I took Stompy over to the shop which sponsors Team Slow. They allow team members to come in with advance notice to do simple upkeep on their bikes. It's true that I can do many things at home, but in the winter it is downright uninspiring, not to mention uncomfortable, to replace one's headset in an uninsulated shed with poor lighting. So off I went to Crank.
Typically, if a shop sponsors a racing club, the shop's mechanics will perform major work on the team's bikes. (Major work covers anything that requires large, specialty tools not found in most home workshops -- like a headset press and crown race remover, for example.) However, the fellas at Crank extended to me what I thought was a lovely and very respectful courtesy, by allowing me, someone who is not only a team member but also a shop mechanic, to come behind the counter and use their tools to perform the job myself. I needed help finding a few things but otherwise was left to my own devices. I dutifully wiped down any tools I'd used, put them all back where I'd fund them, and left the shop after a short time pleasantly socializing (Crank is a small shop with limited wrench space and although it was slow today I did not want to overextend my stay).
I brought with me one of the last new-old stock parts from the box I'd inherited from Quinn, the fellow I'd apprenticed with back in 1994. When he died several years ago I inherited a large box of new-old bike parts, some from the 1980's and 90's which had never been opened. Nothing super-fancy but perfectly useable, like the headset I swapped in this afternoon. The stock headset that had come with my MonoCog was two and half seasons old and had been in the frame for about a year and a half too long; the top bearing cup was dented from all the front-end impacts of two seasons of short-track and cyclocross racing on a fully-rigid frameset.
The new headset isn't tons better -- it's lighter, wth more aluminum, and it's ugly and tanklike the way many headsets from the mid-90's were -- but it should easily get me through this year and that is really all I care about for now. I ejoyed puttering in someone else's shop, getting the feel of the vibe and feeling my way around the different tool layout. One thing that was harder for me is that all of Crank's repair stands are set up for guys who are at least 5' 11" or taller. At 5' 7" my neck was craning upwards a lot. But it was not a huge deal for so short a time and I managed just fine.
It was such a nice thing, to feel the respect of fellow mechanics. It is a courtesy that I do not take for granted, and something that I am glad to feel that I've earned after all my years working in the bike industry.
I will be racing this summer in the orange-and-black of Team Slow, on Stompy. I had planned on upgrading to a 700c-wheeled singlespeed frame for at least cyclocross season; but the cost of setting it up was going to render the project financially silly as soon as it became clear that my hours at work were going to change. I am selling the framset and various assembled parts to another racer and some more love and a few new parts into Stompy, which continues to behave like a perfectly fine bike.
My knees have been bothering me this winter, giving out the highly noticeable and occasionally annoying creaks and groans of middle age. These hint at the strong possibility that 2012 may be my final season racing on a singlespeed bike. There is a Bridgestone mountain bike in the pipeline if I decide that I need to switch to a multi-geared bike, but I would like to race singlespeed for the entire summer so that I haveeven a small chance of qualifying for the womens' singlespeed podium at series end. (A gal can dream, right? and besides, I got fourth overall last year.)
Racing at all during cyclocross season appears somewhat doubtful at this point. The aforementioned job schedule changes looming on the horizon may make it impossible for me to free up enough Sundays next fall to make the expense and effort of 'cross worthwhile; and while there is now an established Saturday 'cross series I am not especially fond of racing on Shabbat (the only exception I plan to make this year will be for short-track championships, being held up on Mt. Hood on June 30; and then only if I can work out transportation). For cyclocross season, I may just go out and cheer my teammates on an occasional Saturday afternoon next fall and call it good.
So it looks like my racing season will focus almost solely on the PIR short-track series, which begins on June 4 this year. Once again, I will race in the womens' Singlespeed category. Stompy will be ready. And once again, I will have fun no matter where I finish.