Upgrading the Breezer Uptown 8

That’s right, my Breezer didn’t have enough stuff hanging off it yet. I needed more.

One day when we were visiting our local bike shop, Everybody Bikes, I was complaining that it was getting increasingly difficult to get up hills as our kids gained weight every month. My Breezer Uptown 8 handles hills well with reasonable loads (like a single rider and a preschooler) but it was getting to be a slog with a 6.5 year old on the back. The shop owner suggested I gear the bike down. But it has an internal hub, I said. Oh, you can still change out the rear cog for a larger one, he said, and that would give you the equivalent of two extra low gears (at the cost of losing the two highest gears, which I never used: whatever). The cost? About $20. Whoa. Sign me up!

What’s more, the brakes were getting soft, again. This issue seems to crop up every couple of months. The Breezer’s brakes aren’t as bad as the original brakes on the Kona MinUte, but San Francisco does seem to eat through bicycle stopping power.

My new front basket, the Soma Gamoh.

I also wanted to be able to carry more cargo on the bike. They suggested a front basket. Putting one on would require rewiring the front dynamo light, but they could do that with some time.

And my kids wanted a cargo kickstand. They hated my little stock one-legged kickstand; they thought it was too wobbly, which was true. And that would argue for a front wheel stabilizer, for basically the same reason.

At last, a kickstand that is not pathetic.

Finally, we wanted to attach the custom rear rack for our new trailer-bike. And that meant rewiring the rear dynamo light, which attached to the stock rack.

This had all turned into a kind of major project, but upon reflection it seemed worth it. Two weeks ago the Breezer went into the shop for all these changes at once. For much of last week I came back for tweaks (the front light stopped working, then started again, the kickstand wasn’t in, then it came in, we had to fit the adjustable trailer-bike handlebars to our son, ad infinitum). Now the Breezer is back in action, and while some of the modifications are a bit kludgy—there was no pretty way to attach a stabilizer on my big fat down tube, and a trailer-bike always looks ad hoc—they all make the bike work better. The gearing change alone would have been worth it.

This is the Frankenstein of wheel stabilizers, but it gets the job done. Anyway no one has ever waxed rhapsodic about the Breezer’s clean lines.

Lowering the gears turned out to be the cheapest adjustment I have ever made to my bike, and the most practical. The rear cog original to the Breezer has 18 teeth, while my new rear cog has 22 teeth. It didn’t seem to me like four teeth would make a difference, but ignorance like that is why I don’t work at a bike shop. It makes a massive difference. I have had to completely relearn my gears, but the un-laden Breezer now cruises up serious hills like they’re barely there, and that’s without my first gear making much of an appearance—I’m almost always able to keep the granny gear in reserve. Laden up with a kid on the back or the trailer-bike (a bonus 30 pounds) or a heavy bag in the front basket, going up hills is significantly more challenging, so no worries: this bike will still keep me honest.

The new fork-mount for the headlight is unlovely but very effective.

The dynamo lights had to be rearranged to fit around the front rack, but this has actually increased my visibility. And the front cargo rack, a Soma Gamoh, is large enough to hold two grocery bags. It’s not frame-mounted, but it can take a lot of weight with the fork-mount. Combined with my two panniers I doubt that I’ll ever have to shuttle home after a grocery run again, especially now that the bike is geared to take the extra weight up hills. And the improved brakes will now stop me on the way back down.

Because I’m ignorant, I’d never realized it was possible to make these kinds of changes to a bike. Apparently some bikes aren’t worth upgrading, and last week I overheard a conversation with another customer in which our shop told him exactly that. Nevertheless: I used to get frustrated by the limitations of our bikes. Now I don’t bother getting annoyed until I’ve asked whether it’s something that can be changed.  It’s been enlightening for me to realize that having a local bike shop hanging with us through the last several months means that we can often remake our bikes into the rides that we need them to be.

12 Comments

Filed under bike shops, Breezer, cargo, commuting, family biking, San Francisco

12 responses to “Upgrading the Breezer Uptown 8

  1. sho

    What timing! I just added a Pletscher double kickstand to my Breezer Uptown 8. Mine looks less robust than yours, but I won’t be doing much heavy loading with it. (Kid or groceries, but not at the same time.)

    I’d recommend trying the Kool Stop pads for your V-brakes (if you don’t have them already). I have much better stopping power compared to the original pads and Shimano pads at the local shop.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/brakeshoes.html#mountain

    • Thanks for the tip about the Kool Stop pads! I had never considered the question of quality wrt brake pads. Whatever the brand I got, it is definitely a big improvement. I got a spare set of pads with this visit, but when they’ve given up the ghost I will ask about those (risking looking stupid if they are in fact what is already on the Breezer). At the current rate of brake replacement I should have gone through both pairs of new pads by the end of the year.

  2. Hey! I recognize that sleeve!

    I got the gearing lowered on my city bike – it was one of the best upgrades ever!

  3. Cool upgrades… When I had my Breezer (before it was stolen), we changed the gearing too, but put on a smaller cog :) Somehow, I damaged the few highest gears so that they were unfixable and we decided on that cheap fix instead of purchasing a new hub. Worked great to get the gearing close to what I wanted…

    • That was a clever workaround to get the high gears back. Such a bummer to have your Breezer stolen! I hope the thief tries to take it up some steep hills with that increased gearing.

  4. Nice upgrades! What kind of double kickstand is that?

    I love that basket. It’s on my short list for when I get the front of my city bike back (i.e. when the front kid seat eventually comes off). Have you opened a bottle with it yet?

    Your wheel stabilizer looks plenty strong, but if it doesn’t hold I can look up what they had to do for my big tube. Edward found some part that’s not normally for connecting a wheel stabilizer and it works perfect! And it’s black :)

    • The double kickstand is the same one that’s standard on the Kona Ute. I asked for the Hebie but they couldn’t get it, so we tried one of the ones they had lying around. They said if I didn’t like it they’d swap it out, but so far so good.

      I have not yet opened a bottle with my front basket. I will put that on my to-do list.

      I would love to know what they did for your big tube stabilizer! Thank you. I am skeptical that this kludge will have longevity, and frankly so is the shop. And black would be an improvement as well.

      • My bike is using a “Problem Solvers dual cable Backstop 1-1/2″ cable with slots” holding my Civia Loring Basket Fork Spring 58mm…but I think it would work on any spring. Biking with Brad just upgrade his spring to a Hebie one (Hebie, Hebie everywhere!) so if you find yourself carrying such heavy loads that the spring doesn’t seem firm enough, keep that in mind, too.

  5. Molly

    How do you lock up your bike with a big basket? I was just thinking I could use one, but have trouble enough getting the front wheel and frame locked to a rack (aka parking meter etc) now. Do you not lock the wheel? Do wheels not get stolen in SF?

    • We have rear wheel locks attached to the frame for most of our bikes. So I lock the rear wheel with that, then use a U-lock/folding lock to get the frame and front wheel way down at the bottom. That said, that basket eventually came off in part because it was such a hassle to fit it into bike racks.

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