A Nurse with a Gun

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Commuter Bike

My dedicated commuter bike started out as a Raleigh M-30 mountain bike that I purchased for thirty bucks at a pawn shop. The bike had several things going for it. It was a rigid steel frame bike with a rigid steel fork. The 26 inch aluminum wheels were made by Araya. Click to enlargeIt also sported center pull cantilever brakes and an Shimano indexed shifting system for 15 gears. While a decent enough old bike, it was hardly ready for dedicated commuting.

When I decided to toss my hat helmet into the ring of bike commuting, I began to read up on the activity. I quickly subscribed to the school of thought that I would rather have my bike still chained in place after work than have it ridden away by a thief. I took a two prong approach to the problem. First, I ordered a heavy Kryptonite chain to slow down the thief, or at least draw enough undesired attention to him that he would be reluctant to steal the bike. Then I decided to make my ride appear as undesirable as possible through uglification. The overall effect was a bike that just wasn't worth the effort to steal.

It is the details that make a dedicated commuter though, and over time, my black Raleigh mountain bike was transformed. One of the first things I installed was a set of handlebars off a little girl's BMX bike. The narrow width makes negotiating between parked cars easy, while the high rise allows me to assume an upright posture to see over them. Click to enlargeTwo Planet Bike headlights, a Blazer and a Beamer light my way. I can set them on a combination of steady light, or steady and flashing, or just use one. I like the flexibility of two headlights. Both disengage easily to take with me when I leave the bike.

I needed a bell on the handlebars, and I wanted it by my thumb, so I moved the forward derailleur lever to the handlebar stem. I rarely use it anyway in the city streets, but it is there if I need it.

I agonized over tires for a while. I knew I needed to ditch the knobbies for smooth rubber, but I wanted durable tires that could avoid flats. I found exactly what I wanted with the Specialized Nimbus Armadillo tires. I finally bit the bullet and paid the $45 each price for the Kevlar belted tires. I have not regretted it. The bike rolls noticeably easier, and flats are a thing of the past. Of course, a $45 tire is ripe game for a thief, so I remove the front rim with the quick release hub, and run the chain through it as well when locking the bike.

Any commuter bike should have full fenders. Even if a rider is not getting drenched in a downpour, wet streets can still make a dirty stripe up his back without fenders. Click to enlargeOne benefit of the more narrow Specialized Nimbus tires is they allowed me to bolt on the fenders I desired. I chose some old British fenders for the commuter bike that came off my Armstrong. The flaky white paint added just the "You're gonna get tetanus if you touch it" look I wanted. I riveted some splash guards on the rear fender and bolted a leather shoe tongue on the front as a mud flap.

A comfortable commuter bike needs a comfortable seat. I was lucky enough to get a free one when a friend decided to replace her Bontrager seat with a wider one. What was uncomfortable for her was ideal for me. To make certain it stayed on the locked up bike, I ran some bicycle chain through both seat rails and around the seat stays. Then I pinned it back together, and zip tied it taut. My Kryptonite New York Noose wraps around the whole shebang for transport.

I quickly learned that carrying a backpack on one's back while bicycling is not the way to go. The weight shifts and the rider swelters underneath the load, with the sweat unable to evaporate or wick away in the wind. I needed a way to carry gear, but I needed it off my back.

At Toys R Us I found an outrageous deal on Bell bike racks, and I bought them out. Click to enlargeI bolted one down to the rear of the Raleigh M-30. On one of my commutes, I found a galvanized gym basket being tossed in the trash. I immediately snatched it up to attach to the rear rack. It is secured with heavy duty zip ties, nuts and bolts, a padlock, and finally a trigger lock running through everything. If some antique hound decides to make off with this basket, it will have a hole in the bottom when they are finished removing it.

The rear of the basket is adorned with a large automotive reflector and a pair of Planet Bike Extreme Blinkies. Two heavy duty zip tie loops provide a place for the blinkies to clip onto. Scotch tape secures the lenses on the blinkies after a hard lesson. A can of Fox Labs Mean Green pepper spray stands ready inside the black nylon pouch clipped to the side of the basket.

Not everything done to this bicycle was done in an orderly progression. The bicycle evolved over time, based on my needs and experimentation. Serendipity played a large role in the finished product. Regardless, the thirty dollar Raleigh underdog has become one of my favorite bicycles, and the one I chose each morning for effective pedal power transportation.

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Blogger Jacob Da Jew said...

Sweet ride. Armadillos frickin rock. To date, I have only gotten 2-3 flats over the last 4 years since I've started using Arms'.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think about the Smith and Wesson 4506? I've been trying to get info on it online but can hardly find anything solid. Would you happen to know anything?


2:18 PM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Very cool!

7:03 PM  
Anonymous stxRynn said...

Hey Xav, I found an old Raleigh girls 10 speed with 27" rims today for 30. I got jazzed when I read about your fixie. I don't know if I have the cajone's for that, but I liked the idea of losing 12 lbs. I could double that and be heading in the right direction.

Thanks for your great blog.

I also saw an old 1918 Colt that bubba worked on. I just about cried. Like a proud old warrior in polyester and platforms. aftermkt bullseye sights, rubber grips and some kind of slick'em finish. It deserved better..... Had a rough life, lotsa pitting on the exterior. the ejector looked like it had seen 100,000 rounds. ugh.

Take care.....stxRynn

10:03 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

The narrow handlebars are a nice touch. I used to commute from the Quarter to the CBD and I could have used that going past Poydras and St. Charles.

7:54 PM  

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