After picking up my new project, I immediately headed home to get a real assessment of what I had. I took it for a little test ride before I bought it, but I can always get a better sense once it is in the stand.
Overall, I was pleased with the condition. It was a used bike, so it had a few blemishes (most predominately heel wear on the crank arms) but nothing major. Mechanically, the bottom bracket felt a little rough, the brakes were rubbing, and the drive train was a little out of alignment.
I started with the brakes. At the front brake, the fix looked pretty straight forward: caliper alignment. However, once the caliper was adjusted to remove rubbing on the rotor, one of the spokes would lightly brush the caliper as it passed. Putting the wheel in the truing stand showed that the dish was a little out. I reinstalled the newly tuned wheel to find the rubbing gone but the spokes were still passing pretty close to the caliper. I decided to file the inside of the caliper a touch just to give it a little more clearance once the wheel is loaded. Obviously not the recommended solution, but this is my winter beater bike after all!
With the front brake in good working order, I moved to the rear brake. There was pretty much zero free stroke at the lever, so it was no surprise to find both pads touching the rotor while in the neutral position. Best practice would probably say to perform a brake bleed, because I don't know when it has been done last (if ever). Instead, I simply opened up the bleed port and stuck a pad spacer in the caliper (pushing out the excess fluid). Easy peasy.
Focusing on the drivetrain, there seemed like a couple of rough spots during the crank rotation. I figured that this could either be because of the BB or belt misalignment (or both). I removed the crankset and checked out the bearings of the BB. The non-driveside was a little rough, but not terrible. I happened to have a new Race Face Turbine BB sitting in my parts bin, so I changed it out anyway.
With the fresh BB in place, the drivetrain was a little smoother, but there was still some alignment issues. The frame has sliding dropouts, which I am not particularly keen on, but they do work. They adjustment screws work as intended and were pretty easy to fine tune.
In researching this project, I had heard that one of the negatives of the belt drive is that it requires very precise chainline, due to the stiffness of the belt. This is definitely the case. I found it necessary to do many small adjustments while checking and rechecking the alignment. The process was very much like truing a wheel: tedious but satisfying.
With everything tuned up, the bike was ride worthy, but not yet ready for winter commuting. Tires were my next decision. I felt that because my commute was on either regularly plowed paths or the road, I didn't need a really aggressive winter tire. I narrowed it down to either the Nokian W240 or the Schwalbe Marathon Winter HS 396. I decided on the Nokians based on price and availability. However, when the order arrived, I was surprised to find that they had shipped me the wrong tires. What I actually received were the much more aggressive (and much more expensive) Nokian Gazza Extreme 294.
Luckily, they were still 29er tires, so they could fit on my bike. I did the responsible thing and contacted the seller, but because of the cost associated with shipping, they were more than happy to have me keep the Gazza Extremes at the price of the W240. That was an interesting twist in the bike build. So much for not having aggressive tires. Sometimes it pays to shop online.
With the bike complete, I was ready for winter to arrive!