Monday, June 22, 2015

Simple Tire Swap Turns Into Full Hub Rebuild and Gwendolyn Will Always Be My Favorite Bike and I Don't Know Why I Find These Stupidly Long Titles Entertaining (Rest Assured, They Won't All Be Like This)

As I said before, I wanted to keep using the Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub for commuting around Ann Arbor because the original SW hub on my '58 Raleigh Sports was more fragile and hard to find parts for.  So, after enjoying the fully rebuilt and better-than-new SW for a few days, Gwendolyn waited a few more (more like ten) days for me to get around to swapping the wheels and tires.  I finally got around to it yesterday night.

First step: Hoist'er up! Gwendolyn weighs 45 pounds, one more than this lift is rated for.  Not that the numbers really matter to me, but the whole thing leaned forward precariously the first and only time I put the full weight of this bike on it so I won't be doing that again unless it's really necessary.

Seeing that first photo reminded me of something a little off topic, but I finally installed a bottle cage for those times when I get hamburgers for lunch and can't finish my drink.  I didn't want to just clamp it to the seat tube because I'd be constantly kicking it while getting on and off the step-through frame, so I just stuck it to the outside of my basket using a coaster brake strap.  It works well enough and hasn't gotten in the way yet.  Back on topic.

Originally, all I intended to do was to put the Schwalbe tire onto the '79 AW hub and wheel and repack the bearings in it.  After putting the driver and bearing cup back on, I found it quite difficult to thread the indicator chain back into the axle.  I tried for a good thirty minutes and could not get it in there for the life of me.  I even shined a headlight into the axle and could clearly see the hole, but the rod still wouldn't go in.  Finally, I gave up and tore the hub all the way apart. Thankfully, this one didn't take too much hammering to unscrew.

Just as a brief comparison between the SW and AW hubs, the AW has four planet gears instead of three and they're actually quite a bit bigger.  The planet axles are not cast onto the carrier as one piece so you have to slide them out to get the gears out.  The main difference, of course, is that the SW did away with the springs in its pawls, making it much more dependent on precise machining techniques that were not economically feasible back in the day.  The SW hub was released to the public in 1956 as a replacement for the "aging" AW, which itself was released in 1936.  After only two years, the SW proved so unreliable that the AW was once again made standard.  Sturmey-Archer is still making the AW hub today, although it went through a minor change (no in-between gear) ten or so years ago.  I guess "if it ain't broke, then don't fix it" does apply to some things.

It's hard to see, but my problem was that the little cylindrical axle key that the indicator rod threads into was rotated just a few degrees and somehow got stuck like that.  I straightened it out and the rod threaded right in.

Something I found strange was that rather than being cast with the axle as one piece, the sun gear was secured using a pin that looked like it was squashed into place.  There was a little bit of play but it seemed strong enough.  I'm wondering if this is a change that happened to later hubs and if it was more fail-prone.  I did read that the late '50s was the peak in Sturmey-Archer quality while anything made for some time after the mid-'70s is not worth buying and I'm wondering what exactly was responsible for that - manufacturing quality, design changes to cut cost, or both? Either way, I didn't feel the need to completely degrease every part as I did with the SW because nothing was gummed up and the sprung pawls aren't as picky about lubricant viscosity.  I just left the indicator rod in and threw the whole hub back together over that for fear that the axle key rotate itself again.

I'm pretty sure the entire teardown and rebuild process took less than an hour, so I guess I'm becoming better at this.  I also thoroughly cleaned the chain and sprockets and I think this is the cleanest the drive train has been ever since I restored the bike a year ago.  I did make one mistake, though.  You see, the original SW hub has the same width, over-locknut dimension, and everything as the AW, except for the hub shell diameter.  The original 19T sprocket, as well as this 20T, are dished.  The old one was dished outward on the SW hub so I figured I'd do the same for this one.  Well, I forgot to take into account the spacers and stuff on the axle because on the way to the office today, I realized that I had completely messed up the chain line.  I didn't even think to double check last night! As soon as I got to the office, I tore off the wheel and pried off the sprocket retaining "circlip" and flipped the cog back over, dished inwards.  I think I set a personal speed record for wheel off/wheel on with an internally geared hub, as the whole process including adjusting the shifter cable and chain tension took about twelve minutes.  Pressing the circlip on by hand was a record in itself, which took about three seconds as opposed to the usual couple minutes of sweating and sore thumbs.  I'm not sure if this was luck or if I'm really getting used to this stuff.

After a particularly hard and busy day at work, I went downtown and ate enough dinner for two people (putting a significant dent in my income for the day) and then cruised down to Gallup Park to wind down and enjoy the bike.

I'm not usually a fan of digital technology (which I say right now as I'm typing on a computer) but thank goodness for camera phones.  Today was just a beautiful day so I stopped to snap a few photos.   I apologize for the poor quality and resolution from my phone camera.

It's funny, after riding my other bikes for a while, I'm always surprised at how perfect my old Raleigh Sports is for me.  I always forget how nice it is and I always re-realize it every time I get on.  Gwendolyn has been my favorite since day one but this just proves that it's not all in my head.  It's like every time I mindlessly hop on this bike, I am struck by what a pleasure it is to ride.  It's just so perfect.  It rides super smooth and accelerates like it weighs half as much as it does.  The seating position, posture, and geometry are just right.  Actually, if you click here, you'll see how far up my saddle has traveled in the past year. I recently bought a longer seat post to allow for my current, most efficient seating position.

I'm not completely sure, but I think the last time I did any actual exploring of this park was covered in the story I linked above.  That was over a year ago.  Today, I found a narrow hole in some bushes and followed that onto a boardwalk.

The path was not bordered for most of the way (therefore too narrow to snap a photo).  My phone couldn't do justice to the way the sun caught the leaves in the scene to the right.  It was amazing.

It looks like there's evidence of pavement from the distant past.  I wonder how this used to look but I'm also satisfied with how it is now.  By the looks of it, nobody else really minds that the pavement is gone, either.

I'm not sure how to conclude this post, other than the fact that I am absolutely in love, again (in the way that a man can be with machines).

P.S. If you ask a bike mechanic to fix something non-bike related, you run the risk of getting something like this.  The handle of our pot top broke off so I used a wheel from a dead Shimano Eagle derailleur.  Generally regarded as a respectable piece of equipment, this one came off a 1975 Ross Eurotour 5 that I sold months ago because it had lost all spring tension.  Anyway, this was the only non-conductive thing I could find that fit the job.  Well, as they say, "if it looks stupid but it works, then it ain't stupid" and my roommates are satisfied with the result.