In February this year, I took the decision to cycle-camp from Santander in Spain to Roscoff in France, a distance of 702 miles (1142km) in nine days. The decision to buy or borrow a road-bike is very tempting but, after not-so-careful consideration and thought, I have decided to fire-up the V1 for, what may turn-out be, one last jaunt before buying a road flyer. This was, after all, the very same mountain-bike that had taken me the through lanes and trails in the Yorkshire Dales, the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire, the Lake District, the Peak District, Dartmoor, the South Hams (part of south Devon) and parts of Cornwall. This was the very same mountain-bike that had resided on the roof of the narrowboat, on the canals of Central England, that I had lived aboard and helped me further explore those beautiful areas of countryside in the counties of Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. This bike, if any bike ever did, deserved a good and proper re-birth and, by ‘eck, it was about to get one!

As today, 23rd March 2012, was a beautiful day, I decided to do some stuff to the old mountain bike, a 1999 Haro Vector V1, that I had been promising/threatening to do for weeks (well, it takes me ages to work-up the gumption to do anything remotely technical), in the garden. For the first five or so years, I had kept up with the maintenance of this rather heavy bike, but I had rather neglected it for the last four or five.

A few weeks ago, I had re-fitted the rear derailleur cable, but the list of jobs required is now quite long and all-encompassing:

  1. Bottom bracket clean-up and bearing replacement
  2. Remove and replace bearings to the headset
  3. New brakepads, noodles and cables
  4. Front derailleur cables and positioning reset
  5. Front suspension forks service and replace elastomers
  6. Unseize seatpost and fit new saddle
  7. Fit new pannier rack
  8. Fit new SPD pedals (possibly)
  9. True wheels
  10. General rust blemish (the handlebars resembled a leopard) removal and paint touch-up.

Yes, it is in a bit of a sorry state, but I shall persist, even if it drives me mad (or I give up and get a roady).

Today I decided to remove the old headset bearings and fit new ones; nothing elaborate (or so I thought), the maintenance section of my cycling book calls it a “moderate” task, lasting three-quarters of an hour, at most. I removed the stem top-pin and remove the bars using a 5mm Allen key and dropped the stem through the frame, and began removing the bearings (something that I hadn’t re-greased ONCE since I bought it), placing all the components neatly on the bench as they were removed.

Perhaps I should point out here and now that it is not so much a workbench but more of a seatbench. Ok, it’s a garden seatbench. Anyway, had I disconnected all the cables, I would not have had the problem of all the parts getting knocked off the bench, via the slats and onto the floor, by the wayward handlebars that were still attached by the cables to both the frame and fork. Nnngh! I swore! Titchika, the Alsatian dog, cowered! A time out was called; I had a brew and a Mars bar and reassure Titchika, stroking her head, neck and back, then playing ball on the lawn.

But I still had problems: after I cleaned every part, and Lithium-greased the new bearings, I could not remember which order the parts went back on. Trial and error was now the order of the day and, after several inept attempts, a breakthrough was made! I did it! And it ONLY took me an hour and a half!

Satisfied with my clumsy handy work, I set about cleaning the bike up a bit, utilising ubiquitous wonderspray WD40 (I was out of GT85), a Parktools gearbrush, a scouring pad and some kitchen roll. The bike was ming-ing but I managed to clean most of the muck off and sprayed just about everything with the WD40. It was now a big, green, gleaming dream-machine.

Fired on with my new-found technical competence and self-confidence, I decided it was high-time I fitted that new pannier-rack that had been slouching in the box on-top of a bedroom wardrobe for the last two months. Was there anything that could stop my progress now?.

Well, yes, actually, there was and it was in the form of two rusty seat-stay Allen-bolts, that wouldn’t budge because my 5mm Allen-key was so worn and chamfered. However, I managed to assemble and loosely fit the pannier rack to the frame, except for the two new, rust-free bolts the pannier rack manufacturer provided. Frustrating? Yes, after the work that went before it. But, as Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain’t bad.

2. Over the following months, it was decided that I’d borrow a friend’s bike for the the Santander – Roscoff trip, but that didn’t stop the Rolling Maintenance Program. I have since, with the assistance of a couple of friends,:

cleaned out the bottom bracket and replace the bearings, which had deteriorated to such an extent that the bearings had disintegrated and the cages/cradles were rusted skeletons of their former selves. The new bearings didn’t last very long as the journals were worn, so I bought and fitted a sealed unit instead, job done;

Removed and replaced headset bearings;

Removed and replaced brakes and brake cables;

Removed and replaced all derailleur cables and reset all gears (constantly on-going as rear derailleur needs fixing or replacing);

Fitted new pannier rack;

De-rusted handlebars (again, ongoing as rust seems to grow at hint of a shower).

I have taken to washing, greasing, lubing and waterproofing the bike, as required, and it has seen some decent extra mileage  this year, the most since about 2001!