By Paul de Valera
Not to say a disparaging word about any contemporary bike shop, but it is just my perception that “back in the day” there was more of an inclination for repairing things rather than just being a glorified parts swapper. Sure, bikes have become more complicated with a myriad of component and frame materials and the next “new standard” ever looming on the horizon. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to take a bicycle that needs repair and being able to reverse the damage. And a lot of old bikes from the 60’s through the 90’s still roll through my doors all the time. Are you going to remove that cottered crank with a hammer? Do you even know what that is? At their rudiments, a bicycle has functionaly changed little in the last 100 years or so, it’s just that the details of that function have been altered. Here are some cool tools that I’m glad to possess. Several of them come in handy more often than you’d think.
First, some homemade goodies…
I usually wind up using simple homemade tools a lot in my daily wrenchings. The first one here is just a tube that I cut out of a Murray for added leverage in getting stubborn bolts and pedals off. I simply slide whatever wrench I’m using into the tube and apply Archimedes basic theory of leverage that would give even some chicken-armed roadie gain the strength of a titan. You can also use it to straighten out a bent crank arm. I also use the bar that I bolt by back door as a big lever when faced with really stubborn stuff, which is always a fun one for people to watch. “Is it going to come out?” they ask. “Does this look easy to you?” I blurt out between deep breaths. A good lever is an asset in the bicycle mechanics’ arsenal.
Another homemade tool is an awl that you can use to hog out the ends of a freshly cut cable, fish out a small objects, and other forms of small, detail work. Made from a spoke and piece of cable housing, I wind up using this tool all the time every day. You can make one by filing the end of the spoke into a sharp point and then sliding the housing over it. Simply bend the spoke so the J bend of the spoke catches the housing in a loop configuration. A free tool that will serve you time and time again.
Next, we move onto some old school tools that as far as I know are no longer made. Like the Brute.
I love this tool! It is a modified bumper jack that is used to straighten forks. You place one end on the bottom bracket and the other in the front wheel and just like a car jack, one clicks away until you get the fork straight again. You typically have to go one past where it looks straight as the metal will flex back some. Best to make sure the fork is not cracked anywhere and you can’t fix any fork that has a creased tube, but for those run into curb head-on type of scenarios this thing will save the day. I have saved so many forks with this tool; it is surprising that no one makes it still.
Flat spot pulling tools.
Made by the Overland Inc, a company long gone as a far as know, this tool is designed to pull a flat spot out of a rim. You loosen the spokes in the damaged area and then place the fingers in the worst part and tighten the clamp against the rim. These tools work ok. I have made many a 1970’s BMX rim much better than they were with these tools. You know you can’t always expect it to be 100% again but you can make a wheel that was crooked as a politician useable once again. I’d say a wider area where the tool contacts the rim and longer handles would make a better tool but this one’s a good idea none-the-less.
Bottom Bracket Removal Tool
Made by Kingbridge. I use this tool so much I made copies of them. If you have a stubborn or cross threaded bearing race in your threaded bottom bracket (remember those?) This tool will be essential in getting it out. How it works is you’ll have to first get one side of your bottom bracket out and then insert the tool in the shell. Then taking two wrenches, tighten it against itself as tight as you can, see the leverage bar above if you need more gusto. Then, using a large wrench you can break the stubborn shell free. Sometimes I’ve had to whack the wrench with a hammer for an impact wrench type effect or use a giant bar to break loose some Walschwinn factory installed cross threaded mess. Generally, the tool wins. I’ve near worn mine out I’ve used it so much and I gather it is older than I am and was used when I got it, such a good durable tool, if you could only say the same thing about that 1000 dollar fork you just bought…
Cottered Crank pin removal tool
Made by Park, tool #4 I think if I can make out the number on the casting. Here’s the deal with cottered cranks: They work. They work ok. I had a 1950 Olmo with cottered cranks that I rode to the top of every mountain with some heavy ass steel cottered cranks so I know they can take a beating. There are lots, I mean LOTS of different pins and crank pin hole diameters, angles etc. being this crank interface has been used and is still in use near a 100 years or so, not 100% sure once again did not “google it”, so forgive the blurry line on that one. The tool allows you to press out the pins on a cottered crank without damaging them so you can reuse them. I have a whole box full of pins and still get bikes in with pins that are different than what I have. One just lines up the tool to press out the pin and it pops out like magic. I think someone is reproducing this sort of tool again but not sure on that. Hope you enjoyed and will perhaps look to fixing things on your bicycle before replacing them next time around.
Paul is the proprietor of Atomic Cycles, publisher of Chicken Head Records Zine, promoter of the Coaster Brake Challenge and purveyor of cruiser bits at genuinebicycleproducts.com. This all takes place around the San Fernando Valley in southern California.
Travel much? Been anywhere interesting?
I did a trip to Europe in 2016 and biked around some capitals such as London, Paris, and Brussels. It was an amazing experience, the trip combined work and pleasure so in my free time I unfolded my Brompton and rode all day long. Europe is great for biking, on the first couple of miles you understand that the state takes city biking pretty serious. Everything is prepared and ready to make the ride smooth and comfortable. My next dream trip will be connecting Paris and London by bike, I know they do this on Bromptons every now and then.
By Adam Newman, photos by Jordan Clark Haggard
Almost as soon as mountain bikes burst into the public consciousness in the late 1970s, the bikes themselves began to stratify. Downhill, trials, cross country, enduro—the list goes on and on. But it wasn’t always this way. For a few glorious years, the mountain bike was just a bike, and all racers competed in all types of races with essentially the same machine.
While there’s no disputing modern bikes outperform the bikes of a generation ago in every way, riders are rediscovering the simplicity and camaraderie of those heady times. For 28 years, mountain bikers have been gathering at the Keyesville Classic stage race in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The bikes that were cutting edge when the racing began are now organized into their own vintage category, competing on the same course as modern, carbon fiber wünderbikes.
“This race always has a downhill and cross country [segment], and both are hard and challenging by today’s standards,” said Sky Boyer, who raced at Keyesville for the first time in 1990 and houses a substantial vintage bike collection in his bike shop, Velo Cult, in Portland, Oregon. “Back in the day, we [raced] them on rigid bikes so there’s really zero excuses for anybody showing up on a vintage bike. We did it back then, so you can do it now.”
For Eric Rumpf, the passion to both collect vintage bikes and to race them is fueled almost entirely by nostalgia. He takes special joy in finding bikes he idolized as a kid.
“Once I got older, not only could I afford the dream bike from my youth, they were cheap! The challenge became how many dream bikes could I find? How many could I rebuild just as I would have as a kid? There’s great satisfaction in finding something you’d only ever seen in magazines, rebuilding it back to a running mountain bike, and actually getting to ride it.”
Boyer saw that collectors had a passion for their bikes but were looking for a be er way to enjoy them, not just put them on a pedestal. He worked with the race organizers to start the vintage category in 2006. Now there’s such a diverse collection of vintage mountain bikes at Keyesville that the race has divided them into categories of “1986 and older” and “1987-1996.” The course itself has a variety of terrain to challenge anyone with a rigid fork, super long stem, rim brakes and sketchy tires.
“There’s no arguing that modern sports and muscle cars are faster, but the soul of driving an early 911 or classic Mustang is something that can’t be replicated. It’s the same for vintage mountain bikes,” Rumpf said. “Vintage mountain bikes are more challenging to ride. You get the same thrill of being on the edge of control, it just comes a little sooner.”
Despite the challenge, or perhaps because of it, more and more people are discovering the joy in simplicity, Rumpf said. Half are riders were barely even born when these bikes first hit the trails and are looking for a way to connect with a bygone era, he said, and half are folks who have been riding since these bikes since they were new and like things just the way they are.
“The number of racers grows slightly each year, but there is always a core group of collectors who make their way back year after year. I think that’s telling of a quality event.”
Boyer cites the laid-back vibe of the weekend and the positive camaraderie as the biggest draw.
“The general vibe of the race is exactly the same as back then,” he said. “Seriously, this race has never changed.”
Words and photos by Jeff Archer. This post originally appeared in Bicycle Times #6.
Almost everyone in the bike industry has a love of all bikes. Some prefer the road while others prefer the trails, but each rider can also appreciate the other. Many of the famous mountain bike makers, such as Jeff Lindsay, Gary Fisher and Ross Shafer, started out building and/or racing road bikes.
Most cyclists also appreciate the utilitarian possibilities of the bicycle. There’s something appealing about accomplishing some of your daily tasks on two wheels. Joe Breeze may be the best example of promoting the utilitarian bike. Back around 1977, Joe created a purpose-built mountain bike from scratch and is acknowledged as the first person to do so. His Breezer mountain bikes were available through 1998, when Joe quit distributing them. In 2003, Breezer came back with a full line of utilitarian bikes with the tag line, “transportation for a healthy planet.”
While Breezer became known for a wide range of transportation bikes, there was at least one earlier effort from another one of mountain biking’s founding fathers, Ross Shafer. Ross began building frames on his own starting in 1976. Then, in the early 1980s, he began building bikes for Santana during the day, while continuing to build for himself at night. These initial frames were sold under the Red Bush name, which was changed to Salsa Cycles in 1982. The Salsa frames were highly sought after, but many riders were more familiar with Salsa stems, which were available in an almost infinite variety of lengths and rises and seemed to be on nearly every custom bike of the era.
Manufacturers often liked to roll out special projects for the annual bicycle trade shows. In 1994, Ross had made a 24”-wheel frame for his son’s 9th birthday and took it to the trade show to present the concept. When attendees saw the bike, Salsa started fielding calls from people asking for a production version. Not wanting to let a niche go unfilled, a total of 10 frames were built and offered up for sale…to the sound of crickets chirping. The “demand” dried up before the paint had dried on the frames!
For the 1996 show, Ross, once again, wanted to have something new and unique for dealers. This show bike was the aforementioned town bike. The idea was to offer a complete bike with internal gearing, eccentric bottom bracket, rack, fenders, lights and a kickstand for well under $1,000. While the price obviously precluded the use of a custom U.S.-built frame, the show bike was made in-house using Columbus tubing. Many of the parts, such as the Shimano Nexus 7-speed internal hub and dual-leg kickstand, were production-ready parts, but others, such as the King headset and MAFAC cantilever brake, wouldn’t have been found on the production version. The prototype was finished in a unique metallic blue-to-clear-coat finish. Once again, the response from the show goers was very positive. Based on his previous experience with the 24” wheel, Ross asked buyers for deposits, which once again resulted in those chirping crickets. The prototype was the only Salsa town bike ever produced.
The next year, the Salsa name was sold to Quality Bike Parts and the town bike project never saw the light of day. With the recent popularity of similar bikes, it appears as if Ross was about a dozen years ahead of the curve.
To see what Ross has been up to lately, check out his newest creations at Six-Nine Design. To see a virtual tour of the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, including one of the 24”-wheel Salsa bikes mentioned above, check out MOMBAT.org.
Words and photos: Jeff Archer
Originally published in Issue #40
Since we don’t ride bikes on paper, the best way to design a bike is to ride it. The absolute best way is to have a series of bikes with small changes so they can be ridden back-to-back and compared. Get them into the hands of riders and then collect their feedback. It appears as if this bike is one of these test sleds.
Trials bikes were popular in the mid-1980s, but they were single purpose machines. They were great at going over obstacles and hopping around, but not so great on trails. Scot Nicol, founder of Ibis, thought there might be a market for a bike that could be ridden as both a trail bike and a trials bike. Thus begat the Mountain Trials model, a “traveling trials bike.” Since it was a new type of bike, samples were ordered up. This one has a serial number of 0004 and some of the details, such as the cable routing and dropouts, are different from the production bikes.
After this particular bike finished testing, it found its way into the hands of a trials rider and was modified to his preferences. It had a Fat Chance box crown fork installed along with Bullseye cranks, which included a homemade bash guard. When the frame was repainted, the crank and fork were painted to match.
The brakes are from the first Campagnolo mountain bike group, Euclid, where one arm actually pierces the other. The other parts are from somewhat mixed eras and were based on the owner’s preferences, so they aren’t necessarily “period correct” but they are “correct” to this particular bike.
A review from 1988 of one of the Mountain Trials stated, “The result is one of the sweetest riding bikes for technical riding we’ve tested.” Sounds like the prototypes did their job!
This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, which is housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at mombat.org.