Category Archives: bicycle

How to build a $33 Touring Rig

Many thought it impossible; to construct a fully-fledged loaded-touring bike for under $500. I have gone to the “possimmpible” – the land beyond impossible, to a place where the possible and impossible meld and intertwine. Reality must then surely be warped, I can hear you all saying, if I was able to build up a touring rig for under $50 dollars!
 It all comes down to the fact that many people in Canada, especially the now-ageing baby-boomers, want to get rid of (*gasp!*) their old bikes cluttering up their sheds/yards/garages/evil laboratories, and so can be had for free most of the time, sitting sadly by the roadside of many suburban residences. No, I did not lick out and find a nearly-complete touring bicycle that I used $35 dollars on to refurbish. But, I did the next best thing, which was to convert an old 70’s Peugeot UE-8 frame and wheelset to touring quality!

I must correct myself; for there are those Peugeot junkies here on the interwebs that are going to correct me if I don not; the Peugeot UE-8 was what in the day the French called a “touring bike”. Basically, it was the version of their ever-ubiquitous UO-8 model with fenders, a dynamo lamp and a chromed steel rear rack. Hardly what I would call a touring bike by today’s standards (it doesn’t even have a decaleur to its name!). Again, even “specialized” bicycles like these were mass-produced by the millions in European and North American cycle factories, so they too should be easily obtained. As long as the front fork has at least one set of eyelets, and the rear dropout has at least one set of eyelets, basically any  road bike frame and wheelset from the 60’s, 70’s or early 80’s can be cheaply converted to a basic, light to medium-load touring bicycle.

What I set about then, on this project, was to:
– Change the 2×5 gearing (aka 10 speed) to at least a 3×7 setup
– Change the crappy drop bars/stem friction shifters to flat bars with indexed shifters and bar ends
– Add a front rack!

That’s about it- but it required a lot of parts, which had to be gotten cheaply in order to fit the under $50 bill.
I lucked out again when I found a discarded mountain bike in a snow-bank; I brought it home, called the police and had it checked to see if it was stolen/lost, and satisfied that it was just a dumped bike – I started chopping it apart. From this salvage, I acquired a square-taper BB spindle, a triple crank, a 7 speed freewheel, and front + rear derailleurs.

I already had a flat bar and old MTB 3×7 brifters from updating my other bicycle, so minus cabling, I was good to go!

– I pulled of the $h!tty cottered Peugeot crankset and pulled out the cottered crank spindle. Unfortunately, French-threaded sealed BB’s are hard to find, or expensive, for these old French frames. So, I had to settle upon re-using the old cups with the newer square taper spindle. I then re-attached the triple crank to the spindle.
– I next pulled off the rear wheel, and unscrewed the freewheel. I was lucky; most french bicycles have (once again!) the obsolete “French thread” on their freewheels as well, but this hub had standard threads. Using this, I replaced the 5 cog block with the newer 7-speed Shimano block. I have put the new derailleurs on the frame, but am still missing cabling, which I am in the process of procuring.  However, I have to call this a victory.  Score count: change gearing; CHECK!

– Later, I pulled off the drop bar and stem mounted shifters, along with the old racing stem. Again, the French stem clamp size is an odd one, so I used the stem from the found MTB along with my handlebars and 3×7 brifters to finish the job. Bar ends from the MTB allowed me to get to this point without spending any money. This part was super easy.   Score count 2: drops to flat bars; CHECK!

As of now, I have spend $7.50 on brake cables, and will likely have to spend another ~$7-10 on shifter cables. All that there is left to do is mount the $13 front rack and hook up and tune the derailleurs, and it’s good to go. Total Cost: under $33, for a (soon-to-be) fully-functioning, indexed, 21-speed touring machine.   This rig is destined to be used by my el-cheapo friend, who is looking for an economic way into cyclo-touring. Stay tuned for the pics, as right now I’m far too lazy to go and take pictures of the progress!

Fully Completed.

I’ve done it – the bike is completely finished, and it has been distance-proven; I took it for more than 40 km of wintery riding over the past two days. All the riding and abused has allowed me to ‘dial in’ all the settings of the bike: the Brooks saddle has been moved foreward, the derailleur cables have stretched/settled and been adjusted, the handlebars have been positioned, the STI levers have been re-positioned, and more than all these other combined, the new brakes have been worn in and re-positioned.

Ta daaaah!
Hells yeah – ‘Standard’

That’s right; new brakes. Those old Shimano low-profile cantis are gone, and are replaced with one of the widest-of-wide profile brakes; some Tektro 720s. They really have cleaned up the problems, so now there is about 1/2 cm of clearance each side of the rims and more than double the braking power. The quality of workmanship is superb – they come with 6mm allen key fixing bolts, a stainless-steel bushing, both sides adjust, and the cable yoke has and indexing screw so that cable pull can be equalized. It’s the attention to detail that makes them hard to beat. That, and the fact that they look (and work) pretty darn good, too. When running drop bars with cantis, I can now recommend them wholeheartedly.

It even comes with V-style brake pads, that have  a replaceable insert.
The little things really do matter.

The front derailleur problem has also been (mostly) fixed. While, unfortunately, neither my bike frame or the STI levers have places to mount adjustment barrels, I have managed to get the indexing to near-perfection by simply using a cresent wrench, a pair of pliers and some finesse upon the cable adjustment. The other outstanding problem was the difficulty with which my now 16-year-old Shimano Alivio mountain front d. now moves. I was not able to shift without nearly breaking my fingers pushing on the lever! I had read online that problems could occur beacause of a different pull-ration between mountain and road front d’s, but, to my luck, all it really needed was some WD-40 to lube it up gud! Now, it is (relatively) easy to shift with, but still harder than on most road bicycles.

No, this is not the derailleur. But, it does say Alivio…

Update on the Snow Studs: The homemade tyres have held up fantastically, with very little wear on the screws even after >50km of on-road riding. No screws have come lose or rusted, or pushed back into the tyre – BUT- the duct tape liner on the front ripped and let a screw head have its way with the inner tube. Needless to say, I was not happy about having to remove/patch an innertube in a -10C and snowy environment. There are now 3 layers of duct tape in the tyres. Feel free to add more if you decide to make a pair.


I can’t remember what was going on here, but if I had to guess,
I was a little miffed. And cold.

But, I made it downtown before the tire popped. Downtown TO. is always has an interesting look in the snow.

Looking North on McCaul St.


A Winter’s Outing

Went for a few hours’ ride today – the first full test of the ‘new’ tyres; they are actually 16-year-old ‘Dual Sport’ (i.e., wide as a mountain tire!) Chen Shins which came with the bicycle. They did a real swell job, once I let some air out to run them at ~45 psi, handling the snow, road, gravel and even some ice without slipping.

 My GT has lots of extra room for an
even wider tire, despite already having
on 42mm ones.
 The steep hill down to the buffs is
 salted and in use by dump trucks

I headed down to Guild Inn to access the bluffs’ lakeside trail, and enjoyed a pleasant photographing and sight-seeing session. The bluffs change so much from their summer appearance!

 The bluffs look even more awesome in person. Sadly,
they are predicted to gradually turn into steep hills,
some as soon as 15 years from now.

Even in the winter, dump-trucks laden with dry-fill keep on tipping their loads to complete this soon-to-be Waterfront Trail section, which will eventually connect the beaches all the way out to pickering, without interruption; it will be all path without any streets/roads. Most of the path is already done, with only a few connecting portions missings. With the rate at which construction has increased over this past summer, I expect it to be done in under 5 years, but we’ll see if the project ever gets finished when Rob Ford starts slashing Toronto’s expenditures.
The lonely trail in the winter.

For one strange reason or another, a good lot of car parts have accumulated at the base of the bluffs. Maybe someone drove them over the edge a long time ago?

My favorite photo depicting the car parts down by the lake. This one really
 shows the density of the car parts strewn about.

Most of the parts seem like late 1950s to early 70s vintage – a lot of old OHV V8s are hanging out amongst the engine blocks. Dating them is also made easier by the drum brakes; they were replaced by discs on most performance vehicles by the 80s. Most parts seem to be Ford from the bits of writing I was able to make out on some axles and brake drums.

Not a car – but found down by the bluffs anywho.


I think this is a Ford V8.

I once found an entire crushed Ford Bronco II! If I ever get that roll of film developed, that picture will most surely be put in a future post. That’s it for now – I’ve some homework to finish before the holidays begin.

See more of my photos at:

Slings ‘n Things

There is going to be a shorter post today – I’ve homework to get though, and a laser-quest game! Yes, laser-quest; I am a Scouter (well, scouter-in-training) with a scout troop (good for the community hours, and having a few outtings isn’t so bad either!), and I’m there supervising tonight. But I get to play too, so I’m not complaining! I’ll post some pics of this later… its sure to be fun. Ahead of time, I would like to apologize for my poor pictures – my Sony DSC just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

On friday, my friend and I built some mini-crossbows out of rubber bands and rulers in math class – it was a free period – and perforated apples with ’em. This gave me an idea: what other ‘weapons’ can I fashion from things lying around my house (or school room)? The result: the humble sling, made from cotton twine and a strip of an orphaned sock for the basket.

My homemade sling. Can you believe Goliath got toasted by one of these?


Slings work by multiplying the working force upon the stone, by effectively acting as an extension to your arm. One end of the string has a finger loop, the other, knots. You swing the sling to build up momentum, and then release the knotted end, thus throwing the rock. This homemade sling does the trick – it does indeed fling stones a good distance, to about 100 meters. Unfortunately, due to the sock pouch, rock tend to slip out, and also the thin strings always get tangled.
I tested this sling in a park nearby, and got there by biking. It was snowing today, and since I always am looking for an excuse to snow cycle, this testing was one excuse that couldn’t be passed up. Too bad it was a little windy – otherwise, it wasn’t too cold. About -7C by my estimates.

Ignore the purpleness – it was actually quite nice with a white covering of snow everywhere. I had to beware of ice, though. 

Right now, I’m running my ‘winter’ set-up: I’ve switched into some 41mm Chen Shin ‘Dual Sport’ tyres, which really have quite a bit of traction even when at the max. 75 psi. Still like skates on ice, I found out. I’m thinking of ghetto-winterizing the tyres by shoving some tacks through them – anybody out there with advice on this?
Back to the story: Found some rocks and tested it. Knocked a tree ~30m away hard enough to knock down snow from the braches.

Rock in the sling.

 So, for anyone wondering, Yes!… David probably wouldn’t have had a hard time taking down Goliath, especially since he had years of training and I was still able to whack a tree with 5 minutes practice. 

Camera, taking picture from sling. Note: No cameras
were harmed in the taking of this pciture
That’s about it for today, I’m off to do math.

1st Post!

How exactly does one go about kicking off a new blog? Well, I’m not sure exactly, so I’ll just start with an introduction. I’m a highschool student in Toronto, and today I should be working on my homework, but as I have recently finished a 18-page long maths portfolio (for friday!), I feel like being lazy. And the weather isn’t making me want to get it done, either:
Raining – no biking today.


With the day miseable,  I should be spending time on academic purposes. However, with rain comes no motivation to finish – it is not as if I will be able to spend my time in ways I like. Perfect day to start a blog, non?

I enjoy the experience of getting to know my city better – since I’ve taken up cycling four years ago, I’ve become a lot more familiar with the Scarborough area (where I live!) as well as the more ‘Toronto’ part of Toronto. So, to elaborate, I’ve made my way down town by bike – I don’t just stick around the boonies. Besides, I’m a fan of the ‘city’ feel, with packed streets and the anonimity that comes with this. Did I also mention I love the architechture of late 19th/early 20th century buildings, especially the decrepit and the industial buildings: I do urban exploring, so abandonments and old industrials are particularly cool to behold(in my opinion).
My bikes also bring me to school (except in winter), and take me on tours. I’ve two rigs: my ~35lb GT Vantara touring rig, and my ~22 lb fixed/single speed.

Mine’s on the right!

I personally have logged >5000km on the GT, but the bike is as old as I am and has seen another 2000 clicks from the original owner; my dad. That’s what I’ve asked for as a holiday gift – we’ll see whether my father decided to go with bar-ends or STIs! Right now though, it is equipped with a 3 x 7 drivetrain, and that’s outdated, but more than enough. Its seen me through touring, and by gosh, no whippiness at all, probably due to its 10lb frame built of plain-gauge Tange. This is my main rig, takes me everywhere!
Flamboyant? Maybe, but I love it just the same.

Don’t judge me – I’m not a hipster. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about single speed and fixed gear.
“Then why did you go for red?!?”, you must be asking. Well, I like candy canes, so with white deep-v’s, and red-line tyres, it looks rather like candy. Plus, I just like red, and it is way better than the black spray paint that came on the old 10-speed frame.

I appologize for the crappy camera quality – the Sony point-and-shoot digital cam’s sensor died when I left it out in the cold. My only other camera is film – an Olympus 35sp Rangefinder – and I save the film for shots I feel are really worth it.

Here’s a picture of my rig I thought worth taking. Or maybe I just
only had my film camera handy?

So, there we have it, and that about wraps up the first post. A very long post, but I believe a good footing for what is to come.