UBI Days 3 and 4: Bottom Brackets, Chains, Cassettes, Freehubs, etc.

A full day was devoted to an area of the bike that probably is neglected from a maintenance standpoint more that any other: bottom brackets.  We covered all types, from cup and cone through the newest bearing pressed into frame systems.  Installation, disassembly, overhauls, and bearing replacements were all fully explored.  In short, everything you ever wanted to know about bottom brackets, including all the various size standards that have evolved over the years.  The fourth day of class centered around drivetrain components.   Types of chains and width differences were explored in detail.  Freewheels were touched upon and cassettes were talked about extensively, including their compatibility with the proper width chain.  Freehub disassembly and maintenance was performed, along with a look at the various freehub designs currently available.  Again, basically everything you could want to know about these topics was at least touched on, if not explored in detail.  If you want more depth in any particular area, just ask and the instructors are happy to oblige (within some time constraints, obviously).  As an aside I have to say how elegant in it’s simplicity and massive amount of engagement a DT Swiss star ratchet freehub is.  Perhaps only rivaled by Portland’s own Chris King RingDrive freehub.  Just amazing pieces of bike technology.

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UBI Day 2: Wheels

After learning all about, and overhauling, some hubs yesterday, today we built a complete mountain bike disc wheelset.  There wasn’t much time to delve into wheel theory and why one might choose one lacing pattern versus another, or one spoke gauge versus another.  We focused instead on the actual building process and left most of the theory out of it. (UBI offers an advanced wheelbuilding seminar where they get into the theory as well as the building.)  We built one on the most common types of wheels in existence, a symmetrically laced, 3 cross wheel.  We did, however, use asymmetrical rims, which complicates things a bit.  UBI’s process involves loading all the spokes into the hub first, then lacing the wheel in a very specific pattern.  While there are many ways to lace a wheel, the “UBI way” is easy to learn and allows the spoke pattern to present itself very readily.  Once the wheels were laced they are gradually brought to low working tension, or the point at which the truing process can begin.  Truing involves lateral truing, radial truing, dishing, and tensioning the wheel.  This process is done repeatedly until the wheel runs true, is evenly dished, and the spokes are at optimum tension.  Lastly a final stress reliving is done and all the truing measurements are checked again and adjusted as necessary.  If you weren’t already impressed with the strength and simplicity of the bicycle wheel, you will be after this process.  When the instructors have checked that your wheels are well built and within the specified tolerances you then disassemble the wheels and UBI will reuse the hubs and rims for the next class.  So don’t get to attached to them if they are your first wheelbuild!

UBI Day 1: Off To A Good Start

My formal bicycle education is off to a good start.  Everyone at UBI, both the faculty and the other students in the class, seem great.  After the typical introductions and administrative topics we jumped right into the importance of determining thread sizes, compatibility, and interchangeability.  This is all important stuff because the only thing standardized in the bike industry is that there isn’t much that is standardized.  The importance and application of proper torque and use of a torque wrench were also discussed.  Later in the day we disassembled and overhauled 2 hubsets, a Shimano mountain set and a Campagnolo road set.  I’ve overhauled numerous hubs over the years so there wasn’t much new here, but everything was explained thoroughly and clearly with ample time for questions and discussion.  After the hubs were greased and adjusted one of the instructors has to sign off on the proper completion and adjustment.  It was great to jump in on the first day, do some hands on work, and get a little greasy.  Tomorrow we are covering wheels and will built a complete wheelset, which I am looking forward to.

The Adventure Begins

After 14 successful years in the residential remodeling industry I have decided that it is time for a change.  A variety of factors, both internal and external, have led me to this decision, and I am embracing it.  As I type this I am sitting in Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix waiting to board a flight to cold and rainy Portland, Oregon.  I am enrolled in the United Bicycle Institute Professional Repair and Shop Operation course.  It is billed as a comprehensive 2 week course for aspiring bicycle mechanics and potential shop owners.  I’ll lump myself into the former category with the caveat that I’ve been working on bicycles for years and already consider myself a pretty decent mechanic.  However, upon my return from Portland I am planning to start a professional mobile bicycle repair business and I think that formal education is always a valuable pursuit.  Over the next 2 weeks I will post my impressions and observations about the nature of the course and the education it provides.  I also hope to have some time to sample a few of the locally brewed beers and explore Portland, as I have never been there.  Stay tuned.

A Trex Deck in Colorado

I have some great friends, who also happen to be good customers, living in the Boulder, Colorado area.  A few years ago, with my friend’s assistance, I finished their entire basement, complete with a recording studio.  Now that Brown Note Digital Recording has been up and running for a while it was decided that a deck was the next project on the list.

The deck is very low to the ground and is supported via ledgers drilled and epoxied into the existing pier-supported concrete patio, as well as new concrete piers that my friend poured prior to my arrival in Colorado.  The underlying structure is framed with pressure treated 4×8 beams and 2×8 joists hanging from the beams.  The outside of the deck is wrapped in Trex 1×12 fascia and the top is decked in 2 colors of 1×6 Trex decking.  The deck boards are grooved on 2 sides and allow the use of Trex’s attachment system with no visible fasteners.  We did, however, face screw some of the accent boards and those holes will be plugged.  There is also a short section of Trex railing on one side where the gas grill and smoker will live.  The Trex was easy to work with, albeit extremely heavy, and everything went together as expected.  The deck turned out nicely and only took 5 days to complete.  I’m sure numerous beers celebrating completed recording sessions will be consumed there for years to come.

The framing prior to any Trex going on.

The completed deck.

Working and Cycling in Colorado

I have been vacationing in the Boulder, Colorado area recently and will be starting an exterior deck job here next week.  In the mean time I’ve been doing a lot of riding.  If you have never ridden in the Boulder area it should be added to your list of things to do.  If you are a climber, some of the best climbing roads in the world are right out your door.  That may explain the number of professional cyclists that live in the area and are seen on the roads training in the off-season.  I brought my single-speed Lemond Fillmore with me so I’ve only made one trip skyward to this point.  I climbed the first section of Lee Hill Drive.  It was pretty brutal with the one gear but I did make it up the first section so I could follow Olde Stage Road down Left Hand Canyon.  At the top of the climb there were 3 guys standing over their bikes, resting.  As I gasped for air and rolled by I said “good morning.”  I realized a few feet later that the gentleman who returned my greeting was none other than Lyle Lovett, who was playing at Red Rocks the next night.  (You never know who you’ll see out riding!)  If your legs, like mine, are not quite ready for regular trips into the Rockies, then the rolling terrain north and east of Boulder are perfect.  Wide shoulders (or actual bike lanes), great scenery, and courteous drivers are the norm.  I think I’d have to say it’s the nicest place I’ve ever ridden my bike.  I’ll squeeze in as many rides as I can before it’s back to work.

Repainting Old Kitchen Cabinets (and Making a New One)

I recently completed a kitchen remodeling job that was centered around keeping the existing late 1950’s kitchen cabinets.  As is typical for the era, these were built in place with open backs (the plaster walls serve double duty as the cabinet “backs”).  The boxes were constructed with a combination of plywood for the sides, drawer boxes, and drawer fronts, and solid lumber for the face frames.  The doors were all plywood with the period-typical 3/8″ lipped edges and exposed hinges on the front of the cabinets.

1950's kitchen cabinets

The kitchen with old countertops removed.

The scope of work involved replacing all the hinges with new concealed and adjustable hinges, replacing 3 upper doors with new glass panel doors, building a new matching cabinet over the cooktop to accommodate a microwave/exhaust hood attached to the bottom, and painting everything with multiple coats of semi-gloss Swiss Coffee.

Building the new doors with glass panels was a matter of matching the dimensions of the existing doors. Instead of plywood, the new doors were assembled from poplar with pocket screws, leaving the center panel open to allow a piece of glass to be glued in place with clear silicone.  The new microwave cabinet was also assembled using pocket screws from poplar (face frame), MDF (sides, top, and doors), and birch veneer plywood (bottom).

The new cabinet with a 3" filler attached to the left side.

Once all the new doors and microwave cabinet were finished, I installed the new cabinet and sprayed all the cabinets, in and out, new and old.  As with any paint job the prep work is more important and time consuming than the actual painting.  Always take proper precautions around sanding dust and keep everything extremely clean prior to painting. If the prepped surface isn’t smooth and clean you’ll never get a good painted finish.

During painting, with the new cabinet installed, center top of photo.

In order to paint all the doors I set up a temporary spray booth in the home’s carport.  This allowed me to suspend all the doors from 2×4 braces and spray them all at once.  It should be noted that I drilled holes for all the new hinges prior to painting in order to minimize handling of the finished doors.  Once all the paint was dry the cabinets were reassembled with the new hinges and hardware, granite countertops were installed, and new appliances were put in place.  The final product was an old kitchen made new again.

paint booth, repainting kitchen cabinets

Spraying the doors in the "paint booth."

The finished product (backsplash not installed yet).

glass cabinet doors

The finished product, with the glass doors at the top.