Safe, Easy, Practical, Friction Budget Bike Advice for N00bs...

Discussion in 'Friction Drive' started by j0nnyfive, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. j0nnyfive

    j0nnyfive New Member

    Hello everybody! I'm new here. I think what you guys (and gals) are doing is
    awesome. I'm ready to build myself one of those MB THINGs(tm)!

    Now, I've been lurking on here for quite a while, reading, pondering, taking notes, trying to figure out what I want, and I have a few questions for anyone willing to lend a fella a helping hand. I think this thread might also answer some questions for some other noobs like myself, so here goes.

    My goal is this: Budget, Safe, Cost-effective commuter bike... on a budget. ;) AKA: Boring. lol

    My situation is this: I own a car. I want to minimize my time driving it.
    I would rather ride the bike, however I do not want to ride in bad weather.
    I'm not a mechanic/handyman kind of guy. I can assemble things and change
    flats and oil. (computer programmer kind of guy.) I'm not knocking chain and belt drives, its just that I've chosen friction drive for my own OCD reasons. lol

    My angle is this: I could buy a scooter... or I could build an MB, THING. I would rather build an MB thing because it's cheaper, gets better gas mileage, and they look cool, unique, fun to ride, and fun to make.

    HOWEVER... after searching and reading, I still have some questions. Here they are:

    1. Which current friction drive kit do you guys think will LAST the longest in
    terms of wear, tear, repair, and mileage? Which is most cost effective, and easiest to maintain? Which seems the most practical in terms of changing rollers?

    2. Frames. Steel, or aluminum in terms of safety, longevity, and mileage?
    How does each differ with vibration? Steel cheaper? Is steel limited to
    cruisers? (I'm leaning towards the cruiser bike anyway.)

    3. Brakes. What are the relatively safest type with cost, longevity,
    practicality, and friction drives in mind?

    4. Suspension. Is it necessary? Does it make the bike any safer? Does the
    bike last longer? What about if you do not plan on taking the bike
    off-roading? Is this mainly for comfort? For a rear friction drive,
    what suspension would you suggest, if any at all? (I would rather not
    have to have it if it isn't necessary.) How does it affect vibration?

    5. Cruiser vs Mountain Bike (or any other style). In terms of longevity,
    safety, comfort, cost, maintenance, and general practicality... what
    are the pros and cons of each (for simple, boring, conservative, commutes?)
    I'm leaning toward cruiser because the handlebars look more relaxed and I
    can sit upright. Also, I'm leaning towards either a 3-speed bike or single
    gear bike. I'm not crazy about having tons of gears. I like simple! :)

    6. Wheels. Big or small? 26" seems popular. Anybody like bigger or smaller
    for any reason? What might those reasons be? Does it affect friction drive in any way? Comfort? Safety? What about width? Also, do you suggest steel rims with 12g spokes on back AND FRONT?

    7. Buying the bike. What specific bikes would you guys suggest? Bikes that
    I can just order, buy at a LBS or whatnot? Is it cost-effective to have
    a bike shop build me what I need? (I'm looking at spending under $300 for
    the bike, if possible. I would prefer under $200! That would be great.)

    My imagination thus far has lead me to a steel-framed cruiser with no suspension, steel-rimmed wheels, 3 gears (unless this isn't cost-effective or practical), hand brakes for front and back wheels, and... that's about it.

    ANY sagely wisdom from you experienced gents (and ladies) would be very much appreciated. Like I said, I've been reading and taking notes, but much of the advice I've stumbed across so far seems to be aimed at a different market than I. I'm not wanting to be the perpetual tinkerer always adding and changing.. I want low cost, safe, comfortable, efficient, and practical. Boring.

    Thanks guys!

    P.S. I'm sure that with more reading, I could probably answer all these questions myself, but I thought it would be nice and convenient for someone else to find a thread that answers the question of building a nice "BORING" and cheap bike! Thanks. :)

  2. bluegoatwoods

    bluegoatwoods Well-Known Member

    welcome aboard.

    I can't actually answer your questions because I'm a chain-drive type.

    But I would mention, though, that I'd recommend re-thinking your determination not to ride in bad weather. That'll cut your possible riding in half, at least.
  3. Porkchop

    Porkchop Member

    I have a friction drive kit from Im, using a Harbor Freight 50cc 2 cycle engine. Built it back in April. I've been pleased with the drive kit and the engine. Caution, friction drives are not good at all when the tire gets wet. Shoudn't be an issue since you say you're not going to ride in bad weather. Frame type or material shouldn't be an issue with a friction drive. Mainly personal preference as to what type of frame you use. But there might be some fitting issues on some bikes that have rear suspension, especially aggressive mountain bikes. Hope this helps.
  4. 5-7HEAVEN

    5-7HEAVEN Guest


    2 & 3. Any frame with front and rear brakes

    4.A front suspension fork is one of the best options for a safe and enjoyable ride. It will make YOU! last longer.

    5.Either style, but minimum 7-speed. I need gears to climb the ramp to my parking lot. Without gears, the friction drive and single speed cannot climb steep hills and ramps.

    6.Any wheels with stainless steel 14gauge spokes. Good enough.

    7. Buy a used bike or nearly new, just like cars. You can get a great bike for much less. I just bought a Diamondback bike with dual disc brakes and 28(?)speeds for $125.

    8. How fast do you want to go will decide your engine and roller size.

    Good luck
  5. j0nnyfive

    j0nnyfive New Member

    About chain drives...

    Thanks all for the replies! Posting all that helped me to better organize my thoughts. And your answers are very insightful.

    bluegoatwoods, If you can talk me into it, I'll go with chain-drive. I like things to be silly simple to maintain. I like simplicity of rollers. However, maybe I'm not seeing the big picture here. There definitely are more days of dry sunshine here than there are of rain or snow. But I can see the advantage of being able to drive through misty/slick roads.

    I keep reading about people:
    -breaking spokes (how does this happen? are they just too rough? too heavy?)
    -hearing strange noises coming from their chain rig that they have to tweak out
    -chain locking up the wheel (or something, I don't remember)
    -chain rubbing against their tire and wearing it out (thus requiring special attention to their bike build)
    -having to fabricate special brackets or whatnot to get the chain system to fit their bike properly. Will this be an issue with friction?
    -having to fix their chain in some way... are these just off-roaders unlike me?

    So... if you can tell me WHICH chain drive system will be easiest to install with trouble-free maintenance, I might reconsider... but so far, their advantages don't seem to add up for me. Like I said, I may be misunderstanding.
  6. j0nnyfive

    j0nnyfive New Member

    Thanks Porkchop!

    BMP is deff who I've been leaning toward.
    I'm going to watch out for bad weather reports and avoid it. I would do this with a scooter or motorcycle anyway. I don't want to get wet coming home from work! lol

    So, steel or aluminum doesn't matter? Is this BECAUSE of friction drive? I mean, would the frame material matter more with chain drive?

    I don't plan on getting a bike with rear suspension. In fact, I'm leaning toward a cruiser with nice, lazy-styled handlebars. :grin5:
  7. j0nnyfive

    j0nnyfive New Member

    Awesome 5-7, thanks!

    Now, I recall reading a post of yours saying you have a men's Raleigh 7-speed cruiser, and that it needed front suspension, so that's what you did. When you say safe, does that have to do with the front being less likely to get flats? Or the front being less likely to break? Or is this mainly a rider's comfort thing? Not sure I follow on the reasons for front suspension. What about suspension on my seat post? Do you have this? Necessary?
    Okay I'll shut up on that. lol

    I do plan on getting a 7-speed cruiser now. I see what you mean!

    Wheels with 14g spokes... what about all this talk about double wall aluminum? Is this just for heavy people? I weigh about 175. Are these chain-drivers? Off-roaders? Not sure why people are popping their spokes..
    So... the rim can be regular aluminum but as long as the spokes are 14g that will be good? I don't really want to have to buy different wheels on the bike I will get. Sorry, I'm killing this dead horse already. I talk alot. ;)

    Does the type of gear system on the bike somehow affect the strength of the bike wheel? Or is this not really a big deal at all...

    Sorry about rambling, but after all my reading I've seen so much seemingly conflicting information about this stuff. I know that the contradictions arise out of not seeing the whole picture (rider's habits, weight, type of drive, etc.)

    But all of you guys' answers are helping me a lot! Thanks! I will be riding an MB Thing(tm) yet. :helmet:
  8. 5-7HEAVEN

    5-7HEAVEN Guest

    The front suspension fork absorbs the pounding of everyday driving over bumps and potholes at all speeds. I believe that at riding speeds it might absorb enough to keep stable and prevent a fall.

    Suspension seat is nice too. I have one on my cruiser, along with suspension fork. On "The Iron Dragon", my Giant mountain bike, I have its stock suspension fork and no suspension seat.

    In all my riding I broke one spoke on my Giant bike with friction drive. When that happened I replaced all spokes with 14gauge SS spokes. The rims were stock double-walled, so good enough.

    My cruiser "The Dragon Lady" has 12gauge spokes, so no problems there.

    Friction drive is simple. Just keep tire adjustments proper. Rear tires don't last with friction drive, and that's part of the sacrifice.

    How fast do you want to go?

    A stock Mitsubishi engine with 1.25" roller is a great combination for cruising at 20-25mph.

    A stock GP460 engine with 1.375" roller is great for cruising at 30-35mph.
  9. loquin

    loquin Active Member

    My first bike was a cruiser. The difference between it and my trek navigator 'comfort' bike is night and day. The trek has suspension front fork and seatpost. My back doesn't hurt, and my arms don't get tired from a long ride on it.

    Also (and, this is important!) BE SURE TO GET FRONT AND REAR BRAKES. Bikes with a motor are heaver than without, and you go faster. You absolutely NEED to be able to stop safely. Do NOT go with coaster brakes by themselves. Coaster brakes can be acceptable IF you have a solid front brake, but, not as your only means of stopping.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2009
  10. Elmo

    Elmo Member

    steel wheels with rim brakes do not work very well and not at all when wet.
  11. Mountainman

    Mountainman Active Member

    that little friction set up I bought from Staton
    has ran and ran with ((( 0 ))) problems
    might not be the fastest THING on the block

    but I just want to ride that THING !!!
  12. Porkchop

    Porkchop Member

    Elmo, I noticed you specified "steel" wheels and rim brakes don't work to well when wet. Is there a difference between steel and alloy wheels and rim brakes when wet. My bike has alloys and it'll stop on a dime even when wet. It's been a long time since I've ridden with wet steel. But I do remember my 1981 Schwinn with steel wheels seemed like it was never going to stop when they got wet. Is it the difference between wheel material or newer brake pad compound ? Thanks !
  13. Elmo

    Elmo Member

    The pads are better now but the real difference is between the steel and aluminum. I am not a sientist or a metalurgical expert but it seems to me that the aluminum rims have more friction. Most steel wheels have some kind of shiny (slick) coating on them to prevent rust.
  14. j0nnyfive

    j0nnyfive New Member

    Awesome guys, thanks a lot! This is some good info. Much appreciated.

    Alrighty... here's where I'm at so far:
    Front and rear brakes w/ "Not-so-steel" rims so I can stop. ;)
    14g SS spokes for some dragon-like reliability.
    Suspension so I don't vibrate to death.
    Friction drive from BMP.. or Staton. Haven't decided yet.

    Before I buy that... THING(tm), I have some new curiosities that just popped up:

    Lifespan of the bike, kit, and motor:

    1. What would be the mileage expectancy of some of these 30cc and 50cc motors?

    2. How expensive does it get to replace back tires and tubes? What kind of slicks do you guys like to use for your friction drives? And... do you get them cheap from any place special?

    I guess what I'm getting at in a round about way is the total cost of ownership of this MB..... THING(tm). I'm trying to figure out all the little expenses here and there.. being frugal and sech.

    P.S. 5-7, I think it would be pretty cool to have a bike that could top out at 40 miles per hour. (If I wanted to. tee hee) :whistling:

    Not all the time of course. ;)
  15. Pirate88179

    Pirate88179 Member

    I am running a monster scooter 50cc 2-stroke on a BMP drive system mounted on a Cranbrook Cruiser steel framed bike. I added a front brake and that is about it. The whole deal was under $400.00 including the new bike. With the 1.25" one-way BMP drive roller it will go 33 mph and I have about 200 miles on it and no problems at all. Drive system installed in about 30 minutes and I have no evidence of any rear tire wear so far.

    I looked around a while before building and read a lot and had some good advice from members here on this forum as well and I think this is about as cheap as one could build a very dependable MB, which is what I wanted to do.

    My photo album is linked on my signature line and I have a video up on it running on Youtube if you check my channel. (Same name as I use here)

    As many others have said on this forum long before me, it all depends on what you want/have to spend, what you want to do with it, and your riding conditions. There are compromises with every system out there that I am aware of. This is no different than many other mechanical systems and products.

    Above all, be safe. 40 mph on a bike is very fast and it will take very good equipment to do that safely on a regular basis.
    I realize my bike is a cheap bike and, when I am topping out at 33 I think about those cheaper components on the bicycle itself.

    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
  16. 5-7HEAVEN

    5-7HEAVEN Guest

    Who said anything about topping off at 40mph? That's low.:whistling:

    On our 100-mile ride around the island, Hawaii Ed and I will probably be cruising at 40mph.:jester:
  17. Esteban

    Esteban Active Member

    My opinions,
    Once you get used to the friction drive & operate it properly, tire wear is not a problem. Wipe the sides of the rims down often, with alcohol, etc. to clean them & make the brakes work better. Better pads are " KOOL Salmon pads." Front brakes are a must. A better quality bike rather than a cheap WallyWorld mountain bike is better. A good used older steel frame American made bike works good. NO mountain bike tires. NO skinny tired 10 speed types. Buy one with a Japanese engine.
    A good video to watch.
  18. skyl4rk

    skyl4rk Guest

    If I were trying to set up a cheap but reliable commuter, this is what I would do:

    Bike: a mountain bike type which fits you well and which pedals and rides well, with a good gearing system. It can be an older steel frame. It should have a front suspension. A rear suspension would also be desirable but then the cost goes up and you have to look at it very closely to make sure you engine kit will work.

    Brakes: caliper brakes will work, disk brakes preferred.

    Motor kit: either Titan, GEBE or Staton 4 stroke. Based on price, the Titan would be my choice.

    Fenders: must have, add them if it doesn't.

    Lights: must have.

    So in conclusion, to go the cheap way, find a garage sale mountain bike that rides good, with a front suspension and brakes that work well. Add a Titan kit, fenders and lights. This will be a cheap commuter that will move you at 30mph for as long as you can sit in the saddle.
  19. Elmo

    Elmo Member

    Right On

    This sounds like real good advice. Be careful with the fenders I have read posts on this site where crashes have happened when fenders have broken or come loose and tied the wheel up. I dont know how well they would work but I saw some for a suspension bike in a bike shop yesterday made of some kind of polymer.

    Last edited: Sep 5, 2009
  20. j0nnyfive

    j0nnyfive New Member

    Thanks everybody again! Great answers... I feel like I'm gonna drive you guys crazy with questions... but then again, if somebody else finds this thread, it may answer a lot of questions for them, so I think that's good. :) So my quest continues.. 40mph cruising... 5-7 that's hilarious! lol nice! I don't think I could do that on a bike. But then again.. who knows what one could accomplish as we ride these.... THINGS(tm).

    I'm thinking of the BMP-Titan 50cc 4-stroke combo. Any thoughts, suggestions about this? Any problems with this combo?

    And another question just made itself clear to me now, and that is this:

    A Wally World bike. Assuming one buys a steel-framed cruiser with 12g spokes and adds a quality front brake and removes the fenders... what ELSE is there to worry about on a cheapo Wally World bike? See what I'm getting at?

    I ask this because as I look at the bikes at Wally World, I sit on the cruisers and ask myself this very question. I KNOW intellectually that they are not high quality, but I wonder about what would happen if I used one (and met the above mentioned qualifications)?

    I wouldn't be pedaling much, so I'm not REEEALLY worried about the pedals.
    So... what's left in the long list of things that could go wrong? Could the fork break? Axel break? Something with the handlebars? Could they lock up?
    See what I'm getting at?

    Because I've read on numerous posts that you should buy a "good quality" bike instead of a Wally World bike.. but what exactly constitutes "good quality" from the standpoint of what we are trying to do here? If I meet the prerequisites of: steel frame, 12g spokes, good tires/tubes, good front brakes... what's left to worry about on a Wally World special? ;)

    Now, ON that Wally World special, I am assuming a CRUISER bike and NOT a mountain bike. Which leads me to my next question:

    I've noticed a lot of gents on this forum leaning towards mountain bikes, either in their suggestions or it's simply what they ride. So my question is:
    Why suggest a mountain bike?

    Is there some performance issue with the mountain bike vs a cruiser?
    Is there some SAFETY issue with a mountain bike vs a cruiser?
    Or... do you simply find the more comfortable than a cruiser?

    The reason I'm leaning towards cruiser is because I already own a good quality mountain bike, however I find the riding position uncomfortable. My neck and wrists get tired from leaning forward, and I would like a more upright riding position. However, if there is something about this issue that I'm missing, I'm all ears... er... eyes. ;)

    So.. again, is it the suspension that leads me towards mountain bikes? Are they safer to handle with an engine on them? etc. etc.

    Again, thanks again to all on here who are being patient with my OCD question! lol

    May we all be careful as we..... "RIDE THESE THINGS(tm)" (This means you 5-7... lol)