Jul 102011

I have been casually looking for a second road bike ever since completing
the Vigilante make over. On a recent visit to my aunt and uncles I was given a vintage
Ross road bike. My uncle is veteran triathlete that has decided he will retire
from the sport. He knew I was looking for another bike so he gave me this one.
It is all steel and slightly heavier than my other bike but still in really
good shape. When I got the bike home I gave it a quick top to bottom
inspection. Everything looks pretty solid, the front rim’s bearings look like
they need to be repacked but the wheel still rolls well and the seat no longer
has a cover or padding. All the components need to be cleaned up and the frame
needs to be touched up but I just wanted to get it safe to ride. I removed a
few unneeded items like reflectors and an old saddlebag and borrowed the seat from
my mountain bike. The bike rides nice, it is bigger than the Vigilante but it
actually fits me better and was very comfortable. I plan on stripping the bike
down and inspecting the components further and buy a new seat. Then touch up
the paint and put on a nice thick layer of clear coat. I want to maintain the
classic color and plan to keep it as close to original as possible. Here is a picture
of the bike as I got it.


 Posted by at 11:48 pm
Jun 272011

Recently the seat belt on my wife’s car stopped retracting. This is the first time I had this happen to one of my cars. I was not too worried until I started looking for a replacement seat belt. OEM replacements are not widely available on internet stores and my favorite place to look, eBay, resulted in very few hits and even those were pricey. I decided to take a chance with a universal replacement. I do not often review items but I have no complaints with the site I ordered from: http://www.seatbeltcity.com/. There are others but I decided on this one because of the wizard on their main page. Finding the correct kit to order was extremely easy and the price was half of a used OEM replacement.

It took a week to get the package, not a lot of shipping options but it still arrived in a reasonable amount of time. Luckily we have a few cars at our disposal to borrow in these situations.

Replacing a seatbelt is pretty straight forward. There are only a few components on the standard 3-point retractable kit so I will not go into the details of replacing the belt. I will however give you a warning on what to expect when replacing a modern OEM seat belt with a universal seat belt.

First, sensors. There are lights to warn you if your belt is not clasped and in this case there is a sensor at the recoil attached to the airbag. My guess is that when the airbag deploys the seat belt locks also. In both cases there is no place to connect these items on the new universal seat belt. The warning light is not an issue since it disables itself when nothing connected. The other sensor complains if the cable is not attached. I am still researching that one but in the mean time the wife is not complaining so it is low on the list.

Next, the screws provided on the kit may or may not actually fit in your car. In my case they did not so I reused the ones that were holding the previous belt in place. The ones installed from the factory are not your normal screws; you may not have the correct tool in your tool box. I happened to get lucky and have the correct torx socket.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to modify to fit. In my case the belt latch attached to the seat (You will have to remove the seat) had a key that the OEM belt used for alignment. The universal latch had no such key. Not a problem for one of my favorite air-tools, the cut off wheel.  I cut off the key and the new latch installed fine.

All in all the removal and install was not hard, more discovery than anything else. The one thing I have never liked to do is remove interior trim panels and I had to remove a few to get to all the components. The snaps are never the same once you remove them for the first time so the panels never fit exact ever again. These were not the worst I have seen but they are definitely meant to be installed once and left alone.

 Posted by at 10:45 pm
Apr 222011

Last August as football season was about to start I made a decision to purchase a car and put the Corvette in the garage. There were several factors that forced me into this decision:

  • The gear required for football was starting to overflow the small storage area available in the Corvette.
  • My daughter is about to turn 16 and I figure this car would be for her after I drive it for a year and am comfortable with its reliability.
  • The AC stopped working in the Corvette and it is August in Texas after all.

After a short search looking for small to mid-sized cars I realized that the small car market was a sellers market. The cars I was looking for just felt over priced for what you get. Specifically Chevy Malibu, Ford Focus, Mazda 3 and even a few of the compacts like the Dodge Neon. Then I ran across a listing for a Ford Taurus; A larger four door car than the Ford Focus but half the price for a similar year and mileage. This felt a little off so I refined my search for 5 year old Ford Taurus’ with average mileage and found that they were everywhere at what I felt were below a market prices. I took a test drive and pulled the trigger. These are great cars, there are millions of them on the road and a used one was most likely owned by a grandma somewhere. This leads to abundance in spare parts and a fleet of low mile used cars to choose from.

This leads me to the irony of the repair I was faced with at the beginning of summer this year. The AC stopped working in the Taurus. How unlucky is this, one of the top reasons for getting the car and I was right back to sweating in rush hour traffic. I know very little about the automotive AC system. Do I have time to become an expert at something else. I finally had a free weekend and decided to dig in and see how it goes.

First step was to go ahead and refill the Freon and see if it holds. It held for 15 minutes, so there is a leak and it is a big one. Next is a leak test kit. I found a reasonable one at the local parts store and followed the die injection instructions. Then it’s on with the sexy yellow glasses and the ultra violet light. The first thing you discover is that the AC lines snake throughout every section of the engine bay and even into the passenger compartment. After scouring every line in the upper engine with no results it was time to get under the car. Once up on ramps it took no time at all to find the leak. A small hole in a hose now covered in yellow die. When I go to take the hose off I realize it starts at the top of the engine bay with a fitting that requires a special tool. Another trip to the part store and $5 later that fitting is off. Then I continue to follow the hose to the compressor and then to the bottom of the engine bay. After some contortions and curses the part comes out and I figure that I am totally screwed. This hose is like four in one, it has to cost a fortune; at least $200 – $300 dollars from the dealer is my guess.

I make another trip to the parts store and tell the tech what I need, close my eyes and cross my fingers as I wait for the pain. $119, what a relief. I had to wait for them to get it delivered from another store but I left feeling so much better than when I went in. Installation was the reverse of removal, refill with Freon and test.

Success. The AC cools even better than before and just in time for the first 90 degree day of the year.

Total Cost $234:

  • Hose fitting release tool (reusable) $5
  • AC and Cooling System leak test kit (reusable) $50
  • 3 cans of Freon, one for initial leak test and 2 for fill after repair $60
  • replacement hose $119

My estimate for the repair at a shop is between $500 – $800 so I feel pretty good about this one. Even with the purchase of the tools (that I will eventual reuse when I repair the AC on the Corvette) the price is well below what it would cost at a shop.

Picture of the crazy beast hose:

 Posted by at 11:44 am
Mar 232011

So I completed the bike redesign and upgrade project in time for a nice Sunday ride. The bike performed great, it fells like a completely different bike. It was noticeably lighter and more responsive. The new handle bars and grips kept my hands from going numb, especially since I had my gloves on correctly (just kidding CK). The gear derailleurs and brakes worked well. This was a major concern considering I had to remove the cables completely to get the bike apart. I think the only thing left is a little more fine tuning on the headset; an additional 10mm spacer and maybe an 80mm neck will put them exactly where they need to be. Other than that I consider the bike done. The only parts I plan on changing are the ones that wear out and maybe moving to a CO2 kit for flat repairs instead of the bulky pump I have now.

The next major project will be to build a bike from scratch, maybe an all carbon fiber frame with Ultegra components. Then I can pass this bike down to my son since he is getting bigger and showing interest in riding with me.

Here is the ride information as recorded by runtastic. A nice slow ride through the hill country.


 Posted by at 1:55 pm
Mar 192011

All the paint work is done and I figure the paint was dry enough so lets start putting this thing back together.

Assembly was pretty straight forward. The brake cables were reversed so that took a little modification but otherwise everything else went on exactly how it came off.

One thing I realized right away is that the paint was still soft so I buggered it in quite a few places putting it together. Best case would have been to let it dry two more days but that was not in the schedule if I wanted to make a Sunday ride in less than 24 hours. I have leftover paint so I can always come back and do some touch ups.

Brakes and gear shifters took some time to adjust but nothing too difficult. A jig would come in real handy here.

Handle bar wrap was a breeze. I was scared to mess that one up.

Now for the results:

Amount spent

  • Carbon fork from ebay: $20
  • 90mm neck from Nashbar: $15
  • Aerobar from Nashbar: $15
  • Handle bar tape from local shop: $15
  • Head gear spacer from local shop: $5
  • Spray paint (3 cans): $13
  • Reusable tools from local shop $40
  • Hours in labor: ~40 hours

So out of pocket $83 in parts and $40 in tools that I consider an investment for future projects. Also, time well spent getting to know the ins and outs of my bike and honing a few techniques that can be applied on other projects.


I am very pleased with the final results. The bike feels pounds lighter and It feels more responsive. I like the way the paint came out even though it is far from perfect. It would have taken an additional week on the paint alone to get a near perfect results. I cannot wait to get this thing out on the road and yes I would do it all over again.

I was dared to name the bike and so I did… Vigilante is born!

 Posted by at 4:48 pm
Mar 192011

All the prep work is done, ready to paint. It is easy to overlook the amount of time it takes for final prep and dry time.

Five coats of the first color and let dry overnight.

I taped off for the two tone paint scheme and my wife lovingly created contact paper lettering for the name. Then five coats of the second color go on and again let it dry overnight.

Now the protective coat goes on. I decided on a flat clear coat for that stealthy look. And guess what, let it dry overnight.

All the final paint pictures will be on the next post, until then take a look at the new carbon fork compared to the old fork. I thought the old fork was aluminum… I was wrong. It was steel. It weighed almost as much as the frame by itself!

Can’t wait to ride on that carbon fork.

 Posted by at 4:27 pm
Mar 172011

So I left off needing a couple of special tools. $40 later I am the owner of a chain tool for removing and installing a chain and a crank remover.

Now the frame is stripped all the way except for the bottom bracket which I do not want to mess with at all (another special tool required).

So I started in with the grinder and sander to remove the old paint and as a bonus remove the external welds. Not going to fool anyone that it is not an aluminum frame but I like the smooth look. After grinding and sanding, one layer of body filler and more sanding. At least two more applications of body filler and sanding would be required for a nice finish but this project is already over budget and off schedule.

Here is a comparison of before and after welds.

Here is the frame ready for paint. Don’t be fooled this is a good day and a half worth of sanding.

Next time, the paint flies.

 Posted by at 9:48 pm
Mar 172011

About a year ago a co-worker decided we were going to compete in our first triathlon. I had been running regularly so I figured why not. Then I realized a few things, I needed to learn how to swim correctly and I needed a road bike.

I have a mountain bike but riding 20k on the road on that thing is nothing short of torture so I was going to need a road bike. A few bike stores later and my chin permanently on the floor from sticker shock I head to Academy. There I find in the sea of mountain bikes one road bike: a Schwinn Prelude. At $199 I was sold. Now after a year of riding this bike, both on weekend long rides and at the triathlon I am happy with the purchase. The only modifications have been upgraded rim tape and several tubes. Here is what she looked like Monday morning.

This year we have several co-workers interested in riding with us. On my recommendation one bought a Prelude off ebay for $249 since Academy no longer carries them, now they have only mountain and hybrid bikes. Here is what his looks like.

WHAT! It is beautiful! I can’t even look at my bike now. Something has to be done…

So a plan is hatched, parts are ordered and disassembly begins. Nothing crazy about tearing down a bike, especially after the tear down of my truck project (stay tuned for updates on that one).

No sooner did I get started then I realized I needed not one, but two special tools before I can continue. So here it sits in limbo until I can get to the store. (Improvised work stand performed great)

So until next time…<insert catch phrase here>

 Posted by at 12:54 pm
Mar 172011

I decided to move hosting to a professional service instead of maintaining a server at home. I started breaking down the total cost including time spent administrating the system to the cost of energy to keep the server powered on and connected to the Internet. So here is sunlightonchrome’s new home. I think it will be even better than it was before.

I have a few really cool thing I have been working on in the garage that I cannot wait to post. Stay tuned…

 Posted by at 2:09 am