Monday, December 20, 2010

Scraper Bike Wheels

Our next project on January 8th 2011 at the SBW bike club: Scraper bike wheels

Saturday, December 18, 2010

SBWC 2nd meeting at Mundy Branch Library

With bikes fresh picked from the Fowler bike giveaway this morning, we got to work. We tuned up, derusted, greased and cleaned them, so that they would look like brand new. The blue one is a trashed girls BMX that we repaired and customized today, removing the decals, adding some vintage white grips, and installing a recycled white banana seat on it. It is a present from the club to Maria, who is 8 years old, and didn't have a bike. Today we had two new members: Angel and Mikese.

Monday, December 6, 2010


We live in a consumer society, which produces a lot of extra, unwanted, out of trend consumer goods. When you are in the business of making your own fortune bicyclewise, and follow only your own trends, it is easy to find the materials you need to build a bike for free.
Here is another English cruiser I picked up on the side of the road, and repaired with all 100% trashpicked materials:

I like the roadster effect with a fat cruiser wheel in the back. It was a front wheel actually, and I just replaced the hub with a back hub with a coaster brake. The handlebars are wrapped with leather tapes made from an old leather jacket, and an old wine cork.

Where to find free or cheap bikes to fix up:
- Trash night
- Dumpster behind bicycle shops (better to ask the owner)
- Flee market (near the Carousel Mall: map) nice bikes for $15/$20
- Garage sales
- Bikes giveaways (December 18th, 10:00 am, Fowler High School)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

SBWC bike club's first meeting

Syracuse Bicycle Works moved from the digital world to reality. We had our first club meeting yesterday in the community room at Mundy Branch Library. The founding members are: Angel, Brian, John and Edward. Juan Cruz, artist in residence for the Salt District of the Near West Side also came to visit us.
We fixed up minor problems on Brian and Edward's bikes, and started working on building a path racer together.

English, Spanish and French were spoken, but mechanic is our common language. Some of the kids don't have bikes yet. So, as we talked about recycling, their first mission is to look around for a trashed or donated bike that we'll fix up and customize together.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Building a Single Speed Path Racer

Path racers are the old track bicycles that used to be raced on velodromes in the early 1900s. They were fixed gear single speed bikes made for speed. Here is Major Taylor on his. I just love their retro look, and it's easy to recapture. Here is how:

Take an English roadster or lightweight cruiser with a straight frame, the most basic kind of bicycle. This one was picked from a trash pile at a street corner.

Rip off anything that is not strictly necessary to the elemental functioning of the bicycle: fenders, chain guard, brakes, reflectors, grips. Clean and lubricate what's left.

Here I replaced the three speeds rear hub by a single speed coaster hub, which involved rebuilding the wheel, but a fixed gear hub is another option.
To finish the bike, add a nice spring leather saddle, flip the handlebars upside down, and put some bar tapes. Pay attention to details, and colors. The cream tires are Schwalbe Delta Cruisers.

Perfectly silent, fast, comfortable, and stylish. Ain't nobody else got one like this in Syracuse.

Here is another one I outfitted with a homemade disc wheel:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trash Picking!

On her way to pick me up from work, my dear wife saw these two Raleigh English cruisers (probably from 1972) in a junk pile on the side of the road. Nice straight frames... with strong and nicely cut cast bracket shells and lugs... made in England... old fashioned looking... the kind I can easily turn into single speed path racers. That was the opportunity I had been waiting for! So here is my winter project: twin bikes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DIY Disc Wheel

Winter is coming: it's time for customizing! Here is my last project inspired by the recent elections: A lenticular wheel!

Cost: less than $10
Manufacturing time: 2 hours

Made from Recycled Political Signs:

Measure 'em, trace 'em, Cut 'em, drill 'em, paint 'em

Tie the two sides through the spokes with cable ties:

Finish nicely with weather stripping and duct Tape

And voilĂ :

That's one fast ride!

Homemade in Syracuse, NY USA

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scraper Bikes

The scraper bike movement was born in Oakland, California a couple of years ago under the iniative of Tyrone Stevenson Jr. The idea is to customize your bike with simple materials such as foil, tape, recycled boxes and cans, and spray paint, and in making it look like it has rims. It's had a positive effect on the community in Oakland, keeping kids out of troubles, and encouraging their creativity. I don't know about you, but I'm working on rims tonight!
The original video: Scraper Bike
The Blog: Original Scraper Bikes
On National Public Radio: Scraper Bike Fever

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Onondaga Park is a velodrome

I've often thought that it would be cool to have a velodrome in Syracuse: a place where we could race with friends, and organize events, a place where bicycling would be celebrated every day.

Yet bicycling must remain a democratic activity, and stay within the reach of all. It can't be contained in one exclusive space. It belongs on the street.

So I realized I had been bicycling on a velodrome all along: Onondaga Park.

The upper part, around Hiawatha lake is always beautiful. You can go up on the little circle, above the basketball courts, and have the best view of the city. There is a nice uphill near the fire station that will get your heart pumping. You can go on the foot path toward the gazebo and kick some dirt. The long stretch along Roberts Avenue is ideal for sprints.
If you need more space, you can easily expand your route toward the lower part of the park, which is pretty cool too, or go through the south side, along 9 mile creek, and snake around all the way to downtown or the university.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Coaster Brakes Rule

I love equipping my bicycles with coaster brakes. They do away with cables, and simplify the look of a bike. They make for a completely silent ride, without the constant clicking of a freewheel when you coast, and therefore help you tune in your surroundings. They keep your hands free: everything's in the leg work, and along with the single gear, they render the ride more intuitive, and free your mind to be focused not on the machine, but on the landscape, just like when walking. It's a good thing because, since the braking is somewhat smoother, and lengthened, you need to learn to anticipate the terrain, and therefore acutely pay attention to it. Also, they seem to last forever, which lowers the need for maintenance. The only downside would be the risk of a chain break, which never happened to me, but has led me to consider installing an emergency brake on the front wheel of my path racer. I ride it hard downhill at times, and a chain break is a scary possibility, however unlikely.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dumpster Diving

This was a trashed 12 speed Mossberg that my friend Matt found in a dumpster behind a local bicycle shop and dared me to repair. The thing really looked like crap, beside I suspect it wasn't much of a bicycle to start with. I had to remove every single moving part on it, because it was not only rusty, but also of poor quality. I chucked the wires, the derailleurs, and the brakes. I replaced the ball bearings, the bearing cups and the chain wheel with Schwinn parts and others to convert it to a single speed. The original wheels were 27", but they were too far gone to do anything with, so I replaced them by 26" wheels I had, with a coaster brake in the back. I removed the ugly decals, and cleaned up the frame. Now it's cool, simple and low maintenance.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Never pass a bike

Last weekend, I was driving along the western shore of Cayuga lake, when I saw a garage sale with a few bikes for sale. Most of them were mountain bikes (I hate mountain bikes), but there was a cool sparkly blue English cruiser from the late 1960s, very reminiscent of my orange "path racer". The guy wanted $7 for it, and I passed! I thought: I have too many bikes already... where would I put this one? I have not been able to sleep well since then or to not think about it. Follow my advice: when it's cheap, go for it!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Single speed conversion

Here is a 10 speeds Raleigh Super Record I bought in Brooklyn for $40 (a high price for me), but I wanted to bring a little bit of Park Slope back home. I always intended to convert it into a single speed eventually. Well yesterday I popped the old 5 cogs freewheel, installed a 17 teeth single speed Shimano freewheel in its stead, and today I respaced the axle, redished the wheel, removed the derailleurs, and shortened the chain. A cheap but efficient job.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Path Racer

Customized from a K-mart bicycle from 1970 bought for $10 at a garage sale. I aimed to recapture the look of the old path racers. I just cleaned it up, lubbed it, changed the handlebar with an old one I had laying around, put on some new grips and new pedals. The tires here are Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. This is the ideal bike for scorching through the city at full speed. I'm going to be making a lot more of those.

Who got style?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Low Rider

I found that Schwinn Stingray frame in the woods while straying from a trail. There was just a frame and handlebars. It was all rusty. I had to repaint it. The wheels, tires, fork, seat, sissy bar, grips are new. The handle bar post, crank, chain wheel, pedals, chain guard are all vintage.
For sale; $300
Here is the before picture:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paint Job

Before (bought at the Syracuse flee market):


I flipped the handlebar back up. That was too silly. All original, except the saddle and the grips, which come from a trashed bike in East Syracuse, and the handlebar stem and the crank, which are new. Hours of sanding, priming, painting, pinstriping. That's when I started being able to take a bike completely apart in less than 15 minutes for painting, but I'm bragging. The light comes from an old French bicycle.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My American Cruiser

Customized from a Schwinn Corvette bought for $35 at the Lacona Auction. I added a spring fork. The Saddle is a super comfortable Selle Royale. I removed the fenders to accommodate the Schwalbe Fat Frank tires. The bell is an old French Coucou my father bought for me. I crossed the border to Canada at Cape Vincent with this one, drove on Wolf Island, and all the way into Kingston. Nice ride.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lady Cruiser

Look at this nice Rollfast from the 1950s I bought at the Lacona auction for $12:

Cleaned it, changed the saddle, wheels and tires, put a basket in the front. That's my first work since I was a kid, and it's for my lady.