Building a Bicycle:Stems and Handlebar

It’s time to return to  writing about assembling a bicycle. I left off after having attached the wheels to the bicycle frame.Part deux is composed of adding the stems (a Quill stem, seat post) and the handlebar (a Velo Orange Porteur Handlebar). This is when it starts to get a little greasy–literally. As mentioned in the first part, I used Phil brand waterproof grease.

From Jim Langley

1. Take the quill stem–the part which holds the handlebars in place–and slides into the fork. The handlebar actually is held in place by tightening up the stem faceplate (basically, just a tube that you thread the handlebars through). On the other end of the Quill style stem (which is L-shaped) there is an expanding wedge on the bottom, which when tightened, moves (expands) to jam itself against the inside the fork, securing it in place. I used an Allen Key to tighten the parts.  On the expanding end of the stem, there is a small notch, which is the minimum depth that the stem needs to be in the fork. Using a small amount of waterproof grease, lube up the bottom of the stem up to the notch. It might be handy to have a piece of tissue or rag handy because you will get greasy. 

Mmmmmm grease

2. Once you have greased the lower part of the stem, you need to drop it into the fork (or slide it) until the small notch is at the top rim of the fork. Tighten the top bolt on the stem with the Allen Key until it’s snug in the fork. The height of the stem might be changed after, once the seat is on. 

Making sure I can see the notch

Tightening the bolt

3. Once that is in place, it is time to slide the handlebars through. The handlebars I have can face “up” or “down”–ultimately whichever way they face will affect the body position on the bike. Slide the handlebars through the groove between the stem and stem faceplate. Then, to center the handlebars, it is easier to stand in front of the bike and make sure the middle of the bars is basically in a straight line with the stem and top tube. Using the Allen Key, tighten the bolts in the faceplate, which will secure the handlebars in place.

Tightening bolts

Total Concentration

4. Now, time for the seatpost. My seatpost already came assembled with a saddle clamp and bolts needed. This step is similar to the insertion of the Quill stem. There will be a notch (the manufacturer’s line indicating minimum recommended height) on the seatpost. Using grease, lube up the seatpost.

5. Now, slide the seatpost into the seat tube. The height of the post is not important, since the saddle has not been placed yet. But, slide the post until you see the manufacturer’s line. Then, tighten, tighten!

It's easier to stand behind so you can try to keep the post in line with the top tube

Tighten away

Et voilà, your bike is now ready for a saddle…and the rest of the parts still needed!

What still needs to be added

It's coming along!

It helps when you have a good teacher

Get a bicycle.  You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

–Mark Twain

Building a Bicycle: Part One: The Wheels

The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind. ~ William Saroyan

From A. Kuehn

Not to sound lazy, but I must admit I never thought I would ever put together a bicycle from scratch. I know my fair share about bicycles (having numerous ones of your own somewhat goes hand-in-hand with a small amount of bicycle knowledge). Flat tire? No problem- I’m a pro at changing tubes. Need your seat adjusted, or aerobars put on? Let me get my Allen key. I know the difference between Sram double tap shifters and thumb shifters. Needless to say, I am not a bicycle expert at all, and compared to other bicycle enthusiasts, my knowledge is actually next to nothing. I mean, that is what bicycle shops are for, right? I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve driven to the shop with (one of) my bike, or a part of my bike, charging into the local bicycle shop with a pressing issue. “Hi C, how’s it going? Listen, I have a question…..” or “Hey B! Yeah, I think something is wrong…” Not only do I have no problem heading to the shop with a question, but I always figured they’re the ones who can be trusted to put a bike together after you order it…And if you have ever met me in real life, you know that I’m known to order new bikes.  (I had no idea putting a bike together after it comes in one of those ginormous boxes is actually somewhat easy to do).

It all started one evening a couple of months ago after eyeing a Bridgestone X0-4 dark blue, small frame in my friend’s house, when I decided I wanted to build a bike from scratch.**Note: by build, I mean assemble. All the parts, and frame, were readily available. And it just so happens, my friend’s basement is filled with boxes of random bicycle parts, and he assembles/builds almost all of the bikes he owns. Furthermore, I decided I wanted him to teach me how to do it. I asked nicely, of course. 

Finally, after weeks of waiting for the missing parts to arrive, it was time to build my first ever bicycle. And, as I go on this journey of grease, I decided to document it, and share what I’ve learned. So that incase readers ever decide to assemble a bike, they can!

Parts before assembly

More Parts before assembly

Bicycle parts used in Part One, aka Specs

  • Schwalbe “Big Apple” Tyres, 26 x 2.0 (x2)
  • Kenda Tubes (x2)
  • Fond De Jante Rim Tape (x2)
  • Shimano 7 speed cassette
  • Quill Stem (Stock)
  • Velo Orange Porteur Handlebar
  • Seat Post (Stock)
  • Bridgestone X0-4 Royal Blue bike frame

Tools (and grease) used

It is also of some importance that there is also classic Reggae playing in the background, and beers readily available prior to starting.

And so, let us begin assembling a bike! In this segment I’ll be talking about assembling the wheels.

First, it’s easiest for you to place the frame of the bike in a bike stand holder, and if you prefer to work sitting down, have a seat available.  Take the wheels and look for the small hole in which you put the inner tube’s valve through–Kenda brand tubes usually have Presta valves (really just a fancy name for a type of valve). When you find the hole, then take the Rim Tape and match the hole of the rim tape to the hole in the wheel. While holding the end of the tape (as it might rip away if you do not use pressure on it) continue to feed the tape along the inner part of the wheel, trying to keep the tape as much in the middle as you can. The purpose of the tape is to protect the tube from the ends of the spokes which are threaded through the wheel. When you reach the valve hole, cut the tape. Then, run your finger along the middle of the rim to make sure the tape is secure and will not move.

Aerial view of the rim tape

2. Take a tyre and place it so one edge is in the middle of the wheel rim. Some wheels have “Drive ←” which tells you the direction the tyre needs to face. If you want to be like a bicycle fanatic, you can match up the tyre name with the valve hole. This actually helps locate where the valve is quicker.

3. Take a tube, and unscrew the cap, then open the built-in valve cap (looks like a tiny piece that you screw off). Then, inflate the tube using a bike pump just enough so that it looks like a circle–enough to get the kinks out if you just removed it from a box.** Make sure to screw the built in valve back, or else you’ll loose air. 

Once there is enough air, place the valve into the valve hole in the rim of the wheel, and place the tube under the tyre. If you have ever changed a flat before, this step is basically the same as changing a flat. You can use tyre levers if you need to, to help putting the sides of the tyre into the rim, or you can use both hands working away from each other, pulling the tyre into the rim. **This can be difficult, but it’s possible to do. Just give it time. And breathe….While swearing under your breath.

Fastening the valve

Putting the tube under the tyre

Sometimes it's easier to stand up for this part

It's easier if you are strong...

Once the tyre is completely in the rim (my lack of upper body strength lengthened the process of pulling the tyre on), inflate the tube to the appropriate pressure–I inflated my tube to about 20 PSI. Next step: repeat the same thing with your other wheel!! And yes, if you were wondering, my tyres have reflective stripes on them. 🙂

Yes, inflating is fun fun!

4. Now, it’s cassette time, and I don’t mean those cassette’s that used to play in Walkmans (am I dating myself with that attempt at a joke?). A cassette has different parts to it. Once you take the cassette out of the package (if you were lucky enough like me to get a new cassette), unscrew the top part (Lock Ring, to be correct).

I should model for Shimano...and shower before photo sessions

If you notice inside the cassette, there are different groves which match up to the Splines of the rear bicycle hub. Find where the groves match, and slide the cassette on. Then, tighten the lock ring onto the cassette.

With a lock ring tool (which fits right into the middle of the cassette), stand the wheel up, as that will give you more leverage when further tightening the lock ring in place.

Tighten, tighten, tighten!

5. When you feel the cassette is in place, take the quick release and feed it back through the hub.

6. Now, you are ready to put the wheel on the bike! Sometimes it helps to have another hand, but this is do-able solo. With the frame of the bike in the stand, take the wheel with the cassette on your right side and slide the wheel so that parts of the quick release slide into the rear drop-out. **The drop out is the part of the frame with little groves that hold the quick releases. When it is in the drop-out, tighten the quick release so that the wheel stays in place.

7. Now, do the same thing with the front wheel. Et, voila! Your wheels are now a part of your bike! (Yes, I received help holding the front wheel in place.)

In the next installment of my mini series on how to put together a bike, I’ll go into how to put the stem and post on!**My apologies to you hardcore bike enthusiasts if I’ve mistaken some bike tools. I’ve never done this task before, so am still learning myself. 

My teacher

Please stop by soon for more information on assembling a bicycle…Or to see me trying not to make a complete fool out of myself.

Another Fork in the Road

Another Fork in the Road

A Finer Diner

It has been awhile since I’ve written about food–a large part of mine, as well as many other people’s lives. Perhaps the documentaries I have seen as of late on the obesity rate in the United States, added to my concern of everything (okay, mostly everything) I put into my body, have increased my awareness of the food that is consumed on a daily basis. And when I read reviews of diners in Dutchess County, it was only a matter of time–or a matter of hours in my case–before I dragged a friend to have breakfast with me at a diner in the area.

It is called “Another Fork in the Road, a Finer Diner,” located in Milan in Dutchess County, almost to the Taconic Parkway. I have passed it numerous times, with the same thought in my head each time I pass it: Who would have a restaurant there? Along with the sign, and the fact it is a small building almost in the middle of nowhere, are probably why I have never eaten at this Diner. I love old Diners. The atmosphere. The greasy, unhealthy food served; the fact you can order breakfast all day; the unlimited supply of (usually) normal tasting coffee.

This, however, is a different diner. As in the title, it is a “finer diner,” a place many have surely missed on their way from the Taconic towards Red Hook or Rhinebeck as it is simply a wooden building with windows. The “finer” aspect of the diner refers to the fact that everything there is fresh. All ingredients– from the meat products to the vegetables–are local, organic, and fresh (I know! A diner? Crazy!!). And, everything is very reasonably priced. *Consumers note: they only take cash. 

We arrived around lunchtime to find a large room with wooden tables, chairs, a small bar, and children’s play area. The waitress allowed us to sit where we pleased, and was quick to bring menus and our drink orders. The restaurant was pleasantly quiet, despite being full. As with every other restaurant, I am one of the most indecisive people when it comes to ordering food out. The waitress was very informative in giving her suggestions in what was good to eat there (next time, I’ll be sure to get their homemade mozzarella). After much contemplation I settled on the Winter salad with a side order of french fries (fried food craving), and X ordered some type of Corned Beef Hash.

Alas, the food took no time whatsoever before it was served, and a salad filled with arugula, spiced walnuts, silvered apples, a type of crispy thing I cannot recollect the name of it, and a side of maple dressing was placed in front of me, along with a side order of perfectly cooked, organic, locally farmed french fries.

Before I go any further, I need to stop here and say two things which struck me. The first was that they did not put salt on the fries–it is a pet peeve of mine when french fries are served to me drenched in a bath of salt. They were crisp, and yummy. The second is about the cranberries in the salad. Being vegetarian/vegan at points/ raw, I’ve had my share of “winter” salads that come with nuts and apples and cranberries. I was taken aback when I forked through the leaves to find normal, fresh cranberries. Every other salad (I kid you not) like this one has had cranberries, but in the form of craisins–dried. And, they added a sweet/tart flavor to the salad, instead of the almost-pure sugary sweet taste of craisins. Amazing!

Arugula Winter Salad with a side of Maple Dressing

The food was satisfying, filling, and tasty. According to X, the Corned Beef Hash dish he had (including corned beef, a poached egg, and diced potatoes) was quite delicious. At no time were we rushed by the staff, but we were checked on by our waitress a couple of times throughout the meal. FYI they serve dinner now, along with the breakfast and lunch. 

Corned Beef dish, and perfect French Fries

In short, if you are looking for an upscale diner dining experience in the Dutchess County that is fairly priced and delicious–a change from your normal diner fare–definitely check out Another Fork in the Road. It will not disappoint!



It’s that time!

testing the water in the lake behind the house, back in July

Well, I just signed up for the Timberman 70.3 race in New Hampshire, and I am looking at this race with a completely new set of eyes. Looking back at Mooseman– I  wasn’t prepared. The OWS terrified me, and if I got into the groove quicker and actually put my head under the water and start to swim, my swim time would have been drastically faster. Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was lack in nutrition. I was not at all eating enough, or the right types of foods to help me be in peak physical condition. I think I have mentioned this before in another post. And, I did want to do Mooseman, to go back and finish the race I wasn’t able to finish, but I think that is too soon. And with Timberman being in late August, gives me the opportunity to do a couple little triathlons in preparation. Who knows, maybe I could make it up sometime to NH and swim in Lake Winnipesaukee and try out the bike course!

court. of Ironman

This year, with a new set of “eyes” so to say, I am determined to finish this race. Oh, and I just signed up for my first road bike race! And am kinda freaked out, since I have no idea what road racing is about– and it is different than biking in tri’s. I hope to get in some rides with other people, which I think will help ( I know, I know, lots of people have told me about Thursday night rides….I guess I was just too scared to go on them at that time). I hope training with other people will help my endurance, and speed.

court. of Biking Reviews

I also signed up for a half marathon in March, which I think I should be able to do. If I can do a half marathon, and then bike with other people, and do as many OWSs before the time comes (well, with it being winter, my dates with chlorine, and time spent on the TD might need to occur when the weather outside is either freezing, or raining.)

Last spring, things kinda got in the way of my training, and for this race, I’m not going to let those things get in my way anymore. Train, but also be social. Eat healthier–eat more–even on long rides.

I don’t give up that easily, and am determined to try my best to finish this race- not to beat records, but to finish it, so that I can tell myself I can do it, and …it is possible.

Sorry if I was rambling. Just some thoughts.

Follow your dreams, believe in yourself, and don’t give up. – Rachel Corrie

Welcome, 2012!

I don’t think I could welcome a New Year more than this year. Has it been a year since I wrote about my thoughts on New Year “resolutions” already? And I must admit 2012 has started off quite well in my book. I find a new year is similar to a new beginning– another year has passed, many lessons learnt, and I am–you– are here. Yes, 2011 did not end with the happiest of endings (a car accident puts the miracle of being alive into perspective), but what better way to start a new year, thankful for everything that has occurred?

I’ve welcomed amazing warm weather, which has allowed me to spend more time outside doing the things I love and not cooped up on the trainer. Not that cold weather has stopped me in the past year from doing anything outside, but for some reason with this mild weather we have had recently in the Northeast, I’ve become more sensitive to the cold; perhaps because I’m simply not used to biking or running in sub-freezing weather yet. It’s only a matter of time before I’m dressed like an insane person. And, I learned that watching The League while riding the trainer doesn’t work so well. Trying to stay focused on target heart rate/interval time and cracking up with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard/the inability to breathe because of laughter are two things which I cannot do at the same time.

Cheesy smile, matching my bike mountain bike ride at 909. Yes, I'm working on the shoes.

For those of you in the area, there are specific places in the Hudson Valley which have great, well maintained mountain bike paths. Click here for a great website which hosts numerous different mountain biking paths in different counties in the area.

Frozen fingers, toes, and frozen smile. If only I wore my white helmet, I'd be completely color coordinated with my bike, again.

I’ve welcomed the ability to experiment with my knife in the kitchen–and, knock on wood, I have not sliced off any tips of my phalanges. If you are looking for a simple, easy, healthy dinner idea, I cooked Eggplant and Chickpea Curry the other night, which can be spiced up for those who can tolerate spicier foods, and was a hit, even for the non-vegetarian I prepared it for. I cannot wait until I can test out other recipes…Perhaps another dinner party might be in my future.

It looks like a one-pot mess, but smells incredible. Yay for spices!

The only thing in the recipe which takes time is the eggplant, which needs to be baked before being added to the chickpeas and red pepper/tomato/onion mixture.

With fresh parsley garnish served over couscous

I’ve welcomed being introduced to new places, including the  Stockade in uptown Kingston, which is a must-visit small bar in (yes, you guessed correctly) Kingston, New York. What was at one time a sewing location is now a quaint bar with old sewing machines as tables and serves clever beverages from different eras, and almost perfectly symmetrical ice cubes. If you have never been there before, I would advise asking the waitress what the drinks are when she does ask if you have questions about the menu. I did not really have a clue as to what I was ordering, only upon leaving was it when I realized that the reason my choice was so incredibly strong and why I could not finish it was because it was composed of five different alcohols.

Holy strong drink, the Grand Carre

I’ve welcomed being able to spend time with friends and those whom I care about– I am determined to spend more time with others this year…And I’ve welcomed living a non- nocturnal life. It really is incredible how different running at two in the afternoon feels than running at two in the morning. Ohh sun, how I’ve missed you.


I’ve welcomed the ability to start afresh.

I wish you a belated very happy, healthy, and fantastic New Year!

And, once again, I leave you with a couple music videos– the first being the theme song to my first mtn bike ride of the year (or rather, it was on the radio and I knew exactly who was singing it). The second, from a movie which put even more crazy cycling ideas into my head. Ohh man, it’s dangerous to introduce me to anything related to running or biking…Or climbing…Or anything dealing with the outdoors that pushes you mentally and physically and emotionally, actually.

Every end is a new beginning. 

When was the last crazy post written?

January 2012

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