Saturday, March 21, 2020

Your free tuneup

The token work can’t be very important. If it’s free, it must be worthless, right?


Shut in with the few repair bikes that made their way in before everyone headed for shelter, I see the familiar toll of neglect. The guy who brought in one batch of three, none of them a recent purchase, said that he didn’t think they had gotten their free tuneups. He wasn’t angling for the freebie the way chiselers do, which was refreshing. He was just adding some details to the obvious list of what was bent, torn off, falling out, mysteriously severed, and generally shit-covered and corroded.

This brings us to The Free Tuneup Hoarder.  The hoarder holds onto the token up to — or well past — its expiration date, in order to get what seems like the maximum value out of it. What often happens instead is that things that would have been minor if we’d gotten to see them within a couple of weeks are now seriously mangled, like a crank arm that could have been tightened, but is now distorted and impossible to keep secured.

When I assemble a bike, I start by taking it apart. Technically, they’re supposed to come from the factory ready just to have the unattached parts attached and go out on the sales floor. I like to think that almost no bike shops trust that bullshit. Most of them will true at least the front wheel before installing it, and maybe adjust gear cables properly at the anchor bolts instead of using up lots of threaded adjuster. But it’s the next level or two that make the real difference.

If the assembler basically does a full tuneup on the bike as it is being assembled, every operation afterwards takes a lot less time and attention. Take off the cassette or freewheel. Properly secure the cones and locknuts to make sure that the hub bearings are adjusted and stay adjusted. Properly secure the front hub adjustment as well. Then true the wheels.

If the bike has rim brakes, undo the pad mounting hardware completely and grease the threads. This will make the pad alignment easier to adjust, and help you tighten the pads securely.

Generally greasing threads anywhere you find them goes a long way to make proper tightening easier.

All this meticulousness takes slightly longer than a slapdash assembly, but it pays off big time down the road or trail. I can’t say that everyone here does that thorough a job, but anyone I have trained has been taught that it should be the minimum standard. Less meticulous work will usually come back to bite you.

Desperate times lead to desperate measures, so our primary assembler will feel besieged. Stuff is going to hit the floor that didn’t hit all the bases first. We deal with that as we can. It’s all safely tightened. It just might not stay that way after bouncing over a bunch of rocks and logs, or potholes, or rail crossings. So don’t blow off the free tuneup, or try to stretch it out to get the most for your zero dollars. It could end up costing you a chunk.

No comments: