Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The white Mixte townie

Finally, here's a great shot of one of the early Douma Cycles bikes.

This is one of those awesome Mixte (pronounced Mixtee) frames that are known as being for both genders and for both racing and commuting. It is fast - very fast. And smooth. This was the first Douma Cycles bike built entirely from scratch from nothing but a found frame. The frame was lying in some garbage in a back alley, where bike frames and parts are often left to die. Adding cruiser handlebars to it instead of road ones turned out to be a great choice.

The original paint job was gray and blue, and the gray was replaced with neutral white and clearcoated into durability.

Because 10-speed road-bike parts are so easy to find, this came together quick and cheap. These steel 27-inch wheels are easier to trip over than they are to buy, because the popular thing to do is replace them with aluminum wheels. I know better than to put aluminum wheels on a steel frame, so this means I have an unlimited supply of old steel wheels that just need new spokes and some rust removal. The rust is, as in this case, usually just superficial. An old steel wheel will last longer, after it's fixed up, than a brand new aluminum one, and it'll have less theft value. A mountain bike seat and long steel seatpost completed this bike's transition into a total commuter, but the narrow road tires preserve its speed potential.

This was a custom build for a friend, and although it's needed some tube patching, it's been otherwise reliable for the two years it's been in service. According to the owner, it "practically rides itself" and is very, very smooth. It's been all over the GTA, and even the paint job has held up.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My "sorry for cycling" bike

My own beautiful main bike. I love it so much. I rescued it from the Beer Store in Little Portugal. It was tossed in the bushes with a broken chain, broken forks, no wheels, headset problems, bottom bracket problems, etc. But I knew its life wasn't over yet. After registering it with the local 14 division Police (who are super duper friendly about such things), I put my heart and soul into fixing it up to sell to a friend. Then, at some point, I realized it'd be perfect for me. Even though the frame was too small, I could make up for it with seatpost and handlebar changes. I'm still trying to get the bars in the right place, but as it stands now, this is the best bike I've ever owned. It's so fast and smooth, and it has a great feel.

I did so much work to it. I fixed up the drive system, then messed it up, then broke it, then gave up on it and turned it into a ghetto one-speed (with the cassette still on) and then finally, finally committed and replaced the cassette with a normal rear freehub. The performance difference of having a one-speed is totally worth it! I also painted it pink and then green. Maybe I should have left it white. It did look good. But it looks good Green too.

After awhile, I wanted to give it a name, or at least a title. So I wrote "sorry for cycling" on the side. It's kind of sarcastic, in that no matter what you do on the road, if you're on a bike, some driver will find a way to object and try to punish you for being there. But it's also genuine. I know that our infrastructure puts drivers and cyclists in conflict, making both much harder than they have to be. I also know that, since I switched from driving to cycling, I've been freed from buying enough cars and gas that at least one person has been put out of their job in the auto or oil sector. As cycling takes off, those industries are being affected, which is great, because they're very harmful to our public health, and they need to take a huge hit, but that hit doesn't just affect their corporate earnings: of course it affects jobs. The Auto industry is one of the last manufacturing opportunities for Canadians - which is also wrong and not my doing - but still, I am sorry to those who lose their job because I promote cycling as an alternative to driving.

But "Sorry for Cycling" isn't a name... it's a slogan. So I still want to come up with a nice model name for this thing. I was thinking I should label my bikes by their owner's name. At least their first name. But wouldn't having your full name on a bike have some value? I can't tell. I also wanted to name this something that indicated how quickly and smoothly it got me across huge distances... something like "portal" or "tele-" something. Nothing seems good enough. Naming things is hard.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

DC#7 - The Pink Step-Through 3-Speed Cruiser

It's bold, it's beautiful, and it's the perfect city commuter bike: a 3-speed vintage thing of beauty, stolen from the garbage and, at this point, mostly fixed up. All the things the average cyclist wouldn't easily be able to do at Bike Pirates has been done: the drive train works. What it needs now is new brake cables, pads and housings ($10 and about an hour at Bike Pirates), a new longer steel seat post ($10 - $15 and about 1/2 hour install time), and a new bell, and it'll be good to go. At this point, it's $130, including the $40 Kryptonite lock I bought for it. I'm no longer selling bikes without locks included, unless the buyer can produce an acceptable lock for the bike. How's that for a sales policy? If I finish the repairs myself, the asking price will be closer to $180 - again, lock included. Still an amazing deal, but I do want to leave it as is for just long enough for any savvy cyclists to take advantage of their willingness to take it the rest of the way.

Note - these pics were taken before I installed the shifting system, so you don't see the shifter or the stuff that makes it work. But it does work. It'll need to be tightened a bit as the cable wears in, but that's an easy thing that you can do without taking anything apart.

It's a beautiful machine, and it's in great shape, considering. The spokes will have to be replaced at some point, but I offer great and affordable wheel reconditioning services. I just replace spokes as they break, personally, and I can quickly teach anyone to do it themselves.

When it comes to convenience and performance, nothing matches a 3-speed step-through bike in the city. This thing will rock all year 'round and still seem worthless enough not to worry about. With this Kryptonite on it, you get a high-performance, low-value, low-maintenance city slicker mobile that will take you there, back and everywhere in between. This thing is a jewel of the garbage pile, and has many years of truckin' left in it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bike frame shapes and gender

"The lower bar is meant to allow girls to get onto the bike without heaving a leg over the seat and thus showing their underpants"
"Although "step-through" frames have typically been marketed as women's frames in the USA, they're ridden by both men and women elsewhere. This type of frame is very convenient for utility and commuter bikes in urban areas where one may want to mount/dismount without swinging a leg over the back of the bike"
"Think about it, would you buy a car that you had to climb into, rather than step into gracefully, just because you were told that it was a ‘gents’ version?"
I've heard so many different excuses for why women should step onto their bikes and men should swing their legs over their back wheels. The long skirt one is the most common. The one that seemed most promising to me was that the step-through frame was designed originally for businessmen who didn't want to break their work pants, and then by the time women started cycling, men had switched to cars, and then after that it became a torch carried by marketing. It's a bit shaky as a theory, but it brings up a good point: using a diamond-shaped frame with any kind of formal wear, whether it's a long skirt or formal men's trousers, is a pain.

For me, the main differences between step-through frames and diamond shaped frames are:
  • Step-through frames are so much easier to carry, mount and dismount, making them well-suited to city cycling.
  • Diamond-shaped frames are more rigid, so they offer better performance on smooth roads, while step-through frames (assuming they're steel) are more flexible, so they offer better performance on rougher city terrain.
  • If I'm riding the wrong bike for my gender, I get treated like a bike thief and/or a weirdo. I've been subjected to a bunch of gender harassment just because one of the tubes on my frames isn't ready to get me in the crotch.
There's so many gender studies things in play here, I'd rather just focus on the practicality: I think everyone should have a few bikes... well, of course I think that: I want to sell more bikes to fewer customers! But as a cyclist, I want the choice and I want the backups. I used to think two was enough, but now I want three:
  • One diamond-framed road bike with smooth, narrow tires, lots of speeds, and set up so I'm positioned like a racer... bent over for maximum power and minimum drag.
  • One step-through cruiser with large tires, a one or three speed drive train with a coaster brake, and a basket on the front. And the whole thing has me positioned erect instead of bent-over.
  • The main commuter bike, which is also a step-through frame, but has medium-sized tires, a one-speed drive system with no brake, and then front and rear hand brakes. The body positioning on this frame allows me to sit back and look around, or bend forward to get some speed up or deal with wind. It's the most low-maintenance and flexible design, and it allows for the most maneuverability in urban situations. If somebody just has one bike and they use it in the city, this is what it should be, regardless of their gender.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Back in action!

After selling my first wave of bikes, I realized I was doing it wrong. There were a few types of work I couldn't do on my own, and didn't feel okay about doing at Bike Pirates, and pretty much had to do in order to guarantee the relative safety of the bikes I was selling. So I put my bike business on hold, while I got the tools and extra education to be able to do a complete and proper build. I also realized that there's no way I can just build up a bike and sell it right away. It's something that I need to do while riding the bike here and there, so that I do a build over a longer period of time, and all the bugs get worked out. I kept having to do follow-up maintenance after my sales, and it was the kind of stupid things that now I plan to catch during my extended builds. So now I plan to take a month or two to get a bike up to scratch, and then I can sell them with the knowledge that they won't need maintenance for a reasonable amount of time. This gives my customers a big value advantage over other bikes. Even brand-new bikes aren't ridden around between being built and being sold, so they usually require maintenance almost right away. Bike vendors even offer follow-up maintenance in their sales agreements, and I think that's an admission of failure. They should be able to sell each and every customer a product that doesn't need maintenance for at least six months, and the goal should be a year and a half. So that's my goal with my bikes. I even plan to lend them to friends so that they can be tested and tuned up over the period of a whole commuting season.