What I Discovered From Tearing Aside and Rebuilding My Bike

It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday, and as an alternative of watching Netflix with a chilly beer in hand like regular, I’m hunched over my bike wheel, which is wedged sideways into my sofa. Tonight’s job: Attempt to take away the cassette, the sequence of cogs hooked up to the rear wheel, with out the assistance of a series whip, a software used to maintain the cogs in place as you loosen their lockring.

At this level, I’m practically completed rebuilding my bike. It has taken many hours and much more journeys to the bike store for elements and instruments to get right here. I figured I might improvise my approach round shopping for another piece of . In addition to, the chain whip appears to be like ridiculous. It’s only a quick size of chain with a deal with hooked up to it, extra like a medieval torture gadget than one thing you’d discover in a toolbox. Who wants that? However after half an hour of fruitless wrenching in my front room, I notice I’m completely incorrect.

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I would like that chain whip.

And likewise that beer.


This was considered one of many realizations I had over the 4 months it took me to disassemble, repaint, and rebuild my beloved bike, a 1980s Puch Pacifica. I had toyed with the thought of rebuilding it principally since I first purchased it off Craigslist 4 years in the past. In December, my girlfriend and I moved from New York Metropolis to Los Angeles, and naturally our bikes got here with us, strapped to the again of our automobile. However a five-day cross-country drive over salty roads took its toll. My bike’s drivetrain seemed prefer it had been resting on the underside of the ocean for 30 years, and on the body, rust spots had bloomed round each little nick within the paint. Then, just a few weeks later, its wheels had been stolen. I took it as an indication from the universe: You possibly can’t trip it, so that you may as nicely tear it aside and repair it up.

My bike earlier than the rebuild Michael Charboneau


Sounds easy sufficient, however I’m not a motorcycle mechanic. After I began, my wrenching abilities had been restricted to issues I’ve picked up whereas conserving my creaky outdated trip in form—stuff like altering a tire and adjusting the brakes. However I really like using, and I’ve at all times loved engaged on my bike, so I made a decision to make the leap and do the rebuild. That meant eradicating decades-old elements from the body, having it sandblasted, portray it, and placing the entire thing again collectively once more. I additionally needed to clear up all of the outdated elements I used to be reusing, just like the shifter meeting and brakes, which meant a number of time scrubbing tiny bits of metallic with rubbing alcohol and a wire brush. I purchased just a few new elements as nicely, like a series, shifter cable, rear derailleur, seat, tires, and tubes.

All instructed, it value me about $487 to get my bike in form, together with elements, paint, instruments, and sandblasting. I might have completed it for much less, however I splurged on gadgets like handlebars and a few good gravel tires. That’s nonetheless no small expense, and particularly contemplating the effort and time this mission took, it’s truthful to ask whether or not the rebuilt was value it. Why not simply purchase a brand new bike?

Apart from the truth that a brand new trip can value 1000’s of dollars, I simply actually love my outdated, beat-up set of wheels. It has seen me by way of numerous commutes and lengthy rides out of city, and survived a number of crashes. I wished to study extra about the way it works and how one can care for it, and that’s precisely what this mission gave me the prospect to do.

Serious about attempting a rebuild your self? Listed below are among the different issues I realized alongside the way in which.

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Get the best instruments

As my blunder above illustrates, you’ll need greater than only a crescent wrench and a can-do perspective for a mission like this (though each of these are important). There are all kinds of particular instruments for eradicating and attaching issues like cassettes, pedals, and backside brackets. Park Instrument has a very helpful part on its web site that can assist you to decide what’s in your bike and what implement you want. Don’t need to buy a bunch of instruments? See if there’s a software library close to you that has them, or a motorcycle store with open benches the place you possibly can work in your bike for a small charge. I found the Bicycle Kitchen close to my condo, and it has been a godsend as a supply of substitute elements, instruments, and data. As for paint, Spray.Bike has a superb lineup of merchandise, together with primer and loads of colours and finishes.

bikeThe teardown (and my snoozing canine) Michael Charboneau


Take photos of the elements as you disassemble them

I solely did this whereas eradicating some elements, however I want I had completed it extra often. Whereas placing all the things again collectively, I needed to zoom in on outdated, grainy pictures of my bike and guesstimate how issues match. I figured it out, however it wasn’t straightforward. Don’t anticipate you’ll bear in mind how all of the elements are assembled. You received’t.

Be affected person

Whether or not it’s hoping for good climate to color the body (I discovered I might solely paint early within the morning, earlier than the wind picked up), or ready round for a component to reach within the mail, rebuilding a motorcycle takes time. This was the toughest half for me. It appeared like I might solely make progress in brief spurts earlier than I spotted a component didn’t match or I wanted a brand new software. However I slowly realized that’s a part of the method, particularly since this was my first rebuild. Nonetheless lengthy you assume your mission will take, add a month, at the least.

bikeMaking use of a coat of primer to the naked body Michael Charboneau


Ask for assist

Should you’re interested by rebuilding or doing a little main upkeep in your bike, now’s the time to discover a good native bike store, the place you may get assist selecting out the best elements and instruments. There are additionally loads of nice sources on-line. I discovered Park Instrument’s sequence of how-to movies on YouTube completely invaluable, they usually cowl practically each little bit of upkeep you possibly can carry out on a motorcycle.

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Working in your bike is a good way to get to understand it

Now that my bike is painted and rideable, it’s surreal seeing an concept I had thought of for years turn out to be a actuality. I’m additionally amazed at how a lot I’ve realized in only a few months of wrenching. Bits of my bike that was a complete thriller to me (What springy magic makes a derailleur work? How does a backside bracket keep in place?) are actually issues I learn about—issues I’ve taken aside, cleaned, adjusted, and screwed again on with my very own two fingers. It makes using an much more satisfying expertise, and I wouldn’t commerce it for something. However I would shell out for an additional outdated bike to work on.

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