With the latest models of our (get around) town bicycle, Yeats, we’ve delivered something that if not quite zero maintenance, is pretty darned close.
- The frame: Made from aircraft grade steel tubing and lugs (CrMo 4130) the 8Ball frame is sturdy, reliable, cost effective and easily repairable. Ours are hand brazed to order. Steel, still the choice material for classic cycles, also gives a lovely ride. There are four sets of bearings in a bicycle: two wheels, the headset (for steering), and the bottom bracket (for the pedals). We use sealed cartridge bearings in each of them, rather than loose or caged ball bearings. Cages disintegrate, cartridges don’t. They also keep water and grit out and the lubrication in.
- Drum brakes: We ditched the calipers and replaced them with Sturmey Archer drum brakes, benefiting from over 100 years of technological development. Unlike caliper and rim brakes, drum brakes still work well in the wet. They don’t have pads that need replacing and there is nothing to go out of alignment and rub on the wheel rim. Moreover, because all the workings are encased within a sealed shell designed to keep water and grit out, they will run for thousands of miles or years of use before they need a service.
- Hub gears: For the same reason we went with Sturmey Archer drum brakes we also use Sturmey’s hub gear system. With all the workings encased in the hub shell all the water and grit from the roads is kept at bay, prolonging the life and staving off the need to service the component. Moreover, the lack of a dérailleur eliminates a key weak point in geared systems. For urban and suburban usage we find that rarely are more than three gears required but we still go up to five just in case.
- Solid, puncture proof tyres: The pièce de résistance of the zero maintenance bicycle. Just landed from Tannus in South Korea, after 13 years of development, these tyres require no air and never get a puncture. Install, ride, forget. The key challenge with solid tyres has always been weight, but Tannus have created something lighter than the kevlar-lined Shwalbe tyres we use. No matter how long you leave your bicycle between rides, you’ll never need to pump up the tyres.
- Crankset: The track grade Sturmey Archer crankset is stiff, durable and gives good power transfer. To make it even better we replace the stock chainring with an alloy one by Stronglight to shave a few grams off. The hub gears allow us to use a single speed drivetrain and chainline, which reduces wear because, unlike with dérailleur geared systems, the chainline is always perfect and the chain itself is a heavy duty half link chain.
- Portaging strap: If you design a bicycle for town, city and suburban usage you have to expect your customers live or work upstairs. And getting a bike upstairs is a pain. But with a simple and stylish addition to every build your problem is solved. The handmade leather strap lowers the centre of gravity of the bike and lets you lift it with ease.
- Security bolts: Bicycle and component theft is rife in London. We don’t do quick release bolts as standard (but we can add vintage wingnuts if required) which already adds a deterrent. But as an upgrade we can add PinHead security bolts to the wheels and saddle. Never have your bits nicked again.
- Moustache handlebars: We think there’s a lot of overlooked potential in the moustache handlebar. They’re still around after nearly 100 years though so they must be doing something right! Kind of like a squashed drop bar, they offer multiple hand positions to keep you comfortable and can be run flipped down for an aggressive, sporty ride, or flipped up for a sit up and beg ride.
- Short wheelbase: Just as many of our customers live or work upstairs, many are also short of space for storage. So we made the frame pretty compact, with a short wheelbase. This makes it quite nippy for zipping through traffic but also means it takes up less storage space.
When ordering be sure to add the Tannus/Dreadnought puncture proof tyres to get the maximum (almost) zero maintenance features.