Some things can be taught

March 6, 2017 § 22 Comments

How many times have you seen a group of cyclists spread all over the road like a warm breakfast? Judging from the rarity of organized, disciplined, 2 x 2 pacelines, you might think they are formations that only come into existence after years of practice. And you might think that the only people capable of riding mile after mile a few inches from their neighbors’ bars and a few inches from the wheel in front of them is the mark of a truly expert cyclist.

That’s what I always thought, mostly because the only time I ever saw functioning large groups ride like that they were composed of (accomplished) bike racers.

My club, Big Orange, had a Paceline 101 seminar yesterday. We all gathered on Westchester Parkway, and several of the club’s leaders put on the seminar. There were over forty riders. At least half had never ridden in a 2 x 2 paceline before. Most of the others had been riding for two years or less.

The Big O paceline, when I describe it, sounds goofy because of the silly names. Here they are:

Horsemen“: These are the 6-12 riders at the front. These are the only rotating riders. Their job is to:

  • Maintain steady power. Steady on flats, slower on hills, faster on descents.
  • Give plenty of room around road hazards. Give wide berth to cones, potholes, sticks, big rocks, etc.
  • Call out road hazards.
  • Pay attention to upcoming stop lights. Anticipate when the light will change by watching crosswalk countdowns. Avoid panic stops and avoid running the entire peloton through red lights.
  • Accelerate slowly from stops, remembering that everyone behind is still standing
  • Rotate in pairs. Get off the front if the partner wants off. Left side swings off to the left, right side swings off to the right. Keep steady speed when rotating off the front, flick elbow and take 2-3 strong pedal strokes as you move over.
  • Control the lane. The right hand rider controls positioning and stays just to the left of the fog line.
  • Control descents. This is the hardest part to master, requiring a hard effort to keep speed on downhills until the rear of the peloton has completed the descent. Riders at the front cannot slow down until everyone has completed the descent.
  • Steady ascents: Slowing  too rapidly at the bottom of the hill means those at the end of the peloton will accordion. Slow gradually while climbing and regroup after crossing the top. Gradually lift the pace again after the regroup.

Gatekeepers“: The two riders directly behind the horsemen. Their job is to:

  • Maintain steady power. If the horsemen surge, the gatekeepers allow the gap to open, then slowly close it.
  • Provide space for horsemen who have rotated off the front and are coming back in order to slot back in.
  • Prohibit the peloton from mixing with horsemen. The idea is that one group, horsemen, do the work, and the other group, the peloton drafts for the duration of the ride.

Buffers“: 1-3 pairs of riders, riding immediately behind the gatekeepers. Their job is to maintain steady power. If the group ahead surges, the buffers let them go, then gradually close the gap.

Peloton“: This is everyone else. Their job is to:

  • Stay on the wheel in front. Do not pass other riders. Do not fill in gaps ahead of buffers. Do not get out of formation to bomb descents.
  • Keep handlebars even with your partner. Formations stagger when riders are not even with each other.
  • Change lanes from the rear. When changing lanes, the rear of the peloton should move over first, after checking for traffic, and call out “Clear!” so the riders ahead know it is safe.
  • Anticipate slowing riders in front. When approaching rollers, give extra room ahead. Know the route!
  • Identify final rider position. Last place riders in the peloton should tell other riders “I’m last” if for some reason a rider is rotating all the way to the back of the group. Final riders should also take responsibility for being the riders who check first for rear traffic when getting ready to change lanes.

Before going to the Peloton 101 seminar, participants were supposed to have read this explanation of paceline riding. Once we assembled, a couple of leaders explained it all again in person, took questions, we did a practice lap around the Parkway. There was a lot of talking and some correcting, but no shouting or abusing or screaming. Everyone was told beforehand that we were there to learn, and told not to take anything personally.

Incredibly, no one did.

After the first lap we debriefed, people switched up positions, and we did a second lap, this time at about 22-24 mph. We debriefed again, questions were taken, and we rode a final lap “at speed.” After a final debrief, those who wanted to rolled with the group out onto PCH and practiced pacelining in the lane at speed all the way to Malibu and back.

Here is a link to a video that was taken by Cycling Savvy instructor Gary Cziko from the position of gatekeeper, with the horsemen teaching a first-timer how to rotate.

What amazed me about the practice was how quickly people got it when it was explained and they had a chance to practice. After the second lap the 42-person rotation was so disciplined that, sitting at the very back, I could see all the way to the front through the gap between the side-by-side riders. It was almost perfectly straight.

I wondered why it was so effective, and several things occurred to me.

First, it’s not complicated, but there are organizational elements that need to be explained. I learned to ride a paceline while doing it, making a mess of it, and getting yelled at. Being calmly instructed, gently corrected, and given a chance to practice takes most of the terror out of it.

Second, having roles with names is a huge help to beginning riders. Sure, “horsemen” sounds silly, but it is a defined word with a defined function, and when you’re doing your first paceline with a bunch of experienced riders and you’re so nervous you’re about to crap your shorts, it makes all the difference in the world to have words tied to actual functions and roles.

This nomenclature also makes new riders concentrate on what they’re doing, as opposed to riding in terror that they’re about to crash out fifty people. Even better, once people feel comfortable in one role, they can try a more challenging one, so they not only have a place, but they have the feeling of “moving up.” Roles also have the invaluable function of predictability, which is what safe group riding is all about. There’s never any question about where a horseman is supposed to be, and if there is, you can ask. Compare that to the amorphous glob of riders in which random people do random things for no apparent reason … or at least that’s how it seems to beginners.

Third, holding a more-or-less permanent position throughout the ride means you get to know the person next to you, and the relationships are what makes the experience fun.

Removing the mystery, sharing the knowledge, and teaching skills raises everyone’s ability, including the teacher’s. It also creates a vibe in which people want to excel. Best of all, this method includes riders of vastly differing abilities and solves one of the biggest issues of group riding for clubs, i.e., “How do you integrate slower riders with faster ones without either shredding the slow ones or making the fast ones go so slow that they no longer want to do the ride?”

Every club should look at its mission and if part of the mission is education, improvement, and making road riding more accessible to more people, then a program like this is a winner. Photos courtesy of Joann Zwagerman, Big Orange phenom who was responsible for organizing yesterday’s seminar!

END

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Why you need a bicycle license in CA, Part II

March 5, 2017 § 43 Comments

First, some background …

I have a friend named FXH. He is a cop. He is hopelessly confused about things like gun control and the effectiveness of incarceration.

Unfortunately, he is one of the smartest people I know, so smart in fact that, after a couple of hours of withering cross-examination by him I occasionally wonder whether it’s he who is confused or I. More importantly, he is incredibly knowledgeable about criminal law.

He doesn’t make things up.

He doesn’t bullshit.

If he says it, he can back it up.

So several months ago when he told me that you can be arrested in California if you are pulled over for a bicycle infraction and fail to produce ID, I expressed polite incredulity.

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” I said, or something like that. To which FXH simply repeated a provision of the California Vehicle Code, Section 40302(a).

In the interim, although I had forgotten the code section, I did start riding with my California driver license, something I’d never done in the past because hey, there’s no bicycle license law in CA and The Man can kiss my ass. Having FXH advise me that failure to produce ID when stopped could result in an arrest made an impact on me. The Man can kiss my ass, but once I’m under arrest he and his minions can beat it, too.

So time went by and I decided to write about it, and I did so here. My legal reasoning was that Section 12951(b) of the vehicle code requires a driver license, and that Section 21200 makes other provisions of the vehicle code applicable to cyclists, so you are therefore required to have some form of identification if you got stopped.

This unleashed a storm of protest, some pointing out that 12951(b) has nothing to do with bicycles, and some pointing out that there are all kinds of limits on what the police can and cannot require you to do when stopped. In sum, a great many people argued convincingly that I was wrong, although I cited to cases that strongly supported my position.

However, it wasn’t until FXH provided me with a chronology and the relevant statute that I returned to my initial position, unequivocally, that carrying ID while cycling isn’t simply a good idea, it’s a legal requirement.

Here’s the argument.

  1. The police can arrest you for even minor infractions that carry only fines as penalties. The landmark case for this is Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, a city in Texas that has a famous road race and also, apparently, a 14-carat asshole of a cop. However, the Supreme Court ruled, and has never reconsidered or overturned, that the police can arrest you if you break any law, no matter how minor, as long as they have probable cause to make the arrest. So for all the people out there in California-land who think that there is no authority to be cuffed and stuffed for riding your bike without a light, I give you Atwater.
  2. It is the policy of the state of California not to arrest people for minor offenses, including bicycle infractions. The state has codified this in the vehicle code, section 40302(a). The purpose of this statute is to allow defendants in minor cases to avoid custodial arrest by showing a driver’s license or other satisfactory evidence of identity and an unobstructed view of the full face for examination. The state recognized that it would be a waste of resources to allow law enforcement to take everyone to jail on a whim, even though Atwater specifically allows them to do so. So 40302(a) gave everyone an out, even bicyclists. The unfortunate consequence is that if you are stopped for a bicycling infraction and cannot or will not provide satisfactory ID, you may be arrested. Field testing suggests that if you are a dick to the cop, you will be.
  3. Finally … one day a fellow was riding his bike the wrong way down a street. A cop stopped him for breaking the law prohibiting such conduct, demanded to see his ID, and arrested him when he failed to produce it. The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, and the court concluded that a bicyclist stopped for an infraction must produce documentary ID if the cop asks for it or face custodial arrest. The case is People v. McKay. Please read it before getting back to me about how you don’t ever have to carry ID when cycling. Among the many things that McKay noted, is the existence of CVC 12951(b), the provision I initially cited as a statute applicable to bicyclists. Although the court didn’t use my reasoning, i.e. CVC 21200 makes CVC 12951(b) applicable to bikes, it did say that the licensing requirement of CVC 12951(b) is relevant to the inquiry of whether or not a bicyclist must show ID when stopped. So, as they say in law school, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.

Of course the main complaint by bicyclists, including me, is that this ID requirement amounts to a bicycle riding license. Even though there’s no law requiring a “license,” if you are stopped while cycling you can be arrested if you fail to provide satisfactory ID. What better definition of a license than, “That without which you can be arrested for failing to produce.”

By extension, this logic means that any person, bicyclist or not, must carry an ID at all times or face the risk of arrest when stopped for breaking the law, no matter how minor. If you think this means we live in a police state, and that the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is now effectively a fiction, you’d be in complete agreement with the dissent in McKay, and with me.

Read the dissent, please, and weep.

And after drying your eyes and applying plenty of Wanky’s Butt Balm, go ride yer bike. And carry a fuggin’ ID.

END

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Race!

March 4, 2017 § 8 Comments

CBR #3 crit coming up this Sunday!

$2,500.00 in cash primes …

Great weather …

Grass roots racing …

Delusional people thinking they’re fast …

Off-the-hook announcing with the dastardly duo of Bahati & Worthington …

Custom pint glasses for winners …

Eye-popping JL Velo jerseys for race leaders …

Fun …

Not too many dopers …

Be there!

cbr_no_3

British Cycling and Team Sky reveal undoped rider to Parliament

March 3, 2017 § 2 Comments

By Patrick Smithers and Fiona Toolsly (CitSB)
Updated 03:00 AM, GMT

London–After an investigation was ordered into possible doping violations by British Cycling and Team Sky, chief sporting director David Brailsford sought to refute allegations of organized team doping by introducing what he referred to as “a positively undoped rider, pure as the driven snow” to a Select Committee of Parliament.

The rider, Mr. Samuel Muffington-Baggs, was presented to British Members of Parliament in a charm offensive designed to show that Team Sky and British Cycling remain committed to clean sport, marginal gains, and plenty of Fluimucil.

“Now this here fellow,” said Brailsford, “Muffington-Baggs, or just ‘Baggins’ as we calls him, ain’t never touched a needle in all his born days. Has you, Baggins?”

Mr. Muffington-Baggs, wearing his Team Sky kit, seemed at ease with a variety of pointed questions from the MPs, although his answers were difficult to understand. “I’m telling you boys,” said Brailsford, “ol’ Baggins here is as clean as a fresh bedsheet. Ain’t you, Baggins?”

At one point in the conversation Mr. Muffington-Baggs appeared uncomfortable, but he recovered nicely after being burped. After about half an hour of questioning, a strong smell quickly dispersed the crowd and the interview came to an end. “Heh, heh, good ol’ Baggins,” said Brailsford at the conclusion of the meeting, before adding rather curtly to a soigneur, “somebody want to get ‘im a damned clean diaper?”

END

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Bicycle driving license???

March 2, 2017 § 72 Comments

You get pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign on your bicycle. The cop asks for your driver license or other identification. Do you have to provide it?

Before answering this question, let’s start with common sense, and common sense says this: It’s always a good idea to have a driver license or state-issued ID when you cycle. Motorists are known for hitting bikes and leaving the cyclist unconscious or worse. Identification in these cases is generally a good thing.

Also, when a cop asks you for identification and you refuse or don’t have any, you run the risk of having your ride interrupted and your bike impounded. You may be vindicated many hours or days or weeks or months later, but standing on your rights when challenged always comes at a cost, a cost that at a minimum will cost you that KOM attempt up Mandeville.

But back to the question: Do you have to provide it?

California law requires users of motor vehicles to provide their license for examination upon demand of a peace officer enforcing the provisions of the California vehicle code. That’s section 12951(b), by the way. However, since a bicyclist is not a driver of a motor vehicle, you may think that you get a pass.

You’d be wrong.

California law explicitly makes the vehicle code applicable to bicyclists. Section 21200(a) says that every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application. In other words, if the driver of a motor vehicle has to show his license or ID to a cop who’s enforcing the vehicle code, so do you.

What this means is that even though you’re not technically required to have something called a bicycle driving license, if you ever get pulled over for breaking the law and can’t produce satisfactory ID to the peace officer, you can be arrested and your bike impounded, which is an end-run around “no bike driving license required” because it does in effect require you to have a license in the form of acceptable identification.

So ride with your driver license if you have one. That’s my advice.

END

Addendum: Due to the numerous comments and questions, I’ve added the following:

Are you required to have something called a “bicycle license” or its equivalent to operate a bicycle on public roads? No.

Are you required to have some form of ID if you are pulled over for violating a traffic law? Yes.

If you’re required to ride with some form of ID in the event you’re pulled over, isn’t that a de facto bicycle license? It may not require you to take a test or pay insurance, but if the absence of ID while riding a bike can get you arrested, then I would argue that you are indeed required to ride with something that is in at least one crucial respect the same as a driving license–it proves who you are when the police detain you.

If you believe that you as a bicyclist are immune from this requirement, it is easy to test. The next time you’re pulled over, tell the officer that you refuse to identify yourself. I predict you will be arrested.

This was my main point: That even though we aren’t required to have something called a “bicycle license,” the fact that we can be arrested in certain situations for failure to produce ID when riding a bicycle means that we are in fact quite close to having to be licensed. We can argue about the type of ID, and about police discretion to require you to produce it, but in the end if they want to force you to ID yourself, they can. Try it if you really think I’m wrong about this.

Now there is the second point. What is the legal underpinning for requiring a bicyclist to produce an ID? California no longer has a statute requiring people to ID themselves to police on demand. That law, Penal Code §647(e), has been repealed.

What follows are excerpts from a brief on investigative detentions, published by the DA of Alameda County. You can find it at: http://le.alcoda.org/publications/point_of_view/files/DETENTIONS.pdf

The landmark case of Terry v. Ohio authorizes police to stop and detain a suspect temporarily if they had a lower level of proof known as “reasonable suspicion.” Once stopped, “an officer conducting a lawful Terry stop must have the right to make this limited inquiry, otherwise the officer’s right to conduct an investigative detention would be a mere fiction.” People v. Loudermilk, (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 996, 1002.

This is also the opinion of the Supreme Court, which added that identifying detainees also constitutes an appropriate officer-safety measure. “Obtaining a suspect’s name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder.” Hiibel v. Nevada (2004) 542 U.S. 177, 186.

Not only do officers have a right to require that the detainee identify himself, they also have a right to confirm his identity by insisting that he present “satisfactory” documentation.104 “[W]here there is such a right to so detain,” explained the Court of Appeal, “there is a companion right to request, and obtain, the detainee’s identification.” People v. Rios (1983) 140 Cal.App.3d 616, 621.

A current driver’s license or the “functional equivalent” of a license is presumptively “satisfactory” unless there was reason to believe it was forged or altered. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1186. Also see People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 620.

A document will be deemed the functional equivalent of a driver’s license if it contained all of the following: the detainee’s photo, brief physical description, signature, mailing address, serial numbering, and information establishing that the document is current. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1187. While other documents are not presumptively satisfactory, officers may exercise discretion in determining whether they will suffice. People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 622 [“[W]e do not intend to foreclose the exercise of discretion by the officer in the field in deciding whether to accept or reject other evidence—including oral evidence—of identification.”

So hopefully you agree that when you get pulled over as a suspect for breaking the law, the police have the right to demand ID and you are obligated to produce it.

I read “but not limited to” in CVC 21200 to mean that bicyclists’ duties are much broader than the cited divisions, and that’s why it says “not limited to.” Legislative history and drafting notes of the law would possibly clear that up.

I also agree that section 12591(b) explicitly applies to cars, and cannot be used as a bootstrap to somehow require bicyclists to have a “bicycling license.” But I also believe that 12591(b), in conjunction with Terry and its progeny, provides additional proof that if you are stopped by a peace officer enforcing the traffic code, you are required to provide ID. And I believe that a good brief on appeal would use that code section to show that the CVC has a strong interest in identifying all public road users when they are cited for a crime, in line with the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry. The fact that you are on a bicycle when the crime is committed will not, and should not, exempt you from this most basic investigative function of the police.

What’s key, and the point I was making, is that as a bicyclist there are excellent legal reasons to carry a CDL if you have one, and some other form of ID if you do not. There are also excellent practical reasons for carrying ID that have to do with how you interface with law enforcement. They can arrest you if you refuse to identify yourself, and if you are truculent about it, they will.

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Dear Mr. Masters Doper:

March 1, 2017 § 31 Comments

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but it’s really obvious. Now don’t get me wrong. Doping to get top ten in a creaky-kneed crit is totally worthwhile. Think of the guys who doped and barely cracked the top thirty. Those dudes must really suck.

And I’m not going to criticize you for spending money on drugs. After all, you’re already thousands down the tubes with the bikes and the gear … what’s a few thousand more to put your thumb on the scale? I get it.

Instead, I’m writing this helpful note to let you know that there are a few bedsheet corners that you need to tuck in, strictly for appearance’s sake, so that it doesn’t look so blatant.

For example, you really need to lose a bunch of weight. It’s not convincing, even in a masters race, for you to crush so convincingly with that giant sack of potatoes hanging over your waist line. And the way your gut is pushing up against that zipper you should at least carry an umbrella liability policy in case that skinsuit goes while they’re winching you up onto the podium. That zipper pops while you’re facing a crowd, someone’s losing an eye.

Here’s another tip. Don’t be such a flaming dick. You see, when you are a nice, humble, friendly doper, people kind of shrug and don’t care as much. We’re used to sleazebag, aw-shucks cheats in bike racing; heck, Bradley Wiggins was one of our biggest stars.

But when you pull incredible rides out of your ample ass and combine it with acting like a mini-Lance, people are going to start making phone calls to USADA, and one of these days the doorbell will ring and you’ll have to either pee in the cup and get banned or refuse to answer the door and get banned. You know how stupid it’s going to sound when you have explain why you doped … to your grandkids?

You know how embarrassing it’s  going to be when someone emails you the VeloSnooze headline: “[Another] SoCal Profamateur Caught Cheating.” The magazine is going to make a few phone calls and people will really open up about you, about what a despicable dude you are, about how absurdly fast you went from career loser to human cannonball, and about how everyone was laughing behind your back and rolling their eyes the whole time.

Anyway, these next few races you might want to ease off the gas a bit, although that’s probably hard to do when you’re juiced and ready to rumble. I dunno, maybe swap out the test with a 3-week cycle of orange juice?

Because people are talking, and what they’re saying isn’t good.

END

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Torqued

February 28, 2017 § 16 Comments

A long time ago I was pretty expert at lowering and raising my seat post. There was a little Campy bolt and you cranked the crap out of it until it snapped and then you went into Freewheeling and Uncle Phil sold you another Campy bolt for $5 and you never did that again.

After I switched over to full carbon bikes that were 100% carbon and made of full carbon, though, I was taught not to ever tighten anything on my bike because I wouldn’t snap the bolt. The bolt would be fine. What I would snap is the 100% pure carbon and instead of having to shit-facedly go into Freewheeling and shell out $5 to Uncle Phil I’d have to get my credit run, apply for a loan, and make payments for six years on the new frame to replace the one I’d irreparably cracked by over-twisting the seatpost bolt.

Over the years that wasn’t a problem, leaving it to the trained professionals, because every time I bought a bike they would set the seat post and off I would ride. Sometimes the seat was a tad high and sometimes it was a tad low but I didn’t care. The one curse I have always had when it comes to cycling is being comfortable no matter what. No neck pains, back pains, hip pains, wrist pains, nothing, no matter how the bike is set up.

In fact one time I got a pre-fessional bike fit and the gal who fit me said, before she fit me, “So where do you have pain?”

“Nowhere,” I said.

She laughed. “Right. But where do you have pain?”

“When I ride?”

“Yes.”

“Nowhere.”

“Nowhere?”

“Nowhere. That’s how come I like to ride.”

“Well, you’re a pretty old fellow and you’ve had a bunch of bicycle falling off incidents and you’ve been doing this more years than an old redwood has rings, so I’m not buying it. Can you touch your toes?”

“Nope,” I said.

She checked my flexibility. “You have the flexibility of a rusted ingot.”

“That’s how come I don’t do yogurt.”

“Yoga.”

“Whatever. But after all these years, once I get draped over a bike I fit perfectly.”

“Not perfectly, actually.”

“What I mean is, no matter how I’m draped, it doesn’t hurt.”

What all this meant is that from bike to bike the “fit” kind of changed and then when I got my all black Cannondale Super 6 Black Evo Black, they forgot to put that special bubble gum on the seat post and after a while it sank down pretty low so that it looked like this.

img_2234

That’s right, even with my leg fully extended at the bottom of the stroke my knee is bent worse than the centerfold in an arthritis magazine.

So it was brought to my attention indirectly that perhaps my saddle was too low, because even though I won two races with my knees scraping my chin, “You look like a dork,” I was advised by People Who Know.

Back home after the race, then, I was confronted with a significant problem. Take the bike to Boozy P. and have him adjust my seat which was so low I had only won two races with it, or do it myself with the torque wrench set that Smasher had given me somewhat passive-aggressively, knowing that one day I would use it and crack every tube on my bike because in my hands no tool went unabused.

I had to consider the problem from various angles.

  1. What is a torque wrench?
  2. What is a torque?
  3. Am I really too lazy to take the bike to Boozy P., ace mechanic?

Answer key:

  1. I have no idea.
  2. I have less idea.
  3. Yes.

I briefly considered a YouTube tutorial but remembered when I had tried to use one of those to adjust my brakes and wound up buying a new front derailleur. And brakes.

But instead of simply calling up Boozy P. and asking him what to do, I made a list of the three people who would know: Boozy P., Fireman, and EA Sports, Inc.

Each offered a different vantage point. Boozy P. would be speaking from the experience of having done it a billion times, and the toolset that Smasher had given me was the same Super Pro China Torque Spin-Doctor set for $4.99 that Boozy P. used.

EA Sports, Inc., would be able to advise me from the vantage point of an electrical engineer who had also built his home with his bare hands and knew all about tools and stuff. He would be able to provide me deep technical insight into this admittedly complex project.

Fireman would come at the problem viewing me as a complete idiot and having grave doubts that I could hold any tool in my hand without dropping it except perhaps the one I was born with.

I rang up Boozy P. “Hey, man, quick technical question.”

“Sure, Wanky. What’s up?”

“What is a torque wrench?”

“Got a problem with the bike?”

“I was thinking about raising the seat.”

“Hmmm. Why don’t you bring it down to the shop? Won’t cost you anything and it might save you having to get a new frame.”

“Nah, I got this. I think.”

“Right. Well, set the torque to 5 newton-meters and tighten it just like you would with an Allen wrench and when it clicks, stop tightening.”

“What’s a newton-meter?”

“It’s a … you sure you don’t want me to do this for you?”

Next I called up EA Sports, Inc. “Hey, man, I need to raise my seat post but don’t know how to use a torque wrench or even what it is.”

“No worries. What’s the recommended torque for the seat post?”

“Huh?”

“How many newton-meters is it supposed to be torqued down to?”

“Huh?”

“Hang on, buddy. Let me check the Cannondale web site for you. What model do you have?”

“Of what?”

“Of bike.”

“Carbon. Full carbon. It’s the carbon one.”

There was a pause. “What’s the name on the fork?”

“Cannondale.”

He was getting frustrated, I could tell. “No, the model name. Isn’t there a sticker on there?”

“Oh, you mean this one? The one that says ‘Wanky’?”

More pausing. “That’s probably a decal you put on. Does it say EVO Super 6, something like that?”

“Oh, wow! Yeah! How’d you know?”

“Lucky guess.” He browsed for a minute. “Hmmm. Here where it gives you the torque it just says ‘Take your bike to an official Cannondale dealer and have it worked on only by a certified technician.'”

“So how many newton-meter thingies is that? Fifty?”

“Oh, here it is. It says 5. So set your wrench to 5 nm’s, twist the wrench until it clicks, and then stop twisting.”

“Can I give it an extra good ol’ twist to grow on?”

“No.”

“Okay. Thanks, man!”

Finally I called Fireman. “Hey, man, can you help me use a torque wrench to raise my seat post?”

“Sure. Piece of cake.”

“Okay. What do I do?”

“First, take out a regular hand tool and snug the bolt down.”

“How much?”

“As much as you need to so that it’s tight but not too tight.”

“Okay,” I said. “Then what?”

“Then take the torque wrench and throw it in the dumpster. You’re gonna ruin something a lot more valuable than a bicycle if you go around trying to use that thing. You have more thumbs than the floor of a sawmill.”

“But what if it’s not tight enough?”

“Then your post will slip back down and you’ll look like a dork again and win a couple more races.”

I thought about that for a minute.

He had a pretty good point.

END

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