Category Archives: hobbies and things that make me smile

The Worksman lives

20141105_123813 In addition to racing RC cars, I love riding bicycles. I have 4 of them, all different and unique in their own way. Now I realize the comedy of a fat man riding a bicycle but who cares? We fat people are punch lines anyway, but I digress.

My favorite bike right now is a heavy steel Worksman. Its upright riding position and sweptback “northroad” bars make for an extremely comfortable ride. I recently decided to upgrade it with a new Brooks sprung saddle, 5 speed Sturmey-Archer internal gear hub with drum brakes. I now have more invested in parts than I paid for the bike itself!

The shop I got it from had two of them kicking about and when I asked how much they go for the owner told me to take them. “Just get them out of here.” he replied. The shop is in Brooklyn and it is unfashionable to have a steel American made bike and these two bikes had been sitting for three years. I gave the owner $50 for the both of them as I have a real problem getting things for free. Gave one to an older (mid 70’s!) friend of mine from the fire dept and kept the other one. It came with a 3 speed coaster brake (hate coaster brakes), anemic front drum brake, and a comically large poofy seat. I got the bright idea to put some better bits on it and do it myself. Yeah…


The seat was pretty easy, bolt it on and go. Aside from a slight issue getting the clamp around the seatpost it went relatively smooth. On to the hubs. Front hub fit beautifully in the forks. Oh yeah, this is going to be awesome. I totally jinxed myself. The rear hub was about 3 centimeters too wide for the frame. goddamitsomuch…I sat staring at the bike giving it the stink-eye hoping it would somehow change its shape on its own. If a ’58 Plymouth named Christine can do it, why can’t my bike? Needless to say I had to come up with something on my own. I tried bending the frame bare handed to no avail. I had a 2×4 wedged in trying to pry the rear of the frame apart (just for an FYI, the horizontal tubes are called the chainstays and the tubes that go up to the seat are called…wait for it…seatstays). I ended up rigging up a Rube Goldberg contraption to get the spread I needed. it fits.

I you noticed, I have only referred to hubs. Just hubs. Hubs are part of the wheel. They are held in the middle of the wheel by 36 spokes. 36 spokes in a very specific pattern called lacing. I didn’t know this pattern.


Taking the old wheels apart was easy enough, remove the tires and that rubber strip. Unscrew all the little spoke nipples (ha) and everything just kinda falls apart. On to hurdle number 2. Being that the new hubs are larger, I needed different spokes. What length spokes? I had no idea. About ish or so, give or take a bit. I tried soliciting help from a bike forum but they just told me I was lazy, use a spoke length calculator. Ok said I, how hard can it be? Looked up said calculator and sat staring at it like a child trying to figure out calculus. Aspect ratio of the over-center actual diameter of the flange…….buh? So I can’t do this completely on my own. I made the trek to my favorite bike shop in Brooklyn (I live no where near Brooklyn BTW) and asked the mechanic for help. He said no problem, I’ll whip you up two sets in 20 minutes. He has a nifty gadget that cuts and threads spokes instantly. Woot! Now we’re cooking with butter! New spokes in hand I went back home with visions of me riding again by nightfall. That was November 11th.

Cue the calculus child again. 1 rim, check. 1 hub, check. 36 little metal sticks, check. 72 holes to fill…hmm. First attempt was a lesson in frustration. It was like trying to manipulate a spiny sea urchin. Fast forward a week and front was all laced up. Now I’m a pro! Rear hub…hates me. The wrong length! goddammitsomuch #2 Fast forward again and $72 later I have the rear done.


Anyway, after that debacle, the rest of the project finally came together tonight. Bike looks way cooler now and has actual brakes. Took it for a quick ride down the block…the Worksman lives.

Today’s random thought

IMG_20130822_241458_969    I race RC cars, used to race a lot more than do now (and I used to be quite competitive if I do say). I find it so fun because you can make it as fun or serious as you want. There are guys (it is quite a sausage fest) who are so serious they spend hundreds on their cars and equipment, know every adjustment that can be made, and pour over set-up sheets and suspension theory for hours. They are good to race with because they are a wealth of information. For instance:

Me: Hey Will, my car doesn’t seem to turn so well in the corners.

Will: What you want to do is put stiffer springs on the front end, add a little negative camber, loosen the diff, [etc..]

Me: [blank stare]

9 times out 10 he or someone else will give me a hand in setting up my car.track2


Then there are the ones who are there or the sheer joy of playing with toy cars. What adult hasn’t secretly wished they could still enjoy the playthings of their childhood? These guys can be spotted by their beat-up cars and trucks, three different tires, and the big dopey grin on their faces. I love racing with these dudes too because they make it fun. There have been races when I laughed so hard I couldn’t stand up.


I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve spent way too much on the hobby (I am single after all ;) ) but I don’t hold any illusions of podium finishes with the fast guys. My work schedule and being a volunteer fire fighter limits my time for practice and general wheel time. The cool thing is the fact is that no matter where one finishes in the main race we are all still friends in the pits. The pro sponsored guys hanging out with the old man with the beat-up buggy, having some pizza together laughing about that spectacular crash on lap 8. It really is a unique experience. Could you imagine if some out-of-shape middle aged man wandered out to play second base for the Yankees? Or if dad took out the corolla to a NASCAR race?

We have a young racer battling cancer right now and the track is holding a special race this Friday with all proceeds going to this racer’s family. The owner of the track is donating car kits for a raffle. Even many of the regulars are donating their own parts, kits, tools, etc. for the cause.


It’s nice to know there are still good people in the world. Too often we forget (myself included) to notice the amazing acts of kindness and goodwill still go on.