Bicycle restoration for RV use

For the last few months, the goal is to set up a bicycle for use in the campgrounds as we travel around the western states in the motor coach. It must be easily dissembled to fit into the ‘toad’ ..our tow car. The common 20″ ‘Fold Bikes’ seem to start at about $200 for a Schwinn with plastic cranks and progress upwards to well over $400  .

‘Kent Giordano’ is $241 and one of the lightest at 25 lbs (Aluminum)

Fold bikes mainly are 20″ wheeled bicycles, which limits their use, handling safety and comfort, (imagine a BMX bike with tall seat post and handlebar stem). I play with that modified BMX type, even one with five speeds, enjoying brief rides with the grand kids. Personally I prefer a full size multi-speed geared bicycle, due to western states mountains. There are even massive 26″, 29″ or 32″ fat tired cruisers, if preferred   

There is a newer 26″ ‘Fold Bike’ that appears very interesting. Beware, it has complaints about it’s quality. It is Not built by Shimano. For $174.90, it is low priced and takes up less room than a normal 26″ bike. It has full suspension front and rear. 6 speeds (twist) and fenders. It looks great for leisurely pedaling around RV campgrounds in comfort.  Sold on Amazon and Ebay by ‘gothobby’. This link below is not the full link, but will get you to the item with several options for purchase. In my humble opinion, this remarkable 26″, full suspension bike is far preferable (from a safety aspect as well) than the more expensive little 20″ fold-bikes, and takes up no to little more space.


Vehicle mounted bike carriers are too numerous to list. Many are roof mounted (don’t forget that there are bikes on roof and pull into the garage). Some are trailer hitch inserts (if you have a receiver hitch). Some are devices that can be strapped to an SUV hatch, or passenger car trunk lid.

Lock the bike to carrier while you are away from vehicle, it somewhat slows the theft time. When camping near urban centers, take advantage of the local bus system. Many offer bike transportation carriers, often on front of bus. Nicer than pedaling up hill for miles to return to wherever.

The important levered ‘skewers’ that retain the wheels to the frame and front forks, are obviously an advantage over nuts on axles that require wrenches. Alloy running gear is another common advantage that comes with ‘skewered’ axles. Turning the handlebars around, after removing the front wheel, shortens the medium frame bike to 50 inches. That size fits easily into the back of the compact SUV we tow. Levered release adjustments also make it easier to lower/remove the seat and handlebars down and turned, to take up less room.

Tires are somewhat critical as the tread design dictates primary purpose. Pavement and hard packed gravel is mostly the campground terrain, with a few light trails and grass around many campgrounds. Hybrid bikes are frequently equipped with slick center ribbed tires with knobs on outer edge favoring both paved and trail tread patterns. Fully knobbed tires are harder to pedal. Look for signage allowing bicycles, before riding on a walking trail and annoying hikers.

Reflectors at the least, are necessary in event you are later than anticipated in returning to the coach or trailer for the night. Small wearable or mountable LED lights are available with flashing safety strobe for $15 or less. Walmart has thousands of bicycle accessories and parts listed Online, as well as a large selection of bicycles. Shipping to your nearby store is favorable and free, but home delivery is available for a fee.

A thrift store camera pouch of chosen size, can be had for $2-$5. Mounted with ty-raps it serves as a catchall for tire patch kits or whatever. A spare tire tube and compact air pump is sometimes wished for… after the flat tire. Maps, compass, or mounts for your smart phone and sufficient water are in addition to correct clothing/footwear for the weather and terrain. Sandals and flip flops are Not bicycle, let alone trail, footwear.

Bicycles require attention to bring them up to useable condition after storage. I frequently find nice bicycles in charity thrift stores, restore and sell as a pastime hobby. Many are overpriced, badly abused basket cases of rust, missing critical components and having rotted tires, all valueless and not desirable due to expensive parts, which raises their final cost higher than new models. Pass them by and look for later models, less abused donation bikes. A nice, slightly used ride can be had today for $50 or less. A ‘New’ aluminum framed cruiser for $85 (be sure to re- lube, check adjustment of the bearings) is better than a garage sale/thrift store junker.

New heavier models for $100 are currently in big box stores. Your local Craig’s List is another option. Before buying used, check the shifters, cables and derailleurs for expensive damage, missing parts. Sluggish pull cables and linkage if intact, is fixable with penetrating Moly or Liquid Graphite cable-chain lube, drizzled down into the cable housings. Easier by tipping the bike into various positions for gravity feed while the wheels are locked/strapped for easy handling.

Do not buy if tires are cracked/rotted require replacing, ‘unless’ the bike is a real classic gem overall (Many old cruisers with coaster brake drive gear, have ‘potential’ for profit…. ‘after’ expensive, time consuming restoration), you get it for $5 or less, you just adore it for some unimaginable reason, or have disposable money. Tires and tubes, as well as replacement parts-labor, are extremely costly.

Adjusting the shifters takes a bit of time by trial and error, to zero in the settings using small hand tools. Beware of frayed cables signaling frequent adjusting due to worn or bent/damaged parts. Brakes are easily fine tunable, to seat the friction pads (thick and in good condition) against the rims without dragging. Spin the wheels to check for bent rims (expensive), missing spokes. Crank chain wheels (sprockets) get bent from abuse. Be sure the chain ring is in place to prevent pants snags on the sprocket teeth. Rusty drive chains are Not a good sign, indicating severe neglect.

Rust may indicate the bearings are in similar condition and you do not want to get involved in bearings and their dis-assembly, unless you are mechanically inclined and patient. Sealed bearings are typically in the more expensive bicycles with the axle skewers for easy wheel removal.

The ‘free’ ball bearings in cheaper bicycles are prone to fall out all over the place, unless you are accustomed to their unpredictable quirks and set them on a large towel during a disassemble. Lubing with an oil like Shwinn Lube, that penetrates, then sets up as a light grease, restores most bearings, free wheel gear clusters, shifter mechanicals and chains to roll freely.

Cleaning the bike before starting restoration is easy and lets you work on a piece of clean equipment. Seated on a chair while doing the adjustments is preferable to bending over for stretches of time. ‘Eagle One’ products like Enviroshine Tire Gel  siliconized, (also works on shoes, shower stalls, and many other applications), such products that are water based, restore plastics, flat finishes and rubber to like new appearance without eventual petroleum damage, as petroleum based products tend to do. Eagle One ‘Wax Gell’ easily brings a luster to shoes, making them water repellent with no white hazing.

‘Eagle One’ Nano Wax (my personal preference) or any car spray wax is easier to shine, no white residue and very forgiving, even on old dull paint jobs …. after cleaning of course.

Tires are easily removed by turning the bike upside down (take care to not damage shifters). After wheel is removed, use the frame axle horns to hold the wheel in position for repairs. Bolt wheel in place ‘Outside’ the frame for tire removal, dissembling bearings for lubing (Google wheel bearing-coaster brake, do it yourself…even on You Tube), adjusting spokes, etc. Even good tires are usually flat after months of storage. Finger pressure removes most flat tires from rims.

Small tire tools (levers) make it easy. Some are plastic (Pedro’s, is one economical light tire tool). Beware of ‘pinching’ the tube with tools, Sharp screwdrivers are a ‘no no’. Check the tube for holding air, by inflating it, running water into a tire sized container, squeezing and checking for bubbles, while submerging the area to be inspected. Valves often are a source of leakage, saliva on finger, wipe over end and check for bubbles, try replacing the internal stem.

Patch, following instructions on patch kit. Alcohol cleans the surface of any contaminants that would prevent good adhesion of the cement and patch. Some kits use heat to bond the patch. A ‘Mr. Tuffy’ (feather the sharp ends) is wise to line inside tire surface, if in an area where thorns, Goatheads, or sharp hazards are a puncture risk.

Optional thick tubes and sealing ‘Green Slime’ give added protection. ‘Green Slime’ is reportedly only good for two years and makes it more difficult to patch a leak or remove the valve stems. It tends to become less effective and cause grief after that two years time. Shelf life of pre’slimed’ tubes seems to be one issue, according to the internet comments.

Tire inflation is dependent on rider weight, tire construction and surfaces. 40# is typically the minimum for mountain type all terrain bikes, with 65# rated maximum. Check the tire’s rating and adjust to preference. Tread design that is necessarily aggressive for the pros that can put intense power into pedal strokes and for aggressive cornering on loose surfaces, is more labor intensive to drive.

A smoother less aggressive tire tread is easier/faster to ride on hard packed and paved surfaces. Some hybrid tires have both features (preferable). Tire prices are wide ranging from basic less than $15 US, to over a hundred dollars for specialty riders needs. $25 each is fairly common. Local bike shop, Ebay, Amazon (remember to add shipping) Walmart (check online) is reasonable.

Pick a bike that is lighter, if loading and storage is an issue. Some are aluminum, most are steel frame with Chrome Moly (Cr-Mo) being the strongest and found on better bicycles. Frames are typically labeled. Size/fit of frame is important if distance is great and saddle time is extensive. Short duration rides are less problematic, not noticeable if frame is not quite large enough for the rider. Lower frame top bars are advantageous in hilly terrain and where mount and dismount are frequent.

Seat posts are available in various lengths to allow a straighter, more comfortable, full leg extension on the pedal cycle. Adjustable, long stem necks to easily set handlebars to either comfort or speed crouch, make it easy to compensate for different riders ergonomics. Carry a Hex wrench. 

Handlebar grips are numerous on Ebay or Amazon, or local bike shops. A flatter padded grip saves the wrists. I like ‘Beaky Mountain’ or Ergon with end levers (Ebay). Wearing snug fitting sports gloves, even fingerless is an additional welcome respite from wrist and hand fatigue.

Lack of frame spring suspension is seldom an issue for cruising and campground bikes. Frame suspension, like ‘Rock Shoks’, is heavier. Spring loaded seat posts and comfort seats, accessories/tires are available even at Walmart. Check online for store shipping. Internet (Amazon/Ebay) is another source of accessories.

Tires size should be at least 24″ to  26″ x 1.75 (personal preference is 26″ x 1.95″) to maintain control on rough or loose pavement with holes and/or gravel. Grass/sand is doable with larger ‘cruiser’ tires over 2″ wide. Not advisable to use narrow tire, high speed road bikes for any ‘off pavement’ terrain. Most campgrounds have pavement that lacks in perfection and trails that demand fatter tires.

Enjoy your ‘ride’, whether it be a restored piece of art, or a new model that pleases your preference. Your health will improve with more hours on the bike, than sitting around the coach watching the TV. Wear safety equipment that protects your brain as well as eyes. Knee/elbow/wrist pads are options if you are unsure about your skills or are aggressive in your riding. Due to flawed human nature everywhere, a cable lock is necessary to prevent theft Anytime you are not riding.

Tour the United States of America, One Nation Under God. The adventure is calling. Answer the call, you will love the Freedom.


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