Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bambi Goes to Work

Bambi joins the commuter ranks

Watched Horizon “Playing God” the other week about genetic engineering. There’s a spider which extrudes a continuous thread that’s stronger than kevlar, every time it moves. American scientists have managed to implant the thread-producing gene in goats, which thereafter produce the requisite protein in their milk. It can then be extracted and spun into a wonder-thread for practical use (surgical stitching, for example). I was thinking I could do with some of that for my DIY projects. It’ll probably be a wee while before it’s available in the likes of Poundland though, so until then I’ll make-do with man’s own wonder DIY alternative, nylon tights.

Bespoke luggage rack

Since my last post, when Bambi had the wobbles, she’s been stripped-down and re-engineered, with stiffened down-tube, chainstays and beefed-up head tube joints. The mods have been fairly simple, comprising strips of bamboo glued to the sides of the tubes to increase lateral stiffness, all held together with generous lashings of tights, superglue and epoxy. I've also ditched effeminate trappings such as gears, though the single-speed gear I’m using is relatively modest 69 inches. That means my legs are just a blur at anything approaching 25 mph but on the plus side, I can get up reasonable hills. Beefing things up, of course, cocked-up lots of critical dimensions and it took another couple of weeks’ bodging to achieve adequate clearances for tyres, chainring and cranks.

Bye-bye to sweaty backs

Drilled brake levers save 2 seconds on my morning commute

Surgically-enhanced Bambi’s maiden voyage was a West Lothian Clarion club run and I’m pleased to say, handling is now much better. She’s still fairly whippy compared to a steel frame, say, but I’m no Chris Hoy and for all practical purposes seems fine. One feature of a single speed bike is that for hills, there’s no lazy option of crawling up in a granny gear. On the “Climpy” climb from the A71 to Forth, I really had to commit to the cause to avoid grinding to a halt. On the way up, I was given constant reminders of my neglected trunk strength and at the top I was a heaving mess - but it was a nice feeling of satisfaction getting all the way up. For general riding, it’s also pleasant not having the distraction of gears, with their attendant hassle of constantly changing up and down and never being quite satisfied with the gear you’re in - with a single speed, you’ve got what you’ve got and just happily get on with it (commuting home into 50mph headwinds excepted, perhaps).

I’ve added my garden cane pannier rack as a finishing touch and Bambi’s now been pressed into commuting service. I have to say, it’s quite a buzz to be riding about on something a bit different - and I’m certainly given a wide berth by startled motorists.  I've racked up a couple of hundred miles with no major problems but it's still early-days and I need to be a bit cautious for obvious reasons. So I’m packing a few extra tools and will be keeping a close eye on frame joints for the time-being - we’ll see how things go in the next few weeks.


Debs M-C said...

Nice work! You certainly are one of a kind :-) Do you sleep at night or does your brain tick over with all your inventions?!

Anonymous said...

That is AWESOME!! Nice blog btw.
Paul Sharp

Billy said...

Cheers Paul. Not posted for ages but I've nearly built my hillclimb bike, so will report on that before too long.