Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pimp My Bike

I just picked up one of my bikes from Astoria’s best bike store, Bicycle Repairman Corp. (Did I mention there’s a different new bike store in Queens Plaza right by the entrance to the bridge? It’s more sales than repairs, but you can’t beat the location. I’m sticking with Bike Repairman, but hopefully Astoria can support them all). I hadn’t seen master mechanic Andrés in a while. I’ve been busy and my bikes have been rolling just fine.

I brought in my “clunker” bike because I needed about 5 things done to it and was too lazy (taking off the rear wheel to replace the tube is such a pain in the ass because it’s so accessorized up with fender and rack and coaster break).

I also wanted the rear rack improved or replaced because I put a lot of weight on it and when the saddlebags are loaded, it’s been pushing the fender into the wheel for ages now. I don’t like that.

I like Andrés because while anybody can install something new, he finds solutions to problems. For the rack, his solution was to install a long screw with some spacers for the main rack support. The spacers keep some distance between the rack supports and the fender stays. So even when the rack moves side to side because it’s supporting a lot of weight (like, say, my wife—not that she weighs a lot, but anyway, like I was saying...) it won’t push the fender.

With my wife as his witness, he swears the screw will support the weight of her just fine. (Not that anybody recommends riding people on the bike of your bike, of course... even though it’s fun, romantic, convenient, and everybody in Amsterdam does it. And you should always do what everybody in Amsterdam does!)

And then I have these Egyptian bike bells. In Cairo, you often see men like this:riding bikes like this: One hand on bread, the other on bike. It’s great for your posture. While some may note the absurdity of men swerving through dirty traffic on bikes with huge trays of bread on their head... I thought, “hmmmm, I wonder how that bell sound is made?” I had never heard anything like it. Constant, like a rotating bell, but with a steady sound, clearly not thumb activated.

They only really have one free hand, so it’s either brake or bell. And their brakes suck (just poorly working Chinese hand-operated rod- or bar-and-lever-style brakes). But they have great bells. I imagine they drop their bread more often than they’d like. Or you want to think about while eating your falafel.

You can actually see the bell (barely) on the front wheel of the above pic, the one of the bike not being ridden. Bringringringringringringringring is the sound of wholesale bread being delivered to feed all the happy Cairenes! All 17 million of them.

As I wrote in an early post:
I was happy to discover a "spoke bell," AKA an "egyptian bell." This ingenous bell, used by men biking with big trays of bread on the head, is activated by a (brake-like) lever. It pulls the attached-to-a-spring clapper of a bell into the spoke of the turning front wheel. On the release, the clapper whacks against the bell, making a glorious sound as long as the bike keeps moving.

We tried like hell to find one in Cairo when we were there. We were sent from one bike store to another, from one side of town to the other. After dozens of attempts and bikes stores (hey, there are worse things to do in Cairo than explore every bike store), a man said, “Yes, I do carry them... but I’m out of stock. But they’re in a truck and, enshallah, may be here before you leave tomorrow.” Well, God wasn’t willing because they weren’t.

But our wonderful friends went back later, bought some, and mailed us five!

So I’ve been sitting on these precious bells for a while.

I went to pick up my bike and Andrés said, “We’ve been waiting for you. We can’t figure out how to install it!” I secretly pleased I had baffled the best, I tried to figure it out. The bell was wired and the lever was on and the bell was sort of mounted. But they couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. I wasn’t exactly sure either, but it least I had seen one before. As it turns out, the bell has to be installed more toward the rim (away from the hub) so that the spoke hits the clapper in the right direction. And then the clapper has to be positioned just so.

Handsome bell! Their final touch with putting the presta valva cap on the screw sticking out! Nice.

In the relaxed position, the spring pushes the clapper out away from the wheel: The clapper is on a flexible spring like thing, so as the spoke passes, the clapper springs back into the bell. Think of the little red arrow thing on the Price Is Right big wheel.

When you pull the break lever, the clapper moves into the spokes of the front wheel like this:Ingenious, clever, a great invention already almost lost to time. As long as the wheel turns... it’s very loud! It’s also the coolest bell ever.

I also had my Syrian hand-made beaded handlebar grips and cable housing snake put on. I’ve never figured a good way to put handlebar grips on tight and still be able to actually put them on. Anyway, they did it good and didn’t even seem to understand my problem when I asked them how they did it. I know you use electrical tape to keep them from sliding... but then how the hell do you slip the grips on?

I have the only Syrian beaded handlebar grips in America and a monopoly on the illegal Syrian import business. But for you, my friend, special price! My bike is officially pimped.

Just jump in front of me, pedestriancrossingagainstthelightmotherfucker [BRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRING] I dare you!


Jim said...

I made something similar. When you pull the rear brake lever, it pushes a bottle generator against the wheel, and a bunch of lights (LEDs) light up. A brake light!

Anonymous said...

The old BMX trick is hairspray. Coat your bars in hairspray, and shoot some inside the grip. The cheaper and stickier the hairspray, the better. Try Aqua-Net. The grip should slide on easily, then be nearly impossible to move the next morning.

PCM said...

Ahhh.... thanks! (now if only I had some hairspray)

... it's just s'meee ... said...

i'm building what i call a wheel bell ... almost finished ... i built it very different from the egyptian example ... it's been a fun though time consuming project .. martin : D

PCM said...

Just a warning about this bell. It done came out and bit me bad. One should really think twice before attaching pointy metal objects to one's front wheel.