Health & Fitness

What I Realized From Tearing Aside and Rebuilding My Bike

It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday, and as an alternative of watching Netflix with a chilly beer in hand like normal, I’m hunched over my bike wheel, which is wedged sideways into my sofa. Tonight’s activity: Attempt to take away the cassette, the sequence of cogs hooked up to the rear wheel, with out the assistance of a series whip, a instrument used to maintain the cogs in place as you loosen their lockring.

At this level, I’m almost completed rebuilding my bike. It has taken many hours and much more journeys to the bike store for elements and instruments to get right here. I figured I may improvise my approach round shopping for another piece of . Apart from, the chain whip appears ridiculous. It’s only a quick size of chain with a deal with hooked up to it, extra like a medieval torture system than one thing you’d discover in a toolbox. Who wants that? However after half an hour of fruitless wrenching in my lounge, I notice I’m completely mistaken.

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I want that chain whip.

And in addition that beer.


This was one in every of many realizations I had over the 4 months it took me to disassemble, repaint, and rebuild my beloved bike, a 1980s Puch Pacifica. I had toyed with the thought of rebuilding it principally since I first purchased it off Craigslist 4 years in the past. In December, my girlfriend and I moved from New York Metropolis to Los Angeles, and naturally our bikes got here with us, strapped to the again of our automotive. However a five-day cross-country drive over salty roads took its toll. My bike’s drivetrain regarded prefer it had been resting on the underside of the ocean for 30 years, and on the body, rust spots had bloomed round each little nick within the paint. Then, a couple of weeks later, its wheels had been stolen. I took it as an indication from the universe: You possibly can’t trip it, so that you may as properly tear it aside and repair it up.

My bike earlier than the rebuild Michael Charboneau


Sounds easy sufficient, however I’m not a motorbike mechanic. Once I began, my wrenching abilities had been restricted to issues I’ve picked up whereas protecting my creaky outdated trip in form—stuff like altering a tire and adjusting the brakes. However I really like driving, and I’ve all the time loved engaged on my bike, so I made a decision to make the leap and do the rebuild. That meant eradicating decades-old elements from the body, having it sandblasted, portray it, and placing the entire thing again collectively once more. I additionally needed to clear up all of the outdated elements I used to be reusing, just like the shifter meeting and brakes, which meant lots of time scrubbing tiny bits of metallic with rubbing alcohol and a wire brush. I purchased a couple of new elements as properly, like a series, shifter cable, rear derailleur, seat, tires, and tubes.

All instructed, it price me about $487 to get my bike in form, together with elements, paint, instruments, and sandblasting. I may have executed it for much less, however I splurged on gadgets like handlebars and a few good gravel tires. That’s nonetheless no small expense, and particularly contemplating the effort and time this undertaking took, it’s honest to ask whether or not the rebuilt was price it. Why not simply purchase a brand new bike?

Apart from the truth that a brand new trip can price 1000’s of , I simply actually love my outdated, beat-up set of wheels. It has seen me by way of numerous commutes and lengthy rides out of city, and survived a number of crashes. I wished to study extra about the way it works and the right way to deal with it, and that’s precisely what this undertaking gave me the possibility to do.

Desirous about attempting a rebuild your self? Listed here are a number of the different issues I realized alongside the way in which.

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Get the appropriate instruments

As my blunder above illustrates, you will have greater than only a crescent wrench and a can-do perspective for a undertaking like this (though each of these are important). There are all kinds of particular instruments for eradicating and attaching issues like cassettes, pedals, and backside brackets. Park Instrument has a extremely helpful part on its web site that may make it easier to decide what’s in your bike and what implement you want. Don’t wish to buy a bunch of instruments? See if there’s a instrument library close to you that has them, or a motorbike store with open benches the place you may work in your bike for a small charge. I found the Bicycle Kitchen close to my condominium, and it has been a godsend as a supply of substitute elements, instruments, and information. As for paint, Spray.Bike has a wonderful lineup of merchandise, together with primer and loads of colours and finishes.

bikeThe teardown (and my snoozing canine) Michael Charboneau


Take photos of the elements as you disassemble them

I solely did this whereas eradicating some elements, however I want I had executed it extra incessantly. Whereas placing every part again collectively, I needed to zoom in on outdated, grainy images of my bike and guesstimate how issues match. I figured it out, but it surely wasn’t straightforward. Don’t count on you’ll keep in mind how all of the elements are assembled. You received’t.

Be affected person

Whether or not it’s hoping for good climate to color the body (I discovered I may solely paint early within the morning, earlier than the wind picked up), or ready round for a component to reach within the mail, rebuilding a motorbike takes time. This was the toughest half for me. It appeared like I may solely make progress briefly spurts earlier than I spotted a component didn’t match or I wanted a brand new instrument. However I slowly realized that’s a part of the method, particularly since this was my first rebuild. Nonetheless lengthy you suppose your undertaking will take, add a month, not less than.

bikeMaking use of a coat of primer to the naked body Michael Charboneau


Ask for assist

For those who’re occupied with rebuilding or performing some main upkeep in your bike, now’s the time to discover a good native bike store, the place you will get assist choosing out the appropriate elements and instruments. There are additionally loads of nice assets on-line. I discovered Park Instrument’s sequence of how-to movies on YouTube completely invaluable, and so they cowl almost each little bit of upkeep you may carry out on a motorbike.

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Working in your bike is an effective way to get to understand it

Now that my bike is painted and rideable, it’s surreal seeing an concept I had thought of for years develop into a actuality. I’m additionally amazed at how a lot I’ve realized in just some months of wrenching. Bits of my bike that was a complete thriller to me (What springy magic makes a derailleur work? How does a backside bracket keep in place?) at the moment are issues I learn about—issues I’ve taken aside, cleaned, adjusted, and screwed again on with my very own two fingers. It makes driving an much more satisfying expertise, and I wouldn’t commerce it for something. However I would shell out for an additional outdated bike to work on.

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