Archives for posts with tag: Bicycle

My kids have brought me a lot of joy this year, with the addition of number two and our 4 year old son (AKA “the Pok”) with all his crazy antics. One of the highlights would have to be taking my son to the local bike store and putting him on his first pedal bike. He has already been scooting around on his balance bike since he was about 1 1/2 so I was hoping the graduation to pedals would be smooth. I would be lying if I said it was. I had to shave 20mm off of the seat post so he could put his feet down, and the pedals were just getting in the way, collecting his legs as he comes to a Fred Flintstone stop (you know the one that relies on a solid pair of shoes underfoot to avoid gravel rash in your heel).

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I thought that for the first couple of goes I would leave the training wheels on – MISTAKE! He loved them a bit too much and there was much rancor when I pulled them off. Even flat out refusal to ride. The reality is he was scared of falling. So after following him on a couple of rides (translation: running after him to catch him if he fell), he has found the courage to pedal. This is not the first clip of him riding, that will always just be for us, but now look at him motor!

Yes he has a rubber neck, but I am one very proud Dad! The cyclist in me says look at his cadence. The Dad in me says I hope he learns to stop before I have to buy a new pair of shoes. Now to get him primed to go over jumps!

Nothing to say, just the photo from the mobile

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I knew this moment was coming soon, and right now I am blessed with proud parenting moments. My boy, AKA “The Pok”, has very much outgrown his JD Bug balance bike and is ready for pedals. This post has two purposes. Firstly to show how proud my boy is of his new set of wheels, and secondly as a guide for parents buying their children their first bike.

Specialized Hotrock 16

After searching long and hard for my son’s first pedal bike, what I finally landed on was a Specialized Hotrock 16. This bike is the business!

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The Specialized oozes quality all round, like the adult models. And I was quietly surprised at finding this. I thought that I would struggle and would end up having to get a custom 16″ BMX bike made up for him. Check out the paintwork.

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The frame itself is coated in paintwork, not flimsy decal stickers. There are also no dinky infant commercial “tie-ins” to sell this bike – no Thomas the Tank Engine, no Diego, no Ben 10, and no Mickey Mouse. This is a bike, and a Specialized at that.

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The wheels, like the name suggests, are 16″ with a a decent set of strong spokes. Probably slightly overengineered, but you really don’t want to be fixing spokes on your child’s bike. The rubber is decent too, with a good tread pattern and at 2.0″ there is plenty of cornering grip from these shoes. The reflectors on the wheels are big, and that is good because you want your child to be seen on their bike. The great thing is that these 16″ wheels will make it easy for my to replace the rubber when my boy has worn through them (did I hear someone say Maxxis Hookworms?). Oh, and you can inflate these babies to 65PSI if you want to run fast on the road.

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The design of the saddle is smart. There is a handle lip at the rear that assists parents to hold onto the seat as my boy learns how to balance riding. Smart!

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The stem is pretty much a rugged 22.5mm BMX stem. This is fantastic from a longevity point of view, because I will be able to upgrade to a full size BMX stem when he gets older and taller without any issues. It is solid too, rigid and no flex.

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It is a single speed, and the rear mechanicals are covered up well by the transmission guard. This is good because it means that there will be less muck getting into the drivetrain. The rear brake is engaged by pedalling backwards, and I have many fond memories of doing rear brake skids on my BMX bike.

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The transmission guard is well designed and has a smart cutout for chainstay. This is probably the cheapest looking part on the bike, but it is supposed to be a plastic guard to keep the leg from getting caught in the transmission.

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The grips are great for small hands, and the rubber is durable but tactile and not too hard. The front brake lever is adjustable for reach too, again quality.

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And in a final touch of quality, the brake cable is a Jagwire. Who puts Jagwire on kids bikes? – Specialized do.

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I said at the start of the post that this bike is the business and when you have a good look it really is. Probably the biggest thing that I noticed when shopping around for kids bikes was how much lighter it was compared to others. This won’t come out in photos, but is super important for your child. A lot of that has gotta be in the frame design and the wheels. You want them to enjoy the ride not spend their time lugging around an oversized piece of metal.

So if you are looking for the first bike for your child, don’t waste your money on crappy cheap bikes from Kmart or Target. Spend the extra $50 or so and get this one. The fact is the other department store bikes are cheap, poorly designed, and probably weigh more than my dual suspension MTB (I am talking about you Huffy). But also look hard at what you are buying if you go for some of the other big brands. I looked at the Trek Jet 16 and it was very inferior in build quality and design with a whole bunch of unnecessary plastic “extras” – heavy too. I also looked at the Cannondale Trail 16 which was better design, but it was heavy! The great thing about this Specialized bike is that it also comes in a trim for girls too – if only that was the same as the hot pink as Chavanel rode on in last year’s TDF.

And on the most important question… How does it ride? I can’t get my son off of it. The video will come shortly, as soon as I take off his training wheels – he is ready.

P.S. I tried to justify getting a matching McLaren Venge, but then realised that divorce was not a life experience I was looking for.

My MTB construction project continued with the installation of the second of three sets of contact points – the bar and grips. I had already got the frame (part 1), the forks and stem (part 2) and the seatpost and saddle (part 3) assembled. I had an idea that the additions of bling could be continued, but not at a ridiculous cost. Now the Velominati Rules also state in Rule #8 that saddles, bars, and tires should be matched. One must adhere to the rules 🙂

On my new MTB dualie steed (my BMC Fourstroke FS02) I have carbon 3T Xida bars, and the comfort is seriously noticeable in the difference between a set of standard alloy bars. The other main thing about these bars is that they are not very wide, 640mm in width. I like the gloss black look.

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For the grips, I have tried many types and landed on a set from an American company called Oury who are famous for making BMX bar grips and also for motocross. They are clamped grips and have these big cushy patterns on them which leave funny marks without gloves but with them on are super comfortable and responsive.

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This bike was going to have bar ends on the ends on the outermost position against the grips. Bar ends are fantastic for climbing and give me that same sensation to grabbing the hoods on my road steed. The basic ones are big, ugly, and oversized. These ones from PRO are slightly smaller in size, but big enough to grip and angled in slightly. They also have an oval cross-section – a little more aero.

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So I started with installing the bar within the stem. The 3T Xida has micro measurement marks for accurate placement and the white paint is all for the logo of the stem faceplate. My wife took this photo.

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Installing the faceplates and the bolts, it is critical to apply even tightening against the bar so it maintains its position. So diagonally opposite bolts tightened first. My Park Tool torque wrench came into use as there is a maximum torque setting of 5NM on the faceplate bolts.

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Next was attaching the clamp ends to the Oury grips. On my other bike I had to pull out the mallet on these, but for whatever reason I just had to apply some muscle and they popped in.

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My son, AKA ‘The Pok’, wanted in on the action and was begging me to allow him to help. So I told him that he could install the grips on bar. He loved it, but got an icky sensation when he felt the carbon alloy assembly compound that I placed on the bar for the clamps to grip.

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Installing the bar ends was next. This bit was tricky because you have to get the angle of the ends right, on both sides. No doubt I will be adjusting the angle after I take it for a spin. The bolt that you see on the bottom tightens the ends in place.

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The bolt that tightens the bar end again required the use of a torque wrench to tighten. The torque tightness required for these bolts was 5.5NM.

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The Oury grip clamps also needed to be tightened into place, with smaller 2.5mm hex bolts. The torque tightness on these ones was 5NM. I was worried about snapping the bolt heads.

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The final bit of the installation was plugging the bar with the caps that came with the grips. This required a bit of cutting as they were slightly over sized on the plug inserts. But once in these babies were not coming out again any time soon. Here is the finished installation. The cockpit looks quite clean, but it will quickly get cluttered when I installed the shifters, brake levers, light, and computer mount.

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Here is how it looks blinged up against the saddle. Remember – red stripes make you ride faster.

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Next part is the rubber and wheels. I have an interesting choice up my sleeve. The project continues!

 

My new MTB Project had taken a pause with… life, but super sales from online cycling shops allowed me to acquire two key components for the contact points. The seatpost and the bar (handlebar). So construction was able to continue on from where I left off on the previous two stages of the build (part 1 and part 2). While I thought the next components of construction were going to be the wheels, I couldn’t resist installing a bit of bling with the saddle.

The frame that I acquired was quite unique in that seatpost clamp is built into the frame within the seat tube. The other aspect is the way the top tube and seatstays are connected to the seat tube is quite unique as well. I guess it is typical BMC Swiss design style.

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My saddle of choice for this build is the same as the one that I ride on my other MTB (VTT), a fi:zi’k Gobi XM. But not just in black, the one I acquired on eBay is bright red! Bling! I intend to match the colour to my bar grips. The Gobi XM is an awesome saddle, and perfect for anything off-road. It has the “wingflex” capabilities of the other fi’zi:k saddles and has that little bit of extra cushioning. On my second 200km Around the Bay in a Day, I swapped out my road saddle for the Gobi to get that little bit of extra comfort and it worked (i.e. my butt was not sore from the ride). So from a comfort point of view it works on the long distance haul too. The other great characteristic of this saddle is the clip system that allows me to connect up my saddle bag directly into the clip under the saddle. I have no intention of grabbing another saddle bag, just swapping it out between my two off-road rides when needed.

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Being a hardtail ride, I wanted a bit of additional comfort for my rear contact point. The frame is alloy, so I chose to spec up the seatpost to carbon (flex and strength rather than just strength). Keeping with the Italian component theme, I found a heavily discounted 3T Ionic Seatpost in the team edition colours (i.e. with a bright red stripe). It looks the business, if only they made it in white…

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To assemble the seatpost into the frame, I was going to need both my Park Tool torque wrench and a special fluid compound for carbon and alloy assembly. Again I sourced the Park Tool stuff for the job – the SAC-2 compound. This stuff is critical for two reasons, primarily it provides extra grip between the two different material types through silicon bits in the fluid, but secondarily it provides a waterproof seal down the seatpost.

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After first measuring the distance between the centre of my crank and seatpost to saddle clamp, I liberally applied the compound around the part of the seatpost that would be inserted into the seat tube. I then inserted the seatpost to give me the same saddle height. It felt quite different inserting the seatpost with the assembly compound, and straight away I knew it was already doing the job.

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The 3T Ionic is again unique in being able to set micro adjustments to the saddle forward angle with a series of concentric teethed cyclinders providing the mount. Some of the online bike store reviews call this a gimmick, but for me it allows me to set the exact same saddle forward angle between all my steeds.

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I tightened the inbuilt clamp bolts to the specified 5 N m of torque. This is critical not to over tighten carbon components, otherwise they quite literally collapse under the pressure. You can see my assistant mechanic, The Pok (AKA my son), in the background. He once again attempted to “steal” my hex keys.

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Next I set the saddle into place, using the measurement from the centre of the headset cap to the tip of the saddle as my guide. I will probably still have to adjust my saddle front angle after I have the bike parallel. The saddle bolt clamps were specified to be tightened to 7 N m. Again the torque wrench came to use.

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The frame is looking a bit frankenstein-like, but with the installation of the bars, that should make it look a lot more like a “bike”. Having said that, it is coming on! This is from the front…

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and from the back…

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The build continues 🙂

 

Work has been rather busy of late, leaving me not much time to continue with my passions being either riding, photography, or this blog. But I am snatching an opportunity on a Sunday night to kick on again.

The next and easiest parts to assemble for my new MTB build are the forks and stem. The forks have been canabalised from another one of my bikes (my new BMC Fourstroke FS02) which were replaced by a set of kashima coated Fox Racing suspension forks. As a result, these forks are a reasonably high and recent spec being Fox Float 32 RL 100. These were pretty much standard on the medium level 26″ bikes and are a pretty decent set of kit. As the name suggests, the forks have 100mm of travel. The other aspect of the fork spec is that the fork stem is straight at 1 1/8″ in width – again standard at the time, but a lot of the newer forks are now tapered (I assume to allow for more stability and force to flow through the forks and subsequently the headset).

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Being canabalised from another bike, one of the trickest parts of the construct – install of the star nut – had already been done. In addition, the length of the fork steerer tube was pretty much cut to the desired length, so no tube cutting required.

This is a star nut not installed.

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And this is where it sits within the steerer tube.

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The other parts that would be going on are the stem, for which I grabbed a 3T ARX PRO at 110mm in length. This component is not uber light, but then again I could stop eating sweets and lose a few kgs to achieve a more efficient weight saving.

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There is one thing that is fiddly with this component, the torque setting on its six clamp bolts. For that I would need the first of many specialised tools that I will need to use to build this bike, a torque wrench. My Park Tool TW5 Torque Wrench is my new pride and joy in the tool box, though it does take some getting used to (that is another story).

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And of course I would need a headset top cap with compression bolt and a couple of headset spacers (again recycled from old bikes). I will replace the cap with a bit of personalised bling, but I have to procure that part first.

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The next part of the assembly was to place the lower crown race onto the top of the fork crown over the steerer tube. This is an important part to keep both the headset bearings sealed and fork into position (it is effectively a big washer).

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I then pushed the fork through the headset, but without the wheels this was tricky because the wheels and weight of the frame were not pushing the forks up – I had to apply pressure on the frame to keep it in place.

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The final step of this part of the assembly was to place the spacers, stem, and then compression bolt / cap onto the steerer tube and tighten everything up. I must admit that I had to do this a few times, as the first couple of times I either hadn’t got the components compressed down tight enough or spacer combination sorted properly. I used the torque wrench to tighten the clamp bolts to the required 5NM to ensure everything was the “right” tightness. The Zinn MTB maintenance bible also noted that it is important to put grease on the inside of the spacers and the stem so that they don’t seize up onto the steerer tube.

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I will probably have to check the alignment again once I get the handlebar in place.

Here is the build so far, it is starting to look like a bike :-). I probably would have preferred to colour code the forks to the frame, but the second hand forks are too good to not reuse.

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Next part of the assembly will be the wheels, and I already have a head start – that is for the next post.

Over a year ago I started on a dream of mine to build my own custom mountain bike from the ground up. I had sourced a carbon hardtail frame (after getting approval for my home’s minister for fun and finance – I know, a confused portfolio and one I continue to fall afoul of), and over the course of 9 months sourced every single part from all over the world for half price or better. This project was my custom Trek Elite XC 9.8 – and it got stolen! The NSW Police caught the drug addicted thief and my insurance company came to the party and replaced it with my wonderful BMC Fourstroke FS02 – which is better than its engine (me). But it is such a good bike that I don’t want to ride it to work, or even get it scratched for that matter (I know what some of you are thinking – it is a mountain bike for crying out loud, it is going to get PLENTY scratched).

More importantly, I want to build something again that I can say is by my hands. I had plenty of assistance from my LBS on my last build, but this time I’m determined to build this one as much as is feasible by myself. I had recently acquired a copy of “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance”, which is practically the bible for fixing MTBs.

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But this book is so gorgeously detailed that it goes beyond maintenance and will be my guide to my new project. My new project being a custom build hardtail MTB. Time to build something!

The New Project

So I searched high and low for a frame, and found one. This is the base for the new project. I don’t have the skills (yet) to fabricate a frame from scratch, and even if I did I would probably want to fabricate a cyclocross / tourer. In all practicality I was not going to find an affordable carbon fibre hardtail frame like my last beloved. eBay was the source of my find, and it was a good one – even though it was from a couple of years ago. I grabbed a BMC Team Elite TE03 hardtail alloy frame from 2008 from a seller in Singapore. It probably “fell off the back of a boat” on the way from Taiwan to Europe, but they don’t sell these babies anymore. She is a looker with silver / white / dark red scheme. For an aluminium alloy the frame is reasonably light at 1.6kg, but definitely heavier than the old Trek hardtail. Here is the start of the project, the naked frame:

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I was a bit nervous acquiring the frame online from a seller in Singapore, as this was a few hundred dollars of investment. But the bloke who sold them had a 100% record and the frame came shipped in immaculate condition.

The build has effectively commenced with the first component installation being the headset bearings (an FSA headset that the eBay seller provided with the frame). I had to get my LBS to press it in using the specialist tool that costs about $600 to purchase, and therefore not practical for a one build owner to ever buy. I could have used the old wood block and mallet trick, but to be honest I don’t have vice that can lock in the frame while I bashed the bearings in. But this is probably the last component that I intend to get assistance with. I might need rescuing with the black art of cabling, but I will give it a go first.

The high level spec for the bike will be a 26″ alloy MTB hardtail fitted for urban and gravel trail type riding. I will detail the specification as the build comes along.

The whole mantra for the bike is going to be the best for the cheapest. I already have the forks, wheels, brake discs, and rear cassette. I have acquired 75% of the other components, and looking for the sales on the online sites to finish procurement of the components. Most importantly I now have the tools to undertake the assembly with the prize being a Park Tool torque wrench (the best tool a man could own).

I don’t just want to be a dumb consumer. I want to know how to build something and then do it. I don’t get this fulfillment from my day job. More importantly, looking at the way my son has taken to ‘building’ things, I want to show my boy that there are skills that shouldn’t be lost – even if he is growing up in a disposable consumer society. By the time the new build is finished I will have hit S-1 in the stable (if you don’t know what I am referring to then look up the Velominati Rule  #12).

It makes me quite happy to be posting about my new arrival to the stable. I picked up just in time for Easter my replacement MTB steed, and it is awesome! I have finally got my hands on a BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012 dual suspension beast. The first thing I did when I got it was ride over some curbs and jump some gutters on the way back to putting it on top of my car to take home.

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The paint job is the business and in line with cool Swiss graphic design. When I first saw the sales shots, I thought that the lime green was a bit wrong (green is not my colour). But now I have seen the lime green highlights, the subtle metallic grey, and the angular paint lines I have really taken it too heart. Not sure about the white colour on an MTB (mud and dirt magnet), but it is striking.

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I made sure that I up-specced it to match what I was replacing and take advantage of the high performing, but reasonably priced, Shimano XT components. In fact the only thing that is SLX about the bike is the front derailleur, which shifts just fine. It comes with a pretty decent spec sheet, and with my new Shimano XT MTB wheels and the Maxxis Ikons that are shod on them it will be a sweet ride! The Mavic Crossride wheelset it comes with will end up losing the Schwalbe shoes for a set of Michelin slicks so I can tow my little man or ride urban.

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I totally changed the cockpit to what I had managed to find comfortable after much trial and error – namely Oury clamped rubber grips and short PRO bar ends, not to mention the K-Edge Garmin out front mount. Fitting the speed and cadence sensor took some fiddling, particularly with the rear suspension mech, but I managed to get this installed.

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BMC’s whole Advanced Pivot System (APS) on the rear triangle is quite an impressive piece of cycling engineering. It looks quite robust, and appears to be slightly over-engineered – which gives me a lot of confidence. I can’t wait to test this on the trail, again, and again, and again.

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This is the first time I have owned a dual suspension bike, and it will take some work to dial in the front and rear suspension. I am missing the lock out feature for the front suspension forks that I had on my old bike, but I can get around that. The new Fox forks are very high quality, with the finishing on the metal being right up there. I can’t imagine what the Kashima coated forks are like. The only thing that doesn’t quite fit at the moment is the 720mm bar, as it feels way too wide. I guess I got used to 640mm 3T bar that I had on the old bike, and I might end up swapping this component out as probably the final up-spec for the new bike. But I will take it off-road first to see how it goes before I make up my mind.

I have decided to name him VTT, after the French word for mountain bike – vélo tout terrain. I will call it a “he”, because no doubt he will contribute to some additional cycling scars at some point on my body. I still miss my old bike, but this new one has already got a special place in my heart. I took the photos of it before I had the chance to get it dirty, and this is probably the cleanest it is ever going to be. Now I am looking forward to some off-road spinning!

For the last 9 months I have been putting together a dream of mine – a custom mountain from component parts. This is the one I feature as the first steed in my stable. I bought the frame as my birthday gift from my wife and son last year and have meticulously sourced (funds permitting) all the components from all corners of the globe. It was very personal and my pride and joy because it was my design, my setup, and was made to fit me perfectly. It is the steed that I use to tow my son in his trailer so we can go on a bike adventure together as a family. I had busted a spoke on the front wheel last weekend and was going to get it fixed this morning at one of the local bike stores. I had my son with me and we headed down to the garage to get the front wheel and jump in the car. That is when I saw it missing.

It was stolen!

I could not believe what I was seeing – and for a minute I thought I had it upstairs in my apartment where my road bike lives. But it was gone. My son said “Daddy where is your bike?” and that is when it hit me. I had been robbed! As I walked up to the cage it was weird because everything was closed up and the lock was on, but when I got closer I saw what the b@stards had done. They had not broken through the lock, but had broken through mount for the latch and closing mechanism. There was an additional slap in the face because they decided to hang up the lock back on the hook, to make as if nothing had happened.

Broken Latch

They had left everything else lying around including my park tool stand. The cave dwellers probably didn’t even know that they were looking at. But they had lifted the bike clear off its wheel stand.

The empty stand

The b@stards even left their implements that they used to crank open the cage. A rusted old adjustable wrench and a rubber hood that was lying on the end. The hood was probably used so they would not get their thieving hands covered in rust. As if it wasn’t enough of a kick in the guts taking my steed.

A thief's tools

To say my stomach dropped was an understatement. I returned upstairs to inform my wife of what happened, and she came down to inspect herself. There may be hope, as we have CCTV installed in the garage following an assault of one of my fellow neighbours. We will be able to check the footage on Monday. As we went back to the lift I started to feel anger swell inside me – do nothing was not an option. So I left my family and ran around every street I could in the neighbourhood, in the hope that the thieves were stupid enough to leave my MTB steed on display. But to no avail. My anger had not dissipated, so  I thought to myself that the thieves may be stupid enough to try and fix the broken spoke. I grabbed the photos from my blog and wrote up a sheet with the specifications on the side, including all the custom parts. Then I travelled to all my local bike stores, six in total, and informed them of the situation. Two of them had sold me parts, and two of them I had bought from numerous times in the past. I left the sheet with them and then I went to the local Police Station in Glebe. They were quite sympathetic to my cause and in talking to the Constable on duty he consoled me with the fact that bike theft in our area is rife.

By the early afternoon my adrenaline had gone and I felt physically exhausted. I was no longer angry, I was devastated. I had spent 9 months putting this bike together, and it was my first hardcore off-road set of wheels that if I ever chose to race would be my steed of choice. I have not been blogging much the last couple of weeks because I have been working my ar$e off and having to travel. And the one joy I look forward to with certainty on the weekend is towing my boy on a ride. If my bike is being used to finance a high or addiction, then that makes me even angrier. I have worked hard and sacrificed much to attain my wheels, and no doubt the thief with the wrench will never understand this concept.

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