How and why I came to own this bike

This bike was listed on Craigslist for $5. You just don't see a Miyata for sale for $5. It said "needs new front tire and tube, otherwise in good shape", or something similar. They lied. Still, you can't really turn down a $5 Miyata in any condition short of scrap metal, so I took it home.

In my rush to be the first in line to pick up such a bike at such a price, I wasn't too concerned about what it's frame size was. I was really kind of hoping that it would be a small enough bike that Beka could ride it, but it turns out to be just about my size. And that works too. This is not quite a road bike, not quite a mountain bike. It's an early hybrid; a 1990, I think. It's frame is close to being a road frame, and it's tire is closer to road than mountain (700x38c), but it has mountain bike handlebars and drivetrain. It seems like it will be a nice street bike, perfect for towing the kids in the trailer.

But first... It needs a bit of work:

Miyata Triplecross
'90 Miyata Triplecross

Yes, I have got myself a project bike. That works out well. I don't have the time or money for a project car, but this is good cheap fun. It may end up being a little more expensive than if I had bought a Triplecross in nicer shape to start with, but this way it'll be built up the way I want it. And so begins my Miyata journey...

General Cleaning and Such

This bike was a mess. It had seen some outside storage, I am sure. The rear wheel's plastic chain/spoke guard/shield was yellow and brittle. I broke it off in pieces. I shined up the paint, cleaned up the chrome with some steel wool and WD-40, and dirtied a lot of rags. That got it looking more worthy of it's $5 price. Yes, this bike could turn out nice.

Headset Rebuild

There was some serious play in the headset. Clunk, clunk. So, I got it apart, carefully using some wrenches not intended for that use. Some of the bearings were pitted and rusty. The races weren't perfect either, but good enough for what it is. The original bearings were caged. To make the most of what was left of the races, I went with loose bearings to refill it. The whole procedure was rather uneventful. I failed to take pictures. The headset now feels much better, if not quite perfect.

Truing the Front Wheel

As I mentioned earlier, the front wheel had a wobble to it. At this point, I ordered a load of parts and tools from, which included a spoke wrench. I didn't care to try truing a wheel with a pair of Vise-Grips.

The actual truing process was easier than I thought it would be. I turned the bike upside down. Then I slowly turned the wheel while holding the brake pad close to one side of the rim to detect high spots. Then I turned the spoke nipples just a bit in the appropriate direction, and repeated that process (alternating which side of the rim I was working from) until the wheel was quite true. Fortunately, the wheel was only wobbly from side to side, and not in distance from rim to hub. I suspect that that is a more difficult thing to tame, but I could be wrong.

Front Wheel Bearings

The front bearings were noticeably crunchy when I turned the axle with my fingers, so I figured I'd rebuild them before they got any worse.

Axle and Cones
Axle and Cones
Shimano Hub
Shimano Hub

Disassembly revealed that some of the balls were worn, and the cup was also a little bit pitted. Not near bad enough that I was going to put a whole new wheel on it however, so I went ahead and picked up some new ball bearings, cleaned everything up, and reassembled it. Everything was done very much the same as when I did the front wheel of my Fuji Palisade, so I won't bother to repeat every minute detail.

The design of this Shimano hub is a bit different than the Fuji's Maillard. The Shimano uses a dirt/grease seal similar to a pair of piston rings in a single groove in the cone, the rings sealing against the pressed-in sheet-metal seal/cap on the hub. It looks reasonably effective. Overall, if I were to choose between a brand new Maillard or Shimano front hub of the models that I've worked with, I think the Maillard is a higher quality unit, but both seem nice enough.

Front Tire and Tube

Also included in my order from Nashbar were a pair of tires and tubes. The bike came from the factory with 700x38c tires, one of which was still mounted at the rear. I decided to go with some 700x35c instead, which is a little narrower but not by a huge margin. The tire I ended up with is the Nashbar "Streetwise", which is mostly slick, with some tread grooves in the sides. It's actually a little smoother and narrower than I'd really intended to go for, but I think it will be okay for the riding that I intend to do, which is mostly paved streets and trails.

Installing the tire was less than challenging, even though I have no tire levers. I just put a fresh rim-strip on the rim (which keeps the sharp edges inside from cutting the tube), put a little air inside the tube to give it some shape, put the tube inside the tire, and worked the tire onto the rim. After evening the bead out around the entire circumference, I put the recommended 80 psi. into it, and all seems well. I'd expected to have to fight it more, but that's fine.

Bottom Bracket Rebuild

At this point I decided to take a look at the only remaining bearing on the bike, the bottom bracket. I broke the old chain with my new chain tool, since it was going to be replaced anyway, and pulled the cranks. The lock-ring spanner that I made for my Palisade fit just fine, and the ring came off without trouble. The adjustable cup, however, did not. It was quite firmly in place, and I was without a pin-type spanner wrench to turn it properly anyway. I tried tapping it in a circular motion with a small screwdriver and hammer, along with a few other equally futile efforts, but nothing worked. I sprayed it up with some PB Blaster, and let it stew for a few days while I pondered the problem.

At this point, I was somewhat afraid that I'd put brand new tubes, tires, time and effort into a bike that would never again see the road. I could put another $10 into the correct spanner wrench, and hope that it worked, but what if it didn't? Then I'd just made the problem $10 worse than it was before.

BB Wrench
Makeshift Wrench

So, again, I made my own tool. I took an old chinese-made metric open-end wrench, and ground it out with my Dremel tool to fit easily around the spindle. Then I drilled a hole in the side of it, sized to accept the appropriate size of drill bit which would also fit in one of the holes in the cup. Then, I would stick another bit of the same size into the opposite hole in the cup, which the wrench would press against as it was turned. It's hard to explain, but you can probably see what I did in the accompanying photo. To my relief, it worked, and the cup unscrewed from the frame.

Less encouraging was the condition of the parts inside. The spindle was pitted, the cups were pitted, and the ball bearings were pitted. It was technically not a part that one would want to re-use. The problem is that replacement parts for these aren't readily available at a reasonable price; everything now is a disposable cartridge unit. I could switch to that type (and might, eventually), but that would cost about $20 for the bearing, and another $10 for the tool to install it. I decided to pay $1-2 for some new ball bearings, and make do what what I had. Even if I only get another 100 miles out of it, I'm not really out anything by trying.

First though, I decided to re-grind the spindle a little bit. The spindle was in the worst condition of all the parts. Similar to what I did on the front wheel of my Palisade, I chucked it into my hand drill (using some rubber vacuum line as a flexible coupling), and set things up somewhat like a lathe. To remove metal, I used two methods. I used a grinding bit in my Dremel tool (both the Dremel and the drill turning at the same time), and I used emery cloth wrapped around a screwdriver shaft. The Dremel bit was more aggressive, but left a rougher surface, so I finished with the emery cloth. I'm quite happy with the finished spindle. The pits aren't completely gone, but greatly improved. Time will tell if I ground off too much material and passed through the thin hardened layer, as some online have warned is possible.

After that, the parts were cleaned, greased and reassembled. The cranks are back on. Hopefully it lasts a while.

Shift Cables and Mechanisms

Sitting outside for an unknown period of time did not do the shifting parts on this bike any good. The shifter for the front derailer would not ratchet properly, and the cable for the rear derailer was rusted up inside of it's housing.

The front derailer shifter, I attacked first. I removed the unit from the handlebars, and found that the little ratchet pawl did not rotate freely on it's shaft. To remedy that, I removed it's retaining clip, removed the pawl, cleaned, oiled, and reinstalled everything. Without actually riding it, the front now seems to function properly.

The rear shift cable would not be removed from it's housing without breaking it, and so I did just that. Of course, I had to purchase a replacement cable and housing. Fortunately, those are fairly cheap. Then I just had to cut the housing down to the same length as the old one, and thread everything through all of the right holes, in the correct order, and get things adjusted as close as possible without riding it. In theory, the bike was now ready to ride!

Test Ride

I hopped onto the bike with a screwdriver in hand to make adjustments as needed. The rear shifting required a lot of tweaking. Eventually, with cable length and limit stop adjustments, I got it pretty close. However, it would not stay shifted into the largest sprocket, because (as some internet research finally pointed out to me) the shifter was indexed one position off of what the derailer was actually in at any given time. It was an easy enough fix once I figured that out; just had to make a larger cable adjustment. Then the shifting was pretty good.

Unfortunately, the old cassette didn't want to play nice with the brand new chain. I really thought it would; it looked to be in good shape. It wanted to skip pretty badly in any of the smallest two or three sprockets though. So rather than risk damaging the chain by riding it in such a way, I went back inside and ordered a new cassette. That's the whole assembly of sprockets in the back, for those who don't know the bike terminology.

Besides the skipping chain, there was one other problem. There was a little "clunk" as you push down on the right pedal. I suppose that the bottom bracket bearing still isn't quite what it should be. Everything is tight; there is no play. Yet, there is a definite clunk. I don't think I'll worry about that for now. The bearing is simply worn out, and if I end up riding it enough that it becomes a more serious problem down the road, I'll take care of it then.

Otherwise, the bike rides nicely. Not quite a mountain bike, not quite a road bike; it's a true hybrid. The tires are very smooth and easy-rolling, but not so skinny that I am afraid to ride on the grass or packed dirt. The flat bars give it a more stable feel. The mountain-bike drivetrain makes hills really easy, which should be great for towing the kids around. The ride is very smooth and quiet. Aside from the clunk while pedaling, the tires are the noisiest thing while riding.

Cassette Replacement

Cassette and Wrench

My shiny new cassette came in the mail, along with the correct tool to remove and replace the special splined locking ring. I removed the rear wheel. In order to remove the locking ring, you must, at the same time, keep the cassette from turning in the same direction. The correct tool for this is a chain-whip. I don't have one. I do, however, have an old bike chain, some wood, and a few wood screws; that combination will work together to get the job done. The swap is as simple as unscrewing the old locking ring, removing the old cassette, installing the new one, and screwing in place the new locking ring. Then the wheel goes back on the bike, and the job is done.

With the new cassette in place (and some additional tweaking of the shifting), the bike rides well. No more skipping chain. The bike is now in fairly good, ridable condition. Until something breaks or I feel the need to upgrade something, I don't think there is much else to do on it. It's not the prettiest thing, but it feels complete.

To be Continued...