Best Possible

By: amanda Jan 25

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There is nothing original or unique of my love for bikes, I just love them.

I feel a special bond with this tool. It is kind of like I am in a relationship with it, it can make me the happiest I’ve ever been or it can utterly wreck me. In bicycle repair when everything is going smoothly, I feel content and a respect for the bike. When a repair is a complete hell ride, I get more frustrated then I ever get with anything or anyone else. I am deeply, emotionally invested. I am in it to win it. For the good and the bad. Until death do us part. Its because of this that when I see what used to be a quality older bicycle, until someone hammered the crap out of it, it kind of pisses me off and I want to punch a hole in the wall because I am metal and that’s the only way I know how to express my feelings.. with brute force.

In a just world there would be a bicycle equivalent of the Child Protective Services. Someone from the BPS (Bicycle Protective Services, that’s what we’re calling it) would investigate an anonymous report of bicycle abuse and neglect. They take one look at this poor bike with it’s corroded cables and housing, it’s worn drive train, it’s concave breaking surfaces, it’s loose bottom bracket and declare the owner an unfit rider. From there they would take the bike to a foster home where the bicycle would be safe until its adopted by someone proper. Have you ever read that book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstien? Its a story of a relationship between a boy and a tree. The boy takes and takes and the tree gives and gives until it has nothing left to offer except a place to sit. The tree is your bike. Don’t be that jerk face little boy. Give a little back to your bicycle for all that it does for you and you two will live a long and happy life together.

Really, that could be said for most relationships. Kind of like, “Hey Buddy, don’t beat up your wife, instead buy her flowers. I know, I know… it’s a crude analogy, but you get the point. What’s that? You don’t? Ok, try this one on for size, she made dinner so help her out and do the dishes. Better? You know, here I am judging people again and perhaps its not a case of abuse and neglect, but rather ignorance. Maybe they just didn’t know how to properly up keep their bicycle and things just started to get out of hand.Problems just kept piling up and they just ignored them because it was too overwhelming.

When they were at wit’s end, they drove the bike out to the country, opened the car door and abandoned the bike in the middle of a field leaving it to fend for itself. There it was… cold and rusting, just waiting for someone… anyone to ride it. Finally, a country boy finds the bike and decides to jump the local gulley. This boy, let’s call him Biff, Biff isn’t too familiar with the bicycle and took up this gulley task on a dare to prove his worthiness to all the other boy from town. Biff hasn’t ridden a bicycle for years. Biff is not an athlete. Biff is about to jump a bicycle across a gulley. Biff is tripping on mushrooms. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that part? Well, he is.

Meanwhile…. this bike is freaking out. Up until getting cast aside, it got to bomb hills, had close calls, fast sprints, this bike had it all. Then, it was rusting away in a field until some wide eyed yokel came stumbling upon it mumbling something about taking jumps and finally scoring. If it had it’s way, the bicycle would’ve made a break for it, but without the rider the bicycle was at the whim of this trippy hippie. Poor bike, this is a sad story.

I am going to end this with optimism and hope that most of us want to be good to our bicycles because, in the end its really in our best interest as a rider to have it functioning properly. Undealt with problems are going to lead to other problems until its a complete overhaul scenario and all of this could have been prevented with a little care and attention. Ride your bike a bunch? Get your chain wear measured and make sure you’re not eating up your cassette. Can you pull your brake levers all the way to your handlebars before they engage? Try using your barrel adjuster (what’s that?) to increase tension on your brake cable and it will pull your pads closer to the rim. Is it dirty and wet outside? Wipe it down once in awhile. Not only your bicycle will benefit, but your bike mechanic will appreciate it too. Don’t get me wrong, I love to scrub my hands raw with a coarse brush. What girl doesn’t?


Customer Solutions

By: Nov 19

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Before I started working on bikes if you asked me to fix a problem with one, be it simple as a flat fix or a stem adjustment, I wouldn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. I knew squat and what I thought I did know, was usually wrong. Well, most of it anyway. Example: you can not use the tongs of a fork instead of a tire lever on an Armadillo tire. You just can’t. It doesn’t work. Every time I learned something new about bicycles I would think back to what I initially thought was the the answer to the problem and laugh because I was so, so wrong. Oh, what a fool I was. I love that about bike repair. It can be a humbling experience and when you’re awesome like me it’s good to have something in your life to take you down a peg or two. It’s because of my learning experiences that when I take in a bike for repair and see customer’s problem solving hard at work, well, it just tickles me pink. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a bike comes in and a customer has Jerry rigged something to compensate for a broken part and I say to myself, “self, that is some clever stuff right there.” Sometimes. The rest of the time I am busting out the camera and calling the guys over to “come check this shit out!” Like this number:

I fecking love this one! Why? Oh, for all the obvious reasons. This isn’t the owner of a Magna or a Huffy. No, this is the owner of a “nicer bike”. Now, I am going to make assumptions here, because what kind of American would I be if I didn’t judge him, but if they already have a “nicer bike” with clipless pedals, a carbon fork, and a wireless computer, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that they probably have the jersey and/or high performance cycling apparel that goes along with it. Just a guess. In the pocket of said athletic wear there is probably some goo or an energy bar… maybe a patch kit? Really, I don’t know how prepared this customer is . My point is that any of those things can be used as a shim.

Noun 1. shim – a thin wedge of material (wood or metal or stone) for driving into crevices.

A couple of patches would look a little better than the wood chunks plus it’s a flat surface so there’s a better chance of it staying in place because with a flat and somewhat consistent surface it is less likely to shift while you ride.

Maybe , this scenario pictured above was caused by lack of preparation. Maybe he just needed to go sit by the river, watch the sunset, and take deep breaths. You know, have some “me time”. Reflecting on life and whatnot. Maybe, just maybe he’s one of those guys who has a compulsive need to keep track of his miles, ALWAYS. I am writing in caps because I am trying to get my point across. Miles are important to this guy. After the sunset and a good cry he gets back on his bike and realizes his computer isn’t recording his precious miles and he flips his shit. Well, first thing he tries to do, of course, is hit the computer several times. He even removed it from the handle bar mount to smack it on his stem a bunch. After that doesn’t work, he closely inspects all of the parts. He checks out the fork notices that the rubber backing to the sensor is missing. Frantically, he starts shoving small stick that he found off of the ground to take the place of the missing piece. Like.. wildly shoving. The guy is going ape shit with the the sticks. Here is where a prepared person would roll up a wrapper from an energy bar they had in their jersey pocket and use it as a shim, but we’ve already established that this guy was not prepared, so that’s neither her nor there. He’s wearing flip flops and cargo shorts while riding a road bike for crying out loud! Ok, in this story he is. Once he’s haphazardly shoved the sticks into place he rides off into the sunset. He didn’t get to far before he hit a pothole. The jolt caused a piece of the stick to splinter off and a shard flew into his big toe which is exposed because of the of the flip flops I had mentioned earlier. As a few days passed and he chose to ignore medical attention, his toe develops a severe infection. The infection spreads at an alarming rate and by the time he decides to do something about it, it was too late…. he died. Obviously, he didn’t die because he brought his bike into the shop to be serviced, but it could happen. Learn from this guy’s mistake that could or couldn’t have happened. Don’t let a renegade splinter take your life. Be prepared.

This customer solution kind of left me with the question “really dude, you’re going to go with that?!” I know you, the reader, are extremely intelligent and probably very attractive, but in case you couldn’t figure this picture out, what you are looking at is a make shift child’s seat. I repeat, a child’s seat. I have shown this picture to a lot of my friends and either I get reaction of disbelief and horror or I hear “back in the day nobody had child seats on their bike, we had pails and ropes” or “no one wore helmets and we did just fine”. News flash, just because you did it back in the day doesn’t make it a good idea. Ever heard of DDT? Yeah, “back in the day” folks thought it was super. Survey says, it wasn’t such a great idea. Another thing about this customer solution was it didn’t look like this customer was in the poor house. I only say this is because he was wearing nicer shoes than I was and socially, that is how I gauge people. Perhaps he shopped around and the most inexpensive solution that he came up with is this little number. The money for those shoes have to come from somewhere, right? He had to make severe budget cuts starting with his kid. I am not a parent, unless you count two Basset Hounds, but I think that if I had a kid I would want a child’s seat that had been through some rigorous test to make sure it was safe enough to carry my most precious cargo, my wee one. But hey, if anything bad did happen, kids heal at an amazing rate. I am talking Wolverine rate here. I know, I know, a little kid eating it hard super hard face first on the pavement and sliding for twenty feet only to get up screaming with 4 of his teeth gone is the last thing that you want to be thinking of, but when I look at this bike…. it’s all I can think of. Poor kid and his face, he never had a chance. I hope he will be become some sort of underdog in something and we can all root for him….someday….somewhere.

Problem solving can be empowering, especially when you did what you thought was right and it turns out that there was no better solution, but word to the wise, you’re fix may not be the best fix. Take it to your local bike shop and see if they have any pointers. We are here to help. We all started where you did and I promise not to take pictures of your bike and put it on the internet.


Big Flat Deal

By: Aug 12

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One thing all of us as cyclists will experience at one time or another, before we pony up and buy a new tire, is a flat. It usually happens at the most inopportune time and is never sweet, unless you have a SAG wagon following you around all the time, then it’s no big deal. In the everyday ride there are no pits. No one is going to swap out your wheels for you so you can continue your ride virtually uninterrupted. No, you either have to fix it yourself  or you can take it to a Scandinavian mechanic who gives out hi-fives like they were candy at Halloween. Uffda. That’s me and I am here to help.

Now, for how common the flat tire hassle is, it is even more common for me to have a customer who is completely baffled by the whole ordeal, and we are talking utterly dumbfounded. They stumble through the door with a look on their face like they smelled something stinky, dragging their bike behind them. Instead of placing their bicycle in the stand they opt to lay the bike across it. Even with the shop rocking busy I can hear their arrival. The distinct sound of a 26×2.2 tires devoid of all air fills the room. Rubber rolling on rubber. You know the sound. It’s a sound the sticks out, especially on our shop’s slick cement floor. Even if I am elbows deep in a repair I have to stop what I’m doing and locate the source of the sound. I just have to. In doing so I usually make eye contact with them and they take that as a sign of me saying “Yes, I will drop everything I am doing and address your problem because you are important and I see you’re struggling”. You know what? I usually do because, damn it, that’s customer service. After our non verbal eye conversation they make a bee line straight to me through the crowd of do-it-yourselfers, gift shoppers, and possibly a new cyclist or two. “Let me guess, flat tire”, I say with a cheeky grin because I am charming and I love to point out the obvious. What is a better way to relate to someone than to talk about what is happening right in front of your face? Don’t answer that. There is none. 

So then, I wrestle the forty pound bike in the stand and am instantly covered in brake dust. Quietly, I curse myself for not throwing on my apron. Now I have a big black smudge on my nicer jeans and it’s only eleven a.m. Great. I spent such a long time picking out my clothes the night before. I called the guys I work with to make sure we didn’t wear the same thing, I steamed out all the wrinkles, I spent a little extra time making my french roll (pegged!) on my jeans perfect, and now it all seems so pointless. As I drop the wheel from the frame it starts… “I just don’t understand how this could have happened!” Upon hearing that I have learned to brace myself for a very long, drawn out, detailed recap of what happened from some point in the past, could be one day or it could be a year, right to the moment of the flat or to where they noticed that they indeed did have a flat. 

“I just don’t understand how this happened. It has to be coming from the valve.” It rarely is the valve. “I bought this bike a year ago and never got any flats” Here’s where they follow up their observation with something absurd like “…and never got any flats. Do you think I can take it back to where I bought it and they could warranty it?” “Are you fecking insane?” I think to myself, but instead of saying that I decide to go with “Probably not very likely”, because this is a retail environment and you catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. Also, it’s not a good idea to cuss at the customer. 

And then they unleash.

“Well, I commute on this bike everyday to and from work. Yesterday, when I woke up from my slumber I went straight to the bathroom because the night before I had fallen asleep with gum in my mouth. While sleeping it fell from my mouth, onto my pillow, and then was matted into the back of my skullett*. I leave my bike in the hallway and while I was on my way to the water closet I noticed that my tires were at optimal pressure. I can eyeball it. When I was riding to work, right around 2.3 km from my house, I noticed it was kind of hard to pedal. I thought perhaps the brake was engaged or the wheel was rubbing against the frame so I got off of my bike to locate the problem. There was nothing. I got back on and started riding. I heard someone shout ‘Burt Reynolds! You should’ve taken the role of Han Solo!’ Which I agree, he should’ve. I am often told I resemble Burt which is why they must’ve yelled that in the first place. Well, while I was looking to see who was yelling at me I hit a bump and my wheel started hissing. There wasn’t any glass. I looked. I went back to the area in which I heard my tire loosing air and I saw a dead squirrel. I thought to myself ‘Self, what part of a squirrel could possibly cause my tire to flat?’ The only thing I  could think of was it’s tooth, so I looked everywhere I could to find this renegade tooth that punctured my tire. I didn’t find it on the ground so I went straight to the source. I opened the rodent’s mouth and didn’t notice any teeth missing and then I realized I don’t know how many teeth squirrels have in the first place. So, at the angle of which the road kill was laying I figure that it must’ve bit the valve while I was running over it. I am pretty sure it’s the valve.

I unseat the tire and pull out the tube. As I put air into it I could see what looked like a very small snake bite in the tube. Two small holes in the tube side to side is the tell tale sign of a pinch flat. That’s when you don’t have enough air in your tires and you hit something, like a pot hole, and you tire gives, squishing your tube against what you hit and the rim of your wheel causing two small holes.“How often do you air up your tires?” I ask.

“Once a month….maybe.” And this is the point where I get to blow their mind…

“You know, rubber is a porous material and you lose about a pound of pressure a day.”

BLAM- mind blown. 

“I’m not sure how much I believe that. I only had to fill up my ’82 Stumpjumper’s tires once in the 7 years I had it.”

Ok, I guess I didn’t blow his mind. He was really fighting me on this, but as I continued to ask him questions I learned he only did fill his tires up once…. with a silicone material that turned his tubes into one solid mass.

“Sure it added 30 extra pounds to my bike and it never shifted right again, but I NEVER got a flat” he said. 

“Well, the whole point of having a bike with gears is to use them. Right?  There is a better way. You can get a puncture resistant tire that is lined with kevlar so you can prevent flats, but even those you have to pump up or you are still susceptible to pinch flats, like when you hit that bump or rodent or whatever it was in that very detailed story you told me, the lack of air made your flat tire nightmare a reality.” I could see the information I was giving him was slowly sinking in. As we continue to talk and he explained his ride to me we started to talk about tires and the huge role they play in your bike.

“I’m a pretty fit guy. Hell, people mistake me for Burt all the time, so that says something right there, but I keep getting passed by people who I know I am faster than. Even old ladies with small dogs in their baskets. Is that because of my tires?”

“Yes, it most certainly is.”

As I fix his flat, I explain PSI, show him a floor pump, and some good tires because we all start have to start somewhere. Soon, this customer will swap out those huge knobby tires for something with a higher pressure and less rolling resistance, which will make me happy, because that means he learned something from our chat. He will add a rack to that hard tail. His bar ends will have bar ends. Both of his panniers will bear the reflective slow moving vehicle symbol and after he spends some serious time in the saddle between 8-9 am and 5-6pm they will achieve their CAT4 commuter status. Although none of this starts without that very first lesson: flats happen. Get over it. 


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