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Monday, February 25, 2013

Misadventures of the bicycle unmechanic

Now that's a trailer hitch!
I find it interesting that some people think I'm a good bicycle mechanic. And we all know that "interesting" has broad connotations; it could mean that I find it amusing, and it also means I can find it frustrating. And I feel both of those things, interestingly enough.

Some people won't believe it when I tell them I'm a sucky mechanic, because, surely, I know a lot about bikes. Heck, Shawn, you write a blog that's (mostly) about bikes, ride bikes a lot, go on bike tours, etc. etc. This is all true, but none of this necessarily translates into good mechanical aptitude. Yes, I know a lot about bikes, but my interests are pretty niche-y* and esoteric, and not necessarily the mainstream of the bicycle world. (Retro-Grouch: yes, giving a shit about TdF and racing in general: no.)

Am I proud of being an unmechanic? No. Actually quite embarrassed, especially when it comes to things I should know. For instance, I'm horrible with brake and derailleur adjustments, and would rather have a shop deal with them. Each year I promise myself to learn more about bicycle mechanics, maybe take a class or two. And each year goes by with little change.

So what does all this intro have to do with the story I'm going to tell? Not a heck of a lot, but it makes a great introduction, no?

Actually, there is a point. Since I think I'm incompetent, I'm not always confident of my own abilities. So when something goes wrong, I think it's my fault, even when it's not.

Case in point: Sunday. I had some time to work on the Rudge, so I wanted to shellack some cork grips (something that I must have entered "expert" category in) and install fenders. After much deliberation I chose to get a set of chrome Wald fenders. The grip shellacking was easy, as usual. So onto fenders. I took off the wheels and then put the front fender in the fork to see how it will line up. The package had struts to attach to the eyelets, with the requisite bolts. But...where am I supposed to attach the fender to the fork crown? There was a hole in the fender, but no way to attach to the bolt on the back of the fork.
The web image indicates there's a "bridge" there, even though there wasn't.

Now in my logical mind I knew there needed to be some sort of "bridge" between fender and fork crown for attachment. But in my "I'm an incompetent bike mechanic" mind, I thought that I was doing it all wrong and was missing a totally obvious way of mounting this fender. So I walked over to the bike shop for advice, and yep, the fender is missing "the bridge". Since I didn't buy it from that shop, he advised me to take it back. Ugh. So another trip to another bike shop, and another delay to the neverending Rudge project.

The other thing that went wrong was tubes. I decided to put some new tubes into the Rudge. The first one went in fine, but when I inflated the second tube to test it, I noticed a bulge near the valve. So I deflate and pump again to test. The bulge is still there and then...POP! Damn, out a brand-new tube. I don't remember the last time I had a defective tube like that. Well, I'm already going to the bike shop...

*Not to be confused with Nietzsche.


  1. I'm much like you, yet I'm okay with it. I like the cosmetic projects because of instant gratification. But overhauling wheels or changing cables...yuck. I avoid it until it's affects function. Then I get on it. However, I refuse to learn about derailleur adjustment and building/ straightening wheels. Life's too short. I'll pay the pros for big projects. Just knowing how to change a flat tire is enough for most folks. I consider anything else icing on the cake.

  2. I certainly understand how you feel. I can do enough basic mechanical stuff to get by - adjusting brakes, changing tires and tubes, chaning out handlebars and refastening them and brakes - the usual small stuff that I'm too cheap to pay for. But like you - when it comes to the derailleurs - I'd rather have someone do it who knows their stuff. I'm always afraid I'll mess it up and end up hurting the bike or myself.

  3. I know what you mean. I am such a mediocre mechanic that when I worked at Clever Cycles I was only allowed to work on MY bikes, not customer's bikes.
    On a different note: the trailer hitch pic makes me smile. :)

  4. I definately feel you,Shawn,on the unmechanical parts,LOL! I shared a similar bugaboo with the rear fender on my Origin 8 CX'er (my go-to bike) last year. I piddled with that thing for a couple hours,but could NOT get it lined up properly to the point that a small bump didn't knock it off-kilt and make it rub. SO,I took it to the same LBS I bought them from and they being busy,I left it there overnight (good thing I'd driven instead of riding that day,LOL) since they were swamped. The next day,I go in and they tell me "No good way to solidly mount the rear fender" (bearing in mind,the O8 700CX fork,which is designed and built specifically FOR this frame,the 700CX frame,IS fender ready,the frame most assuradly is not)...and I was/am just stuck with a pair of fenders now (one fits....) that are completely useless for my bike,that I bought from a LBS I know/trust/have been loyal to for years,because they said "these will fit",LMAO! :p

    (BTW,I've been offline for a bit,nice to see you're still diggin,my friend :) )


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