Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just Like Old Times

The most glaringly empty outline on my pegboard is finally full.

I recently bought myself another Park AWS-1 hex wrench to replace the one that was lost to the Great Tool Theft of 2001 (why I waited so long, I do not know). For those who don't know the AWS-1, here's one I borrowed from the Park Tool site
(hopefully, the link will inspire them to look the other way regarding my image theft).

I suspect that every mechanic has his or her go-to tool. When I was wrenching for money, the AWS-1 was mine. They were more stripped down back then, an angular, less ergonomic metal Y in the center and blue rubber covers over the actual hexes -- covers that invariably wore out, fell off and got lost. But the thing was always in my pocket, ready to crank through a new-bike assembly or make a quick pre-test-ride saddle adjustment on the sales floor. I would accidentally carry it home several times a week, and it often made an unplanned trip through the laundry in a jeans pocket. And if I happened to leave it on my bench, woe unto the junior mechanic who mistakenly picked it up and walked off with it.

When you used one daily, it didn't matter that all the ends looked pretty indistinguishable at first glance. You just knew by feel, by weight, where the 4, 5 and 6 were. I notice that Park has now color coded them -- call me a purist, but I'm glad my new (but obviously not quite as new as the photo) model lacks this rookie feature.

It's funny. I haven't regularly turned a wrench for a paycheck in... eight years now. But when I wrap my hand around that new AWS-1 or feel its outline in a back pocket, it's like being a younger, more in-shape, minimum-wage-earning version of myself all over again. Not a bad little trick for one simple tool.

(Now that I re-read this, it feels like a shill for Park, which was truly not my intention. No cash or product changed hands for this love-fest. I just really, really like this one particular tool, in case you didn't notice.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cheap Parts: Not So Bad After All

The fixie is up on blocks, getting its post-winter-crud overhaul. Damage report:
  • Front brake? Toast. The quick release got mauled somehow, so it likes to release at the least opportune time, adding to the thrill of riding in traffic. Replacement en route, and replacement pads from the stash are already waiting for it.
  • Paint? Surprisingly unscathed, once I got through the grime.
  • Wheels? Shockingly true. Note to my fat self: If you aren't going to stay in shape, you'd better keep riding 36-spoke wheels with zero dish.
  • Drivetrain? I would measure the chain, but I can't tell where metal ends and sludge begins. When I went near the chainring, the Jaws theme started playing (sheesh, now there's a bike mechanic geek in-joke for you), and the cog has more chipped teeth than I do. Again, replacements are either installed or en route.
My biggest surprise was in the bearings. Sure, I have full fenders, but winter around here has a tendency to find anything that turns and punish it, no matter what sort of cycle-prophylactics you install. I had all but written off the generic hubs, headset and bottom bracket as one-season disposables, only to discover that the hubs simply needed a quick adjustment, the bottom bracket was as smooth as old Campy, and a couple fingers of grease resulted in a nice, non-indexed headset.

Once all the assorted shiny new parts roll in from the four corners of the globe, I'll be maybe an hour of wrenching away from that proud moment... opening the hole in the ceiling, raising the lifeless carcass up into the thunderstorm, flipping the giant switch, and exclaiming, "It's alive! It's ALIVE!"

(It's pronounced Fronken-SHTEEN, by the way...)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I've Joined the Veloquencia

iBOB pal (and all-around good guy) Kent "The Mountain Turtle" Peterson has kicked off a new collaborative blog for a gang of fine cycle-writers, and -- showing a rare lack of judgment -- has invited yours truly to be a contributor. It's called Veloquent, and you can read it at Kent also happens to be a semi-regular contributor to Dirt Rag magazine (one of those old-fashioned paper things) and the author of the eponymous "Kent's Bike Blog" linked in my Blogosphere Ephemera section to the lower right.

I haven't decided what this means for "The Cycle" just yet. As all two of my regular readers have probably figured out, my inspiration's gone cold here as of late. Still, there are plenty of things on this blog that wouldn't fit on Veloquent. For now, I'll continue to post in both places, sending the more literary-ish things over to Veloquent and keeping my (even?) more mundane daily cycle-life here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bueller? Bueller?

I'm still out here -- just on a little funk-induced sabbatical.

Winter in Des Moines has dragged on longer (and snowier) than it has since Carla and I moved to town eight years ago. And while I'm technically on my bike, it's hard to call a four-mile daily round trip slog (on two-ton tires, with a rust-frozen chain and shriekingly maladjusted brake) actual "riding." It certainly doesn't have the mental health benefits of real riding.

Not even the much-ballyhooed "college basketball story of the year" happening a few short blocks away at Drake University (go Bulldogs!) and my ensuing hanger-on fandom has pepped me up.

But there's hope. Daylight Savings Time, for one. I only need lights for my morning commute now, and I can already tell that I won't need them much longer. And -- miracle of miracles -- temps cracked the 50s today, turning most of our snow into drivetrain-destroying sand-water-salt-grime paste.

Couple more days of this should perk me right back up.