Friday, September 11, 2015

Meet BARC - Introductions and Review of the Star Wars Bike from Huffy

Okay, so we're all a little weird or damaged or just plain crazy, right? Well, here's a wee bit of a story about how I continue to meet those requirements. But before you read on, this is broken up into two major parts with photos at the end. The first is where I prove and disprove how crazy I am. The second is getting into the more technical aspects of the bike and a bit of a review.

I'm Crazy Not Crazy

I won't go into the long backstory of my Star Wars fandom but I'll set the record straight by telling you that I'm a fan but not a fanatic. Some family members and friends may disagree but I do have a life outside of Star Wars. Or at least I think I do.

Anyway, with the recent Force Friday excitement, it was no surprise that William and I were both like kids in a candy shop at Target last weekend. Elizabeth was only slightly amused and Yvonne, well, she just left us the three of us there acting like kids. There were a lot of toys and clothes that looked neat but nothing really struck me as something that I absolutely had to have.

Except for the bike. I had to have the bike. I hemmed and hawed about it because it was a lot of money to spend. I didn't want to spend it but I also knew I had to have it. It isn't often that you find something that's Star Wars AND has a Stormtrooper. And it's pretty much impossible to find anything with TK-421 on it. Trust me, I've looked.

Now let me pause here for a minute. Way back in 2000 or so, I got a personalized plate in North Carolina that was "TK 421." When we moved to Virginia, I had to settle for "TK-42ONE." I do a lot online with that name and I am always on the lookout for it in toys and other merchandise. With Star Wars movies taking a break, there was nothing new. And the Clone Wars cartoon didn't help because TK-421 was a Stormtrooper. He didn't have the Sandtrooper pauldron, he wasn't a Speeder Bike Scout, or a Snowtrooper. Just a plain old boring Stormtrooper. Trust me, there's a difference. And no, he wasn't even close to a Clone Trooper.

Now, back to the story. So I recently got a Star Wars shirt with TK-421 on it from a cousin. It was awesome. I love it. It's so rare to find that name on anything that I was happy to have it, and even happier that it was something I could wear. So seeing the bike in Target with TK-421 on the front forks made me squee like one of those Star Wars fanatics I claim to not be.

I left it in the store on Saturday but called Sunday to see if they still had it. They didn't. So I ordered it online and it was delivered yesterday. As I assembled it, a massive rain storm was going through so I couldn't ride it. Which meant I couldn't name it.

And that's where I get even weirder than you thought I was. You see, I name my bike (now bikes). And my shoes. And some of my equipment. If I recall correctly, it was born out of necessity when I had several pairs of Altra Instincts that were the same size and  color and I couldn't keep them straight in my running shoe rotation. So I named them. I've been naming them since. Booger. Snot. Slick. Yela Wolf. Silver Back. You get the idea. My bike is Shifty because, well, you have to shift the gears.

As part of the tradition of naming my shoes and bikes, I only name them during the run (or ride in this case). It feels natural to not have something picked out until you're out there. Sometimes I don't come up with something until after the run or ride but that's just my brain moving slowly. The key is, I may have great ideas before, but I don't decide until during or after.

Which brings us to the unveiling of the newest member of the .... family? No, it's not a member of the family. It's important but not that important. So without further ado, here's BARC.


So a bit of a review on the bike itself. First of, it's not a bike I would recommend using for any sort of training. This is a casual bike for casual riding. Not anything even remotely close to something I would use for any sort of high performance races or sporting events. Think of it as a cruiser, not a tri bike.

I ordered mine online and paid list price ($349.99) plus shipping ($42.79 - but shipping was free) plus handling fee ($40.00) plus taxes ($20.76) for a grand total of $410.66. I could have paid more for shipping to get it here sooner but I'm glad I didn't because it arrived pretty quickly. I ordered on my phone on Sunday night and it arrived that Thursday. Not too shabby on speed.

The box arrived surprisingly intact. I've worked in shipping before and I know how things get beat up. Aside from a few dings, things looked good. The bike inside was also packed fairly well but not great. At first glance it looked like the paint on the frame was scratched but it was actually just how it was painted to look weathered. There were plastic caps on the point parts, foam around the frame, and cardboard placed in certain spots.

Once out of the box, the front tire was loose and the handebars were only attached by the cables. The pedals were also not installed and the seat was loose. The seat was an easy fix. Simply tighten the speed release and you're done. The handlebars were a bit tricky. The instructions stated to put the disc brake on the left side but I didn't see that until I already had it installed. So I loosened it, flipped it around, then tightened it back down. And to clarify, "it" was the handlebar stem that sits on that post which is the top of the forks when they come through the threadless stem.

Okay, with the handlebars installed and the brakes on the right side, which was the left side as you sit in the seat, it was time to move on to the front tire. Pretty easy install and only took a minute.

The pedals were just as easy to install thanks to convenient left and right stickers.

Then we had some issues. The bike was fully assembled but the front fork stem was wobbly as it went through the threadless head. Because it was threadless, I had to do some research on how to fix it. I just needed to tighten the bolt that goes through the top but only a quarter turn at a time. There still needs to be play in the front tire so it flops left and right. Do a quick search and you'll see some good videos on it.

Then there was the seat. It was at the right height but the front was angled way too high and would have given me a high voice if I didn't fix it. A few minor adjustments and I was able to tilt it down enough to make it comfortable without feeling like I would slide off onto the top bar.

Finally, there was the chain. I still haven't fixed this but it rubs on the rear tire when it's in 1st gear. Gears 2 through 7 work fine (it only has seven gears). But when you shift down to first, it gets too close to the tire and rubs. Not good. A washer or some adjustments to the derailleur may fix it but I'm not smart enough to figure that out yet.

After a test ride this morning, another issue cropped up. And it was further exaggerated by my father giving the bike a short test ride too. You see, they just don't work. Again, I'm not smart enough to know how to fix it but I know what the problem is. The front brakes are disc. But when you apply them, two things happen. First, you have to pull the lever way too far back to make the bike stop. Second, as soon as you apply just a little pressure on the lever, the piston comes out, and bends the disc on the wheel. Not good. And it bends it a lot. The rear brakes are just pads, which I guess is the bike version of drum brakes. Well, they squeek like a cat and a rabbit are both in a bag fighting a bird and all three are squeeling like a dog whistle. It's painful to listen to. And it's apparently starting to take some of the paint off the rim. Not what I want to see on a brand new bike. But any which way I look at it, I think it will need to go to a bike shop for a tune-up before I start putting any extended miles on it. Especially any route with hills.

There were a few other minor tweaks but for the most part they were easy to fix. I will say, having the right size allen wrenches and open-end wrenches make things easy. It took some searching and trial and error but I finally found some that worked. If you have those on hand already, you'll be a step ahead of the game.


Yep, that's my license plate. And it's on the forks on each side. You can also see the weathered paint job on the frame.

Small Star Wars sticker on the handlebar. You can also see the screw that needed to be tighten in the middle of that round disc where the stem comes up from the forks and through the threadless head.

Nice little Imperial logo on the frame.

Detail of the TK-421 on the forks.

Never knew it until I saw this but it's a limited edition. Only 2,500 made!

Because the Empire is a pain in the ass.

Giant tires make it a little hard to steer sometimes but I think I'll get used to it. Besides, Stormtroopers can't hit anything anyway, right?

PS - If you don't get the BARC Star Wars reference, that's okay. You should at least get the BARC Lumberjack reference.

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