Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Steps for repairing a bicycle rescued from the canal

First, let's wonder about the mysterious reappearance of my canal encrusted bicycle... was it Amsterdamize (check out his video on fishing for a bicycle)? Or another local do-gooder? 

To make the bicycle rideable again, I've followed these steps.

Step one
The scrubbing.

This step can take several hours but it must be done to make the bicycle approachable for step two. Use gloves, buckets, brushes, sponges, flamethrower and whatever else you have at your disposal. Then dispose of it.

Tip: Don't do this on the sidewalk in front of your apartment. The rust and filth removed from the bicycle will stay on the sidewalk for at least two weeks despite heavy rainstorms.

Step two
The dismantling.
This step requires the right tools, a sense of adventure and lots and lots of patience. Take pictures or make good documentation of the little bitty pieces you remove from the bicycle and the order you remove them in. This will pay off. Oh yes it will.

 Tip: A nice large plastic sheet on the deck protects the deck from your bicycle and prevents little pieces and parts from rolling through the slats of your deck.

Step three

The breaking.
Don't give up and throw your bicycle in the sloot. Keep going.
There's always more to break. In fact, go ahead and break the brakes.

Blame the tools. They were not good enough. See Step two.
Those bits in the foreground are supposed to be one bit. Bye-bye three speeds!

Step four

Seek professional help.

Find a used bicycle store with a good mechanic who fixes old used bicycles. You'll be surprised how quickly and easily he/she can fix everything that took you hours to break.

A professional quickly fixing the hub.

Step five
More scrubbing, oiling and new parts!! The scrubbing is to remove the purely cosmetic filth that remains on the bicycle. No water necessary, only a scraper. Scale comes off with force, not soap. Clean and oil the chain. Replace the remaining damaged or broken parts.

Tip: If the saddle has a ripped seal, it will retain water and leak out when you sit on it. This is not fun. Replace the saddle of any bicycle that has spent time in the canal. 
There's a scale layer on all the chrome metal parts...

The spokes are particularly time-consuming to descale.

The old saddle has lost it's seal and holds water inside. It is a moist sponge.

From Step two Dismantling. Give the chain attention before the case goes back on.

Step six 

Put it all back together again and go for a ride!


  1. Still: wouldn't it be cheaper and more efficient to go buy a new (used) bike? Like you would do with shoes? Or a phone, for that matter?

  2. Frits cheaper yes, but you can't really put a price on this kind of therapy.

  3. Cheaper in terms of my labour, yes... but the mechanic gave me a good deal and the bicycle seat was under 10 euros. The cleaning equipment cost about 10 euros. Overall, it didn't cost too much to repair it. And the therapy was excellent :)

    (I take my favorite shoes to get repaired at the local shop whenever there is a problem.)

  4. ...and that's one less object in the scrap heap. I take my shoes in to get repaired, too - and pants, shirts, etc. If you toss something you like, there's no guarantee you'll be able to find one you like as well :)

  5. Wow. Amazing. I'm impressed! How many working bikes do you now have? I still ride my 1994 mountain bike around NYC :) Good job on the fix-up... inspiring!

  6. That was a good repair.