I thought that it would be fun to turn Will’s little red Novara Amiga into a bike that was actually useful. I went to Recycled Cycles to see how much a full-sized used frame would cost and found a new 18 inch Raleigh aluminum frame for $20. I bought it and took everything off of the little red bike. I soon found that the stem on the front fork had been cut down and that I needed a longer stem with the new frame. I went back to Recycled Cycles and bought a $15 rigid fork. I cut it down to the right length and then found that it wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the knobby tires on the rims. I went back and got a $45 “rock shox” fork that was pretty much like the one originally on the bike but with a longer stem. I had trouble figuring out the head-set because it wouldn’t seat tightly. I finally took it off and switched the race I had on top with the one I had on the bottom and it worked better. I bought a $30 bottom bracket tool and then cracked the plastic sleeve getting the bottom bracket installed. I mail-ordered a new clamp (about $25) for the handlebars to position them higher and further from the saddle. When I put the handlebars on I discovered that with the longer frame and the extended stem I needed longer cables on the brakes and the rear deraileur. I pieced together guides for everything but the rear brakes but I had to buy about $10 worth of cable. I also got new handlebar grips (YetiYeti) and a water bottle cage for another $25. I got both brakes to work and both deraileurs to shift, although I wasn’t happy with the way the rear one worked and the cable I’d used was too long and looped out funny. The saddle from the little bike was a wide, soft, kiddie saddle so I bought a used Avocet saddle (another $25). As I was finishing it up Recycled Cycles was having a sale so I picked up a pair of 26 X 1inch Specialized slicks (which would have worked with the rigid fork) for about $40.
I was taking all of the bikes in to a bike shop for tuning, so I figured I’d get Will’s mountain bike overhauled (for like $80) and see if they could adjust the detailer better than I had been able to. They called me to say that the headset bearings were bad and that the headset itself was in upside down and did I want to replace it. I said yes, sheepishly. They called again later to say that they were having trouble getting the bottom bracket out, and then called back to say that the bottom bracket had threads that went different ways on the two sides and that it had been installed backwards cutting out the threads in the frame. They were able to rethread it. They also replaced all the cables. When I picked the bike up they told me that that they built bikes up with customer-provided components for $125. Riding it home from the shop it skipped gears – a lot. I really didn’t want to take it back in. A few months later I was trying to adjust the deraileur to keep it from skipping and I saw that one link on the chan was open and bent and probably causing the problem. I took the chain off and carried it to Recycled Cycles. They sold me a breakable Shimano pin (less than a dollar) and told me to take the link out. I popped the wrong pin and ended up having to take out two links and then couldn’t shift above the middle of the cluster in the large ring. It also still skipped. I took it in to Recycled Cycles and asked them to put a new chain on (for $20). When they were done I asked them to adjust it to eliminate the skipping. It hasn’t skipped since. Finally, a few months later, I bought a pair of twist-grip shifters at Recycled Cycles and traded out the thumb levers ($50.) It fits my hands better now and makes shifting a lot easier.
Here’s what the bike looks like now:
Here’s what I like about Will’s mountain bike now:
- It’s light
- The narrow slick tires have very little rolling resistance (they inflate to 100 psi)
- The saddle is comfortable
- I like the lower gearing for hills (especially early in the season)
- Odette thinks I built it myself and that it was a bargain
Here’s what I don’t like about it:
- The brake levers are made for kid-sized hands
- I don’t like the geometry of the frame
- I don’t like the cleatless pedals
- I wish it had a higher end to the gearing range (the top gear is about the same as the second-to-highest gear on the middle chainring of my touring bike)
The experience reminds me of the old story about the guy using his grandfather’s 100 year-old axe: the axe-handle had been replaced half-a-dozen times and the axe-head at least a couple times. Now I still have Will’s mountain bike but I have to figure out what to do with the short forks, saddle and the little red frame in the basement.