I spent an enjoyable hour-and-a-bit today, fitting a rear rack to my Brompton. I haven't bothered with a photo: it looks like a standard Brompton with a standard Brompton rack attached to it.
In hindsight, I'm not sure why I didn't buy one with a rack already fitted, but oh well. Aside from it being a way of thinking about Something Other Than Work for a bit, the process of installing it taught me some quite a lot about the bike, which is undoubtedly going to be useful from a maintenance perspective.
What I did
I worked out how to do it by following a number of videos on YouTube, and referring to the supplied instructions.
As far as I can tell, there's nothing detailing the end to end process, so it was a bit of guesswork, and trial-and-error.
Edit: someone has suggested it would help if I said what bike it is. It's a 3-speed.
I did things in the following order:
- Remove the rear wheel
- Remove the rear mudguard
- Put on the rack and new mudguard
- Put the rear wheel back on
- Replace the old front rollers with the new, larger, ones which came with the rack
- Fold the bike and put on the new seat post bung. (I say "new"; I didn't have an old one to remove.)
All in all, it took me about 1.5 hours. This included a fair amount of time re-watching bits of videos, to make sure I had understood, and intentionally taking it slowly to try to lessen the risk of messing it up — there was no rush. If I were to do it again, I'm pretty sure I would at least halve that.
Removing and replacing the rear wheel: what I wish I'd known
There are a few videos about this, all pretty similar.
There are a couple of things which I wish I had known upfront, which I didn't see covered in any of the videos I had watched:
- The first step is to remove the indicator chain — the bit which goes into the hub to make your gearing work. It's easy to do, but I would take extra care not to move the nut, or to move it as little as I could. When it came to putting the bike back together, and making sure the gears were working, I spent a lot longer working on this that would have been the case had I left the nut in roughly the right place at this step.
- How to deal with the brakes. I guessed that, rather than attempting to take them apart, the simplest approach would be to deflate the tyre and squeeze it through. Even then, it was a tight fit, but it work.
- I realised, after the event, that Brompton's official instructions suggest doing this. Ooops.
- The "tab washers" — the bits which help keep the wheel attached to the frame have a top and a bottom.
- Again, after the event, the official instructions do say this. Perhaps my biggest learning is to rely less on YouTube, and more on the official instructions!
I'm glad I've learned these lessons now since, when it comes to fixing the inevitable puncture, I'll be able to do it a lot faster.
Is it worth it?
Time will tell but, as with most things Brompton, this was an expensive bit of metal.
I have immediately noticed how much easier it is to roll the bike around when folded down. I had a real challenge with this at the station, as the small wheel on the old mudguard seized up every few metres, making a horrible noise and rendering the bike immoveable.
Some kind people on Twitter suggested that it is easier to pull a Brompton than to push one, but now it seems — on the basis of some very limited testing in the confines of our kitchen — to be better. A lot better.
While I love the idea of making the most of my new rack by heading off into the distance on a folding bike, tent and provisions strapped to the back, I'm realistic:
- we're in a lockdown and, while this has got to be about as low risk as it's possible to get, I very much doubt it's consistent with the current rules. Whatever they might be.
- even if we were not, I can find time to squeeze in the occasional two or three hour ride, but anything more than that is just wishful thinking.
Put it this way: I'm not going to be rushing out to buy luggage to hang off it.
Well, not yet.
I was tempted, but I'm very aware just how much money I am pouring into a a bike when I am not sure just how much I'll use it.
Next job: front mudguard
I think I'm almost through my (Brompton-related) jobs list.
The only other bit I really want to replace is the front mudguard, as that is cracked; at a guess, from a previous owner not being careful enough when folding it, and smacking the rear wheel into the front wheel. It looks like a pretty simple thing to fix.