Friday, December 22, 2006


I spoke too soon when I said the bike was operational on Tuesday. When riding back from the internet cafe I slamed the break on when a car pulled infront of me and nearly didn't stop in time. The rear wheel locked up and slid out of the dropout with the tire stuck against the frame. I almost had an accident. In the last few days I've been in a cranky mood which has may me wonder about the etymology of 'crank'. I punctured two tubes this week because I'd lost my tire levers (for the second time this year!). I made the fatal mistake of using a screw drive to put the tires back on. Dispite this glitch I still made some progres by replacing the pin in the crank arm. I also got the correct part to attach the rear hub to the chainstay to stop the wheel from shifting out of the rear dropout. I have also removed the light bracket from the headset so I can drop the handle bars down racer style. However the stem is too low so it looks funny but hopefully I'll be able to find a better headset when I go back at the Nunnery bike workshops in January.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Today I tried to fix up the chain. I returned my other chain to the bike shop and got longer one with 117 links. I went back eager to finally get the hub spinning but had no idea how difficult it is putting a chain back together. I had bought a chain breaker the previous day and with some effort I managed to get the rivet out to take out a few links. However I could not get the rivet to go back into the link and then realised that the chain breaker was damaged. I went back to the bike shop and was told that the chain breaker was not suited for this type of heavy duty chain and so the guy at the shop helped me put the rivet back in with a workshop quality tool by Park tools. This got me wondering why they even bother making lower quality chain breakers if they can’t do the job they are intended to do? I got the chain properly connected and bought some new tyres and rim tape. I put the new rim tape, tubes and tyres on the bike then spent some time trying to get the rear wheel aligned correctly. Using the spacers on the rear hub I found that if it went to far to the left the tyre would rub on the frame and if it was to far to the right the chain would catch the chain guard. Eventually I got it near right. 'Near' because the rear rim is a bit buckled. I then put on some better pedals and the old seat. I went for a test run up to the shops. The bike was fairly stable although the breaks were very slow to kick in. I can only imagine what it would be like trying to stop on a steep hill. The other major problem is the crank is very loose and made a funny noise. The left crank arm wobbles severely and makes a funny npise as you pushed the pedal down. The bike is now basically operational but I would not like to ride it in serious road conditions. There are four main things I have to fix up now: the crank, the breaks, truing the rims and a new paint job.

Monday afternoon (at the Nunnery)

Today, Randy and I went to the bike workshop in Newtown at "The Nunnery" in Forbes Street. I had no idea what the set up would be like, but basically its an informal group of people who just fix bikes. They help other people fix their bikes and giving bikes to people who need them. The bikes were collected from Council rubbish nights and have been divided up between those which are currently being worked on by people, those that have been finished and are ready to give away, and those that can be used for parts. One girl who was an exchange student turned up having heard that she could get a bike there. Within 10mins she had a new bike. A couple of young kids from the area turned up to get help fixing their bikes. I worked with one of them and put a new tube in the rear wheel but I also realised that wheels spokes where all loose and I couldn't fix that. I think the whole concept of the community bike workshop is brilliant as it demonstrates how easy it is to rebuilt things from waste and how with a little effort and good will people can be productive in a way that is not contingent on some profit motive. This was real social capital at work. The idea of giving bikes to people is also a covert form of activism as the more people get ridding the harder it will be for the government to ignore the demands for proper bike infrastructure. There is simply no excuse not to have a bike when you can get one for free.

We got to work on Malvern Star and managed to fine a new rear wheel that was almost the same as the one we had. I also found some racing style hand bars to stick on the front of the bike. They look completely wrong but until I get a new headset they'll do. We found lots of bolts, spacers and washers to secure both the wheels to the frame. Unfortunately I left the tubes and chain at home so we couldn’t do any more work on the bike that day.


Before getting to work on the bike I went to Bunnings where I bought a new 16mm and 14mm spanners, sandpaper, plastic gloves, safety glasses and a can of WD40. I tried to get some new bolts for the rims but quickly learned that some of these parts you can only get from a bike shop. I then went to my bike shop where I picked up some new bolts, a chain breaker tool, and a new chain. I started by removing the seat post, the handle bars, the chain and peddles. I would have taken the crank and the fork off but I don't have the tools to do this yet. I cleaned the bike with some degreaser getting rid of all of the gunk that had built up on the frame and around the crank. I started to sand the frame taking off some of the paint and rust but unfortunately I got the wrong type of stand paper (it was a wet paper and too fine grade). According to Randy I should use steel wool but I still think I also need some type of cleaning agent to help take the rust off. I put the rims back on the bike and tried to space the bolts and washers out on the hub so that the rim would be aligned correctly between the rear dropouts. Unfortunately the hub had seized up and couldn't get it to spin freely. I tried to put the chain on but it 9 links too short. I had hoped to get the bike running by the end of the day but it wasn't to be.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

This is the summer of bikelove. Over the next three months I’m planning to restore this vintage Malvern Star back to its original condition (or near original condition with some more modern parts). Looking at the Canberra Bicycle Museum webpage I’m guessing this bike was built in around the time of the “Star Range” between 1939 and 1960 although it could be from the late 60s or even early 70s. The rims are an old style 27 inch diameter and 1 & 1/4 inch width. The bike is solid steel and weights a tonne. It has a single gear and a BMX style break. I think with a little TLC this bike will look forward to many more years on the road.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park

Wellington is a cyclists' paradise with the only exception being its highly variable weather conditions. Despite a week rain and strong winds I was feeling optimistic about doing some riding this week and so I visited the 'On yer bike' bike shop to hire a mountain bike. At the shop I meet Nigel who was one the bike mechanics and an former bike-courier. I asked him about some good rides the region. He told me about Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park, which is a specially designed park with over 70km of single track. Nigel also invited me to join him for a ride after work and without any hesitation I said 'yes'. Makara park is located around 10km west of the Wellington CBD. However its straight hill climb to get to the park and so legs were buggered buy the time I got there. You can however take a bus to the suburb of Karori and hire a bike from another bike shop called Mud Cycles which is right near the park. I'd never ridden such an excellent tracks as most of the riding I've done in Australia has been on 4WD fire-tracks in the Blue Mountains. The riding experience was completely different and I realised how much more concentration is required in proper mountain bike riding. Its quite challenging keeping a rhythm going as you ride along a path that is one foot wide and perched along the edge of the mountain side. I was feeling both wobbly and out of puff just trying to keep up with Nigel. We rode up a track called 'Sally Alley' slowly took us up the mountain. From there we rode the 'Missing Link' trail to Makara Peak which almost killed me. The peak is at an elevation of 412m and it was unlike any hill I’d ever ridden in Sydney. From the peak we took the ‘Trickle Falls’ trail down to Allington Road in Karori West. The 'Trickle Falls' track was rated 'average' which was how I was feeling but thankfully my guide saved me from some of the more advanced tracks such as 'Vertigo' and the 'Leaping Lizard'. The Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park was actually built by a volunteer group of local cyclists over 10 years ago. The Wellington City Council agreed to give them the land to develop the mountain bike park and a volunteer association has taken responsibility for the parks ongoing management. It doesn’t cost a thing to use and its a wonderful place to visit.