Thursday, July 27, 2006

Just Another Day

Walked in first thing to find the typical home mechanic who has completely disassembled his freewheel while trying to figure out how to remove it. He has the parts in a plastic bag: a thirty-gallon garbage bag. Except for the little galaxy of eighth-inch ball bearings. Those are all stuffed inside the hub shell.

"Doc, I tried to take my own appendix out. That's not my appendix, is it? And is this much bleeding normal? Am I in trouble? The room is getting dark."

Actually, this guy was a really good sport. We figured out how to straighten out his situation, but then he decided to just buy a new bike instead. He'll bring in the mutilated body of his old one for me to reanimate at my leisure.

Short Honeymoon

We didn't get to enjoy Floyd Landis's accomplishment for long.

Maybe he is a manlier man than most. One could hardly doubt it. Testosterone flows in his veins.

I'm going to try to round up sponsors for a pro team called The False Positives.

"It's a chemical imbalance, man. I was born this way."

Just raise the thresholds on all the banned substances. Keep nudging it up until rider use plateaus or they start dying spectacularly from side effects.

Create a Pure Health and Nutrition League for the riders who either really want to ride clean or really want to keep working really hard to preserve the illusion of it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Componentry Chess

When Shimano first introduced their cartridge bottom brackets, they made one core size and put different ends on for 68 or 73 bottom bracket shells. Parts suppliers like Quality listed the end pieces as repair parts, so a mechanic could theoretically turn one size into the other. But just as we planned to stock only one size run of complete BBs and a handful of adapters, Shimano noticed what they'd done. They built the drive-side threads into the body of the BB cartridge.

Once in a while we can play our old game with some old stock, but we have to scavenge.

Fight the corporate power, man.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hope (and Floyd) Springs Eternal

Emotional rollercoasters like the last three days of the Tour keep me from developing favorites. Landis is on top! Landis is crushed! Landis springs back in one of the most amazing rides in Tour history!

This is a great year for the race because there were no powerful favorites. I actually read someone's blog or forum post early in July complaining that the race would be too boring to watch because of this. But a wide-open race is anything but boring.

I'll be at my parents' this weekend, where they have steadfastly resisted getting broadband. I may just have to go hang out at the local telegraph office and wait for the Morse code to come in. They might have OLN, but I've gotten hooked on the internet feed.

Teaching the power of the pedal

On the morning commute I had to stop for a small work zone just inside the built-up area of town. Right in front of me was a school bus. Just hand it right to me, why don't you?

As soon as the traffic controller turned the sign I started winding up a big gear. My coworker Adam had met up with me on the commute, but he was a little too slow to catch the pocket. Sorry, Adam. A good draft supersedes camaraderie.

I saw Adam reflected in the bus windows for a while, but he couldn't quite bridge the gap. I felt a little guilty, but you know how it is. Once you start you don't want to stop until it's over.

Kids gathered at the back of the bus. Don't try this until you're old enough for society to consider you disposable, kids! But take note: I'm doing 40 mph, coasting. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Landis finishes under Karpets

Not to make light of what had to be a hard, agonizing day in the saddle. I just can't resist the pun.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Remember it's a drama

It's too easy to get sucked into the agony of someone else's struggle. You may forget that it's their business, not yours, how well they do at the challenge they have chosen. No matter how much you want it for them, they have to do the work to get it.

I don't follow any sport very closely. I've got my own ups and downs, thank you. But a long story like a stage race, particularly one as conveniently packaged as the Tour, is an allegorical play in 20 acts. I may not watch them all, too tempted to choose a champion, but the spectacle is there to enjoy in manageable doses.

(Go, Floyd.)

Oh, Schleck!

Way to hammer! Frank Schleck of CSC joins the roll call of stage winners on L'Alpe d'Huez.

Floyd Landis back in yellow.

Tomorrow they get to tool up the Col du Galibier to start their day.

It's a long way to Paris. One pedal stroke at a time.

Comparing Coverage

Eurosport says, "Voigt crashes! The German slides in the rain!"

OLN simply says, "Voigt dropped from the lead group." Yawn.

Lookin' in on Le Tour

According to OLN's website, the leaders averaged faster than 31 miles per hour racing toward the Col d'Izoard and maintained more than 28 mph in the second hour of riding. By the third hour the average had dropped to a hair under 25. Slackers.

They ride in a different world.

Egoi Martinez crashed, was treated by the team doctor and resumed the race. Later, Maxim Iglinskiy of Milram crashed and also resumed racing. According to the report, a radio car missed him by centimeters.

When you race you know you will go down once in a while. The scars on elbows, the sides of your knees, your hips, they're all just like Bondo on a race car. Fill in the dings, touch up the paint, see you next week. Yeah, but it's also like driving the race car to work or racing the family car, hard, in a tight field when it's your body taking the dents. You have to live the rest of your life between races.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Speaking of Toe Clips

Listening to the Eurosport audio feed of the Tour the other day, I heard one of the commentators say that the Mavic neutral support bikes have clip-and-strap pedals because they can't provide all the different step-in pedal options the different teams use. With a toe strap, the rider in need can have some sort of connection to the pedal, however uncomfortable.

Fancy that.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Short, Clear Messages

Most of us riding on the road are not racing as professionals or even amateurs. Why should we wear the logos of companies and teams that don't even know we exist? We can put that space on our jersies to better use.

Remember that you only have a few seconds to get your point across. Keep it short.

Crowded New England roads inspire phrases like, "It's not my fault your car is too big," or, "You CHOSE to drive."

For protective coloration, how about logos from Smith & Wesson or Sturm, Ruger? Or just settle for a big NRA logo with the words "Armed Citizen" wrapped around it. It doesn't have to be true any more than the threatening color patterns of certain insects mean that they really have the exaggerated features they simulate.

How about a jersey that says "Undiagnosed Psychopath"?

How about "Run! The pin fell out!!"

Or, "Caution: Projectile Vomiting"

Or you could wear an ad from a local personal injury lawyer, with the words, "do you feel lucky?"

The possibilities go on and on, but I have to charge off to work.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Look what the cat dragged in

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Smoked E-Bike, Anyone?

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Where to begin when you can't even remember the beginning?

Raise your hand if you can remember what you were doing on Monday.

Everything I've worked on has been weird this week. The most normal jobs were two tuneups for a couple of members of what we call The Sliding Board Club. They're both middle-aged gentlemen, quite tall, who ride with their saddles tilted down about 40 degrees at the nose. They absolutely forbid us to change the angle and refuse to discuss the matter. It makes their bikes incredibly uncomfortable to test-ride after repairs.

A portly lawyer brought us his trusy Cannondale hybrid for an overhaul. When he rode off on it afterwards, he returned immediately to say it skipped. I asked him a few questions about shifting under load, and whether he might be torquing on the Gripshift while riding up the steep hill headed out of town. He assured me he was not.

I could not make it skip. Ralph, pushing 190 pounds, couldn't make it skip. Our customer could make it skip, but not in front of us.

I wondered whether he might just have Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy through his bike, but it turned out his shift cable was just the tiniest tad too snug. Why he could get it to cause problems when Ralph and I could not is still a mystery. It was the faintest bit out of adjustment. We do aim for perfection.

We also continued to deal with the ongoing saga of a Cannondale T2000 with a treacherous shudder caused by the front brakes. The problem appeared after its first ride in wet conditions, following 600 trouble-free kilometers in France, during which time the weather had happened to be dry. After trying three or four different sets of brake pads at all angles including the absurd, two or three different wheels, disassembling and reassembling the brakes, cleaning rims, checking and rechecking the headset and pretty much anything else you could imagine might be remotely related, we had decided the problem was simply demonic possession. We asked Cannondale to recommend a brand of holy water and a good exorcist.

You don't make any money on a situation like that. It was a new bike. Cannondale is now willing to issue a replacement fork or complete bike, but we have hours into this job. We'll have more hours putting in a fork or assembling a replacement bike with all the racks and doodads this genuine tourist uses on his bike.

Into the midst of this chaos came an E-Bike owned by a captain of industry who has a summer home in town. I guess he's buddies with Iacocca. He started amassing a fleet of E-Bikes starting back in the second half of the 1990s. Someone said he has about 14 of them now. The one he brought in had an undetermined electrical problem that cropped up after he changed a battery in it. He gave us the number of his electric bike guru in New York City and said the man could talk us through any repairs the bike might need.

I got into bikes because they didn't have electrics or hydraulics. Everything was simple and straightforward. Ah, that was then.

Bear in mind that E-Bikes weigh about 65 pounds. I would start the job, hit a snag, put in a call to Bert Cebular at NYCEwheels, put another repair on the stand, get a call back from Bert (who is also a busy guy), write down his suggested procedure, try to finish the repair I'd started when I set aside the E-Bike, move it off the stand, bring the E-Bike back over, delve a little deeper, hit another snag, make another call, as the other mechanics went through their own maneuvers in the tight confines of our workshop.

At one point I was trading back and forth between the ungainly, massive E-Bike and a delicate, featherweight Cervelo triathlon bike. All in a day's work.

When I got deep enough into the E-Bike, I could see where flames had actually shot out from inside some piece of circuitry. Bert has not returned that call yet.

This day followed yesterday, when I got up at 5 a.m. to get out of the house by 6. My car had started making that smell you always hope is coming from someone else's car, so I wanted to drive it over to my auto wizard with enough time to ride the 27 miles from his shop to mine by 9 a.m. So, out the door just after 6, drive 42 miles to Gilford, drop the car with a key and a note, hop on the bike, ride back to Wolfe City as fast as I can manage, work the full day and ride the last 17 miles home.

Actually, before I could leave town I had to ride back and forth across the village on a couple of errands. As I came up Main Street the final time, just as I set up to turn onto the side street that would take me out toward the highway headed home, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a car out of control. It wasn't the shrill screech of locked brakes, it was the low moan of tires overloaded sideways. I looked up to see a small black pickup truck just getting launched into the air as it hit a car in front of it. The truck came down on its left-side wheels and careened across the lane. It looked like it had to flip over. Because I was already committed to my turn, I did not get to see it land. By the time I popped back out onto Main Street the truck had come to rest upright in the front yard of the Wolfeboro Inn. A cloud of dust and tire smoke spread over the scene. Bystanders gathered from the large crowd already on hand. It was amazing none of them got mowed down.

I moseyed up the street for a closer look. A Cadillac sedan sat crosswise in the end of Sewall Road. The pickup had apparently slammed into the corner of its trunk, launching the truck and spinning the Caddy right around.

No one appeared to be injured. I called Ralph to see if he wanted to get some news photos. Then I trudged off toward my own home. I'd had enough for one day.

The fun continues tomorrow.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Special Bonus

Flipping through the channels last night I discovered OLN on the free sample channel my cable provider uses to tease people into buying upgrades. There was Stage 6 of the Tour de France.

Ignoring the hype and Trek ads, it was great just to watch the riders. It's nice to be reminded that the pros are human. They twitch and fidget, stand up for a few pedal strokes, stretch their legs and chat with each other. There is obviously no perfect position in which a rider can remain constantly while grinding out the miles or kilometers of a long day.

At a quick glance I saw no one with the saddle nose down, and many with it slightly up.

I wasn't paying much attention to who was who, so I'm not sure who I was watching as the middle rider of a group of three sat up to take off a jacket. He continued to follow the rider in front of him, less than a foot off his wheel. The last rider in line continued to draft the one riding with no hands, all of them straight and smooth. Just another day at work. Professional rider. Closed course. Do not attempt.

Of course they do crash, for reasons both obvious and unclear. Just not right then.

Maybe it will be on again tonight.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cars RULE....right?

Don't you just love those motorists who see you on your bike in front of them and automatically assume they can get out of a stop sign or a light faster than you can?

I had one behind me this morning when I got to Route 16 at the end of Elm Street. This honky just had to lay on the beeper to try to get me out of his way. I gave a big goofy wave and a sarcastic "Hi there!!!", spotted my gap and shot away.

I imagine the lesson was lost on this motor moron, but it was fun to give it anyway.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


We keep getting these repair jobs that are like the Vietnam War. We start them thinking they'll be straightforward, if a little complicated. Next thing we know we've suffered heavy losses we can ill afford and we're no nearer victory. Meanwhile we're honor bound to stay in and try to win.

We also call these Bikes from Hell.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Workload, part deux

Even with high ideals in mind, the full frenzy of the summer overload is like having a dump truck full of derelict bikes emptied over you. Using only the tools and parts you can find close to you, you have eight hours to turn the crazy pile into neat rows of repaired bikes so you can climb out.

The pace will slacken from time to time, but you hope to hear the backup beeper of the next truck before too long. If you don't work too hard in summer you may eat too little in a cold house come winter.

It does put the summer on fast forward. That part stinks. But all you can do is keep examining the balance sheet of your life. Everything has drawbacks. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Is it still worth it? Yes? Carry on. No? Bail out. Meanwhile, keep working. That tangled heap of distressed wreckage in the basement isn't going to fix itself.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Workload

The big problem with a seasonal work load is not that we get a bunch of work dumped on us. I hate that it's a banquet of perishable delights, some of which must surely spoil before they can be savored.

Every repair that comes in, every assembly to be done is a chance to do something perfect. But I can't work any faster than the speed of accuracy. Some of these jobs will slip through my fingers.

I used to get really wound up over quality control for the whole shop, but I burned out on that last year when I was forcibly reminded that I have no real power except over what is right under my hands. Who knows, I may lose even that. It certainly demands all my attention. If I let myself get distracted by what anyone else says or does I will make mistakes I can't permit myself to make.

In tourist towns we have two positions: overworked and unemployed. I wish it could be spread out more evenly. I actually don't mind a little leisure when the rush is over, but I hate missing an opportunity to do good work on all the work that comes in. Even if a customer is an unreasonable schmuck who treats us like the hired help, I can't enjoy cutting corners. Ultimately, your work speaks for itself. Months later it will be miles away, but it will still have your fingerprints on it.