Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winning Ugly

I'm not proud of this hack. In fact, I'm only documenting it here in the hopes that going public will shame me into never trying such a thing again.

The 12-year-old bar-end shifter on my main ride finally crapped out. Wouldn't shift worth a darn. And before the chorus of Rivendellian Luddites (Luggites?) chimes in with, "Just switch it to friction mode," that wasn't working either. Each shift wavered between pure indexing, pure friction, and some mutant hybrid of both. I couldn't find a gear to save my life. The thing had done its time and was telling me to let go.

Now, your average biker-guy will either a) use that as an excuse to buy a new bike, or b) purchase/order the correct replacement part and move on with life. I chose neither.

NO, because ordering the CORRECT replacement part is too EASY. Instead, I picked up a 3x8 set of RapidFire Plus shifters (because I'm still in the dark ages of 8-speed rear cassettes... pity me) from a bike shop clearance pile and figured, "I'll make THESE work instead!" Besides, they were so cheap, it was like buying the cables in the kit and getting the shifters for free. How could I go wrong?

Time to go into Sheldon Brown mode (may he ride in peace). Handlebars have a few different diameters. Your standard road bar is going to be 23.8mm diameter at the ends and either 25.4mm, 26.0mm or (heaven forfend) 31.8mm in the center. Your standard flat bar is going to be 22.2mm at the ends and 25.4mm or (again with the fatties?) 31.8mm in the center. So something designed for a flat bar (like, say, for instance, a RapidFire Plus shifter) will fit a 22.2mm diameter. And yet I left the store with every intention of jamming said 22.2mm diameter shifter onto a 23.8mm diameter road bar. In my defense, I was an English major.

My (soon to be proven faulty) hypothesis was that the clamp seemed to have enough material to do a bit of low-budget Dremel machine work, thus giving me the World's Only Drop-Bar Bike With RapidFire Plus (WODBBWRFP). So when I got home, I fired up said Dremel and set to work hogging out some aluminum. And it WORKED! Until I tried to tighten the now-23.8mm clamp over the 23.8mm bars and snapped it like the pop-can-thin aluminum that it was. Ugh. Good thing I got those cables in the kit, because this cheap shifter just became an expensive paperweight.

But, being unable to accept failure (and with the Dremel still warm), I had a bit of a break from reality. Next thing you know, most of the clamp had been "machined" away (along with the gear indicator), and I was digging through the parts boxes, cackling like a maniac. A few bolts, a rubber shim, and an old reflector bracket later, and voila!

Do not try this at home. No, really. 

That's right, baby. You're seeing the WODBBWRFP in its natural habitat! You can identify the beast by the following distinctive characteristics:
  • It's ugly as sin.
  • The shifter isn't particularly stable on the bars.
  • The guts of the shifter are probably doomed to premature failure since a major chunk of the dustcover had to be surgically removed.
  • Honestly, the shifter was pretty much crap to begin with since Shimano has knocked 8-speeds down into their lowest component castes*.
But dammit, the thing shifts for now. And can you say you've ever seen anything like it? Here, take in the glory of the WODBBWRFP from the front:

The horror... the horror...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to order some bar-end shifters. Fast.

*That would be Shimano Altus, which -- in a bizarre alternative universe where advertising couldn't lie -- would be marketed with one of the following slogans:
  • Altus: Disappointing Cheapskates On Mountain-Bike-Shaped Objects (MBSOs) Since the Early 90s.
  • Altus: Just Like Tourney, Except You Can't Buy It At Wal-Mart. 
  • Altus: If This Were A Road Group, It Would Just Get A Number Instead Of A Made-Up Name. 
  • Altus: Because Alivio Sounds Vaguely Dirty.


Pete said...

The horror, the horror...

Anonymous said...

You may be in line to win the Duct Tape Award for Aspiring Engineers! Congrats on making it work despite what your brain was telling you. :-)

Steve in Peoria

p.s. you would have gotten more points if you had figured a way to use bubble gum in the solution.

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic, but it looks like you replaced the chrome Wald fenders on Bruce. How come?


Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Patrick -- good eye!

The Wald fenders ended up on the retro Raleigh that I temporarily housed for (coincidence alert!) Steve in Peoria. That bike was calling out for chrome. The old Planet Bikes ended up back on Bruce by default.

The Raleigh has moved on (I'm a fickle one) and taken the Walds with it, but I may get another set if/when the PBs fail.