Wait, what?

Hello everybody. This is my blog. I go by many names, but here I am The Mermaid. I will start off this, by BM’s standards, unusual blog by releasing a draft I have been sitting on for a few weeks.

My goal is to motivate my readers to make as many mistakes as I do, and survive them by squeezing out every drop of wits, creativity, blood, sweat, tears and to achieve the goal that is inevitable disappointment and financial loss.

Failure is nature’s way of saying you have one less bad choice to make. Let me tell you about mine.

Once upon a time…

I used to have a 26″ MTB that I was quite satisfied with. We had travelled together in rain and snow, but not in the mountains. Mostly commutes. It was a fine bike, but I wanted to learn more. I had this great idea that I would get an old road bike and a set of tools and figure it out. I google shit for living, how bad could it be?

Well, it turned out pretty bad. That particular road bike I was cursed with deserves a story of it’s own, so I won’t go into details, but it is relevant. Let’s just say it has been a thorn on my side for roughly four years now and there is no end in sight.

The way I see it, two wrongs don’t make a right, but it damn well makes you appreciate right when you see it.

These are Ukrainian bicycles, made in Kharkov. I could tell you a little about their history, if I actually knew something about them besides what I have experienced first hand: they are evil. And this story:

Year or two back, I wanted to have a few pints after work, as my vacation would start soon. While ordering, I can’t remember why – probably because I for some reason brought my pain in the ass CTAPT WOCCE up again – a gentleman next to me told me that he once considered importing XK3 bicycles from Ukraine, then part of the USSR.

He told me that the negotiations were going just swell, to the point when he asked to see the manufacturing facilities. For some reason the factory head was very reluctant to show anything outside his office, so to my understanding, that was pretty much it. The guy had a theory about them manufacturing weapons there. Oh and here’s another one:

Last year I was fairly hung over and getting drunk so I went to Go Expo. I happened upon a discussion between Pyörätohtori, a finnish spiritual cousin of Sheldon Brown of sorts, and some older fellow, and of course had to bring up my XK3 frame.

The older gent knew what I was talking about, and told me that the frames actually weren’t all that uncommon here in Finland back in the day, and weren’t really that bad. Apparently the parts they came with, however, were.

The Project

Like I said, I already had one of these bad boys making me miserable, but it was a road frame. I got it as a “complete” bike, which is to say, a complete piece of shit. In retrospect, the gentleman at GoExpo sure did know what he was talking about when he said that the parts were sub par.

Now you can always ditch shitty components and get something decent instead, but that is not the case with these. The reason why these frames are fairly interesting, relatively rare even, is because, well, they are insane by today’s standards. And speaking of standards, they could not have picked worse.

So I wanted revenge, and got myself a proper XK3 track frame. Yeah, I’m that stupid.

Included in the generous amount of 50 euros I paid for it, were:

  • The frame, little bit bent from a crash or something.
  • Original tubular track wheels, inc. lockring and cog. Possibly even worth saving.
  • Swiss threaded bottom bracket. This is the single rarest bicycle component I own. And no I’m not selling it.
  • A track fork from a different frame, likely replaced due to said crash.
  • A stem, also bent. Not gonna bend it back, but not gonna throw it out either. That’s how I roll.
  • What looks like something that could well be an interpretation of a track handlebar.
  • Cottered cranks.
  • Headset which is apparently in decent condition.
  • Weirdly damaged seatpost and a plastic saddle.

I have examined it and decided that most of this shit will go, although I will save the parts. What I have so far are some observations, a test build with a hub brake I never rode and replaced the stem and seatpost with ones from the road frame, so you are not missing out on much. The rest I have taken pictures of and will document as we go on.

Where to now?

So far I removed the bottom bracket, which, not much to my surprise, was swiss as promised, and took a BSA cartridge by powers of muscle and lubrication as expected. The cartridge I used was too wide, but the real disappointment came when fitting wheels for a test run. The rear end was roughly 110mm.

Now that I have brought you up to speed, let’s go over my plans with this frame:

First of all the frame needs to be set straight. It has been crashed I think, but I don’t care as long as it’s straight enough. I need to remove the headset and clean all the tubes as well as I can and examine it for cracks.

Now, I will NOT restore this frame. Yes, I could. I have the resilience, the means and the lack of self control required, but I will not. This frame is possibly too large for me, and I have suffered enough. I will not, however, build it so that restoration is not possible anymore. That means I will not be throwing anything out, and I will not be destroying the fork or the bottom bracket threads.

Speaking of bottom brackets, I measured the shell, and it was 70mm wide. I will grind as close to 68mm as possible without having getting in trouble with the chainstays, but I will not touch the threads unless forcing a BSA catridge has destroyed the threads to the point it no longer accepts the old swiss cups.

Cranks I’ll be using will greatly depend on how I solve the hub problem. The original hubs and wheels are not yet an option, since I prefer clincher tires and don’t want to disassemble the wheels yet. I will, however, check if the threads on the rear axle match any contemporary standard, and scavenge the spacers & nuts for whatever hub I acquire to space it down to 110mm.

Grinding the BB shell down can suppress choice of cranks down to those that have 130 bolt circle diameter, and/or possibly require me to use a combination of ISO hub in the rear and a bottom bracket with unusually long axle. I’m not complaining, as they come cheap.

The fork is not original, although it is apparently from a similar model. I’m not throwing it away, but it will not be missed either when I replace it with 1″ ahead carbon or any steel fork I get for free that has enough column left.

So now you know what I’m up against. While I amass required parts and wealth to continue, especially all you fat dudes out there should stay tuned for my next post, in which I’ll tell you if chubby dudes like us should be buying H&M x BLB chinos and jeans for daily use on and off the bike! Stay Hungry!

Best Regards,

The Little Mermaid.


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