Don’t ask about the tarp. We aren’t mass murderers or involved in particularly sloppy sex play; just parents to an old, incontinent cat.
Craigslist you foul temptress. The kiddo has maxed out the seat post on her 16” Specialized. Over the winter we scored a bitchin’ 20” Gary Fisher mountain bike turned franken-commuter from Alex Wilson at West Town Bikes and we were eager to switch the kid from her single speed 16” to a nicely appointed 6-speed with fenders, rack and milk crate. I love this bike in an “it’s so ugly it’s cute” sort of way.
Unfortunately things can never go as simply or predictably as kid grows out of smaller bike, kid moves on to larger bike. The Gary Fisher is still monstrously oversized. Even with the saddle slammed she can’t get a foot down and the handlebars (which I swapped from the mountain bike bars pictured to a set of swept back ape hangers) are quite a reach, putting her in an awkward and potentially dangerous body position.
We were looking at least 6 months to a year before she could comfortably fit on this bike and with as much riding as we do, there’s no way she could go that long without a bicycle.
Queue my mistress Craigslist and all the treasures she holds within. My friend Eli stumbled onto a 20” 6-speed Specialized for a temptingly low price so of course I had to snap it up. These bikes hold their value really well since they’re basically the only kid’s bike available domestically that isn’t a big stinkin’ turd. They’re light weight (sub 25lbs - which is really light weight for a kids bike), come with fairly good quality Shimano components, are fitted with kevlar puncture resistant tires standard and have a legit 3 piece crank set. I do wish that fenders and a chain guard came standard on them but really, there’s so little push for quality kids bikes that I don’t blame Specialized for not going the extra mile. I plan to hit Working Bikes this week and scope out a pair of Planet Bike or SKS recumbent fenders to get us through the wet winter and spring seasons.
This is an older model that differs in a couple of ways from the version Specialized makes today. The most obvious difference is the solid fork. New models feature a suspension fork which to me looks tacky and isn’t necessary for city riding. I don’t know many 5 and 6 year olds that competitively mountain bike so I’m really not sure what the newer forks would be appropriate for. The solid one is uber thick and can take a good lickin’ from curbs and ramps without cracking so the current set up is kid tested and approved in our household.
The model I bought is at least 7 years old and has been collecting dust in the seller’s garage for nearly as long. The tires were flat, the frame and wheels covered in spider webs (and inexplicably dead butterfly cocoons - yick), the brakes were somewhat immobilized and chain drier than a bone. To put it kindly, this bike needed some maintenance love.
My first task today was to wipe away as much of the built on grime as I could with paper towels and sudzy water. Then I used the water pick feature on my garden hose to sand blast the hell out of the critter corpses and all the spots I couldn’t reach with my wax on/wax off technique. Once it dried off I put it on my hand dandy Park Tools stand and got to work on the brakes. The front was pretty functional just from the cleaning but both levers needed to move in closer to the grips so tiny fingers could reach them. The rear brake needed to be lubed and adjusted. I like the stopping power of v-brakes but I really loathe the frequent and necessary adjustments that need to be done whenever a wheel is removed. Part of my reticence comes from being so anal retentive about the distance of the brake pads to the rim. Why must the left side be 2mm farther away than the right?! After finagling with the brake for a while I reached a point of near satisfaction and decided to leave it be for now.
Next I fully dried the chain with a clean towel and lubed it well, wiping off any extra Pedros that didn’t work its way through the cassette and derailleur. The newly slick chain improved the shifting and I didn’t need to adjust the derailleur at all. Score. The headset had a lot of sticky grease build up near the fork and stem but it seems to move fine and there’s no crunching to I’m going to tack the leakage up to it sitting in an unheated garage for years, at least until an actual problem arises.
A little air in the tires, adjustment of the seat post height and addition of a squeaker bell and flag and this mean machine is now road ready. And what luck, we’ve got a beautiful Indian summer afternoon to look forward to.
Next up, learning that pedaling backwards no longer triggers a coaster brake. Eeep.