Cheapskate Father/Son MTB Bike Building Project

Jon Clous's son helps him mow the lawn.

Jon Clous has been teaching his son about the ways of the world for years. Not sure if this lesson on lawn-mowing was about ingenuity or laziness? Jon, have you designed a gas-powered version of that?

Recently, I received an email from Jon Clous.  We are both on the Combo Mountain Bike Race Team.  He was sharing a photo of a mountain bike that he had built up from mostly used parts with his son.  I loved the father/son aspect of the story and thought it was a great follow-up to my recent essay on how cycling can set a great example for your children – 3 Reasons Why Your Cycling is Good For Your Children.

Jon’s son had outgrown his old bike and I love how he teaches his son some ingenuity and creativity to solve the problem.  There’s also a good reduce-reuse-recycle environmental lesson in there somewhere too, but maybe I’m reading more into it than I should.

Here is the email:

I just finished working with my 10 year old son building a bike for the upcoming mtb and cyclocross season.  Previously he was on a 24” wheeled mtb, but has since outgrown the bike.  With very little personal money to devote to the project and lots of time available this long, cold winter, I was prepared to have him put down the video games for a while and learn a bit about wrenching.

Kip from Napoleon Dynamite

First, we had to figure out a plan to come up with the cash for a new bike. I was stumped.  There are no lawns for the boy to mow, and no one nearby wanted to pay for snow removal.  To quote Kip from Napoleon Dynamite: “Well, that’s the problem right now. At the moment, nothing comes to mind.”

With this mindset in place, a decision to use a non-cash method to obtain a bike was chosen.  Old parts from three different bikes were repurposed.  In my situation, girlfriend/spouse bikes are great for taking parts from if said girlfriend/spouse ends up not riding said bike.

Jon used parts from these bikes to help build up a new mountain bike with his son.

Jon used parts from these “donor” bikes to help build up a new mountain bike with his son. These are the remains.

A trade of an unused fork and highly prized vintage stem for a properly sized frame, fork and customized 165mm crankset were made.  A thorough search of the house for old forgotten gift certificates to various local bike shops was made, producing three small sources of bike-related capital (highest value was $30).

In the end, cash did leave my pocket for the following items:

  • $17 for new decals
  • $5 over the value of a gift card for a new chain
  • $10 for new headset (from the boy’s pocket)

Once the frame and fork were in my hands, the work began.  Since “the boy” was to be riding the bike, I felt it was his duty to learn how each tool needed was to be used, so he got his hands plenty dirty.  Everything was in need of overhaul prior to the build, but we had time on our side.

Jon Clous's bike tool collection

Jon wanted his son to learn about the tools that are used to build and fix bikes. Here is a peak at some of the items in his collection.

If you have read this far, here’s the list of tools we used to build the “cheapskate” race bike:

  • allen wrenches
  • adj wrenches
  • crown race remover
  • crown race installer
  • headset press
  • soft blow hammer
  • steel wool
  • Dremel (had to grind a small piece of front derailleur off due to clearance issues)
  • white lithium grease
  • WD-40
  • cone wrenches
  • pedal wrench
  • headset wrench
  • bottom bracket tool
  • breaker bar (needed for getting old bottom bracket from donor bike, it had been on there since 1992)
  • Housing/cable cutter
  • needle-nose pliers
  • bearing grease
  • razor blade with handle
  • Goo-Gone
  • lots of paper towels
  • magnet (I drop bearings sometimes, don’t you?)
  • spoke wrench
  • knife
  • automotive-type hooked small “pick”
  • Simple Green
  • assorted screwdrivers
  • snap ring remover (1st guess at chain length was off, so I popped the quick link off with this)
  • electric tape and scissors
  • rags
  • lockring remover
  • chainwhip

In the end, the only items the boy did not help with were understandably the headset press, crown race installer/remover, razor blade and goo-gone.

Jon Clous built this bike from mostly used parts with his son.

Here are the results of this father/son life lesson – a 12″ extra small Monster Fat Chance.

For this season, “the boy” will be rocking a 12” extra small Monster Fat Chance.  I went with a Rockshox Indy (with “good” elastomers-score!) as I don’t think a higher quality 1” fork was to be found that could be tuned for someone weighing so little within my budget.  With the endcaps off the fork, it clears the down tube just fine.  At first glance, it looks like a 29er to me due to the size of the wheels compared to the frame.  Components will change out as he breaks them as you can imagine.  I am uninterested in the boy running clipless until he stays in one shoe size for more than 4 months at a time.

A photo of Jon Clous from Facebook

Here is a recent photo of Jon Clous that I found on Facebook. Apparently, there is not room in the budget for a camera either. 🙂

Much thanks to Mason Morgan (from Westerville Bike Shop), roll: and Packman for you contributions to the build.  Tell me what you think of our $32 project.

And, tell us about your cool bike build.  We’d love to hear about it.  Have you had a good father-son or father-daughter or mother-son or mother-daughter or grandpa-grandson or…  …well you know what I mean.  Let us know about it in the comment section.  Or, how have you been creative to overcome budgetary issues in your cycling life?

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