The Saga of Plain Jane



This is a topic to collect information and experience of a novice builder and may work itself into some do's and don'ts over the course of the build. I really do appreciate those of you who can come at a bike with welding torch in hand and turn out works of art. My hat's off to you. I'm not in your class.

Background: I'm a computer tech, ex-programmer, ex-software project manager, ex-control system salesman and a variety of other jobs. None of these included mechanic of the automotive or bicycle variety. I'm doing this build primarily as a commuter vehicle. When I was living in California, my one-way commute was 47 miles and included several stretches of freeway that darn near didn't allow cars even though you were traveling at walking speed. Now that I have moved to south-central New Mexico, my commute is 2.5 miles each way and driving that in a car doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

The platform: When I decided that abusing the car 2.5 miles each way to work didn't make a lot of sense either economically or mechanically, I decided to see if a bicycle made sense. I may be a bit out of shape but 2.5 miles on a bicycle isn't beyond even my couch-potato self. I found an inexpensive mountain bike at big box discount store that shall remain nameless and decided to try pedaling in to work on it a couple of days to see if that was the answer. And the answer is....Nope. As it turns out, the ride from home to work is one 2 mile long upgrade followed by a half mile of downhill that costs you all of the altitude you just spent gaining. Couple that with 90 plus degree temperatures in the summer and you get the rapid need for a shower and a change of clothes the moment you get into work. Not a good idea since there are no showers at city hall where I work. Back to the drawing board.

I then started looking at motorcycles and scooters. As a novice rider on either, I found that what I would save in gas I would spend on insurance. Sorry, that didn't make much sense. I then started looking at mopeds and the like. Pricey! Again, it would take too long to justify the cost. It would be more fun but not enough to make me want to spend $1000.

I ran into some sites describing electric bicycle conversions and that looked interesting. They were less costly than any of the quality moped/scooters that I considered viable and certainly had cost of operation very low. I was concerned with the half mile grade I would have to climb when leaving work. I followed a guy on his eGo electric one day at lunch and watched him walk his bike up that hill. That was discouraging. I decided that a half mile walk wasn't ideal but was acceptable and continued browsing electrics until I ran across this site. I took a look at the relative cost of doing an electric using one of the hub motor kits and then took a look at the cost of using a gas engine and discovered that it would take me somewhere between 3 to 5 years to justify the difference in cost. I also figured that I could adjust the gearing if necessary to take that hill. So far so good.

I then started reading everything I could on this site. Based on what I have learned, I think that I will dust off the old mountain bike and use it as a learning experience unless I run into a better candidate at a garage sale some weekend.

As I said in my intro, I ordered the 65cc motor from dax and while I am enduring the dax-wait, I'll do some upgrading on the mountain bike to make it a bit more of a comfort than a torture. What is planned is...

1. True the wheels. They were a bit out right out of the box but that got compounded by a flat or two caused by a pernicious weed out here called "goat head." It's a thorny burr that can and does puncture bike tires. Especially the tires of those who are novices and hadn't heard about heavy duty tubes and slime.

2. Replace the handlbars with a cruiser style bar. I orderred a high rise moon bar from Spooky Tooth in AZ.

3. Add some fenders. (No skunk stripes allowed)

4. Switch to a dual pull brake lever. Also ordered from Spooky Tooth.

5. Upgrade the brakes. The current inexpensive stamped steel rim brakes on the mountain bike are not something I'd trust at motorized speeds. I will probably stick with the same brake type and go for something of better quality. Any suggestions on this would be appreciated.

I was planning to post a couple of pictures of my starting point and the hill on my commute but my digital camera died.:censored: Fortunately, the problem will be fixed by Nikon for free:eek: so, at least, it won't interfere with the bike budget. I'll scrounge a camera and get some pics up shortly. Until then, it's

whitedog, the long winded, signing off.
I'd say good enough, but to get some type of Mu Beta certification, you should toss the old rear wheel, upgrade, starting with new ball bearings and such, and spending 40 bucks on punctureproof tubes and et ceteras.

It is a certified Mu Beta fact : flats and broke spokes are the #1 bummer on the side of the road, especially in front of a skeptical audience.
Not a bad idea. I'd considered ditching the derailers anyway and shortening the chain. It would result in a single speed geared just to start the engine. I'll have to think about that. Any suggestions on a source of good wheels?
The timing is perfect to strike up a relationship with a bikeshop, humbly with the Wally World bike, but going through his displays and sitting on the saddle of your NEXT potential ride.

Dunno about the switching the speed set up, whether its worth it or not.

And they really are "bikes" which you, (or the guy you sell it to when you pursue the hobby further), might want to pedal in a park. Bikes and engines are about a 50/50 equation in this movement, you have to know both.

But striking up a little local commerce will pay off in the long run. Get his 12 gauge brand suggestions, and mention the forum is watching!!

Wheels and flats are a local situation we can't help you at all with.

Keep that "goat head" weed local, btw !!
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I would beware of the fenders, I heard many stories and seen many pics of the fenders breaking from vibration and destroying your tires. Just check those out.
Fenders do some good....

I would beware of the fenders, I heard many stories and seen many pics of the fenders breaking from vibration and destroying your tires. Just check those out.

First time I rode on a wet road though i wondered "wtfrig?" on the usefulness, thats why I have a slicker in the saddlebag. Need windsheild wipers on the goggles, however.

Fenders and chainguards seem to be the squeekiest/rattliest parts of a bike, and I'll MuBeta confirm fingernail polish is the equivalent to WD-40, "loctite is the ultalubricant" of
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Do my best to avoid sending goathead your way, bama. Of course you have the real thing to worry about.

The only problem with starting up a relationship with a local bike shop is that there ain't none. The nearest ones are 70+ miles away. One is a bmx only shop. Great place to buy protective gear I'd guess, assuming that they have anything that wasn't sized for a 12 year old. The other is known to be run by someone whose customer service attitude is, shall we say, somewhat less than helpful. I'd trust the advice here MUCH more.

Fenders: Note please that I've already ordered the handlebars and brake lever. Fenders are something else. I'm still of two minds about fenders. When I was a kid kicking around on an old single speed Raleigh (wish I still had that) I lost a chain going down a steep grade heading into a heavily trafficked intersection. Keep in mind, single speed=coaster brake. No chain, no brake. I was able to kick the front fender loose enough to use it as a kind of spoon brake on the front wheel so that when I finally had to lay it down I wasn't accumulating road rash at a dangerous rate or getting my foot caught in the spokes. Kinda been partial to fenders on bikes ever since. Still open to ideas, however. A back rack would work just as well, I suppose. Not sure about the front.
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Yep. That's the stuff alright. <Please insert expletives of your choice before the word stuff in the previous sentence.>