to list Enduro Sport's address or phone number here.

Why? Because they snubbed me. I think they saw my GEARS bag and then chose to snub me. Didn't even ask if I wanted help, if I was looking for anything, etc. So I am snubbing them back in return. Nyah nyah!

Seriously though, I have been to Enduro Sport twice before and they were rude both times. This is the third strike / last straw in my opinion. I have given them three chances to redeem themselves and they were rude twice and snubbed me once. I doubt they remember me from the previous times I went there. Both times was in 2009 when I first started this website. So having been treated poorly three times I shall now return the favour.

Call it the Golden Rule of Shopping - If you are rude to the customer with the gold, they take their business elsewhere. And the customer is always right.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Men's Cycle Fashion could use a little more High Fashion

As I have made clear in previous posts I am not a big fan of some of the cycling gloves or cycling helmets that are sold in stores. So I apologize if I rant about cycling fashion for a bit.

They're not very manly and I wouldn't get caught dead wearing some of the outrageous form fitting clothing that are often sold in cycling stores.

Just because Lance Armstrong wears it doesn't mean you should. There are lots of things Lance Armstrong does that you should NOT do.

Are you a professional cyclist who races for a living?

No?

Then stopping wearing those ridiculous clothes.

Sorry if I go all fashion police, but I firmly believe that men can dress much more sensibly when on a bicycle.

Let us say for example that you are meeting someone for a date. Possibly even at a fancy restaurant. And if you are a true Toronto cyclist then you will probably bicycle there because you don't own a car.

Now when you show up at Ritz Hypothetical your date is not going to be very impressed if you show up all sweaty and wearing tight fitting latex.

But she might respond quite well to your handsome appearance if you showed up looking like one of these guys from Kish Wear - Men's High Fashion:


It is basically following the same golden fashion formula all cyclists do...

The Cyclist Golden Fashion Formula - Wear form fitting clothing that is fairly tight to the body. Nothing baggy that might get caught in spokes or gears.

That means you can wear dress shoes and socks.

It also means you can wear tight fitting pants, like the pants below also from Kish Wear. Or the sweater, again, same place. This means you don't have to look like a sweaty cyclist and can show up looking posh and suave for your date. First impressions matter.


Next let us pretend for a moment that you are going to a job interview instead of a date. Assuming this is an office job you probably don't want to show up for the job interview looking like a sweaty cyclist who doesn't know how to dress properly.

But you would probably score points if you showed up dressed like this:


"Oh but I am an individual and a non-conformist. Why should I have to wear an uniform to get a job?"

Seriously. What world are you living in?

If I was the HR rep you are meeting and you show up in either:

A. Cycling gear covered in sweat.

B. Dirty jeans and a ripped t-shirt.

Then I guarantee that unless your job is to be a cyclist fashion model or a construction worker, then you are not getting the job.

So if you're hoping to get a job in an office then you better get with the program and wear the uniform. And to be fair, all clothing is uniforms. It is just different kinds of uniforms.

If I taking my girlfriend to the ballet - eg. The Ballet Creole, which I love - then I will be dressing accordingly. Washed, freshly shaved and wearing nice shoes too.

Same goes if I were to go to a classical music concert. Or any event where it is expected that people dress accordingly.

And truth be told, I admit, I probably would not take my bicycle there because I live in uptown Toronto now and it is rather a trek to either of those locations via bicycle. So we would probably take the TTC or drive instead. (Sue me.)

If it something super important, like a wedding or a funeral, I might even wash the car first.

What I am definitely not going to do is show up at a funeral wearing cycling clothes, sweaty, and then bicycle from the funeral home to the cemetery.

Not such a big deal to go to the cemetery when you are just cycling through and enjoying the purty trees et al. But not such a good idea when you are actually there for a funeral.

I think part of the problem with some cyclists - the ones who wear cycling clothes a LOT, like on their way to work, on their days off, on dates, etc - is that they really have no life outside of cycling, that they are essentially cycling snobs, and that they are also clueless of how ridiculous they look.

And I am not just talking about the ridiculous helmets cyclists sometimes wear.


Nor am I talking about the idiots who buy professional cycling team jersey kits. You know, the ones with matching socks, shorts and jerseys that look completely idiotic when you wear them. Especially if you have belly flab sticking out the bottom of your too tight shirt. Buy clothing that fits and actually looks good. Looking ridiculous only makes you look like a moron.


Nor I am talking about the guys who wear baggy pants and then get "rookie" grease stain marks on their pants from where the chain and gears are rubbing against your calves. That is clearly a case wherein people need to learn how to wipe down their bike regularly and learn how to dress themselves properly for cycling.

Now I am talking about the idiots who wear hydration packs on their backs because they are too lazy to get a water bottle installed and then use it accordingly. Oh look. Its a camel back. Are you riding a mountain bike in rough terrain far away from the convenience of Starbucks? No? Then taking that stupid thing off your back.

What I am talking about is all these things and much more. The people out there who apparently have no fashion sense, wear ridiculous things that they don't actually need, and then apparently think that everyone else is an idiot for not wearing a special helmet, jerseys, hydration packs and everything else that you THINK you actually need.

The truth is you don't need any of it.

What you do need is your bicycle, some shoes and socks that fit, some shorts that fit, possibly some cycling gloves, and that is it. (And for female modesty, maybe a sports bra and a shirt.)

And if you are going somewhere special then you should dress appropriately for your DESTINATION.

Dress for your destination and dress stylishly when appropriate. Dressing like a loser / cyclist snob isn't going to score points with anyone else.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Brazil Prison Bicycles

Apparently there is a prison in Brazil that allows inmates to bicycle and produce electricity, which in turn is tracked and reduces their sentences.

Presumably this program is only offered to inmates who commit minor crimes (like theft, etc) as opposed to the more violent criminals.

I would be curious to learn how much electricity is actually produced this way.

It might be, for example, more financially viable to have the inmates build windmills instead and those windmills be used for producing electricity. Longer term results as opposed to short term gain.

Not dissing bicycles or anything, just saying windmills seems like the smarter solution if their end goal is electricity.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Fix a Sturmey-Archer 3-Speed Internal Gear Hub

Hi Charles,

I have an older model Raleigh Sports with a Sturmey-Archer internal gear hub that I've been having troubles with and was hoping to get repaired.

I've taken the bike to a couple of different repair shops already and it has always been returned with the same troubles.

I stumbled across your site when I was searching online for Toronto-area bike mechanics that appear to have experience with 3-speed internal gear hubs.

Would you be able to take a look at it? If so, what's the process and where should I bring it.

Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
Steven S.



Hello Steven!

My advice:

Buy a new internal gear hub, possibly from a different company.

Internal gear hubs are basically supposed to require a little bit of oil once or twice per year for maintenance and that is it. If it broken however, your best options are to return it to the manufacturer for a replacement (if it is still on warranty) or if the warranty is up, buy a new one.

What has most likely happened - in the event it is broken - is that one or more pieces inside the gear hub have SNAPPED IN HALF or into several pieces, and then the smaller pieces have jammed up inside the internal mechanisms, possibly doing other permanent damage. The internal pieces are not designed to break, but with age, wear and tear, metal gets fatigued and can eventually just snap.

It is possible that a piece inside has just come loose, or bent, and it just needs to be bent back into shape or placed back in its proper location. Now there are some experts out there who know how to repair internal gear hubs - but it is pretty rare knowledge. A bit like finding a clockmaker who knows how to fix pocket watches. Not many people go into that sort of thing as a career these days.

Thus it might save you a lot of time and effort just to buy a new one.
Now you might wonder why I suggested possibly buying a new internal gear hub from a different company. I am not dissing Sturmey-Archer's quality, I am sure the quality of their internal gear hubs are just fine. But feel free to shop around anyway and browse your options. No doubt the higher quality gear hubs will be more expensive, and the lower quality ones cheaper. You get what you pay for. So if you find an internal gear hub from Sturmey-Archer that you like, that is in the right price range, absolutely, go ahead and buy it. However if you find one you like from a different company which is higher quality - and possibly has a lifetime warranty, you might want to buy that one instead.

Here is a YouTube video about fixing a Shimano 3-Speed Internal Gear Hub which might help you a bit if you decide to try and fix your gear hub yourself.



And here is another video about Sturmey-Archer three speed gear hubs and how they work, and should give you insights on how to fix yours depending on what is broken on the inside. Between this video and the one above you might be able to fix yours.



Happy Repairing / Shopping!

Sincerely,
Charles Moffat
The Bicycle Mechanic

Monday, February 10, 2014

How to make a bow out of a bicycle wheel

While it is an amusing design for how to make a bow to practice archery with, I do NOT actually recommend the bow designs shown below.

My reasoning is fairly simple. I have been doing archery since 1989. I have over 12 bows myself, and two things I have learned over the years are the following...

#1. Decurve bows do not make good bows. (The designs shown below are definitely decurve.)

#2. The bow below isn't really a bow. It is really more a kind of complicated looking slingshot using a giant rubber band.

The end result is a slingshot that really is not a bow, doesn't really work that well, and would ultimately be a waste of time for anyone who is not into slingshots.

So if you are into slingshots, go ahead and use the designs below. If you are into archery I have suggestions to make at the bottom for how a person could make a proper bow - in this case a recurve bow - using bicycles parts.

HOW TO MAKE A BOW SLINGSHOT USING A BICYCLE WHEEL

You will need...

Old Bicycle Wheel
Giant catapult rubber band - $5. (You could use a rubber inner tube, but it isn't as powerful.)
Saw to cut the bike rim
Drill and drill bits.
Scissors / Tin Snips or some way to remove the spokes from the wheel
Metal file to tidy up the cuts
Pliers for bending
Eyelets + Retainers for the eyelets (plasterboard expanding grommets work well)



The design above is pretty much self explanatory just by looking at the photo. It is basically just a frame for holding rubber band for the slingshot. The bicycle wheel does bend a bit like a bow, but it is the rubber band that does 90% of the work.

Cut the wheel, smooth down the rough edges, drill some holes in it, add the eyelets, etc, attach the rubber band and you're done.





HOW TO MAKE A RECURVE BOW USING BICYCLE PARTS

#1. Cut the wheel into quarters instead of halves.

#2. Line the quarters up like below

(
 )
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#3. Weld them together to make the classic recurve bow shape.

#4. Drill holes in the top of the bow and the bottom of the bow, roughly one inch from the ends.

#5. Using bicycle cable, string the bow between the two holes.

#6. Find a sturdy way to affix the bicycle cable to the bow. I recommend drilling the holes big enough to fit a bolt through there, wrap the cable around the bolts a bit, slide the bolt through the hole, tighten with a nut on the opposite side and make it super tight so the cable won't come loose. Repeat process both ends of the bow.

#7. Wrap bicycle handlewraps around the handle where you will be gripping the bow.

#8. Optional - Make an arrow rest using random parts from a scrap bicycle.

#9. Optional - Make stabilizer using random parts.

#8. Use a crimp to add a bead on your bowstring so your arrows don't slide up and down.

#9. Practice with your new recurve bow!

#10. Send me photos of the finished product so I can show others what you did!

Gas Engine Bicycles - For lazy gasoline lovers?

I am not going to pass judgement and not talk about gasoline bicycles, but I am going to say that many cyclists see gasoline powered bicycles - and sometimes even electric bicycles or e-bikes - as a betrayal of what bicycles are supposed to be: clean and efficient means of transportation.

The video further below is an example of one such gasoline powered bicycle or g-bike.

Whether you like g-bikes, or despise them, the video is an interesting example of one way to tinker with bicycles and try something new with them.

After all, this wouldn't be a bicycle mechanic blog if I didn't showcase examples of people tinkering with their bicycles and trying something different.



RB Inc Sports is hiring bicycle mechanics

 RB Inc Sports of Toronto is hiring bicycle mechanics and sent me the email below.

:) CM



We are looking for a mechanic. If you are interested or know someone that would be interested,  please come by around 11 till 3 for a job interview if you are interested also please send in a resume if you have one.

Full Time Bicycle Sales and Bicycle Mechanic Job Request $12 to $20 per hour depending on experience.

We are a boutique bicycle Jamis Bicycle Outlet (you can google our info) store looking for an experienced bicycle salesman that is also a good bicycle mechanic. Perfect articulation in English is important. Characteristics we are looking for: Neat and Tidy, ability to follow direction, effective sales person that can absorb information quickly and is familiar with all parts of the bicycle. Efficient bicycle mechanic that can put together a new bicycle quickly, and effectively but also one that can keep his work area clean and also not lose or break tools. Experience and ability to work on all types of used bicycles from clunkers, road, mountain, and hybrids.  Important to be friendly and deal with a variety of cyclists from professionals to leisure enthusiasts. Please understand as well no use of text messaging, skype or e-mails that are not work related during work.

Important to live close to work. The job is 5 days a week but includes Saturday and Sunday. The job also requires good and fast ten finger typing and the ability plus experience to work on iPads and Apple computers.

Richard Browne President
RB Inc
www.rbinc-sports.com
79 Wingold Ave Unit 10
Toronto Ontario Canada
M6B1P8
tel 416 787 4998
fax 416 787 2709


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