Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"New" utility bike

Earlier this year I was driving around town in the rain thinking about bicycles when I came across an old Schwinn Suburban on the side of the road with a “free” sign on it.

Naturally, I slammed on the brakes and tossed it in the trunk of my car. (This is the second Suburban in the fleet. The other one I purchased at a thrift store last year for $11.)

Over a period of several months, I disassembled the bike and went to work with a steel brush removing all the rust. I sanded everything down. The fenders were painted black, the frame cobalt blue.

Everything was greased up and I slowly put the bike back together. I found an old front rack and a rear rack. At the Arcata Recycling Center I picked up two spanking-new tires for $1 each.

The goal was to assemble a functioning commuter bike for less than $10, but due to some unforeseen technical difficulties with the derailleur, the project cost a whopping $25. That included the paint, which I had to special order at Thomas Home Center because stores in town don’t stock “metallic” paint.

utility bike

On Tuesday evening I finally figured out how to make the rear derailleur work and took the bike on a short maiden voyage around the neighborhood and down to the Mad River.

There are still some adjustments that need to be made, but today I logged 16 commuter miles on it without a hitch. When I get home from tonight’s MCSD meeting, my daily mileage will be 20.5.

utility bike front

Not bad for a free bike.

There’s only one catch – the bike is a giant, honking, heavy chunk of steel. And those thick tires I bought for a $1 each are fat and only pump up to 70 psi.

The net result: a very SLOW and HEAVY bike.

This project didn’t really make any sense, being that I’ve got nicer bikes that I could be riding.

Still, it was good practice for my next project – restoration of a fancy shmancy aluminum Cannondale road bike, which I got for free on craigslist. This project, like the utility bike, will proceed at a snail's pace. But if you devote 30 minutes once or twice a week to such a project, pretty soon you're done.

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