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Category Archives: Advice

It’s not in a bike shop’s interest to provide advice which may save cyclists’ time and money. However, we’re not like other bike shops – we’re willing to share our info.

Racer to a Tourer Conversion

A very nice young man came to see us January 2020. We’ll call him Andrew (not his real name). He had just arrived in the UK, would be staying for a few years and wanted to tour various parts of Yorkshire & beyond. After listening to Andrew’s needs, RCE advised him upon; types of touring bikes, carrying capacities, gears ratios, handlebar shapes, frame materials & geometry, shifters, tyre size & puncture-resistance, etc.

Although Andrew had a budget of about £550.00, it was not enough for his ideal bike! No problem – RCE advised him on alternative shops and off he went – we never thought we’d see him again.

Lo and behold, a couple or three weeks later, he comes smiling into the shop with a possible candidate bike:

01 Start

Andrew: “Thanks for all that info you gave me last time – it was really useful. OK, I’ve got this bike. I’ll need it looked at in detailed, a rear pannier rack, mudguards, bottle & holder, high-puncture-resistance tyres, and whatever you can advise me on. I have a £400.00 budget. What can you do for me?”.

RCE: “We’d spent a lot of time with you last time – without any recompense – that’s not an issue. Therefore, a) Thank You for acknowledging our help, b) Thank You for coming back and c) Thank You for the challenge. Looking forwards to it!”.

Andrew: “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. You know what you’re talking about and I trust you.”.

After a few more reciprocated ‘Thank You’s we agreed to carry out a detailed assessment (£12.50) of the candidate bike afore pumping a lot of £££s into the project.

Our assessment indicated that the following needed attention:

  • Headset (bearing where the forks go into the frame) – more grease,
  • Bottom bracket (bearing between the pedals) – take up wear’n’tear,
  • Wheels – re-tension and true,
  • Wheel hubs – take up wear,
  • Brake callipers – clean and take up wear on arms,
  • Gear systems (front & rear) – the bike came with gear ratios for racing – would need to change that if Andrew wanted to get up all the hill in Yorkshire and maintain a high speed on the levels and downhills,
  • Gear shifting – the existing shifters we’re on the downtube – not ideal, preferred position was shifting from the handle bars,
  • Tyres – the bike already had high-puncture-resistant 700x25C Schwalbe Marathons on – preferred choice was for 28C tyres, and,
  • Rack – being a vintage racing bike it does not have any upper-fastening facilities.

02 Handlebars

03 Chainset

03 Shifters

04 Freewheel

Of prime import was the gear ratios. The chainset (front cogs) was a ‘double’ with a 53T outer and a 48T inner, and, the freewheel (rear cogs) was 6-speed with 23T low gears and a 14T high gear. This gives:

  1. lowest gear = 2.09 (48 divided by 23),
  2. highest ratio = 3.79 (53 divided by 14), and
  3. overall ratio = 181% (3.79 divided by 2.09). When we were kids, those ratios used to kill us – especially in our Pennines town.

As Andrew wanted braking & shifting from the handlebars, the only reasonable option was for Shimano Tourney Sti (Shimano Total Integration) brake/shifters. Unfortunately, these are only available in 7-speed (for, either a double or a triple chainset) and only for the appropriate 7-speed freewheels (unlike the one provided on the bike (a 1989 Sach Huret model – different spacing between sprockets). Further, even within Shimano’s range 6 and 7-speed, shifter cable-pull ratios and freewheel sprocket spacing are different – therefore, the two are NOT compatible. Meaning, that only a Shimano (or compatible) 7-speed freewheel could be used. Being wider than a 6-speed freewheel, question: would there be enough space on the rear spindle for a 7-speed one. And if not, what could we do about it? A test-fitting of a Shimano 7-speed freewheel 14/28T proved successful – without having to piss-about changing the rear axle.

Next task – the chainset. One cannot throw on any old chainset onto a square-taper bottom bracket. Some will sit too close the frame – perhaps hitting the frame or not allowing the front dérailleur (FD) to shift the the smallest sprocket. Counterwise, some will sit too far away from the frame and not allow the FD to shift to the biggest sprocket.

Another chainset consideration was that of using a double or a triple one. A triple would offer very wide ratios but require changing the FD for a triple-compatible model (and more £££s).

Final chainset consideration was that of crank length (the distance from the centre to where the pedals are). The existing chainset was 165mm – not ideal for Andrew’s leg length. A minimum length of 170mm was required.

So, what do do? Well, being the best bike workshop, this side of Nagasaki, RCE had over a 100 chainsets to select from. Narrowing down to 7-speed options, with (at least) a 170mm crank length) and with the correct profile to sit on the BB, narrowed down our options. After calculating gear ratios a further discussion with Andrew, we arrived upon a solution – 170mm, 50/42T double (a lightly-used Sakae with replaceable sprockets. The new gear rations:

  1. lowest gear = 1.5 (42 divided by 28) (previously 2.09),
  2. highest gear = 3.78 (50 divided by 14) (previously 3.79), and
  3. overall ration of 230% (3.78 divided by 1.5) (previously 181%).

So, RCE managed to keep his highest gears ratio similar AND reduce the lowest gear ratio by a whopping 28% (that should get Andrew up all Yorkshire hills). A further 3% can be garnered with the extended crank length.

Gee, we’re good!

The existing rear dérailleur (RD) would not cope with a 28T freewheel and the replacement chainset ratio. A Shimano Tourney, correct cabling and special ferrules (for older frames) would be require.

Another major concern was the tyres – would a 28mm wide fit on the wheels, would the wheel sit the frame and then, can we then fit full mudguards? Being a proper vintage racer, this frame’s clearances were narrowly limited. Test fitting of 28C tyres and mudguards proved unsuccessful! (A lot or cursing ensued). The 25C tyres would stay and 28mm wide mudguards would (just) work.

But wait, we haven’t even priced out the project yet! Adding up the price of new components and our efforts gave us a figure of over £500.00 – beyond Andrew’s budget!

Even the option of lightly-used second-hand Tourney Stis and a second-hand rack still didn’t get to the £400.00 mark!

Only one thing to do – DISCOUNTS! Dealing with someone so nice, who was also buying all components from RCE, we were glad to make it affordable for Andrew!

Here’s the completed project after carrying the last 6 steps:

  1. carry out works,
  2. get Andrew back into the workshop to finalise the exact positions of the Stis, handlebars and stem,
  3. fit bartape,
  4. advise Andrew on correct use of gears, loading of rack, basic maintenance, security, etc.,
  5. take our payment, and
  6. get the bike back in after 50 to 100miles for final tweaking.

05 Completed

06 Shifters and Bartape

07 Cable Stops

08 Chainset

09 Freewheel and RD

10 Rack

Although projects such as this one is just-another-day to us, we were proud-as-punch with our results. Though not as much as Andrew!

11 b Customer anon

Re-Cycle Engineering – not like the others!


Lilliputians riding tricycles?

We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror. - Karl Marx

How NOT to transport a pizza on a bike.

And the, some freaking idiot invented the “lady’s bicycle”.

Profit: the 4 types.

Finally, a practical guide for roadside wildflower viewing. Made us chuckle.

Video: watch it all, cyclists may be interested at 4:07.

How many grammar nazis does it take to change a lightbulb?

“I wanna play cricket on the green
Ride my bike across the street
Cut myself and see my blood
I wanna come home all covered in mud”

and, finally

Live version with Lou Reed:

Until next time, take care.

 

Stolen Bikes

When a cyclist has had his/her bike stolen, there are several options available:

  • do nothing – “bicycle theft is an eventuality of cycling, I’ll do without”.
  • buy a cheaper bike – “because that one will be stolen as well”.
  • buy a brand new one – “I can afford it”.
  • contact the insurance company (in the rare occasion that the bikes IS insured) – “they will sort me out a new one!”.

In just a few cases the victim will contact local bike shops hoping that the thief has tried to sell it to them or is having it repaired by them and the shop will (hopefully) call them back. Most are disappointed when the bike shop takes a tacit interest in their plea. Some are astonished when the bike shop tries to sell them a replacement!

At Re-cycle Engineering, we do things differently – we are not like other bike shops. We actually care about their plight and do something about it. We keep written records and advise accordingly. We may be the only shop in Leeds who does – because we don’t want to buy, sell or repair looted cycles!

Although “why bother to keep records – no one ever does anything about it!” may be valid response, we think differently:

  • doing nothing and doing without a bike means that the thieves have won and you have lost out on a cheap, convenient, environmentally-sound and healthy form of personal transport.
  • buying a cheaper bike “because that one will be stolen as well” will degrade your cycling fun.
  • buying a brand new one because “I can afford it” is environmentally unnecessary.
  • getting a replacement from the insurance company (if any) is again environmentally unnecessary.

We have successfully caught several thieves in the past. For example, a recently stolen bike came in for a repair. We got the thief’s details and called the police – they waited in a car outside (middle of winter) for the thief to return to pick up the bike. They ‘lifted’ him and was successfully prosecuted.

Of course, we put ourselves at risk – we’ve personally been threatened with violence and arson! That’s called “Taking Personal Responsibility”.

We also believe that notifying the Law is an essential because

  • the statistics become more realistic and the Police can then justify appropriate resources, and
  • you can be contacted if the bike is recovered.

In almost every instance the basic issues are not addressed:

  • how did the bike get stolen in first instance and
  • what can be done about it in the future.

To avoid having your bike stolen, our advice is:

  1. Get a good Sold Secure rated lock (nothing else will do) – in our experience, about 98% of these thefts are due to poor security (usually cheap cable & D-locks). The thieves are most likely to steal the bike with the least secure lock.
  2. If you leave your bike in the garage/shed, make sure it is locked up to something solid with a Sold Secure rated lock – about a third of all bikes are stolen from such places. Once the thieves are in there, they are out of sight and have all the time in the world (and quite often, the tools are already there too).
  3. If you have to leave your bike in a public space, don’t leave it in exactly the same place every day – the thieves will soon know your timetable & habits and will know when to bring the necessary equipment to relieve you of your pride-and-joy.
  4. Make sure that that your bicycle is security-marked with a recognised system (e.g. DataTag) – the thieves tend to stay clear of bikes which they can’t pass on.
  5. Get some insurance – just in case (shop around, check your Home Contents Insurance Policy).
  6. Make record of the bicycles frame number (usually located under the bottom bracket shell – the part of the frame between the pedal cranks).
  7. Have someone take a photograph of you and the bike – make sure that you are on the left hand side of the bike and that the photo is take from the right hand side (so that anyone can see the make & model, the chainset (front cogs) and the front & rear dérailleurs (gear shifters on the frame).
  8. Register your (new) bike on the supplier’s or manufacturer’s website (if they have the facilities).

IF you are interested, we do sell Sold-Secure rated locks and DataTag equipment – pop into the shop to see for yourself.

Remember most stolen bicycles will only be passed on for £10 or £20 to fund some sad ba£$%rd’s habit.

Happy, safe and secure cycling.

 

Student Discount

We just did a quick search on Leeds bicycle shops to find out which ones offer student discounts. We got quite a surprised!

Although Leeds has over 50,000 students, it appears that, other than us, not one (yeah, that’s right, NOT ONE) offer any support to them.

This is another reason why we can say that “we are not like other shops“.

Re-Cycle Engineering's Student Discount

So, just to reiterate,

Re-Cycle Engineering provides a 10% discount on new parts and accessories to all students – including A-levels, undergraduates and post-graduates – wherever they study!

Unfortunately, this discount excludes our (already very good) offers.

 

Steel Rims and Brake Pads

It’s quite frustrating for us when we can see an obvious problem with a bike which compromises the cyclist’s safety. Even more so when, after we have pointed it out, the customer thinks that we are trying to sell them something they don’t need.

We are forever advising cyclists with steel-rimmed wheel to change their aluminium-specific brake pads to leather-faced brake pads. Below is a photo of a bike which crashed into the back of a car because the cyclist couldn’t stop in time. At the time it was raining. The rider ended up crashing into and breaking the rear window. Thankfully the cyclist was fine after a few days but £70 poorer (cost of the screen).

Bent tubing

Bent tubing

As you’ll see the, the frame downtube is buckled, the headtube is bent backwards and the front wheel cannot be used for steering. Essentially, the frame is a write-off. If you look closely at the above image, you’ll notice that the front brake have aluminium-specific brake pads acting upon a steel-rimmed wheel – not a good combination (especially in the wet)!

Badly-adjusted brakes

Badly-adjusted brakes

Similarly, the above picture shows the front brake lever being able to move all the way back to the handlebars – we all know that the braking will be ineffective and a risk to the rider.

Advice: If you have steel rims – used leather-faced brake pads (see picture below). Similarly, carbon, ceramic and aluminium rims will need their own type of pads. Ask your usual bike shop if you are unsure – if they are unsure, find another bike shop!

Advice: Check your brake  pads once a week for wear – if any of the tread is missing, replace them immediately with the correct type.

Advice: Adjust for wear AT THE ADJUSTER ONLY (usually found on the brake lever or the brake caliper – DO NOT re-clamp the cable at the cable-clamp. This will result in you needing a new inner cable every time you change the pads – a cable which has previously been clamped at a position between the new position and the brake lever will be compromised – if the cable is going to fail it will fail at the old position and exactly when you need it the most!

Advice: If you are, in any way, unsure bring your bike into our shop for a free appraisal.

Remember: Never, never, never imperil your safety!!!

Leather-faced brake pads

Leather-faced brake pads

Best wishes and safe-riding.

P/S. We estimated a repair cost of £210 (parts & labour) for providing a used Reynolds 531 frame, transferring the components and correcting all defects.

 

Ripped-Off

Yesterday, a customer brought in a bike because the gears weren’t working well.

Fine – we thought “probably needs adjusting, a cable change or a bit of advice on using the gears appropriately”. On enquiring as to the bike’s history, we discovered that she had bought it as a pre-owned item via the internet and was impressed by the seller’s knowledge of the bike.

Fine, we thought “the lady’s got a bargain and we’ll get her back on the road asap”.

NOT FINE. On examining the purchase we noted that:

  • both the wheels had been replaced by extremely low-quality ones,
  • both wheel spokes were slack
  • the gear shifter was 7 speed in conjunction with a 6 speed freewheel (therefore incompatible and a snowball-in-hell’s chance of working),
  • the freewheel was worn out,
  • both front and rear brake cable needed replacing
  • the rear gear changer
  • the chain was worn out and
  • the brake pads were at the end of their life.

It looked as though the seller had taken 2 worn out bikes to make one worn out bike. Not a bargain. Not a viable purchase. Not a safe bike. Not an honourable seller. Another buyer ripped-off.

After buying the bike and then spending more to get it into a safe & efficient condition, the bike wasn’t such a bargain!

Advice:

  • always buy a bike from a reputable shop (i.e. one recommended by other cyclists).
  • if you are going to buy a used bicycle, make sure that you have test-ridden it AND take along someone who knows about wear’n’tear issues.
  • don’t buy on the basis of colour, style, visual condition – remember a bike is the sum of it’s components (not just a brand or model).
  • if you are unsure about your potential purchase, WALK AWAY – there’ll always be another one.

We see about 3 of these cases each week. Although renovating these wrecks may be to our benefit, we are not the type of shop to encourage private purchase without the above advice.

Looks like this post will be repeated over and over again.