[First filed: January 05, 2009 @ 16:14]
My last bike cost me a few hundred dollars from a sports shop. It had a big heavy frame and was quite good at getting me to and from pubs in the Inner North without mishap.
But after a year at the coast the spokes had all rusted through and the chain had welded itself onto the gears. The consensus was that repair would be more expensive than getting a new bike.
But what sort of new bike to get?
Hundreds of dollars on a mountain bike seemed like overkill for trundling gently to bars or the shops. Zippy racing bikes are even less suited to my needs. There’s a bloke on Davidson Street in Ainslie who sells vintage bikes from his front lawn, but being over 90kg I find weaker bikes end up buckling on me.
And then seeing Rat Patrol freak bikes parked at Ainslie shops I was inspired.
I wanted a rat bike.
Fortunately I knew that RiotACT’s Loose Brown is a mover and shaker amongst the rats so I got in touch with him and asked if he could help.
(More and a slideshow below)
LB very kindly agreed to volunteer some time, effort, and materials. In turn I provided a case of beer over the course of the process.
Before we could kick off a trailer had to be procured. Finally the day came when LB had gained access to a trailer and we were off to Aussie Junk at Mitchell.
There we spent some time kicking the flat tires in the bicycle graveyard and looking for broken welds. Eventually we decided we liked the look of a red Huffy Cortez. Wheeling it to the front counter I was pleased to discover this solid bike would cost me a whole $15.
On later inspection it turned out that the only repairs the bike needed was getting the tires pumped up. So it was with some sadness that on a following Tuesday night I rode a rather excellent and fully functional bicycle to the secret Rat Pad at an undisclosable location in the Inner North. I had some idea what we were about to do to it.
There followed an education in such things as how to remove the head set and forks from a mountain bike. I then learned how to change the cutting disk on an electric grinder, followed by cutting up the forks of my new bike.
A lesson then followed in how to use a wire brush on an electric drill to remove paint prior to welding, and I learned a great deal about the importance of wearing safety goggles from rat patrollers who had spent evenings in emergency getting bits of metal taken out of their eyes.
At this point a word on the Rat Pad and build nights.
The Rat’s moving lair fills a member’s backyard with a bicycle graveyard (see slideshow). A shed houses a tool board with needful things and a curtain rail full of ear protection and safety goggles.
There is a lot of beer, and loud music (LB describes Rat Patrol as “A drinking club with a bicycle problem”). At 10pm all grinding must cease so as not to antagonise neighbours and the music gets turned down too.
Whenever anyone says “Welding!” it’s a cue to close your eyes and turn away.
As and when parts were needed I was sent out to the graveyard to find an appropriate looking bike carcass to remove the part from. Sometimes on my return there would be some tooth-sucking and it would become clear that someone else had their eyes on that part or bike for another project.
By the end of the first night we had mostly completed the new super long tubular steel forks for my chopper.
On the second night we had it all together and various ratters assembled out the front of the rat pad to take turns on the new creation, which shall hereafter be known as Rodrigo.
After a number of big guys had tried out their bunny hops and gutter bouncing, Rodrigo was declared fit, sound, and unusually comfortable and sweet tempered chopper bike.
It’s a comfortable ride now, although I have plans to swap the handlebars out for apehangers, and maybe to move the pedals further forward.
All up the cost of it came out well under $50 (less beer).
Going on my first ride with the Rat Patrol and being inducted as a full member is a pleasure I hope to experience in the future.
In the meantime I’ve got exactly the bike I wanted.
And I had a lot of fun along the way too.
I’d never used a cutter, or a welder, or polished metal, before I started this. If you’re interested in giving it a go the guys and girls of the Rat Patrol are very friendly and helpful. You can contact them via the above link.
Here’s a slideshow of the process: