Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Another day, another bike I'd never heard of

It was too new for Classic Rendezvous, but still from the "screwed and glued" aluminum era. Its worn decals seemed to say Prism, but a web search on Prism bikes, bicycles, cycles turned up nothing that resembled it.

Little letters on the frame and fork said SR Litage. That seeming subtitle brought up the bike and its kin from the late 1980s.

 Componentry said early 1990s to me. Later the owner told me she got this one in 1993. That headset looks particularly annoying to adjust and keep set. Crap like that is a large part of what made threadless headsets seem like a good idea. I was glad that the bike wasn't in for a full tune. It only had a shifter problem with the 8-speed Campagnolo Ergopower brifters. They were jammed.

The bike had a weird mix of parts: Campy drive train and rear hub, Shimano Ultegra brakes from back when they still said "600," and that Mavic headset. ITM bars. The rear brake cable enters the frame, but the housing is continuous. Shift cables are external. Shift housing stops are mounted to downtube shifter bosses.

I figured that the shifters had jammed because the index springs had broken and fragments had wedged in the ratchet rings. I detached the cables from the derailleurs to see if I could free anything up. The shifters then pulled the cable perfectly well, with no crunching or excessive play. Maybe the derailleurs themselves were stuck.

Nope. I could move them easily by hand.

I reconnected the cables and everything worked perfectly. So I test rode the bike. It didn't want to shift to the big ring. Then it dropped the chain inside, where it stuck behind the tabs on the inner ring. I carried the bike back inside to pull the crank and extricate the chain. This led me to discover that the bottom bracket was unscrewing itself. An early cartridge model, as it migrated to the right it pulled the left side in after it. The cartridge never felt loose as the crank migrated sideways away from the front derailleur.
It hadn't gone far enough inside to pull the left crank arm against the chainstay on the way around.

An exploded view in one of our old Campy parts catalogs showed the Athena bottom bracket with what look like serrated washers that are supposed to go in the cups on either side. I would presume that these are supposed to enhance the grip of these unflanged cups against the cartridge with the bearings in it so that they can be securely torqued into the bottom bracket shell. The axle also measured shorter than the triple crank supposedly requires, but the chain line was almost too far out, even with the BB restored to its proper position. I torqued it as securely as I could. The only way to get those missing washers would be with a time machine.

In eternity, all nows are equal. Every moment exists and could be reached if we were not stuck experiencing time in a linear flow. I think of this every time I look through our old Quality catalogs at all the componentry I wish I'd stocked up on.

If I had needed to open up the shifters I would have removed them from their clamps and worked on them off the bike rather than unwrap the bars and lose the vintage Celeste green cork wrap. Even if it didn't have aggressive adhesive backing, so I could get it off without shredding it, it never lines up exactly the same. The shifters seemed miraculously cured, as if they were only trying to get the rider to bring the bike in to have the bottom bracket apprehended before it escaped completely. If they malfunction again, we do keep index springs on hand. Campy being Campy, they still use the same springs in the same basic design.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The cyclist advantage, sort of

The Elm Street bridge project has developed complications.
The Little Dig is going to last longer than expected. No word yet on whether it will also go way over budget. As a taxpayer in a poor rural town I certainly hope we're getting the bulk of the money from a federal program that spreads the load over millions of people across the country, any one of whom would be grateful to find a passable bridge should they ever drive through here.

The bridge remains usable for a cyclist, as long as you can get yourself over the gap.
Try that with your 70-pound ebike.

I was in a bit of a panic because the news of the delay came a day or two after I informed the Board of Selectmen and the state department of environmental services that the work crew appeared to be doing little to control debris. The shore beneath the bridge was covered with concrete dust and chunks of broken concrete, some of them fairly large. As I said in my notes to the town government and the state agency, I don't know whether this is considered an official problem. I just wanted to know, as a resident and a member of the town's conservation commission, whether the job was meeting applicable regulations to protect the river. The work site is also immediately above where I test the river every two weeks for a local environmental organization. If I had done anything to delay the reopening of the bridge, I could be sure that my house would be set on fire within a day or two. Imagine my relief when I found out that the problem was in the bridge, not from some frog-kissing do-gooder making a fuss about some artificial rocks landing among the wildflowers.

I did not have that assurance when I set out on Friday morning and discovered that the work crew had started much earlier than they've been showing up. On Thursday I had driven the dirt route through the Pine River State Forest to Granite, just to check it out. It's 17.7 miles as opposed to the usual 14 and change. It also includes a couple of stiff climbs on soft dirt and gravel, well rumpled by speeding motorists who have been using it during the bridge closure. It was still a shorter and better option than the Big Zig. Metaphorically I turned up my collar and slunk past Elm Street, hoping that no one noticed me.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there's another option in the PRSF as well: a snow machine trail. Because the junction is probably less than a mile into the dirt section, I figured it would save me some time even if I had to walk for half of it. Because there was still a gate and a trail sign, I figured it was okay that I hadn't brought my machete.
The road to Granite
The trail to adventure
The trail started out promisingly enough. The Cross Check isn't a great technical trail bike, being a tad steep and short for the real rough stuff, but that's not its main mission. It's a bike that will get you through a short stretch of the rough to connect to faster traveling surfaces.

Because I would only have to do this route on the morning half of a commute, most of it is downhill anyway. The surface is packed sand, held in place by some hardy grass -- except where it isn't. The ruts on the flatter bits and mild slopes were soft enough to make the bike wallow a little. On steeper slopes, the glacial till emerged: various-sized rocks, mostly rounded. Some larger embedded boulders or bits of ledge would have been no challenge for a mountain bike, even one from ancient times, with a rigid frame and fork and 26X2-ish tires. And, with gravity on my side, I just had to find the sweet speed to flow through it with only a few sudden swerves and dabs when the front tire dropped into a soft spot.

The river looked cool and peaceful.

On the other side of the river, the trail split. I remembered the old route that climbed up onto the esker behind the gravel pit there. I could hear the machinery of the pit. The trail had been rerouted along the base of the esker. Bearing in mind that I was already running behind schedule, I debated whether to take the easier new route. Snow machine riders are just out to have fun. They aren't on a schedule to get to a specific destination. This new section could meander all over the place, and maybe never emerge where the old route did. I needed to come out where the trail used to come out, so I could get onto Duncan Lake Road and out to Route 16 near Route 28. As bad as the old trail looked -- and it looked really bad -- I had to go that way.

The grade was a lot steeper and longer than I remembered. But then I remembered that I had almost always ridden the trail the other way, so I was descending this hell run. I do not know anyone who could have -- or would have -- ridden this climb. I dismounted and trudged over the washed out mess of rocks, overhung with tree branches. Even the fairly level top of the esker was hard to ride because of fallen trees and limbs, and slick rocks from the previous day's rain showers and the unending humidity of this summer.

The new route rejoined at the descent. The trail wasn't much better than the abandoned route, because the till underlies everything and emerges wherever the surface is disturbed.
At the bottom of this descent the trail joins a dirt road. On a mountain bike, take a left to stay on the technical trail. On the adventure commute, take a right to get to Duncan Lake Road.

 Back on the regular route it was the usual hammer to get to work. The total was just over 16 miles, and did cut out the unnecessary elevation gain going up to Granite and coming back down again, so it saved more than a mile and a half, and probably at least 15 minutes.

Elapsed time depends on how the motor is feeling that day. You don't use a bike for transportation in a rural area unless you really like riding. I love not having a car in Wolfeboro, but I work harder than the average person to get there. It certainly won't work for everyone. But as long as it works for me I'm saving a parking space for someone who needs it.

Monday, July 20, 2020


One morning a while back, I was just entering the bendy bit on Route 28, between the boat museum and Birch Hill Estates Road on my way to work when I heard a large truck behind me. I don't mean tractor trailer size, but certainly a heavy-duty pickup. I was cookin' along pretty well, but the road rises as it enters a right bend. I tried to keep cooking, but I'm old and tired. At the crest, I coasted to let the truck go by. It had done an exemplary job of waiting. I wasn't even closing the lane. Then it did an exemplary job of passing: nice and wide, quickly but not ripping.

The vehicle looked like one that would not exhibit such tolerance and coexistence. It was a supersize pickup with dual rear wheels and an exhaust pipe you could fit your head in. It was LOUD. But the driver did not accentuate the loudness or blow smoke.

The back window was full of stickers I knew I didn't want to read. This keeps happening: they're destroying the country, but being nice to a bike rider. The majority of such vehicles behave inexplicably decently around me. But not all.

More recently, as I rode in a part of Center Street where the storm drains had all been dug out prior to some repaving that never seemed to happen, I was covering the lane so that I wouldn't get herded into one of those pit traps. A pickup truck forced its way past me, playing chicken with oncoming vehicles as large as his own. The centerpiece of his window sticker collection was a nearly life size white silhouette of a militarily-styled semi-automatic rifle. It was surrounded by the usual gallery of rattlesnakes on a yellow background and other proclamations of warlike proclivity. My tires passed an inch from the dropoff into a particularly nasty and intrusive drain pit, while the side of his truck nearly brushed my shoulder. He behaved exactly as appearances would suggest.

That which does not kill me can be drafted, at least briefly. On that day I couldn't take full advantage because the pavement ahead had been grooved and the features formerly known as manholes were now sticking up in a random pattern over the next eighth of a mile or so. Sometimes I can work my way through the side streets to come out on Main Street ahead of hotheads like that, but not this time. Either he went south or we missed connections some other way. It's just as well.

Vehicles overtaking are a surprise package. Even with a mirror you can't tell much. You don't really know what you're going to get until you're getting it. Most of the time it's pretty routine, especially once you get used to formation flying with them. We really depend on our faith that today is not the day. Better times and places may be coming, but in the meantime we still have to get where we're going now.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Internal cable routing is better

Bike frames are built to withstand pedaling forces, cornering forces, and road shock. These all impact the structure in sort of broad, general ways. Cable forces put point loads on very small areas of the frame. They're not huge forces, but the strength required to hold up to them is quite different from the more distributed stress of being a bicycle. 

Internal cable routing may seem like a needlessly complicated answer to a relatively trivial problem of air drag -- because it is -- but it also strikes me as a better way to load the carbon fiber frame, compared to attaching external cable stops. Because I don't build my life around the latest technology, I may have missed a memo on this. I focus on the annoyance of working on things that I can't see and can't reach. Belatedly I realized that it's probably easier and stronger to make reinforced entry and exit holes than it is so attach external anchor points.

A few years ago, Specialized road bikes even came with instructions not to pull on the external cables to seat the housings as we would with metal frames with welded cable stops. The stops on these carbon frames could pop off if pulled outward. External stops on all carbon bikes displayed various ways to reinforce the bond, including little pop rivets.

It's still a pain in the ass. If it went away I would not miss it.

On metal frames, holes may be a liability. Back in the 1990s I found cracks in an aluminum Klein frame at the entry hole for an internally routed brake cable. Aluminum being aluminum, this represented a potentially terminal condition. There seemed to be no good way to stop the crack from spreading in the thin metal, at least not with the skills and equipment available in our shop. The owner seemed angry at us for finding it. But to know is to be responsible. We couldn't just let him ride on it without knowing his risk.

Not every shop agrees. A customer brought in a Dahon folding bike to get a flat tire fixed. He complained that he had taken the bike to a shop where he lives, to get tuned up and have the tubes replaced. The shop did the tuneup, but didn't do the tires. As he went on at some length, he mentioned that the other shop had told him there was a hairline crack in the head tube. Without explaining the dangers of abrupt catastrophic failure in aluminum, they took his money for the tuneup and told him to "keep an eye on it."

The bike had been fitted with a very tall stem riser, atop a very short head tube.
Leverage is an amazing thing. The "hairline" crack was not hard to find.
We refused to work on his bike and advised him to junk it. Considering that we left him with the flat tire, he wasn't likely to jump on it soon.

Next up was a brake bleed on a mountain bike. There are two kinds of bleed: the classic removal of air from the line, and the more medieval leeching of excess fluid when someone filled the system without resetting the pistons first, leading to hot-weather lockups. This bike only needed the latter, which was nice. But some idiot somewhere had cut the rear brake line so short that I don't know why the rider hasn't torn it loose just making a tight turn, or in a mild crash that yanks the bars around.

I could go on, but the morning is evaporating quickly, and a long queue of repairs is still piled up at work.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

I haven't sold a bike since 1992

The fun started to go out of the bike business with the arrival of index-only shifting systems in 1990. For a couple of years we could get top-mount shifters with friction option for mountain bikes. We took pride and pleasure in converting bikes back to the versatility and true freedom of friction shifting. But then supplies ran out, and all we could do was sort through the proprietary horseshit being dumped on us to find the least worst. I quit selling bikes and started just letting people buy them. I wanted no part in describing much of what we were forced to offer as "improvements."

Proprietary shifting systems were just the first wedge. Even before index-only systems, Shimano and Suntour used slightly different cog spacing, and other factors to enforce customer loyalty/entrapment. However, you could sometimes fudge something together using a merger of parts that worked well enough. And the friction option eliminated all issues except chain width. Chain width became a non-issue if you used a Sedisport chain, which you would want to do anyway. This was true until the advent of 9-speed, anyway. Manufacturers shifted their competitive aggression to other factors.

I thought about this yesterday as it took me hours to replace cables and housings on a Specialized Roubaix. All cables run internally. The customer wanted everything changed. To change shift cables, you have to run a sleeve over the old cable before unthreading it, to guide the new cable properly through the inaccessible interior of the frame. Because the rider wanted new housing, I had to untape the handlebar. Because he wisely heeded our advice to upgrade to 5mm housing, I had to change the in-line tension adjuster on the front derailleur cable, which is made to fit only 4mm.

Four millimeter shift housing is like deliberately constricting your tendons.

The brake housing was continuous, meaning that the housing itself disappears into the frame and emerges all the way back on the chainstay next to the rear disc brake caliper. The segment is so short and the bend so tight that I had to remove the caliper from the frame to get the housing out of it. This was partly because the ferrule was corroded into the cable adjuster, but also because the emergent section was so short. The section also aims upward, inviting water to wick its way into the housing. The cable I removed was rusty in that area.

To feed new housing, you first want to feed a new cable, and then extract the housing, so that you can feed the new housing up the new cable. Using the old cable you run the risk that the cable will fray as you feed the housing up it, snarling everything in the inaccessible darkness.

This is complete bullshit. The supposed advantages of internal cable routing are utterly meaningless to the average rider, even the average racer. How many non-professional, casual participants have ever lost a crit -- or even a road race -- because of the air drag on their externally-routed shift and brake wires? For that matter, in most amateur time trials, you'll have the Richie Riches who own dedicated TT bikes and then you'll have everyone else doing their best on whatever they have.

Racers will race on whatever they can get. When a competition involves a machine, a competitor will want the best machine, hopefully better than anyone else's machine, to get an unfair advantage. This drives technological innovation, leading to ever-evolving rules about what's allowed. A new advantage rapidly becomes the new norm. All it does, most of the time, is make the machines more expensive and harder to work on.

The Roubaix had looked pretty new when I started on it, but I soon realized that it was merely suspiciously clean. I suspected that the owner is a hoser. This turned out to be the case. The corroded bits were not from exposure to the weather, they were from exposure to misguided care. Do not clean your bike with flowing water. This is especially true with internal cable routing and other modern stylistic embellishments that look protective but aren't.

The bike has Specialized's Future Shock suspension. The rider had thought that the headset needed adjustment, but he was feeling crunchiness in the shock absorber mounted in the steerer tube. When I disassembled that collection of nesting parts held together with small bolts, I found rust in the parts that seemed well protected inside the frame. The shock uses a design similar to Cannondale's Headshok, with needle bearings riding on flat strips of metal. It's protected from above by a rubber boot, but water can seep in below the plastic cover that sits like a little rain hat over the frame at the head tube.
The boot only seals the top, but water comes from all directions. Put this bike on a roof rack and drive 60 miles per hour in a rainstorm. Clean it with a hose, high pressure or not. Water finds a way. I opened up the mechanism enough to get some oil into the needle bearings. That smoothed things out a bit.

On the other end of the shop, Torin was working on two obsolete Cannondale mountain bikes, one with a Lefty fork, and one with a Fox F100 fork fit with a reducing headset into the oversize Cannondale head tube. Both bikes were old enough to have 26-inch wheels.

The F100 fork has a leaky seal. It dates from the period in which we were seeing no mountain bike customers, so were paying little attention to the state of the art.  Our most active riders were all into road bikes at the time, and our most numerous customers were looking for hybrids and comfort bikes for the expanding system of recreation paths in the area. Finding parts looks like yet another treasure hunt. We'll pass on that. The suspension guru from a shop that enthusiastically served mountain bikers in Alton is now working at a shop in Concord. I have no problem handing off a problem to an expert in the field. As for the Lefty, only a Cannondale dealer can service that. We've been able to get some parts from Cannondale Experts, but we don't have the latest tools and factory support.

I said I haven't sold a bike since 1992, but that's not strictly true. Whenever possible I have sold bikes that combine some genuine improvements with the traditional simplicity and longevity of bikes from the mid and late 20th Century. They don't have complicated and inconvenient convenience features, or bulbous, modernistic frames. They're too sensible to be popular. Mostly they come from Surly, but there are other sources, like Rivendell.

Whenever someone says to me that their bike is 20 or 30 years old and they feel like they should get rid of it and get a nice new one, I tell them to let me have a look at it first. If it's a nice old bike in good shape, I tell them to invest in a few modern touches that improve on the simplicity rather than a whole new bike that obliterates it.

If someone wants a technical mountain bike or anything else excruciatingly "categorized" I nudge them toward their own research and let them pick their own poison. I'll assemble it, maintain it (for a price), and repair it to the best of my ability and the industry's indulgence, but I won't recommend anything.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Big Zig and the Cyclist Advantage

With the Elm Street bridge closed, I would have to begin my trip to work by going three miles in the opposite direction, then go laterally to the west for another three miles, then cut south. Route 16 isn't a great bike road, but I could veer left onto Pine River Road for another threeish miles away from my destination, to pick up Elm Street very close to the bridge. It's a big zig just to cover about a quarter of a mile toward Wolfeboro.

Look at the line of Route 28 on the map. Then check out how every other road combination diverges from it. This map doesn't show some trail and dirt road connections, but they don't help much.

With this in mind, I followed the silence toward the bridge this morning, in case the workers hadn't started for the day. And they hadn't.

Look at that perfect bike-sized gap. Maybe the crew will start late every morning out of deference to the residents near the bridge. I had already planned to check on the way home. At the end of the day I don't come through before about 6:30 in the evening. As long as the bridge remains passable, I can probably sneak through, unless a resentful motorist drops a dime on me. I try not to attract attention.

I don't even feel guilty.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020


The rural bike commuter faces particular challenges that a rider in a more built-up area does not. For instance, alternate routes may be hard to find and considerably longer than the primary route. which is already long enough, thank you.

This morning, the bridge that connects me to the rest of my world was closed for "a minimum of two weeks," according to the bulletin on the town website. It is undergoing much needed and long delayed repairs.

The river is small and not that deep, but the bottom is irregular, with silt, sand, boulders, mud, and leeches. I'm not excited by the idea of wading across it, carrying my bike over my head. I might try it if I was wearing chest waders, but then I would have to lug the waders for the rest of the ride, or stash them somewhere near the river bank and hope they were there when I returned in the evening.

The first alternate route idea adds about 10 miles at either end, going up Green Mountain Road to Ryefield Road, to Route 25 west, to Route 16 south. It's not a nice ride once you get to 16, which has heavy traffic and no shoulder for part of it. To make it worse, the narrow part is being rebuilt, which will be great for the future, but has the road torn up and traffic snarled now and for the next couple of months at least. So even if I put the bike in the car and did a park-and-ride from The Blot (Ocean State Job Lot), I would have to sit through the inevitable delays at the construction zone.

Another alternative exits the same way as far as the 25-16 junction, but continues straight into Center Ossipee and cuts through to a back road out of the village, to go over into Tuftonboro. It adds even more mileage, and a lot more hills. When I was 30 years younger I would do it just to do it, but I felt like I had more time, I know I had more energy, and I was oblivious to the toll it was taking on my marriage. I have none of those advantages now. As part of a park and ride it would put me in an area of roads I haven't ridden in years, where I have scouted out no parking places.

I drove through it on my way home from a semi-emergency dental appointment this morning. That's what got me thinking about territory. From 1988 through the late 1990s, that was familiar ground. From May of 1988 through September of 1989, I lived on Tuftonboro Neck, so all my rides were based from there. Even after moving to Effingham, I continued to ride extended versions of my commute or training rides using those roads. I could absorb the changes incrementally as people built things, or tore them down, or logged. Seeing it transformed after years unseen I felt dispossessed. Not that I ever had any control over it, but at least I felt like part of the scene when I traveled through it on a more regular basis.

I should be used to the feeling of dispossession after growing up with it. Every time we moved, we had to learn our way around a place. Then we would leave it, and that local knowledge became obsolete. Because we lived in Annapolis, Maryland, three times, we got to study it in more detail, but it still changed in the gaps. And it was mutating rapidly when I hightailed out of there ahead of the first tsunami of character-obliterating sprawl in 1987. Any time I happen to go back to a place I inhabited before, I can usually see some outline of what I knew -- perhaps even pockets of surprising familiarity -- but I view it as a ghost. The same is true for places I would regularly visit. Summer residents up here feel territorial about the places that most of them only see for a couple of weeks or a couple of months in one season of the year.

Another alternate route uses another system of roads I used to frequent and no longer do. In April I took a ride through some of the unpaved roads near me, not thinking I might need to consider them as transportation routes. The ruts on the Class VI unmaintained portions were pretty deep. I made better time on my bike than a bunch of off-roaders were making with their trucks and Jeeps. But it would add another eight or ten miles to each end of the commute because I would have to go so far to get to another river crossing.

There used to be a snow machine trail that crossed the river on a wooden bridge, well short of the full traverse through the Pine River State Forest to the Granite Road in Ossipee. It was a favorite mountain biking segment. The loose surface of glacial till, and short, steep climbs onto an esker make it a poor prospect for the commuting bike I would want to have for the more refined surfaces on most of the rest of the route. I could see it adding an hour to each end of the ride, no matter which alternative I choose. Heroic and committed it may be, but it isn't practical.

How practical is rural bike commuting anyway? It can be hard to justify, except that I only put gas in the car once a month, and I'm forced to get beneficial exercise when my personality is otherwise pretty slothful. If I had to depend entirely on dietary discipline I would be screwed. So I'm saving petroleum, saving other people a parking space, reducing air pollution by an infinitesimal amount, and easing traffic congestion in an area that chokes on traffic in the summer. It's not as bad as Cape Cod, but it's bad enough, especially with this year's construction projects.

It may be possible to sneak through the Elm Street bridge construction if I go out early enough in the morning to nip through before they start, and return after they finish up in the evening. That's if they don't take the decking right off the bridge. However, as long as I didn't have irate workers chasing me, I could see tiptoeing across on a girder more readily than slogging through the leech-infested stream below. I'm not kidding about the leeches. They've muckled onto the hull of my scruffy old kayak because they could detect my body heat through the thin fiberglass shell.

If I could get at tall trees on the river bank I might set up a Tyrolean traverse. Talk about impractical. And the banks aren't high enough to build some sort of primitive rope and plank bridge. The shore front is private, so I would have to get landowner permission even to try. I hate talking to people any more than I have to.

Even a knocked-together ferry boat would sit there vulnerable to tampering or pilferage when I wasn't using it.

The next two weeks (or more) will be interesting.

Monday, July 06, 2020

"My brakes were squeaking, so I sprayed oil in the calipers..."

Yes, it really happened. I didn't do the check in, but David told me about it.

"I think I made it worse," the customer concluded.

Gee, do ya think? So there's a set of pads headed for the trash.

The next day a customer bought three of the last four adult size bikes we had, and not cheap ones, either: two Specialized fat bikes and a gravel bike. She also asked if we could fix a flat front tire on a 650B mountain bike they already had. It had blown out when they were inflating the tires. This happens for various reasons, especially if the tire had been very low and the beads had come loose. The rider enthusiastically pumps it up and the beads fail to catch the rim because the tube is already sneaking out underneath the edge of the tire. Or the whole rig might be old enough that the tube has rotted out. We couldn't know for sure until we saw it.

The tire was off the rim in the classic explosive blowout position. The customer had left to transport two bikes home. She was due to return in an hour or so for the third new bike, and for the repaired bike if I could have it ready. I dug into it.

The blowout had damaged the bead of the tire, so I had to replace the casing as well as the tube. The blown-out section of tube was about 16 inches long, indicating considerable force. It had actually deformed a section of the rim. The side of the rim flared where the blast had originated.

I have reshaped damaged rims in the past using blocks of wood, and the vise, and large hammers, but that was usually when the rim was bent inward by an impact. Going the other way was going to be trickier. I needed the perfect block. A cut-off end of an adult-size wooden hockey stick turned out to fit. I put it into the rim channel and wrapped some cardboard from a parts box around the outside. Squeezing this sandwich in the vice coaxed the rim back to be usably near  parallel. I had to reposition it and repeat the squeeze a couple or three times, but that's what happens when you're using rectangular things to reshape something round.

When the customer arrived we reported on our findings. She told us that she had read that the tires take 90 psi. It was a classic case of too much information. The psi rating was written smaller than the load rating, so she saw 90kg and misread it as 90 psi, when the maximum pressure was actually supposed to be 50 psi. Many bike tires don't even have the load rating molded onto them.

"Did you put 90 in the rear, too?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered. Torin and I leaped simultaneously to disarm that bomb.

The customer is a triathlete, who is used to putting very high pressures in her skinny road tires, and hadn't bothered to think critically about volume and intended use. She just looked for a number and tried to follow instructions. Torin repeated several times that the fat bike tires would be rock hard and maxed out at 20 psi. "Keep them between 7 and 12," he told her.