Highway has a service

My daily ride, the Apollo Highway, takes quite a battering throughout the year.  Some may see it as a “toy” bike, straight from Halfords and costing not a great deal (relative to “real” bikes) and yet it manages to do the 10 miles a day to work and back in all weather throughout the whole year.  The warm sunny mornings and the dark wet and cold rainy winter evenings.   It is kept undercover outside at night while during the day it takes on whatever the weather fancies giving it.   It doesn’t cause me any problems during the ride (although gear changes could do with tweaking), and the most I ever do is to keep the chain well oiled, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen.   This “toy” bike then has a lot to put up with, which is why after the winter months it is normally looking a bit sorry for itself.  I decided to give it a clean and to see what I could do with the clonking that I had started to notice coming from the rear wheel.

Time to give a bit of care...
Time to give a bit of care…


Neglected it certainly was, but in the summer sun cleaning was a joy.   A pump spray filled with Gunk degreaser soon sorted out the oily bits where I noticed the freewheel seemed to wobble quite a bit.  I wondered if this would be the source of the clonking noises, although looking online it seemed fine that they should wobble a little bit.   I wasn’t convinced, but my mind was distracted when I noticed the wheel had a broken spoke.  Wow, I’ve never had a broken spoke, how exciting.    It was on the freewheel side which meant actually while I was here I could do a number of things:

  1. replace broken spoke
  2. replace freewheel (still not convinced by the wobble)
  3. replace the chain
  4. replace gear cables (I am told you must do this…)

I tracked down the make of freewheel that I had and was indeed correct that it was a cheap Chinese part that Halfords tend to fit on their low end Apollo bikes.   The freewheel remover tool was ordered from Amazon and arrived the next day, I prepared myself for battle hearing horror stories of  trying to remove these from wheels.    A bit of searching in the shed found a socket large enough to fit and a breaker bar I would normally use to removing car wheels was put into action.   Less than 10 seconds later…. it was removed, not a problem it seemed.

I had a replacement 6 speed freewheel to replace this with, along with a “rust free” chain (we will see how that goes…).  I still needed a replacement spoke.   Surprisingly, seeing as they claim they are a bike shop, Halfords don’t stock them.   They suggested they could order them in but minimum order would be 100.     A search of Amazon came back with loads of expensive results, who would had known so many different ways to make and sell what seems to be just a metal stick…..   I didn’t really want to be paying so much for one spoke, I turned to Ebay.   Here I found an online bike shop selling spokes in packs of 10 (seems sensible) for just a couple of pounds plus postage.   Job done…. although I then had the choice of 101 different sizes.   I’d never put much thought into spoke size, maybe Halfords had a point afterall, there are just so many to choose from.    I decided against removing a none broken spoke from the wheel and measuring and instead attempting to do it against the broken one and see which length to choose from.  Who would had thought there was so much when it comes to size…..    The good news is, the Ebay shop posted next day delivery, handy for when you need to try a couple of times to get the right size!  Fortunately, they seem to have a good returns policy too.

New spoke fitted, new chain and freewheel fitted, wheel back in place, everything oiled and a test right later showed all funny clonking noises now gone.    No need to replace cables I thought, why fix something that is not broken.   I dribbled some bits of oil down the cable just to keep things moving.    A quick clean of the rest of the bike, and ready to go back on the road for tomorrow morning and work.

Time wise it has been off the road for just over a week, waiting for parts and reordering things.  Next time it will be slicker…    During this time I have been using the Royal for work which has meant most of the days wearing my cycling shoes.   Fortunately, that in itself has not been a problem, the shoes just look like trainers and are quite comfortable to walk in, one of the aims when I bought them in the first place.    The weather has been nice and so the ride to and from work has been quite nice.  However, the Highway is much more of a “sit and beg” bike, much more suited for commuting on and comfortable for doing so.  It will be nice to use it once again.

Costwise, excluding mis-ordered spokes and purchase of tools, eveything has come in around £10, which for the massive improvement in gear change and quietness (no rear clonking) has all been worth it.    I’ve used cheap parts for a low end bike, would be silly to do anything different.

Things still on the list include every so slight play in bottom bracket (need a tool to tighten it maybe) and the rear wheel didn’t seem that smooth when I had the tyre off and it in my hand.  I don’t notice it on the bike, but there was resistance as it went round, time to replace bearings I wonder, or £23 will buy you a new low spec wheel from Amazon, crazy prices.    Sure, things wear out this way, but I’m not biking round the world – that’s for the other bike!

Fresh from china, or it was when Halfords fitted it a couple of years ago, you can tell which gears I use the most.
Fresh from china, or it was when Halfords fitted it a couple of years ago, you can tell which gears I use the most.
Looking all shiny.  Finally got the right size, I now have another 9 of these...
Looking all shiny. Finally got the right size, I now have another 9 of these…
New freewheel ready to put on the wheel, just need to sort out the broken spoke
New freewheel ready to put on the wheel, a bit of copper grease first
Oiled and ready to go, silent biking for the next year
Oiled and ready to go, silent biking for the next year

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