The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Overhaul class

Hey All!!!!
Just a reminder that there are still some spots open for this Sundays Bicycle Overhaul class from 10am-2pm. This is a 2 week class, the first week we will be going over drive-train disassemble, cleaning and resembling. The following week we will dive into hub, bottom bracket and headset overhaul. Take both classes or just one by emailing alex.modic@freewheelbike.com.

Monday, January 2, 2017

First class of the year

Start your year off with a Basic tune up class at Freewheel bike. Still a few spots open for Sunday January 8th. This class goes over brakes, gears, wheel truing and more!!!


Friday, December 16, 2016

Sunday Class

Hey All!!!!!
Still one spot open for our Bicycle Tune Up Class this Sunday at Freewheel midtown. The temperature may be falling but come let your bike knowledge soar this Sunday, hurry up before time runs out!!!!!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Winter Overhaul Special (Winter is coming!!!!)



The white walkers are on the move, the king of the north has been crown and Freewheel has started its Winter Overhaul Special.


 Our tune up packages have been slash. The Golden Wrench Tune-up plus normally $140, is now $100 and our Golden Wrench Overhaul normally $240 is now only $120!!!!  That's $120 for a complete overhaul of your bike not including parts. Stop by any of the three Freewheel locations to get your bike ready for winter riding or as a finale once over before retiring your faithful steed for the year. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Freewheel University

 Get ready for the fall by signing up for Freewheel University. Freewheel U is a three week bicycle mechanic course that will go over everything you need to know in order to be the master of your bicycle. The first week October 9th will go over the basics, brakes, gears, wheel and drive-train. This will be followed by the Bicycle Overhaul class on October 16th and 23rd. The overhaul class will dive deeper into the hubs, headset and bottom bracket along with a full overhaul of the drive train! sign up now before its too late.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sunday class

Still spots open for the class on Sunday. sign up here. Also, plenty of slots open on the 28th

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rock and Roll

 With all that's going on in the world today, it's good to just know that this exists.


                                         
ROCK AND ROLL LITTLE MAN!!!!!!!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tune up class

Hey All!!! There are still slots open for the Bicycle Tune Up class this Sunday at 10 am at Freewheel midtown. Sign up now before its too late.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

New Mural

Hey all!! Come by freewheel and check out the new Mural. I't not done yet, but the painter has been working really hard on it and I think it's looking really cool.
Come on by and tell us what you think!!!!!!

Monday, July 18, 2016

New Summer Classes

Summer is in full swing so what better time to get your learn on with some Freewheel Bike tune up classes. I just up some classes up on the schedule and I'm supper excited.


First we have the  Bicycle Tune Up Class on July 31st and Aug 7th this class with give you a basic understanding of how to maintain your bike. Next is the Bicycle Overhaul Class. This class will make you the envy of your group ride, one week you'll overhaul your drive train the next you dive into the hubs, headset and bottom bracket. Sign up today before the classes fill up.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tune Up Class

Still one spot open for the tune up class on Sunday the 19th. Sign up here.

Bad Joke of the day

Question:What is the difference between a Congressman in tuxedo riding a bicycle and a farmer in overalls riding a tricycle?

Answer :Attire

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bike class and Selfies!

Had a great seminar on bike repair last week with Awesome turn out at Midtown Freewheel Bike Center!!!!!! Over 60 people from Allina Health crammed into a small room to hear me pontificate about bike repair. Thanks to all the people who showed up to learn more about bikes. And sorry I made you all take a selfie with me.

Monday, May 30, 2016

School Is In

Hey all! There are still spots open for the Bicycle Overhaul Class starting this Sunday. This two week course covers bottom bracket, head set and hub overhaul as well as how to completely take off your drive-train, clean it and reinstall. Be the envy of all your friends with the knowledge to work on your own bike. Sign up here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Get Some Class at Freewheel

There's still time to sign up for Freewheel's famous Drive-Train Overhaul class. In this class you'll learn how to take apart you entire drive-train, clean it and properly assembly it back on the bike. Class is on Sunday, March 20th from 10am-2pm at the Midtown bike center. Come get your hands dirty.



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Notes from a Wrench: Caffeine and Bike grease

This week a member of Freewheel Bike decided to order some brand new cold coffee drinks to sell to costumers. We put the 12 illy brand cafe iced coffee cans in the front cooler along side the Coca-Cola and Power-Aid ready for the public.
Sure enough, two days later the mechanics in the back had consumed every last one. Just goes to show you that if you wish to bribe a bicycle mechanic nothing works better than beer or coffee.
And that's the way it spins
Email me at alex.modic@freewheelbike.com

Friday, March 4, 2016

Notes from a Wrench: Magnets!!!!!

Our friends at Zipp have come out with a brand new spin (pun intended) on free-hub bodies. I know what you're thinking and no it't not one of those Fabian Cancellara motors. Zipp Wheels have come out with a rear hub body that uses magnets to eliminate drag. That's right magnets!!!!! And as the philosophers and poets of the Insane Clown Posse once said "Magnets how do they work", the Zipp Cognition rear hub is just as mystifying.

The hub works by "disengaging the ratchet mechanism when coasting" this reduces drag and make the wheel more efficient. And for only $3,800 a set it could be yours. I think the product is too new to really have a proper option on it's future in the bike industry, but I know if you don't like the hub you can always hang it up on your refrigerate with your kid's homework. But like Moonpies and the inter-web, I think this is going to be a game changer. Check out the hub online and tell us what you think.

And that's the way it spins
Email me at alex.modic@freewheelbike.com




Monday, January 4, 2016

Get Some Class

One week left to sign up for the basic bicycle tune up class. learn brake, gears, tire and much more to keep your faithful steed  up and running. $100 gets you one on one guidance from one of our skilled teacher, along with access to all the top notch tools you'll need. Sign up today before slots are filled up. And don't for get to take a look at all the other classes the Freewheel offers!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Back To School

One week left to sign up for the basic bicycle tune-up class at Mid-Town Freewheel. Get your learning on and be the envy of your group ride. Only $100, so sign up now before all the slots are filed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

December Tune Up Class

Next month Freewheel will start the holidays off right by going back to school with our Bicycle Tune up class on December 13th from 10am-2pm. In this introductory class, you will learn brake, gear, hubs and wheel truing. Register now before it's too late and learn to swing a wrench like the best of them at Midtown Freewheel.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Stache 9 - In Depth


I first rode the Trek Stache 9 at the Trek Factory Demo that took place at Lebanon Hills on May 24th, 2015. I was not expecting much from this bike; I rode it out of professional curiosity (it's kinda my job). 





As you can see it's a really hard job. Some days are harder than others. After about seven hours of setting up bikes for customers to ride we shut down the public demo and had a shop employee-only demo. I was pretty tired from adjusting air pressure on suspension forks and talking about bikes all day but Ken, the demo truck driver, insisted that I go ride a Stache. And since everyone that had ridden one came back raving about it, I knew it was my duty to check it out for myself.





The 18.5" Stache 9 at the demo had Trek's new HiLine 29er+ wheels on it, which are not stock. These wheels are reportedly much lighter than the stock wheels and of course they have Bontrager's legendary tubeless system. These were an early-release wheel set, and are not available for purchase at this time.




After riding the bike for one lap at Lebanon Hills during the demo, I was convinced that this was the right bike for me. This bike is fun! I quickly ordered one up while they were still in stock. The initial assembly of the bike was a breeze. With the 1x11 drive-train there was only one derailleur to adjust, the wheels were true, and the brakes set up quickly and easily. 




After the first ride I swapped the dropper post for a Cane Creek Thudbuster because I'm an old guy with a bad back. I found that with the suspension seat post and the plus-sized tires I was able to keep weight on the saddle through bumpy corners, which allowed me to keep rear-wheel traction (kinda like a full suspension bike--do ya see where I'm going here?). It also allowed me to stay seated over bumpy terrain and not lose my pedaling rhythm. Yes, I am still a hard-tail rider because it suits my style, which is to say that long sustained climbs are my weakness. This is one of the reasons that the plus-sized tires appealed to me. Some people have talked about hitting their feet on the stays. I do not have this problem when I am clipped in, but when goofing around on it in street shoes I do occasionally feel my heels hit the stays, but it's no big deal.




One of the things that I first noticed is that the Mule Fut rims were heavier, thus the bike was not quite as quick on the climbs. But as a clydesdale rider, I noticed more flex than on the Bontrager HiLine wheels that were on the demo bike I rode. I also had difficulty getting the rear wheel to set up tubeless. The wheels came stock with the Sun Ringle rim strip to cover the cutouts but they put Stan's rim tape over the stock rim strip to seal things up. The Stan's tape was just a little bit wider than the stock rim strip, so it kinda stuck to the rim. I ended up replacing the Stan's tape with duct tape, which is the perfect width at 48mm. This seems to have done the trick for now.





 One quirk to be aware of is the Manitou Hex Lock through-axle.



 It uses a hex shape to align it so that a "T" shaped tab can engage a slot in the cap on the rotor side. 


 It's a bit clumsy to use and seems overly complicated. But it works.



The Manitou Magnum fork has 110mm of travel, but with the quality of the suspension feel and the big tires I don't need any more. I haven't taken the time to learn about all the adjustments or do much tuning which is a testament to the fork because it feels good. The red knob is a lock out/firming adjustment and it works well. There's a high-speed compression and a bottom-out adjustment knob. I fiddled with them on my first ride but didn't notice much difference. One important note: to adjust the air pressure in the fork you DO NOT take off the black top-cap on the rotor/non-drive side; instead, you remove the blue bottom-cap on the rotor side. I will say that from setting up the bike at the Trek demo and from my experience I found that I preferred a much lower air pressure than what the sticker on the fork recommends. 



So why did I choose to get one of these bikes? This bike is what I have needed for the last 15 years. It soaks up the trail. It loves to lean. It is the perfect wheelie machine. It goes over rock gardens better than any other bike I've ridden. The positioning/fit is very comfortable yet I would still be happy to race on it. The bottom line is that it is a ton of fun and it's fast. If you want to give one a try, stop in to our West Bank or Eden Prairie location or join me on my Sunday Night Theo MTB Ride




Monday, July 21, 2014

Protect your derailleur hanger

From time to time we see a bike with catastrophic damage to the rear derailleur and rear wheel caused when the derailleur got caught in the spokes of the wheel while it was moving. Most commonly this is caused by prior damage to the derailleur and is COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE! Frequently we see telltale scuff marks on the outside of the derailleur itself, suggesting that it has been through some earlier trauma.



Here's how it usually goes:

1) The rear derailleur gets bumped, bending the derailleur hanger slightly in towards the rear wheel.

2) At some point the rider shifts towards the larger cogs (easier gears), at which point the derailleur cage gets caught in the spokes of the spinning wheel.

3) Terrible things happen.


The derailleur hanger is the small tab which connects the derailleur to the bike frame. On most modern bikes these are replaceable, meant to be a sacrificial part. Because they're meant to be the weakest part of that system (to avoid damage to the more expensive derailleur or frame), it takes surprisingly little force to bend them. Something as minor as tipping the bike over onto the right side can do it. Or maybe you didn't quite make it through that closing door on your way out of the bike shop, and the door bumped your derailleur. Or perhaps you were a little ungentle while loading the bike into your car. Needless to say, actually crashing the bike on that side can bend the hanger.


But the major damage often comes later, when you continue to ride a bike with a bent hanger. So be forewarned: it's much cheaper to replace a bent hanger than your derailleur and rear wheel.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Double Barrel comes to the Midwest

Ever heard of the Cane Creek Double Barrel? It's only the most adjustable, best-performing rear shock on the market. and it's coming to the Midwest! Shockspital is now a certified Double Barrel service and warranty center, joining just a handful of shops around the U.S. that are thus qualified.

And though the CCDB only comes in sizes 7.5" and bigger, any of you with a bike that can handle a long-travel shock should be excited about this product. Keep in mind that you'll need to devote some time to dialing it in to your preferences. While most rear shocks offer two or three types of damper adjustment, the CCDB offers four: high- and low-speed compression AND high- and low-speed rebound. And if you want the new Double Barrel CS, you also get a climb switch similar to the pedal platform option found on other companies' shocks.

For the more weigh-conscious rider, there is the Double Barrel Air, boasting all the same adjustability of the CCDB but using a lightweight air spring in place of the coil.

Of course this level of performance comes at a price--the Double Barrel is a bit of an investment. But fortunately for you prospective buyers out there, Shockspital is also an authorized Demo Center. This means you can try before you buy! Check out the Double Barrel website to see if your bike can handle this shock. If it can, give us a shout to line up a demo shock. We're still in the process of putting together our demo fleet, so contact us before it gets warm out to ensure we have the right size for your bike come spring.

Minnesotans/Wisconsinites in the audience should consider this the hands-down best choice of equipment for your Spirit Mountain bike. Hell yeah!

Double Barrel small part? Yes, we have that in stock.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Confessions of a Recent Fatbike Convert

When I joined the Freewheel team last summer, I knew that it would be especially hard for me to resist the allure of fat bike season once winter came. Now that I was working at one of the nation’s top fat bike retailers, I was surrounded by them, in more varieties than ever—our shop carries Trek’s new Farley, Salsa’s aluminum and titanium Mukluks, the super-wide Surly Moonlander, and the breathtakingly light Borealis Yampa and Salsa Beargrease carbon models. (“A carbon fat bike?” marvels every single person who enters our store.) And, of course, the stalwart Surly Pugsley, which kicked things off back in 2005 as the first retail fat bike.

Less than a decade later, the skyrocketing popularity of fat bikes is well-documented and nowhere more visible than the Twin Cities, where fat bike manufacturers are headquartered and hundreds of them roll out of our three Freewheel locations every season. Plenty of people even bought them during the summer, heading for the MTB trails. We are reaching Peak Fatbike, not just among trail enthusiasts, but with everyday commuters, as more brands make them and they become more affordable. (You know a trend has moved from the fringe to the mainstream when the local news covers it and Wal-Mart gets in on the act.)

I’ve been a winter bike commuter for years, and I still believe that nothing will get you through a Minnesota winter like a dependable old frame with studded tires, fenders, and platform pedals. But if you want more stability and relish the thought of an off-road adventure on your way home from work, you should consider a fat bike.

I was still on the fence about fat bikes when I winterized my single-speed Surly Steamroller in November. Then Freewheel held its Winter Bike Expo, and I spent two days watching Pugsleys, Moonlanders, Beargreases, and Mukluks roll out of our Midtown location and onto the course we’d set up on the Greenway. Maybe I lingered a little too long next to the Dillinger tires and W√∂lvhammer boots, or just saw too many ecstatic, rosy-cheeked customers return from their demo rides, but I eventually drank the metaphorical Kool-Aid by demoing a Pugsley on the course. I knew it was going to be fun, but nothing compares to the sensation of actually clearing a four-foot ramp or bombing down a big hill—using a bike to do something previously reserved for snowboarders. I was instantly hooked, and the Expo gave hundreds of others that conversion experience along with me. I purchased a Pugsley in “Real Blew” later that week.

Cyclists often describe the appeal of winter biking by invoking the intrepid spirit of arctic explorers and astronauts, striking out into inhospitable environments decked head-to-toe in funny-looking clothing, wearing big boots and facemasks. People who make fun of us or call us crazy for riding through winter probably haven’t felt the ways that riding in these conditions amplifies the usual mental and physical benefits of cycling: your heart beats faster, your body gets warmer, and you get out of the house, undaunted by the snow and cold. Fat bikes take these sensations to the next level by giving you added confidence on various terrain and the knowledge that you can hop that pile of snow at the next intersection if have (or want) to. You’re getting a great workout, combating Seasonal Affective Disorder, raising your body temperature far higher than you would driving or taking the bus, and having a blast in a climate most people flee by staying indoors or leaving the state altogether. You’re a superhuman James Cook/Neil Armstrong badass.

Of course, riding a fat bike doesn’t make you invincible, and there are some peculiarities to the machine that take some getting used to. For one, you’re not going to go as fast on pavement as you would on any other bike, especially if you keep your tires inflated at the extremely low (5-10 psi) recommend pressure. You’ll also probably be in the low gears for most of your ride, but that’s great news for your cardio workout! Fat tires sometimes have less traction than you’d expect, and can wash out on the mashed-potato slush that fills the streets after the plows have come through. Studded Dillinger tires can help with this and bestow upon your bike something approaching invincibility.

So, do you absolutely need a fat bike? Probably not. Do you want one? Definitely probably. My winterized Steamroller will get me from point A to B, but on the days when I have time to kill before or after work, or on weekends when I want to hit the trails, I’m glad I’ve got my Pugsley. A few weeks ago, grappling with cabin fever, I left for work a couple hours early and rode down to the East River Flats. I followed a trail that cross-country skiers had packed relatively firm, occasionally venturing out onto the ice, stopping every now and then to take in the scenery and be grateful that I had such ready access to the country’s mightiest river and the quiet that I relish so much during a winter ride. I was a couple miles downtown and just down the hill from the U of M campus, but it felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. My cabin fever was gone; I felt physically and mentally restored. That’s a feeling you can’t put a price on, but it’s got to be worth at least as much as my Puglsey.






Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting Squishy with Giant Mendez

In 2013 I added a little bit of spring to my step and squish to my bike stable. I'm here to spread the good word about full suspension and how it's changed my riding.

I've always loved an opportunity to play in the mud, and a few years ago after getting my first Surly Troll I reveled in its versatility (more on that in another post). I could bike it around town, do groceries, or take it to some of my favorite off road spots like Theo Wirth or the Minnesota River Bottoms


A few years went by and although I was completely satisfied with the ride qualities of my fully rigid steel bike, I wanted to be able to do more! I wanted to be able to take on some serious features or play on a pump track! 

At the end of 2013 I had been doing my research and was considering purchasing a Trek Lush SL and was going to wait a bit to pull the trigger. I soon found out that in 2014 Trek was going to phase out their 26" wheeled model of that bike, and because of my stature (5'0") I was concerned about not being able to flick my bike around as I prefer to. I had to make a decision quick and I've gotta say, I'm not sad about what I had to do...

Betty looking fierce
With a light aluminum frame, Shimano SLX/XT mixed group, respectable SLX hydros, 120mm of travel front and rear thanks to Fox Evolution Series paired suspensions dialed for a lighter weight rider, this bike was a far cry from my steel single speed. The super hot matte and gloss black paint job didn't hurt either; this bike was perfection to me.

Before I got a chance to properly ride the bike I've named Betty I had to take a very relevant business trip to Trek where I got an opportunity to test ride the big sister, or 29er version of the Lush SL. After spending a few days on some of the most amazing trails I've ever had the benefit of riding I really feel like I'd gotten a handle on the Lush SL 29er.

Big wheels, no big dealzzzz
I can understand the appeal of a 29er after spending extended time on one. They are super fast, they roll over just about anything, and the wheelbase feels longer and stable. These are all nice things, but I couldn't get over the "monster truck" feel of the front end. My second day riding the bike I dropped the stem a spacer and it felt better, and I felt if I had more time with it I would have been better off dropping it another 10mm and it would have been perfect. A concern of mine that got blown to bits was that this bike's handling would be cumbersome as I am accustomed to much smaller wheels but with the tapered head tube and proper G2 geometry all I had to do was tell the front end where to go and it would GO!  ALSO, bonus, in 2014 this bicycle comes with a dropper post! Hitting some of the crazier features with a remote hydraulic dropper post made all of the difference in confidence for me. I see the appeal of a newer rider enjoying the stability this bike has to offer, and it is awesome crushing over everything in the woods.

This bike also features ABP, Trek's solution to suspension lockup when you pull your brake so I could retain control and not feel like I was being bucked off my bike. The Lush SL also features Fox's Climb/Trail/Descend switch to adjust the stiffness of front and rear suspension while riding different kinds of trails. I stayed in climb and trail most of the time, hopefully come spring I'll be able to take my bike to some places where I can use the descend feature. 

On the more technical side, Trek makes suspension setup easy. Adjusting from going rigid to full suspension was simple and nowhere near as scary as I imagined with their suspension setup calculator. All of the knobs and dials can be kind of daunting at first but fortunately with that tool and my lovely men in Shockspital I got it dialed perfectly. 

When all is said and done I would 100% recommend the Lush SL (and the Superfly 100 AL, the gender-neutral companion) to anyone coming in looking to get set up with a full-suspension mountain bike. If you choose the extra suspension to get more rad or even just to not feel like someone completely beat you up the next day, they are fabulous machines to take your off-roading to the next level. Whether you're coming from rigid or hardtail, you can't go wrong with a little bit of extra squish. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cannondale Lefty/Headshok damper upgrades

At Shockspital we see a lot of Lefty and Headshok forks of various ages and in various states of disrepair. Among other things, we go through a lot of replacement dampers in the process of keeping these forks on the road (trail). But on the bright side, these repairs are an opportunity for a damper upgrade!

Lefty PBR damper upgrade
As long as your fork is 2005 or newer, upgrading the damper can be as easy as a 10-minute swap. Though it's usually a good idea to have us service the telescope bearings as long we we're at it. Worst-case scenario, if the inner leg is damaged (which prevents the air spring from working properly), we can change that out, too.

Lefty XLR remote lockout damper
So you could revitalize your older Lefty Max with a modern PBR or XLR damper, complete with the lastest updates! Cannondale occasionally makes minor improvements to their damper systems, and the only way to keep on top of that is to install the latest version of the dampers.

Get the latest updates!
The frosting is that a new damper comes with a new 1-year warranty from Cannondale. And, if you're upgrading the same damper type (old PBR to a newer PBR), Cannondale offers great trade-in pricing on your old damper.

Same goes for Fatty/Ultra Headshok forks--if it's 2005 or newer we can in most cases install a modern DLR80 cartridge, for external lockout and rebound adjustability.

Give us a shout to find out which upgrades your fork is eligible for. Get the most out of your Lefty!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Sniff Your Chain: The Olfactory Man's Guide to Chain Lube

Are you an olfactory sort of person? Take this brief quiz to find out:

1. I open the milk jug for an illicit swig when Mom is not looking. My first move is to give it the old sniff-test to make sure it's not too far down the road towards cottage cheese. (true/false)

2. "Oh see and look: a pair of socks. I think that I will wear them with my tennies. Wait--are they clean?" *sniff* Oh yes, this is what I do. (true/false)

3. Is it raining? Is it going to rain? Has it rained recently? I know this by smell. (true/false)

4. Something is wrong with my car. I know this because it is emitting: a) bad sounds; b) bad vibes; c) bad persons; d) "Bad Bad Leroy Brown;" e) bad odors.

5. You think that this song rules: [CLICK ON THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO THE SONG!!! IT IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE QUIZ!!!]

6. I've got a nose. Having a nose is one of those things I'm good at. (true/false)

If you answered any of the above questions at all, you might be an olfactory person, and consequently, this post is for you.

Have you ever wondered how to tell what a chain has been lubed with? Here's a fail-safe way to distinguish among several of the top brands of chain lube using nothing but your olfactory bulb.


Here is Thad. Thad has literally got a picture of sprocket teeth coming out of his head. Thad is modeling a lovely yellow bottle of Dumonde Tech Lite. Fitting, because Thad is a culinary-trained grillmeister, and Dumonde Tech Lite smells kind of like blue cheese. More precisely, it smells like Roquefort cheese, which comes from moldy old caves in France, and features the same Brevibacterium linens that makes your feet stink and attracts mosquitoes. Are you a foodie? Here is your chain lube!


Here is Pete. Pete is wearing a shirt with his name on it. He's been working out, as you can see. In his right (or left, whatever) hand, he holds a bottle of Finish Line Dry. Finish Line Dry was the original dry chain lube developed in the War of 1812 when the battleship "Old Ironsides" battled Mothra on the banks of Lake Gogebic. The hulking steamer was simply making too much racket as she lurched sturdily toward the ever-alert mothlike creature, so they came up with Finish Line Dry... anyways, it smells subtly of patriotism mixed with a hint of nail polish remover. It is extremely low-odor for those with sensitive beaks.


Here is Mario. Mario is standing near the Greenway, and fittingly, holds a bottle of Finish Line Wet lube, the official lube of the Greenway from November through March. It is pretty much the only lube that can hold up to a Minnesota winter's salt and slop. It smells like virtue and strength; Minnesota resolve to ride our bicycles even when the rest of the world laughs us to scorn. Actually, it kind of smells like a lawn freshly mowed where you accidentally got into the herb garden with the weed eater, especially if you grow peppermint. Mixed with Band-Aids.


This is Medium Tyson. He is ecstatically holding a bottle of T-9. He is ecstatic because the bottle is tightly sealed: T-9 smells kind of like a freshly loaded diaper if the child has eaten sushi, plus a little hint of paraffin. Boeing developed T-9 to build airplanes out of, but building airplanes out of waxy liquid proved impractical. So they implemented Plan B: stink up bike shops with it!


This is Karl. Karl's mechanical savvy is legendary, and so is the lube he is holding. Tri-Flow has been around for decades and is a great lube for rainy days and Mondays. And speaking of rainy days and Mondays, Tri-Flow probably has the cheeriest and most identifiable scent of any lube we've tried: it smells like bananas. Seriously, monkeys will drop everything and chase you bodily out of the woods if you lube your chain with Tri-Flow. But don't go writing to the Tri-Flow people for recipes: it is evidently not very tasty despite its amazing smell.


This is Brian. Brian is a registered Iowegian, and true corn-fed Iowegians know that regular WD-40 doesn't belong on a bike any more than a toaster belongs in the bathtub. But they (WD-40, not Iowegians) have recently put forth some products that are intended for bicycle use. "Hot diggety" we all said in unison when we heard the joyous news. The bottles showed up and we crowded around them like gypsies at a yard sale, and then we looked for a chain to lube with... WD-40! I know, it's crazy talk! But then we got whiff of the stuff. "Axe Body Spray," said Brian, crinkling his nose disdainfully. "Frat boys." said Dave, evidently drawing from a deep well of life experiences. "The shoe department at K-Mart," I quipped, trying to look on the bright side. This stuff is strong, and the scent lingers tenaciously. If you use it, we will know. We put it on the bikes of "special" customers for a while until our responsible service manager hid it somewhere, lest we get into trouble.

So there you have it, folks. This will get you started for when you go around sniffing people's chains!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

50 Years of Park Tool

Recently a few of us mechanical type Freewheel Golden Wrench bike fixer people attended Park Tool's 50th Anniversary event. For half a century Park Tool has been doing nothing but making bicycle support goodies: no brief stints in NAPCAR; no contracts with NASA; no farm equipment; no joining the circus; no martial weapons (although, if I were attacked by a moose, I should like to have a PW-3 handy). You will be relieved to discover that they still make their iconic pizza cutters, one of which graced my own kitchen table when I was a lad.

What makes Park Tool so rad? 

From our perspective as bike fixer types, they feel like family. They are bike shop people through and through. They started making tools back in 1963 because the current tools on the market just weren't good enough for the fancy new bikes that were coming out back then. Have you ever tried to fix a space station with tools you bought at the grocery store? That's what Howard and Art felt like when they were trying to adjust Campagnolo hubs. All you could get at the time were wrenches that had been precision engineered for delicate operations such as scratching your back or whacking the carburetor on your tractor. 

So they made their own tools. And at some point in the 1980's they quit the bike shops and started making tools full time. It's been full on since then with hardly a glitch. Consistency? If you own a Park repair stand from any time in the history of the company, it was welded by the same guy who is still welding them today.

Here's a point of trivia: At some point they took time out of their busy schedules and invented the color blue. Thanks, Park Tool!


At any rate, they tell their story best, and it's a dandy.



There's a Discovery Trek (with the chain falling off) and some choice Paramounts on that rack.




They had some Stingrays in the lobby, let me tell you what!

Much of our evening was spent in the presence of Calvin Jones, the indefatigable mascot of Park Tool, and a bike shop guy if you've ever met one. He gave us a tour of their new facility in Oakdale on the condition that we didn't take pictures of secret stuff. We inadvertently took some pictures of secret stuff, but we can't put them on the blog. Sorry, Calvin, if you read this. It was Pete.


When you stared at these, you saw a hexagon of pink spots floating around for about an hour.

At any rate, Calvin's tour took us through their production area, their new warehouse, and their demo shop area, where we saw some familiar and some unfamiliar tools, including ones that haven't quite been released yet. After some hearty jibber-jabber, it was time for some foooooood. If you ever acquire a time machine and you are wondering what to do with it, I highly recommend crashing this party and sampling the mashed potato bar. It was one of those magical moments in my culinary experience.



Oh yes, it was very nice.

Having stuffed our boilers with choice dainties, we were in excellent spirits to listen to the program. It consisted of a fascinating video of the founders of the company telling their story, followed by several well-wishers from the greater bike industry wishing them well. Eric Hawkins, son of founder Howard Hawkins, wrapped up with a toast to the future.


Art Engstrom, co-founder


Industry luminary, whose name escapes me


Luscious piece of birthday cake
No, it is not frosted with Poly-Lube 1000.

Congratulations, Park Tool, for 50 years of making our job better!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring is at Space Camp

If you're like me (and you are, at least if A. you have gums, and B. you are bilaterally symmetrical), you're experiencing some serious anticipation anxieties about whether Spring is actually going to Spring, or if we're going to have to implement plan "B." You may be wondering what plan "B" could possibly be: let's just say that it involves a great deal of whining and finger-pointing. Frankly, as early as Spring showed up last year, I can't blame a fella for sleeping in this year, but I'm starting to wonder if Spring is maybe going to skip the Midwest this year and go to Space Camp instead.

So here we are: the Ides of March is at hand, and there's so much snow in my yard that the Leprechauns are not even going to be able to make it out of their burrows, let alone see their shadows. I doubt if they will even come out in time to hide hard-boiled eggs behind my furniture.

The freeze-thaw cycle makes treacherous man-traps out of shady spots on the bike paths. Those big, brown puddles that collect on the side of the road are perfect hiding places for landlocked sea-serpents that want to gnaw your shins.

I see you there, mister sea serpent...


Yes, yes. We're Midwesterners. We know all this. That's why we have special bikes for such seasons: featuring full-wrap fenders; studded tires; a good, thick patina of crusty grime; and "high-performance orange" decorations on exposed ferrous surfaces. And we have a highly effective game plan if we encounter sea serpents in the big brown puddles. It is so effective that I've never met a single person who was at any time eaten by a sea serpent, which proves everything.

When do we get to ride our nice bikes? Not for a couple of weeks yet, I'm afraid. We have to wait for the snow to melt down and expose the mounds of trash that got there all on its own. Then we have to wait till a good rain washes the sand off of the corners. Then wait for the big brown puddles to make their way down to the Gulf of Mexico, where they will be enslaved and sold to tourists for many pesos.Then we have to sit and wait till the road salt has had a chance to wake up the Leprechauns, who will emerge groggily from their dens, predict that Spring is at Space Camp, and then fly south for the winter in their infamous vee-formations.

While you're waiting, we're waiting too.  Late Spring means light Spring rush at the bike shop. While our workload is still light, you can bring in your elite fleet of summer bikes for super-quick Spring service. How quick is super-quick? As quick as a 1986 Camaro with a louvered rear window (pictured above), parked outside of Space Camp (not pictured above), that's how quick!

Make your road bike feel showroom fresh with new tires, new cables, bar tape, and a chain. Get your mountain bike ready to go with new grips, fresh tires, and clean suspension oil. Estimates are always free, as are smiles, advice, and bike parking while you shop. When it finally gets warm, you will be glad you're not sitting in line at the bike shop, dratting Leprechauns and waiting a week or more to get your bike ready to roll.

As soon as Spring gets back from Space Camp, all bets are off.