My Winter Fugly Bike

Unfortunately my Pashley is STILL at the shop (Just. Don’t. Ask.), and I needed a bike that could handle icy roads for the winter. Neither the road bike, Christina, nor my commuter, Byron, have clearance for spiked tyres, so I was really excited (yes, I know – I really need to get out more) when a neighbour left an old “mountain bike” (/bicycle shaped object) from some time before 2000(?) in the back lane for the scrap metal faeries. It had:

  • Clearance for big tyres
  • Steel frame – ideal for subsequent modifications
  • No suspension
  • Forward-facing drop-outs – ideal for single speed or hub gearing

I took it to pieces and made a few changes – removed the freewheel casette & re-dished the rear wheel; stripped off all the gear shifters, cables & mechs; replaced the brakes & levers with some that I had spare; fitted a rack; went shopping to Recyke Y’Bike & got a “new” set of cranks & 42T chainring, handlebars & a prop stand (£25); bought a single-speed 19T sprocket form Ebay (£11); fitted some SPD pedals that I had spare; fitted a pair of 35 litre Ikea storage boxes to the rack; and finally a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Winter tyres (£35 each – have since found a cheaper source for these):

Here’s the result…

The frame is a little small for me, so the saddle is set right back & it has a looong seatpost.

Those cargo boxes are big, but scarcely wider than the handlebars. They do make the bike a bit awkward to get down to the basement at work though!

To make sure the boxes don’t interfere with my feet on the pedals, they’re set well back & braced with a steel shelf support.

I’ve used truss strapping to fix the boxes to the rack

And big washers to spread the load on the inside.

Overall, this is quite a fun bike to ride – very utilitarian & not at all showy. I’ve set it up as a fixed wheel bike because it’s one less thing to maintain as it gets bathed in winter salt, and it gives me a backup set of brakes should the rims get iced up. The gearing is also low – according to Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator, it does just under 17mph at 100rpm on the pedals. That means I can pedal really slowly when the going gets really icy, it goes up hills relatively easily, and despite the upright seating position, it does OK into a headwind. But I’ll not be winning any races on it either!

I’ll ride it for this winter, and then do some more work in the spring:

  • Get some lugs for a front rack welded on
  • Strip & repaint the frame – its just high tensile steel (i.e. not CrMo) and has some rust spots. I want to see what these are really like, and maybe get some patches welded on if necessary
  • Do some work to make those boxes rain-proof
  • Improve the mudguards’ coverage
I’m really quite pleased with this. Apparently some people get bikes from “shops”, but it’s amazing what you can find dumped and unloved. 🙂
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Posted in Bike Culture
One comment on “My Winter Fugly Bike
  1. Kevin Love says:

    I sympathise with your Pashley issues. Being two metres tall, the large size Pashley Roadster Sovereign was one of the few bikes that fit.

    While a lovely bicycle, I have come to the conclusion that the manufacturing Quality Assurance is of the same calibre for which British automobiles of the 1960’s and 70’s are justly famous.

    I have had to largely rebuild the thing, including replacing the SA internal hub gearing (which failed twice) with a Shimano IHG.

    If I had to do it over again, I would have bought from Royal Dutch Gazelle. Among other things, Dutch bikes have a paint job that can live outdoors without rusting to pieces at the first wiff of winter road salt.

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