Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Van gets a Toad

Oh wait!  Y'all didn't really think I was talking about that SUV there did you?

OK, show of hands; how many of you thought for a moment that a Ford Escape would make a good Toad for The Van. . .  I see one or two hands, but not many.

Another show of hands; how many of you thought I was crazy enough to think it would be a good idea to drag the Ford around behind The Van. . . Just what I suspected, lots of hands showing out there now.

I admit that I've spent so much time thinking outside the box that for me it's really inside the box anymore, and what used to be inside the box is now outside the box, but I'm not quite that crazy!

This is the Toad I'm talking about.

Yep, you're right, as far as bikes go this big-box offering is about as far down the scale as you can go without falling off. Serious bikers spend a lot of time on forums trashing bikes like these as a waste of money, (Apparently some of these serious riders have a lot of downtime to spend at their keyboards.) but that's kind of the point. At $160 brand new there's not a whole lot of investment here so  it won't send me into the thralls of despair if the thing gets dinged or goes missing.

It goes when I step on the pedals, it stops when I grab the brakes, and those 29" tires roll pretty well over modest obstructions.

And let's be realistic here, since I've been there done that - don't like wearing the T-shirt anymore, my days of riding centuries are over, and I'd rather hike my trails at an up-close-and-personal speed than thrash them, and most likely myself, on a grand's worth of bike.

What I was looking for was something I could use to ride up to the trail-head to save me a few miles of road-hiking without having to drag The Van out of it's site. Or something a little faster than my feet for checking out the condition of the next couple miles of forest road before risking The Van on them, or for scouting out a better dispersed campsite without giving up the one I'm already on.

What I needed was an inexpensive beater and that's what I got. She weighs in at a gut-busting 36 pounds, the peddles are little more than stamped tin, the brakes - well - let's just say I won't be trusting them on any steep mountain decents and the twist-grip shifters are slow and clunky.  In other words we were made for each other! Although, I'm sorry, but that seat has to go!!  I'll be picking up a well padded cruiser-style seat with spring suspension before doing anything more serious than coasting around the driveway in low gear.

And yep, I know, cruiser seating and grinding just don't go together very well, but again, I don't intend to be doing a whole bunch of grinding on this thing. And as an added bonus, when there's women around to be impressed, an old-lady cruiser seat under my butt will help slap some sense back into me before I do myself damage.

I guess the bike's not technically a Toad at all, but calling it a Hanger just doesn't do it for me.

Fortunately I bought a Thule swing-away, receiver mounted bike carrier many years ago, like maybe 20 years, and after I finally hung up my bicycle shorts (Crap! That's not an image I want in my head. Me back in bicycle shorts!!) I also hung the carrier up on the wall of the barn.

This was fortunate because back then that carrier cost me twice what I just paid for the bike! So I got the ladder out, unscrewed the straps keeping it from falling on my head, hauled it down and dusted the old carrier off.

The bike carrier is - or rather was - a four-bike setup, and when I was using it all the time back in my serious biking days I often threatened to make some modifications since I've never carried more than two bikes at a time and am unlikely to ever carry more than one now.

It doesn't really look like much this photo, but the carrier arms really do stick out quite a ways and that lower stabilizer bar is a real knee-knocker. This is especially noticeable when the bars are jabbing me in the chest while I'm mounting or removing the bike, or laying me out flat because I walked around behind the van and forgot they were sticking out.

Since I don't bounce back up like I used to after getting laid out flat, and extending my arms out to full length while trying to get a 36 pound bike settled into the carrier saddles is more of a workout than is good for me these days, I finally made good on my threat.

Just in case there's some parallel universe where I might have to carry two bikes one day, I decided to leave room for a second set of saddles on the modified arms.

After a bit of fiddling around and testing I decided to make the upper arms 9 inches long, (They started out 21.5 inches long!) this spaces the two pairs of remaining saddles about 6 inches apart. That's a smidge tight and it will be a bit of a puzzle fitting all the bits and pieces together if I ever need to hang a second bike, but it can be done.

To keep from cocking things up, literally, when cutting tubing I use something flat and flexible, a piece of paper, or in this case, some webbing strap that was laying around and handier than the nearest sheet of paper, to get a cut that is square to the tubing.

I just wrap whatever it is around the tube, pinch it tight, making sure the two sides line up evenly, and then mark all the way around the tubing.

Then comes the blasphemous part; taking a hacksaw to my $300 carrier! But only after triple checking my measurements since there's no do-overs once the cutting is started.

Yes, I've got power tools that I could make the cuts with, three different ones I can think of off the top of my head, but by the time I factor in setup time I can make the cuts nearly as fast with the hacksaw and the extra exercise certainly won't hurt.

So OK, maybe it took a little extra time since those upper tubes are pretty heavy gauge stuff engineered to stand up the the dynamic stress of four bikes, but it really doesn't take as long as people tend to think, it just seems that way when it's your muscle power on the business end of the saw. . .

After cutting the two upper arms and the lower stabilizer arm to their new, and gut friendlier, lengths, it was a simple matter to remove the end caps from the cut portions and reattach them to the stubs that were left.  Now I'm ready to go!

Or rather will be ready to go once I find a decent saddle and replace my missing helmet. . .

(Notice how narrow the seat is in this photo. Damn but I've got wrinkles wider than that let alone my - well - you know.)

1 comment:

  1. That's a great looking toad. Had me fooled all the way from the blog post title down to the bike. No, I didn't thing the white SUV was the toad you were talking about. Those 29ers are what I have on mine and it's nice to ride in shorts, tshirt and a ballcap. Enjoy it!!!