Finishing Touches: Kai’s Bicycle

A couple of items I alluded to in my previous post about my Fat City bicycle restoration arrived in the mail today.  Naturally, I quickly set to work installing them on my bicycle.  “Naturally”, because even though I should have been working to finalize the insulation design on our tiny house, I found myself instead attaching things to my bike.  Fellow riders will likely understand….

The first item was the breakaway derailleur bolt I ordered from the US importer of Middleburn components.  What’s a breakaway derailleur bolt and why might one come in handy?  Well, this smart little bolt replaces the stock bolt that comes affixed to your rear derailleur and is actually designed to fail.  Yup, at a certain amount of force, say the amount produced by smacking your derailleur against a rock at speed, the bolt snaps – it “breaks-away” – saving not only your derailleur but far more importantly the dropout and attached hanger, both of which are part of your frame.  See, some frames don’t come with the kind of driveside rear-dropout that permit the use of replaceable rear derailleur hangers.  This presents a potentially serious problem for the globe-trotting cyclist who rides a bike with a conventional transmission.  As you can imagine, accidently snapping off the derailleur hanger (and the attached derailleur) anywhere, but particularly in the middle of nowhere (and more particularly in the middle of nowhere in the mountains) means not only having to shorten your chain, instantly converting your overweight ride into a super-heavy single speed bike, but also eventually mandates an involved and expensive frame repair (most likely the removal and replacement of the entire dropout) – not the kind of part nor the type of service one normally finds in hometown, USA, let alone the backcountry.

I actually ordered three of these unique bolts; two are destined for the parts kit – each to lie in wait in case I ever actually break one in the field.  They’re small and so light so I don’t think I’ll mind dragging them around with me.  Here’s a shot of the packaging and the original bolt as well:

Although these bolts come in several anodized colors, I chose red for all three of them.  I figure the red color will act as a regular visual reminder of the bolt’s special nature and help me differentiate the spares from in-amongst the other small parts in our parts kit.  If you’ve ever overhauled a rear derailleur, then you’ll know the fun I had removing the stock Shimano hanger bolt and installing the new Middleburn version.  The new bolt installed in my rear derailleur:

If not, suffice it to say that this maneuver requires popping the “c”-clip off the spring loaded bolt assembly, extracting the bolt, swapping out the bolt and the o-ring and then twisting and pushing it all back together again.  Sounds like an easy operation?  You’ll wish you had two bench-mounted vises, three people and some kind of anti-gravity machine.  Oh well, a sturdy glove on each hand and some accompanying questions, uttered aloud, asking “Why does this have to be so difficult!?!?!” and all was well.  It’s nice knowing that I’m protected should I ever require the services of this simple little bolt.

Also delivered, but in a much larger package, was my Surly Nice Front Rack.  Having pined in vain for years for Tubus to design a top-loading front rack, and increasingly hesitant to attempt the install of Nitto’s not-as-nearly-well-thought-out Big Front Rack, I finally broke down and ordered the Surly version after coming across an online deal I couldn’t pass up.  You see, every six months for the last two and half years I’ve been emailing a gentleman at the Tubus headquarters in Germany to push along the notion of a top-loading front rack.  And even though every single one of his replies assured me that one such design was in the works, I felt I simply couldn’t wait any longer to purchase and install a front rack.  Who knows what the availability of this niche part will be in the dead of winter?  Not a simple nor a quick install, now that I’ve tightened the last lock nut I’ll probably find a notice in my email tomorrow morning informing me of the impending release of just what I’d been waiting for.  Oh well.  Too late now, and in reality not too concerning, given Tubus’ little publicized move to China.  Oh, and I’ve got just enough “Frame Saver” left to preserve the rack’s insides; so I do have that left to take care of.

I am pleased, however, that I successfully applied a variation of something I’d seen online concerning the mounting of a water bottle cage to the front rack.  By using two leftover parts [the new parts kit that ships with these racks now includes three sets of “sliding plates” – mounting only requires two sets so a set is inevitably left over] from amongst the many that accompany this rack, I was able to cleanly mount a Klean Kanteen bottle cage onto the rear mounting “stile” of the rack, like this:

This slightly-offset adaptation does not interfere with the pannier, the rack or with the fender stays and appears as though it was part of the original design of the rack.  Plus, it’s super sturdy and actually inspires my confidence.  Another benefit – I can reach the bottle while riding and the cage is effectively protected by the pannier hanging just forward of it.  And now that I know my mod works, I can find or fabricate two more plates to match the two left-overs I used and install a matching bottle cage on the other side of the rack as well.  This means that instead of the four Ortlieb bottle cages I was planning to install on my panniers – two on the front and two on the rear – I’ll only need to purchase and mount two on the rear.  Its reassuring knowing that I’ll have the ability to carry just shy of 200 ounces (over a gallon and half!) of potable water, in six water bottles, with the majority of these mounted on the frame proper.  This capacity should come in very handy for long crossings in parts of the world with limited water supplies.  Couple this with the bottles on Sheila’s bike and an Ortlieb water bag apiece and the two of us should be well provisioned.  A good thing too, having recently realized that my singular paranoia of running out of drinking water in the middle of nowhere is one shared by this relative novice (ha, ha! – hardly a novice, Heinz Stucke started travelling around the world by bicycle almost 50 years ago!).

I also used the opportunity to install a set of Sugino Self-Extracting Cranks Bolts.  These Japanese-made bolts are no longer manufactured.  But not to worry, if “Made in China” is not your thing, Middleburn (Made in Britain) makes a version as does TA Specialities (Made in France).  They’ll surely be nice to have on the road since, with them installed, the only required tool we’ll need to remove a crank arm is a 6mm hex wrench.  No need to carry a crank arm extractor tool and a large wrench.  Just don’t forget to drop a dab of blue Loctite onto the threads of the outer covers so they can’t come loose and disappear on you (a lesson I learned the hard way).



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