21 September 2012

"Marley's" Wheel Finds Its Home--For Now

As you may have guessed, the wheel Marley "helped" me build has found a home--for now.

Yes, it's on the Trek 560 frame I "rescued."  Today I took it out for its first run--a visit to the doctor's office, with a stop at the Donut Pub on the way home.  The trip is about six miles each way.

About half a mile from my apartment, I had to make my first stop, for the traffic light before the entrance to the Queensborough Bridge.  I had to think for a split-second:  I don't ride coaster brakes regularly, so I had to "re-learn" the impulse to pedal backward.  Obviously,it's very different from stopping with a handbrake, but it's also not as much like coming to a halt on a fixed-gear bike as one might expect.  On a coaster brake, you backpedal for about an eighth of a crank rotation. Once the brake engages, you can't backpedal any further.

 On the other hand, when you want to stop your fixie (without hand brakes), you actually tense your legs up and shift that tension backward and downward, toward your heels.  You can't really backpedal unless you're unbelievably strong or are willing to live with two broken legs for a long time.

Once I got used to the backpedaling motion, it wasn't hard to control my stops:  The Velosteel brake works quickly and smoothly.

As for the bike itself:  The jury is still out.  Not surprisingly, it's accelerates pretty quickly, as the wheelbase and chainstay lengths are about the same as those of Arielle and Tosca.  However, the frame is made of heavier tubing and, more important, the seat tube is about 1 cm longer, which I noticed somewhat on dismounting the bike.   The most significant difference, size-wise, between the Trek and my diamond-frame Mercians is that the top tube is about 2.5 cm longer.  One consequence of that is that I'm using a stem with a shorter extension, which makes the steering less sensitive than it is on any of my Mercians except, possibly, Vera.

I have no doubt this could be a very good errand, city or winter bike.  I just wonder how comfortable it will be for me.  And, of course, I will have a more difficult time riding in a skirt than I would on Vera or Helene.  

Whether or not I keep the bike, I'm going to hold onto the wheel I just built, as well as the front one. I'd also probably take the saddle, and possibly the handlebars, off the bike before I sell it or otherwise give it up.  But I'm not going to make that decision before I ride it at least a few more times.


  1. Justine, Love the color combination, nice job. I was surprised that you put this bike together so quickly.You may have sparked an interest in me to build a coaster hub wheel:) I checked out Elegant Wheels; Velosteel hubs are defiantly the route to take. I may be interested in the bike minus what you want to keep if you decide to sell it.

  2. Well, it looks classy!

    I hear ya on the coaster brake instinct coming back. On the old Cycletruck it was weird the first couple times, then became natural. Almost feel like I should have a coaster brake bike again.

    But now: another project bike for me. More about that soon!

  3. Chris and Adventure--Thank you for the compliments!

    I put it together as quickly as I did because I already had most of the parts and because it rained on one of my days off.

    Chris--I'm still deciding about keeping the bike. I like the ride of it, so far. It's just a matter of fit, and whether or not the bike will be right for how I expect to use it.

    Adventure--I'd be really interested to see your next project bike. And I'm encouraged by your comments about the coaster brake. I guess that after I ride it a while, I will get used to it and I shouldn't have a problem switching between that bike and my bikes with caliper brakes.

  4. Only time I have drawn blood in the last two decades was darn coaster brake! A rented bike and not something I had ridden since a summer in Canada in the late 60's, just could not resist a slight back pedal and stopped dead...

  5. Coline--Update: I never really got used to the coaster brake. Plus, the Velosteel brake isn't particularly effective: I needed to use the caliper brake I installed on front.