Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Adjustable Wrench Incident: A Defense, Of Sorts

I'm feeling the scorn from afar after admitting to a "rag on a wrench" repair in my last post. Don't deny it! You're scorning me! You think I can't sense that? 

Here's the story: I crashed and broke my leg a few years ago. Serious wishbone-style split up most of the length of my right femur. Surgically fixed with a titanium rod, long recovery, the works. Ouch, right? The bike fared much better, with only some mangled handlebar tape, a paint scrape, and a bent derailleur hanger to show for it.

But here's the problem: I'm more than a little OCD. The thought of that bike sitting in the garage with a bent derailleur hanger while I laid around in bed got on my nerves. Maybe (armchair psychology) I needed to fix it since I couldn't fix myself. Or maybe I'm just a freak. Either way, once I was up on crutches, that stinking derailleur hanger became my mental White Whale. 

So one night, with my better half (and dedicated caregiver) out of the house for a rare night of not-dealing-with-a-whiny-200-pound-baby fun, I propped myself up and made my way gingerly to the garage. I have no idea how I got the bike off the hooks and up on the workstand, though I'm sure it was ugly. Took off the rear derailleur, wrapped a rag around the hanger, snugged the adjustable wrench over that, and gave a bit of gentle cold-setting -- that's mechanic talk for "I bent it." With no real gauge, I just eyeballed off the dropout and cogs and trusted the floating pulley in my derailleur to make up for the lack of laser-like precision.

At some point in the process, I remember then-neighbor Steve F. sticking his head out his back door, taking one look, and saying, "You're sick!" He was right, but the bike has shifted great ever since, and I slept very well that night. Of course, I was on Vicodin at the time...

Required disclaimer: We're talking about a STEEL bike with a STEEL derailleur hanger here. Steel is a remarkably forgiving material in this situation (though I still wouldn't bend it back and forth a lot). If you have an aluminum hanger, you should hope that it's one of those replaceable bolt-on jobs (though -- whispering -- I've "cold-set" those in my day too). If you have a titanium or carbon hanger, shoot, I don't know what to tell you, other than "if you can afford those, you can afford the right tool for the job and/or a trained professional to use it."


bikelovejones said...

Steel is remarkably forgiving and -- best of all! -- durable. This is why I've been able to ignore all those fancy aluminum and carbon cross bikes even as I've gotten more involved with cyclocross racing.

That's why my dream bike for racing is still built around a CrMO frame and fork with dedicated singlespeed slots. Period.

And that's why I was mildly joking about your bike needing a lawyer last week. A steel frame can handle an alarming amount of manhandling that would make carbon run screaming from the room. Steel existed long before torque wrenches ever did -- and will probably be around long after carbon-fiber is replaced by the next new miracle material for bike frames.

The whole Ishmaelesque bike-leg relationship thing is still beyond me, though.


Anonymous said...

when the chain on my steel 'bent came apart, caught in the derailleur and drug it into the rear spokes, I used the incident as an opportunity to buy a hanger alignment tool! Well, it was also an opportunity to buy a new rear derailleur and chain, but that wasn't as enjoyable...

I haven't had the need to use the tool for a while, but it's nice to have around. "Stuff" happens, and the tool is probably as cheap as a repair bill from the LBS.

Steve in Peoria

Steve Fuller said...

Not sure if the sick was from you bending the hanger back, or just because you weren't able to let it go until you were better. ;)

Steel is real. That said, I *still* wish my first gen Fargo had a replacable derailer hanger rather than the spindly (but steel) one that's on there now.