One way to help get through a long Alberta winter without (much) cycling is to have a bike project, some kind of substantial undertaking that can be stretched out over several snowy months. This winter, my 12-year-old son Gil and I have the MB 2000. That’s the code name for the bicycle we’re building.
The name—MB 2000—comes from a skit on a favorite radio show, CBC’s This Is That, a mock current-events-phone-in. In the skit, a supposed representative of the Canadian Armed Forces explains how the military has decided to “go green” by switching from armoured military vehicles to greenhouse-gas-free combat mountain bikes. Except he insists that the military term is not “mountain bike” but rather the “MB 2000.”
Gil has outgrown his old mountain bike—er, MB 2000; he needs a new one. So a few months back we went to a few bike shops, kicked a few tires, and realized just how little you get for $600 (our upper limit) these days. That’s when my pal Val offered up a bold suggestion: Why not build our own? If we got the parts together, he’d let us use his shop/garage and even help supervise the project.
And supervision we would definitely need. I’ve never built a bike. The extent of my bike building skills involves taking apart a bike in order to stick it in an airplane box and then reassembling it—hoping there aren’t any leftover parts. I must admit that I really should know more about how a bicycle is put together; I have a vague sense of the parts and principles, and I have attempted basic repairs and adjustments over the years, with mixed results, but that’s nothing compared to this. Building a bike wholesale is not something I would ever attempt on my own.
Gil, who is much more mechanically inclined than me, was all over Val’s offer. Build a bike? Yeah! While the old man can’t help but feel a bit daunted by this task, the young one sees only a prospect of fun, a chance to play with tools, get his hands dirty, and hang out it Val’s garage with the adults. What’s to worry about?
Our first step was to lay out a rough budget for the project and brainstorm how we might source the various parts. I agreed to put up the first $500. Beyond that, Gil would be paying out of his own pocket. We made a list of everything we needed and started by seeking donations from the Musetteers. Val got the ball rolling with a generous gift of a set of suspension forks; Penn pitched in some handlebars. The rest we would have to scrounge, get second-hand, or buy new.
|Gil crunching the numbers|
This budgeting process alone quickly led to some tough decisions for Gil. When we started, he had a wish list of must-haves—disc brakes, gold chain (!)—that were not grounded in any economic reality. But when we started crunching the numbers, he began to see the difference between want and need. The idea for the gold chain (it’s actually brass) was courtesy of Penn (thanks a lot, man) who blinged up his road bike this past summer. Once Gil saw the goldie, he announced he had to have one too. In fact, in our early discussions, before we crunched the numbers, he said to Val and I in that pure 12-year-old way, “Actually, I kind of want it all to be gold.”
|Okay, so the spelling needs a bit of work|
Alas, the dream of the El Dorado of Velocipedes will likely remain just that, a dream. I’m not saying there won’t be some bling on the MB 2000, but I doubt the gold chain or gold anything will make the final cut. As Val put it to Gil, on our budget you can have a gold chain and disc brakes, sure—as long you don’t mind not having any wheels.
Earlier this week the temperature here plunged into arctic territory, and Gil and I had to park our commuting bikes for a few days. So it was good to have the MB 2000 Project to turn to. Hunkered down in our warm house while the wind howls outside, we’ve been trolling the internet for extended Cyber Monday deals and scheming outrageous paint jobs. The MB 2000 is slowly starting to take shape. Just don’t call it a “mountain bike.”