Sunday, March 27, 2011

Classing Up The Joint

Most of my wrenching time is spent taking stuff off my own bikes and putting it back on. They're like Lego blocks for (quasi) grownups. But today, I was lucky enough to put wrench to a friend's quite-snazzy ride:
Yup, that's a little Trek fitty-something-hundred, carbon fiber (gasp!), very much like the one some Texas dude used to win a bunch of yellow shirts in France.

But like that Texas dude's book, this post is Not About the Bike. It's about the special steps one must take as a mechanic when working on equipment of this caliber. This is not the stuff of pipe wrenches, bigger hammers, and even bigger hammers. One must proceed with the proper mindset, a delicate touch, and precision instrumentation. 

First, always maintain a clean, well-organized workbench:
A place for everything, and everything in its place... at least before the tornado hit.

Next, make sure you're wearing the appropriate attire:

Park Tools Mechanic's Sneakers (MS-1), in (what else?) Park Tool Blue. 

The uppers use fiber with aluminum inserts for lateral stiffness, while the dual-density elastomer lowers provide vertical compliance.

Need to make a run to the bike shop for parts and it's too far to ride? You can't just use any sort of vehicle:
Park Tools Internal Combustion Bike Transport (ICBT-1), in (what else?) Park Tool Blue.

Finally, make sure to wear gloves. You're doing surgery here, not banging pots and pans together:
The proctologist will see you now, Mr. Dura Ace.

Aside to my retro-Luddite pals... yup, that's a last-generation square taper Dura Ace crankset with matching bottom bracket (not shown). And yup, I called dibs on it if it's ever for sale. And nope, you can't have my friend's phone number to try to get it first.

For those who haven't dozed off from snark overload, my mission was to put one of those new two-piece/hollow spindle Shimano compact cranksets on this little pre-Madone. I won't bore you further on how to do that (just go to the Park Tool website like I did -- that link plus a BBT-9 and you're golden), but I will say that it was a) shockingly easy, and b) seemed like a nice bit of kit. I can't warm up to the new Shimano crank aesthetic (which looks like a kid's drawing of an elephant to me, especially when you compare it to the classic lines on that nifty Dura Ace above), but on fit and function, I'm impressed.

Okay, class dismissed. I gotta go get that carbon out of my garage before all the steel in there rejects it like a bad organ transplant.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Groucho Marx Test

I am not a joiner. Don't ask why, because I don't know. But most group activities have me scrambling for the exit (which probably explains my raging internet addiction). Even cycling -- which can often be a pretty social endeavor -- is usually my excuse to act out my loner leanings. Plus, when you ride alone, you don't get dropped.

With all that said, however, I have discovered ONE bike club that I have no problem joining -- the Tarik Saleh Bike Club, founded by co-blogster (and partial inspiration for this blogular endeavor) Tarik of Moscaline. The welcome packet tells you just about everything you need to know about TSBC:
Drat, hope that extra button wasn't a co-blogger bro deal not available to all. 
If you decide to join based on this post, please don't bug Tarik for more buttons. 
The dude has a family to feed. 

Two simple rules: Ride bikes, and try not to be an ass. Note that it isn't "don't be an ass." Benevolent Clubmeister Tarik recognizes human failings and only entreats joiners to TRY not to be an ass. I can manage that.

I splurged for the extra-fancy silver button because I'm a human magpie. Plus, it looks extra-stylin' on my woolen bike chapeau:
My "middle-management flunky on the Death Star" look is now complete -- appropriate, as the Darth Vader performance review ("He is as clumsy as he is stupid!") often applies.

So there you have it: I found a club that would have me as a member, but I joined it anyway. Gracias, Tarik. I shall fly your flag of attempted non-ass bike riding proudly in the middle of Iowa and beyond. 

THIS JUST IN: Apparently, Tarik has also accepted fivetoedsloth's membership application too. I leave it to you, discerning reader, to decide if that makes you want to join up or back away slowly.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lance Is My Hero... No, Not THAT Lance

Thanks to Local Pal Steve (the Guru of Gravel) for calling my attention to this story about a seriously tough and/or nuts Iowa cyclist via the Facebooks.

Let me see if I understand this... guy goes down, breaks leg, and GETS BACK ON THE BIKE. And then a couple hundred miles later (a couple hundred miles of RIDING ACROSS ALASKA WITH A BROKEN LEG), he goes down again, breaks his arm, and GETS BACK ON THE BIKE. Quote: "The pain was only bad, not severe."

Just to offer some limited perspective: I once crashed my bike and broke my leg. In the middle of Des Moines, Iowa. In the Spring. And what did I do? Why, whipped out my cell phone, called 911, and sat on the trail whimpering like a little girl until the ambulance showed up, of course. Quote: "Scale of 1 to 10? Are you kidding me? Just start the friggin' morphine drip!"

Lance Andre, you are one hard-arsed and/or bat-feces-crazy dude. I doff my helmet to you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just Ended My Off-Season!

I believe the correct response is "woo hoo!" Or maybe "boo-yah!"

Worked from home all day, kicked back in the recliner like a corpulent slug. Sun popped out in the late afternoon, and it dawned on me that hey, maybe I could get a ride in before dinner. The bike is still wearing studded tires (those things are a bee-yatch to change), so it was 11 miles of bubble-wrap crackle (hello, rolling resistance!)

But, doggone it, I got out there after a long, dark winter of my discontent.

Weather forecast is calling for 60s next week. Methinks (knocking wood) it might be time to wrestle those studded tires off.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bike Industry: Fix This, Please

There are two clamp diameter standards for brake levers and shifters: 23.8mm for "road" (i.e. drop, but also bullhorn) handlebars and 22.2mm for "mountain" (i.e. flat or riser) handlebars.

Why? Couldn't we just pick one? 

Or at least make all brake levers/shifters in the larger size and provide a (cheap and easy) shim to adapt to the smaller size. Oh, and the expander plugs for bar-end brake levers and shifters should be the smallest size possible with shims to fatten them out to larger bars.

Here's why: How frickin' cool would it be to be able to swap bars and brakes and shifters around willy-nilly, building your own bizarro Frankenstein's monster, then rebuilding it into something else? Flat bars with bar-end shifters sticking out the ends? Why not? Drop bars with hydraulic MTB levers up on the flats and GripShift down on the ends? Sure! The whole world of bike cockpits would become a giant box of Legos to be torn down and stuck back together however you want. I'd be SO into that.

I imagine that the "tuner" market isn't big enough to justify the chaos of switching to one standard. After all, how many cyclists know a 22.2mm clamp from a 23.8mm? Or even know that two different sizes exist? But still, a fella's gotta dream.

(Don't get me started on 25.4mm vs. 26.0mm vs. 26.4mm vs. 31.8mm stem clamp diameters, either...)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Trekking For A Tiny Trek

Lest there be any doubt that Aunt Carla and Uncle Jason are the BEST aunt and uncle ever:

Took a little road trip down to Winterset today (birthplace of John Wayne and county seat of Madison County, which -- in case you hadn't heard -- has some bridges) to pick up this little Craigslist score for Wilson the Elder Nephew's upcoming birthday. I feel somewhat safe posting it here since a) the ancient laptop he's been given to bang around on has no Web connectivity, and b) even if it did, he can't read. 

Don't get me wrong -- I like supporting bike shops when I can. But when it comes to kids' bikes, used is the way to go, especially in these itty-bitty sizes. One, kids grow so fast that they get in and out of the little bikes before they can do much damage to 'em. And two, if you're talking about a reputable bike-shop brand (like this micro-Trek), they're probably built like tanks to begin with and should last through an entire Brady Bunch of kids before they're used up. Since Elder Nephew has Bam-Bam the Younger Nephew waiting in the wings just two years behind him, that's a Good Thing.

I like Tiny Trek here because it has real bearings at all of its turning points unlike the plastic sleeve bushings on crappy department store bikes. Everything felt well-adjusted during my cursory Craigslist-sale tire-kicking, but even if it isn't, an actual cup/cone bearing (even a not-terribly-expensive one) can be adjusted. Once a plastic bushing wears, you're stuck with clunkiness unless you can source a new one. Pretty much all I need to do to this little blue bugger to make it ready to rock is replace the beat-up grips, polish it up a little, add a bell, and hang the new helmet (thanks, Grandma!) from the handlebars.

I also like Tiny Trek because it will start the gradual indoctrination of Young Nephew into his uncle's demented world. First, it's his first "real bike" (although he's hell on wheels on his plastic Big Wheel-esque trike). Second, it has FAT TIRES AND FENDERS! Woo hoo! Look out, Fuller... I'm training a youngster for a future of gravel! Look for him at Trans-Iowa 2028.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's In A Name?

Yes, I'm still out here. Insomniacs rejoice!

To re-fire my creative juices, I'm wracking my brain to come up with a list of the best and worst bike brand/model names of all time. Here's what I have so far on my "best" list: 

GIANT IGUANA: Okay, so Giant cheats by using an adjective as its brand name, thus making any noun that follows it into de facto hilarity. But in my book, the Giant Iguana towers above them all. I never worked for a Giant dealership, but even in non-Giant shops, much goof-ball-itude ensued whenever someone brought a Giant Iguana in for repair. Running in circles, flailing arms, faux badly dubbed Godzilla movie dialogue, etc. 

GIANT BUTTE: Yes, I'm that immature. But c'mon... the adjective Giant and a word that's one letter away from butt? That's comedy gold. I think Giant saw the error of their ways after this one, shifting to a model naming scheme that relied on gibberish letters and numbers (although there is some mild South Park pseudo-comedy in attempting to phonetically pronounce the Giant FCR -- try it and see!) A tip, though: If you happen to find one of these at a used bike sale that would be good for your significant other, do NOT text the following to that person with your iPhone: "I saw a Giant Butte and thought of you!" Auto-correct will have you sleeping on the couch every time. 

IBIS HAKKALUGI: See a trend here? Put a childish joke in your name and I'm all over it. A green cyclocross bike named after a phlegmatic onomatopoeia? I am all up in that. Extra credit to Ibis for mocking overblown tubing names with its "Moron" tubing, featuring "more on the ends." Well played, gentlemen. Well played. 

GARY FISHER HOO KOO E KOO: Regular readers know that I have issues with Gary Fisher. But man, there's just something fun about yelling "HOO KOO E KOO!" at the top of your lungs. Don't believe me? Try to do it without smiling. And then go apologize to your neighbors. Fisher tried to re-bottle the lightning with the Wahoo, but it just wasn't the same.

So what's on my lame list? Pretty much any brand that cops out with meaningless numbers or letters (an exception is granted for the Peugeot PX10, though). Ooh, a Trek 830? Yawn. Yes, there's a Cannondale MT800 in my garage, but at least the black-on-black decals hide its exceedingly lame factory-applied moniker. Also on the lame list: Any model named after a race won by the dude whose name is the brand -- I'm lookin' at you, brand-turned-pariah Greg Lemond. Call the bike Alpe d'Huez if you want, but it still ain't gonna get my lard arse over a hill any bigger than a freeway overpass. And finally, while I like a good (okay, stupid) joke, don't try too hard to be cute (cough, RIVENDELL, snort, SURLY!)

I'm going to think of more at 3 a.m. (because that's how my brain works), but I'll leave it to you for now. Nominees? Greatest hits? Greatest misses? Bring it.