Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Belt and Suspenders

A customer brought in an old Fuji hybrid he had recently purchased from a yard sale. He wanted only the most basic adjustments, of course.

When I attempted to remove the front wheel I discovered that someone at some time had moved the lock nuts from the inside of the fork -- locking the bearing cones -- to the outside of the fork, acting as axle nuts. Opening the quick release lever did not release the axle, although the misplaced lock nuts did not tighten adequately on the axle threads to secure the wheel without the help of the quick release cam. The creative nut placement also squeezed the fork down from its proper 100 millimeter inside width to about 94 mm. The bearing cones, improperly secured, were ground down tight against the ball bearings so the axle would barely turn. But the wheel was not going to fall out.

Some older or cheaper bikes have used the axle nut as a lock nut for the bearing cone from the outside of the fork, but usually with coarser threads and definitely on a solid axle. It sort of works for them.

Ever the obsessive-compulsive fixer, I put the lock nuts where they belonged and spread the fork to the correct width. Even a piece of crap should be the best piece of crap it can possibly be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Product Testing

Sometimes I get to test products for a local guy who runs a business torturing gear for companies that hire him to work out the bugs in prototypes or redesigns of existing products. Usually it's footwear.

Last week he gave me a pair of Converse All Stars. Apparently, Converse is changing the sole material in the venerable sneaker. As it happens, I need new shop shoes, so I jumped at the chance to get some for free.

GOD, they're uncomfortable.

This time I guess I'm testing for nothing. I won't use my ticket for free shoes after I turn in my test pair. After a day on my feet in these I'm actually eager to stuff my feet into my cycling shoes. I'll meet my obligation to beat these to death, but it feels like work.

I can't complain. Last year I got a really nice pair of waders. I use them for river testing. I've also gotten a couple of pairs of slip-on indoor-outdoor shoes. And occasionally a prototype fails, like when I stepped on a measly little twig and it pierced right through the sole of a pair of hiking sneakers. Those got called back immediately. Too bad. They were comfortable and good-looking. I never got to see the improved version.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just a couple of items from the busy week of summer

This summer has not been good enough to come anywhere close to filling the holes from last winter. For the most part we have only seen the kind of people who actually increase their holdings during a tough economy. Bless their little hearts for trickling on us, but it won't keep us well hydrated for more than a few days after they scamper off to their other homes.

Except for a few brief flurries we've seen no real rush periods this summer. With our reduced staff even a small flurry ties us up completely, but we have not been buried in work the way we expect to be in an average year. But this particular week in August always brings a big peak.  This weekend in August always sees the convergence of our local triathlon (the Granite Man), a bigger triathlon across the lake (the Timber Man) and the Mount Washington Hill Climb. We had bikes to convert to hill climbing mode, road bike rentals for the Granite Man, emergency repairs in the day or two prior to all these events, and an influx of vacationers hitting the last week before the early schools start.

Mid-week I was putting some period-appropriate gumwall tires on a Sears Free Spirit three-speed from the early 1970s. It wasn't too crappy for an American department store bike, and it had this classy crest on the chain guard.
I'm not sure what those creatures are supposed to be or why the fleur-de-lys is upside down, but it's more interesting than a lot of the graphics you see these days. At least they're trying to evoke some impression of a pedigree.

Another bike in the queue showed up with this fascinating Suntour grip shifter.
The rest of the bike dates it to no later than the very early 1990s. SRAM's product was just emerging from annoying joke status. I don't think Shimano's Revo was off the drawing board yet.

With the cover off you see a cable from the grip to the roller in the center of the frame. That cable pulls the roller in response to the ratchet in the grip. The actual shift cable is set in the roller and exits through the adjuster barrel. This is strikingly similar to the workings of the Shimano Revo.
I had never seen this shifter before. Suntour made some great stuff and some unworkably weird stuff in their heyday. This shifter works better than SRAM's early models and is easier to service. If they had pushed this instead of XPress they might have stayed in business.

Business may shrivel entirely after this weekend. The summer feels like it never started, and now it's winding down. At least I'll have more time for other projects.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Best. Chainsuck. EVER!

We are frequently asked to put together drive trains that technically should not work. Some of them function smoothly. Others grumble and chatter a bit. Once in a while you get one that rejects the transplant spectacularly. This one pushed the limit on gear range and chain wrap capacity for a Shimano road triple. On the test ride it made this three-ring chain knot when I tried to use the derailleur to pick up a dropped chain while still riding. Still pictures didn't capture the intricacy of the tangle.

With due care the bike will behave well enough to meet the customer's temporary need for lower gears.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The exploding sleepover

The litter along my commuting route has a theme this year.

The diapers have been collected by concerned citizens or shuffled into the undergrowth. Now the places of prominence are held by adult-size undergarments. Including Big G's section of the route there are two brassieres. There's also a sock, a toothbrush and a pair of navy-blue jockey shorts.

At least oral hygiene is important. Or maybe it's not, since the toothbrush has been flung along with the clothes.

The whole thing is backwards. The discarded garments should have hit the ground well ahead of the appearance of the diapers. But maybe they had to get a sitter first. Life is a great circle, after all.

The beer bottles and cans in the normal roadside debris might indicate what fueled the process of disrobing. And there's some Red Bull for energy.

EDIT 8-10: This morning I noticed a razor lying near the toothbrush. Not just a cheapie disposable, this was a black and silver weapon of whisker destruction. I swear it was not there before.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

When come back bring pie!!*

Happy customers sometimes bring gifts. I've been fortunate enough to make this customer very happy for several years. She brought this blueberry pie on Sunday. Big G and I were holding the fort by ourselves. We were tempted to leave an empty plate and a note that said "you shoulda been here!"

At home I got to continue the pie festival with the cellist's pecan cookie crust blueberry pie:

Great for dessert or as breakfast with some Greek yogurt on top, it's a perfect companion for a cup of coffee.

Ride to eat. Eat to ride.


Odds and ends

One of our seasonal resident customers really loves electric bikes. He's been bringing them in since his buddy Lee Iacocca turned him on to his first one in '99. This is one from his latest fleet, which he brought in for tuneups in the spring.
On another day this oddity came in. It's a Fuji with a 27-inch frame. Fuji and Raleigh offered the largest production frames in the 1970s. Notice the seat height. The rider actually fits this bike. I could not even stand over the top tube.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Exorcism update

On the bike that kills front derailleurs we installed a Shimano Sora 9-speed compact crank. Brand new. Fresh start. The bike now shifts perfectly, according to the owner, who retrieved it and test rode it a few days ago. We're on to new crises now.

Our illustrious leader got his Shimano Ultegra rear derailleur to shift successfully on a SRAM 12-32 cassette, launching us on a little spree, defying compatibility recommendations. A customer venturing into hill climbs from her familiar realm of triathlons got the 12-32 treatment. The Zipp 404 wheel on which we put the cassette functions very well on her Surly Pacer and extremely adequately on her Serotta. Who woulda thunk it?