The Saga of Plain Jane

Discussion in 'General Questions' started by whitedog, Aug 24, 2007.

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  1. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    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.:-x 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.

  2. bamabikeguy

    bamabikeguy Active Member

    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.
  3. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    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?
  4. bamabikeguy

    bamabikeguy Active Member

    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 !!
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2007
  5. Kncool

    Kncool Guest

    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.
  6. bamabikeguy

    bamabikeguy Active Member

    Fenders do some good....

    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
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2007
  7. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    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.
  8. JosephGarcia

    JosephGarcia Guest

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 25, 2007
  9. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    Yep. That's the stuff alright. <Please insert expletives of your choice before the word stuff in the previous sentence.>
  10. gone_fishin

    gone_fishin Guest

  11. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    Thanks, augidog. :) I'd seen that link before. Still of two minds over fenders but now, at least, I have a reference for what to look for on quality.

    Still have lots to do before that becomes a priority, however.
  12. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    Well, I don't know how well that these amazing :rolleyes: pictures will turn out. Since my digital camera is now boxed up to be sent off for repair, these were taken using a webcam hooked up to a long usb extention cable.

    The first shot is Plain Jane's current incarnation. Your standard, inexpensive, Wally World Mountain Bike.

    Shots two and three are the inexpensive side pull rim brakes currently installed. These have gotta go. I'm not sure what to replace them with at the moment.

    BTW, I ran into a guy having a garage sale at lunch today. He has the same bike fitted with a Robin/Subaru rack mount belt drive that he is trying to sell. I told him about this forum. He wants to go electric.

    This is the first time that I tried to upload photos so I'm not sure that I have it quite right yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed which makes it hard to type.:grin:

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  13. bamabikeguy

    bamabikeguy Active Member

    Those brakes are the disposable bic lighters of a MB. The primary reason I scrapped the brand myself were the brakes and the Shimano seems to be a lower grade compared to what the Suns use.

    For all I know, the only thing "Shimano" at WallyWorld is the sticker.

    Well, he sounds insane, and we've had our quota of R/S rants in rackem...

    Ask him what he wants for it kit and kaboodle, Loco or a trike builder could get the engine, and I'll take the kit and mounts.

    You can keep the bike for parts. You'll need em.:rolleyes:
  14. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    Yep, Bama. Use'em and throw 'em away. I think I'll skip the use'em part. Still looking for something better to replace them with. (Couldn't find much worse, I guess.)

    I haven't looked at rack mount systems or prices. He said he paid over $600 for the kit and that it's worked well but the wheel mounted pulley that the belt drives keeps getting out of true. I told him that the likely cause wasn't the pulley but the cheap wheel and that getting a decent wheel with heavy guage spokes (taking a page out of your book) would probably solve his problem. He wasn't interested. He had his head set on an electric of some sort and didn't want to hear anything different. With any luck, he'll look up this forum and either get his problem solved or sell his current setup to someone who will appreciate it.
  15. JosephGarcia

    JosephGarcia Guest

    those brakes were my only stopping force on my last motorbike. I had them in the front, I set them up with good pads and adjusted them so the lever activated them fully before it was 50% pulled in. They worked for awhile, but got a big performance loss after a month.

    Buy new forks that are able to be installed with Disc brakes, also a new Wheel if you need to.

    at least having a good braking system on the front is good. and if you still dont feel safe, get a set for the rear. this might be expensive though.
  16. bamabikeguy

    bamabikeguy Active Member

    This thread is a potential object lesson

    This is the first thread I rated with stars, (the affinity for big dogs, I suppose, since I raise Gr. Pyrenees, and the Avatar looks like one of my coyote chasing females).

    If you are going to all the labor and expense to modify a $100 bike (and I started with 3 $99 Avalons in 2005 myself) maybe you could track the add-on items like Custom Tecumseh is doing on his trike.

    That way a MBprospect can see how the costs compare to buying a mid-grade Schwinn or Sun, that has those brake/handlebar/shifter/saddle features as standard equipment.

    Personally, I paid $20 for curved handlebars plus an hour labor, and $30 for a gel saddle, to get the Avalon more comfortable. And that was beforeall the broken spoke/cheap inner tube issues were addressed.

    $100 Avalons and Mongooses are "starter" bikes, but since this thread may become a model for the concientous builder, the upgrades could be measured to spending about $225-300 for a pretty good bike from the get-go.

    And since you've admitted this is a "test" bike, the final upgrade calculations will be of benefit to future builders of all the engine types.
  17. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    No problem Bama. I don't know if this will be a good example or a bad example. Who knows, maybe it will be a good bad example.

    Regarding my avatar: You got the gender right but the breed wrong. I raise and show Samoyeds and the avatar is pulled from a photo of one of my old girls having a ball sledding. I've attached the whole pic to this message. At lead is U-CD Sno-Belle CD TT CGC HCTs. At wheel looking slightly confused is Ch. Yukon's Dreamtime Blizzard CGC TT. The Siberian Husky also at wheel is Sutaisa's Dawn Dancer who belonged to the guy riding the sled while I took the picture.

    Back on topic to keep from turning our esteemed admins to steamed admins...I'll track back the costs I've got in the bike so far and start keeping a tab and posting it on any changes. First installment will probably be later today as soon as I start tracking old charge tickets back.

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  18. srdavo

    srdavo Active Member

    :lol: NOW, thats funny!!! :lol:
    witty recovery ...and back on topic.

    whitedog, this thread is a good example of doing your homework. keep it up!!
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2007
  19. gone_fishin

    gone_fishin Guest

    it sure is...and, btw, the original poster can carp all over his own thread if he wants, that doesn't bother me at all.

    i think your "the real total cost" topic is gonna be a big help...we've tried to address this before but it didn't go anywhere. perhaps a real life example will be more informative :cool:
  20. whitedog

    whitedog Guest

    Cost of starting cheap -- to date

    OK, since there seems to be an interest, I've attached a printout of my expenses so far, what they were and where I got the parts. I've also included a breakdown for those expenses that are engine related and those that were bicycle related. I'll include false starts, ideas that didn't work and anything else that I do on this project.

    A couple of disclaimers:

    1. I'm listing the vendor where I got each item. This is not an endorsement. There are lots of other vendors out there who sell equivalent parts that may be better, less expensive, have better service or closer to you. I won't say I picked these guys out of a hat but, in many cases, I am buying off of the web and keeping my fingers crossed. BTW, Pixie is a local discount store that carries a decent assortment of common bicycle repair parts (e.g. tubes, tires, saddles, tire pumps etc.)

    2. I'm not including tax or shipping expenses in this accounting. Depending on where you are in the country and which vendor you use, these are going to vary all over the lot so I'm just taking them out of the equation completely.

    OK, so much for that. Here are some observations to date without taking wrench to bicycle frame at all.

    Buying a frame that has inexpensive side pull brakes is turning out to be a mistake. They work fine for pedaling speeds but I just don't trust them as they sit for anything faster. Note that the operative words in that sentence are "I don't trust them." They may work fine and I may be wrong, but I'm building to my comfort level and if I'm not comfortable with its safety it's going to be another project that sits in the garage. Since the brakes on this bike are center mount side pull types, I'm pretty well restricted to buying the same type just of a higher quality. If one of you building mavens knows how to graft a better brake on to a common bicycle I'll be more than happy to listen and learn.

    I'm attaching a PDF file with the current expenses. I'll update this as the project goes along.

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