CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Wool Jersey
The goal is to turn a sweater into a cycling jersey.
Mr. Cheap-Oh rides all winter in an old wool sweater that’s been ravaged by hungry moths. It’s warm and soft with plenty of ventilation holes and never smells. Nevertheless, this style disaster is safely hidden under a windproof layer. Enter Spring. Prone to nostalgia attacks and tired of smelly nylon [self-serving note: the PezKit is surprisingly stink resistant], he embarks on a quest for an affordable wool jersey. The only problem is that there aren’t any.
Plan B: buy a 100% Merino wool sweater (tight fitting) and take it to a tailor. Cut the sleeves and use the material for the pockets on the back. Add an elastic band around the waist. For a touch of class, trim all of the edges with red polo shirt collars and find a patch.
Operation wool jersey under Mrs. Pichler’s needle.
Expense: the wool sweater was marked down from 115 to 23 Euros (post Xmas sale, Vuelta yellow wasn’t a popular color), the shirt collars, buttons and patch were 6 and the labor was 20 Euros. The tally of 49 Euros is less than half the cost of commercial alternatives.
Turned out pretty well, even without the front zipper, but fear of complexity and failure ruled. Note: the jersey is symmetrical, while I’m not.
CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Bike Cleaning
If your bike looks like PezContributor Nathan Rand’s then it’s time for some Cheap-Oh-Love. Bonus points awarded for the Kit Kapsule.
As someone who recommends giving friends and family diesel fuel for Christmas presents, it should come as no surprise that I also endorse cleaning one’s precious bicycle with dishwashing liquid. A tablespoon squirted into a bucket full of warm water will clean away most road crud.
Curmudgeon Alert: with the remaining “Bike Detergent” one can also wash their dishes by hand. Shazaam! It saves money, water and energy and is an especially useful chore for one’s children (Bike Detergent and Value Educator all-in-one)!
Expense: The local bike shop sells a liter bottle of fancy pink bike wash for 12.95 Euros, while a 1/2 liter of dish washing liquid goes for 1.50 Euros.
Cleaning the Mr. Cheap-Oh Way.
Here is another clear example of Cheap-Oh Rule no.16: it’s often better, and always cheaper to buy products not marketed specifically to cyclists. Car wax works wonders. Although there are tons of different brands and types, choose a wax that does not contain abrasives and provides UV protection. Apply about 2 – 3 times a year. I prefer the paste, not only for its Old School-ness, but it goes a lot further than the sprays.
Expense: 8 Euros for 250g tin, as opposed to 14.99 for a liter spray bottle of “Bike Gloss”.
CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Scratch Removal
Mr. Cheap-Oh scratch removal is a two step process.
Step One: Physical
While there are commercial products that claim to buff scratches out of one’s precious bicycle, the easiest and least expensive solution is toothpaste and a finger. Toothpaste is a wonderfully mild abrasive and the human finger serves as an ideally responsive and sensitive pad. Lightly rub the toothpaste in a circular motion. Periodically wipe the surface and check that you are not sanding away too much clear coat. The goal is to buff out surface scratches. Deep gouges will only be tempered.
A dab of toothpaste on the finger gets you started.
Step Two: Mental
The second phase of scratch removal is acceptance, or better yet… adoration. Many years ago (about 30), denim blue jeans were sold as rigid, dark blue planks. In the Fall, we trudged to school embarrassed by such clumsy, dark pants. After a month of many washings, our jeans were comfy and hip. By Spring, the jeans would have reached their pinnacle of panache with a ripped knee and a patch. Unfortunately, they would be too small and the painful breaking-in process would have to be started again.
A new, pristine bike is a lot like those old blue jeans. There is something uncomfortable and awkward about it (even fussy or sissy). We buy bicycles to ride them (or, many of us do). Riding them encompasses dinging and scratching. Bike scars have stories. And by the Spring (metaphorically speaking here), they will reach their pinnacle of panache and it is called a Patina.
That’s Patina and it’s minty fresh and fluoride protected.
Expense: since the toothpaste was acquired under the Household Sundries budget, we can log this under Free.
CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Bike Hook
A butcher’s shop meat hook, an eyelet screw thing and some old bar tape is all it takes.
A rubber coated bike hook at the local bike shop goes for 4.99 Euros. Instead, a trip to the hardware store and 1.25 Euros got me this flexible system that works for walls or ceilings. While saving 3.74 doesn’t sound like much, if my sketchy math skills are right, that’s 75% off. And that’s Cheap-Oh Rule no.36: the smaller the stuff, the greater the margins (usually).
A better AND cheaper bike hanger.
CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Ding Resolver
This little blemish on the seat stay is about the size of a dime.
As a wise man once said, bike scars have stories. Here’s mine: your faithful author imagined that he could glide over a 20 meter stretch of ice like Brian Boitano. Until the last two meters, he actually was, but a bent derailleur hanger, some road rash and a ding attest to this foolishness. He has sworn to either walk around such hazards or try to fall on the non-drive side the next time.
There are a few Cheap-Oh solutions to dings: apply some clear nail polish to stabilize the wound and prevent spreading (a must for rust-prone bikes) or car touch-up paint or cover it with a sticker or… better yet, do nothing (but please, make your war story more dramatic than mine).
Expense: Free (sometimes laziness has its economic benefits).
CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Cleat Covers
Cleat Cover Ingredients: an old tire, adhesive backed Velcro and some tape.
Walking around in cleats is a bad thing. Aside from the spastic, tap dancer impersonation, it is dangerously slippery and consumes the plastic bits unnecessarily. Solution: take an old tire (open tubulars work best because they lay flat) and cut it to the appropriate length, add some Velcro strips with adhesive backings and clean up the edges with tape. Mr. Cheap-Oh’s Cleat Covers are light and fold up conveniently to fit in back pockets or Kit Kapsules. Voila!
Expense: 2 Euros for the Velcro.
Simple, cheap and effective – just like Life.
CHEAP-OH PROJECT: Power Pucks
And now for something sweet…
In the States, there are a number of tasty and reasonably priced nutritional bars available. In Italy, there are only dense, pasty ones that cost more than a Euro each. When the cooking bug bites, Mr. Cheap-Oh makes a batch of Power Pucks.
Here’s the dough recipe for 24 servings:
– 280g white flour or go half n’ half with whole grain
– 140g sugar, brown works well
– 250ml milk
– 2 eggs
– 6 tablespoons of oil, olive or sunflower
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– pinch of salt
Now the interesting part: the fillings. The featured Power Puck is apple, raisin, walnut and cinnamon. Variations abound, try muesli, banana, dried apricots, etc. For those days when salty hits the spot, simply remove the sugar from the recipe above and add ham and cheese.
Mix all of the ingredients and fill about 3cm (or 1 inch) in muffin forms/cups, bake at 180 Celsius (or 350 Fahrenheit) for about 15 minutes. Wrap a couple in aluminum foil and pack the Kit Kapsule.
Expense: No idea, but certainly a lot less than 24 power bars bought in Italy. For those in the States, try them anyway because they are tasty and contain no preservatives or other chemicals that could get you banned from a UCI event (unless you’ve included them in your “creative fillings”).
DISCLAIMER: Although Mr. Cheap-Oh uses all of the stuff documented above, he is a self-proclaimed fool (at times) and accordingly does not offer any satisfaction guarantees, nor does he wish to be associated with any legal proceedings. So, follow his advice at your own risk and welcome to the club!
If any reader has a Recession Buster idea/project, feel free to send it in. Mr. Cheap-Oh is always game to try ’em out.
Corey Sar Fox is an American living in Northern Italy. Alarming Fact no.7: Fox will NEVER alliterate bike clichйs such as “a beefy bottom bracket plus slim seat stays mean maximum muscle and cushy comfort.”