Budget cable actuated bicycle steering pulleys under $10 (Part 1)

Recently, well actually since I built it, I’ve had a lot of questions about the steering system on my tall bike.  Hopefully, this will offer clarity for the inquiring minds. Due to the length, I am going to break it up into multiple posts.

The Frances Cycles Smallhaul

This hand-built bike featured a beautiful cable steering system--it was just out of my price range.

The idea was suggested by Erok of BikePGH.  Both he, and Brad Q. of Urban Velo were familiar with the Frances Cycles Smallhaul–it’s a beautifully hand-built cargo bike that features an extremely elegant cable actuated steering system.  At the time, it was the only bicycle I had ever seen with cable linked steering.  After a little research, I found another builder built a similar bike and utilized the pulleys from Frances Cycles.   Perfect for my tall bike–the only issue was the pulley cost $175 for the pair.

To me, I thought this was a little too much to spend on the bike a had in mind.

I guess I should explain that.  I had built my first tall bike last year, and it was built like most of them–frame welded on a frame with an extended steerer.  This posed two problems: transporting the bike was extremely difficult and the extended steerer’s would resonate at multiple frequencies making watching the steerer flex going down a hill quite scary, and the vibration would numb my hands after long rides.

After I road that bike on the Bike MS 150: Escape to the Lake, multiple people (jokingly) told me I had to build a taller one for 2011.

I took the challenge with two design concepts in mind: the first, a sliding adjustable frame that allowed for dis-assembly and sync chain tension, and secondly, cable steering.

The siding frame was easy, but designing the steering system without utilizing pre-built pulleys or machining pulleys myself posed a few issues.  My first idea was to cut three circular metal plates, one slightly smaller than the other two, and weld or bolt them to form a grooved pulley.  It was a solid idea, but without a plasma cutter, mill, or hole saws capable of cutting metal that thick, I was kind of stuck.

Two weeks before I was supposed to ride the bike 150 miles through Western Pennsylvania and North-East Ohio to Lake Erie, I have an epiphany–washers!

Straight to McMaster-Carr.  After two nights of finding the most economical combinations of steel washers, I had it.


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