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Building a freak bike with the Rat Patrol

By johnboy - 7 January 2009 72

[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:

What’s Your opinion?

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72 Responses to
Building a freak bike with the Rat Patrol
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Limp Jimmy 1:41 pm 16 Jan 09

Danman/Kramer: Yes, I like the idea of an interim tube to save time-hassle (mind you, it only ever takes me 5 mins to repair a puncture forever) — the only prob I have with that approach is that to make a good repair with a vulcanising patch means pumping it up hard as soon as you pop it back on the wheel, then ride… ie. a vulcanised repair job requires good pressure to make it stick forever. The more pressure, the more it sticks. Not many things worse than repairing you own puncture repairs.

So in the end, I make up the 4-5 extra minutes lost at work, and I arrive home with no further repairs, wheel-takings-off or repairing to do. I like that. Oh, and I don’t have to carry a spare tube everywhere I go… that space can be used for beer.

BerraBoy68 4:57 pm 13 Jan 09

Kramer said :

Granny & P1 – Yes, I believe the word nix has evolved from the old days of wooden bikes…. nix <= knicks <=knickerbockers. There have been a few bike races, mainly late at night, where a competitor has headed out for a lap clad only in a g-string, bike shoes & helmet!?!

God I hope they were female Kramer!

Granny 4:34 pm 13 Jan 09

LOL !!

Kramer 4:31 pm 13 Jan 09

I’m a fan of the spare tube, and I actually carry two and a puncture kit – as the gods can (and have) been angry some days (and nights). If it’s not too badly damaged, I’ll patch the tube when I get home and add it to my collection.

The best prevention for flats is 2.5 triple ply tyres with downhill tubes. Although nothing beats a 10cm nail hiding in the grass.

Granny & P1 – Yes, I believe the word nix has evolved from the old days of wooden bikes…. nix < = knicks <=knickerbockers. There have been a few bike races, mainly late at night, where a competitor has headed out for a lap clad only in a g-string, bike shoes & helmet!?!

Granny 4:01 pm 13 Jan 09

Quite possibly, p1!

; )

However, lacy black g-strings may have aerodynamic properties still undiscovered as yet ….

p1 3:49 pm 13 Jan 09

Short for knickers, do you think Granny? Although Krammer also said “These days you’ll only see me just nix for racing (and yes I wear plain black nix and virtually everyone does it for racing).”, and the picture on my head of bicycle riders all in lacy black g-strings (but only for races) is slightly disturbing.

Danman 3:45 pm 13 Jan 09

Limp Jimmy, I assume the spare tyre thing is a matter of pumping up time vs repair time as a lot of people riding actually have to be somewhere at a certain time.

If I get a puncture on the way to work I’d rather replace the tube and repair the old one later rather than waiting for contact adhesive and then pumping it up.

Having said that, I have been riding on 85psi 26×1.95 semi slicks with kevlar lining, a tyre liner (Essential regardless) and extra thick inner tubes. Sure it weighs me down a lot more than Mr+Mrs My Bike Is Better, who fly past me every day, but it makes me a lot fitter having to work harder – and yet to get a puncture.

If I did, I would prefer not pfaffing around and just slap a new tube in and pump it up.

Granny 3:35 pm 13 Jan 09

It’s a technical term I presume, p1!

p1 3:24 pm 13 Jan 09

What are nix?

Mr_Shab 3:19 pm 13 Jan 09

Y’must have a good seat, Jimmy. I like the shy shorts becuase they stop me getting mud and grease all over my other shorts.

Kmart/Target sell no-name bike shorts for much less than shiny Kathmandu ones, IIRC.

Limp Jimmy 3:00 pm 13 Jan 09

Netti, Kathmandu… it’s all lycra, people! Ha ha, good old irony.

My legs are hairy and I don’t wear lycra when I ride. I didn’t wear them when I rode from Belgium, around the Spanish coast to Lisbon in a summer heatwave. One of many rides. Still, that’s just me. I could be crazy.

that’s right 3,000km without lycra, or so much as a single puncture. BUT if I had a puncture I would have repaired it forever at about 5c per self-made patch. No, why the fark would you carry a spare inner tube? What happens when you get 2 punctures?

Don’t get me started about people who attempt to somehow justify why carrying a spare tube is way better than an unlimited supply of 5c puncture repairs. You can buy the patch material mat from only a couple of bike shop shops around town (surprise surprise!).

I recently bought some lycra clothing — arm warmers, no less! No, not for riding, for flying my hang glider. Even tho they are black and lack any brightly-coloured brand name logo designs, they seem to work very well 🙂

Kramer 11:47 am 09 Jan 09

Netti Shy Shorts are another good choice. Although I usually wear normal nix with a pair of harder wearing MTB shorts over the top – it protects my modesty & nix in the event of a crash (yes, I have crashed when wearing only nix and ripped the arse outta myself and the nix – the rest of the ride was interesting!). These days you’ll only see me just nix for racing (and yes I wear plain black nix and virtually everyone does it for racing).

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