Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Malvern Star Single Speed conversion - Part 6

OK as always you think you have finished something - not that I know that feeling very often - and then there are always more tweaks to perform. For the Single Speed conversion the majority of the recent tweaking has been on the handlebars.

The old handlebars that I had upside down - which looked kinda weird but actually wasn't too bad a position - were out. As I discussed in Part 5 I had ordered some track style handlebars and they had arrived during the week.

Straight away after the tight fit to install the new bars on the head stem I noticed an issue that was not discernible beforehand, the bars were slightly thicker than the 22mm of the previous one. The 1mm or so difference in size made it impossible without some modification to fit the old brake levers I am currently using.

There was also the problem of where to put the brake levers. The shape meant that they would have to be mounted near the centre at the head stem. I am not too keen on this as I like brakes to be in easy reach so I can stop suddenly if needed, without having to switch my hand position.

The track bars were unfortunately not going to work, so I pulled them out and will probably flog off on Ebay one day. Back on went the old bars until I worked out something else to use.

The something else came the next day when I revisited the handlebars I had on another secondhand bike I had picked up off Freecycle. The frame on the bike was crap and the bars I never liked because they were just too wide - almost 670mm. But now with another look I realised that if I chopped off 5cm off each end I would have enough space for the grips and the old levers. So that is what I did.

A hacksaw was used and 5cm lopped off and then with the bars installed it gave the bike a completely new look. It is a look that I like. The bars won't go completely horizontal and they have a slight upward slant but this has the added benefit that I can now flip the bike upside down and stand it. Good for working on the under carriage.

The new bars meant my front brake cable was slightly too long, so it also meant a small job to chop 10cm off the length to get it looking correct. This gave me the chance to lubricate the cable at the same time with some WD40 which I hadn't done before.

Apart from the bars the only other thing that has kept me busy has been the lefthand crank which has decided to be a bit troublesome. Without an 8mm allen key to fit I had been bodging it with a smaller one and a screw driver, the lug just kept loosening off though. So it was a trip around to the brother-in-laws to get the right size and fix this.

And the final touches were added over the weekend when I went down to the helpful LBS and got myself a bell for free. They just happened to have a box out the back full of them and gave it away.

The commute has taken on a new style and the Malvern Star has its very own spot to ride the trains to and fro work.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Malvern Star Single Speed conversion - Part 5

After the disaster in Part 4 of not being able to get tyres on the weekend the first chance I got I popped into the LBS handily located across the road from work. With my small shopping list I ended up walking out paying far more than I thought I would for the rest of the bits I needed to finish off this project - new pedals, a seat, brake shoes and those tyres.

It was an eager me when I got home. Straight out to the shed to get this project finished. I was very keen to get on and start riding and the finish line was well and truly in sight.

My first task was to get those tyres on the rims. I put the tubes in the tyres and using tyre levers worked the tight tyres over the edge. It wasn't that easy, as you almost need three hands, but with a bit of patience they went on without trouble. I gave some air to the tubes, with the semi-useless hand pump that I had, just to give it some sort of rigidity but would have to a better job of that later.

With both wheels out of the way I turned my attention to saddle. I whipped off the old tatty BMX seat and installed the new one on the stem. I then put the new pedals on the cranks and bolted the cranks onto the bottom bracket. The bike was looking the real deal but the details needed finishing.

The old BMX seat is beyond repair

The major detail which needed doing was the rear brake. The one I stole from the SunTour bike was set up to be connected in reverse to the way I wanted to use it. This shouldn't have been a problem to change except cable connector wasn't designed to be removed. In the end I had to grind off the cable connector and install, after drilling the hole bigger, the one from the Malvern Star.

The brake shoes, which always take a little bit of time to adjust, went on and then it was a quick trip in the car down to the service station to properly inflate my wheels. As I am only familiar with the normal car type tube valves a little lesson was learned about Presta type valves in the process of inflating them. They don't have a built in spring so they won't return a reading on the gauge.

I was blowing up the tyres trying to see the pressure and then realised that they were already well and truly inflated. They needed to be around 100psi, so I just had to guesstimate it.

When I got back it was time to cook dinner so I would have to wait a little bit longer to take out the steed. But it wasn't long after sustenance that I was putting the last finishing touch to the machine - the chain.

The chain I had was a dedicated BMX single-speed chain, which can accommodate the slightly larger teeth of the sprockets. To get the right length, I only needed in the end, to take two links out.

With the chain installed the bike was ready. Even though it was almost 9 at night I couldn't wait to test ride. I maneuvered the incredibly lighter machine out to the street and took off around the nearby carpark. I have to say it was an incredible sensation. The bike was ultra quiet and seemed to just glide along. I was not going to miss the gears at all.

It is now a day later and I have fine tuned the bike to suit my size and taken it out on a long ride around town. It is almost perfect. Almost because I have ordered new drop track-style handlebars .. and I will wait to pass judgment to see if the new bars make it special.

I now have what I wanted from the beginning, the perfect very light weight commuter bike to take on the train each day .. and an early birthday present.

continued in the final Part 6 ...

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Malvern Star Single Speed conversion - Part 4

Things are taking shape in the project. After getting excited with the new parts that I arrived in Part 3 the majority of the tale since has been taken up with detailing - and there has been plenty to do.

First things first and I needed to fix the front forks so that the wheel axle fitted into the slots. I sent a text to my brother-in-law and I was kindly allowed to borrow his grinder. Once I had this in hand it was a simple 5 minutes job to make the slots slightly bigger to make them fit.

Then I was back on the frame to make it look like the real deal. I returned to cleaning up the rust patches and making the chrome bits shine. I partially followed the advice of a detailing expert except that for the rust i just went straight to the sandpaper and sanded back to bare metal. Ideally one day I will respray the entire frame but at the moment I like the old colour and the "Malvern Star" stickers.

Once the frame was in a state that I thought was reasonable it was time to make it ready to travel. This involved giving it a couple of all over sprays with a clear enamel coating. The clothes line came in handy for this job.

Now that the frame was ready it was time to focus my attention on the old handle bars and head stem. Using that detailing advice I used steal wool and WD40 to clean up the chrome parts and make it shine. I was surprised by how successful this was.

By the time I got back to it the frame had well and truly dried so it was time to reattach the front fork. I cleaned up the bearing housing and repacked with plenty of grease and screwed it all back together. Then attached the old - now gleaming - head stem and handle bars. This time though instead of the old upright position I flipped the handle bars over and had them facing down.

Next up I was installing the front brakes and lever. The old brakes from the Malvern wouldn't do though. They were just too rusted to clean up. So luckily I was able to scavenge an almost exact pair off an old SunTour bike that used to belong to my sister - well, it still officially does belong to her, but she hasn't used it in about 20 years.

I was once again getting excited and decided to put the wheels on to see what it looked liked. I liked what I saw.

The weekend wasn't entirely successful though. And the major disappointment of the last two days has been that I was unable to get any tyres. I went down to the bike shop on Saturday morning prepared to depart with cash to get some rubber only to be told they had one wheel of the size - 700x28 - I wanted.

One wheel is not much good so I resolved to check out, for the first time, the only other bike shop in town. Unfortunately by the time I got there they were closed and not to be opened until Monday. I would just have to put my desire to ride the new machine until I could get the tyres during the working week.

By the end of the weekend I had done as much as I could. I had stolen the other brake from the SunTour and tried out my seat options from my spare parts - none of which I am happy about. So with just a bit of shopping to do I can see the finish line approaching now.

continued in Part 5 ...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Malvern Star Single Speed conversion - Part 3

Developments have occurred since Part 2 of the tale of the Malvern Star conversion. Two boxes of parts arrived from Melbourne.

There is always something magical about getting a parcel in the mail. Even better when you don't expect it and there they are, two large boxes waiting when you walk in home after work.

I hastily opened and spilled out the contents of nuts, small boxes, bubble wrapped silver objects and of course two large bicycle wheels. The wheels were amazing and seemed almost weightless to lift. I put them aside as I unwrapped the cranks and chainring and started to bolt them together.

I skipped dinner as I got the frame and made sure the bottom bracket screwed in and fitted - it did. I attached the cranks and laid out the bike on the floor with the rear wheel attached and the front wheel roughly where it should go. It all looked very nice.

One small problem though that I found with the new parts is that the front wheel axle doesn't fit into the slot on the front fork. It seems to be less than a mm out. Nothing though that a quick angle grind can't fix.

Also in my haste to check out all the bits I still have not completed a fundamental job - cleaning up and detailing the frame. I have started, by sanding out some of the rust patches, but still have a little way to go.

I have at this stage still decided to keep the original paintwork and just sand out the rust and clear coat it all with an enamel spray. So my eager work attaching the cranks and bottom bracket will have to be removed. But it was worth it.

continued in Part 4 ...