Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Repair Classes

Customers frequently ask if we have repair classes. What most of them don't realize is that they really don't want to take a repair class, they just want to know how to do repairs. They hope that the instructor can sum up two or three decades of experience in one very short presentation which will magically download to their brain all the nuances of procedure we have developed over an entire career devoted to the trivial pursuit of bicycle maintenance and repair.

True, I learned the essentials in a lot less than twenty or thirty years. As with any discipline, you do a lot better with the new stuff if you know something about the old stuff. When I got into bikes, technology had been relatively stable for many years. A lock nut was a lock nut, ball bearings were ball bearings, freewheel ratchets were freewheel ratchets and so forth. I had ample time to master the basics of bearing adjustment and wheel building before the obsessive-compulsive innovators took over in the late 1980s. Thus if I want to teach someone how to work on things now I have to go through some of the simple concepts from back then. Most of these concepts still apply, but they are often deeply buried or thoroughly camouflaged. The novice mechanic will do better knowing they are there and how they work rather than simply working with the new surface.

"Just because you know the latest thing doesn't mean you know everything," as I used to say to smartass punks in the 1990s when they tried to bury me under a pile of articles and hip jargon from bike magazines.

Wow. Magazines. There's a dated reference.

Nothing makes people's eyes glaze faster than a full explanation of how even a simple mechanical thing like a bicycle goes together and works. So where I used to try to rise to the occasion and actually answer people's questions now I grunt and change the subject. Or I give the short, misleading answer instead of the convoluted and boring one because, let's face it, the person who asked wasn't planning on listening to either one.

Most of my bike clientele is glad I know what I know even if they don't want to hear it. They want to see the result in high quality service and good advice. If they wanted to know the details they would have studied them already. Upon occasion a true student arrives. I am ready to respond. But such a student never asks for a repair class. They usually come in with a specific issue because their curiosity and aptitude have already led them into it.

Classes are a symptom of the human tendency to want to fix it and forget it. A bike repair class is like a climbing class or a kayaking class or any of a host of specific activity-related short courses. The participant wants to pay the fee, go in a novice and come out an intermediate, properly instructed.

Almost all school is set up the same way. Kids go in one end. Educated near-adults are supposed to come out the other, equipped with specific knowledge and a standardized version of the facts of life and certain historical events, officially prepared for the next phase of life. Some are, some aren't. Certainly a canned preparation received from an accredited institution is liable to make you think that certain social and national goals are good ideas when in fact they may not be. Because it all happens on a conveyor belt, even if the student tries to jazz it up with some well-thought-out questions and a bit of independent research, they'd better do it within the time allotted -- or faster -- in order to keep up with the rest of their cohort. Otherwise there will be a lot less left on your generation's buffet of opportunities by the time you find your way to it. And these tables have less and less for more and more people as it is.

Actually, those of us who live somewhat outside the norms have certain advantages. We learn skills and live according to our values while avoiding the worst mass hysterics based on unquestioned pre-packaged norms and values. The norm may crush us physically, but we hold sole title to our spirit.

Personally I don't like to talk about nothing but bikes. Much of the time I'd like to talk about anything but bikes. I love to use bikes to get around. I've had some great little adventures on bikes. Riding one adds a lot of good elements to my daily life. But life is life. It's packed with all kinds of things to learn and do. Bikes are part of my Utopian fantasy, but so is personal creativity and a moderate, sustainable lifestyle including local agriculture and a reverence for the local environment wherever you live, not just in the spectacular places or those deemed absolutely necessary to preserve a meager supply of fresh water for a paved-over Hell of Megalopolis.


Steve A said...

I want to take courses on the new stuff like the finicky chains and external bearing cranks that are expensive to simply learn by doing the way we used to learn. Short courses.

cafiend said...

External bearing cranks are easy and fun. I'm surprised the industry has let them hang around this long. Just torque the external bearing housings into your properly faced BB shell to the torque value usually printed somewhere on the bearing units themselves. Then insert the crank axle through the hole in the center (usually attached to the right crank arm) and attach the left crank arm by the appropriate method for that crank. Some use pinch bolts, some use something more like a hollow axle crank bolt similar to those used on ISIS and Octalink BBs.

For tinsel chains that require The Special Pin, Shimano's still use a pin with a leader. Insert them carefully (oh so carefully) with an approved chain tool until the actual chain in is seated with the flared end of the rivet basically flush with the chain outer plate. It should stand out VERY slightly to assure that the side plate stays on. Snap off the leader from the other side of the chain using pliers. It should snap easily. In fact, sometimes the $*&^%^&$!! things snap off as you try to press the pin through the chain. That's why Shi-- No provides two in a package. That and you might drop one down a storm drain or something.

Campagnolo's special pin is a much slicker design (of course). The leader pin looks like a little bullet. It comes apart more smoothly. I see a lot more of other types of chain from companies starting with S than I do Campy.

Chains that use a master link are easy. The Connex chain uses a directional link, but they provide instructions in the package to remind you how it goes until you can remember on your own.

Most manufacturers of tinsel chains recommend that you limit how ooften you remove them during the life of the chain. That shouldn't be a problem since virtually all insects live longer than the cheesy strips of tinfoil called chains these days.

I hope this was helpful :-)

cafiend said...

Inset bearing like BB 30 are a different story. The shell has to be perfect. Some of the coupling methods for the cranks themselves are weird. For example, my local BB30 victim received the frame as a warranty (yay carbon!) along with Specialized's super zoot crank at the time, now referred to as "the old crank." It fits together with a splined interface in the middle of the BB shell. The spider fastens to the right crank arm with a lock ring. Washers and spacers have to be stacked in the right order before the whole mess is torqued together with a bolt buried deep in the center of the divided crank axle. His BB shell has started to deform, causing his crank to start eating bearings even faster than the 10-speed drive train eats chains, and that's saying something.

Steve A said...

Simply understanding all the crud that came along in the last ten years would help a lot. IMO, quill stems are still state of the art and the crank is what TA determined is RIGHT.

All I know is that BB on my Tricross is not what I'm used to, the chain evaporates a lot quicker, but those sealed bearings in the wheels make up for the above a bit. The one constant is brake pads are still simple, though the classic barrel adjuster seems to be a lost item...

trundi said...

Ahhhhhh, those dreaded words, "I took a course." The Stamp of Authority(tm) of the unskilled and unaware of it. We're in for it now.

As for the tinsel chains, just say no. I'll ride Walmart BMX bikes from the Goodwill store before I will subject myself to those. Most people will be just as fast on an old World Traveler anyway.

cafiend said...

Steve -- Surly only went to threadless forks because most of the stem and headset options were shifting to that. As for cranks I'm still farming my supply of 74-110 triples and 130 BCD doubles. But the Bike Industry giveth and the Bike Industry taketh away. If they quit making something, that's the end of it and you must adapt. For a while you can scavenge among NOS and used options.

trundi -- Yes! The Short Course Expert has always bugged the heck out of me. Only I used many other words than heck. As for tinsel chains I don't have anything with more than eight speeds in the back. I still miss the vintage Sedisport chain from the 1970s. SRAM's 6-7-8-speed chains are okay. They are the theoretical heirs to the the Sedisport since Sachs bought Sedis and SRAM bought Sachs.