Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Bianchi Bugaloo

My usual commuter bike is a '96 Bianchi San Remo. Bianchi no
longer carries this bike in their catalog. It's a road bike
with ample clearance for stout tires, and it's equipped with
cantilever brakes, a triple crank, and three water bottle
cages. I use all three in July and August here in Oklahoma.
This is my two-wheeled equivalent to a pickup truck.

When I put the bike onto the repair stand a couple of months
ago, I was horrified to see rusty water pouring out of the
head tube. It had collected in the bottom bracket and when I
lifted the bike, it came rushing out. "No problem", I
thought, "I'll just pull the bottom bracket apart and replace
the bearing cartridge." But it wouldn't come out. My son and
I worked on it, heaving mightily to no avail. So eventually I
gave up and took it to Tom's.

Shameless plug: Tom's Rivertrail Bicycles in Tulsa is my
favorite local bike shop. I've known Tom for a long time and
I've bought a couple of bikes from him. He's always been
honest and very low key. His advice has been equally
straightforward and I trust him and his mechanics.

Tom couldn't get it out, and he pretty much destroyed my
removal tool in trying. No foul there, 'cause I couldn't move
it either. But he said the last resort was to drill a series
of holes around the circumference of the bearing retainer,
then cut between them with a chisel, allowing the bearing
cartridge to come out. After that, he said to cut two
vertical slots in the bearing retainer parallel to the long
axis of the bottom bracket, then bang the two pieces out. He
has a set of bottom bracket taps, so if I buggered the
threads, he could chase them out.

Today, I set up the drill press and with Jordan's help I got
the left side bearing retainer out of the Bianchi frame, doing
only negligible damage in the process. It was a bitch of a
job. I slipped once while chiseling between the relief holes
in the retainer and dinged one of the chain stays. It's a
small ding, nothing to get concerned about. I used a rotary
file to thin the retainer shoulder. And there are a couple of
chisel marks in the outside face of the bottom bracket
casting. Jordan helped a lot, and I think he learned that his
Dad can swear like a sailor. The threads look good, though
they show a lot of corrosion. I'll have the frame back to Tom
in a week or two, so he can get the other side out with the
Kingsbridge tool.

This has been a nasty job. I'm thinking about getting the
frame powder coated while it's apart. And I still have to
replace the bottom bracket cartridge. I'm thinking about
using an older Campy Record conventional bottom bracket
instead of a cartridge. Sure, it's not sealed, but I have one
in another bike and it's over 20 years old without showing any
appreciable wear. Regardless, it will probably be Spring
before the Bianchi is back on the road.


The spirit is willing, but the flesh is middle-aged.
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I'm not entirely sure that I'll use this regularly, but I'll make a go of it anyway. My purpose is to promote bicycling as a transportation alternative, realizing that it has some small effect on congestion, pollution, and geo-politics. But the main point is that bicycling is fun! How many people arrive at work after a stress-filled commute in a motor vehicle, spent inching through traffic, complaining about the mutton headed drivers out there on the freeway? Cyclists, on the other hand, have an easier commute despite the popular misconception that riding a bicycle in traffic is an extremely dangerous activity best attempted by near-suicidal daredevils. I'll write more on that, lots more.

Some background: I'm a middle aged guy with a family. I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA, but moved to Oklahoma back in 1987 for a job in electronics. I regularly commute to work via bicycle, and my son and I compete in some local events. I write for the Red Dirt Pedaler's newsletter "Wheel Issues" and I'm active with several advocacy groups. Lastly, I'm a member of the League of American Bicyclists and a League Cycling Instructor. (I'm old enough to be in the habit of calling the organization the 'League of American Wheelmen' but that's another story!)

I anticipate writing about common cycling subjects like commuting and racing, "how-to" pieces on various subjects, and some of the experiences of riding on the road. I take a slightly twisted view and try to inject some humor. This site will probably be a development area for the Red Dirt articles as I try out different ideas.