It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday, and as a substitute of watching Netflix with a chilly beer in hand like common, I’m hunched over my bike wheel, which is wedged sideways into my sofa. Tonight’s process: 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 device used to maintain the cogs in place as you loosen their lockring.

At this level, I’m almost completed rebuilding my bike. It has taken many hours and much more journeys to the bike store for components and instruments to get right here. I figured I may improvise my approach round shopping for yet another piece of . In addition to, the chain whip seems ridiculous. It’s only a brief size of chain with a deal with hooked up to it, extra like a medieval torture system than one thing you’d discover in a toolbox. Who wants that? However after half an hour of fruitless wrenching in my lounge, I understand I’m completely unsuitable.

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I want that chain whip.

And in addition 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 concept 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, a couple of 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 expertise had been restricted to issues I’ve picked up whereas retaining my creaky previous trip in form—stuff like altering a tire and adjusting the brakes. However I like using, and I’ve all the time loved engaged on my bike, so I made a decision to make the leap and do the rebuild. That meant eradicating decades-old components 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 previous components I used to be reusing, just like the shifter meeting and brakes, which meant a variety of time scrubbing tiny bits of steel with rubbing alcohol and a wire brush. I purchased a couple of new components as nicely, like a series, shifter cable, rear derailleur, seat, tires, and tubes.

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

Except for the truth that a brand new trip can value hundreds of , I simply actually love my previous, beat-up set of wheels. It has seen me by numerous commutes and lengthy rides out of city, and survived a number of crashes. I needed to study extra about the way it works and easy methods to deal with it, and that’s precisely what this challenge gave me the possibility to do.

Desirous about making an attempt a rebuild your self? Listed below are a number of the different issues I realized alongside the best way.

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Get the suitable instruments

As my blunder above illustrates, you’ll need greater than only a crescent wrench and a can-do angle for a challenge 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 Device has a very helpful part on its web site that may provide help to decide what’s in your bike and what implement you want. Don’t wish to buy a bunch of instruments? See if there’s a device 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 payment. I found the Bicycle Kitchen close to my condominium, and it has been a godsend as a supply of alternative components, instruments, and information. 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 footage of the components as you disassemble them

I solely did this whereas eradicating some components, however I want I had finished it extra continuously. Whereas placing every thing again collectively, I needed to zoom in on previous, grainy images of my bike and guesstimate how issues match. I figured it out, but it surely wasn’t straightforward. Don’t count on you’ll keep in mind how all of the components are assembled. You received’t.

Be affected person

Whether or not it’s hoping for good climate to color the body (I discovered I may 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 may solely make progress in brief spurts earlier than I spotted a component didn’t match or I wanted a brand new device. However I slowly realized that’s a part of the method, particularly since this was my first rebuild. Nonetheless lengthy you suppose your challenge will take, add a month, no less than.

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


Ask for assist

For those who’re desirous about rebuilding or performing some main upkeep in your bike, now’s the time to discover a good native bike store, the place you may get assist choosing out the suitable components and instruments. There are additionally loads of nice assets on-line. I discovered Park Device’s sequence of how-to movies on YouTube completely invaluable, they usually cowl almost 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 considered for years turn into 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 once a complete thriller to me (What springy magic makes a derailleur work? How does a backside bracket keep in place?) at the moment are issues I find out 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’d shell out for one more previous bike to work on.

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