Bicycle on a balcony, leaning against a glass banister. Buildings are visible far below through the glass. The bicycle is a flat-bar model, turquoise, with fat tan-wall tires. The legend "Billy Bonkers" is visible on both tires.

Going Bonkers!

We had two days of beautiful weather this weekend, sunny and mild with very little wind. Sadly, I was too busy to ride. But I found enough time Saturday afternoon to take the plunge on the tire replacement for Dionysus that I’ve been putting off for more than half a year.

I was given a push by the condo management, which made me change my parking space. (They’re replacing the previous bike rack there with accommodation for larger electric bikes and monster tire bikes.) So I had to change the parking sticker on the bike. I could have just put the new sticker over the old, but I have a heat gun and wanted to have a go at removing the old sticker before putting on the new one.

After bringing the bike up from the parking garage, I gathered all the needed bits near the balcony door. (As always, I’d forgotten a few things.) The old parking sticker came off in one piece after less than a minute with the heat gun, and it didn’t take any paint with it. Then I took off the water bottle cages, because I had some new ones to replace them with, and the bike was ready for a washing.

Dionysus is my commuter bike, and I tend not to ride when it’s raining, so she wasn’t covered in mud as Kuroko can get when I’m caught in the rain (or — more often — out splashing through puddles left on the cycling course after a recent rain). But there was plenty of road grit and grime to wash off.

This is the way we wash our … eh?

I was in for a couple of surprises with the washing. First, the pump on the spray bottle of cleaner didn’t work. The bottle still had a good 150ml or so of cleaner, but I pumped the spray head for more than a minute with no result. In the end I filled a wash bucket with warm water and poured the cleaner into that, then sloshed it onto the bike with a soft brush.

The second surprise came when it was time to rinse off the cleaner. I’d filled the water sprayer with warm water, but when I pressed the button I got less than a second of spray before the battery died. I’ve been asking for this one — I’ve been using the sprayer for months without ever thinking of recharging it. In fact, I don’t remember where I put the charging cord. In the meantime I had a soapy bicycle to rinse off, so I refilled the wash bucket with clean water and used a cheap towel to splash and wipe that over the bike until it was sparkling.

With the bike cleaned up and stripped down (at least of the bottle cages) I put it on the scale to get the weight before I made the tire swap. It came in at a surprising 10.88kg — I’d weighed Dionysus at the end of the restoration, and with a cheap luggage scale she was just 9kg. I took off the headlight and the GoPro mount and that brought the weight down to 10.74kg (but that picture didn’t come out).

That’s really bonkers!

When I rebuilt Ol’ Paint and christened her Dionysus, I’d opted for light, smooth-rolling 28mm tires. I have no complaints about their performance, and they still have some life left in them. But over some of the rougher pavement on my commute I’ve found myself wishing for wider, softer tires. And then I saw these on some YouTube of a mountain bike refurbishing and thought, “These are just the thing for Dionysus!” (Alcohol may have been involved.)

They’re quite a bit wider — almost double at a nominal 2.1 inches. In fact they measure at about 51mm on the bike, perhaps because the rims aren’t really meant for this width of tire. When I bought them I knew there was a lot of extra clearance in Dionysus’s frame, but I didn’t stop and think about things like brake clearance or the width of the bike rack in the parking garage.

As mentioned at the top, these tires have been sitting in the flat for half a year now. But it wasn’t until I started seriously thinking about the replacement last month that it occurred to me there might be an issue with brake clearance. I still have the Shimano Deore brakes I’d bought for the refurbishing, the ones I replaced soon after with shorter-armed Tektro brakes to get more stopping power. So I figured if need be I’d use those and if they didn’t have enough grab then I’d think of other solutions.

To work!

I started with the rear wheel. The narrow Continental tire came off without much hassle. I searched the Billy Bonker sidewalls in vain for a preferred direction of rotation, so I just took a guess and then spent some time trying to make sure the logo would center on the valve. I got the first bead on easily enough, then inserted the partially inflated inner tube. The second bead was more of a fight, and in the end I used a tire lever to finish the job. I learned along the way that I hadn’t cleaned the wheel nearly as well as I’d thought when I saw all the smudges my fingers had left on the new tan sidewall. (Fortunately it was on the non-drive side, so it doesn’t show in the photos.)

As I’d guessed, the tire fit just fine in the frame but the brakes didn’t have nearly enough clearance. I left the rear brake unhooked for the moment and continued work with the front wheel. I took a bit more care to keep the sidewalls looking nice, but in the process I mounted the tread in the opposite direction from the rear. I’m sure that will bother me enough that I’ll fix it at some point.

With the wheels back in the frame, I dug the Deore brakes out of the toolbox along with the needed tools — not forgetting the grease! It was easy enough to remove the old brakes. I’d installed reusable cable tips during the refurbish project so I removed these and carefully set them aside (and only dropped one in the dirty water in the gutter along the way).

After putting some grease on the brake posts, I took some time installing the new (old?) brakes. To get the spring in the right retaining hole, I had to loosen the brake pads and rotate them out of the way. Then I took care positioning the pads to make sure they closed on the center of the rim, without rubbing the fat tires.

After some adjustment, the front brake feels satisfyingly firm. The rear is a bit squishy. I probably need to redo the cable run from the top tube, around the seat post and into the noodle for the rear brake. I probably need a shorter noodle in the process. And I think the brake cables could probably use a bit of cleaning and lube as well. But all that is for another day.


The final weight of the bike, with the new bottle cages and the clamp for the pump, is a full 900g more than previously. That’s just about the advertised weight of the new tires, so I’m guessing that (in addition to the bottle cages, which weren’t included in the “before” weight) the larger inner tubes add a healthy share to the weight.

After the weigh-in I took Dionysus off the stand and carefully set up the money shot. The moment I sent it to Fearless Leader Joe and Sanborn, they replied, “How does it ride?” It was after 4 p.m. when I finished the work. Still enough sunshine for a spin around the block, but I didn’t have the energy for it. I’ll try to get the motivation to commute by bike this week, and that may be all the riding I get in for a few days yet. One thing I’ll be eager to see is whether the fatter tires tame Dionysus’s squireliness.

For the moment I’m content with the new look.

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5 responses to “Going Bonkers!”

  1. […] mentioned in my post about the fattening up of Dionysus that I’ve had to change my bicycle parking spaces. I’d had two adjacent spaces on a […]

  2. […] to give it shape, and then mounted it together with the tire on the rim using my hands only. (The Billy Bonkers required just a bit of tire lever at the end to get them on last […]

  3. […] After riding a grand total of zero kilometers since January 8, this morning the stars aligned and I commuted to the office on Dionysus, sporting her new Billy Bonkers skins. […]

  4. […] been waiting for a chance to do some maintenance on Dionysus ever since I put the fat tires on. As soon as I had finished I noticed I’d put on the front tire with the tread in the opposite […]

  5. […] put just less than 500km on Dionysus since switching to the big fat Billy Bonkers tires. They’ve been great the whole time (after I adjusted to how much more effort they take to […]

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