Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sprucing up the Big Dummy

The before photo; rear rack, deck and bags removed.
After 5 1/2 years of mostly trouble free riding, a few things on the Dummy have been hanging out on the pending maintenance list, perhaps a bit too long. Last weekend, I finally got to some of them, but not before taking a ride with the girls to enjoy the great weather with a picnic.
Current primary Big Dummy co-pilot and little sister.
Former primary Big Dummy co-pilot, occasional Big Dummy caboose rider, and big sister. Lael's old glasses undoubtedly make her faster.

After the ride, first up was to swap out some cable housing. The housing has suffered more than any other part from the weather and inattention to which the bike has been exposed as a kid hauler/utility beast over the years. Because it still shifted fine, I had been comfortable in my neglect, but the time for action had arrived. A Big Dummy is a big bike with what seems like miles of cables and housing. With a swept back handlebar that makes the housing jut forward before eventually arching rearward, not to mention the fact that it is a lanky 22" frame, the noodle-y effect seems even more exaggerated.
A crack in the housing near the junction with the head tube had been there long enough for the exposed compression cables to rust.
Another crack just past where the housing exits from the front shifter. 
Refurbishing the housing sucked up much of a roll of the derailleur housing I had on hand, which happened to be blue.

Just prior to my decision to tackle some much needed maintenance, I decided to see how a Surly Open Bar felt on the Dummy, in comparison to the Nitto Albatross bar that had lived on the bike since I first put it together in 2008. As I happened to have one around, I quickly swapped the bars just before taking the earlier ride with the girls. By the time we arrived back at home, I knew the Surly Open Bar was on the bike to stay.
A Surly Open Bar, this one with the 40 mm rise, is wider than a Nitto Albatross.
The Nitto Albatross has perhaps a bit more rise than the +40 mm Surly Open Bar.
The Nitto Albatross and Surly Open Bar are both great handlebars for enabling a comfortable upright riding position, which is especially useful for seeing and being seen in traffic around town. Both are made of high quality chromoly steel, have minimal but pleasant flex, and a nice swept back profile.

As much as I've enjoyed the position and shape of the Nitto Albatross on the Dummy, at a mere 560 mm wide, it feels far too narrow as compared to the much wider bars that I now have on some of my other bikes. The Surly Open Bar is 666 mm wide, which is a bit better, but what I'd really like is a bar of similar shape in the range of 750 mm or so wide. I've become a huge fan of the Salsa Rustler 2 bar on my Monocog, but would prefer something with much more sweep and a bit more rise if installed on the Dummy. To my knowledge, a truly wide, highly swept, good quality, modern riser bar does not exist.
Both Maxxis Larsen TT tires had developed goathead induced slow leaks that I'd been nursing for a few weeks. 
Next up were the tires. The Dummy has been shod in a pair of Maxxis Larsen TT 2.0" tires for about the past three years. The Larsens have been terrific tires, with low rolling resistance and just the right amount of traction whether on or off pavement. They don't excel in mud, but that's not a common surface around here. They have held up exceedingly well, and I couldn't say enough positive about them, though I'd probably prefer the 2.35" to the 2.0" version. However, time and miles had taken their toll, with the tread wearing thin and the sidewalls beginning to separate near the bead.

As I have perhaps too much tire stock on hand, instead of buying another pair of Larsens, I chose a pair of mildly used Specialized Roll-X 2.0" tires that have been in my bike barn for some time. They have more aggressive knobs than the Larsens, but are no-frills and have a less fancy casing with standard steel beads. The rims on the Dummy are Mavic X 823 UST-compatible tubeless, which I've had for several years but always run with tubes. Until now, that is.

I installed a couple of Mavic tubeless valve stems, mounted the tires, squirted in 2 ounces of Stan's and pumped 'em up with a compressor. One bead on each tire needed a little encouragement to pop into place, but after that, they were good to go. I didn't have to do any Gorilla Tape chicanery with the tubeless specific rims. Three bikes in my fleet are now tubeless, each by a slightly different method, but I can't see going back to using tubes unless absolutely necessary.
The after photo. There are still a few tasks left to do, but the Big Dummy is revitalized.
I ran out of available time before completing a few other maintenance tasks, but the Dummy already feels a lot happier. It's about due for some somewhat more intensive bearing work, and the Freeloader saddle bags need some repair work, but I have no doubt that the bike is up for just about anything. This is easily the most useful bike I've ever owned, and I look forward to many more years of harnessing its utility.


  1. Looks great love the new bars that you chose. Where did you learn to do all the repair work yourself?

    1. I've always been mechanically interested, and started working on bikes since shortly after I learned to ride as a kid. I made lots of mistakes along the way, but learned from each one. I trust the work I do on my bikes, mostly because I know it's been done by my hand. The great thing about working on bikes is that the parts are simple and fit together logically, and with the correct tools it's possible to fix just about anything. Proper tools are key. If you're new to working on your own bike, there are a lot of great resources online to help you, starting with Sheldon Brown's site. Also, it's useful to take photos of each step as you disassemble something, so that you have a record to track in reverse to get it back together. Once you're proficient in brake, derailleur and bearing adjustment, you know about 90% of what you need to keep things running well.