Monday, August 30, 2010

Attack attack

Back in April I reported on my repair of a mid-1990s Pro Flex Attack with flattened elastomers. I found a couple of elastomers and a spacer to restore the rear suspension to its former travel and height.

A few days ago the bike came back looking like this:

One of the elastomers flattened out like the first set. The other had liquefied. The spacer has disappeared without a trace.

I found a blog on which the writer reported using old inner tube, wrapped and held with zip ties, to replace the absent elastomers on his Pro Flex. We used the technique to fix this one.

What do these people do to liquefy an elastomer? Was somebody playing with a torch? Splashing caustic chemicals around? Storing nuclear waste next to the bike?

Sorry, I didn't grab a pic of the inner tube shock repair. The day turned kind of hectic.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"I found this stuff on line!"

All-carbon Bianchi Mono-Q frame, two pounds


Steel track bars that would withstand a fully-doped Eastern Bloc sprinter from the 1980s, about a pound and a half. Go figure.

Mr. On-line Shopper brought us his prizes to assemble into a bicycle for him.

The fork with alloy steerer and less-than-svelte seat post bring the frame weight to more like four pounds.

Other details to iron out include the braze-on type front derailleur with no frame bracket or adapting clamp.

Cranks, BB, derailleur and brakes are all Campy Record.

I'm really tempted to half-tape those track bars and bury the stem.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The bike shop, of course!

People bring us all sorts of mechanical things to fix. Shown here is one of two drive units from water bikes someone dumped on us this week. Aside from the fact that it has pedals and has the word "bike" in its name, it's not something we can service extensively in our facility. Sure, we could provide a crank arm to replace the one that got mangled because the owner neglected to keep the bolt tight. We could tighten the other crank arm bolts. We aren't set up to dispose of any amount of rusty, water-contaminated heavy gear oil. We had no service manual. Undoing obvious things only got us a little way into the dark, stinking interior.

When I popped the top on this, a smell like an oily sewer oozed forth. The congealed remains of its lubricating oil sat like filthy pudding at the bottom of the casing. I looked in with a flashlight. It's sparse and simple. The chain makes a 90-degree twist to go around the propeller shaft. It seemed tight enough. Everything was rusty, but what do you want? This thing gets used in water. I topped up the oil from a bottle of it the customer had provided.

This is the view deep into the second drive unit. The chain disappears into the sludge. The chain was a little loose on this one, but I couldn't get the prop off to see if there was any way to tighten it from the lower end. The upper end only fastened in one position as far as I could tell. The prop was secured with two set screws, which came out easily, over the ends of a pin, which would not budge. Because the unit still functioned I did not want to risk disabling it if things went wrong while disassembling it. I added oil and closed the lid.

People bring us any pin and roller chain, no matter what size, because it looks like a bike chain. They come to us for cables for everything from lawn mowers to go karts to ultralight aircraft. Of course we get the garden cart wheels, too. The bike shop was the birthplace of modern mass-produced personal transportation. The idea that we can fix anything is not so far-fetched. If we had a better machine shop we could really get crazy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Third Week of August

Third week of August
The peak of insanity
before they all leave.

This is the big one. With two triathlons and the Mt. Washington Hill Climb this weekend, plus a bunch of last hurrah vacationers, bikes in need of immediate attention are piled all around the workshop. I wanted to arrange them as anti-personnel barriers. Before long it became obvious I would only have to let them accumulate naturally to form an impenetrable tangle of metal, plastic and carbon fiber.

Featured guests include a hill climb conversion, two tunes on other bikes from the same family for the same event and a guy who broke a spoke and tried to fix his own wheel by loosening all the other spokes before he surrendered and brought the mess to us. He also disassembled his rear brake pads and lost some parts. Late in the day a woman brought in her snazzy Trek full suspension bike. The rear derailleur bore telltale signs that the man in her life had been trying to "fix" things.

Did I mention that this is all urgent?

The wheel I'm building for a touring bike is on its third day of de-stressing and retensioning. For some reason it is taking a ridiculous amount of time to settle in. Another wheel job waits in the queue. I've built many more than usual this year.

Time to get back in there. After this weekend -- probably by Sunday, in fact -- everyone will suddenly disappear. We'll have repair work, but nothing like this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Harnessing the Medium

The local TV guy has embraced the idea of a program on bicycling. I won't have time to devote to it until early September, but he's cool with that. We had a meeting Wednesday to discuss more of the content and some shooting ideas. He's got some good ones for setting up situations in the empty parking lot of the high school, where his operation is headquartered. We're going to enlist local riders of all ages and types for the various segments.

Because it's a local show, it will feature local situations. I want to come up with material that informs cyclists and motorists without burying them in too much information.

Right now I don't have time to concentrate on it. We haven't cleared the pile at work yet. It should get a lot deeper as the local triathlon and the Mt. Washington Hill Climb approach.

I'm guessing everyone waited until August to see if they would have enough money to go on vacation. It suddenly went insane in town. So now they want it to be a good one. Quick!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August with a vengeance

Between my observation on July 28 that traffic seems light this year and my brief last post, everyone seemed to hit town at once.

Not complaining, just observing: even if you love your work, getting a blast of it so strong you can't even do it all is like having your favorite food shoved down your throat with a toilet plunger. The next idiot who says, "but it's great to be busy, right?" is getting a wrench in the teeth.

The quality of drivers dropped noticeably with the coming of August as well. There are more of them and they resist herding. You have to make early, large moves to control them or give it up and dive for the ditch. I've been making the moves.

Even the crotch-rocket riders are making a late bid to reclaim their badass image.

Bursts of gunfire erupt from neighboring properties around my home. Unlicensed dirt bikes were screeching up and down the road on Saturday. It's so peaceful here.

In the midst of all this the cellist and I celebrated our seventh anniversary on 8-9-10, making it 7-8-9-10. The way the festivities evolved I only had to take an extra half-day away from work. We had a mixed group of musicians ranging from professional to complete novice jamming on the deck for a few hours on Saturday evening. Selections ranged from Beethoven and Pachelbel to Irish jigs, drumming, blues, bluegrass and Jimi Hendrix. Take that, screechy dirt bikers.

On Monday the cellist and I went to dinner and a concert by Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer at Stone Mountain Arts Center, a remarkable little venue in Brownfield, Maine. It's a small place. The performers tend to hang around afterward so you can meet them if you're interested. We certainly were.

Interesting projects wait in the workshop. They're a nice interlude between figuring out snap, crackle pops in expensive carbon fiber road bikes and resurrecting greasy wreckage.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Cure-All

"My bike fell off the car rack as we were driving up a steep hill. It might need a tune-up."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Front Man

Every band needs a front man. He can sing. He's acceptable to look at. Some of them substitute a bizarre charisma for actual good looks. In any case, he has to have crowd appeal.

A bike shop is no different. The front man keeps the customers from bothering the mechanics. Ours is great. He's a true believer in modern cycling technology, so he can stand out there with a big smile and say sincerely that what he's selling is great. He can check in repairs, answer questions and turn a wrench when he gets a chance. If he doesn't get the chance he still intercepts most of the people who interrupt the flow of work through the repair shop.

As July turns into August the flow of work through the repair shop is like a swollen river full of abused bikes jamming against a bridge. We really need to keep mechanics working.

Our front man is about to take a little vacationy trip. He totally deserves it. But that means someone else has to be the front man. On his regular days off almost nothing gets done in the repair shop during the height of summer. We've learned to work around it simply by putting things off. So if you bring a bike in this week, don't expect to see it until sometime between the 13th and the 20th.

If, by chance, people suddenly stop dragging their ailing hardware in here we will be able to turn things around more quickly. A tattered sign on the wall behind some tools on the pegboard reads, "It's ready when it's RIGHT." In smaller letters it says, "or as right as you can make it." This acknowledges that for several reasons we can't always achieve perfection. But the primary goal is always solid work that won't hurt the customer or embarrass us. I can't say I like all the customers, but I absolutely hate to be embarrassed.

On the worst days I chant monotonous profanity as I try to uphold the quality standard against the insistent schedule of the vacationing enthusiast. There's no time to enjoy the challenges because each runs into the next. Then the day ends and I grind slowly out the back streets that the rich, the famous and the colorful seldom use, riding out into the countryside they never see.