Sunday, August 09, 2009

Interesting Week

This week brought in a higher class of broken bike. Victims included a hill climb conversion on a Trek Madone 5-point-something-or-other and a Klein Carbon something with a frame actually made of aluminum. It's all a blur.

The Madone needed an entire drive train. Because the front derailleur mounts to a bracket at a fixed height, it hangs a couple of centimeters above the requested chain ring. On a test ride it miraculously did not toss the chain off the high side or the low side. That doesn't mean it won't, at a critical time.

The Klein turned out to have a crack in the frame where the brake housing exits near the seat tube. The bike has internally-routed cables. The crack originates in the dent made to accommodate the cable exit. It could have been there from the beginning. The bike lives in California. I had never needed to look into that particular part of its frame on any previous visits.

The $12,000 beater bike
came in, chasing down some front derailleur issues left over from its overhaul last fall. I thought I'd cured it with an old Deore relic, but that wasn't holding up. I'd tried some offbeat cable routing to see if I could conquer the compatibility issues between Shimano road and mountain drive train components. The anchor point that gave the best shifting required wrists of steel when twisting the shift lever on that brifter. A new Tiagra derailleur seems to have taken care of all the problems. Maybe.

Shimano seems to be relegating 9-speed road componentry to middle- and low-end status. Ultegra 9-speed brifters are out of stock and discontinued at Quality. You can still get R600, which by price appears to be Ultegra level, but the trend is clear. Shimano has a way of punishing their regular customers. That attitude infected most of the bike industry in the 1990s.

Continuing the 9-speed theme, another customer dropped in with a bike we'd recently tuned for his son or son-in-law. This rider had no road experience. He was using step-in pedals for the first time. The release was cranked as tight as it would go. He shied away from passing traffic, went off the road and pile drove the shifters into the ditch. He's fine and the bike appeared relatively unhurt, but the right Ultegra 9-speed brifter had apparently taken too hard a shot along with too much sand. The owner of the bike wants the levers to match, so he ordered a complete lever set instead of just a replacement right unit.

More and more customers are listening a moment longer than they used to when I extol the virtues of friction-shifting barcons.

Vacationers bring their urgent deadlines. Today we did a bash-and-tweak on some wheels from bikes that were on the rack when the family SUV got rear-ended in a small pileup on Interstate 93. Let's hear it for disk brakes! The rims just have to be straight enough to fit through the frame. The wheels actually came out better than that. And bash and tweak is such a stress reliever. No one expects perfection, so swing away.

After a week of long days and hard commutes I feel like Indiana Jones when he shot that big guy with the two swords in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have no finesse left. Just stay out of my way.


RANTWICK said...

I think you do a pretty damn good job of describing high-end owning customers without ridiculing them. In many ways I am beginning to think that my bikes, built up with good-not-great componentry on mid-level, sometimes used frames are every bit the equal of high-end but under-loved bikes.

In some schlocky way I feel like my bikes know I love them rather than just own them.

RCMC467 said...

Wow...sounds like you had a really tough week. Look at it this way though; at least you're busy. The mattress business, my business, is dead all over, but especially here in "The Valley of the Sun." I spend 40-50 hours a week WAITING; waiting for the customer who does not show.

By the way, do you know if there is a friction-shift version of shifters available to replace the rapid-fire-8 speed shifters on my Yukon?

Here's hoping this week is better for you--for all of us.

RCMC467 said...

Maybe, if you watch a little bit of cycling video, special video, you'll feel better about your week (1:36).

cafiend said...

RCMC467, it's interesting to find out what parts of the economy are moving and what aren't. We're doing a lot of service work, but that's not enough to support the whole shop. New bikes sales are spotty. Clothing sales are slow. Panic discounts don't stimulate spending much and erode our working margin, further weakening our future position.

XC skiing and cycling are weather-dependent as well as at the mercy of both economic conditions and the low level of interest in physical activity. We have problems even in good economies and strangely can sidestep some recessions, as we did when selling mountain bikes during the recession of the 1990s.
Top-mount friction shifters are available. Most are low-end, friction only. You can also buy Paul Thumbies or a similar mount to convert a barcon to top-mount positioning. They're generally pricier.
I enjoy a good workshop challenge. It isn't as much fun as it used to be, because it seems like I just crawl out at the end of the day with little acknowledgment, but the problem solving can be fun.
Nice video.

cafiend said...

Rantwick, our custom bikes are every bit as cool as the high-priced spread. Our ingenuity lets us build for the ages much more than the riders who buy the latest greatest, only to see it abandoned by the manufacturer in a few years at most.

Sometimes I like to just sit and look at them.

RCMC467 said...

Is it just me, or are women in their cars more dangerous to cyclists than men? Twice in the last week I have been passed while in a left turn lane (after checking traffic and signalling), at speed and on the right, by a woman who then cut in front of me to wait at the light ahead of me, she thought; for I of course made it to the front of the line, as well.

This morning, the Q-tip who did this passed within a foot of me.

When I pointed out to her the error of her ways, pointed with only one finger toward heaven of course, she returned the gesture. What a mean old bag--emphatically.

So, are we more at risk from women drivers, or is it just my bad luck?

cafiend said...

I hate to profile for a couple of reasons. First and most importantly, one must always remember that any driver can be a dipstick. Second, hell hath no fury like a woman stereotyped. We must respect all people's right, whatever their gender or other superficial characteristics, to be a total asshat. If they're in a car, be ready for anything.