Saturday, February 28, 2015

Zen and the Economics of Bicycle Maintenance

I switched from riding my extremely heavy Nishiki as a commuter to riding my Lemond for both commuting and long weekend rides. As such, it's seen some wear and tear. The front derailleur couldn't get me onto the highest ring for a while, and then the rear derailleur cable snapped. So I buy a new cable and housing. Only I don't really know how to get the cable out of the brake/shift lever, because I've never had to fix anything to do with an STI before. (Either definition of the acronym, thank you very much.) So I start disassembling the housing, but MRB calls me mid-process and says I just need to shift into the lowest (highest?) gear, and then the end becomes visible, and presto. So I pull out the old cable, thread the new, put everything back together, but then the shifter isn't pulling the cable likes it's supposed to. In an attempt to fix it, I crank down on a bolt, which shears off. So there goes an entire STI, because they're basically not serviceable.

So I go to the Missing Link Co-op, and they price out what it would be to switch out the one side to a bar-end shifter, leaving the STI on for the brake lever, and also fixing the derailleur cable guide under the bottom bracket, as another bolt may have sheared off in there, and it no longer stays in place (which was why I couldn't get onto my highest ring up front). $180 or so, and I'll have to wait until next week to get it done because they don't have the parts in stock.

But meanwhile I've been promising Steve-o that I'd fix his bike for him if he ever made time on a weekend for me to take him to the Waterside Workshop, which I love. So he finally brings me his bike, and even though he's pressed for time, and says "why don't I just take it to a shop and pay if this is going to take a couple hours?" he loves it once he's there, because who wouldn't. So we replace his broken spoke and true his wheel, which I've done there about a half dozen times for my Nishiki. (Maybe that means I don't do it very well? Or maybe my Nishiki weighs 50 pounds and I ride with groceries a lot and Berkeley has really bad pavement.) 

Then it's turn for my Lemond, because if I can I want to fix it myself. I want to go to bar-end shifters, since those are tougher and I feel like more serviceable and sturdy and why I enjoy bicycle mechanics is because I can actually fix things and don't just have to replace them, but they just happen to have a used STI Tiagra 9-speed shifter in stock. So I take the old one off and put theirs on. And it doesn't work. But they also happen to have a used 9-speed STI Ultegra in stock. So I put that on, and it doesn't work. So then we blame the cable housing, and replace that. And then it'll shift up, but not down. Then it shifts down, but only one out of five times you try, and it's past closing time, and I don't want to pay $50 for a used shifter if it doesn't work. But I tip heavily, and they refund the charge, and everybody's happy, even after I come back 10 minutes later because I forgot my U-lock and cable.

So that's where I am. No rear derailleur or brake, no lever (my original Tiagra doesn't really even work as a brake lever anymore, or feels a little sketchy like it might fall apart with heavy pressure),  no handlebar tape. But that's fine. This is one thing I can actually fix myself, so I will. I'll order bar-end shifters online, I'll get any old brake lever from the workshop, because they have a million, and I'll install those, and the cable guide, myself. With the help of MRB and the workshop volunteers, of course.

Also, I've been told my bottom bracket is loose. So I should tighten that. Or something. I need to youtube up on that.

[UPDATE: Props to MFS for the clever-er post title. And I got a brake lever from the workshop today for $3 and installed it, so I'll be able to brake coming down Lone Mountain after teaching in SF.]

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