Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Little Victories

First, somebody finally read this fucking thing, allowing me to ignore the question, “Why bother?” So to Anonymous, thank you. Perhaps I can repay you by having your child.

Second, Anonymous asked where I am. I am everywhere and nowhere. I am every bike wrench you’ve ever talked to, in any bike shop, anywhere in the world. When you asked for a new tire because yours was bent and the guy behind the apron rolled his eyes? That was me. When you needed a new tube but didn’t know the size or valve type and the guy had to ask, “Does it look like the one on your car?” That was me. When you brought in your Huffy Roadmaster Mtn. Tamer (featuring Titanium Boron Steel frame tubes) and the guy put together the $300 estimate to fix it…yep, that was me too. The only difference between me and any of the other wrenches with whom you’ve dealt is I’m a better mechanic and I write about it.

On to little victories…

I remember the first Look I ever built. It was a 585, white with naked carbon for the graphics. I remember looking at the downtube, the virginal white contrasting with the flawless carbon, and it seemed I could stick my whole hand into the logo. I was mesmerized. On top of that, we were building it with Record and Zipp 404s. What a piece of shit. I’ve got pictures of that bike, and when I’m back in my old stomping grounds and stop by for a shop ride, the bike and its rider are sometimes there, and it’s nice to get caught up. That bike engaged in coitus with my psyche, and I’ve carried a Look love child ever since. You can understand my disgust that the shop down the road a piece is a Look dealer, while I am stuck selling cheap bikes to fat Midwesterners.

So yesterday, a fellow walks into my shop with a Look 555. Not as nice as the 585 of my dreams, but better than 98% of the bikes that normally walk through the door. Somehow, the ham-fisted owner had crossthreaded a bottle bolt and popped a Rivnut loose. No problem. Just grab my Rivnut tool…wait, I forgot. This is a shoestring, poorly-equipped shop and we don’t have a Rivnut tool. No matter. The Bossman, whom I love dearly but who has a hard time telling a Rivnut from a macadamia nut, takes a look. Immediately, he tells the guy that he might be better off taking the bike to the Look dealer down the road. See, those guys have a little more experience… He was going to say something else, but I stabbed him in the ear with the 4 mm on my triwrench. I politely interjected that I would like to take a look.

I ask the owner of the bike where he got it and how old it is. Internet and 3 years or so. I also stabbed him in the ear with my triwrench for shopping on the interweb. Well, I don’t know Look’s warranty policy, but I surmise it doesn’t cover interweb bikes. I tell the customer that, and explain I’m still a little wary because my proposed solution would probably void any warranty that might have been in play. As near as I can tell, bikes are like the Happy Fun Ball. Exposing them to Earth’s atmosphere voids the warranty. Anyway, I want to try dribbling a little CA glue around the Rivnut whilst wiggling it in the hope that it works its way around and locks it back into place, but that I don’t want to assume any responsibility should that fuck up his frame. The customer pauses, tells me to go for it and that I am responsible for nothing. I grab my ball-peen hammer and shatter his top tube and tell him to buy a new frame from a fucking IBD.

I take the bike into the shop, dribble the CA, wiggle the bolt, and it behaves exactly as I pictured it in my head. I can see capillary action drawing the glue into the void, and every minute or so, I wiggle it a little more, and as long as it wiggles, I dribble another drop of glue, and after five minutes or so, it doesn’t wiggle any more. I tell the customer I want to let is set for a couple more minutes to be on the safe side.

I grab my 4 mm hex and start on the bolt, slowly, smoothly, and carefully. Bingo. The bolt pops loose in a tiny shower of sweat-induced corrosion, and I back it the rest of the way out. I grab my 5 X .08 tap and do my best to chase threads that have been thoroughly raped. That done, I grab a random 5 mm bolt, grease it up and thread it in to check my handywork. Smooth as a baby’s ass. I hand the bike back to the customer.

“Make sure to thoroughly grease anything you stick into that hole, and tighten it as lightly as possible. Ten bucks.”

“Really? That was worth a hundred to me.”

“I’ll charge you a hundred if you want, but the shop rate is a buck a minute.”

“No, that’s OK, ten is fine. Thanks a million.”

He walks out the back door, thoroughly satisfied as I bid him good afternoon. That’s right Look dealer down the street. I just ate your fucking lunch, and it was delicious.


  1. Great stuff! It's been a long time since I wrenched for $, but this all brings back the memories...