Friday, November 13, 2015

Breaking News

Special Bulletin:

A couple of weeks back my friend Raleigh sent me a post card describing his plight and, as only he could, found a way to crack a few jokes at my expense. It was good to hear from him, so good in fact I decided to pay the Old Gang a visit. Upon my arrival, I was hit with a bombshell.

The rack they called home for more than 18 months lay bare.

My friends acquaintances were nowhere to be found.
 Perplexed, I asked around and was assured by the owner of this particular store front that they had in fact been taken off to a lovely farm where they can frolic with other bikes like themselves.

So at least there is that.

While bittersweet, I do remember hoping that they might meet at least a swift and peaceful end, an end which appears to come. So while I say goodbye to my friends acquaintances, I remain hopeful that new ones are just around the bend.
See, here in College Town, USA you don't have to look very far to find another pile of shitty, forgotten bicycles

Hell, sometimes you don't even have to look. I mean, crap like this walks through the door every damn day

This particular pile, clearly retired from a long and presumably storied racing career,

was "rescued" from the dumpster but sadly, it spends its days being beaten and neglected. That is of course until the day when One is done with it and fucks off back from whence he came, and this comically named bicycle will end up back in the dumpster behind his favorite Starbucks. 

Circle of life and whatnot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bike Porn Bingo

Do you know what it is like having hundreds and hundreds of bicycle photos to post on your stupid blog but when you try to use one, the post takes a turn and you never get to using them?

Well I do.

I take (or collect) between five and ten photos a week with the sole intention of posting them on the internet for my own personal gain. Sadly, some never make it.

"How am I going to start this blog?" I ask myself...

Well that my friends is the 64 dollar question. Sometimes I sit here in front of this keyboard, type a sentence, then delete it and start over. Again and again, until I get on a roll. I often start with an idea but find it difficult to just dive into the subject matter. So here I sit, a bazillion photos from which to choose, and I cannot for the life of me put context to each one in order to write something as simple as a 200 word blog. Still, I hear from readers all of the time on the fact that they enjoy the pictures more than the propaganda so, context be damned, I give you "Bike Porn Bingo" (though the title is a bit of a misnomer given the fact that it is more a game of pulling pictures out of ones ass rather than calling out letters and numbers, etc...)

Take this photo for example:

I have been sitting on this gem since March of last year and honestly, I cannot tell if it is a joke or not. I mean, we can discern a few things from this;

This is clearly a Denali in disguise...

... yet it is loaded with Campagnolo components, all the way down to the wheels. This leads me to believe that the owner of this particular bicycle honestly believes this is a good frame or has one HELL of a good sense of humor. 

What gives?  I mean, I get it... I have seen it before where people buy these bikes hoping to "upgrade" them. Simply read the reviews (of any shitty bike for that matter) on Amazon and they are loaded with Clown Shoes talking about how "it's an awesome frame so I built it up..." an idea that one would have to be on drugs to execute and I say that because clearly those who take this Abortion seriously, must be under the influence of something....

"It is a finely crafted piece of machinery reminiscent of the old GMC quality you used to see years ago."

Oh, "finely crafted" you say? The same "quality you used to see years ago?" How many years exactly? Like, 5? 10? 13?

It wasn't so long ago that GM produced this brain fart so it's probably best to avoid any analogy that refers to GMC's "standard of excellence" (well, outside of comedic relief anyway).

"The only thing about this bike that I would rate less than 5 stars are the brakes. They are the old style calipers that they've used on road bikes since the days when they were called English Racers. It's very old technology."

Right, because we all know that you cannot stop without disc brakes nowadays and "old" brakes like that should be tossed in the bin.

(...along with your hopes and dreams)

"A couple of postscripts. I had a bump flat almost immediately so I think the tubes are probably on the inexpensive side which is not a big issue."

Actually, ALL tubes are on the "inexpensive side" and therefore cannot be blamed for your own incompetence. It is not the tube's fault that you did not inflate it properly (read; you're doing it wrong).

 "Also that Vitesse racing seat came off after the first ride and was replaced by a good old Bell Gel Pack seat. I don't know who this Vitesse guy is but there is no way that you're going to fit American junk on that seat, IMHO."

Well, IMHO, your opinion on saddle selection doesn't matter if you are the kind of guy who prefers the comfort of a "good old Bell" 

Not sure who this dude thinks he is to be making assumptions about this "Vitesse Guy" I mean, maybe it's not a "Guy" at all, maybe it's a chick, or maybe, just maybe, it is a bullshit name given to the horrible components to make them appear to be better than they are? Just thinking out loud...

He does have a point though when he says that there is "no way you are going to fit American 'junk' on that seat..." as the typical American can barely see their "junk," let alone ride a fucking bike. 


Thursday, October 1, 2015

End of a Century

For my 100th trick, I pulled a Post Card out of my ass...

For this installment however, I will pull an email out of my ass...

It happens that there is another bicycle technician living and working just down the street from me and the truth is, he wasn't always a wrench, no. He learned by overhauling Mongi' in my garage.

He has since gone on to one of the most beloved and well respected bike shops in town and since then has been a valuable asset within our cycling community. 
He has also come to be a close personal friend. The kind of guy one would call, 'family.' Indeed, He and I have spent countless hours getting hammered in my home shop, telling tales of how our day went, and the people we meet in this crazy ass industry.

It was on that note that he inquired about writing a guest spot on this blog, and naturally, I obliged. 

...what's the worst that could happen, right?

So the story goes:

"There's this tiny little bike shop in a small town here in Indiana that I have called home for the better part of two years now. Every bike shop, in my opinion, has their own special atmosphere, their own smells, and a flavor of personality that resonates in the employ and the clientele that surround it. My shop is no exception. The first time I walked in the door, I was assaulted with the smell of rubber tires, chain lube, and the jokes they tell when no customers are listening.  "Ahh." I thought, smiling to myself "This is where I need to be!" Although, this wasn't the first bike shop I've worked for; it may certainly be my last. The reason why is simple. There's so much character here, that I would be crazy to leave it behind. 

You see, I grew up in a mid-sized, middle class city north of Boston. 
The east coast is exceedingly different than the Midwest. Faster paced, rough around the edges, and claustrophobic. Driving is enough to raise your blood pressure to 1000, nevermind riding a bike. One of the best things about the Midwest, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the people. I find great people everywhere I go. What separates Indiana from the rest is the timbre of those people. 

And then there's me.

I've always been a bit of a free spirit. Some would say I march to the beat of a different drummer. 

 (Being a drummer; I especially like that idiom.)

 One of my favorite things to do is to immerse myself into the culture of any given situation. I look past the humdrum simplicity of what it may say on the outside and delve into the social fabric that makes it so blisteringly unique. When I moved to the Midwest almost ten years ago I was startled by the hodgepodge of characters that this region has to offer. There's a real salt of the earth thing going on here. But me, being me, has to make the best of any situation and engage with people on a more personal level. Working at a local bike shop has presented me with the most awesome of duties: To interact with "John Q public."

We bike shops all have our regulars. It's a subtle culmination of personalities that unite to pave the way for the incredible diversity that a local bike shop can call their own. It gives them a panache. Almost a secret language between you and your customers. Here I've been given the opportunity to use this platform to enlighten you on my shop's particular brand of clientele.

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.

There's no shortage of nicknames flying around the shop. I myself have been cordially referred to as A.I. Short for Angry Irishman. I never let my cohorts down with that one.

So there's this one guy we  jovially have dubbed "Hoosier Tire." Hoosier Tire comes in quite regularly as a matter if fact. A dumpy, unkempt kid in his twenties whose meaty hands are covered in warts like the face of a smallpox victim. When I first started working there I couldn't figure out why the guys in the shop called him Hoosier tire. Some pet names are more obvious to me. After an especially long conversation with him I found out why. Generally he comes in and asks us for old bike tires we would otherwise throw in the trash, takes them home and apparently shaves off the rubber tread with the assistance of a propane torch and what I assume is a putty knife. 

"Just like in the NASCAR!"

Thus he creates "slick racing tires." His language, not mine. 

I get that you may be as glassy eyed as I was at this point, but his claim is that he had entered into contract negotiations for these racing beauties with Hoosier racing tire. According to him they weren't "On board." This while pedaling his cheap Huffy (covered in Jeff Gordon #24 stickers) all over town. I once had to overhaul the coaster brake on that bike, and after that job, messy as it was, he left the shop still owing us seven or so bucks. 'Cest la vie dude.

As I was working one day on an especially cheeky disc brake bleed the door chime went off with its distinct "Bong, bong bong!" and I was greeted with the sweet smell of diabetic shock, or someone completely hammered. As my mother would say in her thick east Massachusetts accent, this guy was "Pahhlooted."  Lo and behold: The Hamburglar was sauntering his way through our front door.

  Accompanied by a broke down Next bike as his only friend. Until me that was...

 It was at this moment that I realized my boss had to suddenly "call in an order," and my coworker has made a beeline for the bathroom. Now it's up to me, I guess. The Hamburglar stood there unassuming with a casual pirate sway, bulbous nose and smelling like a brewery with a bad batch of yeast. As I checked his bike in for a flat repair, I was overwhelmed with the sweet boozy breath he had. Frankly; it made my eyes water. He left us the bike, and went about his drunken business promising the whole while that he's getting his license back in a few weeks. "Sure," I thought. He returned a short while later with McDonald's hamburgers for the shop and thanking me profusely for fixing his ride. I graciously accepted the food thinking that "Hell; a tip is a tip."

On any given day there will be more than one uncommonly unique character that makes their way into the shop for repairs, or parts, or company. Some guys just come in and want to hang out.

 Like Amos, who stares at me with a crooked leer that sets my teeth on edge, purchasing nothing but the shivers that roll up my spine when I notice him doing it. 

There's also Crazy Craig, whose diatribe on how Indian doctors are installing the Caste system here in America makes me want to reach desperately for my tinfoil hat, and pray for that unburdened sense of paranoia that we all sometimes feel.

All in all I feel nothing, but unfettered joy at all the people whom I meet everyday. They all have one thing in common; their bikes are broken and it's up to me to fix them. So bring it on weirdos! I can handle multitudes of problems, and aside from their rants, stares, and sometimes questionable conversations at the end of the day, they're just customers...right?

I guess time will tell..."

It is here, I must honestly thank my friend for submitting this, and also his support over the years for this blog.  
... in good times AND bad. 

I hope you all enjoyed the ramblings of a small town bicycle technician. 
I hope we can do this again. 


Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Continuing Story of Radar Love

So I got this wicked awesome post card from an old friend acquaintance and I wanted to share it with you.

Dear Jason:

I haven't seen you around in so long I figure you finally gave up on you last job and took on another gig so, good for YOU! Are you still writing that stupid blog? What's it called? Like... "everybody's wrong" or something like that? Anyway I hope you finally gave up on that toilet baby... what a train wreck! Anywhore, since you stopped checking in on us shit has just gotten worse, just check out the pictures I emailed you... 

I mean, the gang's all here but we have seen some better days, that's for sure!
-Don't tell Huffy this, but I am not sure this relationship thing is going to work out. I just feel like I am being suffocated! Also, I am not sure who that new ass hat on the end of the rack thinks he is, but if he keeps locking his rear wheel to the frame and nothing else, he's going to get pinched.

Well, this is getting to be a lot of text for the sake of the post card joke so maybe I should let you get back to your "readers" or whatever. 


Awe... what a sweet guy.

 He's right about the lock thing though. That TREK is begging to be stolen.
And if my math holds up, that Raleigh has been "locked" to that rack by its front wheel only, for a solid 16 months where it remains to this day.
Someone PLEASE go put him out of his misery. 
The Huffy has already keeled over as you can see so it's really lights out for her as well. That wheel... that sad, lonely wheel... 

Someone make it stop.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Derailleur Cables and Why You Break Them

Recently it seems that bike crap is happening at lightning speed. I heard that bikes have disc brakes even shift electronically now.

Maybe I come from a simpler time, but I seem to remember when cables were all we had and damn it, that was good enough for us! Now they are using the Wi-Fi or whatever and it's folks like me who are becoming a rarity. That is, the mechanical stuff is still around and someone has got to know what the hell they are doing when it comes to fixing it! So rare I may be, but contrary to what the internet would have you believe, I am still very relevant. 

Making a cable actuated system "sing" is a thing of beauty and from a simplicity stand point, is field serviceable. Done correctly, it requires very little care or maintenance but perhaps once a year.

One of the most basic things that can be done on even the most expensive bicycles is changing cables once a year yet, a large majority of riders I encounter have difficulty with this simple ideal because to them it is not broken so "why fix it?"

If you have ever had a rear derailleur cable snap off inside a Shimano shifter then you have likely heard this story before. If you have not well then you are one of the lucky ones. Take notes, as the story begins like this:

A grasshopper walks up to the bar and the bartender says "you know they have a drink named after you?" To which the grasshopper replies "they have a drink named Irving?"

A Fred walks into the shop with his Fred Sled and says
"It won't shift."
I see.

Well, there's your problem. When was the last time it was in for service?  

"oh, it couldn't be more that 5 years."

Holy fuck! MORE?! It shouldn't be NEAR 5 years! 
-This is the point at which I take out my chain checker and it drops straight through the chain (which means his cassette is toast as well).

 -Now it is a very different conversation, but I digress...

 This particular Fred was lucky. I mean, he still paid for it in the end because his really expensive bike was really worn out but at least that cable head did not bust off in his shifter. That would be a more serious problem because Shimano shifters are not "serviceable," which means they cannot (or at minimum SHOULD NOT) be disassembled. 
Shimano shifters, while excellent at their jobs, are not infallible. Indeed, the industry is well aware of this particular issue and, since the earliest 7 speed STI shifters, has worked to rectify it. While they still have not yet fixed the issue entirely, they have certainly made the shifter more "approachable," that is to say that in the newer shifters, it is much easier to remove a broken cable head should you need to. 

So there's that.

The trick is catching it before it fails.

If this is happening inside you shifter you will feel it. The cable splintering like that creates massive drag and what amazes me is that people will continue to ride it like that! Sure, they might not know that it looks like that inside there, but damn it, if all of the sudden your shifting performance drops off dramatically, it's a pretty good sign that something is up. Why a rider would continue to put up with poor shifting is beyond me. But hell, when I see other, obvious cable failures, it baffles me in the same way.  

"yeah, it just stopped shifting"

I keep broken cable heads to show customers, I educate them endlessly about regular service intervals, I hold their hand through life's most difficult choices;

"What's the best tire size?"

"What pressure should I be running?"

"What would YOU choose?"

...still, they fail to listen.

As I live and breath, I shit you not;
While I was typing this very post another one came in the door...

 Any technician worth a piss will look this customer right in the eye and lay it out pretty bluntly:

 "This could get costly"

So first, we have to explain why this happens

 A) Because the cable head is being rotated on a small barrel back-and-forth and fatigue sets in, splintering a couple of the wires, they "unwind" inside the mechanism until they all break. That is where the drag comes from.

oh, and
B) Because you touch yourself at night.

Really though, even Shimano knows it was a bad design  
design flaw and has since "fixed" it with "improved cable routing"
 through the body of the shifter. Now, I call bull shit for two reasons here which are;

One) The original design had very low drag which made Shimano ten speed
(and even 9 speed) models like, Ultegra and Dura Ace shift with little effort yet still offered a crisp feel at the lever. The ONLY problem was the cable breakage. Again, a problem which can still be avoided on those older shifters by simply replacing a $3 cable.

Two) The "improved" routing may have fixed (about 90% of) the breakage issue, but added about 60% more friction (100% if it is a stupid internally routed frame) to the shift mechanism. What then? They introduce a $25 (TWENTY FIVE DOLLAR) shift cable to "reduce" drag.

They fixed nothing. 


...and that is why they want to sell you Di2

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Let's Put This Thing to Bed:" songs by Issac Hayes

Yes it has been a while since the last update but rest assured the stupidity continues to run rampant within the cycling community.

You remember this, right?

As it turns out, installing an adapter-style rear derailleur is rocket surgery and someone in this town is clearly NOT a rocket surgeon, or at the very least... a really shitty one.

(well, I can make a rocket "work...")

Now, while I can assume that this came from [Name Redacted Bike Shop] I cannot be sure. That said, it certainly looks like some shit that they would do. While I can make assumptions all day about where it came from or complain at length at the fact that there are assholes in this town taking peoples money for shoddy workmanship I suppose I should, in the interest of educating rather than lambasting, explain once and for all EXACTLY how this thing is supposed to go. Seeing as I have already done this twice before, I expect that it will once again go over like a led zeppelin but regardless, this issue needs to be addressed so pay attention.

First, why is this one above incorrect?

Glad you asked. (First, scroll up and look again) 
From a technician's standpoint it is obvious that a part is out of place and another part has been added to take up space; a job I might add, it did terribly as it is clear that the hanger has been bent during installation. Upon further investigation I find myself asking "why did you bother with that fastener and spacer anyway? I mean, if you just removed them both wouldn't the hanger at least sit flush to the frame? ...and would it not be just as "hard as fuck" to align the derailleur, the frame, and the axle... all at the same time?
...dumb ass?"

When I began this post, this was a point that I easily missed to be honest. Given the sort of jackassery I was looking at, my feeble mind could not begin to comprehend how to incorrectly correct the mistake that was made by someone doing it incorrectly (read: you're doing it WRONG).

Anyway, I am only here to help so with that in mind...

You have these three parts. They only go together one way*. The big one is called a rear derailleur and the big claw looking thingy on the end of it is, for lack of a better term, the derailleur hanger (there is a difference in both vintage and modern types, but that amount of technical speak can only be covered in my forthcoming novel entitled "What's the Difference? - Derailleur Hangers and YOU."

*important shit

Then you have the other two parts; they go together like peas and carrots. So much so that when combined with the third part, they make sweet, sweet, music together. (Seriously, click that link, then read on at the same time, this might get a little sexy)

Bringing up the rear in this Menage a Trois is this female threaded piece which has a rounded end that fits so perfectly in this dropout, you could only describe metaphorically using two spoons.

You cannot unsee this... I have tried

The filling in this Double Stuff Oreo is the hanger, not only does it hold the damn derailleur on the bike but aligned properly, serves as a guide for the insertion of the wheel's axle. If it's crooked, it just won't go in. 

A)....*important shit, and 

B) That's what she said!

The money shot.

This one steps in and WHAM! This literally... {innuendo redacted} and makes the whole thing happy. Seriously, you put that bolt into that nut and these steps can save you time and resources (considering this build had ALL of the required items but was STILL somehow, fucked up) and not to mention a headache.

With it securely in place...
It goes like this 

Every time. 

...Even if some ass hat drilled a hole in your frame. 

...and Isaac Hayes is still singing, isn't he? 



...but seriously

Sunday, July 19, 2015

On the Defensive

It is at this point in the game that I am beginning to see the ill-effects of the industry's constant attempts to sell you more shit. It seems as though every bike shop in America has become nothing more than a store front for Bicycling magazine.

The Golf Digest of cycling

This unfortunately, is EXACTLY what every customer who walks into a bike shop sees and it is slowly but surely alienating every single one of them. Given my background dealing in high-end bicycles I can tell you this; catering to the social elite and their constant need to consume what the industry tells them is rapidly pushing out anyone who does not want the same for themselves.
Because your inventory consists of bicycles that start at an average of $1,000 and up, customers find themselves shopping by price rather than getting what they actually want.*

When your customer has to state aloud that "I'm not a racer or anything..." it is clear that they already feel like they do not belong.
I hear this all the time and I get it, but I really don't want to hear it. I know that you "aren't an avid cyclist" it is clear by your tremendous gut and dust-covered bicycle that you don't often ride and your labored breathing from the walk in from the car tells me that you are "just getting back into it..." I am aware of these things yet I am still met with the awkward exchanges as I have to explain that even the cheapest tires are $20 because this isn't 1975, which happens to be the last time they were on a bike. 

"I just need a tire man, I'm not a Racer or anything."

-I know, that's why I am selling you a 20 dollar tire. I am only trying to help you, I promise.

*In my experience, the customers around here are split into two groups;
One wants an affordable, practical bicycle that offers an upright position and a comfortable seat and if they can get it in a certain color, they will buy it every time. 
Probably the Best selling bike in the shop right now.
The other group wants exactly what they see in Bicycling or under their favorite Pro Tour rider. They don't care what it costs and if the color is the same as the "Team" edition, then that's all the better.
There is a problem with both of these groups however, as even the most moderately priced bicycle with all the features one may desire may still be out of their budget. They turn to internet retailers and often end up with a shitty, overpriced, and heavy bicycle that is half the price but almost litterally, half the bike. 

 They deserve better.

The other group, however has "fuck you" money and is not afraid to use it.
He, unfortunately thinks he knows what he wants because he was "reading on the internet" but still needs me to tell him. 
...He won't listen. Ever.

In what may be the single most classic case of Fredom, this example spells out perfectly what happens when you let them make choices for themselves.

  This Fred Sled is wrong on so many levels starting with the fact that the $3,500 custom frame (1) with a top of the line drivetrain (2) was is too big for the rider which is why the saddle is so low (3). That on its own is not that big a deal as a larger frame helps even out the relationship of the bars and saddle however, his saddle being "slammed" forward on the rails to get a shorter "reach"


in addition to his ridiculous cockpit setup (4,5,6) leads me to believe that he has the "fuck you" money of group the second group, but wants an upright position like those in the first group. There are a host of problems that arise when a road bike is set up in this way but a simple back of the envelope calculation would suggest that his group should be riding one of these

at less than a quarter of the price and subsequently eliminate most of those issues.
...and therein lies the heart of the matter. None of you are racers nor should you try to be by. When you tell me that you want "X,Y, and Z" but then go and buy the A, B, and C because the industry told you to or because your friends will make fun of you, the bike will be wrong for you and you can't say I didn't warn you. As an industry, we have to do more keep this from happening but as long as shops continue to go high-end, they will continue to grow further from their customers and sell you what they have and not what you need all you have to do is let go of the idea of what you think you want and let me help you.

Remember, Hybrids need riders too and you likely need one.
After all, you're not a racer, remember?


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Breaking News (if you like news from a week ago)

In John Oliver fashion, I am delivering news to you that is more than a few days old. News which is really only relevant to those within earshot of my voice or say, my BookFACE page but sadly after what looked like a hopeful future for the event the organizers of Bike the Bend have decided to cancel it. 

The story goes something like this: The Lady Organizer decided not to pay a portion of the money owed to the police department for their overtime after what she basically described as laziness on their part at last year's event. [Read the whole story here

Then they were encouraged by the local FOP to give up the overtime pay they would have received to work at the event and were asked not to support it to send a message to said Organizer. The message was clear enough, as I eluded to in a previous post yet volunteers stepped up in a big way to make up for the lack of Police participation. 

So the event went well, I thought, no one got hurt and I got to take my wife around the city on her first 30 mile ride! 

Then they cancel it. My first response was one more genuine curiosity than it was bewilderment. 


I understand both sides to be honest but I would have to say I side with the Police on this issue as they were promised a level of pay which the other party did not deliver. The "over worked" argument is bullshit if you ask me and likely a thinly veiled attempt at making a stand without coming right out and saying "Hey Lady, you screwed us, so screw you." 

That aside, its just bad business and bad Karma. So she's getting the proper level of disrespect here is all I am saying but I still cannot wrap my brain around how easy it was for them to just give up on something that is good for our community. It doesn't cost the city a dime, not one, and it promotes the city itself by taking you to and even through some of the best places it has to offer. 

What's more is that the Mayor of South Bend really just sat back and let the Chief of Police (both are cyclists I might add) hammer it out on his own rather than taking an active role in helping both parties put aside their differences. That is the saddest part to me; the Mayor has done great things to improve the attitude and overall life style of his city and has done so with very little resources. For an event like this to simply be discarded because of bad blood is disheartening. It says to all of those who fight for bicycle advocacy; "if you don't get your way, give up." What does that say to the kids that love this event because it is the one day a year that they get to ride bikes with their family in a safe atmosphere? 

"Tough shit kid. Suck it up!"

They'd have had a year to figure this out but instead they simply said "fuck it." I just cannot get over that.

For now, I just hope that someone is working feverishly to restore the event in one way or another so we don't lose this opportunity to come together and play bikes.