Seeing some of the really cool, heavy duty utility bikes people talk about
here I thought Iíd start a thread about the other end of that scale and
post a few pictures of a cheap, almost unrideable bike I converted on a
small budget into something useful. I have about $450 total investment in
The background; I took a short term position on Guam I didnít want to move
one of the good bikes I have in Hong Kong because Guam is not a very
bicycle friendly place in large part because of the packs of aggressive
feral dogs that chase cyclist as an avocation and the constant rain I
didnít think I would have much opportunity to ride. Once here I found out
that because I had not driven in 15 years it was going to take me 12 to 15
months to get a driverís license and since there is no mass transit to
speak of I was stuck walking. So I bought a cheap bike to ride the Ĺ mile
to the grocery store, the bank, church and the other mundane places people
need to go.
Here is a picture of the original configuration of the bike:
For a department store bike this thing gets rave reviews. Therefore I
thought that I could use it since the area I live in is rather flat and I
didnít have the time to find a real bike shop.
I think that Sears and K-Mart pay someone to write the reviews. Mongoose
should be ashamed of themselves for putting their name on this bike it was
simply terrible. I should have probably just bought a different bike and
thrown this one away but just kept thinking "One more change" Now all that
is left of the original bike is the frame, headset saddle and brakes
1. When the tires were inflated to about 20 PSI less than the max
listed they rubbed the top of the non-adjustable fenders. But as the bead
of the tires was not tight if I kept the pressure low enough to not rub the
fender the tire would de-bead in a corner and be essentially flat if I
carried any load at all.
2. The frame is spaced 130 but the rear wheel was 127 since it is an
aluminum frame this was somewhat problematic.
3. The 13-28 7 speed freewheel was Ok the 44 tooth front chain wheel
was a bit high for my creaky old knees
4. The handle bars are good for a very short ride but the swept back,
sit-up-and-beg position does not lend itself to climbing a hill or
outrunning big dogs
5. The brake pads stop well but are inexpensive units that are almost
impossible to toe and squeal like a cat with its tail caught in a door
I tried minor fixes like adjusting the fenders and brakes. The brakes can
be made to stop pretty well but are still noisy. I ended up taking the
fenders completely off hoping to use the tires that came with the bike.
However even at pressure the bead would not seal right and the front tire
blew off the rim at about 60 PSI. I do not know if this was problem with
the tire or the factory rims.
Since I still didnít want to bring a bike from Hong Kong here because I
didnít want the airline damage it. I could either buy a different bike or
modify this one. I took a trip back to Hong Kong to see the family in June
and dipped into my dead parts box and ordered other things mail order.
I ended up replacing the wheels, the rear derailleur, the crank, the bottom
bracket, handle bars, seat post, rear cassette (Old wheels used a free
wheel) the chain, the pedals and shifters. I added a front derailleur,
computer, bar-ends a water bottle cage, a set of small panniers and a set
of lights with a bottom bracket generator. (However I would now never ride
at night here as the dogs would eat me)
An odd issue was there is no cable stop for the front derailleur cable. The
picture shows the bike with zip-ties used for this. That worked but I have
since bought a clamp-on cable stop which also helps to keep the pump in
The bike is actually comfortable. Since some of the parts were things I had
and the others are rather low end like SRAM x-3 Derailluers and shifters
the total cost for parts was about 350 dollars. The bike can now carry
about three sacks of groceries in the bags and on the rack. If I stay out
of residential areas where the dogs are and on the shoulder of main roads
like Marine Corps Drive then I can go pretty much all over Guam given
enough time. Generally I ride the bike over to the K-MArt on my day off and
take the tourist buses to shop or go out to eat from there then ride back
I really like the Vitoria Randoneer tires. They are 700X38 and roll very
well with a nice reflective white wall. I bought them because they were
cheap but I have been really pleased with how well they perform and will
buy them for other bikes. The low end SRAM derailleurs also work very well.
The spray bottle in water bottle cage contains a home-made do repellant. It
is mainly tap-water with a few drops of dish washing soap and 3
table-spoons of ammonia. I have no idea if this is considered humane or
not. Since the dog I spray it on is trying to bite me I do not care.
Her are some photos of how the bike looks now