Don’t Do-It-Yourself

December 5, 2018 § 4 Comments

Lots of things have changed since I first got a sporty bike. One of them was that back in those old days I couldn’t work on my bike because I was an idiot. When anything broke or got out of adjustment I would hurry down to Freewheeling and Uncle Phil would fix it while Uncle Jack looked on and commented on the state of the union, the state of the pro cycling scene, and the state of the bike shop.

Nobody ever made me feel like an idiot; it was self-understood that anyone who couldn’t adjust a derailleur or brakes or swap out a crank or brake cables or a chain was a congenital idiot.

Plus no one wanted to offend you directly because if you stood around long enough you would eventually buy stuff. The bike shop used to be a place where people hung out because they didn’t have phones or Internets or any information other than what they could glean out of Uncles Jack & Phil. That’s another reason we respected our elders. They had info and they weren’t sharing unless you sucked up to ’em just right.

No one ever offered how to show you how to fix or repair anything because you were an idiot, a customer, and likely to ruin it and blame it on them.

The only exception was truing stands. “Love to sell truing stands,” Uncle Phil always said.

“How come? Is wheelbuilding easy?”

“Fiendishly difficult; takes years.”

“Then why do you like to sell them?”

“Cause the idiots always fuck up the wheels and then bring them to us to fix. Best way to sell new wheelsets is to sell truing stands.”

New levels of incompetence

Nowadays I am still a first-rate Not Do-It-Yourself dude; I cannot fix anything that doesn’t require Old No. 72. But unlike then, when I could only not fix a few things, all of which were mission critical, today I can’t fix about a thousand things. Then, I knew what was mission critical, i.e. everything. Now I’m not so sure so I assume it’s everything

And what’s worse, I’m not the only Not-Do-It-Yourselfer. A whole bunch of other people, people who used to be able to fix bikes pretty good, are similarly stymied when it comes to bike repair.

Built-in idiocy is a key point to new bike stuff. Used to, you could straighten a frame by tying it to a tree, hooking it to your bumper, and peeling out. At least I think that’s how they did it, which doesn’t work so hot anymore with carbon. The only way you can fix carbon nowadays is to have the last name Lonergan.

I suppose it’s all for the best, though. By not knowing how to fix anything I can spend more time on the things that matter, like not wearing a helmet in the shower. Now that is mission critical.

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Old No. 72, for when the going gets tough.

Dirty drawers

August 8, 2016 § 6 Comments

In the world of Profamateur™ cycling, nothing marks you as a B-lister like having one bike.

I have one bike.

And of course if you want to play the Profamateur™ game, or even sit at the table, you need a garage to put your bikes in.

I don’t have a garage.

Finally, in addition to your Profamateur™ bike quiver and Profamateur™ mancave, you gotta, absolutely gotta, have massive amounts of unused ProfamaStuff™.

ProfamaStuff™ means lots of wheels, lots of parts, lots of tools, lots of tires, lots of tubes, lots of indoor trainers, a Zwift™ training system, lots of car racks, lots of wall racks, a potion cabinet for Profamateur™ supplements and doping products, pulley wheels, derailleurs, bike stands, truing stands, hand stands, chains, a lube cabinet, Cintas weekly cleaning rag home delivery service, free hubs and clusters for every contingency (including that 12-17 Regina from 1979), and a curled-at-the-edges Photosport poster of the Badger duking it out on L’Alpe with Greg LeMond.

I have a bike stuff drawer, singular. In my bedroom. Beneath the drawer that holds my four t-shirts. And it looks like this.

drawer

Every couple of years or so I open up that drawer and get overwhelmed by how much bike stuff I’ve accumulated since 1982, and I clean the darned thing out. You’d be amazed at how much stuff fits into that drawer. Nonetheless I make the full-day commitment, usually when they’re running MBGP or Dana Point or some other crashfest I’m afraid to race, and get rid of all the junk.

It can fill up 3/4 of a plastic Von’s shopping bag, that’s how bad it gets, and yesterday was no exception. I excavated several receipts, some old camera mounts, seven empty SPY sunglasses bags, four half-eaten BonkBreakers, a flat tube, two tube extenders, a Band-Aid, a baggie of safety pins, some empty CO2 canisters, and a sock.

Then at the bottom there was an envelope with my name on it. “Seth,” written in graceful, ladylike script. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Must be a secret love letter I was hiding from Ms. WM and didn’t want her to find. She’d never think to look in one of my drawers.” As I fished it out and turned it over for clues I saw a brown coffee stain on one corner.

Then I opened it up and found money in it. Now, if it had contained $20 I would have pretty much considered myself the luckiest man on earth. Who finds $20, aside from that dude who found my Jackson when I was going into Pedro seven years ago to get coffee with Caron and Chief and that bill slipped out of my jersey and I spent two hours combing the roadside and never found it.

But as I fished into this envelope, imagine my astonishment when instead of a couple of fives and some crinkled ones, there was a fresh, uncrinkled $50 bill.

My heart stopped. None of the liquor stores I’d recently robbed had anything like that. $50 whole U.S. dollars? From where? With my name on the envelope in a pretty girlish hand? That I’d forgotten about? “Seth forgot money” is rarer than a graviton in the Large Hadron Collider. And that Mrs. WM hadn’t sniffed it out and taxed it at the legal rate of a 100% levy on all found funds lacking a specified origin?

I carefully put the envelope back where I found it and buried it under my passport, some helmet pads, a couple of empty baggies, and an old pair of underwear for good measure. She’ll never find out about it now.

END

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Amateur stripper

February 26, 2016 § 35 Comments

Used to be, you could strip the bolt on your seat post without any special tools. You wanted to adjust the seat so you took an Allen wrench and loosened the bolt, put the saddle at just the right place to give you patellar tendinitis, and cranked down the bolt until it got tighter, then tighter, then you gave it one last crank “to keep ‘er from slipping” and ping! The bolt would spin freely in the bolt-hole thingy, completely stripped.

Then you would cuss and yell and kick something gently and go rummage around in your tool box and not find another bolt and then go down to the bike shop where Uncle Phil would sell you a new bolt, never saying a word but looking at you like, “Wow, you are a 14-carat maroon with chocolate fudge on top.”

You could pick the generic bolt for $4.95 or the Campy bolt for $8.95, so you always chose the Campy one, went home, and then tightened away but this time you were so afraid of stripping it that you didn’t get it tight enough and so you did your next few rides with the seat post slipping and you kept stopping to move it and everyone would be pissed off at having to wait until after about five stops you’d get it magically right so that the seat height was right and the bolt was tight.

All you needed to create this bleeding migraine headache was a little 4mm Allen key.

I said goodbye to all that when I got an integrated seat post with my fully carbon Giant TCR frame back in 2013, which was made of 100% full carbon. The seat post was part of the frame and to set the seat height you just sawed the thing off until it was right. If you cut it too short you were in the market for a new frame, but once you got it cut right it never jiggled up or down and there were no bolts to strip. When I say “you cut it” what I mean is “Manslaughter cut it.”

Then, I said hello to all that when I got my new all carbon Cannondale bike, which is also 100% carbon. It has an old-fashioned seat post with a bolt that you can strip the shit out of, but Smasher had warned me not to dare to even try to tighten it.

“Yo, Wanky,” he said, “you got to use a torque wrench for that.”

“A what?”

“A torque wrench.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a wrench that lets you measure the torque on the bolt.”

I gave him my don’t-get-technical-with-me look followed by my monkey-examining-a-semiconductor-look. “What are you saying?” I asked.

“Your 100% carbon frame that is made of full carbon isn’t like your old 95% steel frame made of 95% steel and 5% manganese, chrome, nickel, molybdenum, and niobium. You used to be able to tighten the shit out of your steel frame and only strip the bolt, but with full carbon frames that are 100% made of genuine all-carbon, if you over-tighten the bolts you crack the frame and then you have to go buy a new frame or give it to Fireman to fix for $43, which is fine except that when he slaps on a few sheets of carbon and duct tape things can go sideways when you’re whizzing downhill at 50.”

“What are you saying?”

“You need a torque wrench.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a wrench that measures torque so you don’t over-tighten or under-tighten things.”

“Like Old No. 72?” I asked.

Smasher rolled his eyes in despair. “Yeah, just like that, only completely different.”

“Where can I buy one?”

“You don’t really want to buy one.”

“How come? You just said I’d crack my frame without it.”

“Yeah, but you’re the kind of guy who can really hurt himself with tools. You know how you used to create a week’s worth of hell and misery with a fifty-cent Allen wrench?”

“Yeah. So?”

“A torque wrench set costs $40 and has about thirty sockets. That’s a year’s worth of misery and a couple of new frames at least.”

“Forty bucks?” I said. “You can get a Snap-On wrench for $40?”

“Whoa, Wanky. I never said nothin’ about Snap-On. That’s $40 for a Made in Chinese Slave Kitchen special. But you don’t need Snap-On. It’s above your pay grade, trust me.”

So we fought for a couple of hours about whether I needed a Chinese Slave Kitchen set with fifty pieces, a driver, and a cool box for $40 or a Snap-On handle and a single 4mm socket for $400.

“Dude,” he said. “You’re never going to use either one, but at least if you have the Slave Kitchen Special you can have more sockets and break more shit.”

“I only need the 4mm socket.”

“Why’s that?”

“I only have one 4mm seat post bolt.”

“You’re a nut job. Look, I’ll loan you my Snap-On and my Slave Kitchen Special. Try them out for a week and tell me which one you like best.”

“Sorry, I never borrow tools.”

“You’re not borrowing. You’re testing.”

wanky_torque_wrenches

Well-stocked Wanky tool box with toquey wrenches and stuff.

“I can tell you right now that Old No. 72 won’t want to be anywhere the Slave Kitchen Special.”

“Whatever. Just try it out.”

So I took the two items home and got to work on my seat post, which was perfectly positioned at the perfect height and perfectly snug, not slipping even a tiny amount. After five minutes of diligent work I had stripped the shit out of the seat post bolt. So I called Boozy P. “Dude,” I said, “I stripped my seat post bolt and may have cracked my new frame.”

“You idiot,” he said. “I told you not to work on your bike.”

“Yeah, but I got some new tools.”

“You idiot,” he said, “I told you not to own any tools.”

“I couldn’t help myself.”

“Seat post was too high?”

“It was perfect.”

“Was it slipping, then?”

“Snug as a bunny’s butt.”

“Then what the hell were you doing?”

I got ready to tell him, but then he cut me off. “Bring the bike by,” he said. “I don’t want to know.”

(P.S. New Cannondale Evo Super Six, size 56 mm frame with less than 500 miles on it, in almost mint condition, is now for sale for $150 bucks. Message me for details. No refunds.)

END

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