Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spotting An Old Shop Mechanic In The Wild

I've been swapping pedals on the bike quite a bit lately, since I find myself in the exceedingly odd (and hopefully temporary) position of having one (gulp) bike. So I often need to ride that bike in fancy click-in biker shoes one day, regular-dude shoes the next.

As I spun off the flats for clipless yet again yesterday, I realized that pedal installation style is one sure-fire way to tell if you're watching an old (um, vintage?) shop mechanic at work. Here's how we did it in ye olden days:
  • Rub pedal threads on the edge of the (always-open) grease tub.* This gets enough lube on the threads to keep the pedals from sticking later, but doesn't add so much that you end up with grease boogers to clean up.
  • Finger-start the pedal in the crank by a turn or so.
  • Place pedal wrench on the pedal.
  • Use the pedal wrench to spin the cranks backwards like a maniac until you hit the end of the threads.
  • Grab the opposite crankarm with your other hand and give a final snugging on the pedal wrench. Done.
*The open grease tub is for pedal threads and seatposts. Bearing overhauls get the good -- and clean -- stuff from the sealed tube. And no, I don't do enough of either to warrant a dual-grease system in the home shop... but I sure miss the smell of that open tub sometimes.

Now, none of that is particularly unique. The Park Tool website will pretty much give you the same deal in much more detail. But it's that "spin the cranks backwards like a maniac" that separates the shopfolk from the occasional wrenchers. Only years and years of repetition, assembling hundreds of bikes, will ingrain the technique in your head to the point where you just slap on the wrench and spin. Even the most experienced non-pros will have that brief double-take of "which pedal is rightsy-tightsy and which one is weird?"... and real newbies can be flummoxed by this for days.

If you're really good, you can spin pedals off the same way, just by reversing your maniacal spin and turning the cranks forward. The hard part is knowing just when the pedal is going to release from the crankarm so you can twist your wrist at the last second to catch it in the wrench and set it gently on the bench. Miss that in a shop setting and you're going to bounce a pedal off the massive steel-plate base of your PRS shop stand. Man, I miss those stands too, though I don't miss that clanging sound -- or the taunts of "ROOKIE!" that always followed it.

Okay, geezer mechanic lesson over for the day. Hopefully, the Secret Society of Greasy People won't send a "re-educator" to punish me for giving away our secrets. You do not want to know what those guys can do to a "misguided former member of the Order" with one of these things.


Iowagriz said...

I just showed "Big Matt" how to do this last weekend. It always leaves a newby with a perplexed look on their face.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Tom the Griz -- glad to see you're still reading this stuff. Until I heard about your accident, I thought you'd stopped writing over at IowaGriz so I'd dropped you out of my blogroll. That's all fixed now.

To my other reader(s)... if you want to see how good deeds don't go unpunished, check out Tom's tale of a gruesome trail maintenance injury (seriously!) on his blog. Be warned, it's pretty grisly.

Steve Fuller said...

ONE bike? WTH? That pretty much upsets anything like a cosmic balance doesn't it? So you don't have to swap pedals around, have you considered the Shimano M-324 or their related ilk (the 424 and the 545) Note: Don't get me started on Shimano's part number/naming schemes.