Project Urban Beater

As I planned out a whole host of bicycle maintenance I completed this weekend (two sets of brakes, one set of tires, one new chain), I noted that I may want to acquire a second bicycle if I was planning to try and bike through the winter this year. Having a winter beater bike not only takes some wear off of your primary bike (not exactly my goal, considering how much I’ve thrashed my Bianchi) but also can be set up to be more robust for adverse conditions. Riding fixed-gear in the winter is recommended not only because the single-speed drivetrain is easier to maintain and has fewer places to gather road grit and dirt, but also because having no freewheel gives the rider a bit more control.

So after some craigslist searching for old frames with horizontal dropouts, I found a guy selling a Motobecane Track for a fraction of its retail price. Other than the brakes, which had been installed incorrectly, the bike was in great shape. Now, it’s sitting on the workstand in my basement, waiting to be transformed into the urban beater of my dreams.

The checklist for the project is relatively short, but even so the bike isn’t ready to ride yet. First and foremost, I need to fix the brakes issue. I’ve already removed the incorrectly installed rear caliper, and mocked up a Tektro R540 front that my Dad gifted to me from his own brake swap on his Trek. Next step is to cut the cable to size and actually hook up the brakes.

After that there’s only one more repair necessary: the bolt on the seatpost clamp has been sheared off. I don’t know whether it was an accident or done intentionally as an anti-theft action, but either way the seatpost is currently too tall for me and needs to be brought down. The clamp will have to be drilled out or removed some other way.

After those repair actions, there’s a few modifications I’d like to make.

Chain tugs: the bike has track forkends, so I’m going to put on a set of chain tugs to keep the chain tension constant and the rear axle aligned.

Handlebar: The flat bar on the bike is in pretty good shape, but I like road positioning so I’ll probably replace them with a set of either drop bars or bullhorn bars, depending on how much of a hipster I want to be.

Tires: The tires are 25mm, and skinny is actually good for all-season riding as long as you don’t encounter much ice. It isn’t urgent but putting on some Continental Grand Prixs will do wonders for tire durability.

Pedals: The pedals on there are a beaten up pair using Shimano SPD-SL clip-in shoes. I’m going to replace them with either SPD pedals for my current cleats or toe clips for safer winter operation.

Ancillaries: Light mounts will be essential. I’m researching a rack mount solution as well, but it’s not a top priority.

I’m excited for this. The Bianchi doesn’t give me any trouble, which is a good thing, but also means very little tinkering. I’ve been emboldened by doing my own chain, and now have a bike I can tinker with as well. The only downside is my quickly approaching the execution of the Velominati’s Rule 12: The correct number of bikes to have is n+1, where n is the number of bikes you currently have.


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