The Golden Wrench

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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons, Use a Helicoil

Soft metals such as aluminum and magnesium are touchy about torque. If you get too frisky with a bolt in an aluminum part, the part will often say "Oh, I see, is that how it's going to be?" and barf up all its threads. Then you have yourself a fancy aluminum paperweight or wind chime. Sometimes it's no big deal: if I stripped out the bolt hole on the hardware of a Kalloy seat post, I would fire the whole thing into the recycling bin with a Spaniard's flair. Fox forks, on the other hand, are generally worth saving.

Whether it was zeal for the fatherland, anabolic steroids, or a poorly-timed sneeze at the end of the torque wrench's range that caused the customer to strip the threads out of the brake post, he was sad. We consoled him and gave him options: He could a) jam his foot into the crown of the fork when he wants to stop [not great]; b) bring a piece of broomstick to shove into the spokes when he wants to stop [not great either, and no modulation to speak of]; c) get a dragster parachute for his hydration pack [time-consuming]; d) drill a hole in his brake arch and mount a side-pull caliper BMX brake [he considered it, but all we had were gold ones from 1983]; or e) use a Heli-coil insert to have brand spanky-new threads in the existing place.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, do I get excited to deploy new-fangled technologies! I guess new-fangled is a bit strong in the adjective department: they were developed in 1938. They're stainless steel, stronger than the original threads by a longshot, and used all over the aerospace industry! Why, Boeing endorses them for crying out loud!

Yes, Boeing. The people who make the airplanes in which you fly south to visit Grandma. Boeing employs klutzes and louts who can't operate torque wrenches properly:

Announcer: "Welcome to the secret test facilities for Boeing, where two top aerospace technicians are putting the finishing touches on a brand new prototype for a passenger aircraft, scheduled for its first flight tomorrow morning. Here, working on the hydraulic control mechanisms is Brad, age 42, a 1994 MIT grad with a degree in materials analysis and a minor in Baltic Satirical Literature, father of two and a half, scratch golfer at the local putt-putt emporium, and a real hound for quality used furniture. Assisting Brad is Floyd, age 46, who is several pounds too heavy for his jumpsuit, has a degree from the University of Texas in metallurgy with a hand-to-hand combat minor, owns four Boston Terriers each named Carlos to avoid confusion, and has written several noteworthy sonatas for the accordion. We join them now in progress as they install something expensive."

Aerospace Technician #1: "Blast it, Floyd, I can't find my crescent wrench: can I borrow yours?"

Aerospace Technician #2: "I thought you were using it to get pigeons outta the rafters this mornin.' You looked up there?" [gesticulates vaguely towards the roof of the hanger, some fifty feet above their heads]

Aerospace Technician #1: "Oh, yeah. I mean, naw, not yet." [gazes at the roof intently for nearly two minutes] "Huh. Ain't seein' it. OK if I borrow yours then?"

Aerospace Technician #2: "Well, the best one I got is this here one that says 'Brad' on it. Just a coincidence, mind you now, that it's called 'Brad.' All my tools got names, they're kinda like friends in a way." [tosses adjustable wrench toward Brad, who fumbles it, dropping it onto something expensive with a hollow 'clang' and a few muffled oaths as he fishes it out of the compartment]

Aerospace Technician #1: "Yeah, I here ya." [Looks closely at adjustable wrench] Say, this here's not a metric crescent wrench: you think it'll still work?"

Aerospace Technician #2: "Can't hurt to try. How come you don't use that fancy 'lectric torque wrench they give us?"

Aerospace Technician #1:"Aww, corn shucks. I took that thing home for the sport of my younguns, who are inclined toward things that beep and light up. You don't need a torque wrench when you been doing this as long as I..." *CRACK* [The color drains from Brad's face as he backs the fastener out of the hole, only to discover that the threads came with it. Beginning to perspire, he glances furtively about the facility to see if a supervisor was privy to the destruction.]

"Uh oh, Floyd, better grab a Heli-Coil."

[Lights dim, big-band music begins blaring from somewhere]

Man with Top Hat: [Steps out from behind something expensive, Crooning]

Broke something expensive, and you don't know what to do?
Too obvious for duct tape, or too big for Krazy Glue?
Stripped the threads from something that is worth more than your life?
Is your supervisor marching toward you with a butcher's knife?

Dancing Girls:

If your crazy supervisor's threat'ning you
Use a Heli-Coil and it's good as new
He will think the problem is in his head
And commit himself to psychotherapy!

Heli-Coil! Heli-Coil! When your backside is about to boil!

Man with Top Hat: "Available at fine auto parts stores nation-wide!"

But anyways, the operation went like this:
Yup, no threads worth trusting.

Aaahhh! Hahaha!!! Haaa!!! Mmmm....

The tap is just a hair oversized to make room for the insert.
Once complete, the system is actually quite a bit stronger
than the original threads.
Here they are: cute little buggers, aren't they?

In you go! The black thingy makes them go in straight.
Apparently that's important or something.

That's all the pictures I was able to get. The brake went on perfectly, and we barely had to adjust the caliper. The customer was pleased as a squirrel whose mortgage payments are very low, and rides the bike today thanks to Heli-Coil!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Freewheel Frolic

Which of these statements is true of the above picture?

a. I've never ridden this bicycle before.
b. I am only licensed as a Cat 2, but I am going to go and do an Expert race.
c. My cycling shoes still have mud from Jingle Cross on them.
d. I wear dark glasses in the woods on overcast days.
e. All of the above

Freewheel Bike was a proud sponsor of the Freewheel Frolic, which benefitted MORC. How did it benefit MORC, you ask? Good question! By providing them with extensive trail repairs to perform, whereby they might hone their considerable skills to razor keenness. If you weren't there, you may not have experienced the pocket-sized thunderstorm that perched immediately above Salem Hills and attempted to rain out the well-populated event. When I went to bed on Friday night, the forecast cheerfully reported "sunny and mid-80's." When I got up Saturday AM, I said "are you sure about that, mister forecast, the part about the "sunny and mid-80's?" The forecast replied "Oh yes, sunny and mid-80's indeed." Therefore, I left my raincoat at home and my warmup jacket at Midtown. A few hours later, when the sky was gray as dryer lint and fafafareezing cold, and a big green blob with red blobs swirling inside of it began to drift across Pete's phone, we began formulating a plot to put a 1/4" bearing inside the top tube of every meteorologist that comes in for service.

The citizen class made it through their race under skies of lead, but the reports of 45 MPH winds in Bloomington had everyone very uneasy. Tents were folded up, people skittered back to their vehicles, and even the intrepid Super Mario stopped grilling delicious veggie burgers for a little while.

And down came the rain, unlooked for, unwelcome, unpleasant, but I suppose necessary in a grander scheme than our meager perspective affords. Our meager perspective happened to look like this:

Difficult choices needed to be made. MORC builds their trails to last, but having hundreds of people ride them after a rain storm (even a brief one) could cause lots of damage in a hurry. Yet this particular race is always well attended, and this year was no exception. After a 90 minute delay while the promoters waited for the lightning to head up toward Lauderdale in search of golfers, it was "game on." The Sport class was treated to some good old fashioned "paste" mud, which cakes and goobers and generally attempts to inflict destruction on everything it touches. Several bikes ended up like this:

O the devastation of a poorly-timed shift in such conditions! Many drivetrains breathed their last on May 22, 2010.

The promoters decided to shorten the lap a touch to minimize damage to the grassy fields and knock down the lap count by one for Comp and Expert. "Fine by us," we said, grimly appraising the shattered remains of once-noble bicycles limping across the finish line under Sport class riders who needed hugs. Amazingly, however, conditions turned out to be fine for the Comp/Expert race. By the third lap of the Expert race, the course was downright enjoyable, as was the weather.

Here's a picture of stout yeoman and Freewheeler Rodney Johnson (whose brakes are currently on the fritz and waiting for parts from Shimano [who ship brake parts by taping them to the bellies of white swans and giving the swans a printout from Google Maps]) enjoying himself immensely.

Thanks to everyone who attended for making this a truly memorable event! Especially the ladies and gentlemen in the Sport class who had by far the most miserable conditions of anyone, you folks deserve a raise.

And special congratulations to Megan Lennon, who won a set of Crank Brothers Iodine wheels in the post-race swag drawing!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Missed Us (even if no one else did)

OK, so we have officially climbed out from under the spring landslide (or, Spring Landslide if you prefer proper nouns) and unofficially have time to blog again.

Lots of neat things have happened since last we wrote: for example, I now have a sweet tire lever that shouldn't break anytime soon, unlike the blue ones which seem to go *bang* at awkward moments (such as when Maury the Trek rep is walking through the line of fire). It's red, and looks like candy, but isn't as far as I can tell.

Other neat things which have happened include:
  • New magazines have appeared in the restroom! Now when we go "rest" we don't have to read about Lance's comeback unless we want to!
  • The tub of Pro Soap has become nearly empty, which is OK, because we have four more of them!
  • We replaced our automatic parts washer with one where you have to scrub the parts and actually earn your wages! Now the factory finish doesn't come off of some parts unless you really scrub at them!
  • We received pairs of yellow dishpan gloves and all fight over the "large" ones, even though they're still too small for most of us! The phrase "Large Woman Hands" became an instant classic.
  • We have seen some really cool bikes come and go (but I usually [though not always] forgot to get a picture)
  • One Saturday morning, we actually listened to a Bach/Vivaldi station on Pandora for four hours, and enjoyed it!
  • We got a new dustpan!
Of the cool bikes that have come in, here are a few:
Here's a Scott Rubicon. As you can see, it firms up when you stand up, and your legs grow shorter when you go over bumps. And yes, as you have guessed, it weighs more than most third graders. And, indeed, if you forget to install one of the linkage parts when you overhaul it, you will have no place to sit or run your cables. Can you pick out which linkage part that would be?

Here's a venerable, steel Cinelli mountain bike, complete with the circuit trace paint job. I 'bout swooned when I saw this one come in. It had seen better days to be sure, but it's still a Cinelli. I took my hat off and drafted a quick sonnet (it wasn't all that good).

Anyways, we're back on line and will have more goodies for you to snicker at in the near future!