Monday, August 10, 2020

The Woman with Exploding Nipples

 It could happen to anyone with a low-spoke-count, highly tensioned wheel with trendy alloy nipples. They start popping without warning. This customer had come in a couple of times already for single incidents of nipple failure.

This rear wheel had 27 spokes: nine on the left side, 18 on the right. The rims were a little deep, but not hard to work with. Weird-looking wheels are part of what makes a bike look modern.

To begin, I had to remove the tire. Because it wasn't a punctured tire, I went to remove it without tools. When I pushed down on the wheel to work the bead around, another nipple exploded. I called the customer to let her know we were going to do a complete nipple transplant, not just an individual replacement.

On the stand, two more nipples popped when I put a wrench on them to start loosening them. This wheel had been a real time bomb. Imagine ripping down a bumpy descent when one spoke after another detaches from the rim.

Fortunately, the diameter and thread on the bladed spokes matched the DT brass nipples I was planning to use. And the low spoke count made the swap less time consuming. I would never ride a low-count wheel myself, but I appreciate the time I save on jobs like this.

This has also been the Summer of Forgotten Through Axles. We've had several in a row. A rider calls up and asks if we have through axles in stock. We explain that there are different kinds (of course). They're not sure of the brand and type. We figure it out. We had one kicking around from a previous customer's special order that they then declined to pick up. We've accumulated one or two more, to try to cover some of the possibilities.

Next up on the list of modern problems, a mother and daughter had to forgo their bike ride because they had forgotten the keys to their ebikes, turning them into nothing more than immensely heavy regular pedal bikes. You can just ride them that way. It's a common claim in the advertising. But who would? No one, actually, unless they get caught out with a dead battery and have no one to call to pick them up.

Problems like this are right up there with forgetting the charger for your shifters. If you have electronic derailleurs and a dead battery, you got nothin'. 

There's still plenty of good old abuse and neglect to keep us busy. I figured out that the handlebar tape on these bars was about 15 years old when I removed it the other day.

The bars themselves were old enough and had been through enough rough use that I recommended replacement. The last bars I saw that had that much salt and oxidation encrusting them had been on a bike that had lived in Singapore for a year or two. Those bars were so deteriorated that I could poke a screwdriver right through them. These bars were nowhere near that level of deterioration, but still a risk according to most manufacturer recommendations. Better to be safe. It also gave us a good opportunity to put on a much shorter stem for the new rider of the bike.

Accidents will happen. One of the local ebike aficionados took a digger on their chunky steed. The owner called to see if we would work on it. To make it easier, he had contacted the president of the company that made the bike to hook us up with a direct pipeline to parts and advice. With clout like that, ebike ownership is smooth sailing indeed. When a bike weighs upwards of 60 pounds, it hits the ground with more force than a bike weighing less than 30. It also hits a rider with more force, should you happen to get on the wrong side of things as they're going every which way. The rider was apparently not hurt badly enough to be worth mentioning, so that's good. I was just musing about it as I looked at what was scuffed and tweaked.

The trickiest part will be replacing the battery case, which is cleverly inserted into the welded rear rack on this Pedego bike. It has thick cabling inserted into it, and has an irregular shape that does not appear to slide easily out of either end of the framework of the rack. The screws that hold it in place broke loose when the bike crashed, because they were never designed to restrain such a heavy piece of equipment in an impact at an angle. The good news is that the owner of the bike doesn't need it fixed instantaneously. We can put it off for at least a week or two before getting mired in its complexities.


Justine Valinotti said...

The handlebar is almost a work of art!

One of the stupidest things I ever did was to buy a low-spoke count fixed gear wheel--with alloy nipples. A fixed gear strains spokes even more than a freewheel, especially if your braking system consists partially or completely of your legs!

Steve A said...

Except for the corrosion, I'd put new tape over the old tape - softer on the hands. I Really like Fizik tape covering over some low-end padded tape.

cafiend said...

The old tape was extremely gross and patched with other tape. It had more than a decade of sweat dried into it.

cafiend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orang Basikal said...

The observation about forgetting your charger for your electronic shifters reminds me of my thoughts recently on seeing "smart" bike locks that communicate with your smartphone. Imagine your phone battery going dead while you're out on a ride and you can't lock up your bike -- or unlock it.

RANTWICK said...

My vote for this year's most attention grabbing post title, hands down.