The Golden Wrench

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Revolutionary Technology!

Remember how revolutionary cut-out seats were back in the mid-90's? Remember the promises that the revolutionists promised, and the threats they threatened us with? Remember the documentary about the guy who did Ironman triathlons hunkered down in his tuck for four hours with his first-generation Flite pointing up like an ICBM? [Remember how delighted he was to tell the entire universe about his problems?]


And who can forget the commercials, with the elderly couples boisterously succeeding at golf and smiling comfortably in the sunset, while Mister Pleasant-Voice speed-reads a list of possible side effects? "Ask your doctor if the Body Symmetry 4000 SX cut-out saddle is right for you. Do not use the Body Symmetry 4000 SX if you are pregnant or think that you might be pregnant, especially if you're a man. Do not use the Body Symmetry 4000 SX in the presence of people with high levels of sensitivity to squeaking sounds or the smell of imitation leather. Limit use of the Body Symmetry 4000 SX to days in which your carbohydrate intake is equal to or greater than that of a vibrant Yorkshire stockman prior to his vigor dissipating (usually in his early fifties). Always wear your helmet when using Body Symmetry 4000 SX, especially on Thursdays and periods of intense sun spot activity, as these times correspond with the natural biorhythms of something something something. Look both ways if crossing open fields when using Body Symmetry 4000 SX, as Body Symmetry 4000 SX has been found during testing to attract juvenile bisons when the rails become dry and creaky. Body Symmetry 4000 SX has just informed me that due to a commonly-overlooked technicality not exclusive to the English tongue, the plural form of "bisons" is just "bison," and that the reader will have to figure out that I mean more than one bison from the context. Possible side effects most commonly associated with use of Body Symmetry 4000 SX include double vision, triple vision, impaired vision, augmented vision, sore hands and feet, torn breeches, loin chafing, whimpering, nostrils encrusted with dried mucus, heart failure, heart success, feebleness, wickedness, cod-liver oil, omelettes, siphoning of the Broger-valve membranes near the Fubular miscreant on your starboard gizzard, and poor taste in home decor. If you or a loved one notice most of these side-effects (all of which are rare as hen's teeth, I assure you) in yourself or an adjacent hominid, discontinue your use of Body Symmetry 4000 SX until you have insulted your doctor. Consulted. Consulted your doctor. Sorry."

Yeah, OK. Perhaps the science is sound, or perhaps it has more to do with the angle of the saddle and the distribution of the pressure than with the presence or absence of a cutout. I'm not taking sides.

I recently went to the Henry Ford museum in Detroit, and saw this (from a pennyfarthing):

... and this (from an early "safety bicycle"):
... and this, on a bicycle built "for a great gangling gentleman" (middle bike--sorry about the blurry photo):

One wonders how such an important medical breakthrough could go out of style for seventy years.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Communications from the Home Front

Most people who work at bike shops have some sort of life or another on the outside, believe it or not. Some of it includes mundane tasks such as eating, sleeping, protein synthesis, acrobatics, aeronautics, asparagus, Ashtabula (oops, that's a bike word), Arkansas, aardvark, arthropods, and anthropopathisms. Yes, we like to ride bikes, but there's more to life (not by much, mind you) than bicycles. We actually have families and friends and stuff!

Some of the most wonderful moments in life are those when these worlds overlap unexpectedly. I was working at check-in on a Saturday afternoon when a fellow wheeled up with, of all things, a bicycle with a flat rear tire. I had seen this very thing a few times before, and I was pretty sure I could help. I took the bike, threw it up in the stand, and looked for traces of Gremlins. Let's see here: Yup, the tire's flat. Nope, it's definitely flat. Wow, that tire is toast. The rest of the bike looks OK, maybe a bit dirty... no gaping wounds in the frame... chain is OK...

Me: "Sir, you have a flat tire."
Him: "You don't say. I walked over a mile to get here."
Me: "Oh, it gets worse! The inner tube will have to be replaced."
Him: "Drat! Drat! I figured as much. An evil star shone on the day of my birth, and my every turn brings me misery. It's like purgatory, my life, a continual weariness of toil and labor, where every scrap of news conceals a bad omen, and every angel of hope wears a mask of death. Why did I get out of bed this morning? WHY?!?! Oh, curse the day I bought this wretched claptrap, I knew I'd regret it!"
Me: "Furthermore, you need a new rear tire. This one is toast."
Him: "So it is, look at that. Worn right to the belts. Which one would you recommend?"
Me: "On our streets, sparkly as they are with shards of glass and metal, you need a robust tire for commuting. One with puncture protection, such as this Bont" BBBRRRRIIINNNGGG!!!!

I had been anticipating a call from my wife and had placed my cell phone in my shirt pocket. In a characteristic stroke of dazzling brilliance, I had forgotten to mute the blasted thing, and here it was pealing like the liberty bell.

Him: *blink... blink... blink...*
Him: *blink... blink... blink...*
Me: "Excuse me for a moment, this is likely important." *turn away*
Me: "Hello?"
Voice: "Chris, do you think Phoebe would eat Russell?"

A few details would help the reader here. Phoebe is our kindly, eleven year old English Cocker Spaniel whose chief passions include peanut butter and plunging into swamps. Russell is our adult male English Budgerigar who flies around the house whenever we have company. We're not sure if it's because they're both Limeys, but they get along as well as we could hope for two beasts of such varied biology. Phoebe is a bird dog, but she does not really consider Russell to be a bird: he's a "friend" who happens to be small and blue. For that matter, she does not consider herself to be a "dog" either, but simply looks at her four-footed stature as an advantage when playing tag in the yard. Russell is a brave little parakeet for his part, and chirps merrily whenever he sees another living thing moving through the house. His greatest concern around Phoebe is being trampled when he is out of his cage and walking around on the floor. In short, they've never been anything but cordial toward one another, and we have reason to suspect that they're good friends after their fashion. In fact, when the feral offspring of some of our friends attempt to capture Russell, Phoebe will often threaten the children with woofs and stand in front of the diminutive parakeet to protect him.

Me: *blink... blink... blink...* "...I don't think so..."
Voice: "Well, I found a big pile of blue feathers in the kitchen, and I can't find Russell anywhere."

I was recalling these facts about our pets while my wife was asking me if Phoebe would eat Russell. Yes, if pigs flew, or if Russell had inadvertently coated himself with peanut butter, or perhaps if they had argued strenuously about whether Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister was England's last hurrah. I simply could not wrap my brain around a scenario where Phoebe would eat Russell. So there I was, dumbfounded, standing in front of a customer with a 700X28 Bontrager Hard Case tire in my left hand, a priceless expression carved on my face, and a vision of pandemonium erupting in my once-peaceful home flashing through my mind.

[Apparently, Russell had found a nice pile of sweaters in the top of a closet and bedded down behind them for a nap. My wife had closed the closet door, and he either could not hear her calling, or his chirps in response were muffled by the sweaters. Also, he had molted recently, so there was a pile of feathers near his cage. So her fears were not unfounded as she applied Occam's Razor to the apparent details of the case.]

Incidentally, my dad was a bike mechanic while I was growing up, and he most assuredly had to deal with some crazy phone calls from the home front. I know because I placed a few of them myself: for example, I called him once to tell him that our cat was stuck on the garage roof, and to seek his wisdom regarding how to safely get the reluctant and agitated cat down from that garage roof with minimal damage to either cat or self (conveniently left out: how the cat got onto the garage roof). I wonder if he was standing there in front of a customer with a tire in his hand, wondering why a cat would be on the garage roof...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wednesday Group Rides!

It has been a hoot over the last few weeks to load up the Mobile Repair Unit with bikes and mechanics and head down to Murphy for some Wednesday evening hot laps. After some hot lapping, wiping out, and heckling one another, we tuck tail and slink back to the parking lot for food and beverages. We make friends; fix a few bikes; crash in the parking lot trying to do tricks' eat grilled vegetables and meat; and sing songs of the Hinterland in four-part harmony, all five of us.

It's really a great way to unwind in the middle of the week, and it gets us out doing that thing that we love to do: grill. Oops! I meant ride.

Here are some pictures of fun like you've never experienced ever (but you're invited).

The Horses Corralled

Bob the Builder's brand-spanking new EX8 feeling the wrath of a high-speed corner incident.

Jeff's cleat ripped out of his shoe, so it was kind of nice to, you know, have a reasonably well-stocked bike shop along.

Bob thought he could take the bailout line without anyone seeing it. That's one good way to end up on the Internet.

Thad was trying to stay out of the sun so he wouldn't get a farmer tan.

Slopping the trough, courtesy of Chef Nick.

The End! Hope to see you at the Murphy Time Trials!

How many drops did would Bob have done if he did not take the bail out line? The first three people to send the correct answer to will win a Tour De France cycling cap.

Oh and by the way, our Wednesday night rides will continue after the time trials are over so feel free to come join us.