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Tag Archive: Commuter Bikes

The Ultimate Commuter Bike

Road Bike Action Magazine built their “Ultimate Commuter Bike”. Here are the main specs on their bike:
Sycip Java Boy Frame, SRAM force Grouppo, Conti Tires and FSA wheels. I’m guesstimating a couple of G’s for that bike. So I started thinking, what would be my ultimate commuter bike? Let’s see, my bike has to be comfortable, reliable, fast, nimble, a little stylish and not too expensive.

So here it is:

My KHS F20-R

What is your “Ultimate Commuter Bike”???

Bicycle Bash by the Bay

Well, it has come and gone…the 2nd annual Bicycle Bash by the Bay held today in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The weather couldn’t have been better — 78 degrees and sunny!

Bikecommuters.com was there to provide coverage and to spread the word about bicycle commuting in the Tampa Bay area. Come with me as I walk around the incredible Vinoy Park venue…a tour in pictures, if you will!

First, a satellite view of the venue — that blue stuff to the right of the arrow is Tampa Bay itself. Vinoy Park is located on the north edge of downtown St. Petersburg and is RIGHT ON the water. It’s a great place for a great event!

Satellite view of Vinoy Park

Bikecommuters.com partnered up with the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization to distribute flyers, bike route maps, blinkies, “Share the Road” stickers and lots of other great giveaways. I recruited my good friend Terry (a fellow librarian, rocker and all-around good guy) to assist. We both had a blast meeting people and spreading the word.

Jack, spreading the word

On with the tour!

Bikes from every discipline were on hand…from mild to wild. Here are a couple of the highlights:

There was a fantastic vintage BMX collection on display (this is only a fraction of the full collection…I caught the guy right after he started unloading his trailer).

Vintage BMX collection

There were lots of freakbikes here, too. Many were hand-built by chopper-building extraordinaire Robert “Bullet” Ferrin.

Choppers and freakbikes

Here’s the winner of Bullet’s “$100 freakbike challenge”…this machine had the most pristine chrome on any bike I’ve ever seen!

Chrome cruiser...an event winner!

Check out this machine…a Welsh-made Newton trike. This bike’s front wheels are turned with steering rods attached to the fork’s steerer tube. It was, in my opinion, the coolest bike that stopped by the Bikecommuters.com booth!

Welsh-made Newton tricycle

Here’s a shot of “tent city” during the height of the event. It is estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 people came to the Bash, making it one of the largest (if not the biggest ever) bicycle-related events in the Tampa Bay area’s history.

Look at all those tents!

In addition to the bike shops, advocacy groups, free massages, bike and component manufacturers and others in attendance, there was also a lot of locally-made food. This tent was serving some BADASS Cajun cuisine…hot and spicy!

Cajun goodness

There were also lots of demos throughout the day…everything from cyclocross to BMX to fixed-gear stylin’. Here, some junior BMX racers from the Profile Racing Team demonstrate the starting gate “holeshot run”:

Profile Racing baddies bashing the starting gate

There was a short, tight grass cyclocross course set up for demonstrations of powerslide turns, run-ups and barrier jumping. On this racer’s first pass, he chose to shoulder his bike and run over the pair of 2ft. high plywood barriers. He did that with no problem. On his second pass, he decided to try to bunnyhop the first barrier and packed it in. I caught him just as he hit the ground:

Cyclocross demo mishap

The rider was OK, but he appeared to have damaged his front wheel…he got some technical assistance from his crew before he resumed the demo.

Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, the small (and growing!) but dedicated local contingent of fixed-gear riders was showing their stuff — barspins, wheelies, reverse circles, hangstills and skids galore. Here’s a rider doing his thang:

Fixed-gear shenanigans

While I was wandering around, collecting freebies from other tables and taking photos, I ran into Julie Bond from Tampa BayCycle. You may recognize Julie from her commuter profile (photographs lost to our hacker) on our very own website! Here she is hobnobbing with some cyclists:

Julie Bond of Tampa BayCycle

Finally, I caught the man behind this event in a quiet moment. Alan Snel is our area’s dedicated champion of all things bicycle, and his hard work, relentless spirit and great personality came together to make this event a success for participants and visitors alike. Alan, take a bow — you deserve your moment in the spotlight!!!

Alan Snel, the driving force behind this event

We’d like to thank Alan for inviting us to this event and getting us a table to use. We’d also like to thank the great folks from Sweetskinz for donating a few sets of tires that we are going to raffle off…those tires created quite the buzz at our booth — everyone who walked by could not resist picking them up, remarking about them and asking questions…good thing we had brochures to distribute! We’d also like to thank our friends at KHS Bicycles, who donated some goodies for us to give away and who support our advocacy efforts in many other ways. Finally, we’d like to thank the gentleman from Tampa Bay Freewheelers (sorry, buddy, I didn’t catch your name) who graciously offered us the use of a tent canopy for the event — we would have gotten a wicked sunburn without you, and we are gratefully for your group’s generosity!

Dropout Spacing, Axle Spacers and Hubs for Old Bikes

I was talking with Jeff about his new Sekine project the other day, and he was curious about how to fit wheels into this old frame — he had tried a modern set of wheels off his road bike, and the hub was way too wide to fit between the dropouts.

I told him that I was having a related problem with an old bike that I resurrected. In my case, though, I had a hub that fit just fine between the dropouts, but I had to add axle spacers to “build out” the proper “over-locknut dimension” (O.L.D.) so everything fit properly. Over time, though, I found out that my axle spacers were causing me some problems. I had some old 1mm thick axle spacers in my spare parts boxes, and they were no longer viable — they were warped or something, so I couldn’t adjust an excessive amount of play out of my rear hub bearings…I decided to remove them and reset my frame’s dropout spacing to fit the “native” 120mm O.L.D.

The culprits: old axle spacers that were no longer flat, causing excessive play in the bearings.

Old axle spacers

To respace a frame, you will need a length of threaded rod (“allthread”), some large washers and nuts to fit the rod, and an accurate metric ruler or precision calipers. I used 3/8″ allthread since it was closest to the diameter of the hub axle I am using.

Start out by taking the rear wheel out of the frame and measuring the dropout spacing from the inside face to the opposite inside face, like so:

Measuring dropout spacing

Here, it shows a spacing of 126mm. The second step is to insert the allthread and washers into the dropouts as shown below:

Allthread ready to push those chainstays together!

Simply crank on the nuts with an appropriate wrench — and do it evenly…a half-turn on each side at a time so everything stays aligned. Remove the allthread and washers periodically to check your progress. You may have to go pretty far past your “target” width so the chainstays and dropouts finish off at the appropriate distance. I squeezed my frame down to about 105mm before the respacing “took”, leaving me with a perfect 120mm spacing. Once the axle spacers were removed from my hub, I was able to get rid of the bearing play and everything was rock-solid once again!

Want to spread out your rear triangle rather than squeezing it down? Simply install the allthread with the washers on the INSIDES of the dropouts and twist those nuts accordingly.

I should add at this point that this method only works with steel frames. While it can be done to a certain degree with an aluminum bike frame, I don’t really recommend it — if you only have to squeeze or spread the dropouts a couple millimeters, it’s probably OK to use this method on an aluminum frame. DO NOT attempt this method on a carbon frame, though, unless you really want to break something!

For Jeff’s application, I think a “flip-flop” hub might be a perfect solution — plenty of room on the axle for proper spacers, if needed (just buy NEW spacers that you know are flat!), and room for a 5 or 6-speed cluster on the freewheel side of the hub.

The other thing Jeff wanted to do was go from the Sekine frame’s native 27″ wheels down to a more modern and versatile set of 700c wheels. Going to 700c wheels is better in the long run because there is much better availability of tires and rims for this size.

Doing the swap is easy enough to do, since 700c wheels are a bit smaller in diameter and will easily fit into such a frame. The one sticking point, though, might be finding brakes that have enough “reach” to work with the new, smaller wheels. Sheldon Brown offers a kludgy, but acceptable brake drop method, but I think it is a bit more elegant to find appropriate long-reach brakes…Ebay might be a good source, or you could always go for a modern set of Tektro long-reach badboys.

I want to add in a plug for fellow Floridians and master wheel builders Bicyclewheels.com. For about $100 or so, you can buy a handbuilt, rock-solid set of wheels. I went for their bottom-shelf 700c flip-flop set with Formula hubs on Weinmann rims…not expecting too much, but I can say that I’ve BEAT on these wheels: rolling down stairs, riding on 2 miles of cobblestones every day that I commute, etc. The wheels are still as true as the day they came in the mail!

So, get out there and tinker…there’s lots of good stuff you can do right at home to bring an old frame back to life, even with more modern components!