Tuesday, April 23, 2013

pure wrenching, part three: GT tachyon semi-roadie

This one was sweet. A petite friend's equally petite GT Tachyon from 2010, in for a tune-up, that cleaned up and trued up beautifully, even though it needed new brake pads and a front derailleur cable.

A gorgeous day for wrenching at home: high of 70F and I'm in shorts and a t-shirt, rocking out to the NanoPod (except when I have to listen closely for brake pad rub).

Oddity: My Pedro's gear-cleaning brush has disintegrated without explanation. The plastic holding the bristles in place cracked on three of four sides and bristles simply fell out. A reaction to cituss-based cleaning solvent? The weather? Doubtful on either count. I will take the brush to a shop that sells Pedro's and get a swap, I suppose. Used to be I'd wrap this stuff up and send it back to the manufacturer, but anymore I prefer the quick fix.

It's still so quietly satisfying to work on bikes. I'm still quick, even at my own relaxed pace without the pressures of retail. There's a lovely feeling in the heft of a good wrench, the right amount of torque to tighten a bolt, the ability to eyeball a problem and solve it on the spot. I know that someday I may not want, or be able to, do this anymore, even for fun. Right now I'm glad I still can.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

pure wrenchng, part two: 2001 trek hybrid

Today I tuned up a 12-year-old Trek hybrid for a friend who'd hired me to throw some love at his bike. It mstly went fine, though The rear wheel was installed with the skewer backwards (and missing its quick-release springs) in order to accommodate a very old trailer hitch. There was really no way to accommodate the trailer hitch without compromising the position of the rear axle in the dropouts, so I made an executive decision and removed it.

The rear rack had been destroyed by twelve years of overloading. The main vertical struts were bent back on themselves and the rack leaned to one side because my friend insists on carrying all of his stuff in one very heavily overloaded pannier rather than balancing the load between two ("It's inconvenient," he told me, "and it has to be convenient or I won't ride." I used to hear stuff like this from customer all the time so I just shrugged and nodded.). I replaced the rack with a NOS stock model I'd been sitting on in the stash. The new rack, more sturdily built than what it replaced, made it even harder to put the trailer hitch back. I hoped this would be enough to dissuade him from using this hitch again.

As I worked, cleaning the drive-train, lightly sanding the brake pads and tightening the brakes up a bit, and thoroughly cleaning the bike all over, I listened to music from a Nano stashed in my workshirt pocket, with the cable running up by back to earbuds. It was actually pretty nice to work this way as long as I wasn't doing anything that requires close listening. (I turned off the music and pulled out the earbuds when it was time to true the wheels.)

The whole thing took two hours including replacing the rack, and gave me some quiet time that was not focused on my album or on Jewish work. I'm glad for the sense of balance this occasional at-home wrenching work gives me. And it's nice to be able to help my friends.

My friend picked up his bike, frowned at the news about the trainer hitch, and frowned harder when I gently told him I would not put things back the way they'd been and re-install the hitch. "It's my job as your mechanic to tell you that this is unsafe. Please find another way to carry your groceries (like, I dunno, a second pannier, maybe?)."

He shrugged noncommittally. Something in his look suggested he might take matters into his own hands when he got back home. I advised him that if he chose to undo my work I could not help responsible if anything happened. I really wanted him to be safe and find another trailer hitch. He said he'd think about it, thanked me for my help and rode home.

Thankfully, I'm not doing this for a living anymore so I don't have to document everything to within an inch of its life. But it always blows my mind when someone entrusts me to work on their bike, knows I've been doing this for a long time, and still wants me to do something less than totally safe on their bikes for the sake of convenience.

I have another repair favor scheduled for next week.
Happy riding!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

everything new is already old

Thanks to another magazine subscription choice that I made before leaving the bike industry, the latest issue of Dirt Rag arrived in my mailbox over the weekend.

I like off-road riding, even if the only time I ever get to go is when I'm racing short-track at PIR. I don't own a car, and I'm busy most weekends now, so going up to Sandy Ridge and other sites out of the city is simply not a practical option for me. Mountain biking was never a big part of my life to begin with, and my career transition has made it smaller still.

So as I flipped through the pages of the April 2013 Dirt Rag tonight, I was aware that I looked at the articles with a different mindset now.

Super-Fat-tired bikes look like a ton of fun -- and very highly prices for how practical they would be for me.

The new mountain bikes with 27.5-inch wheels seemed like another equally unnecessary cousin to the 650b wheel. And equally expensive.

A look back at the Cyclocross World Championships -- the first ever held outside of Europe -- showed me how organized and "pro" things in 'cross have become in only a few short years' time.
A related article discussed rule changes for the 2013 'cross season, including no more beer or money hand-ups at any USA Cycling sanctioned races. So Cyclocross is becoming more organized AND less fun. Add in the ongoing attempts by USA Cycling to shut down OBRA and it would appear that I left cyclocross just in time.

The other night, Sweetie looked at me and said, "You have to race short-track at least a couple of times in July, right? Please?" I know it gives her pleasure to watch me race, and she doesn't care if I finish dead last. But if I accept both out of town gigs in June and take a much-needed week of rest when I get back, I fear I will only have energy to race the final week. And it won't be pretty. Worse, it will feel silly to only show up for the final race of the series. But I promised her I'd give it some thought. Still, I don't feel excited at the prospect right now.

I am looking at the bicycle industry and all its most recent developments as if it's some kind of overblown arms race. And I find myself more and more disgusted with it all, the unsustainability of it. I find no excitement in the latest doo-dads anymore. I have the bikes I have, and they work fine, and they fit me quite well and I'm happy with what I have.

Someday I'd like to be able to afford to install a lightweight, efficient electric-assist unit on my cargo bike. But other than that I'm all set.

It has been fascinating to watch this transition in my mind and heart. Not sad, just really fascinating.

Friday, April 5, 2013

zo bags and the hype of fake beausage

Seen on eBay this week:

That's a genuine Zo messenger bag, currently on sale for an opening bid of $350.00.
Comes with rips, tears, and faded graffiti that only adds to the bag's mystique. If you buy it, you can claim the beausage ("beauty-through-usage", as defined by Grant Peterson) for yourself.
However, if you are over fifty and have a head full of gray hair, no one is going to believe that you are the first owner of this bag. Even if you ever really were a bicycle messenger at some point in the past.

Phew. Saved from false vanity yet again.

Still, I bet some sucker is going to buy this bag.

A co-worker of mine from the bike shop found a Zo bag a couple of years ago at a local used sporting goods store. They didn't know what they had because she ended up paying twenty bucks for it. Then she flipped it for two hundred bucks on eBay -- to some kid in Japan who wanted a piece of American Messenger Mystique for his very own.

The market blows my mind some days.