Bad Mechanic

After three weeks of living alone, the kids are back.  I had to go shopping and ended up with a car full of groceries.  The house doesn’t feel the same; it’s filled with the noises of bodies moving around.  As I settle back in, I have to pick and choose which parts of the solitude I can keep.  Can I really cook for three (and soon four and six as my wife returns and guests descend) without packing back on the six pounds I’ve let go? Will I still ride in the mornings and then spend the afternoons at the gym?  (Of course not — work and family matter more).

In search of balance, I pulled my simplest ride out of the garage but it didn’t feel right.  Wiggly in a subtle way.  Front brake and wheel:  check.  Rear setup:  no good.  Loose bearings.  The relaxing ride turned into an equally relaxing maintenance session that stretched long.  Clouds rolled in, turning the blazing sun into soothing low-contrast ambient light.  I refilled my coffee mug and came back out to try to finesse the delicate balance between the bearings in which they start out too tight.  As each bearing is tightened against the nut, the space opens up slightly into buttery smoothness.  Cone wrenches in hand, eyes in the middle distance, I enjoyed the feel of feathery touches of mist as the lightest of drizzles washed across my skin.

I’m sure the mechanic in town, Bob Flint, could finish this task in seconds (perfectly), while chatting with me in the shop.  I was on the third try when the skies opened up with a crash and rain poured like a torrent across my little mechanical meditation.  It rain into my eyes and down inside mouth.  It turned the grease in my hands to slime and pulled down my socks.  I staggered away from the table, abandoning the wheel and my coffee.  I saved the cone wrenches, but probably only because my hands forgot to put them down.  Bad mechanic.

This is the photo of my transcendental buttery bearing space post apocalypse.  I took it standing under the sun umbrella on the porch (irony intended).  There’s good news.  The rain stopped.  There’s also bad news.  Buttery smoothness was not achieved.  We all know there’s water mixed in there somewhere and the transcendental state is waiting in another place for another day.  On the other hand, I’m not really a perfectionist and I think I should take bike out for a “test” ride now that the clouds have moved away. . . .

Swap outs

before the change

The 'awesome' bag

Big day of changes.  I took off those ‘faux drops’ for mountain bars.  I can’t get low enough to use them comfortably the normal way and there’s no good way to turn them so that they’re comfortable where I had them.  Live and learn.  It was a sunny day for the first time in forever and I had my super-duper ‘awesome’ bag from Bob down at Velo Cycles.  ‘Awesome’ is an upgrade from ‘goodie’ bag, which is what I thought I was getting.  This bag had a barely used set of avid calipers, dura-ace shifters, avid levers, and enough cables, housing, and caps to transform the Dawg from mountain bike parks and shop rebuilds into an independent adventure machine.

hydraulics off...

Step 1:  Remove the hydraulic brakes, complete, from caliper to lever.  Since my setup has the shifters and levers in one little pod, the shifters come off with the brakes. Off comes the bell and those drop bar ends, as well.

avid calipers

Rear calipers in.

Step 2:  Drop in the newish Avid calipers, lining them up nicely with the XT rotors, since I haven’t any adapters to allow use of the new(ish) ones in the awesome bag.  No worries; they’ll get used somewhere, on something! calipers in.

Step 3: Put stuff back on the bar.  I search high and low for a missing bar end before raiding the one-speed for a clean matching set.  These go inside and pointing up so that I can change up the hand postion.  Then the bell.  Love that bell.  This is clear to everyone, since I keep flicking the striker.  Luckily, I’m alone, so I don’t have to worry about how it looks.  The cat looked over at me once, then drifted off to chase butterflies.


Ready for new cables.

Step 4:  I’m slowly getting sunburned, but I’m having too much fun to stop.

Step 5: Figure out housing.  This ends up being one long continuous run for the brake lines, since the frame is set up for hydraulic lines.  I cut the shifter housing carefully to make sure that the handlebars can flop to either side without pinching.  String in cables, rubbing them with a bit of Tri-Flow to make sure that everything moves smoothly.  It took several tries before I got the cap situation set up the way I wanted it.

all the new bits in.

Step 6:  Strangely, everything works reasonably well.  I seem to have recovered use of all nine gears on the cluster and the front moves solidly between the two chainrings I’ve got.  A little tweaking here and there and everything shifts dreamily.  This is so surprising that I resolve not to remove the bashguard and put in the big ring for a few more days.  Why risk imperfection!

Step 7:  Go for a little spin.  It was the work of a moment to pull the bike of the stand and head out the driveway.  Always wear your helmet!  But I took the bike for a spin shirtless, shoeless, helmet-less, and glove-less.  What an exhilarating ten minutes of testing out the new brakes and running the gearing up and down.  It reminds me of how much stuff we put between the trail and our soft squishy selves.

Done.  I’m much happier with a fully mechanical setup.  It’s easy enough to pack an extra cable set; no one wants to bleed a brakeset on the trail, much less bring the stuff!  Hurray.  More rain coming tomorrow, but it’s been an utterly tranquil day of sun today.  (update:  long nap on the sofa.  this is the best saturday ever!).

Hay que hacerlo

Another moody self-portrait — my favorite!  This one is a long exposure taken while I fussed over the bike last night.  I added ‘mountain dropouts,’ which take the long flat bar typical of the mountain bike and add the dropped hand position so beloved of road racers.  I’ve never really been a fan of the dropped position, even when toodling along on a road bike, so I put them in upside down!  It’s mostly for fun; I don’t know what I could possibly have been thinking when I ordered them.  Damn internet!  After putting the package in a garage a couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to simply try them.  I’ll either like them or I wouldn’t.  Better to figure it out than leave it hanging.

The spanish phrase above translates literally to, “You have to do it.”  It really means, “It has to be done,” and the implication is that you’re the one who has to suck it up.  I was talking this morning with a man working on my neighbor’s gutters and drainpipes.  I was happy to take a break from laboriously digging out dozens of vines and we took pleasure in lamenting the near constant rain that has marked the east coast for a month.  He remarked that he cleaned the gutters for my neighbor twice a year, emphasizing the importance of regular upkeep.  Studiously diffident, he hazarded that it might be time for me to clean the gutters of my own house.  He wasn’t even suggesting that I hire him; he saw me working all morning and was only looking to help me reset my priorities.  Stacking wood, digging up roots, and whatnot were all well and good, but the gutters were due for a cleaning.  When I demurred, he murmured, “arbelitos (little trees),” which were sure enough sprouting up there, a spring’s worth of maple seeds and rain.  I had a ton of reasons why I hadn’t cleaned them out and he nodded diffidently at them all.  In the end he simply remarked “Si… pero hay que hacerlo,” before turning back to his own responsibilities.

I thought about that last line all day, turning it over and over in my mind.  I put off things and often hit the gym rather than argue.  It’s difficult to quantify the cost of avoidance, and usually pretty easy to figure out how much you don’t want to do something.  Sometimes my bike rides bring me peace, but sometimes they unleash far more turmoil than I can burn off turning the cranks.  I might be better off figuring out now and then what has to get done and simply doing it.  We’ll see.  I’ve already knocked off two things today that I’ve been avoiding and all it cost me was some time and money.  Imagine a wry grin here.  I’m also going to have to bite the bullet and accept that replacing the keyboard won’t be the cheap and easy job I’d imagined.  You can see my earnest, but ultimately unsuccessful, efforts below.

not fixing the laptop

these are not the fingers we should be using for pushing ribbon cable into little dark spots.