Rewinding and Doing Things Over

4/28/2017 Update: I am temporarily making this post “sticky” as it contains a large to-do list.  As I work through my to do list below, I’ll cross items off and update with pictures.

Even though I had a partially functioning bike, it wasn’t right.  I mean, I could get from here to there on it, but it was a jalopy with no brakes, ready to fall apart at any moment.  I’ve made several mistakes along the way that now I’ve set about going back to fix. Even if that requires me to strip it all down to its bare bones.

Mistakes or issues that need to be remedied:

  • DONE Fork is wrong size:  I ordered a new 1 1/8″ fork with disc brake mounts that will hold a 700c wheel.
  • DONE Head tube is mounted centered vertically, which doesn’t give room for fork cables if it has caliper brakes. Once the new fork comes in, I’m going to reassess whether I need to cut, grind, and reweld this part.
  • DONE – Used original 1″ tube Seat support (back support) tube was welded on crooked, making it hard to properly mount the seat. I cut it off and grinded down the main boom. I’ll be using 1.5″ tube (instead of 1″) for the replacement.  Old seat tube picture below:

  • DONE Seat frame’s “stretchers” (the 3/4″ conduit) weren’t trimmed before I welded them, causing the seat to mount too high above the frame.  I’ve cut the entire thing apart and will reweld.
  • DONE Seat frame sides (1/2″ conduit) are too weak near the top.  While pulling my new temporary rope seat tight, one started to bend inward. There are only two 3/4″ stretchers: under your butt and in the middle of your back. I will cut and weld on an additional one or two stretchers.
  • DONE – Ordered parts from Bacchetta. Future post will detail. Gooseneck and gooseneck bracket are weak and crooked. I need to replace both with a better long term solution.

To Do

  1. DONE Weld on new back support tube
  2. DONE Weld on support beam for idler
  3. DONE Attach idler
  4. DONE Install proper rear derailleur
  5. DONE Route chain
  6. DONE Install proper fork
  7. DONE Install front disc brakes
  8. DONE rear disc brakes
  9. DONE Mount Seat
  10. Stretch fabric onto mounted seat
  11. DONE Determine and install shifting system
  12. DONE Mark everything and then dismantle!
  13. DONE Paint and reassemble
  14. Take it apart and fix whatever I missed along the way, haha.

Wish me luck!!  Look at that to do list and fix it list!  Here’s a great place for a donate button! 😀

Welcome to my Blog!

Another Year Older, Another Year Wise, er… Yeah, Another Year Older.

It’s been another trip around the sun for me, and this year I want to actually complete the bike project I’ve been mulling over for the past 18 months.

This is the required “welcome” post, so it’ll be long, filling in some background information.

It Started Out So Easy

My original inspiration came when I was researching  different ways to make a useful camp gadget.  Our BSA Troop does “car camping,” which means parking the car and hauling your stuff over to the campsite.  On a recent trip, I brought my wife’s Wal-Mart bike (26″ wheelbase) along and attempted to carry my stuff while pushing the bike.  Of course it was awkward generally, but I was able to support some things on the handlebars, which made things easier.  Other scout parents have those cheesy wagons you can buy at sporting goods stores:

These do the job, sort of.  There are problems – the largest one being that the wheels aren’t made for rumbling over rocks and dirt.  I recall one parent’s cart failing after being overloaded on a slightly rocky path.  The axle completely folded over.  Now he had two problems – carrying his containers and carrying the broken trailer.

Other options are available with better wheels:

I have a few concerns with these upgraded wagons.  First, the axle and wheelbase assembly is still very low, meaning they may get caught up on rocky trails.  Second, the wheels are heavy and proprietary.  The tires are tubeless, which means if you have a flat, you must replace the entire wheel.  Wheels cost less than $10, so it’s not a money issue, but carrying around spare wheels definitely increases your load weight.

To my mind, building a trailer or wagon using bicycle hardware seemed like a winning choice.  I’ve spent plenty of time rumbling around on bicycle wheels – rocky trails are not a problem.  Bicycle wheels are also much larger (26″ versus 6″ – 13″ in this case) meaning the trailer axle assembly can be higher off the ground.  One of the best parts involves the tires.  If you get a flat tire, repairing it means replacing an inexpensive tube.  Bicycle tubes are light and fit into the pocket of a backpack.  Best of all, they’re available just about anywhere, since in the United States you’re never too far from a Wal-Mart, Target, or hardware store.

Design Twist #1 – The Camper

To add another twist to the project, I came up with another idea.  The troop usually rolls into camp late at night.  The next couple hours are spent laying ground cover, setting up your tent / cot / sleeping bag.  But imagine rolling your wagon into camp, setting up some vertical support beams, rolling out your sleeping bag, and yelling “DONE!”

The extended trailer could be 8 feet long, depending on how you design the folding or extending of the sleeping platform.  I got really excited about the idea of using the same camp gadget to both haul your gear and provide a place to sleep.  The bike wheels are more than adequate for supporting a grown man’s weight, and the raised height means no more sleeping on the hard ground.

I searched all over the Internet for bike trailers.  I was looking for things you pull behind a bike or trailers that you pedal around.  I wasn’t picky.  But the basic idea was something you pedal around and provides shelter.  Turns out there was very little to be found on the DIY front and essentially nothing commercially available.  The best you can do is a trailer made to haul a dog around.

While searching for pictures to use for this post, I encountered one company who says they’re offering a new product for 2017.

It looks promising, design-wise.  It sure beats other projects I’ve seen so far.  I’m guessing that it’s fairly heavy, and it’s larger and likely more expensive than what I’m imagining.

Design Twist #2 – The Trike

To understand the next wrinkle to the project, you have to understand that I’d recently taken a trip down 360 loop in Austin, also known as Capitol of Texas Highway.  It’s one of the long, steep hills in the city.  At times my speed approached 40MPH which is very scary on a traditional diamond frame bike.  At a certain speed, you’re basically just hanging on for dear life, hoping the tiniest bump in the road doesn’t send you flying over then handlebars to meet the pavement in your skimpy spandex.  I started to wonder what it would be like to take a hill like that on a 3-wheeled bike, where balance was no longer an issue.  This is because of the obvious fact that it makes more sense to invest a bunch of money into a new bike rather than simply slow down.  🙂 .

Over lunch one day, I took a trip to Easy Street Recumbents where the staff let me ride around on a Catrike Expedition.  While not the lean, mean racing machine that is the Catrike 700, the Expedition is a great bike to sit in and imagine whether or not you’d actually want to ride a recumbent.

I was hooked instantly.  It was fantastic.  My only reservation was the $2500+ price point.  Just a little too rich for my blood.

Design Twist #3 – Learning a New Word

One day I was excitedly discussing this with my coworker, drawing the trailer, the camper, talking about the tricycle on our whiteboard, and bemoaning the fact that I didn’t know which one to build first.

He just looked at me and calmly said, “Why don’t you make it do all three?”  It caught be completely off-guard.  A bike that is also a camper and can haul your stuff?  Is such a thing possible?

More googling was getting me nowhere, until something magical happened.  I discovered a new word:  Velomobile.  A velomobile is a fully-faired or encapsulated tricycle.  Designs vary, but they look like (depending on who you ask) a spaceship or bike-sized penis.  😉  Including that term in my Googling turned my dead-ends in to tons of useful results.

But the question remained – could this be used as a camper?  You’re all the way to the end of this post, and I don’t currently have an answer.  There are more design twists ahead!  Stay tuned.


More Design Twists

(Continued from last post)

Design Twists 4 and 5 – Ultramilers and Racers

These aren’t really kinks in the plan.  Honestly, it’s just letting my imagination run wild.  A serious case of scope creep.  I can’t be too hard on myself though.  I don’t have a welder, so I can’t exactly get started right now anyway.

I was outside cleaning my bikes, and up rides a guy on a recumbent bicycle.  Turns out he lives right down the street.  Long story short, he invites me over for a beer and we have a nice long conversation about how he and some friends are going to make a cycling trip across the US some time in the next couple years.  He invited me along with a couple other guys for a Saturday ride.  We did about 60 miles, and I got to see what a two-wheeled recumbent bike was like.  Great.  Another project to build.  🙂

His bike is a high-racer style recumbent bicycle, also sometimes called a stick bike.  The retail price on a model like this is about $2400.


Another design I encountered while searching is the Low Racer.  A low racer places the rider much closer to the ground.  Supposedly they are extremely fast, albeit with a little less stability.

Further research into velomobiles confirms they may not be the best choice for my current location (Houston, TX) because of the high dew point in the summer.  Essentially even if you move air through them, it won’t be enough to cool you off.

I’ve decided what I’m going to build, finally.  I’ll write about them next.


Final(ish) Design Plans

I have decided to build two separate bikes: a high racer and a tricycle.  The tricycles are a little more complicated, so the high racer should make a better first project.  I got some plans from a popular DIY site called Atomic Zombie.  My high racer project will be some combination of their HighRoller and Spirit Short Wheelbase plans.

The High Roller’s wheels are both the same size, which is what I want.  It uses major frame parts from old bikes:

The Spirit’s frame does not rely on old bike parts, but the wheels are different sizes:

The tricycle project will likely be their Warrior plan, unless I try to do the camper-bike-all-in-one idea:

Once I get started, I’ll be adding Categories and Tags to my posts, so you can follow individual projects.


MIG Welder Rental

I rented a wire-fed MIG welder from Home Depot today.  Mostly it was to play around with welding and see whether or not I was completely incapable of doing it.  Turns out that welder use is fairly easy.

Most of the parts were rusty steel scraps picked up near the railroad tracks.  There wasn’t any plan to do anything specific; again, it was just to play around and get some idea of what it was like.

The kids joined in the fun as well:

None of it was exceptionally pretty, but getting my gloved hands dirty gave me the confidence to move forward with the project.

Steel and Aluminum Tubes in Hand!

I took a trip to Rose Steel today to look at their stock.  The staff was very friendly and helpful, and their prices seemed very fair.  I bought:

For bike frames:

  • 24 feet of 16 gauge (1/16″) 1.5 inch square steel tubing
  • 24 feet of 1/8″ thick 1.5 inch 6063 aluminum tubing

For wheel dropouts and misc load-bearing small parts:

  • 4 feet of 2″ wide 1/8″ thick steel flat bar

They cut the tubes into 8 foot sections.  Because Houston Metro is such a large area, driving to the place was a little bit of a hike.  Within reason, I was trying to buy as much material as I’d need to tide me over for awhile.  I figure this is enough metal to make at least two complete bike frames out of each material, but time will tell!

I’ve Got Gas!

I picked up a 125 cubic centimeter argon tank today from Conroe Welding Supply.  Another business with friendly and helpful staff.

I thought it looked like I was transporting a missile.  My son made the same observation, saying that it looked like I had gone to a military base and stolen something.

On the way home, I heard a distinct hissing sound, and I started to become woozy.  It’s probably because my ears were buzzing with anticipation and I was dizzy with excitement about my new purchase!

Welder Arrived Today

The welder came today via UPS!

I assembled it all and played around a little with some scrap aluminum and steel I had lying around.  It was already late at night by the time I got started, so I didn’t do any actual welding.  That is, I didn’t want to open up my new box of filler rod and try legitimate TIG welding.  Instead, I melted the metal and played around with pushing the puddle around.

The aluminum was just like I expected from watching YouTube videos.  The AC makes a very distinct buzzing noise.  The steel was a different story.  When I switched to DCEN (Direct Current, Electrode Negative) mode and struck an arc, I was amazed.  TIG welding on steel is so quiet!  My only experience with welding thus far is playing around with a wire-fed MIG welder from Home Depot as seen below:

Here I’m really just making sparks and welding random pieces of steel together.  It’s loud, sparky, and smokey (I know, I know – flux coated wire).  But the TIG arc on DC, if it made any noise, was drowned out by the welder fan and the flowing argon.

I didn’t use any filler rod on the steel either.  I won’t have time to mess with it for the next week or so, but so far everything seems to be working great!

Some melted steel:

The patch of goo on the right is a pile of leftover slag from my Home Depot welder fun that I melted with the new TIG torch.

Here is the ugly melted aluminum.

I’m aware that the two pieces aren’t joined properly and that the weld penetration isn’t deep. This was just a little bit of playing around with my new toy on the day I received it. By the looks of the weld, I contaminated my tungsten a bit. Time to practice practice practice!

1.5 Donor Bikes Received!

I put ads on several online forums asking for people’s junk bikes. A couple guys from the Woodlands Bike Social replied, so now I have one and a half donor bikes!

Bike Number One is a steel framed Magna donated by John.

It has some nice looking shocks on the fork.

The straight handlebars may come in useful as well.

There will be plenty of opportunities to make good with this frame.  In fact, the only thing broken about the bike is that the bottom bracket has a stripped crank bolt!

Bike Number 1.5 is an interesting contraption donated by Leo:

It attaches to the back of a mountain bike, converting it into a tandem. The front sprocket attaches to your mountain bike’s chain, replacing its back wheel  the crank actually has two identically sized chainrings.

This allows a second person to pedal, sending the power to the rear of the frame, where you’ve moved your bike’s back tire. Very interesting, and made of heavy duty aluminum as far as I can tell.

One project I’d like to make eventually is a pedal-powered generator.  This device looks like it’s got the perfect gearing setup.

Leo also said he used to build bikes and finally stopped because he’d built more than enough for him to use.  With that, he gave me a box full of miscellaneous parts, including chain rings and trigger shifters.  One day I’ll be satisfied and pass my own box of parts onto another hobbyist.

Thank you Leo and John!


Rear Fork Arms

I’ve just fabricated the arms that will hold the rear dropouts, which, in turn, hold the wheels on:

Similar part from a Bacchetta Corsa (circled)

This is part of a larger piece that I still need to finish, so normally this wouldn’t be enough to justify a whole blog post.  But, it’s my very first fabricated part with my new welder, so I want to brag!

The steel tubes are cut at a 45° angle:

Another piece of tubing is cut and ground as flat as possible, then welded onto the end:

Some work on the grinder to remove all my ugly welding:

A Before and After shot:

Both pieces ground down:

Here is a closeup of the finished piece.  What I’m most proud of is that, unlike something that is affixed or glued, there is no line where the cap was attached. The weld makes the entire thing a single piece of metal.  Neato!

Look ma, no seam!

Another Donor Bike Offered

I received another offer of a donor bike, and I’ll be picking it up today.  Here are some pictures she sent me:

Looks like new tires are in order

Quick-release wheels. Excellent!

Thank you so much, Barbara!