Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The 10 speed Nishiki with FFS

9/17/2008: Hey, my Nishiki has been posted on Old Ten Speed Gallery; take a look!!

Wow, look at this, another posting within a week of the last.

I have no idea why I bought this bike. The only thing I can think of is that I had just rebuilt an identical frame as a fixie, but most of the bike was trashed. When I looked at this on ebay I saw I could have it for $100 and it looked to be in very good shape. When I received the bike I saw the paint had several scratches that needed some touch-up. Also the drivetrain looked strange. There was some sort of mechanism attached to the crank that allowed the crank arms to turn backwards without moving the chainrings.?? The name on the bike was a “Tourist FFS”. The crank also had a cover over center that said “Shimano FF System”. I thought, okay, what is Shimano’s FF System? I did a Google search, and after clearing out the redirect, I found a 1982 Shimano catalogue from Sheldon Brown’s site that was introducing the FF System.

Per the catalogue; “Shimano’s FF (Front Freewheel) System moves the freewheel mechanism up to the chainwheel- This allows the chain to revolve even when your feet stop pedaling. Now you can shift effortlessly. Smooth FF System shifting can be done while coasting, even with your feet off the pedals. The FF System is a new standard of 10-speed gear shifting performance”.

How does it work? Well like the catalogue said, the chainrings are on a freewheel and the rear cogs are fixed. That way as you coast, the drivetrain keeps moving. More from the catalogue- “The FF System is the result of Shimano’s research on the problems of 10 speed gear changes. The 10-speed bicycle has gained prominence as a recreational and transformational (transformational ?) vehicle. Both young and old enjoy the convenience of multi-speeds, but many new riders have difficulty shifting correctly. Now with the FF System anyone can ride and enjoy the benefits of a multi-speed bicycle.”

Well of course it never caught on and for good reason. This was obviously a gimmick; i.e. a solution looking for a problem; and although I have read they are quite common, this is first one I have ever seen of heard of. Back to the bike on hand.

I said the paint was bad (which is true) but the rest of the bike was in very good condition. All the chrome, with the exception of the spokes, was in great shape. And since most the bike is made of steel that is a good thing. The hubs turned easily and the headset felt solid. The bike then hung in my garage for about 4 months. I was sick enough to miss almost the entire month of August. As I started feeling better my attention returned to the Nishiki. I spent an entire day cleaning the bike. The following day I went after the bearings. The result was very bizarre. When I took the hubs apart there was no sign of grease. The bearings had not only dried out, but there was no evidence there had ever been grease there. Not only that, all the bearings, races and cones looked almost new. There was no need to even clean the bearings, races or cones, as they were all shiny clean. This was also true of the headset and bottom bracket. The only sign of grease was some small brown residue on the top race of the headset. So I packed everything with Phil Wood’s bearing grease, put it back together, and noticed it rolled much quieter.

So, what am I going to do with this bike? Well ride it of course. I may not use it to ride the Solvang Century, but it would make a great commute bike (I commute to work everyday on a bike). OTOH, if some work mate compliments me on the bike, it would not kill me to transfer it to a new owner (something I can not say about any of my other bikes).

Issues and Answers (click on any of these pictures to make them bigger)

There were some bumps. When I got the bike the rear wheel was terribly out of true. I brought it back as best I could, but the old spokes and nipples, they'll never be straight.

The seatpost clamp has a QR and the rear hanger attached to it. This historically is one of the weakest clamp setups and this clamp was no exception. The clamp had been bent so far that I need to Dremel out some metal so the clamp wasn't running into itself.

I noticed that the drivetrain was quite noisy. Now, granted if the entire drivetrain is moving even when you're coasting, you're going to get noise. Turns out some of the noise was coming from the low point of the cage of front derailleur, where the chain was rubbing in first gear. This necessitated moving the derailleurs down about 3mm.

On my first ride after the cleaning, I noticed the handlebar was bent. It was a typical right side crash bend. While I have never tried to straighten a handlebar before, since I was dealing with a steel bar it should be possible. I laid the bike on the left side and placed a crow bar under the bar where it starts to drop and wrapped the hook part over and around the end of the drop. I then stood on the left drop and pulled. First, nothing but a possible back ache. Again I tried, this time giving my best effort and I felt the bar give. I checked the alignment and it was much better, not perfect, mind you, but at least the brake safety levers lined up.