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Marko Mäkelä: bicycles

For some time, I was like the others and took the bus to high school, about 5 kilometers. Then I figured out that the bicycle takes me more easily from place to place without fixed schedules.

In the beginning of my university studies, I relied on engine power again for a couple of years and gained about ten kilograms of excess weight. Since then, I ride the bicycle throughout the year, up to some 100 to 150 kilometers in a row.

Since I met my wife Heli, I have not made long (multi-day) bicycle trips. The longest ones I have made so far are:

time route vehicle
July 1998 Tallinn–Võsu–Rakvere–Mustvee–Tartu–Viljandi Nopsa Torpedo 3
August 1999 Tampere–Murole–Kuhmalahti–Loppi–Espoo DBS Touring 12

Sachs Torpedo Dreigang

The bicycle I have used for the longest time was a Nopsa Torpedo 3. The only original parts left were the front rim and the hull of the Sachs Torpedo rear hub. I replaced the interior of the hub after 12 years of service, because I got an used three-gear bike for the price of a new brake drum. I also had to replace the frame, because the spare parts of the crank mechanism were expensive and difficult to source.

The replacement frame featured a single-part crank that can be fitted with an inexpensive 46-tooth front sprocket. The dealer who sold me the sprocket was right: I was unable to destroy the sprocket by driving, even though I drove thousands of kilometers a year, because the bike was stolen in the summer of 1999 in front of my apartment.

After I installed a 17-tooth rear sprocket, it was much nicer to ride long journeys. The third gear can be used for riding fast (60 kilometers per hour downhill, or 40 kilometers per hour on flat surface) or for resting the legs, and the first gear is still light enough, as long as one is driving at least 20 km/h. The acceleration is excellent, because the Torpedo hub shifts up very rapidly.

Sachs Commander 12

I replaced the stolen Nopsa with a used DBS Touring 12. The bike cost 250 FIM and the spare parts a little more.

Because I like planet gear, the Sachs Commander, which combines derailleur and planet gear, suits me perfectly. I use the two-speed planet gear for starting and the derailleur shift for accelerating.

Unfortunately, the tale of the Commander seems to end already after 4 years of service, because it is next to impossible to find spare parts. The biggest rear sprocket is floating, and I have been unable to remove the sprocket assembly from the hub. In the winter of 2003, a safety spring of the lock was broken, and when I was driving on a jumpy surface, the lock was driven between the spokes. I was able to get the rim true again by replacing nine spokes, but the lock does not work properly any more.

Furthermore, two derailleur shifts have committed suicide by hitting the spokes. It looks like I’d better choose a Torpedo Dreigang hub again.

Sturmey Archer

Being unsatisfied with the poor performance of Weinmann band brakes, I decided to give cable-driven drum brakes a try. Because the Sachs Galaxie HT hub I bought in the summer of 2001 wasn’t a direct replacement of the Sachs Commander hub, I bought an Øglænd Perfekt de Luxe.

At 450 FIM, it was a little expensive, but it has been worth the money. The Sturmey Archer AB hub was stamped September 1965. Exactly 40 years later, I replaced its guts from a NOS hub from January 1973 (from (Ecobike). Earlier, I have replaced the shift cable and the original tires, which have blown very loudly.

Bike with electric gear and trailer

Bike with electric gear and trailer

In the winter of 2005, I built new wheels for my DBS Touring 12, which meanwhile had only 8 working gears. I bought a slightly used Torpedo 3×7 rear hub at Ecobike. I equipped the bike with a B.O.B. Coz trailer in the spring, and the chain line was adjusted by mounting the crank wheel Suntour B.E.A.S.T..

Unfortunately I will have to break one of my principles again, because the parts alone cost more than I would allow my bicycle to cost, 260 € (and 240 € for the trailer). I try to defend myself by claiming that the bicycle does not look that expensive and that I would rather pay for quality than for chromed disposable parts. Also my income has multipled since the time I was a student. With this reasoning, in January 2006, I dared to invest 270 € in a new front wheel built around a German SON dynamo hub and B+M diode lamp. I built the tail light myself, because the B+M 4DLitePlus did not work. I built the wheel with a four-cross pattern using the directions of the German bicycling association (there also exist wheelbuilding instructions in English). The only drawback of an expensive self-built bicycle is that one has to be careful where to park it.

The 63-speed transmission of the bike is a hybrid. Using a 28-622 Panaracer tire in the back and a 20-622 in the front, one revolution of the rear wheel corresponds to about 2.13 meters. At 60 rpm, the bicycle will make 5.8 km/h (walking pace) on the smallest gear and 40.9 km/h on the biggest gear. When needed, the bike can make 70‒80 kilometers per hour, if enough power is available.