Pimp my Huffy bicycle
May 27, 2006 10:11 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I have really started to get into bike riding lately - nothing extreme or long distance, just urban riding (10 miles or less). I have an old Huffy multi-speed that I'd like to dismantle, clean up, and repaint, but I don't know the first thing about bicycle maintenance and dis/assembly. Help!

I could take it to the local bike shop down the road, but I'm a very DIY type of guy, so I'd much rather learn to do it myself. Could anyone point me towards some good online resources for newbie bikers (tips on maintenance, customizing, painting, etc.)? Gracias amigos!
posted by bjork24 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
On the internet:
Sheldon Brown

Get a book though. I recommend:
Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance
posted by caddis at 10:25 AM on May 27, 2006

All excellent refs so far. Here's one more:
Park Tool's repair help page.
posted by Opposite George at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2006

Just get the Zinn books (there's an MTB version too). The newest editions are best, since they bound them in a spiral bind I believe. My old ones are all falling apart from mashing them flat. Other than the handful of specialized tools and the possibility of a quixotic quest on a.. Huffy.. you don't need much else.
posted by kcm at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2006

Response by poster: Hey man... don't dog my Huffy. I loves it.
posted by bjork24 at 11:01 AM on May 27, 2006

If you like riding a bike enough to do this, I'll just leave it at fixing up a Huffy is like Carroll Shelby rebuilding a Le Car. Do yourself a favor and visit your LBS for a test drive. :)
posted by kcm at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2006

Derail adressing the Huffy hate: A Huffy is fine to get you going. You'll spend lots of time making adjustments (good education) and won't get upset if you bang it up a little, or cross a few threads while you're learning about fixing it up. Stick with the riding for a while and you'll be itching to get a new ride soon enough.
posted by Opposite George at 11:24 AM on May 27, 2006

BTW, I paid $25 for my daily rider at a thrift store (urban assault fixie) so I know where you're coming from.
posted by Opposite George at 11:24 AM on May 27, 2006

Response by poster: I have no doubt that I could buy a much better bike for $300-$400 at my LBS, but I don't have the cash to do that right now. It's something I plan to do... eventually. They have an 8 year old Klein for $375 right now that I'd love to buy.
posted by bjork24 at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2006

Looks like the Huffy hate was zapped. Good. For casual riding a Huffy is fine. Light bikes only make a difference when climbing or sprinting. The finer bikes will do things more smoothly; there is just nothing like the butter smooth feeling of DuraAce gears shifting, and the brakes are better. Mostly, the problem with a lesser bike occurs after you get more serious. Many of them just don't hold up as well and start requiring too much maintenance. Enjoy your riding and enjoy your Huffy. If it starts to fall apart or you feel like you need a reward for all your hard work then think about an upgrade.
posted by caddis at 11:38 AM on May 27, 2006

Fully agreed. I bought an electric scooter for $400 and people kept asking me (when the turn signals broke or the rearview mirrors fell off) why I didn't just get a Vespa. Well, cost aside, I'd be a LOT more irritated if the turn signals broke on a $5000 Vespa.

My recommendation is to find a simple bike repair book at your local used book store, and just DIY. It sounds like you're heading down that way, anyhow, and the most I ever learned about my bike was by just ripping it apart and putting it back together. On your bike, there's not a lot of fine-tuning that's required, so you're in great shape! Have fun biking.
posted by hoborg at 12:56 PM on May 27, 2006

Working on a Huffy first is a great idea. If you ignore how much you'll learn, you'll put a lot more work into it than you get out (you'll still have a sucky bike), so don't ignore what you learn! If you get a nicer bike later on, a good amount of the skills you've learned will transfer, and you'll be more comfortable working on it. Also, you will appreciate just how nice it is to adjust things on a bike that's not a Huffy. I work on Huffies a few times a week, and it's a nightmare. When I go to adjust something on a $1000 bike (or a $400 bike) it feels dreamy.

One thing that really won't pay off, however, is painting it. Painting a bike is a huge hassle, a lot of work, and doesn't actually make it work any better, or teach you anything. I'm sure I won't talk you out of it, but I had to try. :) (Touching up the bare/rusty spots is good to protect the frame, but beyond that it's best to embrace the flawed finish, if you can.)
posted by pinespree at 2:57 PM on May 27, 2006

Touching up the bare/rusty spots is good to protect the frame, but beyond that it's best to embrace the flawed finish, if you can.
Not to mention crappy-looking bikes are less appealing to theives (maybe not a huge deal with the bikes in question but it can't hurt.)

Damn, I did mention it after all
posted by Opposite George at 4:06 PM on May 27, 2006

i hit chips occasionally with clear nail polish to prevent rush. I like having a few chips and scrapes in my bikes (1950's brittish track, early 90's 3rensho trac), it shows I actually use them :)

sheldon brown is good, bikeforums.net has a wealth of info (if you dont want to talk to anyone, just search, most everythings been discussed before).

Park makes great tools (you'll need some if you're diy). One problem I forsee you maybe running into is since huffy's are so cheap you might have some very odd parts that don't comform to standards. Wierd sizes, threadings, etc etc.

to repaint a bike, you will need to dissasemble everything, and remove the headset so you can take off the fork. make sure you tape off the threads in the bb so they dont get gunked up. if you are spraypainting, sand the frame, and then do multiple LIGHT coats, dusting the frame from about 2-3 ft away. Finish with a clearcoat. The other alternative is to find some place near you that can strip and then powdercoat the frame, which will be more durable. This will probably cost around 150-200 dollars, which is probably more money than you should put into a huffy.
posted by atom128 at 4:07 PM on May 27, 2006

Actually, Powdercoating should cost that much at all. I got an older MTB frame powdercoated last fall, and it cost me $55 to get it striped and coated. Looks like a thousand bucks.
posted by dirt at 6:18 PM on May 27, 2006

Park makes great tools (you'll need some if you're diy). One problem I forsee you maybe running into is since huffy's are so cheap you might have some very odd parts that don't comform to standards. Wierd sizes, threadings, etc etc.

This is all true, still, look at their website's repair tips page as many of the techniques still apply regardless of the tools you need, and they have nice pictures to help you along until your books come in.

Even after you pick up Zinn or another book, don't forget about the web site, it's nice to be able to see more than one explanation of how to perform a task, and sometimes it's easier to tell what's going on in their photos vs. Zinn's drawings (sometimes the opposite is true.)
posted by Opposite George at 7:54 PM on May 27, 2006

We used http://www.bikewebsite.com/ to pimp one or our 20 year old Kmart bikes the other week! Clear instructions with photos.
posted by mule at 1:03 AM on May 28, 2006

The problem with some department frames is they try to be light. Most of them use "gaspipe" steel -- it isn't very strong, compared to cro-moly, so they use lots of it, and you end up with a heavy bike. Otherwise, the frame is fine, and with a few replacement components, it'll ride forever.

The bad ones try to be light, but still use the cheap steel. These bikes aren't safe in the long run -- the tubes fail if dinged, and rust eats them alive.

The best things you can do, that (presuming a sound frame) will make for a better, safer ride.

1) Spokes. Alas, they still use cromed spokes. These are bad. Replacing these with proper stainless steel spokes will make for a stronger, lighter wheel, and teach you the basics of wheelbuilding, a lovely skill to have.

2) Brakes: Brakes are critical, and learning how to adjust them, replace them, and how to work with Bowden Cable are all good things.

3) Shifters. Index shifting require fairly precise setups to work well.

The one skill that can dramatically make a difference.

4) Bearings: The difference between a hack and a bike mechanic is learning how to properly preload various bearings, the most imporant being the cup-and-cone wheel bearings.

You don't need top of the line tools for most things -- don't buy the cheapest, but don't feel you need Park's top of the line everything. The top of the line tools you *do* need, however, are cone wrenches. To work, they need to be very thin, to be useful, they need to be very well made, from good steel. Cheap cone wrenches fail, usually instantly.

So, when you start working hubs, get real cone wrenchs, the Park laser cut ones, get two of them of the sizes you need, and NEVER let anyone touch them who doesn't understand what a cone wrench is -- using them as regular wrenches will destroy them.

The other tool that you want to be very high quality is your spoke nipple wrenches. Spoke nipples are brass or aluminum, square, not hexagon, and they round off if you look at them funny. A good wrench, that fits, will let you get the tension in the spook you need, a bad one will round off the nipple before you're done.

Otherwires, your local home superstore sell good enough tools. You'll need a set of hex keys in metric, if you want to work with disc bracks, a good, strong T-25 torx wrench. A good set of metric hex wrenches and a good adjustable wrench (read, not a crescent wrench, a Crescent™ wrench) will do 80% of the jobs you'll want to do. A set of open/box ended metric wrenches is better than the adjustable, but with care, a quality adjustable will do the job well.

Cuttiing brake and shifter cable needs a workable tool -- either the proper cable cutters, or my trick, which is wrap a couple of layers of foil tape around the cut line, and then use a Dremel with an abrasive cut off disc. Most people never need to cut Bowden cables, though -- you just replace the wire inside the bowden cable.

Finally, there's the pride in craftmanship. You don't have to do things like make the cable run nice and straight, or align the valve hole on a rim such that you can look through it and see the label on the hub. By doing so, however, you show that you care about your work. Doing so is worth the time.
posted by eriko at 7:09 AM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

never heard of that last little bit you mention, but i always align the valve hole with the label on the tires. makes it easier to pinpoint flats and check for little glass shards.
posted by atom128 at 10:17 AM on May 29, 2006

Big chunks of it are probably horribly out-of-date by now, but as a teenager I loved Anybody's Bike Book.

Hmm, it seems they've updated it. Definitely check it out at the library or something. If nothing else, it will help you develop a good attitude about maintaining your bike.
posted by oats at 8:33 PM on May 30, 2006

I would suggest you try picifix.com/bicycle for some useful articles and videos.

If you are thinking of spray painting the frame of your huffy it would be a good idea to look into statically charging the frame. this saves loads of paint because the frame attracts the paint particles.

Been a few years since i did this myself, but I connected the terminals of a car battery to bare metal on opposite ends of the frame. Not sure how safe this is, but i lived to tell the tale...
posted by NatureBoy at 3:36 AM on September 30, 2006

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