Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bicycle Reborn

I had a lot of fun recently (and learned a thing or two) re-painting my Gary Fisher Mendota commuter bike. It was a pretty decent looking bike, grey in color and understated. But the graphics on it were kind of ugly and I've never been a fan of displaying logos. Plus, I'm curious about what it takes to paint a bike and if it was something I could handle or not.


First step was to take it all apart. This was a little daunting because I knew that it meant I'd have to put it  all back together, too.  I've done a fair amount of maintenance on this bike, but that was mostly making adjustments to the brakes and derailleurs. I'd never replaced cables or removed the crankset.  Dismantling went smoothly, though I did need help from the Bozeman Bike Kitchen because I did not have all the necessary tools. There's a special tool for virtually everything, ya know.

Once it was taken all apart, the next step is to sand down the frame to remove all the paint, right down to the bare aluminum frame. In this photo, you can see where I'd been sanding off the paint to get it down to the aluminum.

To sand it I purchased some metal brush-like attachments for my drill so I didn't have to use sandpaper and do it by hand.  It still took a little while, though.

Completely sanded and ready for primer

After sanding it's time for primer. I hung the frame up in the garage and taped as necessary.  Here it is with primer applied. 

Those old moving boxes that have been sitting in my garage for 3 months came in handy as a spray barrier.

I applied about 4 thin coats of primer, each 20 minutes apart, and then let it sit 24 hours before painting. The next day I repeated with white spray paint -- 4 or 5 thin coats.

It wasn't until I figured out a design that I liked for the frame that I took this plunge into painting. If I was going to paint it myself then I had to put a little of my personality into it. I am a simple man and would want my bicycle to reflect that. In fact, I really really hate now new bikes have such fancy paint jobs on them -- they really turn me off, trying to look all sleek and special. So I decided to keep it simple with what I consider a bit of an anti-logo: Bicycle.

So I messed around on Powerpoint, found a good font, Rockford, and took it to Kinko's to print out in navy blue on clear sticker paper. I'd thought about making a stencil and spray painting on the design text, but figured I'd probably struggle with drips and would have trouble getting the letters to look crisp. So I opted for the sticker route.

I think I maybe should have used a hairdryer or flambé blowtorch on the sticker after application to remove any air bubbles from underneath it, but didn't think of that until I'd already applied the first layer of clear coat finish. Next time maybe I'll give that a shot because if you look closely you can see the outline of the clear sticker paper on the frame. Not a big deal, but something I could maybe do better next time.

After painting I let it sit one full week to allow the paint and clear coat to fully set up before putting it back onto the rack to be reassembled.

Reassembly went better than I thought it would. I made another trip to the Bike Kitchen for tools to put the chain back together, and had to make a couple trips to the local bike shop for some parts that somehow disappeared since disassembly.

But look at her comin' together...

Ta daaaaa...!

Note that I also removed the rear rack for panniers and added a fender in its place. The fenders are needed for wet travel because that rack, despite what it looks like, provided no protection from water splattering on my back during wet rides. Since this is my daily commuter bike for going to the grocery store (co-op), the library, and general errand running, I need wet weather protection. But I also need a place to carry groceries and library books.

So that's where I turned to Trash Bags to make me a custom designed messenger bag.

Now I've got a newly painted bike with fenders (still need to add on front) and a way to carry stuff.  Looks like I'm set.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SoDak, NoDak

My buddy Jay got married last weekend at Custer State Park in South Dakota. It was a beautiful place for an outdoor wedding and a fun excuse for a roadtrip into the Dakotas. I'd been thinking about exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota for years so this was just the right opportunity.

Friday morning I left Bozeman and stopped at Little Bighorn National Monument, which is just off of I-90 in southeast Montana.

That was a sobering visit.

It is the famous site of Custer's Last Stand, where General Custer was overrun by a vastly superior number of Indians led by Sitting Bull. When I drove from St. Paul to Bozeman a couple months ago, multiple people of my parents generation asked me if I'd been to Little Bighorn or was planning on it. To children of the '50s and '60s, I think this was a touchstone historical event that they learned about through Western TV shows, cowboys & Indians, and action figures. I recall an older cousin of mine had a General Custer doll/action figure.

This first picture shows white markers where a couple American soldiers fell while trying to defend the hill in the background that has the larger memorial on it.

But what really got me was this -- the marker of a Cheyenne who died "while defending the Cheyenne way of life". I got a little teary-eyed, I must say.
The Indians had won and may have thought they still had a chance. Later on I'd read on another memorial quotes from the likes of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse 30 years later. The quotes said, effectively, that even though the Indians had lost the war, that at least now they were friends with the American government. This really struck me as sad, because I don't believe that the American government has ever shown friendship to the Native Americans. 120 years later it sure doesn't look like the American government had anyone's interest in mind other than the advancement of their own agenda.

So then it was slightly uplifting, at least, to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial on Saturday.
I last visited this site in about 1982 on the classic Midwest family road trip to the Black Hills. At that time I remember being awed by the vision and determination of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski who, at that time, had already removed something like 100 times as much rock as was removed to create Mount Rushmore (he started in 1948). Today you can see Crazy Horse's face in the mountain, but in 1982 all you could see was that hold underneath his arm. I spent $10 of my own lawn mowing money to purchase a small plaster replica of the monument and remember being proud to support such an endeavor.

Ziolkowski's family is doing this work entirely on their own and twice has turned down $10 million from the U.S. government. So the $10 kicked in by little kids really does matter.

Mount Rushmore still looks the same as 1982. Mike, George, Sandy and I went there on Sunday and though the park is small (I was hoping for some legitimate hiking), it is nicely put together and an enjoyable 0.6 mile walk gets you fairly close to the base where this photo was taken.

Jay & Bridgette's wedding was a lot of fun on Sunday evening, but I wasn't snapping photos. I really enjoyed it because they didn't do everything exactly by the book like people do when they get married in their 20s. It was a relaxed affair in a gorgeous setting with friend Dan presiding and no rehearsal or walk through prior to the ceremony. A bunch of old college friends were there and it's always fun to see the Dales, Holstines & Brandts.

Monday I drove up to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. I'd always been intrigued about this park since first hearing about it around 10 years ago. A national park in ND!? Who knew?

There aren't any bad national parks and this one gets relatively low traffic. It features a combination of badlands and grasslands elements, with bison and prairie dogs the most common wildlife.

I brought my mountain bike along and took these shots behind bars on the Buffalo Gap trail which is within the National Grasslands just outside of TRNP. It was a fantastic bike ride on singletrack through rolling hills on a windy trail.

Parts of it were a little hairier than others...

And at times there were some ornery customers blocking my path. Here the trail actually fords this little stream and continues up the hill on the other side of those fierce looking guardians.

After a long standoff and a punishing battle, they turned out to be no match for my mad kung-fu skillz and I survived to bring you this tale. Thanks for reading.